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Cal Poly Honors Three Center for Health Research Affiliates with Distinguished Awards

Fall 2016


Three STRIDE affiliates, now renamed to Center for Health Research, received campuswide awards this year for exemplary work in teaching and research. Bob Clark, a kinesiology professor, and Karen Muñoz-Christian, a modern languages and literatures professor and Center for Health Research research co-investigator, received Cal Poly’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Peggy Papathakis, a food science and nutrition professor and Center for Health Research co-investigator, received the Distinguished Scholarship Award. The Cal Poly Academic Senate created the Distinguished Scholarship Award to celebrate achievement in scholarship and creative activity. The senate established the Distinguished Teaching Award to allow students to nominate outstanding professors for their contributions in the classroom.



Robert Clark, Kinesiology, Distinguished Teaching Award

Robert Clark, kinesiology professor, received
the Distinguished Teaching Award.


In his biomechanics, neuroanatomy, and functional muscle anatomy classes, Bob Clark encourages students to discuss what they are learning. He wants his students to talk as much as he does and does not believe they will learn from his lectures alone.

I tell students day one that they are going to talk to each other to figure things out. This means small group discussions after a demonstration,” Clark said. “In summary, I tell them that we are going to have robust intellectual conversations punctuated with disagreements — and that's OK.”

According to the Academic Senate, the teaching award is “especially significant since only students and alumni, those who have been touched by faculty, are eligible to submit nominations.”

Clark’s research interests cover the biomechanics of cycling and the dynamics of postural control, including gait and locomotion, and he involves students in his work and research.


Karen Muñoz-Christian, Modern Languages and Literatures, Distinguished Teaching Award

Karen Muñoz-Christian, modern languages
and literatures professor, received the
Distinguished Teaching Award.

Karen Muñoz-Christian works hard to make each of her Spanish classes its own community by encouraging students to support and help each other as they learn a new language. She said she wants students to feel comfortable and relaxed and tries to find out as much as she can about students’ background, interests and plans. 

“I hope that my students realize how much I care about them,” Muñoz-Christian said. “I try to make this concern evident in all my interactions with them.”

This teaching style inspired students to recognize her for the award, which is based on several criteria, including the content of the materials they teach, teaching procedures, techniques and innovative approaches. 



Peggy Papathakis, Food Science and Nutrition, Distinguished Scholarship Award

Peggy Papathakis, food science and
nutrition professor, received the
Distinguished Scholarship Award.


Papathakis, a co-investigator with Center for Health Research, came to Cal Poly with hopes of providing a global experience to students. Her colleagues nominated her for the Distinguished Scholarship Award for doing just that by offering research opportunities in developing countries. 

Papathakis — who teaches maternal, child, community and clinical nutrition — researches ways to support optimal weight gain and optimize birth weight in moderately malnourished pregnant women in Malawi, Africa. She said she was able to do this research “by being at the right place at the right time with the right opportunity.” She found a Swiss collaborator who helped facilitate three-month projects for Cal Poly students in developing countries. Papathakis also brings the global experience to the classroom through videos displaying her work in Malawi. 

In addition, Papathakis takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research. When she asked undergraduates in a statistics class look at her data, they uncovered new and important information that was not looked at initially.


Photos courtesy of Cal Poly Academic Senate


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