Cal Poly Honors 10 Faculty and Three Staff Members for Contributions to Students and the University

Ten Cal Poly faculty members and three university staffers were honored for exemplary service at the 2015 Fall Conference held Sept. 14 on campus.

“We have many reasons to celebrate our faculty and staff for their dedication and their hard work,” said Kathleen Enz Finken, Cal Poly’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our annual faculty and staff awards are one way for us to acknowledge all of this fantastic activity that is going on around our campus. These are colleagues who engage, inspire and go beyond the call of duty.”

Distinguished Scholarship Award

Distinguished Scholarship Awards (which recognize educators who involve students in their research and apply Cal Poly expertise in direct contributions to the region, state and nation) went to Professor Wyatt Brown in the Horticulture & Crop Science Department, Philip J. Costanzo, an associate professor in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department, and Associate Professor Lars Tomanek in the Biological Sciences Department. 

Brown, who has been at Cal Poly since 1990, has brought in nearly $2 million in grants to the university since 2006. In June, the Atascadero resident was awarded a patent for an anti-browning/antimicrobial formula for pre-cut fruits and vegetables.

Costanzo, a San Luis Obispo resident, started at Cal Poly in 2007. His research focuses on developing unique polymeric materials for applications including rehealable coatings, insensitive munitions, and the development of dynamic resins and scaffolds.

Tomanek, of Morro Bay, has been at Cal Poly since 2005. His research focuses on the physiological performance of marine organisms in response to climate change. He and his students examine how the proteome — the entire protein complement of an organism — responds to environmental stress.

Distinguished Teaching Award

The Distinguished Teaching Award, based on nominations from students and alumni and chosen after a committee observes nominees in the classroom, went to mathematics Professor Todd Grundmeier; Sandy Stannard, an architecture professor; and Dustin Stegner, an associate professor in the English Department. 

Grundmeier, of San Luis Obispo, has been at Cal Poly since 2003. “He wants to make sure that we are as prepared as possible for our future careers,” said one student. “It shows in the care he takes in helping us enhance our problem-solving skills.”

 Stannard joined the architecture faculty in 2001. The San Luis Obispo resident was hailed as an “exceptional and passionate teacher … truly dedicated to the art of teaching.” Another student wrote: “She is concerned not only with each student’s personal projects but also with their development as a designer, communicator and emerging professional.”

 Stegner joined Cal Poly’s English Department in 2007. The Morro Bay resident was praised for encouraging students to achieve beyond their expectations. “I came into the graduate program thinking that a master’s in English was the farthest milestone that I would reach,” one student wrote. “After being in class with Dr. Stegner, … I believe that I can complete a doctorate program.”

Learn by Doing Scholar Award

Steffen Peuker, an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department, and Professor Kevin Taylor, who also heads the Kinesiology Department, received the inaugural Learn by Doing Scholar Awards, which recognizes outstanding faculty scholarship on Cal Poly’s signature learning philosophy.

 Peuker, of Atascadero, helped implement a freshmen service project in which student teams developed engineering outreach experiences for groups of underserved third- through eighth-graders. He was named Cal Poly’s James L. Bartlett Jr. assistant professor in January 2014. His vision to introduce engaging first-year experiences into the engineering curriculum can inspire and motivate freshmen engineering students — and impact engineering education — nationwide.

 Taylor, of San Luis Obispo, was recognized for his work with Activity4All, a program in which he collaborates with faculty in the College of Engineering to provide kinesiology and engineering students with interdisciplinary projects that result in prototype equipment for people with disabilities. He has been at Cal Poly since 1999.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year Award

Kristen Cardinal, an associate professor in the Biomedical & General Engineering Department, received the Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year Award. The Arroyo Grande native, who earned her undergraduate engineering degree at Cal Poly, joined the faculty in 2007.

Provost’s Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy

Jonathan York — who co-founded Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in 2010 after a 30-year career as a CEO, entrepreneur and venture capitalist — received the Provost’s Leadership Award for Partnership in Philanthropy. The San Luis Obispo resident has been at Cal Poly since 2007. Under his guidance, the center has sponsored entrepreneur pitch competitions and provided an array of other programs to assist students: the Hatchery; the SLO HotHouse Accelerator; and Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs, a study-away program with Draper University.

Outstanding Staff Award

Three staff members were honored with the Outstanding Staff Award, which recognizes dedication, loyalty, expertise and contributions to Cal Poly. Honored were Don Popham, project and event manager; Donetta Rosson, an administrative support coordinator in the Agricultural Education & Communications Department; and Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez, an academic advisor for Student Academic Services.

Arvizu-Rodriguez joined Cal Poly’s Educational Opportunity Program in 1987 and served as an admissions officer for eight years. In 2006, the Orcutt resident co-founded the Chicana Latino Faculty Staff Association.

Rosson, of Santa Margarita, has worked at the university since 1979. She worked for a time in the Liberal Studies Department, returning to the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences in 2006.

 Popham, of Atascadero, began working at Cal Poly in 1998 and has held a variety of positions in Facilities Services. He has been in his present post for two years.

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