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CHABSS Dean's Awards 2021

2021 CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate &
CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award

Kodie Gerritsen, 2021 CHABSS Dean's Outstanding StudentKodie Gerritsen

Kodie Gerritsen

Double major in Visual and Performing Arts and Physics, and a minor in Geography

  • About Kodie and their accomplishments.

    Kodie Gerritsen – CHABSS 2021 Outstanding Student – Kodie is bestowed with CHABSS' highest graduating student achievement award.

    Additionally and more significantly,  they earned the 2021 CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate award. This award is the university's highest honor bestowed upon a graduating student. It recognizes the student's exemplary contributions to their field and to the university. Honorees are nominated by faculty or staff and endorsed by their college's Dean. 

    Kodie's leadership and contributions to the university and the greater community represents the best of CHABSS. 

    What does art, physics, and geography have in common? The answer is Kodie Gerritsen, the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences (CHABSS) Dean’s Outstanding Student for 2021. Kodie will graduate in May with a B.A. in Visual and Performing Arts, a B.S. in Physics, and minor in Geography.

    Kodie said that they were supposed to be an artist, but partway through earning their art degree they found that their penchant for objective thinking and facts obtained via the scientific method excited them, and so they dove into the deep end of math and science and added Applied Physics as their second major. Then, they discovered their love for geography and added it as a minor. “Kodie has taken to heart the benefits of interdisciplinarity and is combining art and science in ways that have enriched their education experience and helped create a well-rounded learning path,” said CHABSS Interim Dean Dr. Elizabeth Matthews. “Kodie has used this interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approach to enhance our community in immeasurable ways. I believe that they exemplify the spirit of California State University San Marcos – intellectual curiosity, creativity, dedication, compassion, community-mindedness, and motivation,” Matthews continued.

    Kodie said that the geography minor was an unexpected gift that injected more meaning into their learning experience. “Each distinct step I’ve taken throughout my schooling has helped shape me into a more multifaceted person. I was supposed to be an artist, and that is part of who I am. But my experiences at California State University San Marcos have led me to define myself and my academic journey by many measures. My experience in the arts gave me confidence; through physics I discovered my strengths; and in geography I found direction,” they said.

    Kodie not only went above and beyond with earning their degrees, but also with their contributions to research, and campus and community involvement throughout their time at CSUSM.

    Their interests in the arts, sciences, and social sciences led them to a pursue a research position with art professor Lucy HG Solomon. The research Kodie conducted with professor HG Solomon translated into artistic works incorporating science communication and data visualization. Kodie then presented their research via exhibits and conferences including the Life/Art/Science/Technology Festival at Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research as well as on display in CSUSM’s Kellogg Library. Kodie has also worked with geography professor Dr. Elizabeth Ridder, which has involved preparing a proposal to use motion-sensitive trail cameras to investigate wildlife occurrences within tunnels that connect a local conservation area and undeveloped land separated by a major highway.

    Professor HG Solomon, who nominated Kodie for the CHABSS Dean’s Outstanding Student award, said, “Kodie is talented in so many areas. Kodie is an excellent visualizer of complex information and a student of the arts, science, and geography who matches their immense curiosity with focused study. An avid scholar, Kodie has become immersed in academic studies and pushes forward with curiosity and tenacity. This is evident in work across the fields of art and geography, where Kodie works alongside myself and in Dr. Elizabeth Ridder’s laboratory focused on human impacts on the landscape. Because of this fluidity in thinking, Dr. Ridder and I selected Kodie to work with us on the development of a project proposal for a sculptural display of the San Dieguito watershed.”

    As a STEAM Ambassador, which designs and delivers curriculum on science and art to K-12 students, Kodie brought craft, sculpture, color theory and the science of rainbows together in an engaging hands-on activity. “For schoolchildren whose art and science lessons have all but disappeared, Kodie was able to inspire young minds and remind them of the possibility of discovery through hands-on learning,” said HG Solomon. Kodie also was a key member of the team that designed the Data Stacks exhibition space for CSUSM’s Kellogg library that features art around issues of sustainability, climate change and climate justice. “Among students, Kodie stands out for their fearlessness when it comes to tackling complex and daunting projects, and I have witnessed first-hand Kodie’s ability to distill complex environmental ideas into fun projects,” said HG Solomon. “Kodie’s ongoing work with my students in the Data and Transdisciplinary Art Lab includes involvement in many projects that examine society’s relationship to their environments. This work is evidence of Kodie’s talent in communicating scientific themes as well as their enthusiasm for interdisciplinary art,” added HG Solomon.

    Kodie’s passion for physics led her to volunteer as president of CSUSM’s Women in Physics (WiP) student organization. During a time when stay-at-home orders caused many student organizations to suspend or disband, Kodie and her fellow officers pushed forward with WiP which had experienced setbacks because of the pandemic. “In defiance of the difficulties we have faced this year, we have found ways to remain connected and socially energized – possibly even more so now than ever before,” Kodie said. WiP provided opportunities for members to virtually attend the Women’s Leadership Symposium at CSUSM and the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, as well as led meetings discussing disparities in the field of physics, resources for graduate school applications, email etiquette, and the process of voting and voter registration. In addition to WiP, Kodie has served as the social media manager for the Society of Physics student organization.

    Kodie’s academic perseverance and thirst for research led them to apply to and be accepted into CSUSM’s TRIO McNair Scholars Program, a campus program dedicated to help first-generation students to better understand and navigate the process of preparing and applying for graduate school. In addition to Kodie’s participation in the program, they served as the public relations officer. “My academic studies, research experiences, and involvement with the TRIO McNair Student Organization have helped me grow and find new ways to apply concepts in the real world to solve problems – a valuable set of skills that will surely increase my chances for success on my continuing academic journey,” Kodie said.

    Kodie has done amazing things combining their love of science and art. “They have participated in major research projects and shared the knowledge with our K-12 partners in impactful ways,” Matthews said. “Kodie has accomplished much in their time at CSUSM and has sought out all we have to offer. And they have paid back to the campus in innumerable ways. I know Kodie will continue to make us proud in their future endeavors.”

    Following graduation from CSUSM, Kodie plans to continue her education and has applied to several grad school programs both nationally and internationally to study geography, environmental/science policy, and science communication. They said, “My top program choices are in Europe, and I am excited about the potential to pursue a graduate education abroad, though I am excited about all of the programs I have applied to.” Ultimately, Kodie plans to dedicate their life’s work to science. They explain, “I believe that enacting effective environmental policies while simultaneously emphasizing the need for public scientific literacy will play a vital role in the path toward social and environmental progress in relation to pressing worldwide issues such as the climate crisis. In order to address this, I intend to combine my interests either by working toward a career in geography concerned with informing and facilitating effective environmental policymaking or by carving a bespoke career in science communication. Pursuing a career that would allow me to contribute to either sector – environmental policy and/or science communication – would allow me to follow my passions and apply my educational experiences in productive and meaningful ways.”

Professor Lucy HG Solomon congratulates Kodie Gerritsen, CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student 2021.


2021 CHABSS Community Champion

Addalee 'Addy' Lyon, CHABSS Community ChampionAddalee 'Addy' Lyon

Addalee 'Addy' Lyon

Art, Media, and Design major with a minor in Psychology

  • About Addy and her accomplishments.

    Few students make an impact in their university and even fewer leave an impact on their professors. However, Addalee (Addy) Lyon, the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences Community Champion for 2021, did just that. Six of her professors nominated her for this distinguished award. Addy graduates in May with a bachelor’s degree in Art, Media, and Design and a minor in Psychology.

    Addy was an active student in the classroom, on campus, and in the community before the pandemic and after. She combined her passion for art, volunteerism, and environmental activism as a way to build community, awareness, and promote sustainability. “My experience in various organizations and settings using art as a tool for interconnection and healing has further fueled my passion to spread awareness about important issues such as climate change and social justice through arts education and community collaboration,” Addy explained.

     As president of the Staircase Exhibition, the art student organization, she kept the club active and thriving during the pandemic by organizing online artist talks, workshops, and collaborative art projects highlighting environmental issues. Wearing both hats as president of Staircase Exhibition and program coordinator of The Re-use Project, she organized a project consisting of recycled materials to raise awareness of overconsumption, single-use plastics and trash and to promote ethical and responsible use of consumable materials. Following its exhibition on campus, this work was shared with The Hill Street Country Club, a community art space in Oceanside.

    On campus, she also served as social media officer and a member of CSUSM’s Environmental Stewards Association and was involved with beach clean ups, tending to the campus pollinator garden as well as collaborating on the creation of the pollinator garden signage. Further, she served as a student mentor and tour guide for high school and middle school students visiting CSUSM. “Addalee has been an asset for our campus,” said art professor Sandra Wascher, one of Addy’s nominating professors. “She has been an outstanding role model for others and understands the importance of equity, excellence, and social justice,” professor Wascher continued.

    Associate Professor Kristin Moss, another nominating faculty from Art, Media, & Design, had Addy in several classes over the years but said Addy’s work in her Art & Social Change class was most remarkable. “My class participated in the Democracy in Action program which seeks to build civic learning and engagement. Our class partnered with the city of San Marcos to help develop a public art plan for the North City neighborhood that is developing near campus. Addy was a student leader who shared our class efforts with the San Marcos City Council, recognizing the opportunity to build and shape the local community,” Dr. Moss explained. In a university article written about this collaborative semester-long project, Addy said, “I’m very grateful for the chance to work with Democracy in Action as a college student and see how being an art major can also correlate with city planning. It was a great opportunity to start the conversation of how we can enhance the city while taking the public’s opinion into consideration.”

    Addy’s volunteer work in the community shows her dedication to fellow human beings and how art can have a remarkable impact. Addy helped create the logo and publicity for North County San Diego Womxn’s March (virtual); she’s served meals to families at the Palomar College Thanksgiving Food Distribution Drive; she’s served as a docent at the Escondido Center for the Arts giving tours to elementary school kids; and she helped paint a new mural in the children’s playroom at the Women’s Resource Center in Oceanside. “Addy exudes a contagious creative energy, work ethic and has a natural ability to connect with humans to cultivate and instill the arts into the world around her. She utilizes projects as communication and collaboration in both the classroom as well as our campus’s community. She is an outstanding young woman with an abundance of talent, passion and desire to educate through the arts,” said art professor Julie Goldstein, another faculty nominator.  

     Additionally, Addy is currently interning at UCSD’s Expressive Art Therapy program, which provides space for cancer survivors to express their feelings and trauma through art. “I found that creative expression is an incredibly helpful tool for managing personal stress. It has also been an outstanding experience to hear from different types of individuals, produce meaningful relationships, and build communities,” Addy explained. She’s also interning as a studio artist assistant with art professor Siobhan Arnold. “Addy was my first choice to hire as an assistant/studio intern for my busy professional studio practice. She has been an incredible asset, helping me with production, installation, and management,” professor Arnold said. “She’s currently helping me produce and install work for an upcoming installation at the Sparks Gallery in downtown San Diego.”

    Every nominating professor praised Addy for her welcoming and inclusive nature and her effortless ability to put those around her at ease. “From day one, it was immediately apparent that she is a leader, that she is fully engaged in her education, and she has an overflowing and joyful curiosity about what her fellow students are up to. During breaks, Addy would bring out her ukulele, sing inspiring folk songs and engage in energetic conversations with a diverse group of students on arrange of topics,” said art professor Tony Allard, yet another nominating professor.

     Art, Media, and Design’s department chair Judit Hersko said that when her department discussed the CHABSS Dean’s award opportunities, she was impressed that so many of her fellow educators enthusiastically and quickly highlighted Addy. Professor Hersko added, “I first met Addy Lyon when she arrived at CSUSM and knocked on my door for advising. Enthusiastic and spirited from day one, Addy has grown tremendously during her time at CSUSM. She is a shining example of a student taking full advantage of her education to grow and develop as an artist, thinker, community activist, and human being.”

    Following graduation, Addy hopes to continue her efforts with The Re-use Project and The Hill Street Country Club assisting with their gallery space and encouraging community engagement. She has recently been given the opportunity to virtually teach a children’s class in May with Mira Costa College focusing on recycled materials and creating a journal for personal reflection and creativity. Teaching children’s art classes and staying involved within the public arts sector are her main goals following graduation.

    Ultimately, Addy is striving to become an expressive arts therapist, and she plans to go to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in psychology. Her personal experience within the arts has fueled her desire to use art as a form of healing and to share it with others. “During my time with CSUSM, I have learned the value of collectively working together for positive engagement, change, and growth within society,” Addy said. “The significance of collective action to accomplish objectives – both large and small – has inspired my motivation to build and lead organizations at CSUSM and beyond as well as volunteer with existing programs in the community. I am grateful to take this insight with me through my personal and professional life endeavors beyond graduation.”

Professor Siobhan Arnold congratulates Addy Lyon, CHABSS Community Champion 2021. 


2021 CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion

Faith Garcia, CHABSS Champion for Inclusive ExcellenceFaith Garcia

Faith Garcia

Political Science major with minors in Women's Studies and Sociology

  • About Faith and her accomplishments.

    The core values of the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences (CHABSS) includes diversity, inclusion, social justice, and equity. As a college, these values are evident in our degree programs as well as the scholarship and creative activity of our faculty and staff. We are proud of our students who reflect these values in their activism and advocacy, too. Some students go above and beyond to live these truths, and this is exactly why Faith Garcia was selected as 2021 CHABSS Dean’s Inclusive Excellence Champion. She is a political science major with minors in Women’s Studies and Sociology.

    Throughout her time at CSUSM, Faith has taken on leadership roles in different areas across campus to push for inclusive excellence, equity, and social justice. She is a founding member of Lobby Corps, a student working group dedicated to advocacy in higher education policy in all levels of government. While serving as director of legislative affairs, she pushed for state bills that promote the California DREAM Loan Program, tackle student food insecurity, and protect the rights of sexual assault victims. This work earned her Lobbyist of the Year 2018 from CSUSM’s Associated Students, Inc. (ASI).

     Faith has also left her mark within CHABSS through her work as an ASI student representative for CHABSS. “In this position, I helped create and implement a resolution that asked CSUSM to keep Women’s Studies as a major and to create a Gender Studies minor. I also drafted a resolution to reestablish a Women’s Center at CSUSM,” she said.

    Faith has served in leadership roles with the Feminists Unite student organization on campus, serving as both president and vice president of the organization. She led solidarity collaboration efforts with Black SistaHood and the Black Student Center and worked on proposals to the university to create a more inclusive environment for our diverse student population. In the lead up to the general election, she worked fervently to educate student voters on the various propositions as well as general voter education. “Faith exemplifies CHABSS goals in the areas of inclusive excellence, equity, and social justice through her involvement in multiple campus entities,” said Pamela Redela, professor in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Department and who nominated Faith for CHABSS Dean’s Inclusive Excellence Champion award. “Faith’s leadership at CSUSM has lasting impact in that her efforts have brought students from varied backgrounds together to collaborate on issues that affect them all in unique and yet common ways,” Redela continued.

     Faith is passionate about social justice. Through her work with the Students for Quality Education, a grassroots organization formed by CSU students with the help of the California Faculty Association, Faith advocated for a safer campus. “I was able to speak at a [CSU] Board of Trustees meeting about defunding University Police Departments on all campuses in order to create a better and safe campus environment for our BIPOC students, staff, and faculty. I also spoke on the importance of Proposition 16 at a brown bag lunch event with California State Assembly members Phil Ting and Dr. Shirley Weber,” Faith explained. Faith has also advocated for formerly incarcerated persons through her work with the Transitions Collective, which supports formerly incarcerated students and those who have been affected by the criminal injustice system.

    In the community, Faith has volunteered with COMPACT Project Hero, a mentoring program for formerly incarcerated youth; the ACLU, and with the political campaigns of Ammar Campa-Najjar and Tom Wong. Faith says, “I am extremely passionate in the work of social justice and understanding the roles and duties the people have to create change. I have always valued advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusion, and the importance of the people’s voices and the people’s rights.”

     Faith’s resume as a student advocate and activist for social change will undoubtedly continue past her time here at CSUSM. Faith is currently seeking a fellowship with either the Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellowship in Women and Public Policy or San Diego’s local IGNITE chapter. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy and says that ultimately she wants to use her education and experience to build a career as a policy analyst for a civil rights organization such as the ACLU. “I just know that I’m destined for a career in policy and law which will help create change in my local communities.”

    “Not only is Faith an attentive student, but she is also a dedicated activist who is sincere in her goals. Her commitment to fostering social justice is not something she does to simply boost her CV. This work is a truly integral part of Faith’s life,” Redela said. “How Faith maintains this level of activist commitment on top of her rigorous studies is something to be admired and is very much deserving of recognition.”

Professor Pamela Redela congratulates Faith Garcia, CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion 2021. 


2021 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion

Rachael Groeneweg, CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative WorksRachael Groeneweg

Rachael Groeneweg

Music major

  • About Rachael and her accomplishments.

    Music is an art form that impacts us all, both as individuals and en masse. CHABSS 2021 Scholarship and Creative Works Champion Rachael Groeneweg has mastered both the technicalities of music-making as well as creating work that is meaningful and impactful. Rachael will graduate in May with a B.A. in Music and is also expecting to begin a master’s program in vocal performance at Fresno State University in Fall 2021. 

    Dating back to 1997, Rachael has gained extensive experience in musical theatre, direction, dance, and choir at various theatres as well as throughout her schooling. She has participated in productions such as Annie, Grease, Cinderella, Hairspray, Footloose, and Legally Blonde, to name a few, and she has had roles both on and off stage. “My journey as a person and as a musician has been a tumultuous one. It has been a roller coaster ride of joy and sorrow; however, the constant on this ride has always been music,” Rachael shared. “I want to use my voice to make a difference in this world.”

    Rachael would aim to make a difference by composing an original piece for her Fall 2020 final project for Studio Composition. Her project drew influence from her participation in the inaugural CSUSM/Historically Black College & University Exchange Program, led by music professors Mtafiti Imara and Malesha Taylor, where the theme was Songs of Protest, Resistance, and Compassion. “Through my time in this cohort and after hours of research which included listening to a multitude of protest songs of different genres, I submit that the most powerful form of protest music is that of compassion. To have compassion is one thing; to have it for the very people who dehumanize and oppress you is another,” Rachael explained.

    Thus, Rachael’s piece for this project was born, entitled “You Is (Kind, Smart, Important)” – her vocals begin at 4:49. Her song takes inspiration from Viola Davis’s role as Aibee in Academy Award-winning film, The Help. “One of the biggest reasons I chose this iconic line to be the basis of my composition was the underlying notion behind songs of protest,” said Rachael. “I think it is an incredible show of strength for a Black maid at the time to say to a little white girl, ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important,’ knowing that one day, this girl may grow up to be racist towards Black people just like her mother and father. I think that by doing this, not only is she trying to instill kindness into Mae Mobley, but I think she is subconsciously telling herself these words, despite how her ‘owners’ put her down.”

    Rachael composed the piece through a music notation and composition software called Finale. Then, she exported it via MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) which is how she synthesized all the instruments – from violin to piano. Her friend, Tristian Gudino, who is an audio engineer, helped her give the piece a more symphonic and less canned sound. Through the editing software ProTools, Rachael then recorded the vocals and layered them on top of the instrumental.

    With the intention being to compose an entire musical based on the film, Rachael wanted this piece to be a mixture of gospel, rock, and musical theatre. “I also made an artistic choice to retain the use of Ebonics to not only remain true to the script and memorable line, but to acknowledge how my ancestors, who were descendants of slaves, communicated in a world where they were nothing other than property.”

    Rachael’s musical talent gained the attention of music professor Merryl Goldberg, who nominated her for this award. “Rachael’s musicality is representative of someone who has clearly mastered the foundations of musical theory, the complexity of harmonies, and has a depth of knowledge regarding composition,” said professor Goldberg. “Her vocals are on par with or surpass professional vocalists. The emotional pull of Rachael’s vocals along with her engaging original composition is compelling and effective. She’s such a stand-out, and this piece has the potential to make a difference to people who view and listen to it.”

    Alongside her plan to earn a master’s degree in vocal performance, Rachael also has her sights on a teaching credential. Rachael said, “The two things that I want to accomplish with my degree and continued education is to: one, become a professional performer in both the opera and musical theatre industry; and two, become a choir teacher at either the high school or university level. Aside from that, I want to be a mom!”

Professor Merryl Goldberg congratulates Rachael Groeneweg,  CHABSS's Scholarship & Creative Works Champions 2021.


2021 CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion

Ashley Mota Ortega, CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative WorksAshley Mota Ortega

Ashley Mota Ortega

Double major in Psychological Science and Child and Adolescent Development

  • About Ashley and her accomplishments.

    Life is constantly throwing challenges at us. This was no exception for CHABSS 2021 Scholarship and Creative Works Champion Ashley Mota Ortega as she turned these challenges into motivation to excel in her studies and in life. Ashley will graduate in May with a B.A. in Psychological Science as well as Child and Adolescent Development.

     When she joined Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) in middle school, a program designed to encourage students to think about college and career plans, Ashley was presented with countless possibilities she never knew she had. “As a child, I faced many adversities, from being homeless and moving from house to house, to dealing with a persistent fear of losing my parents because of their undocumented status, to being the eldest daughter in my family,” Ashley explained. “No one in my family had attended a college or university, so I never knew I had this opportunity. From that point on, I worked diligently to translate this dream into a reality through studying and becoming involved in various extracurricular programs at school.”

     Ashley then had her first brush of mental illness during her last year of middle school when her father was deported. “I suffered from excruciating stomachaches as a result of my growing anxiety, which made it difficult to focus on my schoolwork and socialize. It was not until I took courses in child psychopathology at CSUSM that I would come to realize my suffering was a result of trauma,” said Ashley.

     In her early high school years, her father returned, and she hoped things would go back to normal. However, this was not the case and Ashley began going to therapy. “As a teenager, I did not realize the impact of my therapist, but as I recall these events now as an adult, the improvements in my life because of that relationship were immense and evident to those around me,” Ashley shared. “This novel experience with a trusting and caring professional was exactly what I had needed at that point in my life, and later influenced my own desire to study psychology and become a compassionate mental health provider.”

     Ashley began her journey at CSUSM in 2016 where she felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness as a first-generation student. She found comfort and security in spaces like the Gender Equity Center and the Latin@/x Center. She worked diligently, earning her a spot on the CHABSS Dean’s List almost every semester. However, her past anxieties still weighed heavy on her and she decided to seek help from a clinical psychologist.

     The first clinical psychologist she saw was of no help, as he berated and interrogated her about her family’s citizenship status. She then found another clinical psychologist who was considerate and helped her to process her trauma. It was through these experiences that Ashley found her passion in life. “There is a significant need for mental health services for undocumented communities because of the suffering that occurs on a daily basis. These communities are bombarded with messages of hate and xenophobia through the media and often may be perpetuated by those tasked to help these individuals,” Ashley said. “I knew then that I wanted to fill this gap and be the representation that my community needs.”

     In Fall 2018, Ashley attended the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education and she left the event feeling motivated to find her spot in academia. She applied to psychology professor Dr. Kimberly Vanderbilt’s R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R. Lab (Research on Children’s Knowledge of Social Thinking and Reasoning) and has been a member now for two years. The Lab partners with the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum to create activities for daily programs and also participates in workshops and events with children and families. During COVID, they created social media tutorials to help families learn about child development at home. “Being able to provide these types of services for low-income families was particularly special for me because the supplemental educational resources that I helped provide can create a meaningful difference in the lives of underrepresented children by bridging the gap between poverty and upward mobility,” Ashley explained.

     She also worked as a research assistant in psychology professor Dr. Aleksandria Grabow’s Trauma and Healing Lab for a year. It was here that she learned that trauma is a subjective experience and was able to accept her own trauma. “Given Ashley’s experiences and goals, I felt confident that she could grow as part of the lab and work effectively with survivors of trauma as part of the research,” said Grabow. “Because she was able to add measures of interest to the final survey, she was the first undergraduate in the lab to devise, analyze and interpret data from our COVID-19 study and has since been accepted to present the research at the American Psychological Association conference. I feel fortunate to have Ashley in the lab, and it has been an honor to mentor her in this capacity.”

     Additionally, Ashley currently serves as treasurer of CSUSM’s Psi Chi chapter, an international honor society in psychology and served as its president in 2019. Further, she served as an advisor for the two psychology clubs on campus. “Ashley has been the lifeblood of these clubs for the last two years. In my experience, they would literally not function without her leadership,” Vanderbilt said. “Ashley, primarily, puts everything together and makes it work. She and the clubs do that for us. Lining up guest speakers, planning guest speakers, planning info sessions and ‘de-stress’ meeting to support her peers’ experience and well-being.”

     Because of her remarkable leadership in these clubs, Ashley was nominated for this award by all three faculty advisors of Psi Chi: Dr. Grabow, Dr. Vanderbilt, and Dr. Janice Phung. “In addition to getting to know Ashley as the Psi Chi and psychology student organization advisor, I also know Ashley in the classroom. In Fall 2020, Ashley was a student in my upper division lecture course, Risk and Resiliency in Children and Adolescents. Out of 39 students, Ashley was one of the only eight students to earn an A in this challenging course,” Phung explained. “Ashley is extremely personable, and we have had many stimulating talks in office hours. Students like Ashley remind me why I love this campus. She is the very definition of an outstanding student.”

     Ashley’s experiences and opportunities at CSUSM have helped her to become a more confident student, and she plans to take these experiences with her to guide her when she becomes a clinical psychologist. “They key to healing our traumas is knowledge, which is what I have been able to gain at CSUSM, and I intend on passing this awareness on to the communities I hope to serve,” Ashley said.

 Professor Aleksandria Grabow congratulates Ashley Mota Orgtega, CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion 2021.