Cal State San Bernardino graduated the first students of its Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration concurrent degree program, the only such program offered in the California State University system created to help students seeking careers that include top administrative roles in social service agencies.
Jess Laird and Lana Kaissi each received master’s degrees in social work from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and master’s degrees in public administration from the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration.
The two graduates intend to pursue careers in social services.
The concurrent degree program was launched in fall 2016 by the School of Social Work and the Department of Public Administration.
Laurie Smith, chair of the School of Social Work, said the concurrent degree program responds to the community’s needs and also gives students the skills and knowledge they need for leadership roles in the social services community.   
Laird, who lives in El Cerrito, was a student in the Pathway MSW Distance Education program, the online option, and was named the Outstanding Graduate Student this year for the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration. 
Laird decided to pursue public administration and social work to advance the rights of 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,” he 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 program development and/or policy advocacy related to the LGBTQ+ community.
Kaissi, who was a recipient of the School of Social Work Scholarship for her service contributions, conducted her advanced field work at the Veterans Administration Loma Linda Healthcare System.
She said having the concurrent degrees will offer her more opportunities.
“Both degrees open up the opportunity to influence change; together they can maximize necessary change, advocacy, and empowerment in communities,” Kaissi said. “(They) open up greater opportunity to utilize my passion and knowledge to influence change as a public servant.”
For more information visit the Master of Social Work and Public Administration concurrent degree program website and the University Catalog/Bulletin website.