Desiree Galvan’s dedication to excellence is rooted in her lived experiences. Her parents both immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador and Mexico, respectively. As a first-generation American and first-generation college graduate, Galvan is committed to bringing a voice to those who are voiceless.

“Throughout my academic career, I have faced struggles and adversity, but I live by my mantra to always help others, give hope, and show that there is a possibility for greatness for my community,” Galvan said. 

This week, Galvan will earn her bachelor’s degree in a field that will allow her to do just that. With her degree in communicative sciences and deaf studies with an option in speech-language pathology, Galvan is committed to serving her community, which is broad and far-reaching. 

In addition to being of proud Hispanic heritage, Galvan has also faced mental health challenges including depression and anxiety. Rather than hiding her mental health challenges, Galvan is open and honest about it among her peers. She hopes that by doing so, she is able to help others navigate their own struggles, while uplifting them to their full potential. This desire to advocate for others, and her experience volunteering for a counseling group, is ultimately what led her to the speech-language pathology field. 

As an assistant counselor at Pine Meadow Counseling, in her hometown of Bakersfield, Galvan helped develop lesson plans for group therapy sessions for children 7-17. She counseled children with mental health challenges, in addition to ADHD disorder, and taught them communication and coping strategies. 

“These were kiddos who had difficulty controlling their emotions and couldn’t really communicate to the best of their abilities,” Galvan said. “So everyday as a volunteer,  I would open up my heart to these children and share strategies that I used myself to help them overcome their own challenges. During this time, I really grew as an advocate for this population, which I grew to love. It was so rewarding.”

During that time, Galvan saw her own communication skills flourish, and thus, her journey in the speech-language pathology field began. Initially a psychology major, Galvan eventually switched her major to communicative sciences and deaf studies – a decision she said has allowed her to continue helping others express themselves.

“Being that person that they could go to and pour their heart and soul out to about their day is a huge deal,” Galvan said. “ And so I learned to listen respectfully because everyone has different experiences and those experiences shape each person in a different way. So respecting their journey and who they are is something that can be really, really helpful.” 

Her heart of service also hits close to home. Throughout her time at Fresno State, Galvan has made a lasting impact on campus, where she was an active member of the University’s National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association, serving as both a member at large and as vice president during her final semester. Hoping to provide support to her peers, she spearheaded a study group initiative for members to give them a space to learn, connect and grow alongside others within their major. 

“Being able to guide my fellow club members was something I found great value in,” Galvan said as she reflected on her time in the association. “I really just like helping people find the right path for them.”

Outside of campus, Galvan is equally committed to her community. She has volunteered at both The Talk Team and Empower Speech Therapy & Life Skills Center – both based in the Fresno region. This gave her the opportunity to observe practicing speech-language pathologists, while also gaining knowledge and professional experience in the field. 

Wanting to expand her knowledge and client base, Galvan has also completed three semesters of American Sign Language, and hopes the ability of being trilingual in English, Spanish and ASL will allow her to reach even more children, adults and families. 

“Communication is so beautiful to me,” Galvan said. “Both my mother and father have English as their second language, so I’ve seen how uncomfortable it can be for them to speak English sometimes. The ability to make a difference in a person’s life and to teach them to be proud of who they are and create change from that is an awesome feeling.”

Galvan most recently completed  the College of Health and Human Services’ Honors Program in Collaborative Leadership. Through the year-long course, she connected with her peers in an interprofessional setting, allowing her to learn from, and about, other majors within the college. Her group, in particular, partnered with local organization, CARE Fresno, on developing a community garden and cook book for children and families to address food insecurity.

Going forward, Galvan plans to pursue a graduate degree in the speech-language pathology field, where she hopes to gain additional skills and knowledge needed to work in the school setting with children, and with adults in nursing facilities. Her long-term goals include earning a doctoral degree in counseling, so that one day she can become a professor at Fresno State and inspire future leaders, just like all of those who inspired her when she first came to campus. 

“I remember coming to Dog Days and being so nervous, but when I got the chance to ask questions and ask my soon-to-be professors about the classes and the program, they were very helpful and really made me feel like they cared for my success,” Galvan said. “ I was treated how a student should be treated. At that moment, I realized that this community is something I really wanted to be part of – and that’s why I chose Fresno State.”

Desiree Galvan was selected as the College of Health and Human Services’ 2021 Undergraduate Deans’ Medalist and is a candidate for the prestigious California State University, Fresno University President’s Medal, which is the highest honor the University presents to an undergraduate student. The President’s Medalist is selected from the nine undergraduate Dean’s Medalists who represent the academic colleges and schools and the Division of Student Affairs. The awardee will be announced on May 12, 2021.

Read Vida en e Valle feature story (May 14, 2021)