08:03 AM

University Honors Outstanding 2022 Graduates

More than 4,400 students are expected to graduate from Cal State San Marcos this academic year, including six standouts from the Class of 2022 who are receiving special recognition for their achievements.

Honorees were nominated by faculty or staff and endorsed by their college’s dean. Here is a closer look at each award recipient:

Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez, psychological science

President’s Outstanding Graduate

Dean’s Award, College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences

Alvarez-Hernandez overcame numerous challenges on her path to earning a degree. She became a mother at 16 and, as a first-generation college student from an immigrant family, had little support to help her navigate higher education. But Alvarez-Hernandez is highly motivated with a strong work ethic, and she consistently showed the persistence to thrive.

Alvarez-Hernandez was one of 10 students selected for the U-RISE@CSUSM program, which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to provide professional development and research opportunities to students from underrepresented groups who show promise for success in graduate studies and careers in research.

Nominating professor Keith Trujillo noted that Alvarez-Hernandez is thoughtful, organized and motivated, and regularly contributes insightfully to scientific discussions and assignments. She takes the program seriously and is a leader among her peers. She will pursue her Ph.D. in cognitive science and neuroscience at Northwestern University.

Learn more about Alvarez-Hernandez here.


Melissa Hernandez, human development

Dean’s Award, College of Education, Health and Human Services

Hernandez was lauded for her strong record of educational achievements and service to CEHHS, the university and the region. Nominating professor Teru Toyokawa praised Hernandez for her passion for serving others and generously providing time for people in local communities.

As a first-generation college student, Hernandez navigated her own way into her academic achievement while working full-time and engaging in on- and off-campus activities.

Among the many ways in which Hernandez demonstrated her leadership is by serving on the CEHHS Committee of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity as a student representative. She also has been an active member in the Society of Pre-Health, a student organization with a mission to have students become involved with health-related issues and activities and facilitate students’ career exploration in health care. Through this organization, Hernandez helped other club members develop several projects and provided opportunities for club members to find jobs in health-related fields.

Learn more about Hernandez here.


Karolina Lindberg, business administration

Gerevas Family Dean’s Award Recipient, College of Business Administration

An international student from Sweden, Lindberg distinguished herself in the global business management program and across the college. She demonstrated consistently high academic performance, became increasingly involved within student organizations, and harnessed lessons learned in her professional experiences. And she did all of it while completing her degree in only three years.

Nominating professor Eric Rhodes noted that Lindberg arrived at CSUSM with a strong professional background in customer service and finance, incorporating her unique perspective and bilingual capabilities into her academic endeavors.

Among the challenges Lindberg has overcome are a diagnosis of epilepsy. When the pandemic hit, her family wanted her to complete her studies back home in Sweden, closer to her doctors and family. That meant attending CSUSM for the entire 2020-21 academic year from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Zoom, five days a week, due to the nine-hour time difference. Despite this hurdle, she maintained a 4.0 GPA.

Learn more about Lindberg here.


Billy Unger, mathematics

Dean’s Award, Graduate Studies and Research

Unger has demonstrated outstanding achievement across each of the rigorous selection criteria, graduating with a 3.8 GPA.

Unger’s thesis work involved the study of graph theory and the study of space, or topology. His work centered on a conjecture from graph theory posed in a paper that nominating professor Andre Kundgen coauthored in 2002 with CSUSM colleague Radhika Ramamurthi. A math conjecture refers to a statement that is assumed to be correct but has not been proven. Although the mathematical community had made little progress in addressing this conjecture in the last 20 years, Unger gravitated toward working on it when he came on as Kundgen’s student. In a few short weeks, he made a major breakthrough by coming up with the first graph that had the predicted behavior.

Kundgen praised Unger as an outstanding example of what can be accomplished as a graduate student at CSUSM.


Madison Wagner, chemistry

Dean’s Award, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Wagner overcame numerous challenges to become a role model to her classmates in her commitment to excellence in academics, service leadership and research.

A first-generation college student, Wagner was a top academic performer, including a 4.0 GPA since transferring to CSUSM from Palomar College in fall 2019. Wagner consistently scored in the top 1% on all exams and written assignments in nominating professor Robert Iafe’s organic chemistry lecture and scored in the top 4% nationwide on the ACS Standardized Exam in organic chemistry. Wagner also was awarded the 2021-2022 CSUSM Beckman Scholars research award – one of only two on campus – to support 15 months of mentored research experience.

Iafe noted that Wagner works proficiently in a team setting, is not afraid to be a leader, and also has a professional and patient quality that builds confidence when she helps lab mates.

Learn more about Wagner here.


Anastasia Zacky, political science

Dean’s Award, Dean of Students

Zacky has made lasting contributions to student life at CSUSM through her many involvements, including as a Cougar Pantry intern, Orientation Team leader, event programmer/student coordinator with USU Live!, onboarding a new sorority as Panhellenic Affairs vice president, and most recently, as chapter president.

Zacky also excels in the classroom with a cumulative 3.6 GPA and membership in the Order of Omega and Gamma Sigma Alpha honor societies.

Zacky had multiple nominators for the award who said she has proven to be an outstanding role model for students by actively seeking ways to integrate her passions, student life experiences and dedication to her education. They noted that she has transformed the lives of CSUSM students, positively impacted the campus community, and served as an ambassador and change agent.

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314