Hundreds gathered to celebrate the upcoming graduation of 14 President’s Scholars during a special ceremony held Tuesday, May 2. The graduates are continuing a tradition that began 38 years ago when the University began the merit-based program.
In commending the graduating class, President Mildred García noted that with the inclusion of the 2017 class, 439 President’s Scholars have graduated from Cal State Fullerton.
“Ninety-eight percent of our President’s Scholars graduate with nearly perfect GPAs,” said García. “They’re not only smart, but they’ve also served the campus and community through the President’s Scholars Student Association. They have completed more than 1,000 hours of service on campus and 1,750 hours of outside service to the city of Fullerton and surrounding communities.
“And to the family members here tonight,” she continued, “you have entrusted us with your most precious resource. Please know that we want to help support our scholars in reaching their dreams, and we’re with them every step of the way.”
García also acknowledged the late President Milton A. Gordon for his support in growing the President’s Scholars program.
“President Gordon was one of my mentors and his leadership was integral to making the President’s Scholars program what it is today,” she said.
Students who are selected as President’s Scholars spend up to four years in a comprehensive, rigorous program that offers experiences and opportunities in academics, leadership, service and mentorship.
“When I first arrived at Cal State Fullerton as a President’s Scholar, I was terrified beyond belief,” said Khulood Faruqui. “But it was the best decision I made in my life. I was unsure of my identity and very timid. I was even afraid to order pizza over the phone. But this program is transformative. Now I’m social chair of the President’s Scholars Student Association and have served on the selection committee for four years.
“In addition to my studies, I worked as a systems and hardware engineering intern at Raytheon for two years,” she added. “I also led a team of 10 students in designing and manufacturing a hybrid rocket engine.
“Don’t worry,” she told the crowd. “It’s only rocket science.”
Faruqui’s sentiments were echoed by other scholars at the reception.
“I actually began my Titan experience 12 years ago,” said Tim Smith. “While my mother was attending classes here, I sat nearby, coloring.”
During his time as a President’s Scholar, Smith served as president and vice president of the President’s Scholars Student Association and interned for Congressman Ed Royce. But it was during a struggle with depression that he recognized how important his fellow classmates were.
“Depression is the absence of joy,” he said. “About a year ago, it was hard for me to just get out of bed. My fellow scholars showed me that I was worthy of compassion. They embraced me in my darkest hours. I didn’t really understand compassion until my world started slipping out of control. What I learned from that experience was to love unconditionally, know that you are here for a reason and understand that you have immeasurable worth.”
This year, Smith was also the recipient of the Verne Wagner Passion Award, recognizing a scholar who goes “above and beyond.”
Members of the 2017 graduating class of President’s Scholars are:
- Kaylin Deeth, B.S. nursing
- Natalie Dillion, B.S. kinesiology, summa cum laude
- Evelyn Easdale, B.A. mathematics, summa cum laude
- Khulood Faruqui, B.S. mechanical engineering, summa cum laude
- Chloe Gharios, B.S. civil engineering
- Connor Hass, B.A. communications – public relations
- Nuzhat Islam, B.S. biological science, summa cum laude
- Saumya Jani, B.S. biological science, summa cum laude
- Victoria Lim, B.A. business administration-accounting, summa cum laude
- Bao Binh Hoang Nguyen, B.S. mechanical engineering, summa cum laude
- Timothy Andrew Smith, B.A. political science and economics, summa cum laude
- Mai-Anh Tran B.A. communications-advertising and B.A. history, summa cum laude
- Van-Anh Vuong-Dac, B.A. English, summa cum laude
Graduating President’s Veteran Scholar is:
- William McCoy, B.A. communications-public relations, magna cum laude