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College of Arts and Humanities

2017 Students of Distinction2017 Department Nominees and Awardees

Undergraduate The College’s Students of Distinction are selected from among the most accomplished graduating students from each of the nine departments within the college.

"They are not only brilliant in the classroom, but they also are model human beings," said Associate Dean Honora Chapman. "When they are not studying, working, or taking care of their families, they make sustained and significant contributions to our University and community."

From the 17 Students of Distinction, two students are named Dean's Medalists, one undergraduate and one graduate.

The College’s Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist becomes a contender for the 2017 President’s Medal that is awarded at Commencement.  The President's Medal is the highest honor the University bestows on a graduate.

The College's Graduate Dean's Medalist becomes a contender for the University Graduate Medal, the highest honor the university bestows on a graduate student at Commencement.

Undergraduate level:

  • Runners-up, who will be the Standard Bearers at this year's University Commencement, on May 20: Chrysanthe Pappas, from music, and Juan Guzman, from philosophy.
  • Undergraduate Dean's Medalist: Cathleen Fagundes, from communication.

Graduate level:

  • Honorable Mentions: Melissa Harris, from communication, and Cara Peracchi-Douglas from MCJ.
  • Graduate Dean's Medalist: Jamie Boley, from art and design. Jamie is also the recipient of our College’s 2017 Graduate Thesis/Project Award, for her exhibit titled “Standing in the Gap: Of Here and In-Between.” This deeply moving series of paintings, charcoal drawings, and video manages, in the eyes of the judges, “to cause her audience to be drawn into an engagement with the mysteries of perception.”

2017 College of Arts and Humanities Students of Distinction

Department of Art and Design

Caitlyn D. Cardoza, B.A.

Caitlyn D. Cardoza is a Smittcamp Family Honors College student and a participant in the College of Arts and Humanities Honors Program.  In the community, Caitlyn has volunteered in various organizations, such as the Rotary Club and Unicef; she has also played club water polo for Fresno State.  Caitlyn’s future endeavors are to attend graduate school and to be accredited in an animated film before a theatre audience. Professor Paula Durette admires Caitlyn’s motivation, artistic talents, dynamic energy, and work ethic, observing that Caitlyn is “engaged with complex technical processes in 3D animation usually reserved for graduate level work.”

Jamie Nakagawa Boley, M.A.

In addition to completing her M.A. program in Art, Jamie Nakagawa Boley also teaches lower-division art courses on campus, and volunteers at Art Visalia teaching art courses to children.  She works with Native American youth through ODVC, a non profit Native American program, using art as a means of self-expression and goal-setting.  Jamie has applied to several prestigious MFA programs in painting, including the California Institute of the Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the words of painting professor, Nick Potter, Jamie Boley “has been the most outstanding student in the painting and drawing area that I have ever worked with … capturing something important about our time and place, both in terms of the Central Valley of California and drought, but even more importantly ... what is happening nationally in terms of environment and politics. Her work can address these issues through a Native American filter but is inclusive of all of us.”

Department of Communication

Cathleen Fagundes, B.A.

Cathleen Fagundes is a member of both the Renaissance Scholars program and the Smittcamp Family Honors College.  Through the McNair Scholars program, she researched Fresno’s homelessness, presenting her communication ethnography at the Undergraduate Research Scholars Conference in Utah.  With the end goal of being an elementary school teacher for at-risk students, she has applied to graduate schools throughout California. Dr. Shane Moreman says she is a scholar who represents the best of the arts and humanities, “seeking to affect positive change for those around her.”

Melissa R. Harris, M.A.

Melissa B. Harris is a role-model student, scholar, teacher, and community member. Her commitment to her research, teaching, and service are evidence of the hard work and dedication she brings to all that she does.  Melissa looks forward to making a difference with her research and teaching as she pursues her Ph.D. in Communication. Dr. Marnel Niles Goins said, “This innovative research project provides crucial insights into past and present social structures that necessitate an exclusive discussion with African American males regarding prohibited social behaviors in American society.”

Department of English

Jenna Wilson, B.A.

Jenna Wilson, who is enrolled in the College of Arts and Humanities Honors Program, is noted as an outstanding student and active participant in the life of the Department, College and University.  According to Dr. Ruth Jenkins, Jenna “reads, thinks, researches, and reflects on the course materials as a sophisticated scholar.” As a tutor in the Writing Center, Jenna works closely with students in small groups as well as engaging in the weekly in-service study that the Center offers the tutors.  Upon completion of her B.A., she plans to enter the single subject credential program at CSU, San Marcos and then, ultimately, teach either middle school or high school English.

Mireyda Barraza Martinez, M.F.A.

Mireyda (Mia) Barraza Martinez was an inspirational and extremely energetic leader on campus and in the community — always working to connect the two worlds.  In Fall 2016, Mia was one of two M.F.A. students selected to work with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as a Graduate Artist in a space that has become known as the Poet Laureate Lab.  Mia was a poet-activist: “Leaving a poem on a page,” she wrote, “isn’t satisfactory when I know how deeply poetry has affected me.  There is a sense of urgency – poetry needs to get up and do something.”  Although Mia did not live long enough to represent our university in person throughout a long life, she accomplished a surprising and significant amount in her (almost) 30 years.  We are confident that she will have at least one posthumous book of poems on the library shelves before too long, and that her name, her words, and her work will always be associated with Fresno State’s brilliant legacy of writers.

Kyle Hoover, M.A.

Kyle Hoover is described by the English M.A. faculty as being an exceptional student – academically sophisticated and intellectually curious.  As an undergraduate and graduate student, Kyle took six years of Japanese, and also spent one semester in a four-month study of Japanese language and culture at the University of Tokiwa.  He looks forward to returning to Japan and to the experience of teaching, as well as immersing himself in the culture. His 4.0 GPA is a testament, according to Dr. Chris Henson, to Kyle’s “impressive critical sense, sensitivity to the nuances of language, and wonderful curiosity about cultural diversity.”

Department of Linguistics

Brian P. Moran, B.A.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Brian P. Moran became interested in our program in Computational Linguistics.  Brian helped organize and facilitate recordings of both dictionary entries ( and narrative stories from some of the last fluent speakers of the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara languages.  Brian was selected in a highly competitive process to become the Document Associate with the Language Conservancy on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Dr. John Boyle said, “I will be honored to be able to say that he was one of my students.” Brian is planning on pursuing an M.A. in Computational Linguistics and is currently preparing a paper for the Workshop on American Indigenous Languages, held at U.C. Santa Barbara.

Mark P. Ryan, M.A.

Mark P. Ryan contributed to the revitalization and documentation of the Dumna language and the Chalon language projects, and also is a successful ESL teacher at the AEI (American English Institute).  AEI Director Cheryl Chen has said Mark’s “respect for and desire to learn from people of different backgrounds has made him a true global citizen.” Mark contributed to the community through his volunteer work in the “Touch the Community” project, assistant teaching ESL classes at Fresno Adult School and as a gifted folk musician performing at the local community and AEI events. Mark plans to pursue a career as an ESL teacher at the AEI, Fresno Adult School, or similar institutions.

Department of Media, Communications and Journalism

Sierra D. Downey, B.A.

As a Smittcamp Scholar and a student with a major in MCJ and a minor in History, Sierra D. Downey demonstrates that she values education, works hard to excel in all areas of her coursework, and isn’t afraid to take the path that will provide more challenge and rigor.  Sierra researched and produced a half-hour audio documentary on self-harm and suicide within Native American communities. Dr. Bradley Hart states, “Sierra is unquestionably one of the most talented students I have taught at Fresno State.” She served as the B# Multimedia Production Club Vice President, Sigma Alpha Iota’s Corresponding Secretary, a Learning Center Tutor in the Library, and a tutor at the Ricchiuti Academic Center.  Although she has decided to take a year off from academia, she is set on returning soon.

Cara Peracchi-Douglas, M.A.

After working in a professional career for approximately l7 years and receiving many accolades, Cara Peracchi-Douglas decided to return to higher education and pursue her M.A. degree in Media, Communications and Journalism.  Throughout her career and her graduate studies, Cara has shown a strong commitment to her community and the university.  Despite the devastating events that paused Cara's pursuit of her master's degree a few years ago, her new goal after achieving her master's degree is to pursue a Ph.D. and return to Fresno State to teach and prepare the next generation of professionals in the field. As Associate Dean Don Stengel of the Craig School says, “The fact that she completed her degree and kept her positive focus is inspiring.”

Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures

Maria G. Madrigal Piceno, B.A.

A first-generation university student, María G. Madrigal Piceno received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish in Fall 2016.  In Spring 2017 she was accepted in the Spanish Master’s program in Fresno State, and is currently a member of APCE club, the mission of which is to promote the Spanish-speaking cultures. María wants to be a Spanish Literature teacher, to teach her students that through literature not only will they be able to learn about the subject, but also the culture of the different Spanish-speaking countries. Dr. Paula Sanmartín has written, “If María's desire to learn has no limits, the happiness that she shows while working at it, is also limitless.”

Jesús Serrano, M.A.

Soon to graduate with a Master of Arts in Spanish, Jesús Serrano’s thesis examines the different constructions of masculinities produced within social institutions and how they affect identity development in men.   He has worked as a substitute teacher, a volunteer translator/interpreter and as a probation technician.  Jesús is currently writing his M.A. thesis and plans to earn a doctorate in Latin American Literature. Dr. Debbie Avila evinces the transformative power of the humanities by stating, “Jesús did not start out intending to be a scholar and a teacher, but little by little he evolved into just that through hard work, passion and intellectual curiosity.”

Department of Music

Chrysanthe Pappas, B.A.

Throughout her time at Fresno State, Chrysanthe Pappas has demonstrated excellence in the classroom, on the stage, and in the community.  An avid volunteer, she collects and distributes food and gifts to impoverished families, shares her talents with residents at Nazareth House and Hinds Hospice, and has been a long-standing volunteer for the annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk in Fresno.  After graduation, Chrysanthe plans to pursue Graduate studies in Vocal Performance. Her voice teacher has observed, “She has a musical maturity beyond her years and her ability to color and shade her tone is astounding. Chrysanthe is also a talented dancer as she displayed in our full production of Carmen.”

Micah P.A. Davison, M.A.

Throughout his time at Fresno State, Micah P.A. Davison has demonstrated excellence in his academics and musical performances.  In addition, Micah has held leadership positions in several professional and community organizations, including the California All-State Music Education Conference, the Fresno-Madera County Music Educators Association, and the Fresno State Percussion Organization. After graduation, he plans to pursue a doctorate degree in Performance. Dr. Gary Gilroy explains, “As a player I have seen very few students accomplish at Micah’s level. His performance is outstanding!”  Micah won the Fresno State Concerto Competition as an undergraduate, and in January 2017, captured the prize again as a graduate student.

Department of Philosophy

Juan J. Guzman, B.A.

Juan J. Guzman is a Smittcamp Family Honors College student with a double major in Philosophy and Criminology.  Juan has served in various leadership roles, including his service as Vice-Chair of the University Student Union Board of Directors.  Juan plans to earn a J.D. as well as a graduate degree in Higher Education Administration. As Professor Carolyn Cusick says, “There just must be more hours in his day than in mine.”

Department of Theatre Arts

Dezmen O. Diaz, B.A.

Dezmen O. Diaz’s scholarly and creative work is of the highest standards, and he strives for excellence both at his craft in the area of acting as well as behind the scenes in our scenic department. Dezmen is the ultimate team player and possesses a positive spirit, which makes him a joy to work with on creative projects. Dezmen plans to passionately pursue an acting career following his graduation from Fresno State. Dez recently attended the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Arizona where he and his scene partner were semi-finalists in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition.

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Future Students

Previous Years Nominees and Awardees