Links to the Past

Summer 2012

In This Issue:


 A Journal of History Vol. 4

Student Publication Wins Another Award

The History Department is proud to announce that the third volume of its student-produced publication, The Forum: A Journal of History,won second prize in the print category in the 2011 Gerald D. Nash History Journal Award given by the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society.

Phi Alpha Theta Executive Director Graydon A. Tunstall praised Cal Poly’s Phi Alpha Theta chapter for the “time and effort” demonstrated in producing an “outstanding historical journal. The continued high quality of your publication clearly exemplifies the dedication of you and your peers to the study of history."

Drs. Tom Trice and Molly Loberg are the faculty advisors to The Forum. This is the second consecutive year The Forum earned the prestigious Nash History Journal Award and national recognition. In 2010 volume 2 won first prize in the electronic journal category and third prize in the print journal category. Readers can find the current issue of The Forumalong with back issues (volumes 1-3)at the DigitalCommons@CalPoly website:

Cal Poly’s Alpha-Nu-Gamma chapter of Phi Alpha Thetaestablished The Forum in 2008. While it is affiliated with the Cal Poly History Department and advised by faculty members, the journal is managed and produced start-to-finish by undergraduate and graduate students and provides just one example of how students apply the Cal Poly Learn by Doing motto to the study of history. During 2011-2012, the executive editor of The Forum is Hilda Iorga. Ashlyn James, Mindy McKenzie, Elizabeth Metelak, Wyatt Oroke, Andrew Pagan and Alexandra Schindler served as undergraduate members of the editorial board, and Erica Jameson, Andre LeBlanc and Andrew McEachron as graduate members.

The History Department congratulates our students on their excellent work!


Amanda Brooks wins College Award for Contributing to the Image of the University

The College of Liberal Arts recognized Amanda D. Brooks with the 2012 CLA Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the University award based upon Amanda’s record of service to Cal Poly, its students, and the wider community. 

Transferring to Cal Poly in fall 2009, Brooks worked with outstanding effort and success to promote gender equity on campus and on the central coast.  Starting in early 2010, Brooks spent three quarters in a history department internship with the Family Law Self-Help Center of the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.  At the center she worked with staff attorneys to enable individuals who could not afford legal counsel to represent themselves in cases regarding divorce, child custody, and other areas of family law.  Brooks also interned during the summer of 2010 for the nonprofit organization, Cross-Cultural Solutions, and spent six weeks in Costa Rica helping to organize local women’s groups.

Brooks’ community service has focused especially on the issue of rape and violence against women.  Beginning in spring 2011, she volunteered with the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) Center, based in San Luis Obispo, as a state-certified rape crisis counselor, peer counselor, and fundraiser. As a crisis counselor, she answered phone calls at all hours of the day from sexual assault survivors and accompanied them to hospitals and to police stations. And she worked with SARP’s Latina Outreach Committee to develop a bilingual counseling program.  Brooks incorporated these experiences into her history department senior project, a history of the SARP Center contextualized within the broader feminist and rape crisis center movements in America.

The award also noted Brooks as a champion of women’s issues on the Cal Poly campus.  During 2010-2011, she served as a student representative to the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program worked with program faculty and staff to promote, expand, and enhance student participation within the minor.  And during this past year Amanda became founding president of the Cal Poly chapter of Iota, Iota, Iota (Triota), the WGS honor society.

History Department Recognizes Student Achievement with Annual Awards, Scholarship Luncheon

The History Department held its annual awards and scholarship luncheon on June 1 and would like to congratulate the following recipients for the 2010-11 academic year:
Sarah Bean – Kristin King Morana Memorial Scholarship
Jill Dayton – Kristin King Morana Memorial Scholarship
Christopher Nielsen – Thomas Redican Memorial Scholarship
Renee Hamilton – Hilda Heifetz Family Scholarship
Hilda Iorga – Hilda Heifetz Family Scholarship
Malia Barnes – Magadalena Cosio History Scholarship
Timothy Zellinger – Thomas Family "Learn by Doing" Scholarship
Laura Neylan – Madalene P. Farris History Award
Jackson Minasian – Dan Krieger Award
Wyatt Oroke – J. Irving Snetsinger Award for Political or Diplomatic History
Gabrielle Koizumi – J. Irving Snetsinger Award for Writing Excellence
Nicola Williams – George Cotkin Award for Scholarly Excellence
Elizabeth Metelak – Robert Detweiler Outstanding Senior Award
Amy Harris – Spencer Wood Memorial Award
John Hays – Spencer Wood Memorial Award

If you would like to show your support of the History Department and its students, please visit the Cal Poly Advancement website.

Return to top of page


History majors continued their significant contributions to Cal Poly’s myriad Intercollegiate Athletic programs during 2011-12. 

Amaurys Fermin, Cal Poly Basketball

Amaurys Fermin -- Senior -- Bronx, N.Y. -- Basketball

During his first and only season with the Cal Poly Men’s Basketball program, senior point guard Amaurys Fermin started all 33 games for the 2011-12 Mustangs and led all Big West Conference players with 119 assists. A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Fermin – who redshirted the 2009-10 season after transferring from Hagerstown College and the 2010-11 season after tearing an ACL – also finished second among Big West players with 3.6 assists per game and fourth with a 1.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

With Fermin in the lineup this past season, Cal Poly achieved its highest overall victory total at the Division I level (18-15), produced its first winning season in five years, and reached the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament for the first time since 2007.

Fermin, who averaged 9.8 points per game this past year and reached double-digit scoring figures 18 times, also helped Cal Poly finish among the NCAA defensive and efficiency leaders. The Mustangs closed the 2011-12 season ranked sixth among Division I programs in opponent rebounds per game (29.1), 12th in turnovers committed per game (10.6), 24th in opponent points per game (60.5), 28th in rebounding margin (plus-5.5) and 37th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.19-to-1).



Paul Hundley, Cal Poly Football

Paul Hundley -- Senior -- San Diego, Calif. -- Football

Paul Hundley was the punter as a true freshman on the Cal Poly football team last fall. He averaged 39.8 yards per punt, ranking him 41st in the nation (Football Championship Subdivision). Hundley punted 45 times for 1,789 yards with a long of 57 yards. Thirteen of his punts were fair caught, 10 landed inside the 20-yard line, and seven resulted in touchbacks.

This spring Hundley also has been challenging for placekicking and kickoff duties against a pair of walk-ons and could be handling all kicking chores for the Mustangs as a sophomore next fall. 

A graduate of St. Augustine High School in San Diego, Hundley averaged 36,1 yards per punt, made 19 of 22 PAT kicks, and connected on a 24-yard field goal in his senior season, helping the Saints to a 9-3 record and a berth in the semifinals of the CIF-San Diego Section Division III playoffs.

Return to Top of Page





Alumni Spotlight: Nancy Keith Kelly (B.A. History, 1985)

Alumna Nancy Keith Kelly

Nancy Keith Kelly recalls that her first encounter with an Apple computer came during her History Department senior project, which catalogued correspondence between William Randolph Hearst and Julia Morgan for Cal Poly’s archives. “Intimidated” at first by the machine, she notes that she then found herself “surprised at how easy it was to work with.”

That moment early in her senior project seems to capture the remarkable and unexpected paths that Keith Kelly has forged working in international public relations for leading brands in the computer industry. After graduating from Cal Poly, Keith Kelly took her first job at Apple Computer where she worked in international public relations and marketing. As a member of Apple’s newly -formed Asia Pacific division, she helped establish and grow the company’s market share in Japan, China and the Far East. Keith Kelly later worked for international communications agencies before joining Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2008. She currently directs HP’s efforts to build partnerships and sustainability initiatives with environmental stakeholders worldwide.

Keith Kelly’s career track was, in her words, “never planned” and emerged through her willingness to seek out new opportunities and her knack for building broad professional skills and relationships. She entered Cal Poly as a political science major, transferred to history in her sophomore year, and intended to work for a few years after college before starting law school. Keith Kelly remembers that she had no job offers when she graduated from Cal Poly, moved to the Bay Area soon after, and began working for a temp agency. The agency soon placed her at Apple in a temporary position, which led to permanent work with the same company in the CEO’s office and later in international public relations. Although this placed Keith Kelly on a path she had never anticipated as a history major, she explains, “I ended up working for a company I loved so much that I stayed.”

Keith Kelly quickly found her history education to be a career asset in the world of international business. Working for an expanding company like Apple required her to become a generalist, to master a wide skill set, and to adapt to new circumstances and situations. Assignments in East Asia, for example, required that she quickly learn the history and culture of a country, integrate this information into global perspective, and successfully translate it among multiple, very different company and national contexts. The capacity to adapt, communicate, and acquire general skills later enabled her to pursue new opportunities and chances to learn through a series of growth career moves while still maintaining the personal and professional ties she created along the way.

One of the lessons Keith Kelly drew from her experiences is that employers and managers see that history majors bring needed skills to the job. Beyond simply being analytical, history students gain the ability to take on a new topic, to zoom in and go into depth by researching detailed information, and then to contextualize this information in the big picture. Having employees and leaders with these skills enables a business operation to be dynamic and adaptive, to learn from past experience and comparative cases, and to think differently as it moves forward.

These are skills, she notes, “That hiring managers can never get enough of. And as current history majors prepare for and look ahead to their future careers, Keith Kelly points to a few steps that students can take to begin to develop these skills early:

  • Learn to read and analyze data
  • Learn to write well and maintain strong writing skills throughout your career
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Become a lifetime learner by taking courses after graduation 

Keith Kelly advises students to be open to job opportunities and the new, unanticipated paths they might lead to. Most important, she tells students to “enjoy education for what you gain out of it.” History, she adds, “provides a skill for a lifetime.”

Alumni, Doug Jenzen stands in front of Dana AdobeM.A. Program Alumnus Makes His Mark on Local History

Doug Jenzen finished the History Department’s M.A. program in spring 2011 with a master’s thesis on the agricultural economy and laborers of San Luis Obispo County. Like many students poised to enter the world beyond Cal Poly, he weighed his options. Two weeks after earning his master’s, he began writing his first book, “Nipomo and Los Berros,” which Arcadia Publishing recently released as part of its Images of America series. The book -- along with Jenzen’s work with the Dana Adobe, where he serves as programs (plural programs?) director -- has quickly established him as part of the San Luis Obispo County history community.

“I wasn’t expecting what happened to happen,” Jenzen says of his rapid transformation from history student to practitioner and published author. The task of writing the book required him to not only draw upon skills learned through courses but also to dive into new experiences and to seek support and guidance from other local history professionals and resources.

Jenzen crafted his book around more than 200 historical photographs, maps and other images that he located through the generosity of the Dana Adobe, the History Center of San Luis Obispo County, and numerous private citizens who contributed items from their personal and family collections. He then researched the context of these visual sources and drafted and revised the four chapters and bibliography to meet the publisher’s deadlines.  Jenzen remembers that he had one week, coinciding with the 2011 winter holidays, to proofread and make final changes. 

Along the way, he learned key lessons about the practice of history.  When he first began the project, he imagined he would spend much of his time in libraries and archives. Instead, much of the work prior to and since the book’s publication put Jenzen out in the community building relationships, hearing personal stories, and promoting the project. 

In the process Jenzen discovered that his book and the images and history contained within them held deep meaning for various members of the community. “People have often said to me, ‘Someone needed to write this book,’” he recalls. Jenzen has been approached at book signings by individuals who have told him with great emotion, sometimes in tears, of their personal remembrances and connections to the people, places and times featured in the text. “I’m happy,” Jenzen adds, “that I provided that emotional connection.”

The book project and the community responses to it have fostered Jenzen’s interest in connections between the local history of communities like Nipomo and the broader history of North America, the Pacific Ocean, and the world. This effort has come to guide his work with the Dana Adobe. The Central Coast, in Jenzen’s view, has been a place of “intersection” among different peoples and various histories. The power of local history, he says, is its capacity to capture this larger history and to ground it in the emotions, memories and investments people have in the places they know and care for.

“Nipomo and Los Berros” is available through major booksellers and includes an introduction by retired Cal Poly history Professor Dan Krieger.  All proceeds from the book’s sales help support the Dana Adobe.

Alumna Elizabeth Metelak Heads to Connecticut with Teach for America

This summer, Elizabeth Metelak (’12) is spending five weeks in intensive training in New York City before entering a high school classroom in the fall as one of four social science teachers selected to be placed in Connecticut with Teach for America. The experience is the natural next step for this thoughtful, creative and accomplished scholar with a heart for teaching.

Metelak graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in History in June with a cumulative 3.97 GPA -- an accomplishment all the more remarkable because she finished her four-year program in just three years and was part of the university’s Honor’s Program, which provides an academically enriched learning experience for the university's most outstanding and highly motivated students. At the department’s annual Spring Awards Luncheon, she received the Robert Detweiler Outstanding Senior Award for her academic excellence. Capping her achievements was her selection through a competitive process to serve for two years in the respected Teach for America program.  Her cohort in the interview process included several graduate students as well as lawyers and other career professionals. She departed for her training in New York in July.

Relocating is nothing new for Metelak. Her family moved across the country numerous times during her childhood, and her parents now reside across the Atlantic in Lithuania, where her father teaches at an international university. As she was growing up, Metelak’s father served as a military pilot and flight instructor who relocated several times between bases in Florida and California -- Metelak’s high school years were split evenly between the two states -- so she is familiar with packing up and moving. 

But leaving Cal Poly won’t be easy.  The university has been her stable home for the past three years, and she will be leaving behind dear friends. In addition to her academic achievements, Metelak has been active in the Phi Alpha Theta history honor society, with the department’s award-winning journal, The Forum, and with the Human-Powered Vehicle Club, a group of predominantly aerospace engineering majors who design, build and race lightweight, aerodynamic vehicles in national competitions. Her team placed second in the annual national competition in Utah this year (just one-hundredth of a point behind the champions from Missouri S&T). Her other unconventional accomplishments include her completion of elective calculus courses (with straight A’s), and her ability to play the euphonium, a brass instrument in the tuba family.

Metelak has always wanted to teach. She began exploring Teach for America even before she started college. In San Luis Obispo, she has tutored local sixth graders and has served as a teaching assistant for Professor Tom Trice through the honors program. She has also worked with orphans in Guatemala and Mexico, drawing inspiration from her father’s volunteer work in Lithuanian orphanages. Elizabeth credits her experience abroad and her frequent moves for her ability to adapt to new situations, and she is eager to apply these skills with Teach for America. “If you’re inflexible you end up missing the opportunity to experience new things,” she notes. “When you have to remake friends every three years, you have to figure things out, and you learn to adapt to change.”

Cal Poly was a natural choice for Metelak, who turned down admission offers from such universities as UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis to come to San Luis Obispo. She chose Cal Poly partly because of friends and family connections, partly for the opportunity to receive a partial scholarship as a National Merit Scholar, and partly because she liked the smaller and more personal feel of the campus and the History Department. She believes her education and experience in the History Department have helped her prepare for the transition to teaching.  “The amount of care and effort from my professors has been a good role model for me,” Elizabeth noted or said. “They’ve helped me look at everything a lot more carefully.  Now I’ll be able to take that and apply it to my career in teaching.”

Return to Top of Page

Hilda Heifetz


Sponsor of Student Scholarships Enjoyed Promoting Academic Excellence

A remarkable friend of the History Department, Hilda Heifetz, passed away in San Luis Obispo in May, 2012, at the age of 97.  A local resident who cared deeply about the value of higher education in California, she established a scholarship that has rewarded History majors who have excelled academically.  Most recently two students received $1000 each at the 2012 Scholarship luncheon early this June.  Heifetz lived a long, productive life as a successful artist and writer.  What follows is the obituary that appeared in the San Luis Obispo Tribune on June 3, 2012.

It is with love that the Hilda Heifetz family announces her passing peacefully in San Luis Obispo, May 19, 2012, at age 97. An artist and writer, Heifetz was born in New York City. She moved to California 80 years ago with her mother, Rose Armel. Heifetz married her husband, Emanuel, in 1937. She and her family moved to San Luis Obispo in 1962, when her husband became music professor at Cal Poly.  Heifetz was active in every community she graced. During World War II, she worked at Norton Air Force Base, supporting the war effort. She was San Bernardino school board president for years. Heifetz was the first woman president of Temple Beth David in San Luis Obispo. She was also a lifetime member of Hadassah. Heifetz's travel and literary interests instilled in her a love of Eastern art and philosophy. This was reflected in her artwork, writings and conversations. Heifetz published and illustrated children's stories and puzzles. She also wrote lyrics for songs composed by her husband. Heifetz's intellectual curiosity and conversational skills endured well into her nineties. She frequently wrote letters to the newspaper on issues she felt were important. Heifetz was also a fearless champion of civil rights. She was always involved with politics and important causes, such as the separation of church and state. Having graduated from high school at age 15 in New York, Heifetz believed in lifelong learning. She attended classes and seminars whenever possible. She took college courses at the Univeristy of Hawaii, University of California Santa Barbara, Cuesta College and other institutions. Heifetz leaves her daughter, Sharon Aronovici of San Jose; son, Leonard Heifetz (Bonnie Balatti) Heifetz of Fresno; only grandchild, Marcus (Dr. Catherine Salva) Heifetz and their daughters Amelia Zoe Heifetz and Elena Stell Heifetz of Delaware. Survivors in Florida include Heifetz's brother David Armel's children Robert, Karen and Bruce and their families. On her husband's side, Heifetz leaves niece, Michele Zukovsky; nephew, Mark Abrams and their families. The family requests that donations in her memory be directed to a scholarship established by Heifetz to help promising students in the Cal Poly's History Department. These awards are named after Professor John Snetsinger, long-time family friend. Donors may send a check to Cal Poly Advancement, 1 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407. Please note on the check: "John G. Snetsinger History Scholarship/Hilda Heifetz."

Return to Top of Page


Career Networking Day, 2012

On Friday, Feb. 24, while others enjoyed the warm, sunny San Luis Obispo afternoon, Cal Poly history majors and graduate students were polishing their interviewing skills and learning about career opportunities from accomplished alumni. 

Sixteen Cal Poly history alumni and friends representing a diverse array of professions returned to campus to share their experiences and their expertise with eager history students in the University Union. Alumni participants from fields such as education, defense, technology, finance, energy, law, construction, real estate, government, transportation, nonprofit, and public history traveled from throughout California and as far away as Colorado to volunteer to serve as resources for Cal Poly history students. 

Modeled on the “speed-dating” phenomenon, and following on the success of similar networking events held by the Cal Poly English Department, the second annual Speed Networking Event allowed students to interact one-on-one with history alumni to learn from experienced and accomplished professionals who have used their degrees in history in various, exciting ways.  Following a light lunch, students and alumni paired up for sessions about 10 minutes each. When the chimes rang, students moved to the next alumni pair, and continued to rotate for the next two hours until each student had networked with each alumnus. During two short coffee breaks, students were encouraged to continue their conversations with the alumni they most connected with.

Alumni participant Zack Larsen (’97), vice principal of Mission San Jose High School, joined Joann Bailey (’74), a retired teacher and school administrator, to share experiences in education.  Matthew S. Kennedy, Esq. (’82) provided perspectives on law school and careers in the legal profession, Greg Schulte (’88), county administrator for Achuleta County, Colo., advised students about careers in government, and Jessica Depper (’04), realtor with Patterson Realty, shared experiences in the world of real estate. Brian Coburn (’85) related his experience as a librarian in the San Luis Obispo City-County Library system. Reflecting on the event, Coburn said, “I enjoyed meeting and hearing from current students and sharing how my degree in History gave me the analytical and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to communicate, which have helped me in my career. I also told them about the importance of being flexible and being willing to move to new places and gain new experiences along the way.”

Nancy Keith Kelly (’85), director of stakeholder engagement for Hewlett Packard Sustainablity and Social Innovation, Kevin Dunham (’86), executive vice president of customer relationship management for Zurich Global Capital, Jim Oneal (’85), operations manager for San Jose-based DB Concrete Construction, Richard Pace (’84), cyber-security program manager for Southern California Edison, and Mike Kares (’79), material project manager for Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems, provided students with sound advice on entering and navigating the corporate world.  Doug Smith (’76), president of the Tustin-based staffing and recruiting company The Danais Group, provided vital information on interviewing and resume building. Erin Newman (B.A. ’06; M.A.’11), chief administrative officer of The History Center of SLO County, , provided perspectives on careers in public history, and Brandi Dias, affiliate associate for the Santa Barbara Foundation, shared experiences in the world of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

Joining these alumni were two historians and valued members of the department’s Friends of History Department advisory body: Dick Miller, retired USC professor of history, and UCSB alumnus Bob Pavlik, headquarters environmental coordinator for Caltrans, who also shared their career experience and expertise with student participants.

Students and alumni expressed their appreciation for the successful event and communicated their hopes that the event would expand and continue in future years.

Return to Top of Page



New Faculty: Sarah Bridger

In fall quarter 2011, the Cal Poly History Department welcomed Professor Sarah Bridger as a new addition to our faculty. Professor Bridger is a specialist in U.S. history with a focus on cold war science, weapons research and ethics. Her teaching interests also include 20th-century U.S. politics, culture and foreign relations; the transformative and tumultuous decades of 1960s and 1970s; and the history of American labor.

Professor Bridger grew up in Newton, Mass., in a family dedicated to teaching. While in college, she took a wide range of classes, including computer programming, neuroscience and music theory. But while studying abroad in Poland, her interests refocused on U. S. history, and she later completed her senior thesis on a coal miners’ strike in Harlan County, Ky., in the 1930s.  After graduating from college, Bridger worked in New York City for three years as an investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which provides community oversight of the New York Police Department, before entering the Ph.D. program in history at Columbia University. In 2011 she completed her dissertation, “Scientists and the Ethics of Cold War Weapons Research,” which was accepted with distinction and nominated for both Columbia University’s Bancroft Dissertation Award and the Society of American Historians’ Allan Nevins Prize. Of her graduate student experience, Bridger says she particularly enjoyed writing her dissertation in New York’s coffee shops and leading historical walking tours on the labor history of lower Manhattan.

Asked why history is so exciting both to study and to teach, Dr. Bridger explains that the subject helps to answer questions we have about the world, to understand the cultural references we encounter, and that the discipline of history provides a solid foundation from which to pursue a broad range of interests and fields including, among her favorites, art, music, literature, science and technology.

For more on Professor Sarah Bridger and her research and teaching interests, please see

Professor Bridger Wins The Nevins Prize

Professor Bridger wins Nevins Prize

In March the Society of American Historians announced it awarded the Allan Nevins Dissertation Prize to Professor Sarah Bridger, who joined the Cal Poly History Department in September 2011. Professor Bridger’s doctoral dissertation, “Scientists and the Ethics of Cold War Weapons Research” (Columbia University, 2011) examines debates among scientists and within scientific communities regarding their role in military programs of the post-Sputnik, Vietnam, and late-cold war eras.

The Nevins Prize is awarded each year to the best-written doctoral dissertation on an American subject. It includes a cash honorarium and a contract with a major national book publisher. Professor Bridger accepted the prize at the society’s annual meeting in New York City in May.

New Books by Faculty Highlight Dedication to Research and Diverse Specialties

Lewis Call
"Death, Sex and the Cylon: Living Authentically on Battlestar Galactica." Science Fiction Film and Television 5.1 (2012): 85-113.

Andrew Morris
“‘Why Are They So Far Ahead of Us?’: The National Body, National Anxiety, and the Olympics in China.” In William M. Tsustui and Michael Baskett, eds. The East Asian Olympiads 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea and China (Global Oriental/Brill, 2011)

Return to Top of Page

Archived Newsletters

For earlier editions (1985 to 2000) of our newsletter please visit DigitalCommons@Cal Poly.

Return to Top of Page


Related Content