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Dean Award Recipients Division of Student Affairs

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Dean Award Recipients

A Message from the Dean of Students

I would like to extend congratulations to you on receiving the 2023-2024 Dean’s Award. You have earned this award not just based on your incredible academic achievements and exceptional performance in the classroom, but also by demonstrating immense scholarship and engagement, improving upon that which has challenged you, and forging your own path with integrity and accountability.

Other students will look up to you, follow you, and recognize how hard you have fought to achieve a Dean’s Award at such an esteemed institution. You have represented yourself well, made your family and friends proud, and earned the applause of your academic department.

I encourage you to take some time to think about this award, your journey, and reflect on how to best start your next teps. What you want to do, wish to see, strive to be — just remember, it is you who sets goals for yourself.

As a member of the Hornet family, I am proud of all you have accomplished. I only ask that you don’t shy away from challenges. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. And then, oh! The places you will go!


Bill Hébert, Jr.,
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
Dean of Students

Video Message from President Wood

Meet the Recipients

Civil Engineering

Environmental Studies

Destiny was born and raised in Sacramento by a single mother. She is clearly proud of the women in her family who have worked in service professions. But unlike many in her family who are adept at assisting and communicating with others, Destiny described growing up with significant anxiety, which made it hard to communicate. To cope, she focused on her love of learning. This led to the discovery of her passion for the environment, which in turn gave her the courage to begin speaking to others about it, developing more confidence and increasing her ability to manage her nervousness. We commend Destiny for her growth, courage and persistence in pursuit of her passions.

Destiny is interested in human-environment relationships. Her senior thesis utilized environmental psychology to analyze media framing, demographics and cultural beliefs as applied to shark conservation. Destiny is also an accomplished ceramic artist whose presentations featured Black and LGBTQIA+ artwork in environmental issues and social justice. One of her final ceramic projects was a shark piece, depicting the integration of her two main interests: she is truly an inter-disciplinarian! Another social justice-oriented area of study was an advanced GIS mapping project raising awareness of accessibility and transportation issues to public libraries. She accompanied this work with advocacy, including a presentation to former mayor Kevin Johnson to fight against defunding of libraries.

Destiny further demonstrates her commitment to the environment and social justice through service. On campus, she has been a member of ASI, serving on the Green Team committee and rolling up her sleeves in activities such as addressing waste products and microplastics on campus, putting up campus signage, supporting environmental proposals, tabling and gathering signatures. Destiny's community accomplishments show both breadth and depth in her service. Examples include service as a SMUD Community Relations Intern and as the student representative for the nonprofit Freeport Renovation on the Move, referred to as FROM. She has served at FROM for 12 years, assisting Sacramento communities with food, social and school supplies projects and events. She has also conducted research within the community to identify funding sources for various nonprofits.

Destiny's future goals include securing a position as a Sustainability Analyst and obtaining a Data Analysis certification to aid in her environmental work to address resource inequalities and find sustainable solutions. We know that Destiny will achieve and exceed her goals and we look forward to following her career trajectory.

Biological Science –Microbiology

Growing up in an agricultural town where everyone hung out at the local Dollar General, presents you with unremarkable skills, like withstanding the smell of manure, appreciating the slightly larger neighboring town, and immense creativity – how else can you make a Dollar General fun? Most of the population, including myself and my family, are Hispanic, and the predominant occupation is fieldwork. As far as we knew, fieldwork was the only option we had in terms of careers. Thus, the conversation of college was one not held between myself and my mother, except for the times when the Education Connection ad jingled on TV.

I knew college was expensive, and my only financial support was my mother, who worked as a Walmart associate to support my two brothers and me. The courage to apply to college is credited to my high school math teacher, who also came from an immigrant family. He was living proof that anyone can accomplish their goals, despite their circumstances, with enough ganas (or desire) - a lesson he randomly shared in class. Even though I had no idea what a college credit was or even knew FAFSA existed, I embarked on the journey of applications and overcame a huge learning curve. Thanks to his encouragement, the cycle was broken, and I pursued Science at Sacramento State – a career my five-year old self had established as she picked up science related books at yard sales.

Straightaway, my math and chemistry placement scores were unsatisfactory. Being placed in high school Algebra and Chemistry, while my peers were on track, heightened my imposter syndrome to the point where I was embarrassed to even claim my major. After constantly feeling like I had made the wrong choice and dwelled on my failures, I sat down to have a conversation with myself that changed the directory of my life. I embraced my struggle and my definition of failing changed. Failures became opportunities to redirect with better performance. This new mindset helped me accept my space as a future Biologist, as I sought out more opportunities in the Biological Sciences department.

My efforts led me to the most pivotal decision of my life, joining Dr. Jamie Kneitel’s research group, which focused on environmental variation and its effect on vernal pool biodiversity. Through a shadowing opportunity, I learned the basics of research in identifying native vernal pool organisms. Inspired to learn more about vernal pools and their threats, Dr. Kneitel and I discussed papers every week on a diverse set of topics. During the pandemic, I conducted my own literature searches, learned how to analyze data, and developed proficiency in the scientific language on vernal pools. When we returned to in-person research, Dr. Kneitel allowed me to conduct my own project. The process of exploring a new frontier while being a full-time student and working part-time at the ASI student shop was difficult to balance. I found myself dedicating time strictly to reading papers, writing down project ideas, and planning. I proposed a study to address the survival of fairy shrimp, an endemic vernal pool invertebrate after exposure to an herbicide (Trifluralin). At the end of my project, I communicated my research at Sacramento State’s Spring Symposium, where I was selected as a second-place oral presentation awardee. While completing my project, I became fascinated with Microbiology, as I found myself complaining that my Microbiology course was only an hour and fifteen minutes long. I expressed my enthusiasm and curiosity to Dr. Chris Lopez, who invited me to join his microbiology lab.

When I joined the lab, Dr. Lopez gave me three unknown strains of yeast and five unknown isolates from a wild-fermented apple cider. It was my task to develop my own project with these set of microorganisms. For someone who had little knowledge of food microbiology and never had apple cider before, I had to build an understanding through literature searches, a task that I honed at Dr. Kneitel’s lab. I began my project by identifying the unknowns via DNA isolation. In the process, I taught myself how to use a suite of bioinformatic tools. I discovered the isolates were environmental contaminants responsible for spoilage in apple ciders. This finding led me to consider how these spoilage bacteria could grow in cider, an important concept as spoilage represents an economic loss to artisanal cideries. During the summer, I worked full-time in the lab, optimizing the growth conditions and establishing a synthetic media using apple juice to model their natural environment. In addition to conducting experiments, I published my first-authored Microbial Resource Announcement (MRA) to Applied and Environmental Microbiology titled Draft genome sequence of Metabacillus indicus strain EGFCL74 isolated from spontaneously fermented apple cider. I presented my work at the college-wide Student Fall Symposium at Sacramento State, the 2023 SACNAS NDiSTEM, and the 2023 ABRCMS, to which I received a travel award.

Aside from working on my projects, my biggest takeaway was mentoring students in both labs, whether it was measuring water quality for three hours straight or efficiently pouring agar plates. In Dr. Lopez’s lab, my fellow lab members frequently came to me with questions or validation. If they were not sure about a technique, I walked them through the procedure and gave tips along the way. This was not limited to physical laboratory procedures; I received questions on how to introduce information-heavy figures at conferences and how to make each sentence in their abstracts impactful. These experiences inspired me to be a Teaching Assistant in General Microbiology, quickly becoming a beacon of excitement. Seeing students grow into scientists, fostering their pursuit for knowledge, and helping them inspired me to pursue graduate studies. My participation in CSU-LSAMP and the RISE program at Sacramento State has supported my pursuit in doctoral programs, whether it be through financing my research or reading my application essays. I am thankful for the constant support I have received from the Sacramento State faculty, who believed in my capabilities as a student and a researcher. They embraced my background and gave me the confidence to claim my story. Using them as role models for the person I aspire to become as both a mentor and an independent researcher, I aim to study health issues in historically understudied groups. As of today, I have been accepted into two PhD programs and will be committing to a program in April!

Communication Sciences and Disorders

When I reflect on my educational journey from when I first entered college fifteen years ago to now, three months away from graduation, I can’t help but feel a mix of emotions. I am ecstatic to be earning my bachelor’s degree, and proud of how far I have come. I am intimately aware, however, of the long and weary journey it took to get here.

Growing up in an environment where education was not highly valued for girls, I felt steered into education. Becoming a teacher would provide me with the “ideal work schedule for potential motherhood”. I knew deep down that this wasn’t the path that I wanted to take, but I struggled with messaging that conditioned me to believe so. I spent my first two years of college taking education courses, doubting my decisions, lacking motivation, and starving for my family’s encouragement. Not having a vision of my future that truly aligned with my family made me feel disheartened.

By the end of my second year of college, having moved across the country and newly married, I was set to begin a new journey. A whirlwind of changes, however, made it incredibly difficult for me to focus on school. I took a semester off. Little did I know that semester off would become a decade as I discovered I was having my first child. I felt strongly about wanting to be immersed in my son’s life. When my two daughters followed, I knew that this meant putting my education on hold. Although I told myself this was a pause, not an end, I couldn't help but feel doubtful about returning to college.

Learning of my cousin’s diagnosis of autism and subsequent therapy for delayed communication, I became intrigued with the field of speech-language pathology. I delved into the research, learned about the variety of challenges that SLPs treat, and became inspired by what they do. For once, I felt the reassurance that I always longed for. Despite feeling ready to continue my educational journey, my first semester back was rough. I felt discouraged trying to navigate my new schedule. Arranging school pickups, assisting my children with homework, and remaining present for my family was taxing. I learned to rely on a support system and accept that I was never meant to do it entirely on my own. I learned to maximize my school and volunteer work during my children’s school hours so when they were home, they received my undivided attention. Healthy boundaries helped me reduce the guilt of not being as available as a stay-at-home mom.

I am now in my last semester of undergraduate studies, nearing graduation. I am overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude despite having a long journey to get to this point. I have found a career path that I truly feel passionate about while overcoming a multitude of barriers. I strive to do better for myself and for my children watching me through it all. I can now proudly say, I did it!


A developing music educator committed to education and community.

I was born in Lima, Perú. My family is from a fishing town full of culture. While studying in Lima, I became the captain of the TKD team, graduated with honors, and became the assistant of the band director. I am Sofía del Pilar Roca Castro, an international Peruvian student who is on the spectrum and has experienced loss. I have traveled across the continent to work towards making a better future for my country.

When I was in high school, I joined Orquestando. This government program brought music education and resources to many troubled communities, providing supportive role models and education to students. I started volunteering for this project because I witnessed how music education was improving many communities. I decided I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Studying in Peru is complicated due to corruption, lack of institutions, funding, and political instability. Therefore, I decided to study at CSUS and pursue my dream.

During my senior year of high school, I lost a close family member and quite a few friends due to medical conditions. Huanchaco, the small town where I grew up, was almost destroyed by the Niño phenomenon. I supported my family through my grandma’s cancer and my dad’s diabetes treatment. Regardless of the grief and pain, I graduated with honors. In 2020 Covid-19 hit, and I had to keep my family safe. I struggled getting my ASD diagnosis and started attending CSUS online while continuing my internships. In 2021 I moved to a new country to study my second language, learned to drive to go to class observations, reapplied to the school of music due to my disability, and almost died due to a throat infection. Regardless, I kept going.

I aim to earn my bachelor’s in Music Education and teaching credential to work on my skills and learn from experienced mentors. Later, I want to continue graduate studies to share my research, experience, and knowledge with teachers in Peru and help bring systemic change to the educational institutions there. For this, I became a teaching assistant at Tempo and CSUS to gain teaching skills, a campus tour guide to develop my communication skills, and a Resident Advisor where I learned to connect with students and support them in critical situations, all while maintaining a GPA of 3.963. I also organized music festivals in the US and Peru.

I hope to inspire students and support my country towards a better educational system. I am extremely thankful to CSUS for supporting me, and to my classmates and professors for being a great support system. I have worked hard, progressed tremendously, and am excited for the future. By applying to the teaching credential program, I hope I can continue towards my dream of inspiring students.

Business (Accountancy)

As a first-generation student, I transferred to CSU Sacramento with the hope of graduating with a bachelor's in Accounting and learning from the wonderful faculty at Sac State. Now I see my dreams being fulfilled as I will be graduating in Summer 2024.

I faced many challenges that came in the way of my education while growing up. I was born and raised in India, where many girls in my village were married unwillingly right after high school. I am the first girl in my village to leave the country for higher education at the age of 17. After graduating from high school in India, I was accepted at Kansas State University. I was thrilled but unfortunately my parents were unable to afford my tuition. I earned my associate degree in Business Administration, Economics, Accounting, and Natural Science from Sierra College. I also founded and started a non-profit company, called Cello Chocolate, with my peers at Sierra. It was challenging to start a company without prior experience, but with the help of my professors at Sierra College, we were able to start the company in 2019. It gave me a wonderful opportunity to apply my academic knowledge and oversee the operations side of the business. Some of my family members criticized and mocked me when I started this business because I was not receiving financial compensation. But in the end, I knew it was the right thing to do, and I ultimately felt fulfilled. After graduating, I had to leave Cello Chocolate. But it was one of the best things that happened to me at Sierra College.

I decided to take a break from school due to financial hardships. During that time, I worked at Wells Fargo for two years as a bank teller. This allowed me to save money so I could go back to school to earn my bachelor's degree in Accounting. I joined CSU Sacramento in Fall 2022 to pursue my B.S. in Accounting. Sac State not only helped me grow academically but also helped me develop professionally by giving me the opportunity to network with people. I joined the Accounting Society and Beta Alpha Psi in the first semester and received scholarships from both clubs. These clubs are a great resource to connect with professionals and provide great opportunities for job placements. I also joined VITA in Spring 2023 and helped low-income people file their taxes on time. In Fall 2022, I began working at Franchise Tax Board (FTB) as a Student Assistant. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from these great Accounting professors, such as Yan Xiong, Elizabeth Lyon, and Feng Deng, who supported me throughout my journey at Sac State. They are knowledgeable, compassionate, and genuinely want students to succeed. Without their help, I wouldn't have been able to manage full-time work and school.

I have been on the Dean's Honors list for all semesters and have maintained my 4.0 GPA. I have also received scholarships from Cal CPA for two consecutive years. I have recently accepted a job at Franchise Tax Board FTB as a Tax Auditor in the National Business Audit unit. My education at Sacramento State helped me earn this job. I want to set an example for the women in my village to never give up and keep fighting for their education! I have come this far and am even more determined to achieve my goal to become a Certified Public Accountant! Education can change lives, and I know it changed mine. It can be difficult to pursue one's dream with limited resources. That's why I want to work with kids who have limited resources so I can help them pursue an education. It has been seven years since I left India and have not been able to visit my family. When I do visit them in the future, I will be a graduate who fought and never gave up on their dreams!

American Sign Language and Deaf Studies

Over the past seven years, there have been numerous occasions where I have reflected on the academic choices I made and wished to go back in time and talk with my younger self. I would warn myself that moving across the country at the age of 17 to attend Mount Holyoke College in pursuit of "independence" would subsequently lead to me returning home 2 years later without completing my college education. I would chastise myself, "Listen to your parents and go back to school immediately", "Don't take so many gaps in your education", "Work can wait, go for your degree".

During my seven-year journey, I have harbored a sense of regret stemming from my various decisions. Furthermore, I've encountered various life obstacles that will have a lasting impact. Suddenly losing my father to Pancreatic Cancer during a national pandemic shifted my obligation to assist my grieving mother in financially sustaining our household. My academic finish line was on the horizon, but I felt as though it was moving further and further away. The heaviness of life became increasingly difficult and while it may have distracted me, it did not deter me.

Sacramento State University and the Deaf Studies department of the College of Education never once saw me as my past, they only saw me for who I am, and who I could be. I could be a straight A student, I could build a great professional relationship with my professors, I could be a tutor for ASL at Sac State, I could obtain my bachelor's degree. And now, I am all those things and more. Obtaining the Dean's award is the culmination of seven years of learning to believe in myself, discipline, and hard work. With confidence and gusto, I can now look back and tell my younger self, "You're doing everything right".

Taylor Alexis Longmire

"Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them"

-Madam C.J. Walker

Event Photos

View the 2024 Dean Recipients Event Photos