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Dean’s Awards 2023 – Resourceful History major persevered on path to a degree, career in diplomacy

Douglas Andreasen, a History major, is the Dean's Award recipient for the College of Arts and Letters. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

When illness caused Douglas Andreasen to fall behind in high school, he decided to home-school himself to catch up – and ended up graduating early.

As a Sacramento State student, he applied for and received a scholarship to travel to Indonesia as a citizen diplomat and critical language scholar – fulfilling his foreign language requirement over the summer rather than an entire semester.

Such resourcefulness and out-of-the-box thinking have been Andreasen’s hallmarks throughout his journey to a college degree, a trek that will end with him being honored as one of the top graduating students in the Class of 2023.

Andreasen, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in History before going on to graduate school and a career in diplomacy, is the recipient of the Dean’s Award for the College of Arts and Letters. Deans’ Awards are given annually at Commencement to seven outstanding graduating students, one for each of Sac State’s academic colleges.

History Professor Chloe Burke, who nominated Andreasen for the award, wrote in her accompanying letter that she had served as his adviser for two years and was “continually impressed by Douglas’ academic excellence … and what I came to see as his joyful dedication to making the most of life in pursuit of making the greatest contribution possible.”

The youngest of six siblings, Andreasen grew up in Yuba County, North Sacramento, and Rio Linda. He faced adversity early in life when his parents struggled with unemployment and drug addiction. At one point, the family lived in tents.

His parents eventually got clean and found work, the family secured stable housing, and Andreasen home-schooled his way to a high school diploma. But the missed school time meant he struggled with math, and assumed a college degree was not possible for him.

“(I was) continually impressed by Douglas’ academic excellence … and what I came to see as his joyful dedication to making the most of life in pursuit of making the greatest contribution possible.” -- Chloe Burke, professor of History

He spent the first couple of years after high school graduation working and touring with his band, before a friend convinced him to enroll at American River College, where he discovered his passion for history.

“I had always known that I really dug history and thought it was interesting, but I was sort of a history major in denial,” Andreasen said. “But I realized at some point that history was my favorite academic subject.”

Andreasen transferred to Sac State in 2021, becoming the first in his family to attend a four-year college. In addition to excelling in the classroom, he dedicated himself to helping the community. Through the Partnerships to Advance the Value of Education program, he served as a tutor in underserved K-12 schools. As a member of the inaugural #CaliforniansForAll College Corps, he worked as a mentor in an after-school program.

“Education is probably my second-favorite thing,” he said. “It was really easy to set aside the history thing for a minute and work with kids and try to help improve educational outcomes – be an advocate for education in general.”

He assumed he would go into teaching, but his summer in Indonesia changed his career trajectory. A professor encouraged him to apply for additional scholarships in government, and soon he received a fellowship that will provide money to attend graduate school at Sac State, followed by a guaranteed, five-year post as a diplomat.

Even though he will soon embark on a career that likely will take him around the world, he hopes he eventually finds his way back to Sac State as a professor.

“I really like the idea of coming to a place that I’ve already been to and being able to give back to the people who have made my life better,” Andreasen said. “Also, I like Sac State. It’s cool. I’d like to one day be a part of the faculty here and do the same thing I had such a good time being a part of.”

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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