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Fresno State Announces 2024 Graduate Deans’ Medalists
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By News
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 4, 2024

Nine Fresno State graduate students were named 2024 Deans Medalists on Friday. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Fresno State on Friday announced the 2024 Graduate 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 Graduate Deans’ Medalists.

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

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

This year’s Graduate Deans’ Medalists are:

Kiana Crisosto, College of Science and Mathematics

Crisosto, of Kerman, earned her M.A. in psychology, emphasis in general/experimental, with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned a B.A. in psychology from Fresno State. Crisosto, a first-generation college student, became fascinated with underlying biases and decision-making processes after witnessing political discussions as a high schooler. She participated in research programs as an undergraduate, focusing on bias, partisanship and decision-making, which led to her master’s thesis on how race influences persuasive outcomes. Crisosto received the Graduate Student Research and Creative Activities Support Award and presented her thesis at the Western Psychological Association conference. She was a teaching assistant for psychology courses and a statistics consultant for the Graduate Student Success Center. Crisosto was an intern and research assistant for the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, helping to improve equitable housing prioritization in Fresno and Madera counties. She credits her graduate adviser, Dr. Spee Kosloff, with guiding and supporting her as a researcher. Crisosto wants to be a research and data analyst for California or in public health, and she wants to produce educational videos to empower her community and student researchers.

Jennifer Duran, College of Health and Human Services

Duran, of Fresno, earned her M.A. in communicative sciences and deaf studies, emphasis in speech-language pathology, with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned a B.A. in speech-language pathology from Fresno State. Duran was diagnosed with hearing loss as a child, requiring her to wear bilateral hearing aids. Her lived experience led her to career goals as a speech-language pathologist working with families and people from diverse backgrounds. Duran gained experience in Fresno State’s Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic and at West Fresno Elementary and Edison Bethune Charter Academy, where she planned and implemented individual and group treatment in areas of autism, childhood speech and language, fluency and cognition, Parkinson’s and bilingualism. She also worked as a graduate student clinician and treated patients at DeMera Allergy Asthma and ENT Center for dysphagia, dysarthria, aphasia, dementia and cognition. She will be working as a speech-language pathologist after graduation. By becoming one of the few hard-of-hearing speech-language pathologists, Duran wants to set an example for individuals with different abilities who desire to become professionals within the community science and disorder discipline.

Fernando Robledo Garcia, Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management

Garcia, of Shafter, earned his M.S. in counseling with a 4.0 GPA. He previously earned a B.S. in agriculture education from Fresno State. Garcia is a first-generation Latino college student with a passion to work with underserved students. He was a graduate assistant with Off-Campus Student Life where he advocated for students living off campus. He served as an academic coach with Academic Success Coaching in the Learning Center. As a Summer Bridge counselor intern, Garcia supported first-generation, low-income high school students in their transition to college. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to highlight the challenges that these students face and how faculty and staff can support them. He was co-founder and president of Define American Student Club; counselor for Camp Kesem; senator of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Associated Students, Inc.; and participated in the College Assistance Migrant Program. Garcia was offered a full-time position as an academic navigator at the University of California, Merced, helping first-year students get good academic standing.

Andrea Lee, Craig School of Business

Lee, of Fresno, earned her M.B.A. with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned a B.S. in business administration, entrepreneurship at Fresno State. She completed her undergraduate degree at 19 years old and finished her master’s in only three semesters at age 21. After the successful launch of her HiLow Podcast, which focused on sharing personal experiences and research for individuals living with bipolar disorder, her entrepreneurial spirit continued. She participated in pitch competitions as a graduate student, and she completed an internship with Academic Success Coaching on campus where she developed a passion for working with students in higher education and hopes to teach some day. While she pursued her master’s, Lee worked full time as an economic development specialist for the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, where she led business retention and expansion efforts in Fresno and Clovis. She now lives in Austin, Texas and works to help Asian entrepreneurs as a marketing and communications intern at the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Rodolfo Lopez, Lyles College of Engineering

Lopez, of Dinuba, earned his M.S. in civil engineering with a 3.84 GPA. He previously earned a dual B.A. in mass communication and journalism and Spanish from Fresno State. When Lopez’s life and economic situation changed, he realized it was time to choose a different career path. But before he could be admitted to a master’s program in engineering, he had to complete civil engineering undergraduate courses. Completing assignments and maintaining above a B letter grade was a challenge for the full-time working father of two young children. He would never miss a class, was always on time and participated in class discussions. It took Lopez four years to complete his required courses to get into the master’s degree program. He took his first engineering course in 2014 and set a goal to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam before graduating. He passed the exam in November and graduated in December 2023. Lopez was an engineering intern for the California High Speed Rail and now works as an transportation engineer for Caltrans.

Hermelinda Hernandez Monjaras, College of Arts and Humanities

Monjaras, of Fresno, earned her M.F.A. in creative writing with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned her B.A. in English with an option in creative writing from Fresno State. Monjaras was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and is an undocumented aspiring poet of Zapoteco descent. She has an extensive history of publishing poetry in places such as Poets.org; Undocupoetics, An Introduction (forthcoming); and the Fresno 15: Creative Writing Marathon, to name a few. She’s also a graduate artist at Juan Felipe Herrera’s Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio and has received a fellowship from the Community of Writers. She taught three courses in the MFA program: two English composition classes and a poetry class. Her editorial background includes participating as a co-editor in school literary journals such as the Hmong American Ink & Stories and poetry prize contests such as the The Philip Levine Poetry Prize, for which she served as an editorial team leader. She was a reader for Noemi Press; Firecracker Awards; and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. In the future, Monjaras plans to pursue teaching, writing and editing.

Angel Rojas, College of Social Sciences

Rojas, of Fresno, earned his M.A. in history with a 3.92 GPA. He previously earned a B.S. in biochemistry and a B.A. in history at Fresno State. Rojas is the first in his family to attend and graduate from a four-year university and the first to graduate with his master’s. He was interested in pursuing chemistry but, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rojas learned about the structural disadvantages that harm marginalized communities in health care. He spent his graduate program understanding the early modern dynamics of science as an institution and voice of power and authority. His thesis, on the intersection of British colonial and indigenous medical practices, required learning how to read in Latin and French. Rojas took courses in both languages at Fresno State and attended a summer session at the Middlebury Language Institute in Vermont to learn more French. He has presented his research at more than 10 conferences, served as vice president of the History Graduate Student Association for two years and is now president. In the fall, he will attend the University of Pittsburgh to pursue a doctoral degree in history.

M. Orlando Tapia, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Tapia, of Huron, earned his M.S. in plant science, with a 4.0 GPA. He previously earned a B.S. in biology from the University of Sonora, Mexico. Tapia learned about plant growth, pest scouting, identification and more while riding through the fields with his father, a pest control adviser. He decided to pursue a master’s in plant science to understand how agriculture can be more productive and sustainable. His research looks at agricultural biologicals, an emerging sector that supports productivity, improved input efficiencies and less impact on natural resources. He presented at the American Society of Horticultural Science Conference (ASHS) and received an award for Graduate Student Presentation. Tapia also joined professional work groups such as the ASHS Temperate Tree Nut Crops special interest group, which focuses on various aspects of research unique to tree nut crops. He is a full-time employee for Corteva Agriscience, responsible for the design, supervision and execution of field-level research. Tapia would like to pursue a doctoral degree in agricultural science and increase his involvement in science communication and outreach activities at community colleges and universities.

Belen Torres, Kremen School of Education and Human Development

Torres, of Soledad, earned her M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in student affairs and college counseling, with a 4.0 GPA. She previously earned her B.A. in public affairs with a minor in Chicana and Chicano studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Torres found a sense of belonging at Fresno State after a challenging undergraduate experience and a complicated family life that led to feelings of inadequacy as a first-generation college student of color. She channeled her energy into education and found impactful opportunities to uplift herself and those like her. Torres received a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities scholarship and a Graduate Equity Fellowship. She is a graduate student research fellow for Enseñamos en el Valle Central, and she was nominated for an Outstanding Graduate Student award by the California College Personnel Association. Torres serves as a member-at-large for the Student Affairs and College Counseling Program Graduate Student Association. She also works full time as a recruitment assistant for Fresno State’s Admissions and Recruitment office. Torres plans to pursue a doctoral degree in the future.

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