A student with a belief in the restorative powers of urban gardening.
An alumna who helps guide students on their career path. A woman dedicated to feeding those in need. A veterinarian-turned-professor who fosters “learn by doing” through academic internships. A theater professor whose course encourages students to connect with community members through the sharing of personal stories. And an alumnus whose work as curator of Bio Trek has brought a love of science to service learning students and visitors alike.
These are the recipients of the Center for Community Engagement’s Reach Beyond Awards. The honorees were celebrated at a luncheon April 26.
President Soraya M. Coley praised the honorees for their dedication and said involvement in service-learning opportunities and programs like those recognized will help make Cal Poly Pomona students better people.
“In many ways we need this more than ever,” she said. “As we bring in new students, we need to make sure they understand that when we talk about ‘you’re graduating,’ it is graduating with also a sense of responsibility. It is not just graduating with just the excellent education you’re going to get and your ability to go into a work environment or graduate school environment, but it is also about what impact you are going to make in whatever community you find yourself.”
Mike Brown, curator of Cal Poly Pomona’s simulated rainforest Bio Trek, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1977 from the university and his master’s in 1982. He and his colleagues opened Bio Trek in 2002, with the goal of teaching about conservation and the environment, the cultural and ethnic history of California and interpretation of science at the university level. Their goals also included reaching out to teachers and students at K-12 schools.
As a young girl growing up in West Covina, Dr. Joanne Sohn got an early career start helping her veterinarian father clean cages around the veterinary hospital. Sohn worked 16 years as a veterinarian before she began teaching. She has been a professor in the animal health science department for four years, partnering with organizations such as the Amanda Foundation, Los Angeles County Veterinary and Public Health and the Downtown Dog Rescue to engage her students with the community and help ready them for internships.
Since 2013, Professor Paula Weston Solano has taught TH 4258 Community Based Theater to more than 230 students. The course requires students to interview members of a given community, hear their personal stories and create theatrical responses that express their struggles, triumphs, despair and hope. The idea is to enable the students to walk in the shoes of those who might have different cultural, societal, familial and life experience. Solano, an actress, writer, and solo performer began teaching at Cal Poly Pomona in 2005.
Win D. Gunadi (‘91, computer science) works as a principal IT analyst for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California. While a junior at Cal Poly Pomona, Gunadi was introduced to the Cooperative (Co-Op) Education Program. In 2006, MWD formed its District Data Management Team, and since Gunadi had past experience working with students, she was appointed to oversee the Co-Op students. Her responsibilities include coordinating, mentoring and supervising students for data management functions in the agency’s Water Quality Laboratory. She has also visited campus to encourage students to apply for the Co-Op Program.
A simple mission fuels Fran Robertson every day – feed as many people as she can. Robertson, who serves as director of development for the La Verne-based nonprofit Sowing Seeds for Life, partners with several food pantries throughout the community. In 2016, she teamed up with Cal Poly Pomona’s Food and Housing Security Committee to launch a monthly food pantry. The effort feeds an average of 350 Broncos each month.
Casey McCann Sidwell, a graduating senior majoring in liberal studies, spends much of her free time at the Center Street Community Garden in South Pomona. The first-generation college student has always had a love for service, but taking Professor Teresa Lloro-Bidart’s service learning course is what rooted her interest in the restorative and generative possibilities of urban gardening. Last year, Sidwell received a Learn Through Discovery fellowship that she tapped to build an extension that includes a butterfly garden and themed interactive gardens