Cal Poly Humboldt President Tom Jackson, Jr. honored Eileen Cashman (Professor of Environmental Resources Engineering), Nichole Muñoz-Murillo (Deputy Legislative Secretary in Governor Newsom’s Office), Jason Ramos (member of the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Council)and Gary Rynearson (Forestry Instructor) with the 2022 President’s Distinguished Service Award for their meritorious contributions to the University and the community.
The recognition dates back to 1967 when Humboldt State Normal School’s first graduate, Susie Baker Fountain (1915), received the first President’s Distinguished Service Award for donating her historical archives to the school.
“This year we have some amazing winners. They represent the spirit of service to others, whether through their commitment to higher education, giving voice to native tribes or environmental conservation,” said President Jackson. “Through their work, they have made a difference in the lives of so many people at Cal Poly Humboldt, on the North Shore and across the state.”
Eileen Cashman (’84, Environmental Resources Engineering), professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Resources Engineering at Cal Poly Humboldt, has 25 years of experience teaching undergraduate and graduate environmental engineering courses. She is a graduate of Humboldt State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental resource engineering. She then pursued a master’s degree in Earth Resources and Energy Analysis and Policy, and a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Prior to joining Cal Poly Humboldt, Cashman worked in electrical resource planning at PG&E, the US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation and James Madison University.
His current research interests include engineered natural treatment systems, stormwater treatment design, aquatic restoration design, and engineering education. She co-led the Curriculum Working Group for Polytechnic Self-Learning with Mathematics Professor Bori Mazzag and she is currently Co-Lead of the Curriculum and Curriculum Working Group during the implementation phase. implemented with Rector Jenn Capps. Cashman has been instrumental in helping the University plan and launch 27 new polytechnic programs by 2029.
Nichole Munoz-Murillo is Assistant Legislative Secretary in the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. In her role, she advises on legislation impacting child care, TK-12 and higher education. Prior to joining the administration, Muñoz-Murillo served as Deputy Vice Chancellor for Advocacy and State Relations (ASR) for California State University. During her nearly 10 years at the ASR office, Muñoz-Murillo was known for her partnership work with students, faculty, and staff. She was the architect of several award-winning advocacy campaigns, including #standwithCSU and #chooseCSU. Muñoz-Murillo began her career at CSU’s Sacramento State campus, where she served in multiple government relations roles, including Director of State and Federal Relations. Her early career began with the California School Boards Association and the State Senate, where she worked as an educational consultant on K-12 legislation and higher education. Muñoz-Murillo was a strong supporter of Cal Poly Humboldt and in her role at ASR she helped build support at the state level. In recent years, she has advocated for the creation of the University’s RN to BSN nursing program and the state’s historic $458 million investment in the University’s transition to a polytechnic.
An advocate for tribal sovereignty, environmental sustainability, and Cal Poly Humboldt, Jason Ramos (’98, Kinesiology, ’14 MS Kinesiology) helps shape the future of the North Coast and California. Ramos is a Member of the Blue Lake Rancheria (BLR) Tribal Council, liaison officer for education, energy and economic development issues, and tribal administrator. He is committed to advancing tribal strategy, policy, programs, and investments in infrastructure and economic ventures in collaboration with other tribes and federal, state, and local governments and agencies. It has also strengthened tribal sovereignty, climate resilience efforts, and economic development in the region.
Thanks to the work of Ramos and others, BLR has won numerous national awards, including the 2015-2016 “Climate Action Champion” designation from the Obama administration and the US Department of Energy. It also plays an invaluable role at the University. He is a former member of the HSU Foundation Board of Trustees and the Alumni Association Board of Trustees. Ramos also supports academic research through his Jason M. Ramos Endowment for Kinesiology Research, which funds equipment and research for biomechanics and human performance labs on campus, and management of the Blue Fellowship. Lake Rancheria for Clean Energy Studies at the Schatz Energy Research Center, which funds cutting-edge clean energy research and related policy and infrastructure.
Gary Rynearson (’78, forestry production management), a forestry instructor who has been recognized for his contributions to California forestry through state and forestry organizations, is a second-generation forester and a native of Humboldt County. His work in both the public and private sectors has left a tremendous impact locally, statewide, and on students at Cal Poly Humboldt. He was president of the Natural Resources Management Corporation for 20 years. Meanwhile, Rynearson succeeded non-industrial forest owners, worked with tribal organizations and became active in conservation-oriented professional and government organizations. Appointed to the Forestry and Fire Protection Board by Governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, he helped develop emergency fuel hazard reduction rules and stream protection measures for the benefit of salmonids.
As director of the Green Diamond Resource Company, he helped pass legislation allowing the thinning of North Coast forests and supported the reintroduction of the California condor to the lower Klamath-Redwood Creek region. . He also helped develop permits that protected water quality, northern spotted owl, coho salmon, and Humboldt marten. Rynearson leaves a legacy at the University. Bringing decades of experience into the classroom, he uses real-life examples to provide insight into the world of natural resources and forestry, and has had a direct impact on the development of an entire generation of forestry graduates.