Some of the most interesting people you'll ever meet

Posts tagged ‘Cool Professor’

Brian Lawler – Passionate Printer

  • Professor of Graphic Communications
  • Teaching at Cal Poly since 1999
  • 30 years of experience in printing industry
  • Students love for humor and hands-on teaching method
  • Hot-air balloonist and blogger

Brian Lawler in the "traditional professor pose"

Brian Lawler has been teaching Graphic Communications at Cal Poly since 1999. His passion for the subject and humorous personality are what make him a popular favorite among students.

Lawler’s credit as a great professor was confirmed in 2010 when he won the Educator of the Year Award for Higher Education from the Electronic Document System Foundation.

The Oakland native developed his passion for printing when he was just a child. His mother taught him how to use an old-fashioned printing press that they kept in their basement and he instantly fell in love. Lawler ditched lemonade stands for his own “company” called “The Teenage Printing Press” and made money by creating greeting cards for customers.

His adoration for printing is still evident today.

“It’s fascinating – everything is printed. It touches everything everywhere,” said Lawler.

In 1964 he visited Cal Poly’s campus with his parents and immediately knew he was destined to be here. Lawler remembers standing outside the Graphic Communications department building and thinking, “I’m gonna go here”, and he did. He graduated in 1975 with a degree in Graphic Communications.

Lawler says that he never intended to become a professor, it just happened. In 1999 he was asked to teach one class a week at Cal Poly.

“It was like the drug dealer on the corner saying the first one’s free,” said Lawler.

And he’s been hooked ever since.

Lawler takes Cal Poly’s motto, “learn by doing” seriously. With the exception of Intro to Graphic Communications, all of the classes that Lawler teaches are extremely hands-on. Students create projects from scratch and even learn how to print greeting cards on an old-fashioned printing press. Lawler believes that it gives the students a greater appreciation for the art of Graphic Communications if they connect with its roots.

Lawler encourages his students to aim for high-profit printing instead of slicing pennies. He describes trying to always beat your competitor’s price as “flogging yourself” and thinks that it detracts from the quality of printing. Lawler teaches students that by creating unique and upscale products they will earn profit.

Lawler displaying his love for photography

With 30 years of experience in the printing industry and an extremely extensive knowledge of the industry, Lawler gives students a realistic view of the career field. “He is extremely knowledgeable and experienced in the Graphic Communications field….we learned about printing domains that I had taken advantage of prior to his class,” said freshman Graphic Communications major Reina Garcia.

Lawler’s students agree that he creates an engaging environment for learning.”He made getting into my major interesting,” said freshman Graphic Communications major Molly Hitchings.

Students also enjoy the humor that Lawler brings to the classroom, saying that it keeps the class entertaining while productive.”He’s really funny and personable and willing to help you whenever you need it,” said Hitchings.

Lawler said that his goal as a professor is for students to leave the class with some practice, experience, and knowledge of how to learn more.

“I want to expand horizons,” said Lawler.

Along with being an adored professor, Lawler holds a second occupation as a blogger for WhatTheyThink.com where he writes about the printing industry.

Lawler is a hot-air balloonist and is a co-owner of a balloon. He also enjoys woodworking, photography, and is a big Giants fan.

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Mike Winn – Jack of All Trades

  • Communications professor at Cal Poly for approx. 16 years
  • Government official and writer
  • Students enjoy his life-stories
  • Republican
  • Has held 15 plus occupations

Mike Winn has been a professor at Cal Poly for a total of about 16 years. Students identify Winn as a favorite professor due to his life-stories and intelligence on a vast range of subjects that he shares in class.

Besides teaching at Cal Poly, Winn has two other occupations as a government official and writer. He is elected to the Board of the Nipomo Community Services District and also serves as the CSD Director of Nipomo’s Water Resource Advisory Council.

“Everything I do, I care about immensely,” said Winn.

Winn was born and raised in San Luis Obispo. Although he was offered a 4-year scholarship at Harvard if he majored in English, Winn decided to attend UC Berkley where he studied PreMed. He then transferred to a Christian Liberal Arts college and majored in Humanities.

Throughout his life Winn says that he has held 15 plus occupations, including:

  • orthodontist
  • farmer
  • railroad worker
  • ordained pastor

Winn says that this diverse range of careers is due to his inquiring mind. “I’m curious about pretty much everything, except pop culture,” said Winn.

One career that Winn never consciously aspired was being a professor. Although while in high school he would give lectures to his peers when teachers were absent, Winn thought teaching to be a dull profession.

His opinion changed during his first trip to Asia in 1965. Winn travelled to Bangkok in pursuit of a red-haired woman that he was in love with.

He embarked on his journey with 1 dollar in his pocket, a backpack, and a long beard. Soon he ran out of money and so he began his first career as a professor teaching English at a university in Bangkok to keep from starving.

“Sometimes you run into things you thought would be dull and they turn out to be actually very interesting,” said Winn.

Winn said that he found the students to be frustrating because although very obedient, “very few thought for themselves” he said.

In 1968 Winn earned his M.A. in English at Cal Poly and became a professor at the university.

Many students enjoy Winn’s class because of the real-life stories that he tells. “It allows us to connect with him on a personal level,” said freshman Business major Paul Carmazzi.

“I really like when teachers share real-life experiences because it makes them relatable and more personable,” said freshman Political Science major Emily Kenyon.

One experience that Winn commonly shares with his COMS classes is his memory of working at a Cambodian refugee camp in 1980. Although an ultimately beneficial undertaking, Winn described his time there as traumatic.

Cambodian Refugees courtesy of United Nations Photo

“200,ooo needed medical relief. About 50 to 60 people would die everyday and trucks would drive by, piled up with dead bodies,” said Winn.

With Winn’s efforts as the director in charge of the medical relief, they were able to bring down the death rate by 2-3%. It was here that Winn realized his ability to function on about 4 hours of sleep. “I never felt tired,” he said.

Winn returned to teaching Communications at Cal Poly when he came back to the United States.

If he had the authority, Winn expressed his desire to make a couple changes to the university’s policies. First, he believes that skateboards should be allowed because they are environmentally-friendly and in his opinion, aren’t any more dangerous than bicycles or cars. He also would change the dining plan because he believes that it “victimizes students”.

Despite these oppositions, Winn loves Cal Poly because of its practicality.

“You learn how to do something. You don’t spend 4 years talking about it,” said Winn.

Winn also enjoys Cal Poly because of the students that it attracts. He finds that most of them are motivated and ambitious, compared to other state schools where professors have described the student body as more apathetic. “Most of them are set out to make a difference in the world,” said Winn.

Winn says that his main purpose as professor is to encourage self-discovery. “I try to give them stimulus to help them figure out who they are,” he said, “Are they going to be good people or are they going to be Democrats?”

Despite his current three occupations, Winn likes to read 3 or 4 books and 2 newspapers every day. Winn also spends about 20 to 30 hours a week writing and is fluent in 5 languages including:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Thai

He is also able to read and write in Greek and Latin.

Although it is not among one of his talents, Winn also enjoys gardening. He warns against using horse manure. “I killed everything,” he said.

Annie Garner – The Compassionate Professor

  • English Professor at Cal Poly since 1994
  • Interactive teaching methods
  • Loved by students for humor and kindness
  • Goal for students is self-discover
  • Former Jazzercise teacher

Annie Garner has been an English Professor at Cal Poly since 1994. The Cal Poly graduate also serves as a Faculty Associate for the Connections Learning Community program for the Sierra Madre and Yosemite dorms.

Garner is loved by her students for her interactive teaching methods as well as her compassion for the students. Students also remark on her humorous personality and relaxed demeanor.

Although Garner was born in Vermont, she spent the majority of her childhood in Europe. Due to her father’s job for Encyclopedia Britannica, she was constantly moving as a child. “When I was growing up I just went with the flow,” said Garner.

She went on to study French at universities in Sweden and France. Garner had 4 children before enrolling in a junior college at the age of 30. She then transferred to Cal Poly and received an M.A. in English in 1994.

Garner knew that she wanted to be a professor when she began studying at Cal Poly. “I knew I wanted to teach college-aged students instead of high school because I already had 4 kids, I didn’t want to babysit anymore,” said Garner.

Garner likes to keep students engaged by implementing interactive and original teaching methods. She believes that by keeping class interesting, students can absorb the information and retain it better.

“I have to teach logical fallacies and sometimes they can be deadly boring,” said Garner.

When a particularly interesting speaker is appearing at Chumash Theatre, Garner likes to take the class on spontaneous field trips to listen and then evaluate their speeches.

Games and prizes are also common in her classes. For one assignment Garner asks the students to write a short-story with a twist. The students then read aloud their stories and the class votes on which is the best, with the winner receiving Garner’s homemade brownies.

Garner says that she likes to relate funny stories about her life or kids to the class.Most student’s agree that Garner’s sense of humor keeps the class interesting. “It’s good for a teacher to be funny because it keeps students awake and therefore we learn more,” said sophomore Business major Ryan Barbosa.

Students love the effort that Garner makes to keep the classes both educational and entertaining. “She puts in a lot of effort into teaching. She works hard so we can do well,” said freshman Economics major Alex Watson.

Garner doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on grades because she believes that writing is always a work in progress. “I don’t want a student to get a ‘C’ on a paper and then think that they’re a ‘C’ writer,” she said.

Garner says that one of her goals in the beginning of the quarter is to learn her students’ names as quickly as possible.”I deeply care for them as human beings,” she said.

Students feel comfortable asking her for help because of her benevolent disposition. “She wants to help us and makes sure that she’s available if we need it,” said Watson.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Annie Garner, posted with vodpod

Garner says that her main goal for students is to gain confidence.

“It’s going to sound cheesy, but my ultimate purpose for students is self-discovery. On that journey I hope that they realize how incredibly wonderful and beautiful they each are,” said Garner.

When she isn’t teaching, Garner likes to write poems and take pictures. The former Jazzercise teacher also expressed her love of dancing. “I just tried Zumba last Thursday and I loved it,” said Garner.