President’s Award Winners

May 18, 2020

Graduates recognized for exemplary student achievement, regional stewardship

By Sophia Huang McKenzie

Every year CSUMB honors graduating students for their outstanding achievements with six university-wide awards and five Dean’s Medalist awards. This is the first in a series of stories about this year’s honorees. To see our Class of 2020 virtual celebration, go to Graduate Celebration 2020.

Ryan Shook, Master of Social Work

President's Graduate Award for Exemplary Regional Stewardship

Ryan Shook

Ryan Shook

Ryan Shook says no one encouraged him or showed him a pathway to college in high school, so it took him 20 years to realize he could earn a college degree. Now he’s graduating from CSUMB with a master’s degree in social work and making sure others have the opportunities and support he didn’t.

For his contributions to the Monterey County region as a student leader and social justice advocate, Shook has been honored with the President’s Graduate Award for Exemplary Regional Stewardship.

Shook, who describes himself as “a person in long-term recovery from addiction and a formerly incarcerated individual,” began pursuing higher education in 2011 at Gavilan College in Gilroy. He became a student ambassador with the Outreach and Recruitment department at Gavilan and helped students navigate the pathway to community college.

“This work has been most effective with troubled and foster youth, teen parents, and students that just could not make it in mainstream high schools. I shared my own experiences, successes, and struggles in life and college,” Shook said.

Through his sociology coursework, Shook discovered a passion for the study of social inequalities and a desire to help break down the barriers people face. He transferred to UC Santa Cruz and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2016. At UCSC he helped conduct research about low-wage workers and discrimination. He also assisted in the design and implementation of an income-generating job training program for the Gilroy Compassion Center, a day-use homeless facility.


“In light of the many inequities known to be inherent in the criminal justice system, his research is providing valuable leadership in helping educational institutions provide opportunities for people who may have suffered unjustly from criminal justice involvement."

— Kamilah Majied, faculty mentor

Shook began working at Gavilan College as full-time Student Life Coordinator in 2016 to bring diverse programming and resources to students. He applied to CSUMB’s master’s of social work degree program and was accepted in 2017.

“I just wanted to strengthen my job skills to better assist students to become more connected to the campus and the local community, but I received so much more. Through the class discussions and coursework, I was able to really internalize and vocalize who I am as a mixed-race, White-Mexican American. I learned to limit my own internalized oppression and use the privilege I was given to fight for equity in all aspects of my life,” he said.

At CSUMB, Shook has conducted research on the impact of criminal justice history on graduate student success. His work was showcased at a forum sponsored by the Department of Social Work and the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. He also completed the rigorous Institutional Review Board process to continue this research and perhaps pursue a doctorate degree in the future.

“In light of the many inequities known to be inherent in the criminal justice system, his research is providing valuable leadership in helping educational institutions provide opportunities for people who may have suffered unjustly from criminal justice involvement to pursue their education and live contributive lives through their professional endeavors,” said Kamilah Majied, a professor in the department of social work and Shook’s faculty research mentor.

“In Mr. Shook, I have observed a level of dedication and commitment to excellence that is exceptional. He is deeply admired and respected by his colleagues,” Majied said. “Also, I have observed his advocacy for the rights of marginalized persons, his anti-racism work, his work as an ally with reference to people with disabilities, his capacity for cultural humility, and rigorous self-reflection as he grows as a scholar, researcher and advocate.”

Jacqueline “Jackie” Ceccato, Visual & Public Art

President’s Award for Exemplary Student Achievement and Dean’s Medalist for College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Jacqueline Ceccato

Jacqueline Ceccato

As a freshman at CSUMB, Jackie Ceccato joined the Associated Students (AS) to become a part of the community and “explore new horizons.”

“From the beginning, I knew that AS would allow me to leave my mark on campus and work with other students, staff, and faculty to improve the college experience for current and future CSUMB Otters,” she said.

For her five years of successful work in that endeavor, Ceccato — who is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual & Public Art — received this year’s President’s Award for Exemplary Student Achievement. The award honors one graduating student each year who has best demonstrated the values and commitments of CSUMB and made a notable contribution to a particular area of university life through depth of involvement and service as a student leader.

Ceccato said her “proudest accomplishment at CSUMB” was planning the university’s annual Midnight Madness rally for three years as committee chairperson. A part of CSUMB’s annual homecoming Raft Week, the rally is the university’s largest student event and attracts nearly a thousand students, faculty and staff each year to kick off basketball season, celebrate CSUMB and foster school pride.

“I was always intentional to ensure that many groups and students were both included in the planning and featured during the celebration. I loved working with multiple collaborators on campus, the event was always different and improved each year,” Ceccato said.

Juan J. Guzman, AS Programming and Communications Coordinator, praised Ceccato’s work ethic and leadership ability.

“I have never met a more committed and hardworking student leader. Jackie lives and breathes CSUMB. She is both a great team member and also a very capable autonomous leader,” he said.

“She has been able to grow (Midnight Madness) each year and has solidified it as a highly anticipated campus tradition to the point that Raft Week is now planned around this massive event.”

By being a part of these organizations, I had the chance to turn my passions into actions and truly make a difference in a variety of communities at CSUMB."
— Jacqueline Ceccato, award winner

Ceccato’s AS career began as Monte Rey Commissioner, the person who coordinates appearances for CSUMB’s official mascot. She was later elected Athletics Senator to advocate for student-athletes and lead the AS Athletic Committee. She then transitioned to working as an AS Programming Specialist assisting in the planning, marketing, execution, and assessment of all AS programs, such as concerts, workshops, film screenings, late-night events and outreach initiatives.

During her time at CSUMB, Ceccato was also an active member of the Delta Omega Rho Multicultural Sorority, the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, and Active Minds, a mental health club whose goal is to help raise awareness and change the stigma against mental health problems.

For her senior capstone project, Ceccato collaborated with Active Minds to revitalize their social media platforms and create advertising graphics for their events on campus.

“By being a part of these organizations, I had the chance to turn my passions into actions and truly make a difference in a variety of communities at CSUMB,” Ceccato said.

“Words cannot express how thankful I am to CSUMB. I know that all my experiences in the past five years will allow me to live a personal and professional life guided by the values and lessons that I have learned. I will never forget the importance of teamwork, the impact of actions, and the significance of showing kindness to others.”

Ceccato also received the Dean’s Medalist Award for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the first annual Keland Family Endowed Memorial Award for Visual & Public Art (VPA). Read more about the awards and Ceccato in the VPA Capstone Student Spotlight.