Jessica Miguel of Fresno and Lilliana Toste of Lemoore were awarded the top University honors at Fresno State’s 105th Commencement today at the Save Mart Center.
Miguel and Toste were chosen from a group of nine Deans’ Undergraduate Medalists and eight Deans’ Graduate Medalists.
Miguel, who earned a master’s in Education – Multilingual Multicultural Education, was selected as the University Graduate Medalist, Fresno State’s top honor for a graduate student. She completed her M.A. with a 4.0 GPA. She works for Clovis Unified School District with students who have autism.
Toste, who earned a bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies – Speech-Language Pathology, was selected as the President’s Medalist, the University’s top honor for an undergraduate student. She completed her B.A. also with a 4.0 GPA.
“At Commencement, we celebrate the bold accomplishments of thousands of Fresno State graduates, and it’s my privilege to recognize Jessica and Lilliana with our University’s most distinguished honors,” said University President Joseph I. Castro. “They are both hard-working, talented students whose academic records are stellar. They make all of us proud to be part of a university like Fresno State.”
Miguel, a graduate of Edison High School in Fresno, previously earned a B.A. from UCLA in International Developmental Studies and was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines from 2010-12. After six years away from her hometown, she said she is ready to return “to the community that had molded me.”
Her research included exploring the language and social practices of 3- to 5-year-old special education students enrolled in a dual-language immersion program. She also studied the language and literacy of Latina student mothers at four-year institutions.
Next, she will pursue her Ph.D. at UC San Diego, where she received a scholarship for full tuition. She hopes to become a professor at a four-year university.
Toste followed in the footsteps of her parents to attend Fresno State. She chose to study Speech-Language Pathology after seeing professionals work with two of her brothers who are on the autism spectrum. She is a President’s Scholar in the Smittcamp Family Honors Program and a student leader at the Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. She was named the 2016 University Volunteer of the Year by the Richter Center.
Toste, whose minor is urban civic education, volunteered hundreds of hours with Reading and Beyond, Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Saint Agnes Medical Center and Lowell Elementary. She traveled to Fuji for a service-learning project to develop a community center and irrigation project, and she studied abroad in Italy.
Toste will continue her education at Fresno State to earn a master’s degree and hopes to work with children who have speech and language needs.