Senior Spotlight: Stacey Aragon

Aragon, her son and President ArmstrongIn many ways, entrepreneurship student Stacey Aragon is like any other Cal Poly students. She grapples with a full course load every quarter in addition to working part-time as a human resources assistant for Student Academic Services on campus. The first-generation student is passionate about bringing a voice to underrepresented groups on campus, at church, and volunteering for causes she believes in.

But she has another passion that most students don’t — her son. After Aragon transferred to Cal Poly in 2014, she noticed a lack of resources on campus for students raising children while earning their degree. During the summer of 2015, Aragon took it upon herself to start the Student Parent Alliance. The organization connects “Cal Poly’s biggest hustlers,” as Aragon likes to call them, to other students with children and the resources they need to succeed during their time here.

“I was fueled by my beloved son and this community of parents who have such a profound passion for their families and their education,” Aragon said. “I will continue to fight for their voice on campus far past my graduation in the hopes that the next generation’s Cal Poly experiences are enhanced and that Cal Poly is building and upholding a more supportive reputation toward diversity.”

Aragon continues her fight for a more inclusive campus that welcomes and supports all students. She and her son took part in the #IAMCALPOLY campaign from Cal Poly’s Multicultural Center this year. She feels it sends an important message for the next generation of the university’s students and leadership.

“In order to be heard by the university we need to speak to them with one a strong, unified voice,” Aragon said. “Participating in events — such as #IAMCALPOLY — gives me personal fulfillment as I know I am contributing to changes in the future.”

All in all, Aragon has been wildly successful during her time at Cal Poly. She will graduate cum laude this spring with a degree in business administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship.

“My journey at Cal Poly has been the most challenging season of my life,” Aragon said. “It took all of me: all of the sacrifice, perseverance and faith that I have. It would have been impossible to achieve this without the army of supporting friends, family, faculty and staff that I have been blessed with.”

In reflecting on her time at Cal Poly, Aragon had this to say. “The experiences I’ve had at Cal Poly truly exemplifies what life requires from ambitious people — finding opportunities in the midst of all chaos, making fast mistakes, taking chances, proactively adapting, discipline, perseverance, and so much more beyond that! It isn’t easy, but all great things are grown from the heart, carried out, and shared with the world!”

Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Opens Incubator to Local Startups

SLO HotHouseFor the first time, the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will accept community startups into its SLO HotHouse Incubator program. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 22.

Startups applying for the program must submit a business plan and answers to a series of questions that a committee will review. The committee will look for companies with technology innovation, scalability and high growth potential. Up to four ventures will be accepted into the intense 24-month Incubator starting Jan. 11, 2016.

“Thanks to the community’s support, we are able to accept local startups into our program,” said Judy Mahan, director of the CIE Incubator and Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “Our Incubator Program includes everything needed for early-stage companies to develop into financially stable, high-growth enterprises by providing the tools, training and infrastructure that helps facilitate smarter, faster growth.”

Programming for the SLO HotHouse Incubator includes mentorship, monthly peer-to-peer roundtable discussions, an advisory board for each startup in the program, participation in Pitch Night, networking opportunities, and exclusive access to various entrepreneurial events in the community. Businesses will also be able to utilize all of the CIE SLO HotHouse resources, such as office space, conference rooms and an invaluable peer network.

“This program provides emerging enterprises with a strategic path; a wide array of vital business development services and resources; and ongoing guidance, motivation and support to help new ventures succeed,” said CIE Executive Director Tod Nelson.

This new batch of incubating companies will pay a membership fee of $300 per month for open workspace and $600 per month for enclosed office space.

“Growing in an incubator increases a business’s chance of success and potential for long-term economic impact,” said Jeff Buckingham, SLO HotHouse Community Advisory Board member. “Entrepreneurs thrive when they live in a supportive environment, and when entrepreneurs thrive, so does the local economy.”

Community startups interested in applying for the CIE SLO HotHouse Incubator program should go to

Cal Poly to Expand Innovation & Entrepreneurship Programs in Downtown San Luis Obispo

Cal Poly has announced an expansion to its innovation and entrepreneurship programs in downtown San Luis Obispo, with a new lease for 6,000 square feet of commercial space and apartments for more than 30 business-minded students.

The university has signed a five-year lease (with option for two five-year extensions) for space in the historic Blackstone-Sauer building on Monterey Street, currently being remodeled by Copeland Properties in the Chinatown-Monterey Centre development.

“This housing and additional commercial space will provide talented and focused entrepreneurial students with the opportunity to live and work in a community of thinkers and doers,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “Students from all academic disciplines will live, learn and collaborate to explore and develop their leadership and entrepreneurial interests in an environment that fosters and encourages innovation.”

San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx said, “This is a significant enhancement to Cal Poly’s partnership with the city and local business community. We anticipate that this innovative integration of bright and energetic student minds into our vibrant downtown neighborhood will prove productive for the university and the city as a whole.”

The residential lease is for a 12,600 square-foot space that will be divided into 30 one-bedroom studios and two two-bedroom apartments. These housing spaces are designed for upper-class undergraduates and graduate students associated with Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and will be administered by Cal Poly University Housing.

The commercial lease is a 6,000 square-foot space that the CIE will use to provide additional programming and mentorship for the students living in the university housing.

“The ability to take innovative ideas from mind to market becomes exponential in the right environment,” said CIE Director Tod Nelson. “We will offer programs that work toward developing entrepreneurship and supporting innovation ideas that will ultimately lead to new business opportunities and job growth for both students and community members.”

This new lease augments an already expanded SLO HotHouse program, which recently relocated to a 10,000-square-foot space above the Ross Dress for Less store on Higuera Street in the downtown. With these continuing enhancements, Cal Poly is building an entrepreneurial ecosystem in San Luis Obispo County by providing a unique opportunity for students to own and operate a business locally.

“Our county is providing a unique mix of education, business and government working together to stimulate entrepreneurial activity,” said San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor Chair Debbie Arnold. “Together we are creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem that drives innovation, new business creation and job growth.”

Supervisor Adam Hill, an early and staunch supporter of the CIE and HotHouse added, “The next phase of the CIE and the HotHouse is exciting, and to have serious scholars living and working in downtown San Luis Obispo is a positive development for our community.”

For more information on the SLO HotHouse programs and the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, visit

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business Honors Students, Faculty and Clubs


Kaitlin Siemering with entrepreneurship Professor Jon York.

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business recently recognized outstanding students, clubs and faculty at its annual Senior Awards Ceremony. At the event, college Dean Scott Dawson, area chairs, and ambassadors highlighted academic excellence and extraordinary contributions to the university.

The top student honor went to Kaitlin Siemering, a business administration major concentrating in entrepreneurship. Siemering, originally from Woodinville, Wash., earned the Academic Excellence and Delta Sigma Pi award for maintaining the college’s highest cumulative grade point average: 3.9. She also won the Outstanding Graduating Senior award in entrepreneurship for helping create the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s first kids’ camp, “Launch It!,” which will debut this summer. Siemering is graduating a year early and will attend law school at New York University.

Siemering was also one of 15 students in the college who received scholastic achievement awards for holding a GPA above 3.85.

Economics Professor Eduardo Zambrano was named Distinguished Teacher of the Year for his ability to weave real-world issues into his courses. Zambrano is also involved with the United Nations’ Environment Programme, where he has helped develop an index to assess a country’s efforts to become ecologically and socially sustainable.

Information systems Professor Barry Floyd was named Emeritus Faculty of the Year for building strong industry connections that benefit students in the classroom. He has brought unique opportunities for students to test software for leading companies and to discuss gender in the workforce with alumni in the technology sector.

The Orfalea College of Business’ top club honor went to the Cal Poly Accounting Club (CPAC). CPAC was named Club of the Year for its strong recruiting events with the Big 4 and regional firms, alumni engagement, and professional development opportunities. The club was also voted Club of the Year by Mustang News’ Poly Picks survey.

For a complete list of Orfalea College of Business award winners, visit

Cal Poly Announces Startups Accepted Into Accelerator Program

Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) has accepted 11 startup companies into this year’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, an intense 13-week program aimed at helping new ventures succeed.

The program provides seed money, hands-on mentorship, and dedicated office space during the summer at SLO HotHouse’s new downtown location. Companies will also receive training through workshops and be given resources to develop skills and ideas. At the end of the program, they will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors during Demo Day in September. Cal Poly business students contribute to seven of the 11 teams selected for the program.

The chosen ventures represent a variety of industries such as mobile apps, software, intelligent alarms, healthcare, environmentally friendly products, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. “Our accelerator teams reflect all the domains of expertise at Cal Poly,” said Jonathan York, professor in the Orfalea College of Business and CIE co-founder and faculty director.

York helped found CIE in 2010 as a way to provide startup help to students with innovative business ideas. The SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator Program remains one of the CIE’s core programs, even as it has vastly expanded its academic yearly offerings to provide early-stage venture support, consultants and resources for student and recent graduate entrepreneurs.

More than 30 applicants representing teams from across campus competed for a place in the fifth annual accelerator program. Twenty-two finalists presented their ideas to a panel of judges.

“We have a terrific group of students participating in this year’s accelerator,” said Chelsea Brown, manager of student innovation programs, who is overseeing the program. “These startups are offering exciting new solutions to pressing problems. During the program, we’ll match them with mentors in their industries and provide them with strategic business guidance to get these ventures ready to launch.”

2015 CIE SLO HotHouse Accelerator Teams:

– AppScrolls, conceived by Chad Kihm, an industrial engineering student, Ryan Ridley, history, and Marshall Zia, economics, aims to build the largest online community to connect, educate and entertain mobile gamers.

– Brandplug is a website and agency to help advertisers buy promotion from online influencers. Sam Betesh, business administration, and Andrew Graunke, graphic communications alumnus created it.

– Chipper, developed by David Levi, electrical engineering, Jacob Stewart, mathematics, Dylan Brodsky, business administration, and Fred Wilby, computer science, is an intelligent alarm that makes sure individuals get out — and stay out — of bed.

– SENCE, the brainchild of Eric Adler, mechanical engineering, James Fazio, computer science & software engineering, and Jeffrey Hufford, electrical engineering — is a company that designs a non-invasive device that allows a homeowner or renter to access their water usage data in real-time via a Smartphone and web app, enabling them to increase consumption awareness, reduce usage and detect leaks.

– Clock’d, created by Katherine White and Eli Burch, business administration, Colton Stapper, computer science, Tyler Dahl, computer science & software engineering, and Cameron Oelsen, graphic communications — uses iBeacons to check hourly wage workers in and out of work.

– Mantis Composites makes carbon 3D printed parts with unmatched performance. Ryan Dunn and David Zilar, aerospace engineering students, Michael Chapiro, materials engineering, Michael DeLay, electrical engineering, and Ning Jeng, bioresource & agricultural engineering, started it.

– Reach is a mobile personal relationship manager for business professionals developed by students Tyler Beaty and Jessica Estrada, business administration, Kurt Jiang and Clay Jacobs, computer science & software engineering, and Neal Nguyen, computer science & software engineering.

– Reduce. Reuse. Grow. Alex Henige, a landscape architecture student, and Natalie Webber, business administration, designed the world’s first plantable coffee cup to be used for reforestation.

– MonsterCreate, a suite of mobile applications designed to engage the creativity of children, was created by Luke Bayard, agricultural business student, and Jacob Johannesen, Francis Pak Yuen, Andrew Adriance, and Elliot Fiske, all computer science & software engineering.

– Pinventory is a venture that uses RFID in retail settings to find items for the customers’ and stores’ benefit. It was developed by Azra Skeljo, electrical engineering, Kim Payne and Raleigh NeJame, business administration, Andrea Savage, computer science & software engineering, and Aaron Rostad, industrial & manufacturing engineering.

– U-Turner, developed by Stanley Laszczyk and Harvir Humpal, both biomedical engineering & general engineering, provides a paradigm-shifting product that will change healthcare by assisting nurses in turning patients, thereby improving patient comfort and reducing work-related injuries.

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
The Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship manages and supports a wide variety of programs and activities to stimulate the entrepreneurial Learn by Doing spirit at Cal Poly and to assist entrepreneurs in following their dreams. For more information, go to