Behind the Story of the Investigation into the Harmine Project

Have you ever worked for something so hard, dedicated your time and efforts to that something, only to expect it to fail? Well, I haven’t either. The Eagon Research Group, a research lab right here on campus grabbed our attention when we heard they were in the process of developing new drugs to combat diseases like Cancer and Malaria, also known as the Harmine project. I know what you’re thinking: aren’t there already doctors all over the world working on this? And you would be right. But these students at Cal Poly are a small fragment of the whirlwind of scientific talk and experimentation to find a cure for those deadly diseases that just won’t go away on their own.


But getting used to failure is not the only idea that ceases to surface my group’s journalistic minds. When my group entered the unknown, also known as the Baker science building, we sauntered up the stairs, our patent leather sandals lagging behind each step. All excited to jump into the lab and see what all of the talk is about, our grammar stuffed brains simply did not understand that we could not wear our trendy sandals in the chemically infused lab. When we arrived in Dr. Eagon’s office, our hopes and dreams of entering a lab, when not required for a GE, came to a screeching halt as it was brought to our attention that all of our bare feet dangled out of our sandals, and apparently that is not allowed.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get the video footage we needed of the lab that day. But only a few days later, we laced up the Nikes sitting in the back of the closet and took a second try at getting into that miraculous lab. Amazingly, we made it in.


Unlike the students performing the research, as journalism students we start a project only to see it come to a complete end, whether that is in publication or submission. But to Dr. Eagon, who’s “primary goal when coming to Cal Poly was to introduce students to the struggle,” disappointment and failure are a normal part of the day. “You get so really used to dealing with disappointment but you get a thick skin and go at it with a kind of tenacity that makes the failure okay, and you kind of just persevere so when you do have successful reactions, it’s just that much more sweet, says senior biochemistry major, Tyler Sisley. The idea that our fellow students could be working so hard for something every week, every month, every year for maybe… nothing? That was simply crazy to us.


But as the project continued, a dilemma projected its black light onto our shining heads, what did all of this scientific gibberish mean? Luckily, one of our group members understood the puzzling vernacular, “Being able to report on this type of science research has been such a fun experience for me since I plan to go into public health communications after graduating”, says senior journalism major, Taylor Petschl. But for the rest of us, synthesizing organic molecules, tetrahydro-β-carboline, and drug resistance of P. falciparum came from a different world. “I’ve had to think about synthesizing molecular compounds which is something I never thought I’d have to remember after my chemistry classes in high school,” says senior journalism student, Kaylee Brunke.

But after much confusion and a  lot of research, my group finally obtained a grasp on the information that grounds the research being performed. Though we initially curled our brows and tilted our heads at the terminology pouring out of Dr. Eagon’s mouth, we successfully got a hold onto the backbone of the project, and found it possible to explain what we were trying to showcase. As our project came to a close, we all realized how incredible this research group truly is, “I’ve never realized that these parts of campus existed. It’s so cool to see the lives of students that are outside our major, and the amount of work and effort that goes into it,” says senior journalism student, Sierra Newell.

Though we hit the ground running in scientific speak, a language we do not speak fluently, we finished this project with an appreciation for not only research and its ability to save lives, but for those students that are right down from the hall from us as well.



SLO Voyagers Dragonboat Club

On Saturday, February 12th, we went to go film the SLO Dragonboat Club live in action during their morning practice. The dragon boat team has recently become a club on Cal Poly’s campus. It’s comprised of students that are either starting this hobby, or have long been competing. At 7:30 am we made our way to Morro Bay to attend their club practice. They didn’t start until 9 am, but we wanted to get their earlier to make sure we could interview some of the members before we began filming their practice. Zach from Mustang News also joined us to take pictures of the practice so we could use them for our story.

We got to the bay, and were immediately met with hundreds of gnats floating about around our heads, swarming. They were pestering us and the other members that had arrived earlier. We eventually got used to them, but we were worried they would get in the way of filming and shooting. We ended up getting great footage though, thankfully. Since Riley’s doing video, she had some great ideas for getting different content for this project. She brought her friend Hudson who has a drone, and is more experienced in using it. Riley said, “I was so happy that he was able to come to help me, because I was really nervous that I was going to crash the drone.” They got some really cool footage going over the water of the members in action, paddling. They also were able to get angles that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Riley also joined the members on their boat as they were paddling so she could get 360 video footage of their practice. Allison stood on shore taking b-roll footage and working with Zach to take pictures of the practice. Allison said, “I was pretty happy to stay on shore and get the shots, I was afraid of dropping the gear. The gnats got annoying, though.” Ali was multimedia, so she has been working to get at some other angles of this project. She’s been targeting a more informational approach, since many people don’t know what dragon boat racing really is. She was going to feature the different aspects of their boat that traditionally represents different features of a dragon. Unfortunately, the team has a regular boat- that they borrow from another dragon boat paddling team, SurviveOars- without it being designed to look like a dragon. So, Ali shifted her focus to make a listicle, to tell readers 10 things they didn’t know about dragon boat racing. This should effectively serve to teach readers about the cultural aspects of this Chinese tradition, and also mention some fun facts as well. She’s also focusing on the different positions of the paddlers with a cool hotspot idea. She’s going to use one of Zach’s pictures to tag different audio clips of the paddlers that explains what their doing and what their position is. It mixes in an informational audio element with a cool visual element. Ali said, “I’m excited to work on multimedia for this project, because I feel like there was so much I could do to focus on different angles.”

Though we realized that they were a club and not a team, we were excited to feature a unique Cal Poly group that is so new to campus. We hope to do this club justice, and hopefully more people will know what dragon boat racing is after this. We’re excited about this project.

Behind the Scenes: Appendage + Bough

Hi! My name is Ali Heston and I, along with three other group members, recently covered a story on Appendage + Bough, a local store in San Luis Obispo that sells upcycled furniture along with other eclectic and vintage items and home goods.

Allison Martinez, one of my group members, proposed the idea during story pitches and we all loved the idea. She explained that Appendage + Bough  was a “hidden gem” and that, to her knowledge, very few people knew about the store. “My roommate showed me this place. I’d never heard about it before, but it is so awesome,” said Martinez. We figured this would not only make for an interesting story but would also aid Appendage + Bough in getting the word out about their business.

After getting our project topic approved, the four of us went to Appendage + Bough to ask permission of the store owners if they would consent to a story being written about their business, with the possibility of being published in Cal Poly’s student-run newspaper, Mustang News. Only one of the store owners was there at the time, but he seemed very excited about the idea and immediately gave us permission to cover the story and offered to help us in any way he could, whether it be coming into the store early or staying after hours so we could get all of the footage we would need in order to be successful.

My role in covering the story was in regards to strategy and engagement. Through the use of social media and other forms of community engagement, I was able to learn what members of both the San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly community were interested in learning about Appendage + Bough. Here are some of the responses I received via my personal Instagram account and through posting on the Cal Poly Class of 2018 Facebook page:

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Martinez was in charge of the audio and video aspects of the story. I attended the interviews with both her and Riley Rhodes, our group member whose role was to create the written text for the story, and despite some minor technical difficulties regarding the microphone, the initial round of interviews went very well. Store owners, Malik Mike Thorne, Tim Beebee, and Ryan Ratzlaff all contributed beneficial information to the story and even posted a photo to the Appendage + Bough Instagram account.















All store owners seemed very passionate about Appendage + Bough. It was very inspiring to listen to what they all had to say. “Having a space where I can do a small show and invite people, or get some art up on the wall from someone who’s just starting out, or even just create a space where people can come in and find things and talk about music or books, for, that’s it,” said Thorne.

Tori Leets, another group member, was in charge of the interactive aspect of the story. After being inspired by a story previously published in Mustang News, “Cal Poly caveman: Psychology lecturer builds art caves under his property,” we decided it would be awesome if we could use a 3D scanner, such as the one used in the article about the underground caves to create a virtual reality tour of the store. After a short tutorial from our professor, Brady Teufel, Tori and I went into the shop and gave the Matterport 3D Camera a try. “I loved using this camera. I felt so excited to try something that’s so cutting edge that few other schools have the ability to use. This is one of the reasons why I love journalism, you can tell your stories in so many different ways,” said Leets.

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Due to time constraints and minor technical difficulties we had to come into the store a second time, but we yet again faced technical difficulties. We are going to troubleshoot during the upcoming week with our professor and complete the 3D scan when the camera is functioning properly.

“I loved this store when I first saw it and I love it even more now. It was so fun learning about such a cool place with such a cool story,” said Rhodes. We are proud of the result of our story and believe that our feature on Appendage + Bough gives insight to all aspects of the store that both the Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo community will be interested in learning.

Behind the Scenes: Pismo’s Monarch Butterflies

Just off of Highway 1 lies a butterfly utopia. Each and every year, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, Calif. to escape the harsh northern winters and to find their temporary warm haven. But why do they come to Pismo?

Megan Healy, our audio/video reporter, came up with the idea to find out more about the monarch butterflies in Pismo. “I know Mustang News and other local media has covered the butterflies before, but I wanted to take an environmental approach. I was really curious to find out why the monarch population is declining and why the Monarch Grove in Pismo is where they migrate to.”

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As our strategy and engagement reporter, it was my first duty to find out what the community wanted to know about the monarch butterfly. My search started off with our community: what did they want to know more about the butterflies? “I’ve always wanted to know more about the Western monarchs. Why do they come to Pismo? What makes that grove so special?”, shared fourth year architectural engineering student Sarah Pascual.

My biggest surprise through both the community engagement report and the social network report was that, overall, the community knew nothing about the monarch butterflies. I knew from these reports that it was important we focused on general information about the monarchs, but also made sure we told the bigger story along the way: why the monarchs are important.

With these factors in mind, we spent a beautiful Saturday at the grove.


Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a better day to venture out to the grove. The sun was shining, the grove was filled with families, students, and travelers, and the butterflies were everywhere. Everyone at the grove was incredibly friendly and eager to share their experiences and thoughts about the monarch butterflies.

Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter, was able to get some great interviews with families and other visitors, and learned why they came to this grove and what the butterflies mean to them.


“The kids were so cute. I’m so happy I was able to interview them because they seemed really excited to talk about the butterflies,” said Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter.

Mikaela Duhs, our writer, wasn’t able to make it out to the monarch grove with us, but ended up having an amazing interview on her own. “Professor Villablanca painted such a great picture for me of why the butterflies are important and how we can help them,” Mikaela shared, of their interview. Villablanca shared this insightful thought during her interview:

“… it doesn’t matter how much milkweed we have, how many groves you have, if we don’t have the butterflies to utilize them… I do the little bits that can be done by the masses to make a difference.”

Megan Healy, our audio and visual reporter, was able to talk to great sources at the grove.

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To our surprise, we ended up talking to a couple who had traveled all the way from France! They spoke little English, but Zachary Donnenfield (who tagged along with us) shocked us all by speaking fluent French with them and telling us he was a French citizen! It goes without saying that we were all speechless. We ended up talking to Raymond and Minh Levant for almost an hour, and they were absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for our project.

We’re so excited to share all the information we gathered throughout these past two weeks. While plenty of stories have been done about the monarch butterflies, few have been as in-depth as this one, and we hope to spread the word about why the monarchs come to the monarch grove in Pismo Beach and provide insight to their decline.



Behind the Scenes: Will’s Cow Poly Experience

“I think I’ve had a very unique experience college experience compared to most students out there and I’m very happy about that,” said William Greenwood, Calf Care Manager of Cal Poly’s Dairy Calf unit.

IMG_3226The first project of our Senior Media Practicum class gave us the real unique Cow Poly experience. Our project focused on William Greenwood and his experience working as the Calf Care Manager for Cal Poly’s Dairy Calf Unit. The project’s goal was to focus on William and his different experience of Cal Poly; the project easily became a two-week adventure featuring a group of journalism students, a mystery man, and baby cows.

When generating the idea for our first project, the group went through a series of options from hotel establishment articles to the CAFES enterprise program. Ultimately, team member Alice Neary brought up the idea of a profile story on Calf Care Manager, William Greenwood. Alice met William on a run when she went to visit baby cows. With this, she was curious about his experience being a student and working in Cal Poly.

“I liked that you get to be outside and connect with nature. I was fascinated thinking about how vast our experiences differed,” said Alice Neary.

With this, the team proceeded to research and track down the elusive William Greenwood. It was at this time that the team had no idea who he was, what program he was in, or if it was even a program. (It wasn’t a program, it was an actual job.) With experts skills in Google and Facebook searches, the team found William Greenwood in the Cal Poly directory and contacted him through email and phone.IMG_3153

As interviews were set up and outlines created, each member had to rely on each other. New skills were learned, old skills were re-learned, and many baby cows were seen. Taylor Morhardt believed that this project helped improve her skills as a journalist.

“This project helped me organize my story structure better with the use of the story focus form and the story outline form. The outline form was the most useful to me because I could look back at what I put on the outline and was able to formulate my questions to my sources, based off the information I needed to write my story,” said Taylor Morhardt.

In the middle of the second week, rough drafts and edits were sent and software problems arose. Despite this, members of the team were able to meet with Brady and Brendan to gain tips and critiques for a better story. With the sudden help, members of the team were motivated and inspired. As Matt Medlin finished editing his video and moved to his infovideo, he became a bit more creative and inspired.

“I’m going to put jazz music with baby cows and it’s going to be like La La Land up in here,” said Matt Medlin.

Towards the end of the second week, each team member focused on their tasks to bring only the best content.  Filled with late nights, crashing software, and hours of transcribing, this group was able to successfully complete the first project ending in a great MOOd.

Behind the scenes: One With Nature – more than just an environmental collective

If you were to ask anyone around Cal Poly’s campus if they supported making environmental changes to improve our wonderful community in San Luis Obispo, I’m sure almost everyone would answer with an undeniable, “yes!” However, how many of these people would actually do something about it on their own?

Well, Cory Jones and Colton Haynes are two Cal Poly grads who did just that.

While at Cal Poly, Jones and Haynes created an environmental collective called One With Nature with a basic premise to make some small changes in the way San Luis Obispo impacts the local environment. What happened, though, was much larger.

After unanimously deciding focus our project on One With Nature, my team – which included Sierra Newell, Elise Goetzl and Kaylee Brunke – set out to  to uncover the story behind the stunning photography and videography that makes up their website and social media. I sent out initial contact emails and we were able to set up an interview with founders Cory and Colton a few days later.

In preparation for our big interview, we each did ample research to figure out as much as we could before meeting with the OWN founders. We learned about their help with implementing the plastic straw and styrofoam cup ban in San Luis Obispo, as well as their work with Zero Waste Club on Cal Poly’s campus. However, even with doing as much online research as we did, we were pleasantly surprised to find out more of the behind-the-scenes information they shared with us at the interview.

Because of Jones’ connections with The Land Conservancy,  he was able to grant us access to enter the Pismo Preserve, which will not be open to the public until spring of 2019. We all piled into a car and began climbing up one of the trails until we found the perfect interview location. As we began setting up our cameras, Haynes and other OWN member, Doug Swarts, began to realize we were a bit amateur when it came to knowing about our equipment. Luckily, the two decided to take over and set up our cameras with the ideal settings and composition, leaving us with two perfect shots for our interview.During the interview, we learned that the two founders had actually attended the same elementary, middle and high school together in San Luis Obispo county but didn’t really know each other until they connected in college through mutual friends. It was through this connection that they realized they were both extremely passionate about making changes to protect the local environment – and that is how OWN was born.

Pismo Preserve

“We just shared a belief that the more you go outside the more connected you are with nature,” Jones said. “At that point your goals and values are going to align with wanting to protect it.”

Further, we learned the reason they were taking the necessary steps to become an official non-profit organization was to be able to raise funds for upcoming projects, which is something they couldn’t do before.  

After over an hour of conversation with the three OWN guys, we all set off to finish our tasks for the project. Newell began writing the article, Brunke started editing footage and Goetzl set off to brainstorm how to connect everything in an interactive form.

Newell decided to focus her article on their unique level of friendship behind the OWN collective. “After interviewing the One With Nature guys a few times, it was apparent how strong their bond is,” Newell said. “They are business partners that accomplished a lot, but at their core are a group of goofy best friends.  It was important to me to convey their personalities and relationships in the article because that is the driving force behind their success!”

Brunke faced other challenges as she realized she wanted to visually convey all of their impressive work, but her footage didn’t quite do it justice. The OWN group offered to send over some of their clips to help portray their organization in the best way possible. “It was amazing to be able to use some impressive footage from the guys at One With Nature because they are really into videography,” Brunke said. “Their footage helped supplement the image of the organization that I wanted to convey through my piece – even though it was a challenge when it came to editing!”

After putting together all of the pieces, it was clear we had successfully uncovered the uniqueness behind One With Nature and would now help raise awareness for the brand that is so dedicated to improving the environment in our little college town of San Luis Obispo.

“My favorite part about this project was getting the chance to interact with the team behind One With Nature and getting to know the founders and understanding their passion that drove the creation of the company,” Goetzl said.

WINGING IT: Four students and their journey through “Project 1”

The stop animation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer contains a song that I would like to say likens to my life. The scene opens with a bunch of broken or ineffective toys on an island, singing about how nobody wants them cause they’re different, but through a slightly depressing but relatable musical number entitled “The Island of Misfit Toys,” they find friendship in being thrown together under unfortunate circumstances. That is the perfect metaphor for this group.

the group sits in our corner, containing our panic
From right to left: Divya, Shelby, and Kevin sit in class

Kevin, Divya, and Shelby were people I’d had classes with before but, like most of my fellow Journalism majors, didn’t know that well. We were thrust together by fate–if fate’s name was Brady Teufel–under the premise that at least one of us would know what we were doing. This was partially true: Divya had some Mustang News experience, Kevin was handy with a camera, Shelby had story ideas right off the bat and I…well, I was good at talking. Shelby threw out an idea for a story on the dairy unit, and with a resounding, “sure, we could do that” from the group, we went our separate ways for the weekend.

outside the center
From left to right: Divya and Shelby outside the center

Monday brought a world of pain we had not prepared ourselves for. We sat calmly in the hallway, ready to present our topic to the J462 Overlords, formerly known as Teufel and Brendan, when we heard it: “we’re doing a story on entrepreneur stuff in the dairy department.” Panicked looks were exchanged. Our topics were too similar, and seeing as the other group was already far more prepared, we’d be the ones to have to change our topic. The topic of student veterans and the Veteran Success Center came to us seemingly out of nowhere. Genuinely, I could not tell you now how we arrived at the subject, but it seemed newsworthy and like something that should be written about. A quick morgue search depicted it as an original idea so we decided to run with it, though Kevin voiced the concern, “how do you get B-roll of veterans?”

From left to right: Shelby, Kevin, and Divya interview Alexis Williams, dependent and employee of the center
From left to right: Shelby, Kevin, and Divya interview Alexis Williams, dependent and employee of the center

Most people might have assumed this, but veterans are very private people. We learned the hard way that many of them are not privy to being on camera. Our original angle of  the transition from combat to student life had to be changed last minute to support systems on campus for veteran students. “The fact that student veterans would be camera shy makes sense,” says Divya, “alas, hindsight is 20/20. If nothing else, I’ve learned from this project that Murphy’s Law is still a thing.” We ended up interviewing three lovely dependents who work in the center, either as part of work study or simply to give back to the veteran community. “The veterans center is like family,” says third year Alexis Williams.

Divya interviews Sarah, another dependent and employee of the center
Divya interviews Sarah, another dependent and employee of the center

Despite the setbacks and challenges, the story took on a life of its own in the best way possible. “Gathering the information was hard at first, but what we got in the end was really something special,” says Shelby. We learned a lot about student veterans and veteran dependents that we’d never known before. They are a crucial part of our campus, and we thank them for their service.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.