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Nine students named Graduate Medalists at Fresno State

(May 4, 2012) – Nine top graduate students have been named Deans Graduate Medalists for the Class of 2012 at Fresno State, chosen as the outstanding student in each of the university’s eight schools and colleges and the Division of Student Affairs.

Each dean selects an undergraduate medalist and a graduate medalist based on academic excellence, community involvement and other achievements.

One medalist will be announced as the University Graduate Medal winner at the 101st University Commencement at 9:30 a.m. May 19 at the Save Mart Center.

Class of 2012 Graduate Medalists are:

Marcelo Moretti, Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology – Moretti completed an M.S. in Plant Science with a 4.0 GPA. He completed his bachelor's degree in Agronomy Engineering at University of Sao Paulo, his hometown in Brazil, in 2008. His master’s thesis project determined the first-ever globally known case of hairy fleabane, a problematic weed species in California agriculture. The research earned national and international recognition as the first documentation and confirmation of a weed species resistant to two different herbicides. Moretti received several awards and scholarships stemming from his performance at Fresno State. He is preparing his work for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, while attending the University of California, Davis, where he is pursuing a doctorate in Horticulture and Agronomy.

Andre Yang, College of Arts and Humanities – Yang completed an M.F.A. in English (Creative Writing) with a 3.93 GPA. A Fresnan, he is the eldest child of Hmong refugee immigrants and grew up struggling with English. He was the first in his family to attend a university, earning a bachelor's degree at Fresno State in Liberal Studies. He discovered his talent for and love of writing in his senior year. In the M.F.A. program, Yang excelled in poetry and co-founded the Hmong American Writers Circle to develop a Hmong literary culture. He is a published poet in journals such as Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Lantern Review. He has received numerous awards and scholarships, including the Philip Levine Scholarship. He served as editorial assistant to Fresno State's Normal School literary magazine. His goal is to teach at the university level.

Huong Thi Thu Mai, Craig School of Business – Mai completed an M.B.A. with a 4.0 GPA. Mai chose business because it has been her passion since she was a girl in Vietnam. She grew up witnessing a country rebuild its economy in the aftermath of war. Mai was a successful pianist and music teacher, but retained a passion for a business career. After moving to the United States, she entered the M.B.A. program and built a foundation upon which to pursue her dream amidst challenges of a language barrier and of being a wife and mother. During her graduate studies, Mai took additional accounting classes to qualify for California’s C.P.A. exam. She will begin her accounting career in Fresno with Deloitte & Touche. Eventually, she would like to obtain a doctorate and pursue a career in higher education.

Loretta French, Kremen School of Education and Human Development – French, of Clovis, completed an M.A. in Special Education with a 4.0 GPA. Her master’s thesis explored the key components of response to intervention programs while investigating whether a difference exists in reading achievement for students receiving RTI interventions. During her master's program, French has been employed full time by the Clovis Unified School District as a teacher of preschool children with disabilities and as a K-6 resource specialist. While attending the credential program she was named Outstanding Credential Student in both 2005-06 and 2010-11. French was admitted to the Golden Key International Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi. She also served as a volunteer with the Tzu Chi Foundation. In her immediate future is work as a resource specialist, but French hopes eventually to earn a doctorate.


Sven Fagerstrom, Lyles College of Engineering – Fagerstrom, of Fresno, earned an M.S. in Engineering with a 3.8 GPA. He served as the project manager of the highly successful Lyles College Unmanned Aerial Systems Project, was a laboratory instructor and graduate teaching assistant. Fagerstrom presented results of his graduate research at the International Symposium on Modeling and Simulation in Calgary, Canada. He is a member of honor societies in engineering. He works as a project engineer at Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Committed to community service, Fagerstrom helps socially disadvantaged people find jobs, gain an education, overcome communication barriers, maintain family stability and participate in the community. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. His long-term interest is to return to academia as a faculty member and researcher.

Katherine Williamson, College of Health and Human Services – Williamson, of Kingsburg, completed an M.S. in Kinesiology with a 4.0 GPA. She was one of two recipients of the President's Graduate Scholars Award. Williamson was a graduate assistant and teaching assistant in the kinesiology activity program. She was the Sport Psychology Club president and was instrumental in organizing and planning a 5K run/walk that benefited Special Olympics. During the past two summers, Williamson traveled to Swaziland for a building and reconstruction project and to help children. She serves in her church and has been involved in inner-city and international mission trips. Last summer, she was a behavioral coach and clinical director for a national health and wellness company in New York. Her plans include pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology.

Jodi Holeman, College of Science and Mathematics – Holeman, of Madera, completed an M.S. in Biology with a 3.93 GPA. Since 2005, she has made 14 presentations at national and regional conferences. She has published a peer-reviewed journal article, "Identification of Culex pipiens complex mosquitoes in a hybrid zone of West Nile transmission in Fresno County, Calif." and two non-peer-reviewed articles. Holeman's mosquito abatement research resulted in agencies applying smaller amounts of pesticides over more limited areas. Holeman is a professional biologist and GIS specialist for the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District in Selma. She believes in giving back to the community and regularly returns to her high school to speak to biology classes. She plans to continue her career in mosquito control and prevention of mosquito-borne diseases.


Cashen Boccio, College of Social Science – Boccio, of Moraga, earned an M.S. in Criminology with a 4.0 GPA. Despite not having a background in Criminology (her undergraduate degree is in biological sciences), she completed her coursework in just one year. She assisted professors in projects researching property crime and the medical aspects of bullying. Boccio also completed a thesis that assessed the development in impulsivity and criminal behavior. She presented her research at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in March. Boccio also was a graduate assistant in the Department of Criminology and is a member of American Society of Criminology. She plans to pursue a doctorate in the study of behavioral neuroscience.


Dakota Draconi, Division of Student Affairs – Draconi, of Napa, completed a Master’s in Social Work with a 3.96 GPA. Her graduation comes after a great personal loss: at the onset of her final year in the program, her 21-year-old son passed away suddenly. She temporarily lost hope in the future, but after taking a semester off to grieve, she returned to finish her graduate program. Draconi served on the leadership team of the Fresno State National Coalition Building Institute and played major roles in bringing back to life United Student Pride, the Fresno State lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student group, and the LGBT+ Allies. She volunteers with the Marjaree Mason Center and participates in Take Back the Night, an event designed to raise awareness about violence. Draconi plans a career in social work, inspired by her son’s death and using that experience to better serve clients.

Category: Education


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