Stan State’s Top Honor Bestowed at Commencement
May 24, 2023

Gianna Nunes selected Stanislaus State because it was close to her Hilmar home, and she thought the campus was beautiful.

It took some time for her to engage with on-campus activities outside of classes she took as she worked toward a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Promotion.

Once she did, though, she left an impression and was nominated by a faculty member and selected by campus deans as the Class of 2023 J. Burton Vasché Award winner, named for the University’s founding president. The award honors a student who displays the highest standards of leadership, cooperation, participation, service and scholarship.  

“I didn’t start getting involved on campus until a few years in,” Nunes said “I realized I was not experiencing all that I wanted to get from college and dove head-first into campus involvement. It can feel intimidating joining, and you might feel like it’s too late, but it’s not. You bring your own unique perspective, and everyone will be better off for it.”

Specifically, Nunes became involved with Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and the University Student Center (SC) as a member of the board of directors.

“The ASI & SC staff were instrumental in my personal and professional growth,” Nunes said. “Through every experience with them, I learned how to be more outspoken, advocate for myself and others and be confident in my abilities.”

Nunes also found time to participate in the Student Health Advisory Committee, led by Professor Janice Herring, who “always pushed us to put our best effort forward and who never let my achievements and hard work go unnoticed.

“I juggled a lot of positions and involvements during my time here while still prioritizing my academics and personal growth,” Nunes said. “Bringing what I was passionate about into each opportunity helped me keep pushing and make impactful change.”  

Her love of the University’s grounds never changed, and she said she’ll remember “the geese sizing me up on my walks through campus.”

While engaging with student activities and broadening her friendships on campus, Nunes remained focused on her academics, finishing with a 3.8 grade-point average in preparation for a role in public health.

Among her favorite classes was Professor of Physical Education and Health Pin Luo’s kinesiology class on holistic health approaches from around the world.

“It was incredibly insightful to learn about traditional medicines, and I will take these teachings forward into my career and personal life,” Nunes said.

Her career plans are well thought out.

“I’m interested in pursuing a public health career in the fields of preventative care, chronic disease management and health education,” Nunes said. “I’m deeply passionate about addressing health inequities, and I hope to pursue my career with establishments that prioritize care accessibility and community-based care. I would eventually like to pursue graduate education in public health to contribute research to the field.”

As a product of Hilmar, she understands the need for professional health workers close to home.

“The health disparities in the San Joaquin Valley are amplified by the healthcare shortage in rural areas,” she said. “I plan to use my degree to assist with the implementation and development of culturally competent public health programs that address these health inequities.”

Her extracurricular activities, she said, will help her in that effort.

“Meaningful change often comes with a lot of push-back and discomfort,” Nunes said. “When you are advocating for underserved communities, especially in the field of health, you need to stand your ground and persevere in your advocacy.”