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Fresno State Announces Class of 2023 Graduate Deans’ Medalists



Fresno State's 2023 Graduate Deans' Medalists (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Fresno State News

The eight schools and colleges at Fresno State, along with the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, each selected an outstanding student to honor as part of the class of 2023 Graduate Deans’ Medalists.

The deans selected a graduate and undergraduate medalist based on academic excellence, community involvement, and other achievements. Fresno State’s Undergraduate Deans’ Medalists were announced Wednesday.

In mid-May, one medalist from the group below will be announced as the President’s Graduate Medalist, Fresno State’s top academic honor for a graduate student.

This year’s Graduate Deans’ Medalists are:

Mialise Carney, College of Arts and Humanities: Carney, of Raynham, Massachusetts, earned her MFA in creative writing with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned a B.A. in English from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Carney was homeschooled as a child. By the time she was 16, she hadn’t opened a textbook in years, but was accepted to take introductory courses at the local university. She taught herself and through hard work, she flourished. In her final year, she was mentored by a Fresno State creative writing alumna who showed her that her writing mattered. It was that encouragement that brought Carney to Fresno State. She served as editor of The Normal School literary magazine, was a poetry reader for Sundress Publications Best of the Net anthology and was an editor for Spectrum – the Young Writers’ Conference’s journal of high school student writing – where she also volunteered to run writing workshops. Carney taught first-year writing and fiction as a teaching associate and worked as an editorial assistant with the English and Creative Writing Department. She was president of the San Joaquin Literary Association and hosted and participated in many student readings. Carney also published 25 stories and essays in literary journals.

Gregory Dzhezyan, Lyles College of Engineering: Dzhezyan, of Fresno, earned his M.S. in electrical engineering with a 3.9 GPA. He previously earned his M.S. in computer science and a dual B.S. in computer science and electrical engineering from Fresno State. Dzhezyan came to Fresno State determined to become a video game developer, but he took an engineering class and saw an opportunity to do much more. He enjoyed his summers working in the engineering labs so much that he decided graduate school was the next step for him. He started in signal processing theory, then moved into communications systems engineering. Dzhezyan worked on the implementation of Faster-than-Nyquist signaling, which could yield significant increases in data rates for modern communications systems. He served as technical adviser for undergraduates in the Air Force Research Lab Beyond 5G challenge. His past three internships were with Northrop Grumman working in a variety of fields. He was recently offered a position as a signal and image processing engineer with the company.

Sade Johnson, Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management: Johnson, of Madera, earned her M.A. in Higher Education Administration and Leadership with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned her B.A. in African American Studies from UC Davis. The 10th of 11 children, Johnson is a first-generation college student. She became pregnant and had her baby in the final years of her time at UC Davis. She withdrew from school, but returned because she was dedicated to earning her degree. She pursued a HEAL degree to advance student-parent initiatives. Johnson received an Outstanding Graduate Student award from the California College Personnel Association. She served on multiple panels for Michelson 20MM Foundation, shifting advocacy work toward student-parents. She was selected as a Graduate Equity Fellow, served on the planning committee for Fresno State’s inaugural Higher Education Student Affairs in the Central Valley Conference and served on the Student Health Advisory Council’s and Programs for Children committee. Johnson is a graduate assistant for Project HOPE connecting students, many who are student-parents, to resources. She recently completed her thesis which describes the complexity of Black mamahood in higher education. She plans to continue working with student-parents at Fresno State.

Nicholas McKenna, College of Social Sciences: McKenna, of Clovis, earned his M.A. in history with a 3.9 GPA. He previously earned his B.A. in history from Fresno State. McKenna faced academic challenges during his undergraduate years, which led him to consider dropping out of college, but with the help of history faculty, he overcame his difficulties and reignited his passion for history. His thesis was on the interactions between indigenous nations, French Canadians and British colonists during the American Revolution. To broaden his skill set, he attended an intensive French language program at Middlebury College in Vermont, which helped his research on Quebec. At Fresno State, McKenna served as historian of Le cercle français, president of the History Graduate Student Association and helped organize two history symposia. McKenna also presented his work internationally, including in Quebec and British Columbia. He received the College of Social Sciences’ Outstanding Student Award recognizing his academic achievements and contributions to the university. In the fall, McKenna will pursue his doctorate in history at Johns Hopkins University.

Jonathan Moules, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology: Moules, of Delhi, earned his M.S. in agricultural science with a 4.0 GPA. He previously earned his B.S. in agriculture education at Fresno State. Moules is a first-generation American and college student whose parents immigrated from the Azores. While the family had agricultural roots in growing crops and raising livestock, Moules found his passion in teaching agriculture. He led leadership conferences for freshmen throughout California and created ag lessons for K-8 students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Moules was a graduate student lecturer and laboratory aide and started student teaching. He received a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with another student on a project that provides agricultural science curriculum resources and experiences for secondary agriculture teachers to meet the Next Generation Science Standards. As a student, Moules lived and worked in the University Agricultural Laboratory Sheep Unit. He spearheaded Fresno State’s inaugural Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon team, coaching four undergraduate animal science students to compete nationally.

Samantha Patricia Navarro, College of Science and Mathematics: Navarro, of Modesto, earned her M.A. in psychology with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned her B.A. in psychology from UC Merced. Navarro is a first-generation college student born to Mexican immigrant parents who worked the cherry and almond orchards. A mentor in high school helped Navarro prepare for and pursue higher education. Navarro did research in Dr. Paul Price’s judgment and reasoning lab and presented at conferences. She is co-author of a manuscript that was published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Navarro was also a teaching assistant, engaging groups of students to develop their final research projects and teaching them how to create Qualtrics surveys. Her work as a teaching assistant earned her a Best Teaching Assistant 2021-22 award. In addition, Navarro won the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the system’s highest recognition of student achievement. Navarro’s completion of a master’s degree and her research resulted in her being named a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar. She wants to apply to a cognitive psychology doctoral program to gain more teaching experience so she can be a professor.

Oronne Nwaneri, Kremen School of Education and Human Development: Nwaneri, of Los Angeles, earned her Ed.D in educational leadership with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned her M.S. in higher education from California State Fullerton, and her B.A. in sociology from Cal Poly Pomona. As a high school student, Nwaneri always knew she would go to college, but never dreamed that she would earn a doctorate. She has worked in different higher education roles from student conduct to leadership programming and Upward Bound. Nwaneri applied to the Kremen School’s educational leadership program at the encouragement of a former supervisor. She was invited to be on a virtual student and community panel that focused on the election and its effects on the community, and later served on the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Committee. During the pandemic, she spearheaded a senior gift-giving drive, became a member of the NAACP, served on Pasadena City College’s professional development shared governance Committee, participates in the President’s African American Advisory Committee and serves as vice president of the Association of Black Employees at Pasadena City College, where she works. She also serves as a mentor to several women of color, encouraging them to pursue their dreams.

Karthik Selvaraj, Craig School of Business: Selvaraj, of Overland Park, Kansas, earned his MBA with a 3.9 GPA. He previously earned a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Madras (Chennai) in India. After more than 15 years of work experience in global markets, Selvaraj left his job in India to get his MBA at an American university. He left his wife and two children to study at Fresno State. He was nominated to represent the Craig School in a case competition at UC Davis in April 2022. The case study was to attempt to provide solutions to address United Natural Foods, Inc.’s Global and Domestic Supply Chain challenges. He was able to use the lessons he learned in his first semesters to offer a solution. He also leveraged his work in curriculum practical training to join Dairy Farmers of America in Kansas as an employee while finishing his degree. The opportunity allowed him to move his family to America, while the skills he learned at the Craig School enabled him to introduce and bring several changes to company operations.

Xilang Yang, College of Health and Human Services: Yang, of Hanford, earned her M.S.W. in social work with a 3.9 GPA. She previously earned her B.S. in criminology (victimology option) from Fresno State. Yang’s knowledge of the immigrant experience and her struggle as a first-generation Hmong American influenced her studies into culturally responsive behavioral health interventions. She wants to make positive change in society and to help vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Yang served as president of the Asian Social Work Organization, treasurer of the Social Work Student Association, outreach chair for the Phi Alpha National Honors Society-Chi Nu Chapter, and served as the Fresno State representative to the CSU’s 23Strong National Association of Social Workers student policy body. Yang wants to fight for social justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations using her leadership skills. After graduation, she hopes to become a licensed clinical social worker. She will also pursue a doctorate in social work. She dreams of developing programs and safe houses for victims of human trafficking and sexual and domestic violence.