Behind the story: Cal Fresh program on Cal Poly campus

You might think that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo students do not go hungry or struggle with funding for food, but that’s simply not the case.

Every year Cal Poly senior journalism students investigate various stories related to campus and our team: Mandie Geller, Erica Hudson, Reilly Roberts and I decided to find out more about how this program works and who it benefits.

Cal Poly CalFresh Food Pantry
Cal Poly CalFresh Food Pantry

Gathering Information

Our team investigated to find out more about a federally funded program on campus called Cal Fresh that aims to help provide students with the nutrition they need.

Since I was in charge of the strategy and engagement position, I  made posts on various social media outlets (Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat)  in order to search for students who have benefited from the program or know more about it. We found a variety of students that either use the program or have worked for it, but it should be noted that Facebook was the only successful outlet I found. Snapchat was almost useless since most people had not heard of the program and Reddit trolled me, called me an “idiot” or “I’ll write your story for you.” Basically, no one wanted to help me on either of those social media platforms.

After that, I compiled a backgrounder report on previous stories with related content. What I found were stories having a wide range of topics related to the program on campus. Most of them had to do with a larger scale regarding the CalFresh outreach in California and the effects the Trump Administration budget slashes have had on it such as this article written by the Tribune. We thought it would be best if we focused on how the program effects students since we simply do not have the time for a larger scale story.

Cal Poly student: Dezeray Cruz being interviewed on her experience with CalFresh
Cal Poly student: Dezeray Cruz being interviewed on her experience with CalFresh

We initially thought that the program works by applying to check eligibility based on income and once approved you are given up to $300 a month in food vouchers. What we found from the students who replied to our social media posts was that it is not nearly $300 a month. It’s actually closer to half of that on average for most students.

We interviewed a student who is enrolled in the program named Dezeray Cruz. She told us that she enrolled in the program because she did not feel that she made enough to purchase  organic/healthy food. She was tired of the food served on campus and felt that most of the options on campus were not up to health standards. She decided to apply for the program was immediately approved.

“I felt that one of the best features of the program is that the vouchers allow me to buy healthier options at places such as the farmers market in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday evenings.”

Essentially we learned that the program is widely available for students, but she did not feel that awareness was high enough on campus. She felt that more people could benefit from the program if awareness was raised.

Dezeray Cruz during her interview
Dezeray Cruz during her interview

The Writing Process

Mandie Geller was in charge of writing the story and she felt the best way to get emotion out of this topic would be to interview a student who has had experience with the program and someone who works for it. “I thought it was interesting hearing about Dezeray’s experience with receiving CalFresh benefits and being able to buy fresh, organic food at the farmers market.”

Erica Hudson who worked on the multimedia section of the project, decided that the best way to express this topic was by,  “using data from the on campus CalFresh program to visually display information and requirements about CalFresh programs in California and on college campuses.”

Reilly Roberts who was in charge of filming the project felt the best visual representation of this topic was by showing the emotion the sources expressed when speaking on the topic. “After learning more about how food insecurity is increasing during our interviews, I’m curious to see how programs develop to meet student needs over time.”

Reilly Roberts filming the interview with Dezeray Cruz
Reilly Roberts filming the interview with Dezeray Cruz

Blog written by Navid Golemohammadi


Behind the Scenes: How two Cal Poly students created the first boutique wine farmer’s market

Every quarter, Cal Poly students work on a senior project specific to their major. For some, that can be creating a new product or writing a thesis, but for Emily Rosa and Alex Broedlow, it was bringing a huge event to life. Rock the Vine was the first boutique wine farmer’s market and it was created by Rosa and Broedlow in conjunction with SLO Brew Rock.

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 4.49.45 PM

Gathering Information

 As the strategy and engagement position, I began my search for information by going through the Rock the Vine event page to find more information and contact sources. From there, I was able to get in contact with Rosa and Broedlow, who had both reiterated that they wanted to give boutique wines, wineries without tasting rooms, an opportunity to interact with the SLO community. After talking to them and a few other sources I reached out to, I passed along the information to my team so that for their sections they were able to get in touch with the right people.

From there, I complied a list of articles that had covered our topic previously, such as this SLO Tribune piece, and gave a detailed description of how we can make our coverage of the event different than what had already been written. Since all the articles about Rock the Vine had promotional piece prior to the event to increase ticket sales, our piece would be different as it would cover how the event was created and how the actual event went.

I reached out on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter to other Cal Poly students to gather information on their opinions of the event, which yielded a few responses.

Creating the Piece

Our journalist responsible for the written portion of our project, Ysabel Sullivan, had known about this project for months. As a result, she was really able to get in depth as to how the seniors planned and executed this event, but was also able to give us good perspective form the SLO Brew point of view and the wineries involved.

Sullivan attended the event in which she interviewed and observed the organizers, attendees and wineries, “I really enjoyed working on this project because it was amazing to see all these communities of SLO come together. The girls had worked so hard for so many months to make this event successful and it was great to see that happen for them” said Sullivan.

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 1.25.12 PM

Greg Llamas, who worked on the multimedia section of the project, set out to create a time-lapse from an elevated position and a three piece audio and visual set. He thought the story was “interesting because it was about a senior project that seemed successful.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 1.28.07 PM

Frances Mylod-Vargas, our videographer, followed attendees, organizers and wineries throughout the event to capture what it was like to be there, “it was pretty cool to be able to witness the production of the very first Rock the Vine event. Alex & Emily were so excited, as well as the wineries and event goers. It was a fun atmosphere to be apart of!”

Blog written by Jody Miller.

Behind the scenes: Cal Poly’s sold out wine

For the last four weeks of this quarter, we begged the question of why Cal Poly wine had been sold out. After finishing our third senior project, one of our members, Lauren Goff, had brought up the question once again. So, for our final project, we decided to tackle the news story of Cal Poly wine.

A Cal Poly wine barrel in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo
A Cal Poly wine barrel in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo has one of the biggest wine & viticulture programs in the country. When we noticed that Cal Poly Wine was currently sold out; we started working to find out why. Our research led us to find out that in 2010, Mustang News published an article on Cal Poly wine winning awards at the Orange County Commercial Wine Competition in Costa Mesa. After that, there was no further lead on the topic.

I emailed Adrienne Ferraro and Federico Casassa to find more information on the topic. Ferraro is the Cal Poly wine brand manager and Casassa is an assistant professor on enology. This is where we faced a huge challenge. We had to try and set interviews before Thanksgiving week. Most of our sources were either going to be busy or going out of town since classes were not going to be in session. Unfortunately, we were not able to schedule interviews before the holiday week.

The bottling process of Cal Poly wine in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo
The bottling process of Cal Poly wine in the pilot center. Credited by: Andi DiMatteo

The following week we managed to interview Ferraro, Casassa and check out the pilot winery. We were able to see students in action at the pilot center. “I’m really happy we were invited to view a student bottling because it gave us great content and showed us learn by doing action through wine and vit[iculture],” said Multimedia group member, Andi DiMatteo.

We discovered that there is a student wine and a commercial wine. The commercial wine is the one that is currently sold out. The difference between the two is that the commercial wine is sold out and there are students involved but not as much like in the student wine. The commercial wine is bottled and labeled by a machine. There is a company that produces this wide manufacture.

Print group member, Jordan Hanna, interviewing Federico Casassa in his office on November 28, 2017.

Casassa mentioned how students are very involved in the student wine production. From crushing grapes to bottling and labeling the wine. Broadcast group member, Lauren Goff, was excited about having the opportunity to see students creating wine and bottling it. “This project was really cool getting to see Cal Poly students participate in a true learn by doing experience,” said Goff.

All of the people we contacted in the department were helpful and informative. The department head of wine & viticulture, Dr. Benoit Lecat, provided us with the program’s newsletter. That really helped us in learning more about the program. Learning about the program was a great experience for Print group member, Jordan Hanna. “I really enjoyed learning about the department and all the teachers were so helpful with writing the story,” said Hanna.
We ended up finding out that there was a recent virus in the vineyards and it infected the grapes. Since they mostly rely on donated grapes, it’s been difficult.  So, that is one of the reasons for the lack of Cal Poly wine produced. They are currently in the process of making more wine within the next two weeks. About 2,500 cases are going to be made for the upcoming year.

Behind The Scenes: Looking at the Health Center Fee Adjustment


With the fee proposal, incoming students will either pay an additional $99 a quarter or $114 a quarter. Photo by Erica Hudson
With the fee proposal, incoming students will either pay an additional $99 a quarter or $114 a quarter. Photo by Erica Hudson

In 2016, the health center at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, saw 66% of the student body, according to the Campus Health and Wellbeing website.

With fewer counselors and medical providers met by an increasing student body, health center administrative staff have proposed a fee adjustment for incoming students to pay.

For Mustang News, my team covered the fee adjustment, attending both forums, and talking to students, staff, and faculty about their thoughts on the proposal.

What Will Change?

Aaron Baker, Director of Medical Services for the Cal Poly Health Center, presents to students. Photo by Erica Hudson.
Aaron Baker, Director of Medical Services for the Cal Poly Health Center, presents to students. Photo by Erica Hudson.

With the proposed fee increase, only new students to the university will have to pay the adjusted fee. If approved, the fee would roll in during the 2018 Fall Quarter, with a 4% increase every year.

Currently, enrolled students pay $315 a year ($105 each quarter). The proposal has two different options for fees: Option A is $612 a year ($204 a quarter), and Option B is $657 a year ($219 a quarter).

Health center staff made students aware of this proposal by hosting two open forums, presenting to classes, and posting an ad on the Cal Poly portal.


Health center administrative staff cited the following as improvements:

  • Cutting walk-in wait time and future appointments in half
  • Utilizing new technologies to improve student experiences such as text notifications and telehealth
  • Improve the counselor-to-student ratios to be at or above national benchmark standards
  • Cut wait times to see counselors and increase quantity of sessions
  • Expand weekday hours into the evenings

Group Reflection

Health Center services that would be cut if increased funding isn't sought out. Photo by Erica Hudson
Health Center services that would be cut if increased funding isn’t sought out. Photo by Erica Hudson

When Reilly did her reporting to write the article on this topic, she got to hear several student perspectives, but she said that “what has been most striking to [her] upon interviewing students about their health center horror stories, is that even though they have complained that the health center didn’t have adequate services for them, they are still reluctant to support a fee increase that would bring them those services.”

In both open forums that my group attended, health center staff openly noted how they’ve heard student complaints getting worse for years.

Aaron Baker, the Director of Health Services, said that “the health center listens to students through comments” received on comment cards, and that students have continually expressed frustration over long wait times. Yet Reilly noted that students were reluctant to enforce an increased fee (which could be for a number of reasons) even when it’s supposed to bring the increased care they seek.

The last time the campus health center raised fees was in 2009, using an alternative consultation process like they’re using now. In an alternative consultation process, student input is gathered online through comments and in person through forums. Those comments are then sent in a report to President Armstrong, who ultimately decides if the fee is implemented.

To Navid, after going to both forums, “it became clear that the health center has considered raising their fees for quite some time, especially since the last time they raised them in 2009.”

It interests me how current students have to vote on this proposal, yet incoming students who the fee will impact don’t have a say. Each year, their fee will increase 4%. In February, the results of the fee proposal will be public for incoming students to make their decisions, but I have a feeling that students will overlook this.

For Reilly, once she had talked to “a variety of students that have bad, personal experiences at the health center, it seems like this is an issue that needs to be addressed.” She thought that by hosting forums, the health center staff “[were] doing a great job of taking the ideas and opinions of students to form this proposal.”


Behind the Story: Cal Poly’s Digital Transformation Hub

When four journalism students hear that Amazon has partnered with Cal Poly to share its technology, they might not be shocked. After all, a giant tech company reaching out to a well-known polytechnic institution isn’t completely inconceivable. But, when four journalism students hear that Amazon partnered with Cal Poly to share its technology in the hopes of changing the world, they hear a story.

We found out that Amazon’s physical presence on campus was just established a few weeks ago at Cal Poly’s Technology Park. The Tech Park houses technology-based businesses, particularly those focused on research and development. Now Amazon’s Digital Transformation Hub has joined the park, it increases collaboration between Cal Poly and this portion of the tech industry.InteractingMuch like Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing method, we learned that Amazon has its own methodology for creating solutions to existing problems. They work backwards. Program Manager Paul Jurasin explained “first we write the press release, and then we work backwards to figure out how to get there.” By picking the solution they want first, Amazon believes that will motivate progress and ensure that they eventually reach the exact result they want. 

“Learning about the digital transformation hub was really eye opening. I didn’t know that human trafficking was an issue in SLO until now,” writer Lauren Goff  said. “The only issue was the DT-Hub hasn’t really done anything yet which was a bummer”

Our difficulty arose when we realized that although the Digital Transformation Hub may have a press release saying it harnessed Amazon Technology and Cloud Services to take steps toward ending human trafficking, because of the working backwards method Amazon uses, they may not have begun to take those steps yet.

“This was the most stressful project out of the three. The reason for that was because of how new the hub is. The program manager mentioned that it was only him and two interns at the moment. The interns were not available so I was stuck with one source,” Isel Longoria said. “Because of that, this was a challenge. I was challenged to be more created and find ways to convey the message through imagery and other ways.”


The story quickly became more about the brand-new partnership between Cal Poly and Amazon, and the potential impact it could have as the first educational institution to work with the tech-giant. By marrying Learn by Doing with Amazon’s innovation processes, the DT-Hub hopes to solve non-profit, government and education sector challenges over the course of a 10-week quarter.

“The Digital Transformation Hub has a great foundation and I️ can’t wait to see what incredible things they accomplish,” Jordan Hanna, videographer, said. “I️t was so interesting to learn how the program works and about the partnership with Amazon.”IMG_9085Overall , we all felt like the story we were telling was an interesting and compelling one. “The Amazon partnership isn’t something that’s well-known around campus, so it was cool getting to be part of the team that reported on it first,” Outreach Lead Andi Di Matteo said.

We’re all excited to see what the Digital Transformation Hub tackles next, as well as how it will be covered in the media.

Behind the Story: What the Real Food Collaborative is doing for Cal Poly students

How we found the RFC

One of our members, Lauren Goff, spotted the Real Food Collaborative at the the Cal Poly Shabang festival. As soon as the rest of us heard her idea we jumped on board. The members of the Real Food Collaborative were so easy to get in contact with and were open to us doing a story on them.

FullSizeRender 3“It was a challenging experience for me because I was doing a platform that I’m not confident doing. So it took me a while to figure out the right angle for this story. Overall, people in the Real Food Collaborative were very
helpful in getting the information needed for this story,” said our writer Isel Longoria.

Our initial idea took a turn

We were amazed when we learned that the Real Food Collaborative not only grew their food at an organic farm on campus, but they also cooked it in an on campus kitchen and sold it on Dexter Lawn. They have a menu on their Facebook page, as well as pictures of the group cooking and selling their produce. It wasn’t until we met up with the group at the Cal Poly Food Day that we learned that they do not sell their food on campus anymore. This to us was a let down because we were so excited to interview them cooking and selling their food. We had brainstormed great b-roll and were hoping to get the reaction of people who love to buy their food on Dexter.

FullSizeRender 4Changing our angle

This was the moment we decided to change the angle of our story. We were no longer focusing on how the Real Food Collaborative grew and sold food on campus, but instead why they stopped and what they are doing for students now. We quickly learned that they started putting together and selling produce boxes to Cal Poly students. We wanted to find out how much they make and how much it costs to make them.

A breakthrough moment

After enduring one of the hottest days at Cal Poly this year, we cooled down at Dexter Lawn in the afternoon with the Real Food Collaborative team. We got to see what they do in action and watch the RFL subscribers as they picked up their produce. The group brought about a dozen boxes of produce of all different kinds of vegetables that was just recently picked from the Cal Poly gardens. Their customers brought their own grocery bags and took one bunch or item from each box. They explained to us that they do this every 2 weeks and customers pay by the quarter.

“It was really cool getting to see what the collaborative does. Even though there wasn’t much to see visually, we made it work and got some good pictures” said Lauren Goff, who did our multimedia.

The bigger picture

After sharing cooking ideas, we got to talk to the president of the Real Food Collaborative, Abby Ahlgrim, who gave us her definition of what it means to be a sustainable consumer. She said, “The Real Food Collaborative is a student group on campus and our mission is to create a community around and advocate for real, healthy, local, and sustainably and ethically sourced food for students on campus.” She outlined how large of an umbrella term “sustainable” is and how it ranges from climate change to political and social justice. She FullSizeRendermentioned how all the members of the Real Food Collaborative are activists for ethical agricultural practices, healthy and local food choices, and the sustainability of our environment.

“The real food collaborative is a super important and sustainable organization that supports learn by doing, so spreading their story was really fun for me!” said Andie Di Matteo, our videographer.

FullSizeRender 5There’s more where that came from

When we first heard of the Real Food Collaborative we thought wow they are doing something we’ve never seen before. After doing some research we found out quickly that they are actually not the only group of people doing this in San Luis Obispo. There are many organizations on and off Cal Poly that share a mission to lower the ecological footprint in our town. Two groups we talked to that are off campus are called eatSLO and the SLO County Food System FullSizeRender 2Coalition.

Another great source we found is Hunter Francis who is the founder and director of the Center for Sustainability on Cal Poly’s campus. We found that he was a great person to talk to because he is extremely involved with teaching the community how to be more sustainable consumers and where they can find local and organic foods.


Behind the Story: Student Journalists dig up details on Cal Poly’s 4 sustainability awards won this year

Did you know the Cal Poly campus won 4 awards for sustainability practices this year? A few campus seniors here at Cal Poly wanted to get more information on what made our campus award-winning this year, the steps we have taken to get here and most importantly the people who got us to where we are today. These sustainability awards have not been reported on to this length yet, neither by campus news nor local or international news. That is why these students felt it was time to take it upon themselves to pull together the information, sources and material to highlight this feat; what is actually a very big deal for Cal Poly’s campus. Looking for more? Read on.

Gathering Information

Ysabel Sullivan, as the public relations, strategy and engagement representative for the group, started her information search with the archives and Mustang News archives for sustainability, awards, energy and energy efficiency. There was minimal information out on the topic to be found in articles other than what was posted by the Cal Poly Facilities Energy, Utilities, and Sustainability organization. There was an article posted in the Facility Services and Facilities Planning section on the solar farm being built to power over a quarter of the energy pumped through campus on a daily basis. Sullivan found great articles while compiling a backgrounder from the CAFES website on as well as through the AFD. She confirmed that there is no information about the current awards run in stories by any other campus or local news organizations.


Sullivan reached out to the public with questions about the story, and got her best responses on Twitter. @CalPoly, the official Cal Poly university Twitter handle, responded to her inquiry giving her further information and links to the awards.

“It’s nice because we know our sources are very valid and credible, since the majority of digital information we are pulling from the Cal Poly .edu website itself rather than news articles, because there haven’t been any articles written about it yet. It will be a fresh story for the public. We are especially excited since we are doing it from the perspective of the people behind these awards,”  said Sullivan. 

The Interview Process

Jody Miller, the journalist behind the written portion of the story, contacted the sources whom Sullivan pointed to as representing leadership behind the awards. The team first met with Hunter Francis. Francis is director and founder of the Center for Sustainability in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at Cal Poly. The primary goal of the Center is to assist the college in its goal to prepare leaders in sustainability through education, research, outreach, and through modeling sustainability through its operations. This was a great individual to talk to about more of the food and environmental sciences portions of the awards, where student organizations, food clubs and student-faculty collaborations got Cal Poly the extra hands on deck it needed to gain traction in these award fields.

Next, Dennis Elliot met with the team. Here, we got more information on a team of paid, student interns on Cal Poly’s campus who had a lot of impact on the awards won. This group was called the Green Campus team. Elliot is the director of Energy, Utilities and Sustainability as well as campus Sustainability Manager in Facility Services. Apart from managing the University’s energy, utilities, and sustainability efforts, Elliot enjoys working as the Green Campus staff advisor, and helping students with energy information for various class and senior projects. This was a great insight for the team to have as it was vastly different from the input of Francis, who focuses more on efforts within CAFES, a different college on the Cal Poly campus.

“It was interesting because we see the Green Campus flyers around, hear about the things they do in dorm rooms and campus, but it was awesome to see the people behind this influential group,” said Greg Llamas, the group videographer.

Lastly, we met with Kylee Singh, the sustainability coordinator on the Green Team. Singh got her masters at Cal Poly and graduated in 2013, and has worked with students in sustainability and energy efficiency on college campuses ever since. She has been following her heart in sustainability since she was an undergrad.


“I think my favorite part about this week’s story was getting to learn about each individual’s passion for sustainability – all of our sources are so dedicated to creating a better planet for our generation and for the future,” said Frances Mylod-Vargas, the team multimedia journalist and lead photographer.

Singh works primarily with students and working as an administrative voice of campus to answer student questions on the sustainability subject. One of the great points Singh had to make, was something that stuck with us and showed the importance of getting this story, a story that clearly hasn’t been told, out to an audience.


“What really sparked my fire to get into environmental preservation, environmental efforts and sustainability as my career for the rest of my life, is the kids I work with. The majority of my work is done with students, and I wouldn’t change it for a thing because these are the people that are key in making a real change in our planet,” Singh said in her final interview.

Blog written by Ysabel Sullivan.


The enthusiasm and excitement starts up around this time every year at both Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara because students and players are getting ready for the Blue-Green Rivalry game. Both teams met on the field in 1921, but the Blue-Green Rivalry officially started in 1994 and blew up in 2007. The rivalry encompasses all ten sports, but men’s soccer still continues to be the most popular because of the high attendance and sold out games.

This upcoming Saturday, Oct. 28 in Alex G. Spanos Stadium the two teams will face off once again for yet another nail bitting match.  With the game coming up, my team decided to dive into the history of this rivalry and get an insight into the build up of this game.

View from the press box at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium at Cal Poly where many Blue-Green Rivalry games have been played.

“There had already been a lot of coverage on the Blue-Green Rivalry in the past” Mandie Geller, Public Relations lead explains, “so we wanted to find the right people to to take a new angle on the topic.”

The first interview we had was with a former player, Trenton Matson. Matson was born and raised in Walnut Creek and a big reason that he decided to come to Cal Poly and play soccer was because of the Blue-Green Rivalry. We met with Matson in front of the Mott Gym and Navid Golemohammadi, our lead writer, conducted the interview. He came prepared with questions and recorded the interview on his phone so that he could go back and pull quotes for the article.

Golemohammadi interviewing Matson in front of the Mott Gym.

The only issue we had was our video and audio lead, Erica Hudson, brought her camera and tripod, but had forgot to buy a memory card so she missed that opportunity to get footage for the video that she was working on creating. Since we had a recording of the interview, we realized Hudson could use parts of the audio to put behind b-roll. As Hudson continued to put together her video, she said that she had the idea to “go through archived footage of precious UCSB vs Cal Poly games to assemble b-roll and a teaser.”

The second person we were able to meet with was the Assistant Director of Athletics Communications, Chris Giovanni. He decided to meet us in the press box at the Spanos Stadium to tell us about his experience of watching Cal Poly soccer evolve since 2016. Giovanni reminisces on some of the most significant moments as in “2008 when Cal Poly sold out for the very first time.” Once again, Golemohammadi led the interview and Reilly Roberts, the interactive lead, took pictures of behind the scenes.

Giovanni and Golemohammadi talking at the press box of the Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Our interactive chair, Reilly Roberts, decided to tackle the data portion by creating graphs and charts to complement the article. “With lots of record breaking numbers within the Blue-Green Rivalry’s history, it was exciting to put all the numbers together and visually see what an impact the game has,” Roberts explains.

After getting a variety of perspectives from different people and collecting past information and facts, my group was able to put together a story that gives a better insight into the Blue-Green Rivalry. Golemohammadi realizes after interviewing various of people related to the rivalry that “the reasons for its birth can’t be pointed to on element alone.” Between the video, interactive data and information gathered to write the article, it has turned out to be a successful story that is relevant during this time.

Behind-the-Scenes: Student Travel Restrictions

As of January 1, 2017, California law AB 1887 prohibits the use of state funds for travel to states whose laws discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. What does this mean for Cal Poly students? CSU staff, faculty and students are unable to attend some events and conferences that would otherwise have been paid for by the CSU system.

Our story choice primarily came from our group members being personally affected by these restrictions. One morning, two of our group members who work for Mustang News overheard General Manager Paul Bittick speaking about the organization’s inability to attend the National College Media Convention in Dallas, TX.

“Every state has the right to make laws whether we agree with them or not. At the same time, we need to obey those laws and you can fight to change those laws. I just think it’s not right to create a law that limits some of the learning opportunities for students,” Bittick said.

While Mustang News employees were able to attend this conference in the past, this year the organization will have to pass due to the travel restrictions set forth by the state of California.

Coincidentally, Cal Poly students including ourselves received an email reminding us of revisions to the CSU Travel Policy only one week after beginning our project.

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Nikki, the writer of this story, reached out to Cal Poly’s Queer Student Union, various clubs and organizations affected and the CSU administration to get their perspectives on this topic. She interviewed multiple sources while also taking into account the impact this has on the LGBTQ community.

“I wanted to focus on what’s being done about this currently. We all know the travel policy is in place, but is it working? Is this changing attitudes towards the LGBTQ community? I did not want to forget those voices, or for them to get swept under the rug just because this inconveniences everyone,” Nikki said.


Hannah compiled a list of clubs that had somehow been affected by the restrictions. She created a web-like infographic that shows some branches of clubs as well as each club that we were able to get in contact with.

In addition, she created a short info video that can be posted on social media to inform viewers of the new travel restrictions that were put in place.

“I learned about this story through personal experience and from hearing about other organizations not being able to attend conferences and competitions because of the ban,” Hannah said. “Personally, I was not able to attend one of the biggest journalism conferences of the year so I knew it was only appropriate to cover the story to inform our audience.”


Hayley reached out to Cal Poly students and parents on Facebook to receive input, and got responses from a few clubs that had been affected by AB 1887. These clubs were also implemented into Hannah’s infographic.

“It was really interesting to see how many students have been affected by this law. We only got in contact with a few sources, but the responses would be endless if we had time to reach out to every on-campus organization,” Hayley said.

One was Society of Women Engineers who would have been unable to attend the National SWE Conference in Austin, TX if they hadn’t submitted their paperwork before the new states, including Texas, were added.

Cal Poly’s Triathlon Team found a loophole in the system and plan on flying into Georgia for USA Triathlon Collegiate Club Nationals in Tuscaloosa, AL. They are finding ways around paying for a hotel so that their funding for housing does not pay the state of Alabama by hotel fees.

A student in Cal Poly’s club WISH (Women Involved in Software and Hardware) also reached out, saying she may be unable to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, TX next year.

Within our time frame, we reached out to multiple students and faculty who will be directly affected by this law, proving this story to be timely.

Behind the story: How a Cal Poly student coped with tragic injury

Finding the story:

At our first pitch meeting of senior project, we began sharing story ideas tentatively. We bounced around a couple ideas: A 24 hour look at SLO Do Co?  Investigating the “creeping” that’s been going on near campus?  Then, we hit a gold mine story: Ysabel suggested the idea of doing a profile on Jake Javier, a Cal Poly student from her hometown who suffered a life-altering accident his senior year of high school, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

After doing preliminary research, it became clear that Jake’s story was covered extensively by local and state papers at the time of his accident.  We were all amazed by the tenacity and hopefulness Jake maintained through his long recovery process illustrated in the articles we read. We grew excited to meet him and hear his perspective on the accident first hand.

Meeting Jake:

On Thursday, Ysabel and I were first able to meet up with Jake to discuss his availability and our intentions for the project. We lucked out – Jake was the perfect subject for a story: he was charming, chatty and very willing to explain the details of his injury and how he lives his life. Without hesitation he said he’d be willing to speak on all topics of his accident, and we decided to meet on Sunday at his apartment in Cerro Vista.

On Sunday, Jake was very comfortable answering all our questions, despite having a four person journalism team crammed into his apartment peering at his things, scribbling notes and taking pictures.


“Jake goofs around a lot and was super outgoing and very easy to talk to. He’s very comfortable in his own skin,” said Jody. This made the interviewing process much easier on our part.

We toured his tiny apartment, checked out some of the equipment he uses for physical therapy, got to see his car and then walked outside to interview him and get some video footage. In between takes, our conversations were light and friendly. Jake had a great sense of humor and an extraverted nature that made us giggle and put everyone at ease. His perspective on being in a wheelchair was very positive. He explained how patience and his stubbornness are keys to his success: “Things take a while and things take a lot of effort, so I have to be ready to push through a lot of challenges,” said Javier.


Jake and Ysabel chatting during our first video interview.
Jake and Ysabel chatting during our first video interview.


Navigating Sensitive Topics:

One obstacle we ran into early on was making sure we were being as sensitive as possible towards Jake’s situation. When speaking with Amy Gode, the Assistant Director of Cal Poly’s DRC, she explained how some individuals don’t use their disability to define themselves, while others consider it a huge part of their identity. After talking with Jake in our interview, we were able to take his lead on the use of specific jargon (disability, quadriplegic, person in a wheelchair) he used. Resources like “Choosing Words for Talking About Disability” were also helpful in navigating these more sensitive topics.

“I was really impressed with how willing Jake was to talk about his injury.  If it were me in his position, I’d probably be upset about the whole thing.  But Jake carries himself really well and is such a nice guy,” said Greg after interviewing Jake on Sunday.

Ysabel also had a similar reaction: “It was awesome being able to work on a story unlike anything I ever had worked on before before. Accidents like these are heartbreaking and touchy subjects, this one changed Jake’s life forever. It was a good experience for us to have to learn how to interview, and go about the story with respect and sensitivity while also making the story become the best it could be.”

Jake showing us his wheelie.
Jake showing us his wheelie.