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DIRECTOR: Susie Sandstrom
COORDINATOR: Melissa Giddens
TELEPHONE: 805-756-5128
LOCATION: Student Academic Services
Building 58, Room 109A
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, Ca 93407

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Susie Sandstrom



Susie Sandstrom is a California native and has worked in the field of education for the past 33 years. She graduated from University of Redlands with a single-subject teaching credential and taught high school Spanish in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Francisco while obtaining her Master’s Degree from UC Santa Barbara. “In 1997 I bought a one-way ticket to Chile so I could really embrace the culture and language.” That worked! She lived in the capital of Santiago where she was hired as the Export Manager of Torreon de Paredes Winery, and later moved to Pucon to work as a ski guide on an active volcano. Upon returning to the US in 1999, Susie took a short detour from teaching Spanish in order to teach her community about health. She opened Sol Food Market – a small health food store that focused on educating people about the benefits of eating local, organic foods. 18 years later, her legacy continues at Big Bear Middle School where students still operate the local/organic produce club. In 2015, Sandstrom was offered a job at Cal Poly SLO as Director for Upward Bound and was recently promoted to Director for TRIO Pre-College Programs (both Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search). “I am so thrilled to be back in education and working for such an incredible program that supports youth and changes lives!” Sandstrom lives on the coast with her son, Benji, and their dog, Valley. They spend their free time exploring the coast looking for hiking spots, farmer’s markets and music venues.

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Melissa Giddens

Program Coordinator


Education is my passion and I am so grateful that I get to work with our Upward Bound students every day. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was able to start working with this program during my studies. I even did my Senior Project on the curriculum and effects of a successful Upward Bound program! I have brought my experience with academic advising and multicultural studies to our students and love hearing about their individual goals and passions. Aside from work I am an avid reader/puzzler, cat lover, San Jose Sharks hockey fanatic, passionate Survivor viewer, and occasional tennis player. I love the central coast and am so glad I get to work here with such amazing staff and students.

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Eileen Akin

Administrative Support Coordinator


I'm inspired by the George Bernard Shaw quote, "Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself." Whether it's relocating to San Luis Obispo from across the country (State College, PA) in 2010 to start a new life, searching for a job that fulfills and challenges me, or finally jumping into teaching yoga, I am a life-long learner always seeking to expand my horizons. I earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Film/TV from NYU, and have had an interesting variety of work experiences that include Public Broadcasting producer, coordinator of a visual arts collection at Penn State’s library, and a writer/producer of TV commercials. I had the opportunity to teach and practice yoga with our 2018 Upward Bound summer academy participants, and was so inspired by their energy and willingness to try something new. I continue to be committed to working with forward thinking organizations dedicated to making people’s lives better which is why I’m so grateful to be part of the incredible team in the TRiO pre-college programs, Upward Bound and Talent Search, as we work together to help local middle and high school students achieve their dreams.

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