Arts in Motion highlights CAH Students of Distinction

Arts and Humanities Students of Distinction

The College of Arts and Humanities honored its 16 Students of Distinction at Arts in Motion on Saturday, April 7. At the ceremony, the graduate and undergraduate Dean’s Medalists for 2017-18 were announced.

Dean’s Medalists

Guadalupe Remigio Ortega

Guadalupe Remigio Ortega (left), who graduated in fall 2017 with a master of arts in English in rhetoric and composition, was named the Graduate Dean’s Medalist.

The Graduate Dean’s Medalist becomes a contender for the University Graduate Medal, the highest honor the university bestows on a graduate student at Commencement.


Prabhsimrat “Peekay” Gill (right), also an English major, is the Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist.

The College’s Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist becomes a contender for the 2018 President’s Medal that is awarded at Commencement. The President’s Medal is the highest honor the University bestows on a graduate.

Two students were named runners-up to the Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist. They will be the Standard Bearers at this year’s University Commencement, on May 19:

  • Stephanie Chavez, from the Department of Communication
  • Maraika Kuipers-Sharsher, from the Department of Philosophy

Two graduate students received Honorable Mentions:

  • Reagan Clark, from the Department of Linguistics
  • Alejandra Tejeda, from the Department of Music

The College’s Students of Distinction are selected from among the most accomplished graduating students from each of the nine departments within the college.

Graduate Students of Distinction

Sara Deasy
Sara Deasy

SARA DEASY | Art and Design

Sara Deasy graduated with a master of arts degree in fall 2017 and a 3.51 GPA. She is a gifted and talented artist in the field of photography. In fall 2017 Deasy was hired by Fresno City College to teach a variety of photography courses. She feels fortunate that she is able to help the next generation find their personal windows to the soul through art.

“Sara effectively synthesized personal, psychological, cultural and art historical perspectives to inform her work,” said Professor Joan Sharma.

Kristen Herring
Kristen Herring

KRISTEN HERRING | Communication

Kristen Herring is graduating in spring 2018 with a master of arts degree in Communication and has a cumulative 4.0 GPA.  A Fresno native and first-generation college student, Herring is applying to doctoral programs to further her research in rhetorical criticism.

Herring has presented her work at national and regional conferences, including a spoken word performance with the Performance Studies Division at the National Communication Association meeting in Dallas, Texas, and a paper at the Western States Communication Association conference in Santa Clara this semester. She has served as an intern for the Barking Bulldogs Debate Team, as president of Fresno State’s Student Unit of the League of Women Voters, and with the Jumpstart program in Fresno. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood.


Guadalupe Remigio Ortega (pictured at the top of this article) graduated with distinction in fall 2017 with a master of arts degree in English in rhetoric and composition and a 4.0 GPA. A first-generation college graduate, Ortega looks forward to beginning a Ph.D. program in composition and rhetoric in August 2018.

“Students like Ms. Remigio Ortega are rare: she has had significant hardship – as well as surprising success – for example, starting kindergarten as an English learner but winning first place in school-wide spelling bees in first grade,” said Professor Virginia Crisco. “As a first-generation college student — and a DACA recipient — she has a lot at stake, but she understands how to accomplish her goals and be successful in the academy.”

Matthew Kenerly
Matthew Kenerly

MATTHEW KENERLY| Creative Writing

Matthew Kenerly will graduate in spring 2018 with a master of fine arts degree in Creative Writing and a cumulative 4.0 GPA.  Kenerly has been an active leader of the writing community at Fresno State through his leadership of the San Joaquin Literary Association and his coordination of annual events like Wordfest, and student travel to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference.

Professor John Hales said: “Matt’s writing offers something all too rare in writing of any kind: a skillful blending of clear-headed observation, intelligent analysis, deep and sincere personal engagement, and a quiet sense of humor and irony that never lets anyone off the hook, even the writer.”

Reagan Clark
Reagan Clark

REAGAN CLARK | Linguistics

Reagan Clark will graduate in spring 2018 with a master of arts degree in Linguistics and a cumulative 4.0 GPA. Having taught English as a Second Language in Spain, Australia and Japan, Clark plans to devote her time to teaching ESL to international, adult school and community college students after graduation.

She has contributed to the community as a leader in the Community ESL teaching assistants project at Fresno Adult School, representing the College of Arts and Humanities as part of the university-wide Touch the Community Initiative and at the 2017 Fresno State University Showcase of Excellence.

Rodrigo Andrade-Espinoza
Rodrigo Andrade-Espinoza

RODRIGO ANDRADE-ESPINOZA | Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures    

Rodrigo Andrade-Espinoza will graduate in spring 2018 with a master of arts degree in Spanish and a cumulative 3.83 GPA. A first-generation college graduate, Andrade-Espinoza developed a passion for teaching and hopes to teach Spanish at the college level after graduation.

Professor Rafael Lemus said in all of his activities, Andrade-Espinoza “excelled as an enthusiastic, disciplined and extremely organized student who showed a true desire to learn and share his knowledge.” Professor Gloria Medina-Sancho added, “Rodrigo is a highly motivated, mature and creative student who seeks the highest standards of responsibility and dedication in all his endeavors.”

Alejandra Tejeda
Alejandra Tejeda


Alejandra Tejeda graduated magna cum laude in fall 2017 with a master of arts degree in Music. Tejeda hopes to return to her high school alma mater to present masterclasses and encourage young singers to attend Fresno State. She also plans to give voice lessons and create a CD of Mariachi songs with another Fresno State alumnus.

Tejeda’s outstanding vocal performances in both opera and mariachi have been enthusiastically received by audiences throughout the Central Valley and beyond, especially in the role of Lucinda, which she created in the world premiere of “Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena.”

Dr. Anthony Radford said, “Alejandra’s passion for her art, culture and family and her willingness to share this passion is representative of the bold commitment we want to foster in our students.”

Undergraduate Students of Distinction

Janette Porraz
Janette Porraz

JANETTE PORRAZ | Art and Design

Janette Porraz is graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in Art with an emphasis in painting/drawing and a cumulative 3.67 GPA.  Having excelled as an art student, Janette has begun to establish her exhibition record.  Janette’s future endeavor is to attend graduate school to pursue a master of arts degree and continue to develop her artwork and exhibition record.

“Janette is an example of how education changes lives,” said her professor Nick Potter, “and makes us remember why we are educators.”

Stephanie Chavez
Stephanie Chavez

STEPHANIE CHAVEZ | Communication

Stephanie Chavez graduated summa cum laude in fall 2017 with a bachelor of arts degree in Communication and a 4.0 GPA.  Chavez has been accepted to graduate school with plans to obtain a master of arts degree and, she plans to apply her expertise to a fulfilling professional career working with the public in a government or nonprofit organization.

“We desperately need leaders like Stephanie in government,” said Professor Hillary Jones.


Prabhsimrat (Peekay) Gill (pictured at the top of this article) graduated in fall 2017 with a bachelor of arts degree in English education. With a 3.83 GPA, she graduated magna cum laude. Gill will pursue a career in English education in hopes of fostering the narratives of many young lives as her educators have done for her.

Dr. Steven Adisasmito-Smith said Gill “restores my faith in humanity, a phrase I had never used before but entirely fitting in her case. With deep roots in the Central Valley and in India, Peekay is a person  who knits  communities together.”

Daphne Russell
Daphne Russell

DAPHNE RUSSELL | Linguistics

Daphne Russell will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in Linguistics and a cumulative 3.91 GPA. Russell hopes to apply her language skills and research experience to a career in interpreting and translation or as a language and cultural consultant.

In May 2017, Russell presented her work on Crow – a Siouan language spoken in Montana – as the only undergraduate at the Workshop for American Indigenous Languages at UC Santa Barbara. Professor Chris Golston said, “No one noticed that she was so young; they just saw that she did a fine job and plied her with questions.”

This summer, Russell will present another research project at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention in San Francisco.

Mariya Zheleva
Mariya Zheleva

MARIYA ZHELEVA | Media, Communications and Journalism

Mariya Zheleva will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in Media, Communications and Journalism and a cumulative 3.96 GPA. 

After graduation, Zheleva hopes to secure a position at a public relations firm specializing in the music industry. She then plans to return to school to pursue a graduate degree in public relations.

Born in Bulgaria, Zheleva came to the U.S. as a 3-year-old. During her time at Fresno State, she has earned a 3.96 GPA, has published 12 stories in local papers via her involvement in MCJ’s print journalism program and has completed three PR internships— and was offered a full-time job by one of them. Zheleva currently serves as the executive director of TALK, Fresno State’s student-run PR firm.

Leslie Hille
Leslie Hille

LESLIE HILLE | Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures

Leslie Hille, a double major, will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts in French and a bachelor of arts in political science. Hille has applied to the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencesPO) to study political sciences specializing in international development. His career goal is to become a foreign service officer with the State Department specializing as a political or management officer.

Dr. Rose Marie Kuhn said,  “Leslie is an exceptional person who has dreams and works hard to make them a reality.”

Sean Clark
Sean Clark


Sean Clark will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in Music, with an option in music education and a cumulative 3.99 GPA. Clark will return to Fresno State next year to pursue a single subject teaching credential in Music in hopes of becoming a local music educator. He later plans to pursue a doctoral degree in percussion performance.

Dr. Matt Darling, chair of the Music Department, said Clark “is that rare student who has a clear vision and the skills to take him to the highest levels as a performer and teacher.”

Maraika Kuipers-Sharsher
Maraika Kuipers-Sharsher


Maraika Kuipers-Sharsher will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy and a cumulative 3.75 GPA. She is also pursuing a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. 

Dr. Andrew Fiala said Kuipers-Sharsher “wants to build a more just world, and she has deep compassion for the suffering of others.” She has demonstrated her commitment to these values with her efforts to help Syrian refugees earn a living and integrate into the community.

After graduation, Kuipers-Sharsher plans to attend the American University in Cairo for a masters in international human rights law before returning to the U.S. for a juris doctorate. She hopes to pursue a career in international human rights law.

Jana Price
Jana Price

JANA PRICE | Theatre Arts

Jana Price graduated in fall 2017 summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in Theatre Arts.  With an end goal of becoming a professional actress, Price recently auditioned to attend various graduate schools for theatre, the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, and also for Disneyland.

Dr. Melissa Gibson said Price “succeeds because, besides possessing sheer talent, she is reliable, responsible and collaborative — and level-headed.”

One of the most exciting things Price did while attending Fresno State was intern for the “Conan O’Brian Show,” where she had the opportunity to work in the costume shop in Burbank in summer 2017.

The Arts in Motion program also included two entertainments segments. Dancers Kelsey Phillips and Christopher Ballesteros performed an excerpt from “Episteme 1-2-3.”

The Fresno State Jazz Combo I performed “Sometimes It’s Difficult.” (Ben Soto on alto sax; Braden O’Shaughnessy on tenor sax; Andrew Watkins on trombone; Vaughn Warren on guitar; Kevin Person Jr. on piano; and Ian Hoytt on drums and cymbals).

The Arts in Motion was followed by a wine and hors d’ouevres reception in the Phebe Conley Art Gallery.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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