Senior Spotlight: Cole Estrada

Cole EstradaOnly 15 miles separates master’s student Cole Estrada from his hometown of Atascadero and Cal Poly’s campus in San Luis Obispo. But his journey to Orfalea’s Master of Science in Economics program took him around the world first on a trip full of unexpected adventures.

Estrada began his pursuit of higher education at Cuesta College in 1992. After graduating high school and spending the summer backpacking Europe, he discovering his love of travel and adventure. But, quickly, he learned that this was not the right time nor place for him to be in school.

In 1995, Estrada moved to San Francisco and began to work on completing his general education units while still trying to determine what the right major was for him. After studying Japanese for two years, Estrada knew that he wanted to pursue a degree in linguistics. He ended up attending UCLA on a full scholarship studying general linguist theory, specializing in Semitic languages and minoring in Arabic and Islamic studies.

After he graduated from UCLA in 2002, he spent the next few months traveling to places like India, Pakistan, and western China with his friends from UCLA. Then, on his own, Estrada travelled to Tibet and Nepal, deciding to settle down somewhere in the Middle East and fully immerse himself in his Arabic studies. Estrada found the perfect place to do so in Sana’a, Yemen where he spent the next eight months living, exploring and learning.

He returned to Santa Monica, Calif. for a short period of time before returning to Yemen in 2006 to live permanently. There, Estrada worked at an English-language publishing house, serving as a copy-editor and eventually as the managing editor of a twice-weekly newspaper.

At the end of 2010, the political atmosphere in Yemen began to shift towards a revolution, and Estrada made his way back to California one more time. While looking back at his time in Yemen, Estrada began to see the importance of economic development, which encouraged him to pursue a degree in the field.

Estrada moved back to his childhood home in Atascadero where he started all over at Cuesta College. He spent two years there studying calculus and linear algebra before he began to take upper division economics courses at Cal Poly in the Orfalea College of Business.

While he was unable to pursue another bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly, he was able to enroll in classes with empty seats with instructor permission. After taking more than 10 economics courses at Cal Poly, Estrada knew that he wanted to earn his master’s degree. As luck would have it, the Orfalea College of Business was just launching its M.S. Quantitative Economics program. “I was over the moon,” said Estrada, “I felt like it was created just for me.”

Estrada is now one of 12 individuals participating in the program. He will be graduating this spring and plans to work for the United Nations, with hopes of taking an assignment somewhere on the Horn of Africa or in the Middle East.


Senior Spotlight: Yuriy Kalbov

Yuiry at the senior awards banquetYuriy Kalbov, a senior accounting student, came to the United States from Russia just six years ago and is already well on his way to having a successful career in accounting.

Before coming to Cal Poly, Kalbov attended Los Angeles City College for two years. There he met his favorite professor, Elenita Ayuyao, who encouraged him to pursue accounting and laid the foundation for him to succeed at Cal Poly.

Though 2014 was a competitive year to transfer into Cal Poly, Kalbov got in and chose to attend because of Cal Poly’s high academic rankings.

During his time here, Kalbov worked as a tutor in the Cal Poly Accounting Club and volunteered as a tax preparer in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. His time as a CPAC tutor taught him how to work with diverse individuals and helped to improve his problem solving skills.

Throughout his academic career Kalbov has completed more than 225 units, allowing him to qualify for his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license without having to complete a master’s program.

Thanks to the help of Orfalea Student Services and the support of students and faculty, Kalbov has been able to thrive during his time at Cal Poly. “Everything has been pretty smooth,” Kalbov said, “with all of the resources Cal Poly has to offer it is hard not to succeed.”

After graduation Kalbov will join the federal tax practice at KPMG, where he interned this past summer.

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 Business Students Compete in CFA Institute Challenge Semifinals

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A team of Cal Poly finance students competed in the America’s round of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute Research Challenge in Atlanta, Ga. The team reached the semifinal round of the competition with top university teams from North and South America.

Finance seniors Erin Averill, Robert Ricci, Divyan Waland, Aaron Hay and Nate Fisher represented Cal Poly at the event. The students were advised by Finance area Chair Cyrus Ramezani, San Luis Obispo financial advisor Phillip Cohl, and 2005 Cal Poly finance alumnus and CFA charter holder Scott B. Kirk. David Larsen, 2014 information systems alumnus and captain of last year’s winning team, also advised the group.

Cal Poly’s team advanced to the regional competition after winning the local competition for the second consecutive year. Cal Poly defeated teams from College of the Canyons, Claremont Graduate University, UC Santa Barbara, and USC at a competition held in Los Angeles.

The winners of the three regional competitions (Americas; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and Asia Pacific) will compete in the Global Final.

The CFA Institute Research Challenge provides an opportunity for students to learn from industry experts and compete with other top finance programs. The event promotes best practices in equity research among the next generation of analysts through hands-on mentoring and intensive training in company analysis and presentation skills. All participants are introduced to and held to the standard of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.

Cal Poly Students Take Second in 48 Hour Re-Pack

Repack - HeaderA team of Orfalea College of Business students placed second in the nation in the 48 Hour Re-Pack, a competition that challenges students to redesign a consumer product’s packaging in just two days. Industrial technology and packaging students Rebecca Kisch, Janel Takeda, Sally Yingst, Sarah Deffner and Caitlin Khamasta recently traveled to Atlanta, Ga. for their final presentation and the awards ceremony. The team received $2,000 in prize money along with their awards.

The team redesigned packaging for a line of gluten-free four called Nature’s Medley. The design acknowledged the culture shift toward healthier alternatives to all-purpose flour used in small quantities with more natural packaging materials. The striking nine-sided package featured pour spout with a removable lid that doubled as a measuring cup. The recyclable paperboard would also protect against pests and transportation damage. Cal Poly’s team not only engineered the package’s structure and designed its labeling, it produced a video showcasing the packaging’s benefits — all within 48 hours. To view the video, visit

This is the first time Cal Poly has competed in the 48 Hour Re-Pack. The competition “encourages creative problem-solving and “smart design” for packaging of everyday products.” This year marked the sixth annual event, hosted by the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ Southeastern Chapter.

For more details on Cal Poly’s design, click here.