Meet Our Graduate Students


Jessica Szalay is in the MA in History program. She's finishing her thesis on WWII newsreels as Yellow Journalism.

How did you make your Grad School Decision?

It wasn’t a question in my mind – I knew I wanted the graduate school education and the graduate school experience. My family and friends, as well as my professors, supported my decision and agreed that enrolling in a graduate program would benefit me. As for history, I’ve been a history nerd since elementary school, so choosing history for my degree was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

How are the students in your program?

It is because of the other students in the history program that I got through the program! We are all such huge support units for each other, whether it be continuing a discussion from last night’s class, or sending late-night text messages to each other freaking out about the paper that’s almost due. You really get to know those in class with you and they become more than just a fellow student. The students in the history program are the most intelligent and dedicated people I know, and I can only hope that I’ve offered just half of the support that they’ve offered to me over the past couple of years.

What is the benefit of attending Fresno State?

Fresno State is an anomaly because it is the largest university in the area, but at the same time it is a small university in relation to other schools in California. I think Fresno State offers students both the big-school feel and the small-school feel. It is big enough to offer lots of involvement opportunities, as well as a variety of majors to choose from. But it is also small in the fact that you can always reach your professor and get to know those in your classes, which gives you the feeling that Fresno State isn’t really all that big.

How do you balance classes, workload, job and social life?

I’d like to think that I do balance all of those aspects of my life, but there have definitely been things that have suffered as I’ve been in school. Luckily, I have very supportive and understanding friends, family members, professors and colleagues that have worked with my crazy schedule and have not faulted me for my desire to pursue a graduate degree. One thing I depend on to keep my schedule on track is my phone, where I schedule everything I am doing and everything I have to do. It beeps at me constantly reminding me to get to work. I also rely heavily on sticky notes. I have them EVERYWHERE to remind me of what I need to get done – don’t underestimate the power of sticky notes!

Why is faculty important in your graduate program?

The History Department faculty are obviously essential to the program and the classes offered. For what seems like such a small department, the backgrounds of these faculty members are extremely diverse and because of that, classes can be offered in a variety of topics. They work tirelessly to ensure that the students are receiving an education to be proud of. Just as the students have each other for support, the professors are also there to answer any questions a graduate student might have or even just hang out.

What tips do you have for prospective students?

Pick a school that really suits you. I initially didn’t think Fresno State was that school for me, but I’ve realized that Fresno State gave me everything I was looking for in a university. You need to really investigate the schools you are considering and weigh all of your options so that the school you choose is a place you can enjoy and be proud of once you’ve graduated.