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Chico State

Celebrating Our 2024 Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients

A graphic showing the headshots of all 11 recipients of the Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve highlighted this year’s Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship recipients. Representing each college around the University, these students are among the finest students at Chico State.

Please join us in congratulating our 2023–24 Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients—click on their names to read their personal stories in detail and with a Q&A!

Arely Saldana

Graduate student Arely Saldana smiles, wearing a formal black cardigan and a red shirt.

Psychology, ’20; Psychological Science

Upon her 2014 graduation from high school in Mexico, Arely Saldana immigrated to the United States by herself without knowing a word of English. With an inexhaustible drive to learn, Saldana earned her degree in psychology in 2020. Building on her success, she has gone on to pursue a master’s degree in psychological science (she plans to earn her Master’s degree in May 2024). This year, Saldana was one of two Chico State graduate students recognized by the CSU as Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars, which offers unique opportunities to explore and prepare to succeed in future doctoral programs.

“[This award] will allow me to graduate from the master’s program without any debt, and that is a huge leg up in life. Once I finally start working, I can start saving money instead of having to pay out debts or worry about finances like that.”

Read Areley’s story.

Justin Craven

Student Justin Craven wearing a black jacket.

Business Administration

A physics double major and student-athlete, Justin Craven, is constantly growing through an open mind. In terms of academics, he received both the Arloe Anania-Murray Physics Scholarship for 2022 and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award in 2023—earning a summer internship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland in the process. Outside of the classroom, he’s a decathlete on the men’s track and field team. As a sophomore last year, Craven placed fourth at the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships.  

“I’m looking towards grad school for physics and the award is a huge boost for that as well, in terms of applications and looking where I want to go. It’s going to open a lot of doors a bit more with this recognition.

Read Justin’s story.  

Sierra Bowling

Student Sierra Bowling smiles as she poses with her hands holding her gray jacket in front of a beige backdrop with the outline of a window in the background.

Communication Sciences and Disorders, ’23; Speech-Language Pathology

Sierra Bowling (Communication Sciences and Disorders, ’23) fell in love with the field of speech-language pathology (SLP) when she shadowed a professional during her junior year of high school. She knew then she wanted to help people, especially children, gain the ability to communicate. Currently a graduate student, Bowling said the hands-on learning she’s gained in the CMSD program, especially her work in the Clinic for Communication Disorders this past fall, has solidified her decision and boosted her confidence.  

“Being able to practice with clients has been impactful, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. The clients I’ve had have shaped me into the SLP I’m going to be, and it’s been a great experience.” 

Read Sierra’s story.

Letty Mejia

A portrait of graduate student Letty Mejia in a purple dress.

Social Work

Letty Mejia came to the United States at the age of four­. As an undocumented child, she grew up navigating a complicated series of hurdles that prevented her from accessing many services and programs until the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Since then, Mejia has gone from strength to strength, graduating from Southern Oregon University in 2021 with a degree in early childhood development. In May, she will complete her master’s degree in social work from Chico State and be well on her way to becoming a licensed clinical social worker.

“Two of my greatest passions are my community and my kids… I love being able to be that face of representation for the population that I’m serving here—children and individuals who see themselves in me. And I want my kids to have the opportunities and experience stability that I never experienced.” 

Read Letty’s story.

Marifren Francisco

Student Marifren Francisco smiles in a formal white jacket and clear-framed glasses.


Marifren Francisco was initially drawn to Chico State’s atmosphere, affordability, and downtown location. Once she got here, seeing students in Chico State’s School of Nursingwidely regarded as one the state’s finestdonning their maroon scrubs took her motivation to a new level. Now a senior nursing major preparing to graduate in May, she has achieved a 3.9 GPA, enjoyed invaluable hands-on experiences, and expanded her leadership qualities. Her next goal is to work as an intensive care nurse and eventually as a perioperative nurse in the operating room. 

“It’s been exciting to take the skills I learned in class and help people… I handle everything from the beginning of life to the end. I’ve helped people in their worst moments, all while being a student.”  

Read Marifren’s story.

Jorge Munguia Ramos

Jorge Munguia Ramos poses for a photo wearing a blue shirt with a small white pattern.

History, ’23; Teaching Credential Program

Moving to Chico marked Jorge Munguia Ramos’ first time away from home and family. Battling this unfamiliar dynamic, Munguia Ramos not only stayed, he thrived, graduating with a history degree and 4.0 GPA in December. This spring he begins the credential program—the final step in his quest to become a history teacher. Munguia Ramos credits his professors for pushing him to get involved and the community he found in the history club and at the Dream Center for providing him with the encouragement that he desperately needed.

“College can be an uphill battle. Some people struggle academically, some struggle financially, and some struggle to find community. I feel like I am part of two communities: One at the Dream Center and one in the history club. Between the two of them, I’ve found what I need in every area.”

Read Jorge’s story.

Olivia Johnson

Student Olicia Johnson smiles as she looks away from the camera while she's wearing a blue blouse in front of a beige studio background.

Computer Science

Olivia Johnson fell in love with coding while attending Butte College. Knowing that Chico State had a strong computer science program, Johnson, a former drum major for Pleasant Valley High School marching band, decided to transfer to Chico State to stay in her hometown. Here, Johnson’s professors describe her as a bright student and top performer in the computer science department, with an impressive ability to break down complex problems and apply her knowledge in the real world. 

“This was an amazing path to take. I love math, which is what led me to engineering, however, I felt that it wasn’t right for me. I tried programming and absolutely loved it, and I’ve just been loving all my classes ever since. I have finally found my path, which is cool, and the support here has been amazing to help me find more confidence in that path.” 

Read Olivia’s story.

India Starr

Student India Starr smiles as she looks away from the camera and poses with her arms crossed in a black button-up blouse against a beige studio background.


Basketball brought India Starr from San Diego to Chico State, but it was the meaningful connections she made here that made her stay. Originally recruited to play on the women’s basketball team, Starr’s athletic career was cut short due to COVID-19 and health concerns. However, the support she received from her professors and peers at Chico State played a pivotal role in her decision to continue after retiring from athletics, said Starr, a communication studies major, with an option in communication and public affairs.

The entire communications studies department here at Chico State has enriched me not only as a person, but also as a student. I’m beyond grateful.” 

Read India’s story.

Nhung Pham

Nhung Pham poses on a stool in a blue business suit.

Business Administration

With strong skills in computer science, Nhung Pham originally planned to pursue biology and enter the medical field before she, with the help of Professor Jaycob Arbogast, put her coding skills to use as a member of the Student-Managed Investment Fund Team. Pham led the Algorithmic Trading Team and created custom software that automates investment decisions—like automatically buying a particular stock when it hits a certain price and selling once it hits a higher price. Through coding in Python, Pham can create more complex rules, such as monitoring a particular stock’s convergence and divergence lines and executing a trade the minute the two lines cross.

“The award makes a difference financially for me. But more importantly, I think it will mean a lot to my parents and make them proud of me. They know I’m a first-generation student, speaking my second language in this country, and trying to finish my degree. It also means my hard work has paid off.”

Read Nhung’s story.

Carter Lindstrom

Carter Lindstrom smiles while seated on a stool in a dark-colored suit.

Animal Science

Carter Lindstrom carries a 3.92 GPA, has served as president of the Management Club, is currently on the executive board of the American Marketing Association (AMA) club, and is an active member supporting the Association of Women in Business. Through these clubs, he contributed greatly to creating a comprehensive 40-page case study about the Wall Street Journal that received a “Commendable Award” and ranked 31st in the nation out of more than 100 universities. He was selected to go to the AMA International Collegiate Conference in New Orleans in 2023 where he competed in multiple competitions including exhibit and perfect pitch—and he is scheduled to attend again this spring. Lindstrom has accomplished this despite not being able to drive to campus and or view slides projected in the front of the classroom.

Read Carter’s story.

Taylor Anderson

A portrait photograph of Taylor Anderson wearing glasses.

Mathematics, ’23; Credential Program

Taylor Anderson (Mathematics, ’23) is the definition of resilience. As a first-generation college student who took an important break between first enrolling and graduating years later, she has found success by forging her own path at her own pace. Balancing work and family and her own vision of success, she is currently enrolled in the credential program at Chico State, reaching for her dream job teaching mathematics close to home.

“Take it at your own pace. Don’t get discouraged if you have to put off a class for a semester—just do what you’re comfortable with. And once you decide what you want to do, put your head down and keep going.”

Read Taylor’s story.