June 12, 2013

Contact: Matt Lazier
805-756-7109; mlazier@calpoly.edu

Cal Poly Announces 2013 ‘Great Grads’

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Cal Poly degree doesn’t just prepare a graduate to succeed in one chosen profession; Cal Poly’s comprehensive, Learn by Doing education gives grads the tools they need to think beyond the boundaries of individual disciplines, solve complex problems and soar to new heights personally and professionally.
As the university prepares to bid farewell to the more than 4,000 members of the Class to 2013 at two commencement ceremonies June 15 and 16, we highlight six graduates who embody the Cal Poly mission of producing the whole-system thinkers who will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Eric Labossiere-Duarte, College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences

Eric LaBossiere-DuarteThe College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences selected Eric Labossiere-Duarte, a recreation parks and tourism administration major. Duarte, who hails from Santa Maria, Calif., is passionate about building community, helping others, and providing transformative experiences.
His desire to bring more cross-disciplinary experiences to campus led him to help organize the first two Startup Weekend SLO events in 2012 and 2013. “I realized that the students and faculty lacked cross-college collaboration to innovate and execute entrepreneurial ideas,” Duarte said. “An electrical engineering student was never in the same room collaborating with someone in art and design; marketing students weren’t meeting with computer science students to explore ideas and make magic.
“Startup Weekend SLO was an opportunity to change the culture, unite students, and provide an event that could increase interdisciplinary collaboration and entrepreneurial innovations.”
Duarte has also been active in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Cal Poly Entrepreneurs.
He said Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing approach taught him to “get in the mix and accomplish goals by using strategic and creative approaches. Anyone wearing a cap and gown on graduation day at Cal Poly has learned something invaluable: how to work hard.”
Duarte is currently an intern at George P. Johnson, a global experiential marketing agency in San Francisco, where he is involved in project management, concept development and event coordination and management.

Jean Long, College of Architecture & Environmental Design

Jean LongThe College of Architecture & Environmental Design singled out Jean Long as an “exceptional young woman who has demonstrated great talent and achievement” as a joint-degree graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program and the Master of Science in Engineering program with a specialization in transportation planning.
As an undergraduate studying Japanese studies and history at UC San Diego, Long, of San Francisco, took a course on sustainable development, realizing for the first time that urban planning was a career path that linked her passion for environmental stewardship and urban activity. 
At Cal Poly, she did not initially intend to pursue the transportation planning degree. “I was reluctant to start the civil engineering courses because I did not think I had the quantitative ability to get through the difficult and unfamiliar concepts,” she said. “However, my professor recognized my capacity for data analysis and numbers and encouraged me to pursue the dual degree. I was surprised not only by my understanding of a completely new topic but also by how much I enjoyed working out engineering problems and applying a planner’s perspective.”
Hemalata Dandekar, City and Regional Department head, said, “Jean is someone who crosses disciplinary boundaries eagerly and with conviction. She knows that the ‘wicked problems’ that planners face in today’s complex, interconnected world require a multidisciplinary understanding and effort.”
Long served on the city of San Luis Obispo’s Mass Transportation Committee, which makes recommendations to the City Council on the future of public transportation in the city. She was also selected to attend the Eno Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C., this month. The conference gives 20 of the nation’s top graduate students in transportation a firsthand look at how national transportation policies are developed. Long is the first Cal Poly student to win the prestigious fellowship.
She served as the conference manager for the first California Climate Action Planning Conference, a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and Cal Poly. She was also a research assistant on the State of California Climate Adaptation Planning Guide, a first-of-its-kind document designed to help local governments prepare for the impacts of climate change. 
Long will start an internship with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in late June.

Alyssa Brigham, Orfalea College of Business

Alyssa BrighamThe Orfalea College of Business’s Great Grad is Alyssa Brigham, a business administration degree candidate with a concentration in management and human resources, also from Santa Maria.
Brigham is a first-generation college graduate who succeeded in completing her degree in three years while also working up to 20 hours a week as a peer advisor, a prestigious student job in the college. As an advisor, she informed students on degree requirements and worked on special projects, including helping to create incoming student online advising seminars (PolyLearns) for Cal Poly for 2012 and 2013.
“This experience has been a lot more than a job to me,” Brigham said. “It helped me gain confidence, professionalism, and a true passion for education and student success.”
That passion has driven Brigham to accept a job teaching middle school math in North Carolina with Teach for America, which aims to “recruit a diverse group of leaders with a record of achievement who work to expand educational opportunity, starting by teaching for two years in a low-income community.” 
In addition to peer advising, she served as a teaching assistant for the Leadership Summit course offered to sophomore and junior-level business students, as vice president for the college’s Business Council, and was a public relations intern with Friends of Hearst Castle.

Evan Nickel, College of Liberal Arts

Evan NickelThe College of Liberal Arts has chosen Evan Nickel from Martinez, Calif. Nickel is a Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies degree candidate who “wanted to do something where I could use my skills in technology and artistic design,” he said.
He has been engaged in video production and editing, graphic design, photo manipulations, digital visual effects, and video game creation long before he came to Cal Poly. The double major allowed him to concentrate in computer graphics in the College of Engineering and interactive communications with a cinematic focus in the College of Liberal Arts.
Two years ago, Nickel and three architecture students won first place in the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s Event Space/Archive Video Competition for their short film, titled “Inspirations.” Nickel served as cinematographer, director and editor of the award-winning film.
Nickel stayed focused on doing “the best possible job I could in every class. I would spend more than 200 hours on some classes to make sure the final project was something I was sincerely proud of.”
He says Cal Poly’s project-based learning gave him the skills he will use every day on the job. “Every project I worked on was a real-life project,” Nickel said. “The people I worked with and the situations we would encounter taught me how to creatively solve problems and work with people from other disciplines to accomplish a real goal. This gave me invaluable experience and something to put on my resume and talk about -- in detail -- in a job interview.”
After graduation, Nickel will head to Warner Bros. Entertainment in Burbank, Calif., to work in video game production, making sure the developers have all the assets they need and that projects are completed on time, that the game has all the necessary elements and is high quality and fun.

Silvia Aguilar, College of Engineering

Silvia AguilarSan Jose resident Silvia Aguilar is the Great Grad from the College of Engineering. Her participation in so many activities and her excellent grades would be notable for any student. Couple that with the difficulties of being an undocumented student, and Aguilar’s success takes on even greater significance.
In nominating her for an Outstanding Woman in Engineering Award, Phil Bailey, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, wrote: “Aguilar migrated to the U.S. from Mexico at age six. She is attending Cal Poly as an ‘AB 540’ student. This assembly bill allows undocumented students who graduate from California high schools to attend California public universities with in-state tuition. However, this privilege did not extend to state and federal financial aid and, because she could not obtain official U.S. identification, Silvia could not legally be employed. The lack of identification … restricted air travel … (meant) she could not be hired as an intern in engineering companies, and thus did not have the opportunities for this kind of valuable experience. In addition, the stress of the constant media coverage of ‘illegal’ immigrants, the never-ending concern of paying for her education,  the occasional feeling of helplessness in preparing for an uncertain future, and fears for her family were constant issues.”
Aguilar was one of six students to win the Outstanding Women in Engineering Award. She is the first in her family to earn a college degree.
While at Cal Poly she made the Dean’s List six times by earning grades in the top 10-15 percent of students. She has been involved with the Associated Students Inc. board of directors, College of Engineering Ambassadors, Engineering Student Council, National Engineering Week celebration, Open House Committee and was selected the College of Engineering Homecoming Princess in fall 2011.
“I spent a lot of nights in the mechanical engineering lab. It was part of my well-balanced journey.” She wouldn’t change a thing, she said, because she learned to manage her time. “It comes down to giving up anything extra and being willing to lose hours of sleep.”
She also learned a great deal while serving on the ASI board of directors. “I learned about working with multimillion dollar budgets and how to conduct business,” she said.
Serving on executive-level search committees gave her insight into the kind of career path she could take. “I saw how critical it was to be perfect on paper. I learned a great deal about the application and interviewing processes.” Those lessons helped her land a job at Lam Research Corp. in Fremont, Calif.  
(Editor’s Note: Aguilar applied for and was accepted into President Obama’s two-year deferral program. She has since obtained a Social Security number and a driver’s license and is eligible for employment in the U.S.)

Dahlia Ningrum Amato, College of Science and Mathematics

Dahlia NingrumThe College of Science and Mathematics selected Dahlia Ningrum Amato, who is on track to earn a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a master's in polymers and coatings. The odds were against Amato, originally from Indonesia, attending college at all.
“In Indonesia, it's hard to think of even going to college,” Amato said, because education is a privilege for the wealthy. “It gives me motivation to do better, knowing that a lot of people don't have the same opportunity.”
She attended Templeton High as an AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service) exchange student, returned to attend Cuesta College, and then transferred to Cal Poly, with the help of her adoptive mother, Mary Ellen Lewis of Templeton.
Amato continually challenged herself at Cal Poly, choosing graduate research in synthetic polymers with Professor Philip Costanzo because she wanted to improve those skills. Though polymers is a male-dominated field, Amato learned to believe in herself. “After doing research with Dr. Costanzo, I'm confident enough to pursue polymer chemistry as a career,” Amato said.
A second-place finish at the CSU Student Research Competition in the Graduate Engineering and Computer Science category confirmed Amato’s excellence as a scientist. In the fall, she will pursue her doctorate at the University of Southern Mississippi, which has one of the country's top polymers programs.
“I’m so excited to be able to do something that’s significant for science,” Amato said.

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Note to Editors: Cal Poly’s spring commencement ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 15-16, in Spanos Stadium. The June 15 ceremony will recognize degree candidates in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Orfalea College of Business and College of Engineering. On June 16, students in the colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; Liberal Arts; Science and Mathematics and Continuing Education will be honored.