Tessa Barretto, Student of Distinction

Tessa Barretto

Tessa Barretto finds elegance and peace in the French language. For her, everything sounds beautiful — even the ugliest of words.

Despite being diagnosed with a form of dyslexia in the third grade, Barretto achieved scholastic excellence and will graduate with a double major in French and studio art with an emphasis in printmaking. Excelling in both her art and humanities courses, Barretto has earned the support of the Modern and Classical Languages and Literature (MCLL) department faculty.

“I am especially impressed with Tessa’s accomplishments given that she has overcome personal obstacles to become successful in her endeavors. Tessa also embodies the best aspects of both the Arts and Humanities as a double major in French and Art, an educational experience that has enriched her in various ways,” said Debbie Ávila, Ph.D., MCLL Department Chair.

Barretto has participated in numerous extracurricular activities that involved service to the university and community including serving as historian and president of the French club and volunteering at Stone Soup Fresno, an organization which serves the South East Asian community in Fresno.

“Tessa Barretto will be an excellent choice for the CAH Dean’s Medal because of she exemplifies what it means to be both an artist and a humanist,” said Dr. Natalie Muñoz – Assistant Professor of French. “I have observed Tessa in the classroom, as an officer in the French club, Le Cercle français, and as my teaching assistant in a lower-division French course. I have watched her develop into a confident, intelligent, and articulate student and leader.”

She plans to pursue an MFA in printmaking and a Doctorate in African Art History, with the objective of becoming a Museum Educator — creating lesson plans for schools and tour groups.

Tessa Barretto

Personal Narrative

In third grade, I was diagnosed with Saccadic Fixation Disorder, a form of dyslexia, which made it difficult to read, focus, and process information. Despite undergoing years of vision therapy, there are still lingering effects which contributed to struggles in my French studies. I also faced difficult situations in my personal life. As an openly bisexual woman, I have encountered the cruel intolerance of demoralizing looks, hurtful words, and physical violence of which others unreservedly give. As a result of these tribulations, I learned to be resilient, determined, diligent and driven in my endeavors.

I have completed a double major in French and in Art, with an emphasis in Printmaking. During my years at Fresno State, I was an active member in the honors societies of Sigma Alpha Lambda and Phi Kappa Phi and was placed on the Dean’s List and the President’s List each semester. As Treasurer of the printmaking club, Print and Glory, I assisted in creating posters and organizing fundraisers. As Historian, and later President, of the French club, Le Cercle Français, I organized meetings and events, created and drew original artwork for flyers, and applied for grants to support our activities. During my presidency, we coordinated and succeeded in many events including Kid’s Day, pétanque practices, conversation and game tables, and the French Alps Challenge Course which utilized the E.D.G.E. Challenge Ropes Course at Fresno State to simulate mountaineering, via ferrata, and mountain-side rock climbing.

I find pleasure in volunteering at Williams Elementary School, where I am currently the Production Manager of a K-6 Black History Month project, and at St. Paul Catholic Newman Center, where I am an altar server, face painter and coordinator for the Fresno State Student Artists booth for the International Food Festival, and a welcoming parishioner at the 7:30 morning mass. My most enjoyed community service was with Stone Soup Fresno, where I cleaned rooms, face painted at events, curated their Cultural Enrichment Room, and painted a mural in their library.

In my leisure time, I adore visiting Art and History museums, boogie boarding at the beach, snowboarding, camping, reading AAAS marine biology and astronomy magazines, drawing animals at the zoo and the Fresno State farms, as well as watching BBC World News, The Flash, and Québécois films.

I applied to multiple Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs and will attend one this Fall to study printmaking, a 15th-century art whose main categories of relief, intaglio, lithography, and screenprinting have developed throughout the eras. After completing my MFA, I will attend another college, hopefully, Rutgers, UC San Diego, or Duke University, for doctoral studies in African Art History. I plan to specialize in East African Art for its drastic oversight of importance in education and for my heritage from Tanzania. My vocation will be that of a Museum Educator, in which I will develop and promote education of the museum’s collections with the public, while simultaneously continuing research of East African Art and delivering workshops on advancements within the field.


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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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