A Piece of California in the Nation’s Capital

By Sarah Thien

White House Garden

D.C. residents Peter Krommenhoek (Chemistry, ’08; M.S., Polymers and Coating Science, ’08) and Julius Cesar Chaidez (Master of Public Policy, ’11) share their Cal Poly pride on a tour of the White House.

Three thousand miles from San Luis Obispo, surrounded by the nation’s top policymakers, historic landmarks, and world-famous art galleries, museums and restaurants, when Cal Poly alumni get together, there’s only one thing they like to talk about: the weather.

“We basically hate the weather 80 percent of the time and love it 20 percent of the time — the exact opposite of San Luis Obispo,” laughed Jessica Wilson (Political Science,’10), president of the Cal Poly Alumni – Washington, D.C., chapter. “In the winter, we’re not used to the freezing cold, and in the summer we’re shocked by the humidity,” she said. “It’s a huge topic of conversation, especially with alumni who’ve just arrived.”

When Wilson arrived in D.C. six years ago, she became part of an East Coast culture where alumni networks are huge and alma maters are everything. Missing that connection to Cal Poly and to the West Coast, Wilson was instrumental in starting the Washington, D.C., chapter and bringing together a diverse group of alumni that includes engineers, public relations professionals, and employees with nonprofits and government agencies.

Approximately 1,000 alumni live in the D.C. area. According to Wilson, many of the alumni involved in the chapter are new transplants looking for a California connection in a new town.

“I think recent graduates are more willing to make that move right after college, and there are so many opportunities in so many fields in D.C.,” Wilson said. “But whether alumni have just arrived or been here for years, we enjoy providing that familiar Cal Poly connection for them, thousands of miles away from San Luis Obispo.”

One of the newest Cal Poly alumni groups, the D.C. chapter has hosted happy hours and more than a few brunches, the last attracting 30 people. Most recently, the chapter volunteered at the National Cherry Blossom Parade & Festival in April — one of the few times a year when California transplants are pretty happy with the weather in the nation’s capital.

To find your local chapter or to connect with Washington, D.C., area alumni, visit Facebook or LinkedIn and update your contact info at

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