James LoCascio, Ph.D.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

James LoCascio, Ph.D.

James (Jim) LoCascio, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is recognized for his extraordinary efforts to enhance the educational experience of his engineering students and overall student success in STEM.

Dr. LoCascio has exhibited 37 years of exemplary teaching in Cal Poly's mechanical engineering department. In his commitment to student success, LoCascio develops unique learning opportunities with long-lasting impact that follow students in their careers and beyond.

In one example, LoCascio pioneered an educational experience for his thermodynamics class by having students get an in-depth view of a local power plant. After studying the thermodynamic cycle of a plant, students tour the Diablo Canyon Power Plant to get a better understanding of engineering considerations not accessible through diagrams or calculations.

In another example, LoCascio used theatre arts to introduce his freshman class to engineering ethics. As a form of case study, LoCascio organized a showing of “All My Sons," a play based on a true story, which introduced his students to questions around an individual's obligation to society, personal responsibility and the distinction between private and public matters. The theatrical dialogue generated a lively discussion among his young engineering students, providing an impactful and unforgettable lesson.

LoCascio further demonstrates his passion for students and the CSU system as a member of the Academic Senate of the CSU​. His advocacy efforts transcend technical curricula—he's bought attention to the lack of State University Grants, the low rate of male students of color, and the need for greater diversity among teachers.

“Jim has had an indelible influence on my education and career since we met over 20 years ago. His belief in me helped me to believe in myself and was evidenced in my grades and, most important, my efforts since then," says Victor Glover, NASA ​​astronaut and a former student of LoCascio's.​