Meet the 2017 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

Jalil Kochai, History

Jalil Kochai has been an active presence in both the history and English departments at Sacramento State, consistently contributing to campus literary magazines. He has also devoted time to the Muslim Student Association, volunteering for and organizing events. Outside of the University, he works in the Islamic community in the Sacramento/Elk Grove area, leading classes, hosting basketball tournaments and tutoring for an after-school program. After graduation, he hopes to teach history at a high school level, earn his doctorate in history and eventually publish a history book on modern Afghanistan.

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Jalil Kochai

College of Business Administration

Danielle Saunders, Entrepreneurship

Danielle Saunders turned her combined interest in psychology and business into a social entrepreneurship effort to promote education. She is conducting analysis for the CSU Chancellor’s Office Course Redesign with Technology team, looking at student and faculty surveys regarding impacted courses systemwide. She also works for the ed-tech startup Eclasstic, a learning management system for English-language learners that placed in the UC Davis Big Bang Competition. After graduation, she plans to explore the field of learning analytics, looking for ways education can best prepare people for work and life.

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Danielle Saunders

College of Education

Seth Fujii, Elementary Pre-Credential

Seth Fujii wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school, but once he took a course in child development he realized he loved everything to do with the field of education. Since becoming an education major, he has volunteered as a tutor for children at a Title 1 school and taught Lego-based STEM classes for the after-school program Bricks 4 Kidz, experiences he says reaffirmed his passion for teaching. He currently volunteers as an elementary school resource center and classroom teacher. He plans to apply for Sac State’s credential program for the Fall 2018 semester.

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Seth Fujii

College of Engineering and Computer Science

Brian Souza, Computer Science

Brian Souza’s achievements during his college career run the gamut from a certification in cybersecurity to volunteer photographer for the volleyball team. Along the way, he’s made the Dean’s Honors List every semester, was selected for the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Golden Key International Honor Society, was president of his fraternity and executive vice president of the Inter-Fraternity Council. But what he is most proud of is his participation in the “Men Who Ask” internship, working with the Women’s Resource Center to raise awareness of sexual assault and prevention.

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Brian Souza

College of Health and Human Services

Nany Nguyen, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Nancy Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, began teaching her father English when she was just six years old, sparking her interest in speech and language. She serves as vice president of the Speech Pathology Multicultural Group where she helps students assist those from the Hmong, Russian, Hispanic, African American, Filipino, Korean and Chinese communities. Her volunteer work is extensive, including mentoring at-risk Vietnamese, spearheading a school supplies drive for Improve Your Tomorrow and working with Sacramento State’s Autism Center for Excellence and her department’s NeuroService Alliance. Her future plans include obtaining her doctorate.

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Nancy Nyguen

College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Kadina Koonce, Geography

Kadina Koonce’s professors describe her with a multitude of glowing terms: energetic, polite, giving, hardworking, intelligent, organized and inquisitive. The first-generation urban planning and human geography major has been active in several clubs and organizations such as the Gamma Theta Upsilon honor society, the Cooper Woodson College Enhancement Program and Phi Mu Fraternity. She has volunteered with the Roberts Family Development Center, conducted outreach with the homeless and raised funds for breast cancer research. This fall, she will apply her study-abroad experience to her master’s degree studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

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Kadina Koonce

College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies

Aja Johnson, Ethnic Studies

Aja Johnson got involved with campus organizations early on in her Sacramento State career, and they have been a key part of the foundation for her personal growth. As a first-generation college student, she started as a student programmer with the PRIDE Center, developing and facilitating programming to educate the campus on queer and trans allyship. She went on to co-develop the Multi-Cultural Center’s Social Justice Leadership Seminar and participate in Advocates for Black Feminism, African Students’ Holistic Empowerment and the Ethnic Studies Student Association. She also served on the student team that helped establish the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center.

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Aja Johnson