2017 Awardee Profiles

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Distinguished Scholarship Award

Patrick Lin
Professor, Philosophy Department

Dr. Patrick Lin has enhanced the university’s status by involving students and faculty members in his work, and serving as an advisor on technology ethics to major governmental, policy and industry organizations worldwide. He established the Ethics and Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly in 2007 to focus on risk, ethical and social concerns related to new sciences and technologies.

“The degree to which this work has furthered the reputation of his university, college and department is impressive,” wrote a colleague. “Likewise, is the degree to which he is demonstrating the interconnectivity of the liberal arts and the technological areas and, correspondingly, the importance of the liberal arts to science, technology and everyday life.”

As his colleague noted, Dr. Lin “has published a monograph, four edited volumes, 29 academic articles, 39 media articles and four major government and corporate reports. He has organized 19 conferences, been invited to give 58 presentations and been interviewed by dozens of major media outlets.”

Dr. Lin came to Cal Poly in 2007 as a visiting assistant professor. He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Berkeley; and master’s and doctorate degrees from University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Distinguished Scholarship Award

Suzanne Phelan
Professor, Kinesiology Department

Dr. Suzanne Phelan has embraced the responsibility to excite her students about health, community and the world around them.

A colleague noted that Dr. Phelan is “committed to preparing the next generation of leaders in the field by engaging undergraduate and graduate students in meaningful research experiences.” More than 50 students have been actively involved in her research projects.

Dr. Phelan engages students in research through independent research projects, senior research projects, thesis, and volunteer opportunities. She also hires students as research assistants, works with the Bridges to Baccalaureate and Frost Undergraduate Summer Research programs, and has helped a student secure a $67,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Diversity Fellowship for undergraduate research.

Dr. Phelan joined the Kinesiology Department in 2008. Since then, she has developed a nationally recognized research program in in maternal, child and family health; authored or co-authored over 100 peer reviewed publications; and secured more than $10 million in external funding from the National Institutes of Health. She has also brought recognition to Cal Poly by serving as a reviewer for 13 scientific journals and as a standing NIH Study Section member reviewing obesity and diabetes proposals.

Dr. Phelan earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and French from the University of Colorado, and a master’s degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Hahnemann University.

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Distinguished Scholarship Award

Jay Singh
Professor, Industrial Technology & Packaging

Dr. Jay Singh took over the Packaging Program at Cal Poly in 2003 and since then has raised its reputation to be the best value program in the U.S., according to ValueColleges.com.

Under his guidance, more than 200 students have received top honors at national and international competitions, 12 Cal Poly students have been listed as inventors on four patents and 36 students have coauthored peer-reviewed articles with him.

Dr. Singh’s research emphasis of packaging dynamics has progressively developed a focus on efficient/sustainable packaging solutions and reducing food loss. His research, which includes 92 peer-reviewed articles, 68 articles in conference proceedings, 30 trade journal articles, three book chapters and three books, is cited and acknowledged globally.

Having raised more than $3.2 million in research funding and $1.2 million for equipment, Dr. Singh’s research has also resulted in the development or modification of numerous globally acknowledged packaging test standards.

He has recently led the efforts to establish a Packaging Value Chain Center and a new M.S. Packaging Value Chain degree and certificates program at Cal Poly.

Dr. Singh received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Poona University in Pune, India; and a master’s degree and doctorate in packaging science from Michigan State University.

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Distinguished Teaching Award

Brian Kennelly
Professor, World Languages and Cultures Department

Dr. Brian Kennelly, who has taught French at Cal Poly since 2006, earned kudos from the review committee for an “exceptional level of student engagement” as well as his “exacting preparation,” “classroom energy” and a “clear connection” with students. “Teaching all levels of French language class, Dr. Kennelly consistently elicited enthusiastic and bold participation from his students, all in a foreign tongue and with grace, humor and expertise,” the committee concluded. Although he has held administrative positions — department chair from 2006-09 and director of the humanities program from 2008-09 — his first love is the classroom. It shows, said a student who said that Dr. Kennelly “impacted my life greatly” after taking three of his classes. “He presents the French language in a way that makes it real, active and applicable to everyday life,” she said. “He has inspired me to strive beyond what's expected and seek excellence.” Over the years, students have described him as enthusiastic, eccentric, entertaining, exceptional, excellent and expert. Said one freshman: “Kennelly is one of the most unusual … professors. But that can make this class the highlight of your day and a lot of fun if you … go in with a sense of humor and an open mind.”

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Distinguished Teaching Award

Elizabeth Lowham
Associate Professor, Chair of the Political Science Department

Dr. Elizabeth Lowham is inspiring a new generation of public policy students, imbuing those seeking analytic careers in government, nonprofit agencies and in businesses subject to government regulations with confidence, curiosity and clarity of purpose. The review committee was impressed with her teaching style as well as her commitment and dedication to students. “Dr. Lowham displayed a deep connection with her students, called on people consistently by name, and brought an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere to the classroom,” the committee said in its recommendation. “Often touching on sensitive and difficult policy questions and political actions, Dr. Lowham was a steady hand at the helm, always giving her students the space and structure to exchange ideas in a civil and productive environment.” The Wyoming native’s students also sing her praises. “Dr. Lowham is very passionate about teaching,” said one. “I wish that everyone could take a class with her. Students would be extremely challenged, but also extremely rewarded in the end.” Another, who is working toward a master’s degree in public policy, was inspired by Lowham’s truly contagious “zest for life. I certainly aspire to be like her as I progress in my studies and I know for certain that many others feel the same,” she said.

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Distinguished Teaching Award

Anthony Mendes
Professor, Mathematics Department

For some learners, mathematics is puzzling. Dr. Anthony Mendes strives to have his student see math problems as puzzles to be worked through and figured out. “He has a great attitude and loves questions and concerns,” one mathematics senior said. “When students make mistakes … he uses (them) to guide us through the problem to help us learn and grow.” His teaching style, born of a passion and grounded, he says, in the “belief that education is an incredible tool in building a more equitable society,” is not lost on students. Classroom observers were wowed by a unique teaching style. “Dr. Mendes imbues advanced mathematical topics with a sense of wonder and intrigue,” said the review committee. “In posing problems as puzzles to be pondered rather than mechanical chores to be dispatched, students are eager to talk with one another and share ideas. The bridge between intuitive understanding and mathematical rigor is no easy crossing, but Dr. Mendes consistently negotiates that span with humor, sparkling wit and good-natured enthusiasm.” Mendes, who joined the Cal Poly math department in 2004, was attracted to teaching out of a desire to share “some of the amazing mathematics I had learned.” “If there is a secret to being a great mathematics teacher,” he said, “it is making sure that each individual student knows you care. This means making the effort to get to know each student individually.” And if he inspires individuals along the way, the feeling is mutual. “I am constantly amazed by our outstanding students,” he said. “I can only hope to inspire them as much as they have inspired me.”

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Outstanding Staff Award

Monica Cantu
Senior Custodial Manager
Facilities Management and Development

Ms. Monica Cantu was credited for her hard work, fairness and accountability while overseeing one of the largest departments on campus. She frequently works long hours in support of her custodial staff in their role supporting facilities and events while providing a safe and healthy environment for the campus community. Ms. Cantu is involved in the planning and cleanup of almost every significant campus event, including Commencement and Open House. “She is committed to providing outstanding service for the staff, faculty and especially the students of Cal Poly,” wrote a nominator. “Ms. Cantu tirelessly approaches each day with an outstanding attitude.” Another supporter praised her for providing “swift and thorough solutions and action.” She was also cited for her excellent organizational skills and for being open to new and improved methods and seeking and implementing best practices. She has received “great feedback through perseverance and building the case for change, analysis, engagement, listening and drive to action.” Ms. Cantu is viewed as compassionate and fair, and she has earned the respect of campus leadership. She has been in her current position for four years.

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Outstanding Staff Award

Josh D’Acquisto
Rose Float Coordinator, Associated Students Inc.

Mr. Josh D’Acquisto was cited for his dedication, leadership and management skills working with students at both the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Pomona campuses as the Rose Float coordinator. Students appreciate his years of specialized knowledge in automotive repair and design techniques, as well as his ability to solve the technical details of float construction. Mr. D’Acquisto “sacrifices much of his personal family time to be there for the Rose Float Team, including his entire winter break, all weekends in fall, and many weekends in winter and spring quarters,” wrote a student. Students also commended him for creating a safe and positive team environment. One wrote, “He is the perfect balance between a technical advisor and an administrative advisor and is an ideal mentor to students developing team-building and leadership skills.” By supervising Rose Float, Mr. D’Acquisto further promotes Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy. “I could not imagine someone more perfect for this job,” wrote a student." Mr. D'Acquisto began working at Cal Poly as assistant director of the University Union in 2002 and took over supervision of the Rose Float in 2006. He earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly.

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Outstanding Staff Award

Ray Ward
Equipment Technician

Architectural Engineering Department

Knowledgeable, helpful and resourceful are just some of the words used to describe Mr. Ray Ward. “His flexibility and organizational abilities greatly contribute to the success of the substantial number of unique projects that are constructed and tested in his area,” said a nominator. He has established great working relationships across campus and is highly respected. “He works diligently to take care of the needs of faculty and students. Mr. Ward has an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience and always comes up with unique solutions to challenging problems. He is always willing to work with his peers, faculty, students and administration to get the job done,” said a supporter. Mr. Ward “performs miracles” maintaining and repairing the department’s aging equipment. “His best asset is that he can solve hard problems,” said a nominator. “He is irreplaceable. He is an expert in electronics, computer programming, mechanical systems, welding, machining, and laboratory procedures.” Colleagues called his work “consistently outstanding, always exceeding expectations.” One staff member noted that he helps anyone in need and, “no matter how much he has on his plate, maintains a buoyant and collaborative spirit.” Mr. Ward was in his position for 28 years before retiring in June.

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Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

Elena Keeling
Professor, Biological Sciences Department

Dr. Elena Keeling strives to help students succeed academically and personally through her participation in a range of mentoring and coaching programs as well as a firm belief in the importance of personal interactions and a sense of community.

Students and staff praised Dr. Keeling’s approachability, compassion and strong commitment to student success.

“Dr. Keeling is one of the best professors that I’ve had in college,” one student said. “Not only does she want one to succeed academically, but she also wants to get to know each of her students personally.”

Another student said that she is “compassionate and understanding that students’ lives are more than just biology, and she always has good advice for us when we don’t know what to do. She inspires her students to work hard, be organized and achieve success.”

Dr. Keeling serves as a BEACoN member, a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) faculty ally and a coach for success programs for students on academic probation.

She joined the College of Science and Mathematics in 1996. Dr. Keeling earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a doctorate degree from University of California, San Francisco.

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Provost’s Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy

Raymond H. Fernando
Arthur c. Edwards Endowed Chair in Polymers and Coating; Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry department; Director, Cal Poly's Kenneth N. Edwards Western Coating Technology Center

Polymer and coatings affect people where they live. That’s because almost every engineering product — from packaging and paints to clothes and more — uses a protective chemical coating. Cal Poly is a leader in the field, and through its Kenneth N. Edwards Western Coatings Technology Center is producing students who will become industry leaders, says Professor and center Director Ray Fernando. “Over the past 15 years, Ray has demonstrated exemplary leadership in attracting private support for the center,” said Phil Bailey, who retired as College of Science and Mathematics dean. “The center’s hands-on labs and research supports the university's mission and exemplifies Learn by Doing experiences for our students.” Fernando has been a very active fundraiser, playing a key role in raising $3 million to establish the center in the Baker Center and an additional $1.1 million to expand its facilities. He also raised more than $200,000 for scholarships and helped faculty bring in over $1.2 million in research grants. “Through Ray's efforts, the profile of the polymers and coatings program has been raised to international renown,” Bailey said. “This has resulted in additional opportunities for students in research, internships and employment — with 100 percent student employment upon graduation.”

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Learn by Doing Scholar Award
Completed Research Category

Lynn E. MetcalF, Professor Entrepreneurship

Industrial Technology and Packaging Area, Orfalea College of Business
Dr. Lynn E. Metcalf was recognized for methodology, implementation and assessment of learning outcomes in deploying a peer learning program that culminated in a paper, “The Impact of Peer Mentoring on Marketing Content Mastery,” that she co-authored and that was published in Marketing Education Review in 2016. In addition to clearly measuring and demonstrating the positive effects on learning, the publication extends the reach of Learn by Doing by including a guide for others interested in developing similar experiences for their students. Dr. Metcalf collaborated with Orfalea College of Business colleagues Stern Neill, Lisa Simon, Sharon Dobson and Brennan Davis to design and test a student-mentor program. The team provided rigorous quantitative evidence for increased student learning in course sections where faculty deployed student peer mentors. The article included a helpful appendix with details of their student mentor program so that other educators interested in leveraging peer learning might develop their own programs. Dr. Metcalf began teaching at Cal Poly in 1986. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international business from the University of Oregon, a master’s degree in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a doctorate in marketing and international business from the University of South Carolina.

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Learn by Doing Scholar Award
Proposed or In Progress Category

Catherine Waitinas, Associate Professor
English Department

Dr. Catherine Waitinas’s award-winning research project, “Flipping Whitman: Collaborative Learn by Doing in the (Digital) Humanities,” was cited as “a beautiful example of the potential for Learn by Doing research in the humanities.” Her work explores how digital manuscripts give students unique historical insights into Walt Whitman’s writing and editing process, through comparing Whitman’s drafted manuscripts with his published poems. “Flipping Whitman” is a years-long, carefully constructed classroom practice that has resulted in two conference presentations and a forthcoming book chapter. “Dr. Waitinas’ pedagogical method strives to engage the students with Walt Whitman in ways that Whitman wanted his readers to be engaged — as present, active and communicative,” wrote the nominating committee. Students are immersed academically in poetry and today’s technological tools by grappling collectively and individually with online manuscript drafts in the Walt Whitman archive. They are also immersed “performatively and bodily” by reciting the poetry aloud collaboratively. These pedagogical strategies “represent ways to learn the potentialities of literature” by reading and by doing. Dr. Waitinas joined Cal Poly’s English faculty in 2006. She earned a B.A./M.A. dual degree in English from St. Bonaventure University and master’s and doctorate degrees in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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