News and Notes – Cultivate Fall 2021


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department (NRES), which was created when the Natural Resources Management and Earth and Soil Sciences Departments merged. The unification of the two departments expanded Cal Poly’s capacity to train future environmental science and natural resource management professionals at a time when the complexity and seriousness of environmental and policy challenges facing society is unmatched. Cal Poly and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is prepared to meet this need early on by investing in and growing the department to meet student needs, expanding support for student research and professional training, and growing the Learn by Doing opportunities across the entire institution. While the environmental challenges society faces now and in the future are serious and mounting, the NRES Department is proud to be among a talented and committed community of educators and students able to address these challenges head on. To help train the next generation of environmental stewards, donate at



More than 330 people attended the Cal Poly Strawberry Center’s annual Field Day event on July 29 to learn more about the latest research and automation activities taking place at the Strawberry Center. Cal Poly students and staff discussed 13 experiments focused on disease and pest management techniques and offered demonstrations on current automation projects for strawberry production. More than 43 sponsors supported the Field Day activities. The center offers student work experience and internships, with as many as 20 students working on various projects at any given time. Watch a video recap here:



Hannah Steen recently joined the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences as a career counselor. Steen was born and raised in south-central Kentucky and attended college at the University of Louisville, where she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She moved to the Central Coast in January 2019. Prior to her role with the college, she served as a career counselor on the Freshman Focus Team at Cal Poly. Steen believes the best part of her job is getting to hear students' stories and learn about their goals and aspirations.



The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is a partner institution for the Food Systems Leadership Institute (FSLI), which provides leadership development to upper-level leaders in higher education, government and industry. Each year the college hosts participants for a weeklong immersion session where they hear from leaders in the food and agriculture industry and visit production and processing sites. This year's speakers included California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross.



Federico Casassa, associate professor of enology and sensory analysis, was awarded the university’s 2021 Distinguished Scholar Award. Casassa brought his passion for wine to Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture Department in 2015. He has since helped establish the department — the nation’s largest undergraduate program with 300 students — as a key research hub in California.

Over the past six years, his research has contributed to 19 manuscripts, two book chapters and more than 30 conference proceedings. His work with students has been singled out, with seven of his published papers listing his graduate students as co-authors. Casassa has overseen 46 senior projects, of which 27 included student-conducted research projects he supervised. Nine more also published work from research under his guidance and now work at world-renowned wineries. Casassa has secured nearly $550,000 in grants supporting undergraduate and graduate student research, and he has helped burnish Cal Poly’s reputation through 40 wine industry presentations and workshops in the U.S. and internationally. His outreach to the wine industry has helped Cal Poly become a major player in investigating best practices and new frontiers in the industry.

In June, Casassa was named an Italian Wine Ambassador by Vinitaly International Academy — making him one of only 240 such ambassadors in the world today.

He sought the certification to broaden his knowledge of the diversity of Italian wines. His scholarly research, which is assisted by his undergraduate and graduate students, focuses on wine chemistry and biochemistry and on the chemical and sensory aspects of winemaking, particularly in red wines. “We live in a global world, and our students need to be exposed to the broadest possible array of aspects of the wine industry,” Casassa said. “Europe, especially Italy, was the cradle of modern winemaking. Tasting and understanding wines produced using Italian native varieties and following techniques that are not necessarily applied here in California will enable me to incorporate (and perhaps experiment with) some of these techniques and approaches to my winemaking classes to enhance student learning.”

Pictured from left to right: Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, Associate Professor Federico Casassa and Provost Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore


Meet Our New Faculty

Sandy Shen

DEPARTMENT: Experience Industry Management
AREA OF SPECIALTY: Tourism experience design, destination marketing, and technology applications in hospitality and tourism
EDUCATION: Doctorate in management from University of Guelph, Canada
HOMETOWN: Beijing, China
CURRENTLY READING: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear
FUN FACT: "I love gardening and like to collect seeds and plant them in my backyard. I have different kinds of flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Looking at the plants grow from seeds to leaves really brings hope and a sense of achievement."


First-year wine and viticulture majors Ariana Godina of Madera, California, and Mercy Torres of Carpinteria, California, were selected by the Delicato Family Wines' Winemaker Scholarship Program for a winemaker scholarship and mentoring program focused on encouraging Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students to join the wine industry. The students will receive a fully paid scholarship, including living expenses, mentorship by a senior executive, professional development, and industry experience through paid summer internships and a guaranteed job upon graduation. Launched earlier this year, the 2021 Winemaker Scholarship was initially slated for a single recipient. However, when presented with the final candidates, the review committee extended the scholarship to both students. “Cal Poly’s Wine and Viticulture Department is thrilled to have two incoming students awarded the first-ever Delicato Winemaker Scholarship,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “As the largest undergraduate wine and viticulture program in the country, Cal Poly has an opportunity to create real change in the wine industry. Delicato’s leadership to support Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students with their educational goals and help facilitate their pathway into the wine industry is inspiring and supports efforts to bring more diversity to the Cal Poly program.”

First-year wine and viticulture major Stella Tuffli of Concord, California, received the Charles Woodson & O’Neill Family Wine Scholarship, the first in a new series of college scholarships they are awarding via the California Community Foundation to students at Cal Poly and Sonoma State aimed at encouraging more high-achieving Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students to enter the wine industry. The scholarship will cover Tuffli’s tuition and room and board throughout her entire college career. “I cannot think of a better way to support the next generation of young BIPOC wine professionals than with scholarships at the top universities in the heart of America’s wine country. I look forward to getting to know future recipients of the Charles Woodson & O’Neill Family Wine Scholarships,” said Charles Woodson, former National Football League player and partner of Charles Woodson’s Intercept Wines with O’Neill. To learn more about the scholarship and to donate through the California Community Foundation, visit calpoly_bipoc_wvit-_scholarship/.

The new JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture is nearing completion and will be fully operational beginning winter quarter. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences plans to host public tours during the university’s annual Open House event in April 2022. The center includes a 5,000-case bonded teaching, research and production winery with a fermentation hall, bottling room, barrel rooms, and a research lab. The facility also includes the E. & J. Gallo Winery & Family Building with labs for viticulture, enology and sensory analysis, as well as faculty offices and the Swanson Center of Effort Conference Hall, where industry and academia can come together. The first cohort of students will begin winemaking courses in the new winery during fall quarter 2022, using the new 250-gallon tanks to make their own varietals and blends during an intensive fourthyear series of courses that incorporate the entire winemaking process, from crush and barreling to bottling wines.


Support Cal Poly students and the Learn by Doing tradition. Cal Poly Holiday Cheese Gift Boxes, featuring student-made products, will be available to purchase in early November. New this year are the Triple Peak Bloomy Rind cheese, a fresh triple cream brie that has quickly become a fan favorite, and the Fromage Blanc, a soft farmstead cheese that is great for cooking and as a spread. Also back by popular demand is the limited-edition Madonna Alpine Style, which sold out quickly in last year’s sale.

Follow @calpolycreameryslo on Instagram for the holiday launch. To order from a selection of traditional favorites and new offerings available in a variety of gift box arrangements, visit


Visit Cultivate Fall 2021 to read more stories.

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