The Outstanding Graduate and Undergraduate Students from Cal State San Bernardino’s Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration will be honored at the university’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 15, at Toyota Arena (formerly known as Citizens Business Bank Arena) in Ontario at noon.
Jess Laird, who lives in El Cerrito, will be graduating with a master’s degree in social work and public administration in the dual-degree program, and Ashley Moeller of Desert Hot Springs will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Laird, the Outstanding Graduate Student, decided to pursue public administration and social work to advance the rights the vulnerable.
“I am continually inspired by the courageous individuals who use their voices to advocate for themselves and others in the face of a frightening time in our nation’s story: the LGBTQ+ activists, those telling their #MeToo stories, the immigrant and refugee community, the disability rights leaders, those speaking out against police violence, the defenders of reproductive rights, and those fighting to save our climate and planet,” Laird said.
Laird is a student with a passion in advocating for social justice and human rights through policy and program development in the public and nonprofit sectors. As part of the Master of Social Work (MSW) program, Laird worked in direct services with individuals and families (micro) as well as in the advocacy, leadership, organizational and policy levels (macro) and became drawn to the macro section. Laird decided to participate in a brand new dual-degree program that enables students to simultaneously complete MSW and Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees.
Laird was inspired and mentored by academic adviser Shyra Harris, who is also a full-time lecturer in the School of Social Work.
“I have gotten to know Shyra well over these past three years and am incredibly grateful for the passion, encouragement, and wisdom she has never failed to share with me,” Laird said.
Laird has worked at the Contra Costa Office of the Public Defender as a forensic social worker and also as a discrimination investigator at the city of San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
After graduation, Laird hopes to work in a program development and/or policy advocacy related to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Defining my future is exactly what CSUSB gave me the confidence to do. Over the last three years, the faculty and staff of CSUSB have supported me, encouraged me, and pushed me to never settle for less than my best,” Laird said. “Through the guidance of this university, my future no longer feels murky. My future feels bright, exciting, and full of possibility.”
Ashley Moeller, the Outstanding Undergraduate Student, is a first-generation college student who is graduating with a 3.9 GPA from the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, all while attending two colleges and working two jobs. In addition to receiving her bachelor’s from the PDC, she is also obtaining an associate degree in automotive technology from the College of the Desert.
“I really like cars and modifying them, so I thought about doing accounting for an automotive shop or a dealership such as Toyota, but then I picked my brain even more and said why not just own my own shop?” she said. “I think I have gained enough skills from CSUSB to start and run a business. I knew in order to be a woman in the auto industry and be taken seriously, I would need a degree or something to back me up, so that is when I decided to enroll in College of the Desert and take automotive classes for my associate in automotive technology.”
Moeller, who lives in Desert Hot Springs, was inspired to pursue higher education at a young age after she witnessed her father struggle with homelessness and watched her mother have difficulty supporting three children.
“Seeing these things really motivated me to want to become somebody one day and be able to have the ability to help my family become better off and not stress so much,” she said. “I knew that my strong point was school so I gave it my all. I also did not get much attention at home and realized at a young age that I was getting a lot of positive attention at school from teachers and staff due to my motivation in school. I would say every single teacher and professor I have ever had has been an inspiration to me.”
While working toward her bachelor’s degree, Moeller says her biggest struggle was trying to help her father get back on his feet.
“He was in a state where he was not ready for help and I continuously forced it on him and crushed myself every time my attempts didn’t work. Finally, my dad stopped using drugs and I was able to get him his first real job in a long time last year in 2018,” she said. “This was very hard to accomplish but I am so glad I stuck with it.”
After earning her bachelor’s, Moeller will complete her remaining classes for her associate degree and then hopes to open her own automotive shop once she has enough funds and community support.
“CSUSB helped me define my future by providing me with the best professors and advisors possible ... I attend the Palm Desert Campus and it is so small that you really feel like family with all the professors and students. I feel that getting to know my peers has helped me define my future as well. You really gain a network of individuals. CSUSB offered many programs, even career-specific programs to help students shape their future,” she said.
“I can sincerely say that I can use the skills I learned at CSUSB to make a great future for myself! I was accepted to every college I applied to and, I cannot say it enough, but I selected to attend the right one and I would never go back and change my decision,” Moeller said. “Attending CSUSB has been the best decision of my life.”
For more information about the June 2019 Commencement ceremonies, visit the Commencement website. All of the ceremonies at Toyota Arena will be livestreamed.  
Visit the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration to learn more about its programs.