2016 Honorees and Awards
2016 President’s Medalist
Toste, who earned a bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies – Speech-Language Pathology, was selected as the President’s Medalist, the University’s top honor for an undergraduate student. She completed her B.A. also with a 4.0 GPA.
Toste followed in the footsteps of her parents to attend Fresno State. She chose to study Speech-Language Pathology after seeing professionals work with two of her brothers who are on the autism spectrum. She is a President’s Scholar in the Smittcamp Family Honors Program and a student leader at the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. She was named the 2016 University Volunteer of the Year by the Richter Center.
Toste, whose minor is urban civic education, volunteered hundreds of hours with Reading and Beyond, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Saint Agnes Medical Center and Lowell Elementary. She traveled to Fuji for a service-learning project to develop a community center and irrigation project, and she studied abroad in Italy.
Toste will continue her education at Fresno State to earn a master’s degree and hopes to work with children who have speech and language needs.
2016 University Graduate Medalist
Miguel, who earned a master’s in Education – Multilingual Multicultural Education, was selected as the University Graduate Medalist, Fresno State’s top honor for a graduate student. She completed her M.A. with a 4.0 GPA. She works for Clovis Unified School District with students who have autism.
Miguel, a graduate of Edison High School in Fresno, previously earned a B.A. from UCLA in International Developmental Studies and was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines from 2010-12. After six years away from her hometown, she said she is ready to return “to the community that had molded me.”
Her research included exploring the language and social practices of 3- to 5-year-old special education students enrolled in a dual-language immersion program. She also studied the language and literacy of Latina student mothers at four-year institutions.
Next, she will pursue her Ph.D. at UC San Diego, where she received a scholarship for full tuition. She hopes to become a professor at a four-year university.
2016 Deans' Graduate Medalists
Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Andrew Beebe, of Los Banos, completed his M.S. in Viticulture and Enology with a 3.88 GPA. The soft-spoken Beebe made quite an impact in the Jordan College through his dedicated studies, research and leadership. He worked as a research assistant under Dr. Anil Shrestha. “It was here that I really developed my desire to continue into a master’s program and perform my own research,” he says. Beebe’s research includes the effects of different pruning systems and deficit irrigation on vine performance and the production, water-use efficiency and fruit quality of Merlot grapevines during drought. He presented his research at a number of industry meetings across the U.S. He received several awards at Fresno State, including the John and Cora Harvey Scholarship-Jordan Assistantship. Beebe was hired by UC Davis to work as a junior specialist at the Oakville Research Station in Northern California, where he will continue to investigate quality improvements and sustainability of the grape and wine industry.
College of Social Sciences
Melody Downie-Dack, of Lemoore, completed her M.A. in History with a 4.0 GPA. While pursuing her master’s, Downie-Dack taught social studies and AP history full-time at Lemoore High School while coaching forensics before giving birth to her first child in spring 2015. She also has a master’s degree in teaching. “While working on my thesis, I resigned from my teaching position to devote more time to my family and to the master’s program,” she says. Downie-Dack has since worked part-time from home as an administration assistant for a non-profit organization in Visalia. Downie-Dack traveled to Madrid and Sevilla, Spain to research her thesis on the Cursillos movement and its relevance to Catholic laity in southern Spain during the 1960s. Her thesis was nominated as the top thesis in the History Department. After graduation, she plans to apply for adjunct college faculty positions in the Valley.
College of Science and Mathematics
Yvan Mendoza, of Fresno, completed his M.S. in Geology with a 4.0 GPA. He spent part of his childhood in the U.S. and part in Jalisco, Mexico. “As a child of migrant farmworkers, the idea of college never really crossed my mind,” he says. “Going to grade school was a privilege in my hometown.” He began working construction jobs at age 15. In 2004, he became the first in his family to earn a high school diploma, which inspired him to pursue higher education. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he enrolled in the master’s program and researched geologic mapping in unusually rugged terrain. Mendoza volunteered to teach Geology to children in grades 3-6. His skills and knowledge were recognized when he was selected for a highly competitive internship with Chevron in Bakersfield. The internship positioned him to achieve his career goal of working in the petroleum industry with a focus on environmental responsibility. Mendoza served as a teaching assistant and volunteered for several Earth and Environmental Sciences field trips, even driving a truck and hauling a trailer when necessary.
Kremen School of Education and Human Development
Jessica Miguel, of Fresno, completed her M.A. in Education (Multilingual Multicultural
Education) with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned a B.A. from UCLA in International
Developmental Studies. She works for Clovis Unified School District with students
who have autism. She also served as the graduate program assistant for two years,
managing the database of applicants, assisting in recruitment and developing promotional
material. Miguel is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in the Philippines
from 2010 to 2012. “After spending two years abroad and four years at UCLA, I was
ready to return to the community that had molded me,” she says. Miguel’s research
includes exploring the language and social practices of 3- to 5-year old special education
students enrolled in a dual-language immersion program. She also studied the language
and literacy of Latina student mothers at four-year institutions. Next, she will pursue
her Ph.D. at UC San Diego, where she received a scholarship for full tuition. She
hopes to become a professor at
a four-year university.
Craig School of Business
Amanda Moore, of Madera, completed her M.B.A. with a 4.0 GPA. She is a first-generation
graduate who is passionate about entrepreneurship. She spent a year in the Entrepreneur
Mentor Program and spent a semester coordinating it and overseeing 20 students. She
was selected as the recipient of the Betty Lou Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Award and
the Baker, Peterson and Franklin Entrepreneur Award for her contributions to the University’s
Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Moore became ill and took almost
two years off from school as an undergraduate, but was encouraged by professor Don
Temple to finish strong. “He taught me that life is never set in stone and that I
can overcome anything —
I may just have to pivot slightly,” she says. Moore attended graduate school full-time while working full-time at Dairy America, where she cross trains in all departments within the company to bridge gaps and fix inefficiencies.
Division of Student Affairs
Lucia Ramirez-Munoz, of Atwater, completed her M.S. in Counseling and Student Affairs
a 4.0 GPA. She was selected by the Division of Student Affairs for making considerable contributions to student life and student success at Fresno State. Ramirez-Munoz, who moved to the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was 10 years old, was a leader and mentor in the Supplemental Instruction program, the Educational Opportunity Program, SupportNet and Summer Bridge — helping other first-generation students transition into college life and succeed. She also worked in the Cross Cultural and Gender Center on campus. “I would have never imagined to accomplish so much personally, academically and professionally,” she says. After graduation, Ramirez-Munoz plans to seek employment in higher education.
College of Arts and Humanities
Natalia Tomasello, of Truckee, completed her M.A. in Instrumental Music Performance
and her teaching credential with a 3.93 GPA. Tomasello combines the specialization
of a performance musician with a passion for teaching. She played saxophone in several
of Fresno State’s ensembles, including the wind and jazz orchestra. She was part of
the Bulldog Marching Band for four years, including two as the drum major. Tomasello
also participated in Bulldog Beat, a scholarship athletic band. After completing her
undergraduate degree, she served as graduate assistant for both bands. She has also
a featured vocalist with the Fresno State Jazz Orchestra. She provides private saxophone lessons to students of all ages. With multiple job offers after graduation, she chose to teach music at Firebaugh Middle School because she saw the most need and potential for community growth. “Teaching is a privilege and a lifelong commitment that focuses on our youth and the future of America,” she says.
College of Health and Human Services
Bessie Yang, of Fresno, completed the Master of Public Health program with a 3.92
a first-generation graduate from Sunnyside High School, previously earned her B.S. in Public Health at Fresno State in 2012. Yang calls herself an anomaly. “I am a female, first-generation, Hmong student,” she says. “I grew up in a culture where women are not encouraged to pursue higher education.” Yang will now become the first in her family to earn a graduate degree and plans to one day pursue a Ph.D. She is passionate about studying how race, ethnicity and culture create disparities in our communities, and she investigated the cultural competency of Fresno State nursing students for her thesis. Yang works at the Fresno County Department of Public Health as a health education specialist implementing community wellness programs.
2016 Deans' Undergraduate Medalists
College of Arts and Humanities
Jacqueline Alvarez, of Coalinga, completed a B.A. in Philosophy and Women’s Studies
a 3.9 GPA. Alvarez began college at the non-traditional age of 28 and excelled both academically and as an advocate for students. She served as the president of the Diversity Caucus and Radical Feminists Against Sexual Assault. Alvarez wrote proposals for gender-neutral restrooms, space for LGBT+ students and resources for sexual assault survivors. She helped peers as a supplemental instruction leader for Biology, and she served as the Philosophy Club president. Alvarez completed research projects as a McNair scholar and a MURAP scholar at the University of North Carolina. Next, she plans to pursue a master’s in Philosophy at San Francisco State University. “I feel inspired every day in the College of Arts and Humanities,” she says. “Here, I found a safe place, a family of support and an intellectual community.”
College of Science and Mathematics
Irina Boginski completed a B.S. in Biochemistry with a 3.97 GPA. She moved to the
U.S. from Ukraine with her family in 2001 to escape an unstable economy. In the U.S.
her family was forced to find new careers, learn a new language and adapt to a new
culture. Boginski excelled, graduating from Duncan Polytechnical High School in Fresno.
“I absorbed education like
a sponge,” she says, “not because my parents told me that I would become a decent individual in society, but because I thought it was fun.” At Fresno State, Boginski got involved in research to modulate a protein that could be beneficial in discovering therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. She also tutored other students in chemistry and calculus, volunteered time at the neonatal pharmacy at Community Regional Medical Center and found time to marry her best friend. She leads a creative team ministry at her church and, with her husband, recently co-founded a web design business. Next up, Boginski plans to pursue graduate school and continue her Alzheimer’s research. She hopes to one day teach at Fresno State.
Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
Michael Bowlin, of Tehachapi, completed a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a 3.945 GPA. Bowlin says coming to Fresno State from Tehachapi High School, with a graduating class of less than 100, was a drastic adjustment with Fresno State’s student enrollment nearly twice the size of his hometown population. But he thrived while helping other students reach their goals through his work in the Learning Center and helping new students transition to campus while working in the Dog Days new student orientation program. Bowlin faced many challenges as a college student, including his own health obstacles and the death of his grandfather, but he persevered and earned an engineering job at U.S. Naval Air Systems Command. “It definitely has not been easy, especially during the past four years, but through hard work, persistence and prayer, I have made it.”
College of Social Sciences
Ryan Ditchfield completed a B.S. in Criminology and Political Science with a 4.0 GPA. Ditchfield graduated from Clovis High School after moving to the United States from Ruwa, Zimbabwe in 2007. When he was 9 years old in 2002, a group of militia violently forced their way into the Ditchfield family home and shot his grandfather in the leg. “I can recall the events of that night as vividly as though they happened yesterday,” he says. “Yet I cannot recall a single man’s face.” This snapshot in time is what fueled Ditchfield’s desire to study forensic behavioral science and research eyewitness identification and why it can be difficult to recall details in stressful, violent situations. Ditchfield has been accepted into a Ph.D. program in Social Psychology at Iowa State University and intends to pursue a career in research and teaching in higher education.
Kremen School of Education and Human Development
Serenity Hansen, of Oakhurst, completed her B.A. in Liberal Studies with a 3.97 GPA. Hansen grew up as one of eight siblings and faced many difficult obstacles in her education and family life. “Through my greatest struggles, I have learned that it is not our past that determines who we are or our potential to succeed,” she says. Hansen married at 18 and had her first child at 19 before earning her Associate of Arts from Reedley College in 1998. Upon returning to school at Fresno State, she maintained a full-time job and cared for her three children while commuting from Coarsegold, giving piano lessons and working in an after-school program in her community. Hansen was part of the initial Honors program in Liberal Studies, served as a member of the physics outreach team and was director of youth ministries at her church. She was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. This fall, Hansen will enter the Fresno Teacher Residency Program and pursue her multiple subject teaching credential while working on a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Lyles College of Engineering
Alan Suarez, of Merced, completed a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a 3.83 GPA.
His family emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. in search of a better future in 1998.
His father began working in the fields and his mother as a housekeeper. As a young
child, Suarez remembers watching his father fix the family’s troublesome car and asking
him how the engine worked. He developed
a passion for mechanics and decided to become an engineer. Though earning valedictorian honors at Golden Valley High School, he attended a community college due to financial limitations. But over the past three years at Fresno State, he received the PG&E Bright Minds Scholarship for $20,000 per year and the 2013 and 2014 Col. Rick Husband Scholarship. Suarez conducted research on prosthetic knees and designed and manufactured one with the help of his faculty mentor, Dr. The Nguyen. He has presented and published his research and will begin a career at GE Healthcare as a design engineer after graduation. “Other schools claim the ‘hands-on learning’ motto, but I am confident those claims fall short of my experience and what Fresno State has to offer,” Suarez says.
College of Health and Human Service
Lilliana Toste, of Lemoore, completed a B.A. in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies (Speech-Language Pathology) with a 4.0 GPA. Toste volunteered hundreds of service-learning hours with Reading and Beyond, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Saint Agnes Medical Center and Lowell Elementary. She traveled with a group of students to further develop a community center and work on an irrigation project in Fiji, and she studied abroad in Italy. Toste, the daughter of two Fresno State graduates, was a President’s Scholar in the Smittcamp Family Honors Program and a student leader at the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. She also was chosen to serve as student assistant for University President Joseph I. Castro. Toste chose to study Speech-Language Pathology after seeing professionals work with two of her brothers who are on the autism spectrum. When the University’s autism preschool was short-staffed of graduate students, Toste was chosen by faculty members to help. “I quickly fell in love with the clinic setting, my fellow hardworking clinicians and those beautiful little souls on the autism spectrum,” she says.
Craig School of Business
Nicole Warmerdam, of Visalia, completed a B.S. in Business Administration-Accountancy
with a 4.0 GPA, a minor in Mathematics and a certificate in Finance. Upon graduating
from Mount Whitney High School, she was selected to Fresno State’s Smittcamp Family
Honors Program. She went on to complete her thesis on the merger between AT&T and
DirecTV as part of the Craig School Honors Program. Warmerdam landed prestigious internships
in London with KPMG and in the Bay Area with PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she accepted
a full-time job upon graduation. At Fresno State, Warmerdam also co-founded the University’s
club women’s volleyball team and volunteered for
a service-learning trip to Fiji. “The Fijian people taught me that service is not just about giving, but actually about sharing,” she says. “This lesson gave me a completely new perspective on not only how to perform service, but how to approach life.”
Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology
Kelli Williamson, of Clovis, earned a B.S. in Enology and a B.S. in Food and Nutritional Science with a 3.82 GPA. She also minored in Chemistry. Williamson summarized the important aspects of her life in three words: involvement, service, education. Her involvement at Fresno State includes organizing fundraising and engagement activities while serving as president of the Viticulture Club and social chair of the Fresno State Enology Society. Williamson’s service includes supporting the V.E. Petrucci Library through fundraising activities, serving on the FFA State Conference committee that brings hundreds of high school students to Fresno State and sewing caps for patients at Valley Children’s Hospital. “I grew up in a single-parent household where resources were sometimes limited, but I was always taught the importance of being thankful and giving back to my community,” she says. Next up, she will continue her education by pursuing a M.S. in Food Science at Fresno State.
Juan Felipe Herrera
Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Litt.D.)
The son of migrant farmworkers, Juan Felipe Herrera, a Fowler native and former Fresno State professor, was named as the United States 21st Poet Laureate in 2015 – the first Hispanic to be named as such. He was educated at UCLA and Stanford University and received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Herrera was California Poet Laureate from 2012-2014 and was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.
He taught at California State University, Fresno from 1990 to 2004, where he was chair of the Chicano and Latin American Studies department. He recently retired as chair of the creative writing department at the University of California at Riverside.
His author’s list numbers 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children; most recently, “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes” (2014), a picture book showcasing inspirational Hispanic and Latino Americans. His most recent book of poems is “Senegal Taxi” (2013).
Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry opera and dance theater. His children’s book, “The Upside Down Boy” (2000), was adapted into a musical. His books for children and young adults, including “Calling the Doves” (2001), which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and “crashboomlove” (1999), a novel-in-verse for young adults, which won the Americas Award, have won several awards. His book “Half the World in Light” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in 2009.
In recognition of his achievements, his outstanding leadership, and enormous contributions locally, regionally and nationally, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Fresno are proud to confer upon Juan Felipe Herrera the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.