Eleven students with major achievements in the classroom and in the community will be honored in a special ceremony on March 5 as recipients of the 39th annual Lieutenant Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award.

The award—one of the largest and most prestigious at Chico State—celebrates scholarship, extracurricular activities, and outstanding academic, and professional accomplishments. Awards are also based on evidence of a student’s sincere intent to complete their education, to increase their personal knowledge, and to achieve success in every aspect of life.

The Rawlins merit scholarships are named in honor of Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins, who died piloting a B-29 bomber over Tokyo Bay during World War II. Wishing to leave a legacy in the name of her son, Fern Rawlins established the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award endowment in 1981.

Since the program’s inception, more than $1 million in scholarships has been awarded to more than 800 deserving CSU, Chico students.

Meet the students joining the ranks this year:

College of Agriculture

Jonelle Gilardi

2021 Rawlins Recipient Jonelle Gilardi

Nominated by Christine Carroll and Sarah DeForest

Jonelle is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business, looking toward a career path in agricultural accounting. Since becoming a Wildcat in 2017, she has been actively engaged inside and outside of the classroom. She made the college’s Dean’s List in fall 2017, spring 2018, fall 2018, and fall 2019. She is a Sigma Alpha Active Sister, member of the Young Cattlemen’s Association, FFA Field Day Leadership Team committee representative, ICF member, and three-time scholarship recipient, and, since 2017, a member of Crops and Horticulture Club. She is also a recipient of a State Farmer Degree, Food Safety Certification, and a 2019–2020 scholarship from the California Women of Agriculture—North Valley Chapter. In 2020, Jonelle received an opportunity to be a Chico State advocate during the World Ag Expo. Sarah DeForest, the director of external relations in the College of Agriculture, said in her nomination letter that Jonelle “has embraced a career path in agricultural accounting, and she knows what she needs to do to achieve it. She clearly seeks opportunities to  learn, grow, and lead, and she makes the most of her time at Chico State. . . . she is clearly one of our top College of Agriculture students in academics, participation, and leadership.” Christine Carroll, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, said in her nomination letter, “Throughout her time at CSU, Chico, Jonelle has continued to work in several different capacities, including in agriculture. She demonstrates her ability to competently manage and juggle many responsibilities. She will be an asset to the agriculture industry and to her future employers.”

Marissa Patton

2021 Rawlins Recipient Marissa Patton
Photo courtesy of Marissa Patton

Nominated by Logan Smith

Marissa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in animal science, with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She already has an abundance of experience with animals outside the classroom, including working on the Market Lamb Project with Bowman 4-H from 2009–2013, Market Lamb Project with the Red Bluff FFA from 2013–2014, and working as an ROP veterinary assistant for the Red Bluff Vet Clinic from 2016–2017. Since 2017, Marissa has been a full veterinary assistant for the Red Bluff Vet Clinic and was awarded Employee of the Year for 2018 and 2019. At Chico State, she also made the college’s Dean’s List in fall 2019. Logan Smith, an assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems, said in his nomination letter, “Veterinary medicine is a demanding career choice, and I do not recommend that path for most students. Yet, Marissa’s determination and skills have impressed me. Further, her curiosity and leadership during class made other students take an interest. Indeed, her efforts also made me want to be a better teacher. Marissa embodies the qualities that the College of Agriculture at CSU, Chico strives for in a student: hard work, and social and academic excellence. I have confidence that she has the commitment, intelligence, and work ethic to be successful in her pursuits.”

College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

Deja Shevalier

2021 Rawlins Recipient Deja Shevalier

Nominated by Adelaide Harris and Patrick Johnson

Deja pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology but didn’t stop there. She graduated in spring 2020 and was accepted into the Chico State psychological sciences master’s degree program for fall 2020, and she wants to continue her education by applying to PhD programs afterward. As an undergraduate, Deja dedicated much of her time to working as both an instructional student assistant and teaching assistant for the University’s Psychology Tutoring and Study Center and the Biological Psychology Lab, in addition to working as a research assistant in the Psychology Department. She also earned several accolades, including the George L. Parrott Outstanding Student Award, 2020 Psychology Outstanding Student Award, Winzenz Family Psychology Award, Magna Cum Laude, and Honors in the Major. Psychology assistant professor Patrick Johnson said in his nomination letter that Deja “is exceptionally motivated in her pursuit of her academic and career goals. . . . I can  see that Deja honestly wants to make a difference in the lives of youth who are victims of circumstances out of their control, and that this larger, more abstract goal, along with  her compassion, will enable her to move forward when others are likely to step aside.” Professor Adelaide Harris in the Psychology Department said in her nomination letter, “She embodies everything we hope for in a student. Deja is hardworking and dedicated, she always rises to a challenge. Deja asks excellent questions that are well thought out and intelligent. She possesses an intrinsic curiosity about life and her field of study. What’s more, she is able to turn that curiosity into high-quality research. . . . Deja is destined for great things.”

Duncan Young

2021 Rawlins Recipient Duncan Young

Nominated by Jake Jennings and Colleen Milligan

Duncan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in economics. Since coming to Chico State, Duncan has been involved in many facets of the campus and community, including interning for the Center for Economic Development since August 2019, tutoring in the Economics Department since August 2019, peer mentoring in the Course Connections Program since December 2019, and working as a student assistant for the Chico State Research Foundation since September 2019. Also, he has been a rower for Chico State Rowing Crew since September 2018 and the crew treasurer since May 2019, a student-at-large for the Campus Fee Allocation Committee since February 2019, a volunteer for Camp Wildcat since September 2018. Along with his many commitments outside of his academics, Duncan made the college’s Dean’s List in fall 2018, spring 2019, and fall 2019. Economics assistant professor Jake Jennings said in his nomination letter that Duncan “has been one of the most engaged and intellectually curious students I have had. Furthermore, he has great critical thinking capabilities, and a strong work ethic, both of which will help him to be successful in any chosen capacity.” Anthropology assistant professor and rowing crew head coach Colleen Milligan said in her nomination letter, “What I am routinely impressed with is Duncan’s ability to juggle his responsibilities with academics with his athletic activities. He is determined and committed to graduating on time from Chico State and he maintains one of the highest GPAs on the men’s team.”

College of Business

Jessica Eagles

2021 Rawlins Recipient Jessica Eagles
Photo courtesy of Jessica Eagles

Nominated by David Agoff and Angela Casler

Jessica is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Focusing her major on project management was a natural choice for Jessica, as she has gained much experience over the past several years managing her numerous work, school, and extracurricular activities, including founding the Rotaract Club at Shasta College and leading as president, interning for Chico State’s Center of Healthy Communities, being president of the University’s Management Club, and a member of the Student Veterans of America. Since 2017, she has been an active combat medic in the US Army National Guard—where she received an Army Achievement Medal for Distinguished Honor Graduate. Angela Casler, a lecturer in the Department of Management, said in her nomination letter, “[Jessica’s] current professional work experience in the US Army National Guard as a combat medic attests to a solid emotional intelligence and a person who will dedicate her life to serving others. . . . Her resume boasts a whole-brained, adaptable person who has gained valuable diverse experience working with the public in hospitality, grocers, as a medical receptionist, and a laborer who operates heavy equipment. There is nothing Jessica cannot do!” Professor David Agoff of the Department of Management said in his nomination letter that Jessica “has elevated the Management Club’s reputation, connection with students, and relationships with businesses. . . . An important role of a successful leader is how well they are able to connect with, build trust, coach, and challenge team members. I have been very impressed with Jessica’s ability to do each of these crucial skills with great finesse. She is a great team leader (and person)!”

Kate Ratajczak

2021 Rawlins Recipient Kate Ratajczak

Nominated by Kristen Minetti

Kate is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She has utilized her education focus in human resources to work for the Chico State Political Science Department office as an administrative assistant since September 2019, and for Alta HR as a human resources assistant since May 2018. Since 2018, Kate has been involved in numerous extracurricular activities at Chico State, such as being vice president of professional activities for Delta Sigma Pi, secretary for the Society of Human Resources Management, a member of the American Marketing Association—Chico State chapter, the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, and the director of programs for the Community Council. Kristen Minetti, a lecturer in the Department of Finance and Marketing, wrote in her nomination letter that Kate “is one of the most humble, inspiring, compassionate, and driven people I have ever met. She made an immediate impression on me. . . . Kate is one of the most impressive students I have come across in my years at CSU, Chico. Her dedication to scholarship and personal growth, along with her maturity and desire to help others make her a wonderful candidate for this award. As a personal recipient of the Lt. Robert Merton Rawlins Merit Award myself, I do not take this nomination lightly and know Kate will represent the college well.”

College of Communication and Education

Joscelynn Aquino

2021 Rawlins Recipient Joscelynn Aquino
Photo courtesy of Joscelynn Aquino

Nominated by Susan Avanzino and Michelle Givertz

Joscelynn is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. She has been working both as a marketing intern for Springboard Biodiesel and as an office assistant for the Department of Journalism and Public Relations since 2019. Between 2016 and 2019, Joscelynn has acquired a long list of volunteer experience with such places as the Chico State Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management’s Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, Townsend House Assisted Living, Chico State’s Community Action Volunteers in Education (CAVE), Special Olympics of Northern California Butte County, and Iglesia de Dios Camino de Santidad Highland Park. Professor Michelle Givertz in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences said in her nomination letter, “Joscelynn is highly motivated and strives for excellence in her effort to increase her personal knowledge. Academically, Joscelynn is outstanding, and her professional accomplishments are also impressive, but Joscelynn’s record of volunteerism demonstrates that she is also motivated to engage in extracurricular activities that give back to the community and serve populations that need it the most.” Susan Avanzino, a professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, said in her nomination letter, “I would rate Joscelynn among the top 2 percent of students in terms of academic ability, initiative, and motivation. I am so pleased she is a communication studies major and look forward to watching her excel both in and out of the classroom. We are lucky to have her as part of the Chico State community, as she is a strong representative of our values and commitments. In whatever she pursues, whether academic, community, or professional, I expect her to reach the highest levels of achievement.”

Zada Evans

2021 Rawlins Recipient Zada Evans

Nominated by Bertha Curie and Maris Thompson

Zada is a first-generation college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and is active in various volunteer and mentoring efforts, such as being a peer mentor for Chico State’s First-Year Experience program since August 2019, and assisting and learning at Ridge Physical Therapy Center from November 2017–May 2018. Since 2019, she has worked as a student assistant for the Chico Student Success Center. A survivor of the 2018 Camp Fire, Zada has shown that nothing will stand in the way of her goals and her steadfast perseverance has been noticed by both peers and teachers. In her nomination letter, Bertha Alicia Curiel, educational partnership coordinator for the Chico Student Success Center, said that Zada “is an ambitious and outgoing young woman who strives to be a positive individual. She is enthusiastic about learning, values educational opportunities, and has admirable professional goals and aspirations. She welcomes the challenge of continuous self-improvement, and recognizes that it is the means to a prosperous life and rewarding professional career.” Professor Maris Thompson in the School of Education said in her nomination letter, “It’s clear that Zada is a student who has worked tirelessly during her first two years at Chico State, despite incredible setbacks and personal trauma. Her scholarship, leadership, and persistence all clearly demonstrate her ability to connect her college education with efforts to create a more just and equitable society and world. . . . I have come to know Zada as a poised and compassionate young leader who is deeply committed to her University, her local community, and her fellow first-generation peers. [She] is incredibly deserving of this important recognition.”

College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management

Tanner Olsen

2021 Rawlins Recipient Tanner Olsen
Photo courtesy of Tanner Olsen

Nominated by Mohammed Albahttiti and Feraidon Ataie

Tanner is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in concrete industry management and already has several American Concrete Institute (ACI) certifications under his belt, including shotcrete nozzleman, wet mix process, vertical, and overhead; flatwork technician; and field technician grade I. Tanner is also the president of the ACI Chico State chapter and has taken part in numerous other leadership and extracurricular activities between 2019 and 2020, such as being treasurer and safety officer for the Chico State waterski club, team captain for Chico State CIM NPCA precast concrete competition team, mix design captain for Concrete Canoe team, Chico State Student Research Competition participant, Chico State National Leadership and Success member, and from 2005–2007 he was squad leader, lead tracker, and assistant medic for search and rescue group K-CORPS. Tanner has worked for the Chico State Research Foundation as a concrete research assistant since April 2019 and a pump operator and shotcrete nozzleman for Marr B Olsen Inc. since October 2017. In the past, he worked as a concrete chemical admixture sales intern for BCforward from May–August 2019 and operations manager for Feed This, Inc! from July 2009–October 2017. Concrete industry management assistant professor Feraidon Ataie said in his nomination letter that “Tanner has shown outstanding academic performance, leadership skills, and passion for helping  his fellow classmates.” Concrete industry management assistant professor Mohammed Albahttiti said in his letter that Tanner “is both extremely hard-working and truly insightful; these two traits combine to produce a most outstanding student. His dedication to the field of concrete as well as to his colleagues and the college as a whole is unparalleled and demonstrates his high moral character.”

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

Vivian Hernandez

2021 Rawlins Recipient Vivian Hernandez

Nominated by Stephen Lewis

Vivian is a first-generation college student and double major pursuing bachelor’s degrees in history and Latin American studies with a goal to receive a master’s degree in history, because she loves research, and possibly a PhD so she can teach Latin American history. She became president of the Phi Alpha Theta—National History Honors Society in May 2019 and has been director of external affairs of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA) de Chico State since September 2019 and a member since August 2018. She has also been parliamentarian of the San Benito LULAC Young Adults Council since March 2020 and remains active in other volunteer political work and community outreach programs. Vivian was awarded the 2019 Jacqueline Barnhart Memorial Scholarship and has worked the front desk of the History Department since 2020, been an HFA student ambassador since 2019, and worked as a summer intern for Teknova Quality Assurance since 2017. History department chair and nominator Stephen Lewis said Vivian was “truly the complete package—talented, determined, reliable, and very personable. She is beginning to put together an impressive academic record as well as a resume of  political work and outreach, and she is only a sophomore! . . . In 22 years of teaching, I have never encountered a student who is more likely to make the most of her opportunities.”

School of Nursing

Brady Hicks

2021 Rawlins Recipient Brady Hicks

Nominated by Paul Weingartner

Brady is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing with aspirations of becoming a nurse practitioner. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from University of California, Davis, and he is a National Merit Scholar and recipient of the 2018 Bruce McCulloch Memorial Scholarship for Excellence. He worked in digital advertising for a decade before deciding on a career change into the healthcare field. He currently works as a medical scribe for Oroville Hospital and was recently accepted as a COVID-19 response volunteer for the California Health Corps, where he will assist local medical efforts to combat COVID-19. He is a single father of 2-year-old fraternal twins and is active in children’s enrichment programs, such as beginning sign language and others that promote healthy practices for children. Nursing associate professor Paul Weingartner said in his nomination letter, “I have often said that no one is born a nurse. Individuals may be born to care, but being a nurse goes far beyond the pedestrian activities of caring for family and loved ones. Nursing is about applying one’s knowledge and skills for the betterment of community, family, and self. I sincerely believe that this is what Brady has in mind when he says that he wants to live a life in service to his family, community, and the profession of nursing.”