Bagieng Keophimphone and Jalen Harris were awarded Fresno State’s top academic honors for the class of 2020.
Keophimphone and Harris were chosen from a group of nine Undergraduate Deans’ Medalists and nine Deans’ Graduate Medalists. They were each surprised with the honor during a Zoom call with President Joseph I. Castro and Provost Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval on Friday, May 15. Traditionally, the top medalists are named during the University’s commencement ceremony.
“Both Bagieng and Jalen’s personal character, outstanding academic achievements and dedication to excellence embody Fresno State’s Bulldog Spirit,” Castro said. “We are incredibly proud of them and wish them well in their future endeavors in medicine and engineering, two fields that profoundly benefit society as a whole.”
Keophimphone, of Fresno, was selected as the President’s Medalist, the University’s top honor for an undergraduate student. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the College of Science and Mathematics with a 3.93 GPA.
Harris, of Fresno, was selected as the University Graduate Medalist, Fresno State’s top honor for a graduate student. He earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Lyles College of Engineering with a 4.0 GPA.
Bagieng Keophimphone, President’s Medalist
Keophimphone is the youngest child of Laotian immigrant farmworkers. He struggled with English as a child and found chemistry and biology to be challenging — but interesting.
He was a student leader for the Laotian American Community of Fresno and president of the American Chemical Society Fresno Chapter where he worked to highlight the importance of higher education. He was also involved with the UCSF Fresno Academic Research program, Tzu Chi Clinic and the Community Care Clinic.
Keophimphone worked with Dr. Khampha Thephavong at the Community Care Clinic where he saw firsthand the medical disparities and experiences of underserved communities. His work with Thephavong, who is also Laotian, inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.
Jalen Harris, University Graduate Medalist
Harris previously earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Fresno State. Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Harris received the Lyles College of Engineering Graduate Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, to continue his graduate studies at the University.
His undergraduate research in materials science and mathematical computation fueled his interest to pursue a career as a materials science researcher. He had four peer-reviewed publications.
Harris served as an officer in the National Society of Black Engineers. He worked as a mathematics outreach fellow traveling to local schools to host events that would increase interest in math, and he participated in Sonya Kovalevsky Day, an on-campus event to encourage girls to consider careers in math. Harris will attend Cornell University in the fall to pursue a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.