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Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year Award

Dr. Nishi Rajakaruna, 2019-2020 Award Winner

Associate Professor, Botany in the Biological Sciences dept., cSM

Dr. Nishi Rajakaruna joined Cal Poly in 2017 after teaching botany at College of the Atlantic (ME) and San José State University for 12 years. He is currently an Associate Professor in Botany in the Biological Sciences Department. He earned his B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic (ME) and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Botany from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Rajakaruna conducted research in plant ecology at Stanford University as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow. He was a Fulbright Scholar in his homeland Sri Lanka and in India (2016-2017) where he had the pleasure of working with thousands of secondary school and university students, sharing his life experiences as a foreign student in the United States and Canada and giving advice on how best to prepare for higher education opportunities in North America.

Rajakaruna has been the Faculty-in-Residence in the yakʔitʸutʸu residential community since 2018 and is often the first faculty member freshmen and their families meet when they arrive on campus.  With his campus residents he created Plants, Peaks, and Pals Club, for hiking, botany, and natural history enthusiasts, and Camellia Club, a community for tea enthusiasts; both clubs have continued to provide settings for students, now scattered across the country, to interact with each other via regular virtual gatherings and stay connected to the Cal Poly community, even from afar.

He takes great pleasure in getting to know his residents and their families, helping students find their way, and connecting students with other faculty and resources on and off campus. Campus living is nothing new to Rajakaruna—he grew up on university campuses in Sri Lanka and Japan and lived on or near a campus ever since. Rajakaruna notes that campus communities, wherever he has been, have shaped his life. “That is why I live with students and help them shape those communities where they can also thrive.”

Rajakaruna is grateful for all the careful mentoring he has received throughout his academic life and is determined to be there for students who will need guidance along the way, whether it is on classes to take, summer internships, or what to do after Cal Poly. “I wouldn’t be here if not for the caring mentors I’ve had throughout my life. That’s why having a cup of tea with a student will always be a priority of mine.”

2019-2020 Nominations are now Closed

The Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, developed by the Academic Advising Council, recognizes a faculty member who has had a positive influence on students through academic advising. The award recipient will receive a $2,000 cash stipend and will be recognized by the President at Fall Conference, in addition to having his/her/their name posted on a perpetual plaque in the Kennedy Library. One faculty member is recognized annually.

Guidelines for submitting a nomination:

  • The deadline for submitting nominations is 5pm, Monday, March 2, 2020.
  • Faculty, staff, and current students are eligible to nominate faculty for this award.
  • At least one submission must come from a current student.
  • No self-nominations will be accepted.
  • Individual Submissions only. If more than one person would like to nominate a faculty member, each person must submit separate nominations.
  • Submissions must include a statement of 300 words or less describing the nominee’s academic advising services, activities and interactions, as distinct from the nominee’s teaching responsibilities.
  • Previous awardees are not eligible.
  • Any questions can be directed to

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