So far this quarter, my group had our fair share of heavy topics. Up until this project, we were covering the kind of stories that required empathy (Deaf students at Cal Poly), data analyzation (computer science faculty retention) and difficult sources (Black Student Union). These projects were tedious. No doubt we felt tuckered out. Discouraged. Unmotivated.
For our next story, it was time to let down our hair down. It was time to run into the wild, open and abundant planes of Cal Poly…
I mean really. What better way to end the quarter than with a story about pigs.
I had the idea. I remember when I first came to Cal Poly around age 6, it was to visit my family friend who “worked with the pigs.” My aunt and uncle drove me out to this deserted area on campus that smelled so bad. There was mud and I just remember I didn’t want to get out of the car. Then I saw baby piglets. I didn’t believe in love at first sight until then.
Fast forward to now and I understand better. My family friend was an animal science major who was also a student resident manager for the Cal Poly Swine Unit.
Somehow I convinced Julia, Olivia and Veronica that this was a good idea and so we proceeded with the story topic.
“I didn’t know living in the swine unit was an option, so it was really interesting to see how Matt and Logan live,” group member Julia Morris said.
After a quick Google search, I found this Mustang News article from 2012. I decided we should still proceed with the story because the article published in 2012 lacked more than just multimedia. It didn’t portray the swine unit I had visited when I was 6 years old and continue to visit now during long runs at Cal Poly.
The process was easy once they agreed to be our sources for the story. They were beyond helpful.
While filming for her broadcast piece, Olivia captured the pigs getting out and then breaking an irrigation pipe, which made for compelling footage.
“So I went to the swine unit and got great footage of Logan and lots of pigs and piglets. But I also got great footage of pigs breaking out of a pen (then being herded back in) and a pig breaking a pipe and water spraying everywhere,” Doty said.
Julia was interested in the story because the boys explained to her the skills they’ve gained from their experience in the swine unit goes beyond agriculture and has made them more responsible young men.
As a team, we hope that we can leave JOUR 462 on a humorous note. I think covering a feature on the swine unit did just that.
He came to us and said he had heard of a group of four students at Cal Poly in a polyamorous relationship– one guy is dating three girls and two of those girls are also dating each other. He knew they kept a contract and were pretty open about their relationship.
Woah. How could we not do a story on this?
All of us grew up in a household and in a society that promotes monoamory. Infidelity is frowned upon. Adultery is a sin. Staying committed and faithful is a value that I would argue most people have.
Yet, millennials– especially college students– live in a modern dating culture that accepts casual hookups, encourages emotional games and teaches us that whoever can prove that they care less in a relationship has the upper hand.
We got to thinking. Could the two be related? Could this polyamorous relationship foreshadow the future of college dating culture?
After searching through the archives, we found that Mustang News had done one story about open relationships in the past but nothing about polyamory. So, we took on the challenge and set out to find some answers.
We first interviewed a political science professor, Ren Den Otter, who has done substantial research about monogamy and he enlightened us that there really has not been much research about polyamorous relationships, possibly because it’s not widely accepted or known.
“Multi-person relationships are not only not legally recognized in the United States,” Den Otter said. “All states have laws that, to more or lesser extend, criminalize aspects of multi-person relationships.”
We interviewed Professor Teresa Downing next who echoed that social science community knows very little about polyamory.
Neither professor could expertly speak to the relationship between polyamory and college dating culture. But, Downing had done extensive research about the “hookup culture” and brought up concerns about the safety behind the groups sexual endeavors– something we had not yet thought about.
We also interviewed a college student who was once in an open relationship and no longer is. But, the story got really interesting once we sat down with the “polycule”– a term that the polyamorous group uses to identify themselves.
“Meeting the ‘polycule’ and learning about their relationship was a really cool experience because the idea of polyamory was so foreign to me before and I had no idea what to expect,” Madison Agatha Mancebo said.
Watching the group interact was fascinating to all of us. We set up our interview so the man in the group would sit in between his two girlfriends. Both of his ladies lovingly gazed at him, rubbed his leg and talked openly about their relationship. We could not sense any jealousy or animosity between the women. They are friends.
“Watching their dynamic was enlightening. I was impressed that they could pull off such a complex relationship,” Peter Gonzalez said.
The polycule walked us through how their relationship came to be, and the rules and logistics that guide their relationship, as expressed in a not-so-strict contract they all share. Consent and communication– that’s how they make it work.
“I was so surprised by how comfortable they were with each other. It was very refreshing to see such mature young people doing what they want,” Cecilia Seiter said.
After the interview concluded, we all looked at each other in awe. It was nothing like what we expected.
Through this story, we learned a hell of a lot about relationships, love and dating. It inspired us to look for similarly interesting stories that have not been done before. And, it reminded us of why we got started with journalism in the first place.
Hello! My name is Maggie Hitchings, and my group and I have spent the last week and a half investigating and reporting on student filmmakers. One of our group members, Barbara Levin, is enrolled in a Cal Poly class titled ISLA 341, “Cinematic Process.” We decided to do a feature story on the students in this class, as they are currently creating short fiction films to be shown at the SLO International Film Festival on March 15.
Initially, we bounced around various ideas surrounding this class and the film culture at Cal Poly. One topic our group was interested in was whether or not there should be a film major at Cal Poly, and not just the ISLA minor. After talking to peers and posting on social media, I found that students have a big interest in the filmmaking process, and would like to see a film major here. Additionally, the Cal Poly community wanted to know more about ISLA 341 and the behind the scenes that goes on when creating short films.
Clara Knapp, who wrote the news editorial for this project, learned a surprising amount about the creativity and hard work that goes into these films.
“This project was interesting for me because as a broadcast journalist, I tend to focus on more hard-hitting, straightforward forms of journalism. However, learning about the artistic short films these students have created is really inspiring. It makes me wish that I had taken this class while I still had time! This class is definitely a hidden gem at Cal Poly,” said Knapp.
As we continued to explore this topic, we felt it was important to show the talent and creativity the students in this class have, as we are a predominantly technical school. Barbara Levin, our multimedia specialist, felt it was vital to use multimedia that displays the hard work behind the films.
“Not many people know about the film aspect and the talented videographers that go to Cal Poly. This article was a great opportunity to inform Cal Poly students about the film program and show them what other students are putting together. I made a poster explaining the stages of production to give people a sense of what these students go through,” said Levin.
I accompanied Clara to her interviews. Professor Barros, who teaches ISLA 341, was extremely animated and excited to talk about the class. She sent me some great stills from the student films.
Barros explained to Clara and I how much time and effort goes into making the films.
“It’s something that they don’t think about, how much detail has to be applied to each element of the film and how much work it takes and how much time it takes to make a really good film,” said Barros.
Our broadcast specialist Allison Royal wanted to embody the passion students have in her video. Another major theme we found through the reporting process was the immense amount of pride these students anticipate to feel when they see the finished product of their film.
“When I was on the phone with one source, Georgie, before I had my KCPR interview, she said she was going to cry when she finally saw her film “Vixen” hit the big screen. I hope that sense of emotion hits our readers should this be published,” said Royal.
However, this project was not all a walk in the park. Our group struggled through scheduling issues and communication barriers.
“In terms of challenges of reporting, scheduling was a challenge for me because the students once changed the time of their filming and it was also a little windy when I recorded an outdoor interview. All things considered, I was able to accommodate for the wind and the audio turned out nicely,” said Royal.
Welcome! My name is Savannah Sperry and I was part of a team of journalists who covered a story on the presence witchcraft in San Luis Obispo. I had the pleasure of doing some of the public relations work, creating a listicle on the topic and writing this very blog. I’m here to share a piece of our reporting experience, and maybe even some knowledge.
When we began covering this story, we didn’t know where it would take us. We worried it would be sensational, or we wouldn’t find any sources who wanted to speak with us. However, after our team member Dylan Ring posted on a Cal Poly Facebook page asking if anyone practiced witchcraft and would want to speak with us, the response was much greater than we could’ve hoped for. I wouldn’t call it an outpouring, but several self-identified witches reached out to us wanting to talk – we certainly didn’t have a source problem.
Print and public relations team member Monica Roos said, “When we first tossed around this idea, I honestly didn’t think it would get much traction. I was amazed we found a source and were able to talk to her right away. ”
Our first interview was with Eden Knapp, an anthropology and geography senior and a practicing witch. Immediately I was taken aback by the decor in Eden’s apartment. Halloween decorations littered the place and a sign by the door read “The Witch is In.”
“We’re very into Halloween,” Knapp said.
A book of palm reading sat on an end table next to a paper bag full of rosemary and a magic 8 ball. On the coffee table were an amethyst crystal, a small stone Knapp found on the beach and a thin wax candle. This was where she practiced her spells. Amethysts are popular crystals, according to Knapp. WiccaSpirituality.com says amethyst is “healing on all levels – body, mind, and spirit,” and also “raises vibrational frequency and protects against negative energies.”
One of the more interesting points for me was when Knapp discussed how some witches actually use wands.
“A lot of the time witches will have wands, I use a stick of selenite which is thought to help connect to a higher power,” Knapp said.
At the end of her interview, Eden predicted each of our futures by reading our tarot cards. Our time spent with Eden was very lighthearted and each of us had a very positive experience.
Multimedia man Dylan Ring said, “I thought it was really interesting hearing from Eden how connected to nature witchcraft is. I wasn’t familiar with how it worked and now it feels like I could connect with the practice.”
Broadcast team member Alison Stauf was excited to cover the story on her native platform.
“Broadcast is what I am most comfortable with, and I was excited with the potential of interviewing Eden and getting footage of her practicing her witchcraft on camera. It ended up being a little difficult for me to get B-roll for the creative interview, however needless to say, it was a pretty ‘enchanting’ experience,” Stauf said.
Our next interview was with Erica Hamilton, a practicing witch and co-owner of Blackwater, a clothing store in downtown SLO that sells crystals, tarot cards, candles and other witchy items. I couldn’t help myself from looking around at the store’s many cool knick knacks.
Hamilton expressed to us how common the practice of witchcraft truly is.
“Everyone on this Earth is a witch, they just don’t know it yet,” Hamilton said.
She showed us around her store, gave us some background knowledge on crystals and shared her own experiences using the craft.
I loved sinking my teeth into witchcraft – knowledge I likely would have never stumbled upon on my own. It makes me remember the beauty in journalism, how it enables us to meet interesting people, hear their stories and tell them in creative ways.
Team member Monica Roos had a similar sentiment.
“This class, let alone this particular story, has opened my eyes up to journalism again. There’s always a story to be told, no matter how random, unrealistic or even mythical it seems – there’s something to be discovered, and something to be told,” Roos said.
I was scoping out rival college news websites when I stumbled across a video piece in the Daily Bruin. It was about a famous black alumnus, Jackie Robinson and his contributions. Ideas were bounced around and played with until our group decided to do a recap of the Black Student Union’s (BSU) last two years, since they’re still establishing themselves. My team members, Veronica Fregoso (Editorial), Chloe Carlson (Broadcast) and Julia Morris (Multimedia) all supported the project.
Turns out, this wasn’t the first senior project done about BSU. Carlson found a Mustang News article from two years ago about BSU when they first renewed their charter. Immediately we were challenged to find a different angle for this story. And that was just the first obstacle.
I went around to people on campus and Facebook just to see where interest was before we delved into the story. Most subjects were open and friendly about the topic and shared what they’d like to find out.
I knew a story about BSU was important when Kiana Dyson, computer science sophomore who is african american, had no idea the group existed.
“It would be nice to know there’s resources and support out there for me to feel included,” Dyson said.
Yet one student was not as responsive with the engagement.
I messaged this student since someone on Facebook referred me to him. But he never responded.
I’m not bitter.
To have a source not trust you and talk to your superior was definitely a first and prepared us for future similar obstacles.
There was more of this unresponsiveness as the project when on, but there was still hope. After all, if Gay Talese could write a famous profile on Frank Sinatra without getting to interview him we could make this story happen right?
Carlson decided to take the story and put it into historical context. She dived into ASI data and old Mustang News archives to see how the club’s presence on campus changed throughout the years.
Through this she has decided to make a timeline for the piece using old photos from past stories.
Luckily we didn’t have to pull a Talese and ended up interviewing several people. Saisa Willis, our main source, is the president of the student union and has been involved since it started again two years ago.
“I spent a year and a half thinking I was the only black student on campus,” Willis said in an interview.
From Dyson’s prior comment and Willis’ interview, it became clear that Black Student Union is an important group on campus because people with different labels need to have a haven in a world so polarized by certain identities,
This story affected all of us differently. For Morris, it was admirable.
“From interviewing the BSU president Saisa, I found it really inspiring how much the BSU has grown in just the last two years. They started with only three or four students coming to their meetings to now having 60-70 people showing up. I think that shows that there really is a need for that community on our campus,” Morris said.
Carlson’s views were only further fortified as we did more research on BSU.
“I have attended the Black commencement since I was a freshman because I was invited by my close friends. It’s true that BSU has grown because I see how it has impacted my friends who used to feel like they were alone on campus. Neat experience to hear from the people behind it all.,” Carlson said.
For Veronica the story touched closer to home than anyone could have anticipated.
“I found that this whole experience to affected me personally. As someone of color, it upsets me that I don’t see more representation of minorities and the amazing things they achieve at Cal Poly. Traditionally, underrepresented students have a different background and so it’s amazing when we get accepted to universities. BSU has made so much progress on campus in only a few years and the majority of the campus should respect organizations on campus like BSU because these are the clubs that are really changing the campus climate and making everyone feel welcomed and valued,” Fregoso said.
When we started brainstorming stories for our third project we talked extensively during the pitch session and continued the conversation through our group message and landed upon a story by the end of the day.
No one really expects to hear about a student who’s side job is working in the sex industry, which made the story automatically compelling. There were also problems that came from telling the story. While it did raise interest from the people I talked to on campus and off, there weren’t really any extra sources.
Mustang News had previously done a story on Porn, in which they talked about the unspeakable topic. This was a different take on the sex industry, coming from an on campus student.
This project brought a unique challenge to us in that it wasn’t fitting into a lot of the demands on the syllabus addendum. We were planning on doing a story on a girl who performed on camera to make extra money. There wasn’t an academic component or multiple sources who could speak on the subject. We had one girl.
We decided as a group that our angle needed to be objective and we needed to wait before making any assumptions about our subject and the story in general. There was a lot of similar preconceived feedback that we’d gotten from talking to students, community members, etc. There is a stigma that can come when you mention the sex industry and we were here to tell her story and take on the stigma
Going into the interview there was a consensus that we here to facilitate her story being told and allowing our audience to take what they would from it. We met with her for about an hour and she shared her story. We agreed to withhold naming names in this situation because of the subject matter.
She talked to us about the industry, the clientele, her experiences dancing and walked us through the website which is just one of sites on the internet. Myfreecams.com was the site she used because she liked the variety of options that came with it.
It’s helpful to have all of the group attend the interviews because each of us had different questions that came up during the interview. Also we were able to help on the areas that were our own specialties even though we weren’t using them for this particular project.
Cecilia also interviewed Jane Lehr, Associate Professor & Chair Women & Gender Studies about the subject for an additional perspective.
We had two memory card issues, one dying battery, and four iPhones that we used to get everything for the story. It taught us a lot about having back up plans and back up plans for those back up plans.
The project allowed us to continue our theme of really good ideas and adapting that to few sources and little resources. We’re seeing that it’s important to have that initial interview with the primary source. We’ve seen our stories evolve on each project from our beginning plan to where the source takes us.
This has affected the way we do the print, multimedia, public relations and broadcast. I think that our last project will probably also come together in the second week even though we are already planning it, it’s just part of the trend.
A few weeks ago, I came across a press release on Cal Poly’s website about the conclusion of the first quarter of the university’s new Marine Science degree. Since the program had just finished up its first quarter, I thought that it would be a great idea to do an article for project #2 talking about how successful (or unsuccessful) the quarter had been for the faculty and for the students. After talking over the idea with my team members, Monica Roos (Editorial), Dylan Ring (Broadcast) and Savannah Sperry (Multimedia) during class, they were all excited about the prospect, as the project would allow for plenty of audio and visual opportunities.
Further research led our group to find an article published from the Tribune about the Marine Mammal Class that just began winter of last year. The class, offered through the Animal Science department, allows students the opportunity to go out to the Marine Mammal Center located in Morro Bay six hours a week to participate in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick sea lions. This allowed us to focus our topic from the marine science degree to one specific class, and why students are interested in that one specific class and the value that they see in this class.
We found out that the class, taught by Cal Poly professor and Central Coast Veterinarian Heather Harris, is only taught every winter quarter, so we immediately contacted her. Upon reaching out, we found that she was unavailable to be in contact due to an international vacation until February 12th, meaning that we had to push the story back until project #3. In the meantime, we focused on the Current Solutions story for project #2.
When the time came for project #3, our team once again reached out to Professor Harris. She agreed for an interview before the class lecture Wednesday afternoon, and encouraged us to stay for the lecture from 4 to 6, which she gave us details and a walkthrough about in an email before we arrived that day. The opportunity did not present itself for us to interview Dr. Harris that day due to her having to lead the necropsy, so we had to reschedule her interview for the following week.
I posted forums on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter earlier that week to gage student feedback on the topic, and although the responses were few, it helped the rest of the team with coming up with questions to ask Diana Kramer, Coordinator of the Marine Mammal Center, Saturday morning.
“After posting on social media, I was a little worried that the story might fall through due to a lack of potential interest from readers. But as we began talking to different sources, I felt more confident that this is a story that pertains to everyone and resonates the importance of being bigger than ourselves,” Alison Stauf said.
We spent Saturday morning at the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay interviewing Diana and getting an up-close look at the work students and volunteers do at the center. We were also lucky enough to meet Trisha and Brittany, two volunteers at the center who work with Diana. Unfortunately as we were leaving a possible ride-along opportunity presented itself, as Trisha and Brittany received a call about a possible sea lion on the road side that needed to be rescued. They informed us however, that many times the calls turn out to be false alarms.
On Monday, Dylan received a message from Diana about a sea lion that had just been rescued and relocated to the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay. Because Dylan was unable to film anything on Saturday, it was the perfect opportunity to get footage of students working on an animal at the center. Just before we were sent to depart for Morro Bay, Diana informed us that we would need consent in order to film. Due to this, Dylan’s broadcast element of the story had to be postponed until further notice.
“This project was pretty stressful due to the sporadic nature of my part. But I thought we had a really engaging interview with Diana. You could really tell that she’s passionate about these animals. She had some great anecdotes about rescues and other encounters,” Dylan Ring said.
After reconnecting with Dr. Harris following Wednesday’s necropsy, Monica and I scheduled an interview for the following Wednesday afternoon. The interview took place at the Cal Poly Veterinary Clinic in the same classroom where the students from the class attend lecture each week.
“You’re not really supposed to anthropomorphize or put your human emotions onto wildlife but in this case it was impossible not to. She was just totally relieved, she had lost her little guy. It was pretty amazing to be a part of that,” Dr. Heather Harris said.
The interview with Dr. Heather Harris was the last piece that Monica and Savannah needed to complete their multimedia and editorial pieces.
“This story reminded my why I love journalism so much. Throughout my college career I’ve done tons of stories, and of course you’re not going to love every story you do. From the first day we went to the Marine Mammal Enterprise class, I felt that passion for curiosity, and each interview went so well because I had an honest interest, and so many questions. Hearing about how these students and volunteers have such great experiences has made me want to look into volunteering at the marine mammal center,” Monica Roos said.
“All in all I found this story to be challenging but rewarding. I wasn’t very familiar with multimedia going into the project but found myself more easily navigating the programs by the end. I think the Marine Mammal Enterprise class is a really interesting course and is an awesome opportunity for students. Diana and Heather were great sources and I enjoyed being able to spend some time at their Morro Bay Facility,” Savannah Sperry said.
San Luis Obispo, many times referred to as a “hidden gem,” isn’t so hidden anymore with an increased demand of residency throughout the county. Unfortunately this means high rent for Cal Poly students. While many houses are crammed with more roommates than they are supposed to, Alden Summer and Alex King, fourth year Mechanical Engineering seniors decided to convert a large school bus into a mobile home.
They spent the entire summer of 2016 transforming this bus into a four-wheel adventure. After they completion, they made multiple trips from Washington to Shasta Lake, and back down to San Luis Obispo. This trip wasn’t exactly traveling in glamour. Summer and King often dealt technical difficulties that they had never faced before, and ended up in a situation where they were stuck in the bus for several days.
“That’s probably the hardest thing in life, to make mistakes. And then even harder is coming back and fixing those mistakes,” Summer said.
Our group felt the hard work and passion that these two students had poured into this mobile home that they now call “The Denali Bus.” Clara Knapp who covered multimedia was surprised by how much they were actually able to fit inside the bus.
“My kitchen in my old apartment was much smaller, which also speaks to the problem with housing generally in SLO,” she said. “People don’t have enough viable living options, and so they opt to do creative things like live in a bus.”
We approached this story with an intention of covering the benefits, hardships, and also the friendships that elevated from this bus conversion. Allison Royal who covered the news editorial piece focused on making this story appealing to an audience that is intrigued by the topic in a relatable way.
“We took this bus – a topic that easily could’ve been discussed from an engineering and construction point of view – and humanized it into a tale of travel and ultimately, friendship,” Royal said.
The Denali Bus is not only a story about friendship and avoiding high rent expenses, but also holds a visual attraction from the audience. The wooden walls and ceiling create a cozy scenery that make such a visually appealing story. Maggie Hitchings covered broadcast and was excited to portray this mobile lifestyle.
“Their Instagram and Youtube channel was so visual so I was excited I got to be broadcast for this piece. I was surprised at how well they built the bus and how much of a liveable space it actually is,” Hitchings said.
The story behind The Denali Bus is appealing to many students who seek adventure in an area with so many outdoor activities as San Luis Obispo. Our group really enjoyed getting to know the creators of such a large project, which made collaboration very easy between us.
“It was a cool experience for all four of us to go see, climb, and explore the bus together as a team despite our busy schedules,” Royal said. “Working together on all the interviews and collaborating I think will make the media in our story that much more powerful.”
Converting a huge school bus into a home isn’t a quick fix, especially for two college students. However, the impact of this unforgettable experience on Summer was clear.
“This will probably be one of the biggest parts of my life. Today, I don’t know what will happen next, but I’ll look but on this and cherish it for sure,” he said.
Decoding Cal Poly Computer Science: Why Is There A Low Retention Rate?
Our group wanted to explore the low retention rate within the Computer Science major after seeing a senior project from 2015, in which it was reported that only 40% of students graduate in six years.
We decided we needed input from a student who is still in the Computer Science major and one who transferred out. After posting to the Class of 2017 Facebook page, we got in touch with a fourth-year Computer Science major named Matthew Davis.
In Matthew’s opinion, there are a few main problems with the Computer Science department:
A lot of the students and professors have some social anxiety and are reluctant to either ask for help, or offer help.
Students have trouble getting the classes they need, which makes it difficult to stay on track for graduation, even though Computer Science is meant to be a four-year degree program.
The department has trouble hiring and retaining faculty. The university can’t afford to pay the high salary that many faculty are looking for, so they leave for higher paying jobs. This often results in professors who aren’t qualified enough to effectively teach the courses.
Dani Aiello is a fourth-year who transferred from Computer Science to Business Administration. On the subject of retaining faculty, she says, “I think they’re taking anyone they can get to teach. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good at teaching, able to communicate well with students, or have ever had any experience.”
She says that although she was passing her Computer Science classes, she felt as though she was always struggling to get by and couldn’t get the help she needed from her professors.
She didn’t want to stay in a major that she wasn’t passionate about, which lead to her decision to switch to Business Administration. Dani says she is much happier now and actually looks forward to going to her classes. She is considering a concentration in Information Systems, which combines some knowledge of coding along with business skills.
Veronica Fregoso says, “This topic was interesting in the sense that you think computer science and engineering majors have it together. I thought someone in computer science would be doing what they wanted and feel confident upon graduating; it just goes to show that money doesn’t really dictate happiness. If you aren’t doing what you love or something that makes you happy you really question why you’re doing it and if you’re doing it for yourself.”
Chloe Carlson adds, “This project was most interesting upon talking to the professors who notice a retention issue in the academia. If you have a degree in computer science and software engineering then you are more likely to work in the industry because you could make substantially more than at a university.”
“For as long as I’ve been here I’ve seen countless friends and peers go through the rigorous computer science program. And I always questioned if it was healthy for them since some become miserable throughout the program. So getting to work on a story that affects so many people I know made it that much more imperative,” says Olivia Doty.
Julia Morris says, “I was most surprised that the main issue in the department seems to be keeping faculty. I just assumed that because Cal Poly is known for its College of Engineering that hiring qualified professors wouldn’t be a problem.”
My roommate came home from class one day going on and on about a tour she went on for one of her construction management classes. When I heard her say “underground” she immediately had my full attention. At the time my senior project group was working on our first story, but I knew this needed to be our next. My roommate proceeded to explain where this underground place was on campus and reeled me in further. Many people aren’t aware that Cal Poly has an underground portion of campus which is used for various purposes, I was most intrigued by the space which is used by campus dining. Just a couple flights of stairs underneath 19 Metro and The Avenue there is a bakery, a butcher shop, a salad room, and plenty of storage.
It was fascinating to see the cohesion in which the facility operated. Each room fulfilled their part of the bigger picture and I didn’t know it was broken up like that before.
Finding Our Story
One might assume that because Cal Poly is a “learn by doing” campus it would be simple to work with the school on a story for our senior project. That one person is wrong. From the first day we started making calls and we started at what we thought was the “top of the food chain”, excuse my pun. We worked with Ellen Curtis, Director of Communication and Marketing for Cal Poly Cooperation, and she quite literally showed us the tunnel to our story. That night I posted on Reddit, the Cal Poly Class of 2017 Facebook page, and my personal Twitter to see what students wanted to know. Our senior project team put together the scraps of our idea to form our story: Peter Gonzalez put together the editorial piece, Olivia Proffit covered the broadcast segment, Cecilia Seiter created the multimedia section, and myself (Madison Agatha-Mancebo) helped coordinate the project and handled PR .Initially my group and I were under the impression that Cal Poly had secret tunnels and almost an underground city down there. Ellen explained to us what was actually down there and suggested how we should go about getting in. After meeting with Ellen and one other worker from Campus Dining, we scheduled our interviews and hoped that a story would fall in place.
I was surprised by the sheer volume of workers it takes to operate campus dining, and how smoothly they need to work together to keep everything running effectively.
Just after the lunch rush, Ellen took us behind the scenes of how every food product and meal is made on campus. She walked us through the kitchen and introduced us to the Chef Micheal Albright, took us to the bake shop, the butchery, the salad room and the storage room which resembles a miniature Costco. Our story fell into place the second we walked into the kitchen. The natural sounds were amazing and there was so much to see. We were truly shocked that this much work went into the food.
I was really interested to learn about how campus food is made. I had no idea that the food is so fresh.
After our tour we had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Albright and Megan Coats, registered dietician, to see how they plan what students are going to eat.
Focusing on cleaner food, local, sustainable, listening to the trends and students, and being able to change quickly is what we strive for.
-Chef Michael Albright
All of our perspectives truly changed after working on this story. I remember being a freshman eating on campus, or attempting to not, because I never knew where my food came from. But after seeing first hand that the fruit cups I ate are actually prepared the day of and the beef in the hamburgers is freshly ground in the butcher shop, I feel at ease. I think that all students should take advantage of the dining on campus, not just freshmen. The staff truly listens to what the students want and they make it happen.