Campus: CSU, Fresno -- May 1, 2000

Class Of 2000 Dean's Medalists Announced

The California State University, Fresno Dean's Medalists - the Class of 2000's top ten students - were announced April 28 by President John D. Welty.

They are now under consideration for the highest honor given to a graduating student at the 89th Annual Commencement ceremony - the President's Medal, which will be announced at Fresno State's Commencement, May 20. The procession begins at 9 a.m. in Bulldog Stadium.

The Dean's Medal honors the top graduating student in each of the university's eight schools and colleges of academic discipline and the divisions of Graduate Studies and Student Affairs. The deans of each college, school and division select a medalist based on academic excellence, community involvement and other outstanding achievements.

The medalists range from a student who was stabbed and assaulted when she was a teen involved in gangs, to a tennis standout who speaks several languages, to a sight-impaired student who relentlessly pursued his goal to earn a college degree.

The ten Class of 2000 Dean's Medalists are:

Ms. Yala Vang of Fresno - Agricultural Sciences and Technology

Ms. Wakako Yasuda of Fresno - Arts and Humanities

Ms. Dora Djilianova of Reseda - Business

Ms. Enedina (Anna) Ramirez of Fresno - Education and Human Development

Mr. John Jamison of Sanger - Engineering and Computer Science

Ms. Leslie A. Cox of Fresno - Health and Human Services

Mr. David J. Schonherr of Fresno -Science and Mathematics

Ms. Sandra Stephenson of Fresno - Social Sciences

Mr. Justin J. Bain of Fresno - Division of Graduate Studies; and

Mr. Robert T. Rose of Clovis - Division of Student Affairs

California State University, Fresno

Yala Vang
B.S., Food and Nutritional Sciences (Option in Dietetics and Food Administration)

Yala Vang, the oldest of ten children, was born in the refugee camps of Thailand and came to the United States when she was two years old. She was a class valedictorian at Edison High School.

Vang, whose cumulative GPA is 3.52, was one of the university's four finalists for the Volunteer Bureau's Student Volunteer of the Year Award in 1998.

She recently completed an independent study project to develop an appropriate tool for collecting dietary information from the Hmong community. The tool will be used as part of a Fresno County grant aimed at reducing health problems in this population.

"As a registered dietician, Yala Vang will be an asset to her community and profession," said Dr. Daniel P. Bartell, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

Vang has served as an agricultural ambassador for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, as a library aide for the Fresno County Free Library, and as a teacher's aide at Fresno City College.

Wakako Yasuda
B.A., General Linguistics

Wakako Yasuda embodies the philosophy that students can be high achievers when provided relevant opportunities, said Dr. Luis F. Costa, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

A high school dropout, Yasuda's academic achievements at Fresno State include a grade point average of 3.92 and a number of awards and honors.

Specifically, Yasuda stands apart from a very strong field of departmental nominees because of her success as an undergraduate researcher. She has presented a paper at the International Association of Forensic Science with her mentor, Dr. Gerald McMenamin, and a paper on Shakespeare's meter at a colloquium in the Department of Linguistics.

"She is brilliant in the classroom and as a researcher," Costa said.

In less than two years living in English speaking countries, she became an undergraduate tutor not just for ESL students, but for students in English A and English 1 as well.

Dora Djilianova
B.S., Business (finance option) - Summer term, 1999

After completing high school in Bulgaria, Dora Djilianova came to Fresno State on a tennis scholarship in 1996. She became one of the top Division I tennis players while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Fluent in English and Bulgarian, and proficient in Russian, French and Macedonian, Djilianova served as a foreign language interpreter for the Educational Research Center.

She has participated in fundraising for the Special Olympics and is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and Golden Key national honor societies, the Financial Management Association and the Student Athlete Advisory Board.

"Dora is the epitome of the student athlete, " says Fred J. Evans, Dean of the Craig School of Business. "She was ranked number four nationally in the ITA Collegiate rankings, was the top GTE All-American and was Fresno State Athlete of the year in 1999."

Enedina (Anna) Ramirez
B.A. in Liberal Studies

The medallion that will be placed around Anna Ramirez's neck at this year's commencement will represent a long journey from the day she was assaulted, stabbed and nearly paralyzed at the age of fourteen, said Dr. Paul Shaker, dean of the School of Education and Human Development.

To compound matters, Ramirez' senior year was nearly derailed when a fire destroyed her belongings prior to the fall semester.

Her teen life in gangs was turned around when she was placed in a foster home. Ramirez now serves as a volunteer counselor/mentor at her former foster home and said she relishes the opportunity to make a difference in the life of troubled teenagers.

"Enedina has had to overcome many obstacles in her young life that would have defeated others in a similar situation," Shaker said. "However, her determination to succeed and strength of character motivated her to do her very best and to not give up."

Ramirez, who is graduating with a 3.68 GPA, wants to become a high school guidance counselor and plans to work toward a Pupil Personnel Services Credential and a master's degree in social welfare.

John Jamison
B.S., Computer Science

John Jamison, who will graduate with a 4.0 GPA, recently scored in the 99th percentile on the computer science Graduate Record Examination (GRE). He plans to pursue a doctorate in computer science.

His Fresno State training has assisted him in his current part-time employment as an intern with Pelco Industries, where he is involved in software product development and supervises interns.

The Fresno City College transfer is a member of the computer science honor society Upsilon Pi Epsilon and the student chapters of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. In addition, Jamison is a very active volunteer for projects such as the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries.

"For many years his family subsisted at the poverty level and moved regularly while his father completed his education," said Dr. Karl Longley, dean the College of Engineering and Computer Science. "John states that this experience gave him the determination and sensitivity to the needs of the community that has led him to regularly serving the community."

Leslie A. Cox
B.A., Communicative Disorders

When her son was born deaf, Leslie Cox's life changed forever. Returning to school, she became an advocate for the needs of deaf children and has worked to ensure that area schools have adequate programs for the hard-of-hearing.

Cox worked steadily on her bachelor's degree by taking night classes while juggling family responsibilities, determined to be successful without sacrificing her role as mother.

"Mrs. Cox is a nontraditional student whose passion for education is rooted in her personal story as a wife and mother," said Dr. Ben Cuellar, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "With the birth of her deaf son, she and her husband were thrown into a world that was unknown to them - one that they would have to conquer if they were to serve as parents and as an advocate for their child."

While researching the best method to use in communicating with her deaf son, Cox became certified as a cued speech transliterator. She also conducts training sessions to teach cued speech to others. She has a cumulative GPA of 3.6 and a 4.0 GPA in her major courses.

David J. Schonherr
B.S., Math and B.S., Physics

David Schonherr, who spent ten years working in his family's tire business before entering college, is answering the call for more teachers.

Schonherr, a high school dropout who obtained a GED, will graduate this spring with a double major in mathematics and physics and plans to become a high school teacher in those subjects. He has an overall GPA of 3.98 and a Fresno State GPA of 4.0. He is now eyeing a master's degree in physics at Fresno State.

"Fortunately for David, and for us, an interest in electronics ultimately led him to enroll in college and this fostered his subsequent interest in mathematics and physics," said Dr. Kin Ping Wong, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Schonherr is still working in his family's tire business. However, he gives freely of his time to tutor both lower division and advanced students in mathematics and physics, the dean said.

Sandra Stephenson
B.A., Sociology

Completing her undergraduate degree last summer with a cumulative 4.0 GPA, Sandra Stephenson is now in the Ph.D. program at UC Davis, where her dissertation will include examining the impact of highways on communities.

Stephenson presented a paper at the Student Research Conference of the Social Science Research and Instructional Council, "Finding the Roots of Tolerance in American Society," in which she did secondary data analysis of public opinion on suicide.

"Sandra has won the admiration of faculty for her accomplishments both in class and in special research and other projects where she utilized her skills in data analysis and statistical reporting," said Dr. Ellen Gruenbaum, dean of the College of Social Sciences.

A non-traditional student, Stephenson has worked and volunteered in the community while raising a family and caring for an elderly parent - her mother, who died in December. A family-oriented mother of three teenagers, Stephenson also worked full-time as an office manager and paralegal in her husband's professional office.

She has performed as a pianist in the jazz band at Fresno State and also as a solo jazz artist. She volunteered for Bullard High School's Marching Band and Jazz Band and was involved in the Northwest Church choir.

Justin J. Bain
M.A., English (Composition Theory Option)

A model CSU graduate, Justin Bain already carries several academic distinctions. He holds a 4.0 GPA in his master's work and graduated summa cum laude in 1998 with his undergraduate degree.

"Justin has an imposing record of publications and conference papers to his credit, ranging from literary analysis of medieval mummers' plays to online email tutoring," said Dr. Vivian Vidoli, dean of Graduate Studies. Three of these studies have been delivered in nationally competitive forums across the nation, in New Hampshire, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.

Bain has been recognized for his abilities with a steady series of honors and awards. He is a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar and has been a Rodman Presidential Scholar, a Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholar and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. He has been president of the English Graduate Students Association (EGSA), director of its Colloquium Series and chair of its spring conference.

Bain's community activities include working as a Sunday School teacher, as a judge and a judge trainer for the Fresno Unified School District's Academic Decathlon and serving as a tutor at Fresno High School in the university's Joint Literacy Program.

Robert T. Rose
B.A., History

Born with a congenital disease of the retina, Robert Terry Rose was gradually losing his sight when at the age of 30, he decided to change the course of his life. With his vision deteriorating badly, Rose took up the challenge of earning a college education. This May, he graduates with a cumulative GPA of 3.86 and a 4.0 in his Fresno State coursework and as a Dean's Medalist - one of the university's top ten students.

"Robert experienced much difficulty in high school, as little accommodation was made for his disability," said Dr. Judy K. Sakaki, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, who selected him. "In fact, he had a 1.3 grade point average and barely graduated from high school."

Rose advises mentors and tutors other students through the Reentry Program, the Services for Students with Disabilities Office and the History Department. He serves on the President's Committee on Disabilities and is also working with the Architectural Barriers Committee on campus.

Rose aspires to teach history at the university level and has recently been accepted into a doctoral program in history at the University of California at Irvine. His special area of interest is American History.

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