Students Caitlin Waddle and Melanie Carniglia honored at Commencement

Twelve outstanding graduates were honored during San Francisco State University’s 119th Commencement ceremony on June 18 — the first to be held virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic — as they represented their more than 7,700 peers in the Class of 2020.

Caitlin Waddle and Melanie Carniglia, graduating with an M.A. in Mathematics and a B.A. in Psychology, respectively, were chosen this year to represent the College of Science & Engineering. Read on to learn about their remarkable achievements. Congratulations to Caitlin and Melanie, as well as all of the amazing CoSE graduates!

Caitlin Waddle, M.A., Mathematics

When Caitlin Waddle graduated with an undergraduate math degree, she had a difficult time imagining herself as a mathematician, instead deciding to pursue a career as a teacher. Having returned to research and studying the heady disciplines of algebraic geometry and graph theory as a master’s student at SF State, she’s now on her way to a Ph.D. program in math at the University of Michigan. “The math that I do is math as art as opposed to math as science,” she explained. “It’s just for its own sake.”

Waddle was chosen to participate in several prestigious programs as an SF State master’s student, including the Mathematical Sciences Research Institutes Graduate Summer School on Geometric Group Theory and the Women in Mathematics program at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She also was recently awarded a prestigious Anniversary Award from the ARCS Foundation and was an integral member of the Mathematistas, a campus student group that promotes gender equity in mathematics.

As she pursues her Ph.D. and in her planned career in academia after that, Waddle sees mentorship as a crucial part of her mission. That way she can help open possibilities for her students that they may not see as possible for themselves — and that she didn’t see as possible when she graduated. “I think that just being able to be that little push, helping people to imagine a slightly bigger future than they might have been able to otherwise, feels really gratifying,” she explained. “That’s the sort of mentorship and leadership I’m interested in working on going forward.”

Melanie Carniglia, B.A., Psychology

As a psychology major, Melanie Carniglia distinguished herself in the classroom, lab and community. After having her daughter during her first semester of community college, Carniglia had a challenging postpartum experience that was overlooked by medical professionals. That experience informed her mission to improve postpartum mental health support. “I’m really passionate about postpartum mental health,” she said. Her later work as a medical assistant in an OBGYN office and as a volunteer doula only reaffirmed her mission.

At SF State, Carniglia researched what’s known as “dyadic coping skills,” how partners in a relationship support one another. Her work on how that type of support relates to loneliness in relationships won her third place in the CoSE Student Research Showcase. She also served as a teaching assistant, where she took pride in creating a welcoming environment for her students to be vulnerable and talk about their challenges. Carniglia balanced all of this with being a single parent, a feat she says was made more manageable by supportive professors.

Over the next year she’ll continue to work in the same SF State research lab and volunteer as a doula while taking care of her daughter and applying to graduate programs for the fall. She plans to pursue an LMFT, specializing in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum counseling, and hopes to advocate for integrative approaches between health care professionals to ensure that women receive the best care possible — and that no one slips through the cracks. “I really think it's important to have all of your practitioners working together,” she explained.