Meet the 2016 Deans’ Award recipients

Each spring, the deans of the University's seven Colleges select a student who they feel exemplifies the best of their College. From those students, President Robert S. Nelsen chooses the recipient of the President’s Medal as the academic year’s outstanding graduate. This year’s Deans’ Award recipients are:

College of Arts and Letters

Stephanie Gin, Art History

Stephanie Gin has a passion for Native American culture. She is treasurer of the art history club and interned with the Maidu Museum and History site in Roseville, where she assisted the gallery/museum coordinator on exhibitions featuring the work of Native American artists. Stephanie’s professors praise her outstanding research papers on artists and subjects. One netted her a scholarship and another is published and available for further art history studies. Her goals after graduation include working in a gallery or museum as a collections manager, researcher or archivist, and obtaining a master’s degree in art history.

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Stephanie Gin

College of Business Administration

Payam Hojjat, Management Information Systems

Payam Hojjat credits hard work and determination for overcoming 72 grand mal seizures in three months. He went from re-learning his own name to a near-perfect grade point average and a professional certification in management information systems. Payam also gives back to the community, having served as a project manager for the Rotary Club and is a U.S. Soccer Federation referee for youth programs in northern California. He plans to pursue a master’s degree in data science, a doctorate in management information systems and eventually start his own business intelligence and analytics consulting company.

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Payam Hojjat

College of Education

Nicole Hunter, Education

Nicole Hunter realized early on that she would not be defined by her past. Raised in Stockton by a single mother, Nicole started working at age 15 while taking high school honors courses and graduating a semester early. She earned her associate’s degree in 2001, but due to family and work obligations, put off pursuing further education until recently. This spring, Nicole is graduating summa cum laude from Sacramento State with a degree in education. She plans to pursue her master’s degree and eventually open a career training center offering skills and resources for adults. In her spare time, Nicole provides guidance to young girls as a local Girl Scout troop leader.

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Nicole Hunter

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Christopher Potts, Mechanical Engineering, Blended

Christopher Potts might as well be a student-faculty member. The study guides he developed were used to augment the challenging engineering materials course curriculum and he has worked with professors on a course redesign. He also helps coordinate and facilitate lab experiments as a student assistant. Christopher holds leadership positions with the Tau Beta Pi honor society and the Engineering and Computer Science Joint Council, and has assisted in planning events such as the College Open House. He will continue studying at Sac State through the master’s in mechanical engineering program.

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Christopher Potts

College of Health and Human Services

Maricela Cortes, Speech Pathology and Audiology

Maricela Cortes has vivid memories of working in the fields alongside her Mexican immigrant parents. Laboring in sweltering heat, she realized that education would be her only way to overcome poverty. Fluent in Spanish and English, Maricela is conducting research to examine outcomes of bilingual intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She volunteered as an interpreter and with the Student Health and Counseling Services clinic, performing hearing screenings and pre-referrals for speech and language. Maricela plans to continue her education and eventually lead a non-profit that helps low-income families receive speech-language services.

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Maricela Cortes

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Melissa Bardo, Biological Sciences

Melissa Bardo’s professors describe the biological sciences major as one of the most impressive students the faculty have encountered. Melissa served as president and CEO of Associated Students, Inc., representing more than 30,000 students and serving as a liaison between administration and students. She also was a mentor for the Peer-Assisted Learning program, guiding students through difficult concepts in chemistry, and served as a student representative on the boards for The University Foundation at Sacramento State, California State Student Association and Sacramento State Alumni Association. 

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Melissa Bardo

College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies

Jennifer Herring, Liberal Studies

Helping others comes naturally to Jennifer Herring—from planning a week-long “vacation bible school” program for children in Mexico to organizing monthly barbeques for homeless people in downtown Sacramento. In addition, she works part-time as a children’s ministry director tutoring children of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The mother of two hopes to become an elementary school teacher. This summer she will earn both a multi-subject teaching credential and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction while serving children in a diverse Title I school.

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Jennifer Herring