Education Lab

Fresno State grad's packed schedule pays off

Most Fresno State students take up to six years to complete a bachelor's degree. But Melissa Freeman will do it -- twice -- in 4 1/2 years.

This academic dynamo now is polishing off two bachelor's degrees -- in business administration and linguistics -- along with a minor in Japanese and certificates in nonprofit management leadership and special event planning.

Serious time-management skills helped her stay on track.

"When things are organized, you can get so much more done," said Freeman, 22, of Fresno.

Now, Freeman is one of 18 deans' medalists at Fresno State. Students are chosen from the university's eight schools and colleges of academic discipline and the Division of Student Affairs.

Each dean selects an undergraduate and a graduate medalist based on academics, community involvement and other accomplishments.

At Saturday's commencement, one undergraduate medalist will be awarded the President's Medal -- the top student recognition at Fresno State.

Matthew Jendian, an associate professor and director of the American Humanics Nonprofit Administration Program, described Freeman as "phenomenal" in a letter of recommendation.

"As a student, she has excelled in the classroom, assumed leadership positions and truly lived out the spirit of service," he wrote of Freeman, who is fundraising director for the humanics student association.

Freeman, who doesn't look tired despite the break-neck pace, said she's honored to be among the medalists.

She said she relied on a day planner to manage and balance her academic load with cheerleading, volunteer work, research, honors programs, married life and more. She'll finish at Fresno State with more than 230 units.

Freeman, who carries a near-perfect 3.98 grade-point average, said she took more than 20 units each semester because of the demands of her multiple academic programs.

The average student load is about 13 units.

"Every semester I was here at Fresno State, I've had to get permission to take excess units," said Freeman, who transferred from Fresno City College -- where she was a dean's medalist in 2008.

At first, Freeman's academic focus wasn't clear. The 2005 Bullard High School graduate was certain she was going into the pharmacy profession -- enrolling in the program at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

But Freeman discovered that wasn't her dream. She left Stockton and started anew at City College.

Now, Freeman will graduate from Fresno State in the same month she would have finished at UOP. She next plans to pursue a doctorate and then become a professor or perhaps work for a marketing firm.

But first, Freeman will take a break. She said she's looking forward to a more relaxed pace.

"I really did enjoy school a lot," she said. "But I feel like this is a good time to try something a little different."

Editor's note: Because of incorrect information from Fresno State, an earlier version of this story gave an incorrect time for the university’s commencement ceremony on Saturday at Save Mart Center.