The state budget crisis has cast a long shadow on campuses across the state, forcing difficult conversations about the direction of higher education. In this climate, it’s important to remember the great work, the significant accomplishments, the joy of youth and the bright futures being shaped every day across campus. Here’s a look at five students who are defining success on their own terms.
Jaclyn Zandieh won’t be participating in the rite of passage that most graduates experience this time of year: the job hunt.
A student in the finance, real estate and law program in the College of Business Administration, Zandieh had a career waiting for her when she completed her studies in the winter quarter. Northrop Grumman “interviewed me on Friday and offered me a job on Monday,” Zandieh says, recounting her whirlwind experience at the Career Fair last fall, where several employers competed for students with her skills.
Cal Poly Pomona has the only contract management major on the West Coast, putting its graduates in high demand.
“It’s the marriage of law and finance,” Zandieh says of her career choice. “Contract management is something I’d want to learn for my life and not just for a career. You’re not just sitting at a desk crunching numbers every day.”
Zandieh, a self-confessed nerd, says she loves the attention to detail — a skill she acquired in the classroom, at her internship and as a member of Cal Poly Pomona’s chapter of the National Contract Management Association, the first of its kind in the nation.
She also loves the opportunity to immerse herself in the object of the contract. At Northrop Grumman, it will be satellites.
Sergio Lorenzo Zaragoza III exhibits the poise, quiet confidence and wide-ranging interests of a public peaker or seasoned politician. But Zaragoza isn’t studying political science or communication. The first-generation college student is a mechanical engineering junior — and by all appearances a brilliant one, with a resume and pocketful of scholarships that open doors.
“There are so many opportunities, but people tend to ignore them,” he says. “My goal last year was to research the best scholarships out there and to pursue them.”
He’s the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship and internship from NASA through the Motivating Undergraduates in Science and Technology program. He also participates in Academic Excellence Workshops, developing a curriculum for the teaching of dynamics, “the story of matter,” which he has presented to student groups to improve his teaching skills. And last year, he joined the Baja SAE racing team and designed a fiberglass suspension race seat.
“I see engineering as more than just equations but as a way of life,” he says. His interest in the profession is hard wired. At 12, he started working for his father’s construction company. When he could drive, he was made a project manager, learning the ins and outs of the business and getting a taste of his future.
Now, he’s focused on earning advanced degrees and becoming a college professor and researcher.
Tobias Jahn can’t help but stand out.
A 6-foot-9 power forward on the men’s basketball team, Jahn helped the Broncos claim their first NCAA championship this March, a thrilling sequel to last year’s NCAA title game appearance in which the Broncos were runners-up. He’s also an emigrant from Germany who speaks three languages and is learning a fourth, an international business major with a GPA well above 3 — and an advice columnist.
“I have an answer for everything, not like all the philosophers who try to figure out who we are and never get anywhere,” Jahn said in his introductory column in the student newspaper. “I am legit and straight to the point.” The first line was admittedly sarcastic. The second rings true.
Don’t ask Jahn a question unless you want an honest answer. He attributes it to being German. “We’re straightforward, which is why some people think we’re [jerks],” he says. “In California, people can say one thing and mean another.”
Jahn, a junior, would like to continue playing basketball after college, perhaps in Greece or Spain. Injuries slowed him this year, but he’s confident in his athletic ability and basketball skills. “I want to take this farther than some people think I can,” he says.
You can take him at his word.
Ray Bishop had an epiphany while eating a grilled cheese sandwich. It was late in the evening, and he was enjoying his favorite comfort food to counteract another frustrating day of fielding complaints at an electronics store, when he realized that something had to change.
“I told my wife, Mei, that I wanted more out of life,” he says. “I told her I wanted to be a chef, and she said, ‘Well, why don’t you want to own a restaurant?'”
She did the research, and he followed her advice. First, Chaffey College. Then he transferred into the university’s hospitality management program. After graduation this spring, he’s headed to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.
This is heady stuff for someone who dropped out of his first attempt at community college. Today, he serves as president of the United Culinarians and works part time as a bottler at Dale Brothers Brewery in Upland.
His interest in beer, cultivated while growing up in Germany, has led to his latest project, Polynation, an amber lager brewed at Dale Brothers that bears a unique label designed by a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus. It will be sold at the student-run Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch, with proceeds going back to the college. Bishop says the marketing concepts he’s learned will come in handy when he opens a restaurant.
His bar menu, he adds, will include grilled cheese sandwiches.
April Marshburn, a graduate student in landscape architecture, had no idea her search for a capstone project would take her home.
“Coming back has been a joy,” she says, reflecting on the study of Escondido Creek that she and three colleagues undertook with their faculty advisors last fall. “It’s like being a tourist in the town you grew up in.”
The 606 Studio project, suggested by a student who had no idea Marshburn lived on the outskirts of Escondido, explores a seven-mile stretch of channel and an adjacent bike path that run through town and cut across demographic lines.
The project has at times stirred spirited discussion in the community and given her an appreciation for the public relations side of her future career.
“A lot of people have ideas about what we’re trying to do, but this speculation is premature. We will begin developing designs after we complete our research,” says Marshburn, who wrote an opinion piece in the local newspaper to dispel misinformation. “We have been taught to set aside preconceived notions.”
Supported by a $56,000 grant from the city, the 606 Studio team has visited the area several times, met with local groups and hosted community events, and gathered prodigious data. The goal, Marshburn says, is to give the city a vision of how to increase access, improve safety and the ecology of the area, and facilitate an appreciation for a valuable public asset.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the city to implement a plan,” she says. “We’re just honored to play a part.”