2018 Awardee Profiles

Todd Pierce

Distinguished Scholarship Award

Todd Pierce
Professor, ENGLISH Department

Dr. Todd Pierce has been described as “a true Renaissance man in his interests and talents; he is an exceptional thinker, creator and writer.” Dr. Pierce, who came to Cal Poly in 2005 and co-directs its Creative Writing Program, has published numerous works: two books on the history of animation and the work of Disney Studios, one novel, a story collection, two anthologies of short stories, three textbooks, 30 short stories, 38 poems and 15 nonfiction articles. 

“This is a dizzying output for any scholar/creator just in terms of sheer volume,” one colleague wrote. “And as if that weren’t enough, he also hosts a wildly popular DHI Podcast, which testifies to his expertise on the history of animation and cinematic theme parks.”

Dr. Pierce’s collection of stories, “Newsworld,” won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was a finalist for the John Gardner Book Award and the Paterson Prize. Novelist and essayist Joan Didion’s also praised the collection: "Newsworld is ambitious and exhilarating, an original collection awake to the larger world.” Other awards include a listing in Best American Short Stories (2001); a 2000 Pushcart Prize nomination; the 2012 Prairie Schooner Strousse Award; and the 2015 Emily Clark Balch Prize. “These prizes provide external validation for the contributions Todd’s work has made to the literary world,” Dr. Pierce’s colleague continued. At Cal Poly, his teaching and research interests include creative writing — fiction and poetry, contemporary American literature and mid-century animation.

Professor (B.A., Liberal Arts, Southern California College; M.A., Literature, Composition and Interdisciplinary Studies, Oregon State University; M.F.A., Creative Writing: Fiction, University of California, Irvine; Ph.D., Florida State University)
English Department, College of Liberal Arts

Taufik

Distinguished Scholarship Award

Taufik
Professor, Electrical Engineering

Dr. Taufik’s research has centered around a humanitarian project — the DC House project — that aims to provide electricity to people living in rural and remote areas using renewable energy and human-powered generators. There are currently three DC House prototypes: Cal Poly, Indonesia and Philippines; the project has also attracted interest in Tanzania and Thailand. He has established research partnerships with universities in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

“Dr. Taufik has been enhancing Cal Poly’s global recognition through his international research partnerships and numerous publications,” read one of four nomination statements. Dr. Taufik joined the Electrical Engineering Department in 1999 and directs the Electric Power Institute. He has supervised 178 senior projects and 73 master’s theses and was awarded one U.S. patent with students as co-inventors (with another patent pending). He has published more than 200 conference/journal papers, reports, books and course readers, and served on the editorial review board of several journals.

“Dr. Taufik has been actively seeking industry support to bring in projects and equipment donations critical to fulfilling Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing mission,” another nominator wrote. He has received approximately $750,000 in sponsored projects and grants, and about $500,000 in equipment donations. His numerous awards and recognitions include the Outstanding Faculty Advisory Award for 2005-06, and Outstanding Teaching Award, American Society of Engineering Education in 2012.

Professor (B.S., Electrical Engineering, Northern Arizona University; M.S., Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Illinois at Chicago; Doctor of Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Cleveland State University)
Electrical Engineering Department, College of Engineering

Zoë Wood

Distinguished Scholarship Award

Zoë Wood
Professor, Computer Science and Software Engineering

Dr. Zoë Wood is the Cal Poly lead for the International Computer Engineering Experience (ICEX), which provides students an opportunity to apply their technical knowledge in an international context and increase global citizenship across campuses. 

Dr. Wood, who came to Cal Poly in 2003, recently completed the last year of a three-year, $250,000 National Science Foundation-funded project in Malta. The project paired Cal Poly students with peers from Harvey Mudd College to deploy underwater robots with the purpose of mapping coastal shipwrecks and developing new mapping technology. In 2017, her research team discovered historically significant remains of the Fairey Swordfish, a biplane torpedo bomber used by the Royal Navy in the 1930s and during World War II. Their work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and conferences, and includes undergraduate student authors. 

Dr. Wood’s research area is computer graphics and computer science education. She participated in development of the Interactive Entertainment curriculum and supervises master’s thesis research projects in computer graphics as well as senior projects. She also serves as advisor for WISH (Women Involved in Software and Hardware), a student club for female computing majors. Dr. Wood received the College of Engineering Outstanding Club Advisor Award 2014-15 and the NCWIT Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award for 2018. She was voted Professor of the Year in 2004, 2013 and 2017 by Computer Science Department students.

Professor (B.A. Women’s Studies and American Studies, UC Santa Cruz; B.S. Computer Science, UC Santa Cruz; M.S. Computer Science, California Institute of Technology; Ph.D. Computer Science, California Institute of Technology)
Computer Science Department, College of Engineering

Thomas Fowler

Distinguished Teaching Award

Thomas Fowler
Professor, Architecture

Professor Thomas Fowler teaches third-year design and building technology courses, works with independent study students and co-teaches a combined interdisciplinary fourth-year studio and a graduate-level building design studio. He brings more than 30 years of teaching and a breadth of design experience that are not lost on architecture students at any level of the program.

“I can say he challenges me to think about where I am in life, how I am learning, and how to take charge of my own learning in ways I haven’t done in the past,” said one senior in her nomination letter.

In addition, Professor Fowler is also director of the graduate architecture program and oversees the award-winning Community Interdisciplinary Design Studio (CIDS) that he founded in 1997 to give students access to cutting-edge digital technology for the design and construction of a range of interdisciplinary projects. In a word, he’s an inspiration.

“Tom has inspired me to become an architect,” said a nomination letter that lauded his design method. Thinking about content of a project and its systems has inspired me to pursue becoming a practicing architect and designer,” she continued. “My outlook on what an architect/designer does has changed because of him, and I am inspired.” He has taught at Cal Poly since 1995.

Professor (Bachelor of Architecture, New York Institute of Technology / old Westbury Campus; Master of Architecture, Cornell University)
Architecture Department
College of Architecture and Environmental Design

Edward Himelblau

Distinguished Teaching Award

Edward Himelblau
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Dr. Ed Himelblau knows there’s an art to teaching; in fact, there’s art — literally — in his lectures that help improve “student learning and classroom experience.” Inspired by The New Yorker magazine, he started drawing biology cartoons while a cell and molecular biology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. For years he’s incorporated art and humor into his lessons.

“He genuinely cares that his students are not only learning the material, but understanding it as well.” said one student. “His notes, which include his own personal drawings, are not only helpful in understanding the material, but fun!”

In another nomination letter, a student boasted that Dr. Himelblau “has made me love learning again. He takes the difficult subject of molecular biology and makes it possible for every student to succeed. Even though I don’t have him as a professor … I use study techniques gained from his class in all my classes now — not just trying to learn the material, but to go beyond that into how it applies to the real world.”

He earned bachelor’s degree in biology from UC San Diego in 1992 and a doctorate from UW Madison in 2000. He has taught at Cal Poly since 2005.

Assistant Professor (B.S., Biology, UC San Diego; Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Biological Sciences Department
College of Science and Mathematics

Francis Villablanca

Distinguished Teaching Award

Francis Villablanca
Professor, Biological Sciences

Dr. Francis Villablanca gained notoriety in 1986 as an undergraduate biology student at Cal Poly for research involving the elusive Morro Bay kangaroo rat. He’s the last human to have observed this endangered mammal in the wild. Curiosity led him to study kangaroo rats for his doctorate in zoology at UC Berkeley. After UC Berkeley, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Louisiana State University and as an associate researcher at the University of Hawaii, before returning to Cal Poly in 1999. Research continues to be a passion — and continuing studies of endangered species — but he also has a passion for the classroom.

“He goes above and beyond during his lectures to make sure every student succeeds,” said a senior biology major in her nomination letter.

“Dr. Villablanca challenges his students by encouraging them to think ‘outside the box’ and make their own connections to the material.” His Socratic teaching style inspired her and gave her confidence to stretch from her comfort zone. “These things that I have learned from Dr. Villablanca will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she wrote. “I cannot thank him enough for these gifts.”

Professor (B.S. Environmental and Systematic Biology, Cal Poly; Ph.D. UC Berkeley
Biological Sciences Department
College of Science and Mathematics

Danielle Borrelli

Outstanding Staff Award

Danielle Borrelli
Instructional Technology Consultant
Information Technology Services

Ms. Danielle Borrelli was cited as an exemplary, dedicated and tireless staff member who provides excellent customer service and delivers efficient solutions. She began her tenure in Information Technology Services as a student assistant in 2009 while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in political science.

In her current role, she develops and executes best practices for information security, leads and promotes ITS work management principles and processes, fosters ITS values, and mentors’ peers. Ms. Borrelli was key to upgrading university classrooms by analyzing the needs of students and faculty and serving as project manager to implement the technology.

“Ms. Borrelli makes it her personal mission to become an expert in whatever she chooses to do,” wrote one supporter. “She is thorough, detail oriented and focused on the use of technology to fulfill our customers’ vision. She provides thoughtful and detailed analysis of problems leading to the delivery of effective solutions.” A former supervisor called her a “fearless advocate for her constituents, keeping the client in mind with every step.” She was also credited for her work ethic and high level of professionalism.

Instructional Technology Consultant (B.A., Political Science, Cal Poly;  Master’s in Public Policy, Cal Poly)
Information Technology Services
California Cybersecurity Institute 

Douglas Brewster

Outstanding Staff Award

Douglas Brewster
Equipment Technician
Biological Science

Mr. Doug Brewster is described as a loyal, well-respected and highly productive problem-solver. Faculty members credit his expansive expertise in fixing, designing and fabricating equipment and items that enhance hands-on teaching and research.

“Mr. Brewster can build or fix anything,” wrote a nominator. “He has turned the workshop into an amazing facility.” Mr. Brewster’s skill, knowledge and willingness to help has enhanced faculty members’ research capabilities and has allowed hundreds of students to be involved in research studies. “He possesses an enormous amount of technical knowledge regarding fabrication techniques and is always learning about new materials, fabrication tools and mechanical systems.

He helped develop equipment as sophisticated as an enclosed chamber and tripod lift system that allowed one of our researchers to be the first scientist to measure the metabolic rates of 300 b. Weddell seal pups in Antarctica and more simple nest boxes for a researcher studying birds,” wrote a faculty member. Another said, “He is extremely pleasant and enthusiastically helpful. He treats everyone with equal respect and kindness.” Mr. Brewster and has been in his position for 10 years.

Equipment Technician III (Associate of Applied Science, Design Technology, Ivy Tech State College)
Biological Sciences Department
College of Science and Mathematics

Thomas Moylan

Outstanding Staff Award

Thomas Moylan
Manager

Center for Coastal Marine Sciences

Mr. Thomas Moylan is recognized as “amazingly responsive,” “full of initiative” and “genuinely positive” in his job managing the Cal Poly Pier. One supporter called him the “heart and soul of marine operations for the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences.”

He has served in his capacity since 2002, the year Cal Poly acquired the pier. He is credited with helping to build the program and the pier facility from the very beginning. “The level of responsibility, dedication, loyalty and breadth of support he provides exceeds the expectations of most facility and program managers,” wrote a nominator.

The favorite part of Mr. Moylan’s job is working with students, faculty, staff and administrators to enhance Cal Poly’s marine science program. Twice a year Mr. Moylan organizes open house events at the pier that attract thousands of people who learn about the research activities of Cal Poly students and faculty. These interactions among the students, the faculty and the public are valuable Cal Poly public outreach efforts and would not exist without Mr. Moylan’s dedication and hard work. “His job performance and expertise … is unparalleled,” wrote one supporter. “I cannot think of anyone – at Cal Poly or elsewhere – more qualified for the job.”

Manager, Center for Coastal Marine Sciences (A.S., Oceanographic Technology, Clatsop Community College; B.A., Aquatic Biology, UC Santa Barbara; M.S., Zoology, University of Maine, Orono)
College of Science and Mathematics

Kim Sprayberry

Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

Kim Sprayberry
Assistant Professor, Animal Science

Dr. Kim Sprayberry dreamed of becoming an equine veterinarian from the time she was a child on the family raisin-grape vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley. She credits a willingness to put legs of hard work under a dream, but also the necessary help of mentors who took an interest in her career, with her eventually practicing equine medicine with some of the world’s most extreme athletes —the racing thoroughbreds.

At Cal Poly, she brings that passion to the classroom and to her role as advisor to the Veterinary Science Club. She is the Animal Science Department’s “primary point of contact for students interested in careers in veterinary medicine,” a group of at least 600 in any given year, wrote one student. Another saluted the Board-certified equine internal medicine specialist’s dedication as an educator. A classmate agreed, adding “she is a well-rounded practitioner and instructor … and has made a difference in my life. She talked to me like a person, not just another student, and I believe those talks have made me enjoy my college experience more and have led me down a path of absolute success.”

Prior to coming to Cal Poly, Dr. Sprayberry spent more than a decade in the Kentucky bluegrass as a member of the 50-veterinarian staff at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky. In addition to practice, Dr. Sprayberry is active in veterinary medical journalism. She is editor of the leading textbook “Current Therapy in Equine Medicine,” and has worked as an assistant editor for Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Journal of Veterinary Research.

Assistant Professor, (Bachelor’s, Physiology, UC Davis; DVM, UC Davis)
Animal Science Department
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Benoît Lecat

Provost’s Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy

Benoît Lecat
Professor, Wine and Viticulture

Dr. Benoît Lecat has a passion for vines and the wines they create — especially great Burgundy wines. He joined Cal Poly from the Burgundy School of Wine and Sprits Business in Dijon, France, bringing to the burgeoning Wine and Viticulture Department his strong background in wine business. In just three years, he has played a key role in the evolution of the program.

“Dr. Lecat has been instrumental in illuminating the department’s vision for the future,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Lecat has helped to raise the more than $14 million for the recently named JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture, which is expected to open in late 2019. “He accompanied development staff and me on more than 75 percent of visits made to prospective donors,” Thulin said.

As “the face of the department,” Dr. Lecat embraces the Learn by Doing philosophy “in every decision … to give students access to the very best tools available to enable them to be successful upon graduation,” added Dean Thulin. Under his guidance, Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture Department “is becoming the preeminent in the nation, training the next generation of wine makers, grape growers and winery operators,” Thulin said. Lecat holds several professional wine certifications such as the WSET Level 4 diploma in wines and spirits. He is also a certified sherry educator.

Postgraduate in Bank Management, FUCaM, branch of Louvain School of Management, UCL campus of Mons, Belgium; M.S. in marketing, Graduate School of Business Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium; Ph.D. in management, FUCaM, branch of Louvain School of Management, UCL campus of Mons, Belgium
Wine and Viticulture Department Head
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Graham Doig

Learn by Doing Scholar Award
Completed Research Category

Graham Doig
Assistant Professor, Aerospace Engineering

Project Title: Why Do Some Students Choose to Get Involved in Co-curricular Engineering Projects?

Dr. Doig is recognized for research that focuses on the role that co-curricular engineering projects, such as design projects and competitions, can play in retention and completion of degree among under-represented groups. Understanding why some students do and why others don’t participate in these projects -- and the variables affecting classroom performance -- will provide data to guide curricular and funding decision-making. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Doig and three research assistants are surveying students to determine whether influential decision-making factors and attitudes are consistent across the demographic or if unique gender, ethnicity, social or socio-economic-related responses might influence the makeup of co-curricular student project teams. The research involves generating significant new insight into why students choose to participate in co-curricular engineering projects and utilizes a combination of online surveys and more detailed interviews with students. The results will improve the understanding of student motivations and perceptions, including to what extent they consciously evaluate potential trade-offs and consequences of making one choice over another. The research began at Cal Poly in spring 2018 and will expand to other California campuses with different demographics, different institutional foci, and different pedagogical approaches. Dr. Doig began teaching at Cal Poly in 2014.

Assistant Professor (M.Engr., Aeronautical Engineering, University of Glasgow, Scotland; Ph.D., Aeronautical Engineering, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia) Aerospace Engineering Department, College of Engineering

Julie Rodgers

Learn by Doing Scholar Award
Proposed or In Progress Category

Julie Rodgers
Associate Professor, Psychology and Child Development

Project Title: Building Intercultural Competence Through Cultural Immersion Projects

Dr. Rodgers’ research assesses the efficacy of an equalizing and Learn by Doing approach to intercultural competence for all students through low-cost pedagogical alternatives. Intercultural competence refers to the ability to confidently and sensitively interact with members of a culture different from one’s own while being aware of the culture’s social norms and expectations. This skill set is not easily acquired through traditional textbook learning. Dr. Rodgers’ project utilizes a cultural immersion project (CIP) to bring diversity and inclusivity topics into the classroom as a means to better prepare students to succeed in the labor market. Traditional methods include traveling abroad, which is not practical for many students. Dr. Rodgers’ approach allows students to develop their qualitative research, presentation and writing skills and provides them a better understanding and appreciation of a cultural group that is significantly different from their own, thereby enhancing their intercultural competence without extensive travel and the associated costs. A quasi-experimental assessment and repeated-measures analyses revealed significant increases in students’ perceived intercultural competence and confidence. The Society for the Teaching of Psychology has awarded an Instructional Resource Award to Dr. Rodgers and her student collaborators. Dr. Rodgers joined the faculty in 2012.

Associate Professor (B.S., Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada; M.S., Counseling, San Francisco State University; Ph.D., Social and Personality Psychology, UC Berkeley)
Psychology and Child Development Department, College of Liberal Arts

Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Learn by Doing Scholar Award
Published Research Award

Beth Chance
Professor, Statistics

Karen McGaughey
Professor, Statistics

Allan Rossman
Department Chair and Professor, Statistics

Soma Roy
Associate Professor, Statistics

Project Title: Learning by Doing Statistics: Having Students Engage with Scientific Studies that Matter, Every Day

Drs. Chance, McGaughey, Rossman and Roy introduce students to the process of statistical investigations: asking meaningful research questions, collecting data, making inferences and drawing conclusions. The faculty introduce the concepts of statistical inference by using simulation and randomization methods. Students toss coins, spin spinners, shuffle cards, and use web applets to learn, visualize and understand what chance outcomes mean and what results are unlikely to happen by chance alone. To leverage modern technology to improve learning, the professors developed a suite of freely available applets that enable students to explore statistical concepts dynamically and visually. The professors were awarded two National Science Foundation grants to develop and implement one of the first comprehensive curricula for introductory college-level statistics classes that utilizes an active-learning pedagogy throughout the curriculum; emphasizes the core logic of statistical inference using simulation and randomization-based methods with an intuitive and spiral approach; and emphasizes the overall process of statistical investigations. These curricular materials have been and continue to be evaluated at scores of institutions across the country. The results have been presented at national and international conferences and published in leading statistics education journals. Dr. Chance began teaching at Cal Poly in 1999; Dr. McGaughey, 2003; Dr. Rossman, 2001; Dr. Roy, 2008.

Beth Chance, Professor (B.S., Applied Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College; M.S./Ph.D.,  Operations Research/Statistics, Cornell University)  

Karen McGaughey, Professor (B.S., Chemistry Education, Kansas State University; M.S./Ph.D., Statistics, Kansas State University) 

Allan Rossman, Department Chair and Professor (B.A., Mathematics and English, Geneva College; M.S./Ph.D., Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University)

Soma Roy, Associate Professor (B.S., Statistics, Lady Shri Ram College for Women; M.S., Statistics, Delhi University; M.S./Ph.D., Statistics, The Ohio State University) 

Statistics Department, College of Science and Mathematics

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