Poly Parent News: April 2020

This Month's Newsletter


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Message from Our Team

With classes and campus resources now online for spring quarter, our students have the opportunity to learn and stay connected in unique ways. The role of a parent or supporter in our students’ lives is more impactful than ever, especially as many of you are sharing space again. Your involvement is critical as our students navigate uncharted territory and most importantly, we want you to know we are here for YOU!

A few highlights from our newsletter this month: Cal Poly has been updating the entire campus community regularly and we encourage you to stay updated on the COVID-19 pandemic. We also hope you will download the Cal Poly Now app to access the new "What's Up Now" guide and view the hundreds of virtual campus engagements happening throughout spring quarter. If you have a student graduating, sign up to receive commencement information and take a few minutes to write a congratulatory letter to a grad today. We are also grateful to partner with a local agency, Connect Be Well, who offers incredible resources for parents during such an uncertain time.

If you have suggestions for future newsletters, share with us by emailing Our goal is to increase your awareness and education of campus and community resources and we welcome your ideas!

Stay well and we hope to see you soon!


The Parent and Family Programs Team

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COVID-19 Updates

Cal Poly is actively monitoring the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). We are proactively engaged in pandemic planning with our public health partners, including the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department and the CDC. The university is following the guidance of the CDC and our local health officials. For the latest updates, resources and information from the university, please visit and be sure to review the FAQ page.

In addition, as the campus transitions to virtual resources, we advise that you familiarize yourself with new guidelines surrounding Virtual Learning.

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Download the Cal Poly Now App

Because students can’t come to us right now, the university is bringing Cal Poly to them – with things like the Virtual Spring Career Fair, pre-recorded fitness classes and online personal training sessions, mindfulness and meditation sessions, tele-counseling, and setting up virtual employer interviews for jobs and internships.

Now more than ever, it’s important that we find safe ways to engage with each other. To help students find these opportunities, the university created a one-stop guide for finding virtual events and resources that they love from Student Affairs. All of the events are free and available to Cal Poly students.

We encourage you to download the Cal Poly Now app today to access the new "What's Up Now" guide and view the hundreds of virtual campus engagements happening throughout spring quarter.

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Submit a Dear Mustang Grad Letter

Is your student graduating this spring? Showcase how Cal Poly Proud you are of them by writing a Dear Mustang Grad letter! 

The Dear Mustang Grad campaign offers a unique way for you to congratulate graduates, highlight their accomplishments, give thanks, share memories and offer words of wisdom. Through these letters, we hope to surprise the Class of 2020 with personal notes from the people who supported them throughout their Cal Poly journey.


For optimal impact, we ask that you please keep this letter a secret. Once submitted, the Commencement Office will begin preparations to deliver to graduates in June on your behalf. The deadline to submit Dear Mustang Grad letters is Friday, May 8.

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Sign Up for Spring Commencement Emails

Parents and supporters of spring 2020 graduates - sign up to receive commencement emails and stay informed about this year's virtual celebration. We also encourage you to visit to view the Spring 2020 FAQs.

In addition, please follow the Commencement Office on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on the latest news and announcements.

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Uncertainty and Predictability: A Letter for Cal Poly Parents from Connect Be Well

Who would’ve ever thought we’d be in this unprecedented situation—as humans, as a society, and as parents of college students?! 

So much has changed in such a short period of time and the news on how best to behave seems to change hourly.

It’s definitely not an easy time. The uncertainty we feel adds to our worries and provokes anxiety (as well as exacerbates existing ones).  At a time when so much feels out of our control, it’s helpful to focus on the things we can control. It’s also an especially important time to take care of our mental health and social-emotional well-being. 

We’ve all had to accommodate physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and financially. It’s hard to know how to parent a college student right now. Our kids are not home for a weekend, short break, or summer—they’re attempting to do college, at least college work, from the confines of their bedroom (or combination of spaces).  Our emerging adult children have been somewhat independent with lives of their own. We’re now, perhaps, getting better glimpses of what learning and studying looks and sounds like, clearer insights into their sleep, eating and social media habits, and snapshots of what they do (or don’t) to keep a healthy school-life balance. 

  • How do we both manage our quarantine life as a family and parent under such unprecedented circumstances? 
  • When and how do we let our “adult” kids see their friends and girl/boyfriends? 
  • How do we help our adult kids navigate their emotions, as we do our best to navigate our own emotions, anxieties, and fears?

Laura Zapanta offers some sound advice to parents in her column, A Message for Parents of College Students Working From Home (Including Myself), From a Faculty Member.  In it she shares “Some thoughts for the new reality of online, at-home learning,” such as: “(1) Your student is not home for break, and don’t treat it as such; (2) Realize that they are under A LOT of stress; (3) Make sure they have the resources they need to be successful; (4) Remember, they are not in high school anymore; (5) Just a warning, college students have really weird working and sleep schedules; and (6) Discourage them from getting together with local college and old high school friends” (Grown & Flown, March 16, 2020). 

While at school, our kids have roommates, friends, and peers who provide them with support for their social, emotional, and mental well-being. They walk, bike or skateboard to classes and activities to get in some physical exercise and support for their mental well-being and have access to recreational opportunities through their social involvement in clubs. While we may be providing them with a new room and board arrangement, it’s important to be aware of (and remind them of) their overall well-being needs.

Social and Emotional Well-being:

Mental and Physical Well-being:

From Collegiate Parent:

Even if we’re not yet sure of when and how we’ll all return to our new normal, this will pass. Until it does, we hold onto hope (as we know that this won’t last forever) and try to nurture calm (as we are not alone in this). We have created a new link on the Connect Be Well site for all, Navigating Coronavirus. We’ve been working on compiling articles to help ourselves during this uncertain time, as we parent our children of varying ages, including our “returned” college-age students.

Perfectly Imperfect,

Ana O’Sullivan, Ph.D. and Kerri Mahoney

Founders of Connect Be Well and Parents of college students (including 2 Mustangs!)

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Campus Resource Spotlight – Cal Poly Cares

Cal Poly is committed to creating an environment for all students to reach their full potential and thrive. Along this journey, many students are unable to afford expenses core to their ongoing success, including housing and meals, academic supplies and materials, personal care items, professional clothing and unplanned emergencies.

Cal Poly Foundation Board members have come together to support these students in their highest areas of need and created the Cal Poly Foundation Fund for Students. This fund provides awards to students through the Cal Poly Cares Grant program and is administered by the Student Affairs Division in collaboration with the Financial Aid Office.

Student Affairs partners throughout campus to create a comprehensive referral network to support students with critical and urgent needs. Faculty, staff, academic advisors, counselors, Campus Health and Wellbeing, Student Academic Services, Disability Resource Center, Cross-Cultural Centers and department leaders throughout Cal Poly may refer students to the Cal Poly Cares Grant program by contacting the Dean of Students Office at 805-756-2472.

Learn more and give to Cal Poly Cares:

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month which encourages individuals to show their support for survivors, promote consent, and stand up to victim-blaming. Safer partners with a number of organizations both on-campus and off-campus to put on events surrounding the topic, including conversations about prevention, healthy sexuality, masculinity and more.

Safer is Cal Poly’s confidential advocacy, education and support resource for addressing sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Safer does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religious or spiritual beliefs, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, or documentation status in any of its activities or operations. The office is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of the Cal Poly community.

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Engineering Student Makes Respiration Masks in His Garage for Local Health Care Workers

Written by Pat Pemberton, Cal Poly News

Working with medical professionals, a Cal Poly engineering student has helped design and create 60 respiration masks in his garage using 3D printers, and he plans to create even more to help address the nationwide shortage of the crucial medical protective gear.

Cristian Sion, a double major in materials engineering and manufacturing engineering, was contacted by Jeremy Ralston, a facilities engineer at the San Luis Obispo Surgery Center, who asked if he could help create a N95 mask, which can block at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) particles.

“I jumped at the opportunity and made a few prototypes for him the same day,” Sion said.

N95 respirators and surgical masks are examples of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are used to protect the wearer from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Ralston said he was concerned about a shortage of N95 masks for healthcare workers and first responders.

Working with Dr. Clint Slaughter, an emergency room physician at both French Hospital Medical Center and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, the trio also found that other 3D-printed mask designs needed improvements.

“During testing, several doctors and nurses noted that it was difficult to breathe using the original design,” said Sion of a popular Billings Respirator design that was the brainchild of a Montana neurosurgeon. “I helped increase the filter size by 50 percent.”

Ralston initially reached out to Cal Poly’s amateur radio club for someone with a 3D printer and was referred to Sion. The engineering senior from Los Angeles purchased his first 3D-printer kit for $180 about two and a half years ago as part of a class research project and has since added more.

“3D printing started off as a hobby for me,” he said. “I used to think it was silly at first but soon learned you can make incredible things with it.”

A 3D printer can create solid three-dimensional objects from a digital file. Sion eventually started a 3D-printing service, Additive Engineering, because he wanted to learn about business and live by Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing ethos. He created dozens of parts for fellow students and performed design and printing for several customers.

When the global COVID-19 pandemic broke, he was already thinking of what he could do when Ralston reached out to him. Medical providers are especially vulnerable to contracting the virus, which has resulted in more than 16,000 deaths nationwide.

While homemade masks are gaining popularity, they are not approved N95 products by FDA or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Sion, Ralston and Slaughter continue to work on the masks as they await approval.

“We all have the same mindset of helping the community,” Ralston said.

The masks could be used by the general public first, Ralston said, with production likely to increase by two to four times once shortages progress in healthcare settings.

While French Hospital and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital currently have what is described as “adequate” PPE reserves for the next couple of months, Slaughter said, an increase in patients could quickly change that status.

“This is the reason that I’ve been working with Cristian and Jeremy, as well as hospital administration, to have locally producible means to extend our PPE supply,” he said.

The group has created a website,

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'You Can Pay It Forward.' Theatre & Dance Department Creates Patterns for People to Make Their Own Masks

Written by Gabby Ferreira, Cal Poly News

As the coronavirus pandemic spread through the United States, and protective face coverings became the norm, costume shop manager Laina Babb of the Theatre and Dance Department spent days creating accessible patterns that students and alumni can use to fashion their own face masks out of fabric.

“Initially, this was for hospitals but morphed into putting it out there for the community, because of the changing recommendations,” Theatre and Dance department chair Josh Machamer said, referring to the updated CDC guidance encouraging people to wear protective masks in public.

“Making fabric masks alleviates the need for masks that are better suited for hospitals,” Babb said. “It’s a nice way to be creative and be able to do something constructive when we’re all sitting at home figuring out what’s going to come next.”

The patterns are available to students through the department’s Canvas page, which also contains a multitude of resources to help them through the virtual Spring quarter.

“You don’t know how many people are going to make them, but knowing it’s out there for people, that’s part of what our job is,” Machamer said. “We make sure there are resources and they still have a connection to us, whether they’re students, alumni or faculty.”

The two mask patterns are a simpler, pleated mask and a more stylish “duck-bill” mask, which has more space in front of the face and a pocket where people can put a filter.

“This came internally from Cal Poly with Laina’s idea,” Machamer said. “We’re putting our departmental name behind it; we’re putting our expertise behind it and we’re showcasing ways in which we’re adjusting and being flexible in the shift and dynamic for the Spring Quarter.”

Machamer also sent the mask patterns to Theater alumni.

“All of our alumni had to go through the costume construction class, so it’s a great way to harken back to remembering some of those skills. And now they can see the benefits of what they’ve learned in everyday life,” he said. “You don’t necessarily know where these skills will come in handy, but being able to combine the hard skills of knowing how to sew with the aspect of creativity, collaboration, ingenuity and service are attributes of larger transferable skills.”

Babb is also in the process of making about 30 masks for some of San Luis Obispo’s essential city workers.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel like they can take some sort of control in this unknown environment, which is really important,” Machamer said. “It’s not just a hobby, but ultimately essential. You can make a mask not just for yourself, but for friends. You can pay it forward.”

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This Orfalea Alum is Making Thousands of Face Shields for Medical Professionals

Written by Gabby Ferreira, Cal Poly News

Alan Puccinelli was running a bustling business selling accessories for 3D printers when the coronavirus pandemic hit in mid-March, bringing normal life to a grinding halt.

The Orfalea College of Business alum and Sacramento-area resident wanted to be helpful. He noticed a demand for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

“I just stopped and said, ‘Well, you know, maybe I can make a couple hundred of these face shields and be of help,’” said Puccinelli, who runs Repkord, a 3D printing company.

Puccinelli had been following the Czech company Prusa Research, which makes hobby-grade 3D printers, and noticed that they were designing medical face shields for medical workers in the Czech Republic.

Puccinelli used that design as a starting point, making a few face shields for emergency room doctors in his area.

“I said ‘Hey, is this helpful to you guys? I hear you’re running short or will be running short on PPE (personal protective equipment),’ ”Puccinelli said. “The answer I got was a resounding yes.”

So, Puccinelli and his team kicked into high gear on the effort, known as Operation Shields Up.

He already had some supply connections through his business that he was able to rely upon, and his all-volunteer team has come together fast — manufacturing as many as 1,400 face shields in one day.

Puccinelli also pinned a tweet on his Twitter page outlining what his team is doing and how people can help, which created a crowdsourcing effort for parts.

There have been challenges: due to social distancing, it’s impossible to just throw a bunch of people into manufacturing shields at the same time. The team has set up shifts and a structure to make production more efficient.

“People being out of work, and feeling helpless, and wanting to find a way to contribute meaningfully has allowed us to rally an intense volunteer base,” Puccinelli said. “And a really high-quality volunteer base, too.”

As of April 10, Operation Shields Up has produced 10,010 face shields.

The effort is running entirely on donations, and Puccinelli says they’re just trying to meet the need for equipment until normal supply chains kick in.

“I have no idea why it’s a small maker like me who’s able to be part of the rapid response team,” Puccinelli said, laughing. “But, you know, I’m doing it until they tell me they don’t need it anymore.”

Puccinelli asked anyone interested in helping to visit the group’s website,, for more information.

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To Fight Coronavirus, Alumnus Distiller Shifts from Spirits to Sanitizer

Written by Larry Peña, Cal Poly News

Cal Poly alumnus Aaron Bergh is putting the “pub” in public service.

As the coronavirus pandemic swept across California, Bergh knew he wanted to help others in any way he could. So he repurposed his Paso Robles distillery, Calwise Spirits, to produce a different kind of alcohol. 

Now, instead of serving up cocktails with his distinctive gin and rum, he’s serving much-needed hand sanitizer to state and local agencies on the front lines of the public health crisis.

"It was a very fast decision I had to make,” said Bergh. “As the coronavirus situation got worse and worse, I started noticing that there are agencies out there — fire departments, public service, transit authorities – that didn’t have sanitizer and couldn’t find it.”

Using their distilling equipment and the alcohol-producing ingredients they already had on hand, Calwise was able to change gears from liquor to hand sanitizer in just 12 hours.

Bergh posted about his new product in the Facebook group HelpSLO and quickly got responses from companies, agencies and individual consumers in need.

Within days, he was supplying bulk hand sanitizer to local fire and police departments, the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority, the SLO Food Bank and other groups, at a rate much lower than most commercially-available hand sanitizers.

His most sobering interaction was a call he received from the FBI field office in Los Angeles. 

“They have agents out in the field as part of the COVID-19 response team, and they are running out of hand sanitizer,” Bergh said. “This sanitizer is going to make a huge difference in keeping them and the public safe.”

The product has also helped rally people together in a time of crisis: several other companies have helped keep the effort going by contributing containers and other supplies. 

While Calwise is currently able to handle demand, Bergh is on the lookout for partners with access to hydrogen peroxide, glycerin and bottles, in case they run out in the future.

Community service agencies in need of hand sanitizer — or individual consumers looking to boost their quarantine morale with the distillery’s other products — can visit the Calwise website.

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Upcoming Dates and Deadlines

Office of the Registrar Calendars and Deadlines

Student Accounts Payments

University Housing Calendar

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Campus Contact Information

Admissions | (805) 756-2311
Career Services | (805) 756-2501
Commencement Office | (805) 756-1600
Counseling Services | (805) 756-2511
Disability Resource Center | (805) 756-1395
Financial Aid Office | (805) 756-2927
Health Services | (805) 756-1211
Mustang Success Center | (805) 756-6211
Parent and Family Programs | (805) 756-6700
Student Accounts | (805) 756-1428
University Housing | (805) 756-1226
Cal Poly Police Department | (805) 756-2281

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