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Fresno State Announces 2024 Undergraduate Deans’ Medalists
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Published 2 weeks ago on
May 1, 2024

Fresno State named its 2024 Undergraduate Deans Medalists. (Fresno State)

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Fresno State announced Wednesday the names of nine students chosen as the 2024 Undergraduate Deans Medalists. 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 2024 Undergraduate Deans’ Medalists.

This group of students started their college careers during the COVID-19 pandemic amid uncertainty and in isolation from their peers, but they showed persistence, dedication and success.

The deans selected an undergraduate and graduate medalist based on academic excellence, community involvement and other achievements. Fresno State’s Graduate Deans’ Medalists will be announced later this week.

In mid-May, one medalist from the group below will be announced as the President’s Undergraduate Medalist, the university’s top academic honor for an undergraduate student.

This year’s Undergraduate Deans’ Medalists are:

Andrea L. Barnett, Kremen School of Education and Human Development

Barnett, of Fresno, earned her B.A. in liberal studies, with a supplementary authorization in mathematics, with a 3.92 GPA. Barnett was a transfer student from Clovis Community College who had to navigate her journey at Fresno State as a mother of two during the pandemic. She said she struggled with her mental health during this time and dropped out for three semesters. Barnett returned in spring 2023 and committed herself to diving into the college experience again. She works at the Learning Center as the lone tutor for many liberal studies-specific courses, including the three-course sequence in which Fresno State students learn to teach math concepts to elementary students. She volunteers as a Peer Ambassador of Wellness with the Student Health and Counseling Center where she supports the physical and mental well-being of her peers. After graduation, Barnett plans to continue her education in the rural teaching residency program at Fresno State. Her future goal is to teach math to incarcerated youth.

Jazmine Badhesha, Craig School of Business

Badhesha, of Kerman, earned her B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in computer information systems and a minor in anthropology and economics, with a 4.0 GPA. Badhesha is a Craig School of Business Scholar. She served as vice president for the Association of Finance Scholars for two years and helped relaunch the group after the pandemic. She also helped create a new student organization called the Student Management Investment Fund to allow students to participate in investing and stock market workshops held by alumni. Badhesha worked as a student assistant for the DISCOVERe technology hub, where she helped students and staff with their digital devices and worked on building an inclusive digital learning environment. She was a data analyst intern at Valley Children’s Healthcare where she updated annual reports, developed a roadmap to store data and created visual representations of the data. Her future plans include pursuing a Master’s of Business Administration and working full time.

Matthew D. Forney, Lyles College of Engineering

Forney, of Petaluma, earned his B.S. in construction management and a minor in general business, with a 4.0 GPA. After high school, Forney merged his interests in farm business management and ag mechanics to pursue his studies in construction. Forney co-led the winning commercial building competition teams at Fresno State, and worked to recruit students to participate. The team won second place in 2023 and 2024 at the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Construction Management Competition and first place in the Associated Schools of Construction Commercial Competition. He became a champion in the Bluebeam User Group dedicated to construction software, interned with the McCarthy Building Companies and served as secretary for Sigma Lambda Chi, the construction management honor society. After graduation, Forney will be a project engineer with McCarthy.

Sofia James, College of Arts and Humanities

James, of Fresno, earned her B.A. in theater arts, with an emphasis in design/technology with a 3.89 GPA. James was enamored by the artistic and empowering nature of live theater and the complex stories that inspire through local productions. But she said diversity in the industry was lacking so she set out to change that by aligning her goals as an artist with the work she did at Fresno State. James brought cultural research and attention to detail to her role in costume design. She was an assistant stage manager for a play on campus analyzing gender roles in Latin America, and amplified LGBTQIA+ voices through the retelling of a Shakespearean classic for the Experimental Theatre Company, a student-run theatrical campus organization. James was invited by Black theater makers to work on an all-Black play series in the community. Last summer, she interned for the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival where she will return after graduation to work as a musical dresser. She aims to earn her master’s and teaching credential to teach the next generation of passionate theater makers in the Central Valley.

Reyna I. Mero, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Mero, of Mariposa, earned her B.S. in animal science, pre-veterinary, with a 4.0 GPA. Mero sat in feed bins as a 1-year-old, rode in a vet truck and assisted her veterinarian mother in open field surgeries on horses. That experience led her on a journey for a career in veterinary medicine. At Fresno State, Mero joined the Pre-Veterinary Club and Poultry Club. She worked in the Foster Farm poultry facility, where she learned about poultry management and did research on broiler gastro-intestinal tract microbiomes, disease susceptibility and cutting-edge developments in the poultry industry. She showed her research at the 2024 International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, where she won the Don Sloan Undergrad Poster Award for outstanding presentation. She is a Supplemental Instruction leader for chemistry and microbiology, helping students to be better learners. Outside of campus, Mero participates in endurance equestrian racing, where she has won a number of races, awards and titles, and shows her Dobermans in AKC events. Mero will attend Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall.

Logan X. Mouawangyee, College of Health and Human Services

Mouawangyee, of Honolulu, earned his B.S. in kinesiology, with an emphasis in physical education and a minor in Japanese, with a 4.0 GPA. The son of immigrants, including a father who was a master chief in the United States Navy, Mouawangyee attended 15 different schools across the U.S., Japan and Australia before Fresno State. He is a member of the Fresno State Kinesiology Pedagogy Club, a student representative on the Fresno State Student Health Advisory Committee, Associated Students Inc.’s Sustainability Coalition and a student representative on the President’s Strategic Plan Goal Committee. He credits his job at the Amendola Family Student Cupboard as one of the most influential experiences of his time at Fresno State. He is the recipient of the Dovey D. and Joseph Herzog Kinesiology Scholarship, a nominee for the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America Major of the Year and American Kinesiology Association Scholar Award. He plans to obtain a single subject physical education teaching credential through the Kremen School of Education and Human Development to become a physical education teacher.

Bianca G. Palma, Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management

Palma, of Fresno, earned her B.A. in communication and a minor in media, communications and journalism, and English literature, with a 3.97 GPA. The daughter of Fresno State alumni, Palma started college during the pandemic but found community and friendship as a student event coordinator and social media marketing manager for Spotlight Events. One of her proudest moments was collaborating with Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez Sandoval on a video for the Noche De Baile event during Hispanic Heritage Month. The video got over 25,000 views on Instagram and showed a playful side of the president while showing the spirit of Fresno State. Palma is the 2024 Student of Distinction for the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Humanities and Dean’s Medal nominee from the Department of Communication. She received the Student Leadership Award from the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management for her work on campus activities and a Silver Linings Award for her dedication and optimistic attitude while working in the Dog Days student orientation program. Palma is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Lambda Phi Eta honor societies. She plans to pursue a career in marketing and communications.

Jose A. Santiesteban, College of Social Sciences

Santiesteban, of Riverdale, earned his B.A. in political science with a 3.83 GPA. Santiesteban, a first-generation Mexican American college student, helped provide professional development experiences, civic engagement initiatives, community service and research support for students as a leader in the national political honor society Pi Sigma Alpha. His work helped the group win the national Best Chapter Award three years in a row. He conducted research on the regional nuances around gender-based violence in Mexico and presented at the University of Michigan’s Emerging Scholars Conference and at the High Impact Practices Student Symposium where he won an award. Santiesteban serves as a writing tutor for the Department of Political Science. He was a supplemental support instructor in the Learning Center for the introductory course to American politics and he facilitated peer-led study sessions. His success led to a role as an interdisciplinary mentor for other instructors. Santiesteban participated in three political science pre-doctoral programs at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri; the University of California at Southern California; and the University of Michigan. He will attend Washington University’s political science doctoral program in the fall.

Nathan H. Theng, College of Science and Mathematics

Theng, of Fresno, earned his B.S. in computer science with a 3.97 GPA. His early experience in health care as a patient and researcher first motivated him to study biochemistry and pursue medicine. But Theng realized how programming and technology could transform health care as he took classes virtually, scribed for physicians via telehealth and got professional certifications in applied artificial intelligence and machine learning specializations during the pandemic. Theng, who is a Smittcamp Family Honors Scholar, was a semi-finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in 2023 and is a semi-finalist for a Fulbright Greece Fellowship. He has received several awards and scholarships. While his academics soared, he also developed a passion for community service. He mentored students and tutored adults through the Computer Science Department, volunteered at Camp Kesem to support children who have family members diagnosed with cancer, and volunteered at the Fresno Needle Exchange/Fresno Free Clinic. He interned with the Hub of Digital Transformation and Innovation, and Northwestern Mutual. Theng plans to pursue a doctoral degree in computer science. His goal is to research computational diagnosis tools for underserved communities.

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