Outstanding Student of the Year seized opportunities at Dominican

The opportunity to connect with a supportive campus community and invest in her many diverse interests allowed Melissa Stoakley '17 to prosper at Dominican as both a scholar and an athlete.

“On a campus where our opportunities outweigh our student population, this place really can change people if you are willing to make the experience your own and get the most out of your education,” says Melissa, who was named the Outstanding Student of the Year in 2017 at Commencement ceremonies.

As a captain and four-year player for the Dominican women’s soccer team, Melissa was a consummate student-athlete coming out of Casa Roble High School in Citrus Heights. She honed her leadership skills as Vice President of the Penguin Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (PSAAC) and a mentor for the Allen Sports Club. In the summer of 2016 she accepted an invitation from the NCAA to its NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis. Several weeks later, she participated in the LeaderShape Institute at Dominican.

Melissa was quick on her feet on and off the field. The Communications and Media Studies major, who also earned minors in Graphic Art and Psychology, was named Junior Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2016 and Senior Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year this year. She was a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and the Psi Chi Psychological Honor Society.  She was a class senator for Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU) and was a Student Ambassador and editor for the Dominican Beat, the University’s student newspaper.

Melissa was a representative for Dominican year-round in events ranging from PSAAC’s Make-A-Wish Foundation reveal to Shield Day to Alternative Spring Break where, through Campus Ministry, she volunteered for community service in an immersion trip to Tijuana as a junior and, as a senior, was a cabin leader for sixth graders at CYO Camp at Caritas Creek.

“It was through these trips that I was able to embrace the Dominican ideal of reflection, and I could begin to understand the importance of giving my time and sharing my knowledge with others,” Melissa says. “These moments in my Dominican experience have highlighted the immense impact just one person can make in a seemingly unchangeable world, and I will never forget the opportunity I had to learn, grow, and love in ways I never thought possible.”

Melissa’s journey through Dominican was supported by professor Bradley Van Alstyne, former chair of the Communications and Media Studies Department, whom Melissa calls her “life coach” and “honorary parent.”

“Without the selfless and charismatic mentorship of Brad Van Alstyne these four years, I know I would not have been given the opportunity to discover my passion through my individualized education,” Melissa says. “I consider myself one of the luckiest students at this university to have built the kind of one-on-one relationship I did with Brad, and I know for many years to come he will continue to stand in my corner, push me to my full potential, and genuinely care about my well-being.”

“Melissa has been amazing since day one of her freshman year. One of the great things about our department and the university as a whole is that there are opportunities for students everywhere in and outside of the classroom,” Van Alstyne says. “Melissa sought out and really took advantage of those opportunities essentially handcrafting an extensive educational and employment portfolio.”

While involved in numerous activities on campus, Melissa pursued an internship as an Account Executive at Zumado Public Relations and worked as a Corporate Partnership intern with the Sacramento Republic FC near her hometown in Citrus Heights. She even worked part-time as a gymnastics coach, once again stretching her knowledge and know how.

In April of 2017, Melissa was the recipient of the first Exemplary Dominican Pillar Award at the Inaugural Penguin Leadership Awards. Yet, Melissa’s contribution at Dominican was more far-reaching and reflective than one award.

“The most notable achievement I will look back on is the impact I was able to make on others’ lives to make the most out of their Dominican experience,” says Melissa, who also was co-recipient of the Spirit of the Alumni Award in May 2017. “No accolades or recognition have had quite the same impact as individuals saying `I came to Dominican because of you’ or expressing their gratitude for the role model I have been to them, even without trying.”

Melissa, now working as Executive Assistant and Event Coordinator for the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, is considering pursuing her MS in Education at Dominican.

“When I was applying for colleges in high school, I knew I was looking for an institution that would help me land a job post-graduation. What I never expected was to find a campus community that would embrace one another like family and make the inevitable of leaving this place so difficult,” Melissa says. “I could never be more equipped from the educational and experiential opportunities Dominican has provided to go out into this world and inspire excellence in others the way my mentors and professors have inspired me.”


May 19, 2017