Behind The Scenes: Cal Poly’s Wet Environment

Why We Chose The Topic

On a Monday afternoon, during the second week of classes, my group members and I each got assigned media roles for the story we were going to report on. Arinee Rahman and I both were both assigned the Public Relations role, Vinny Van Patten assigned to print, Avrah Baum to broadcast and Katelyn Piziali to multimedia.

In class, we bounced off topic ideas until we all agreed on a topic that we were interested in covering. All of us were interested in the topic of downtown culture in the context of day vs. night. After brainstorming multiple ways to cover the story, we realized that Cal Poly students would not be interested in the topic. So instead, we decided to cover Mustang Station, the new pub on Cal Poly’s campus. Mustang Station is new and intriguing, however, students are unaware of the rules and regulations at the pub. After we talked about this topic for five minutes, we created over twenty questions we had as Cal Poly students. Our questions made us realize how a story on the rules and regulations of Mustang Station is needed for the students of Cal Poly.

Shortly after, Arinee Rahman and I got together after class to discuss a plan reaching out to the individuals and organizations that were a part of creating Mustang Station. We did a little research on Mustang Station and the Cal Poly Corporation. Then, we found information of administrators and individuals we thought were best to interview for the story angle we were taking. To our dismay, just a few days later Mustang News released an article covering the history and decision-making process that led to the creation of Mustang Station. Because of this, our group decided to narrow the angle of our story.

“Improvising is important with reporting and you always have to be flexible enough to change your plans or angle,” Arinee Rahman said.

The Change In Direction

We decided to report on the environment of Mustang Station. The new story angle caused Arinee and I to speak with different people. We instead reached out to Jana Colombini, President Armstrong and multiple students and faculty hoping to get a sense of the environment. President Armstrong sadly rejected my group over phone and email, but did not say no to an interview when Avrah and Arinee ran into him in person!

Our original plan was to have Avrah interview Armstrong while drinking a beer, however, interviewing him in his office still gave us a great sense of the drinking environment at Mustang Station. In addition to Armstrong, our interviews with Jana, the Facility Supervisor and students painted a clear picture of the drinking environment at Mustang Station.

Avrah Baum interviewing Armstrong
Avrah Baum interviewing President Armstrong


Avrah filmed the interview with Warren Chang, the University Union Facility Supervisor, in Mustang Station with the big television screens and many students with their pizza and beer in the background. The interview started at four o’clock in the evening and lasted for about thirty minutes. The setting was very loud and difficult to hear Warren from four feet away because every table was occupied by students or Cal Poly faculty. Once the interview was over, Avrah discovered that the audio to her broadcast taping did not record. I unfortunately had to leave because of another class obligation, but thankfully Warren did not mind redoing the interview.

Warren Chang interview at Mustang Station
Warren Chang interview at Mustang Station

“Always bring an extra audio recorder,” Avrah Baum said.

“It’s all about the acoustics,” Vinny Van Patten said.

Four days later, Vinny Van Patten and I interviewed Jana Colombini at three o’clock in her office located in the University Union. Jana gave detailed and thoughtful answers to our questions while also providing San Luis Obispo Community members’ opinions and thoughts about Mustang Station serving beer and wine.

“San Luis Obispo community members are worried about Cal Poly students drinking on campus and driving home intoxicated,”Jana Colombini said.

Personally, I understand the San Luis Obispo’s community members concern, however, Cal Poly is making their best efforts to promote drinking safety on and off campus through their Week of Welcome educational programs which every Cal Poly student goes through.

The next day, Katelyn Piziali and I went into Mustang Station during dinner time to take pictures and interview a few 21 year-old students with beers. After spending an hour in Mustang Station we really got a feel for the environment.

Katelyn Piziali taking pictures beers at Mustang Station
Katelyn Piziali taking pictures of beer at Mustang Station

“I think it’s really convenient that Mustang Station was created during my last year here at Cal Poly, when I’m actually 21 and able to drink on campus. Sittin in there in the evening, I could see why students might want to come to Mustang Station and grab a beer, whether it was to accompany studying or an on-campus meal.”

What we learned

After two weeks of working on this Mustang Station story, my group members and I learned multiple rules, regulations, history and environment of Mustang Station, but most importantly how to work well together.

“Having to be on a deadline only two weeks long really makes you lean on group members and better your time management,” Katelyn Piziali said.

Now it is time to relax and have a beer at Mustang Station!


Beer at Mustang Station
Two glasses of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA beer at Mustang Station

Brittany Tesmer

Behind the Scenes: Smile and Nod

fullsizerender-2 Our group decided to cover Smile and Nod, the improv comedy group at Cal Poly, because we thought it would make a fun feature story. We wanted to do something different than what other people had done in the past. We wanted to go beyond just highlighting this club, and share things that people don’t typically know about this group— like how their audition and callback process works and how they give back to the campus community.

Trevor Melody and I were assigned the PR role for this project, so as soon as we knew the topic we started contacting Smile and Nod members, reaching out to the San Luis Obispo community, and brainstorming the possible angles along with what would be important to include in the story.

Finding Our Sources

No one knew anyone personally who was in Smile and Nod, so we started with the group’s website. When and where were their shows? What possible footage would we be able to get in two weeks? Who do we talk to? We found out that they performed the first seven Saturday nights of the quarter, so we were excited that we would be able to see what they do firsthand.

Trevor and I started to send emails to some of the members listed on the website and hoped for a quick response. We also had to reach out to community members, people in administration, and faculty along with utilizing multiple social media platforms to get feedback for our story. Trevor says, “The most challenging part for me was approaching community members and getting good responses from them since most of them typically hadn’t heard too much about Smile and Nod.”

The Process

I ended up contacting one of the girls in the group, Brianna Rodebaugh. She was extremely helpful and agreed to meet with me and bring a new member (Paul) along with her. Talking with her helped generate ideas to cover for the story.

“Many people don’t know how much practice improv comedy actually takes, there is a different one for each type of performance,” Brianna says.

Kaylee interviews Brianna and Paul from Smile and Nod.

Later, Briana and Paul became two of our main sources for the story. They met with Kaylee Zaccone, the person assigned to editorial, and me for an interview. Trevor set up the interview with Kaylee, himself, and one of the team’s managers, Sasha, and we had our three sources for the editorial portion of the project.

“We are doing an angle that focuses on the history, present, and future of the group,” Kaylee says. “It will hopefully be different from other articles done on them because we are going to talk more about what is going on outside of the comedy aspect, like how they give back by working with SAFER.”

Demi getting footage for the multimedia component.

Demi Castanon and I went to the show Saturday night where Demi got video, audio, and photos for the multimedia component of the project.

“At first I was going to make a video, but now I am going to do the photo slide show,” says Demi. “I feel like people might be less likely to actually go to the show if they could just watch what Smile and Nod do on video.”

Lastly, Amanda Fridley is working on the broadcast piece for our story so she went to Smile and Nod’s rehearsals to do her interviews and take video.

“I wanted to do more of a fun interview. I didn’t want to do the clean cut broadcast style, but I wanted to get more of me involved in the interviews talking to people,” says Amanda. “It was a challenge for me to organize my angles and shots during the interview because they are an improv group, and everyone is so eccentric and was screaming in the background.”

What Surprised Us

Smile and Nod performing Saturday night.

Throughout the process of putting together this story, each of us found ourselves learning something new.

“It impressed me how quick-witted they are and how easy it is to go from sitting in their chair to getting up and being crazy.”- Amanda

“I was surprised to find out how many people actually audition every quarter. I didn’t know many people were interested in Smile and Nod.”-Kaylee

“It was more funny than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know that the audience also had a say in what they were performing. People in the audience were throwing out topics and Smile and Nod would just run with it.”-Demi

Rachel Furtado