News & Notes - Cultivate Fall 2023

Faculty Awards

Two College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences faculty members, Associate Professor Seeta Sistla and Professor Federico Casassa were honored at the university’s Fall Convocation event in September.

Sistla, who teaches in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, was recognized as a distinguished scholar for her work as an emerging national leader in soil science. Since joining Cal Poly, she has brought in more than $1 million in grants funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture supporting diverse research projects that include investigating the ecological consequences of plastics in agriculture, solar array development in rangelands and arctic global change.


Casassa, who teaches in the Wine and Viticulture Department, was recognized with the Provost’s Leadership Award For Partnership In Philanthropy. Casassa has been an integral part of advancement efforts for the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture and the department’s research program. Casassa’s research has brought leading winemakers from the area to the college, and he has hosted numerous industry advisory council members and other potential donors and supporters for immersive wine experiences in the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture.


Building Long-Term Growth

Progress is underway to replace or repair nearly 48 miles of fencing managed by the college surrounding its livestock and farm areas, including the Cal Poly Organic Farm and the orchards. Additionally, more than $4 million has been dedicated to replacing an aged fleet of trucks, tractors and support vehicles with newer models that meet emission reduction targets outlined by the California Air Regulation Board. The improvements are being made following the award of $18.75 million in one-time state funding to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences in August 2022 to make equipment and infrastructure improvements to the university’s agricultural production units. Planned future improvements will include enhancing the Plant Sciences program with greenhouse facility upgrades and modernizing the dairy production and processing facilities while decreasing their environmental footprint.

Dean Andrew Thulin Retirement Celebration

A Cal Poly alumnus, Dean Thulin will retire from Cal Poly at the end of 2023 after more than 25 years of service. He has led the college for the last 10 years and was the head of the Animal Science Department for 15 years before that. In that time, he worked to ensure the college is continuously poised to prepare future generations of students in sustainable agriculture practices that will build long-term food safety and security, environmental sustainability and climate-smart agricultural systems. A celebration will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at Cal Poly's JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture.


Summer Undergraduate Research

More than 35 students participated in the 2023 CAFES Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which culminated with a poster symposium in August at the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture. Students worked alongside faculty on research projects across multiple disciplines in the college’s nine departments. Over the 10-week program, students receive a $3,500 stipend for their work as well as invaluable experience.

Third Annual Breakawave Rodeo

On Sept. 28, Cal Poly Rodeo hosted the third annual BreakaWave rodeo on the coastline of Pismo Beach. The event featured 24 breakaway ropers, four saddle bronc riders and two bareback riders. Proceeds from the event benefit the annual student-athlete scholarship fund.


Cal Poly Receives Top 5-star Ranking 

Cal Poly is among the 34 top public and private universities in the nation, according to Money magazine’s 2023 Best Colleges rankings. The personal finance website — which reports on mortgages, loans, credit, investing and more — analyzed dozens of data points, including graduation rates, cost of attendance, financial aid and alumni salaries, to find colleges that combine quality and affordability. The magazine used six rankings — from 2.5 to 5 stars — to identify the 736 schools “where your tuition (and time) is likely to pay off.” Cal Poly achieved the 5-star rating along with 33 other schools across the U.S., including Ivy League universities Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia. Cal Poly was among seven top California schools — and the only California State University campus — to receive 5-star recognition.

New Reserve Wine

Introducing Cal Poly's 2022 Reserve Wines: A Perfect Blend of Learn by Doing and Excellence

The Wine and Viticulture Department recently debuted its 2022 Sauvignon Blanc and 2022 Chardonnay Reserve wines. The 2022 vintage marks the first time that Cal Poly's wines were made entirely on campus. Students are involved in every aspect of the winemaking process, from tending the vines in the Trestle Estate Vineyard to winemaking and bottling in the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture. As the 2022 vintage began to take shape, the decision to launch a reserve tier was born. The 2022 Sauvignon Blanc and 2022 Chardonnay Reserve wines are the culmination of dedication, hard work and a commitment to excellence. These wines represent the very best that Cal Poly has to offer, showcasing the incredible talent of our students and the world-class faculty and facilities now available on campus. Produced in very limited quantities, you can find these wines at


Meet Our New Faculty

James Bingaman

DEPARTMENT: Agricultural Education and Communication

AREA OF SPECIALTY: Communication

EDUCATION: Doctorate in media communication in media from the University of Delaware

HOMETOWN: Perth, Western Australia

FUN FACT: I was on a TV show as a kid.

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Shannon Mcclorry

DEPARTMENT: Food Science and Nutrition

AREA OF SPECIALTY: Early-life nutrition, iron deficiency, metabolism

EDUCATION: Doctorate in nutrition from UC Davis

HOMETOWN: Dundas, Ontario, Canada

FUN FACT: As an undergraduate, I spent a year interning with a Crime Scene Investigation Unit.

Miguel Pedroza

DEPARTMENT: Wine and Viticulture

AREA OF SPECIALTY: Wine volatile aroma analysis and perception; wine processing

EDUCATION: Doctorate in enology, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

HOMETOWN: Monterrey, Mexico

FUN FACT: I play guitar and bass and I am always ready for a fun jam with fellow music enthusiasts.



Visit Cultivate Fall 2023 to read more stories.

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