Cal Poly has a reputation for producing some of the top graduates in the state, but who are the top of the top? Meet several of the colleges’ top graduates and learn a little about them with these mini bios.
Name: Andrew Nahab
Major: Mechanical engineering
Recognition: College of Engineering’s top most graduating senior for academic excellence
How he felt when he learned he had won an award: “I was kind of shocked, wasn’t really expecting it, it came as a surprise but I’m really happy.”
Plans after graduation: “Right now I have a full-time job starting in August at an oil refinery in Northern California,” Nahab said. “(I’ll) probably go back to grad school sometime down the road there.”
On engineering: “When I was really little I knew I wanted to be an engineer, which is really weird, because a lot of people don’t know what they want to be when they grow up,” Nahab said. Around high school, he fully committed to being a mechanical engineer and has had no regrets since.
“I’m really happy it turned out to be as good as I thought it would be,” he said.
Advice for those who haven’t graduated: Think about breaks for motivation, he said. “Towards the end of the quarter when finals roll around and I don’t feel like studying, just pushing through it and getting to that next quarter or break helped,” he said.
Name: Connie Ng
Recognition: Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the University in College of Liberal Arts
How she felt when she won an award: She was really confused, because she didn’t know she had won anything when everyone started congratulating her, she said.
“I was walking into the MultiCultural Center when everyone screamed ‘Congratulations!,’” she said.
What motivated her: Leadership was big to Ng in high school but when entering college, she wanted to try new things, she said. By her second year, she missed it.
“I missed everything about that planning things for other people, so I became a resident adviser,” she said.
Why she did it: Ng want to help incoming students find their home at Cal Poly, she said.
“I was always very into helping people get connected and find their place at Cal Poly because that’s what all those things were to me,” Ng said.
Name: Travis Frazer
Recognition: Top GPA in College of Science and Mathematics
How he felt winning the award: “It was a more significant award than I thought and I was very surprised and overwhelmed, very pleased and it was an amazing, surprising experience,” he said.
What motivated him: For the first two years of college, being a good student was how Frazer identified himself and also what motivated him to achieve, he said. But by his second year, Frazer came to a realization he was defining himself in a way and it wasn’t a good outlook, he said. His Christian faith then became the motivating force behind his academic achievements.
“It was actually turning around that perspective that my identity is not ‘I’m going to do well at school’ my identity is ‘I’m a disciple of Christ,’” he said.
Why he was able to achieve such great status: With God as his guide, he was able to work better because he wasn’t so stressed out, Frazer said.
“I am already set, I’m already secure and now I can work without fear of failure,” Frazer said.
Advice for those who haven’t graduated yet: Study well and often, he said. “Nobody ever clarified to me what studying was,” he said.
Name: Brian McMahon
Recognition: Service to the Community in College of Liberal Arts
How he felt winning the award: “It was really exciting to be recognized at graduation for something I wasn’t expecting,” he said.
What he did it: “I’ve always done things while I’ve been here,” he said.
McMahon works for a non-profit called Sprout Up.
“We teach environmental science and sustainability to local first and second graders,” he said. “It’s important to always give back your community. It’s obviously not as immediately fun going to volunteer as it would be to hang out with your friends. But I actually really do genuinely enjoy it and it’s more rewarding long-term for sure.”
Advice for those who haven’t graduated yet: “Get involved, specifically getting involved with community service projects I feel like is a way to meet other people who also have similar passions,” he said.
Name: Elizabeth Wittenberg
Major: Animal science
Recognition: College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science Outstanding Academic Award
How he felt winning the award: “It was pretty exciting, I felt honored,” she said.
Advice for those who haven’t graduated yet: “Most people only get to do this once, so you might as well do the best while you’re here because you have all the opportunities, you have all the resources to learn,” Wittenberg said. “There’s just so many resources you might as well take advantage of them.”
Plans after graduation: “I’m planning on going to CSU Bakersfield and doing a credential program to teach high school science,” she said.
Name: Elise Erb
Recognition: Contributions to the Objectives & Public Image of the College in College of Liberal Arts
How she felt winning the award: “It’s pretty cool to be recognized for something I consider my fourth or fifth job depending on what moment you catch me at,” Erb said.
Erb has been a CLA Ambassador for three years; president this year, vice president the year before that, she said.
What motivated her: “I love being ridiculously busy,” she said. “I actually don’t think I could function if I wasn’t as busy.” She does find time to relax at the end of the day and listen to music, though.
“When there’s nothing left to be done, I go to bed,” she said.
Advice for those who haven’t graduated yet: “Get involved and enjoy every second of it, because I can’t believe it’s over,” she said.
Name: Sarah Brown
Recognition: Top graduating senior in College of Architecture and Environmental Design
How she felt winning the award: “It was good to see that the past five years had gone to a good cause,” Brown said.
On school: “I’ve always enjoyed classes and schoolwork and learning new things,” Brown said. “It’s like I worked really hard but also at the same time had fun in the process.”
What motivated her: “For me it was really the studio environment, my classmates and my faculty,” she said. “There’s 20 kids you’re with all the time, so it’s home away from home.”
Advice for those who haven’t graduated yet: “Take classes they enjoy, that they wouldn’t otherwise find time to take,” she said. “Never take a class just because you have to take it. Find one that will fit both the requirement and what you really want to do.”