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Returning to SOLES

September 10, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Andrea Fessler: 

Now more than ever, at the impetus to my final year of graduate studies, and more specifically my final year as a SOLES student, I truly appreciate the gravity of the connections I have forged over the past two years. As I walk down the hall and see nearly all familiar faces, speak with faculty with a more effortless and authentic ease, and bond with my peers and future colleagues over our shared struggles and triumphs, a unique sense of belonging is undeniable. At the onset of my graduate training, a wise mentor emphasized the simple notion that my time spent at SOLES would be what I made of it. The sentiment could not ring more true today. Late night research meetings, department mixers, and everything in between contributed to my new and profound sense of understanding. I now understand more fully what it means to truly be a SOLES student, to be truly invested rather than passing through, and to be present and eager for opportunity. This is not to say each and every day of the last two years has been roses and sunshine, because most experiences that demand great effort and persistence, or ignite growth and development ever are. However, I continue to be stretched personally and professionally in the most beautifully uncomfortable way.    

Moreover, as I begin my practicum experience at a sight that is every bit as wonderful as I had anticipated, I appreciate the foundation and security that USD provides. Not only does our institution speak for itself with respect to credentials and training, for which I carry with me a sense of pride, but it also provides a unique community of support and advocacy for its’ students and future professionals. As my final year begins, I bring with me a renewed sense of determination to invest my genuine time and energy into facets of SOLES that are near and dear to me. Whether it be research projects, committees, or simply making the extra time to meet with a valued mentor more often, my hope is to be intentional with my time in an effort to leave feeling as if I could have done no more than I did. With that said, cheers to the new school year! To my fellow peers a mere 9 months shy of graduation, cheers to all we have, and all we have yet to accomplish!            

Learning + Camaraderie

September 9, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management                                   Desiree Del-Zio:

This September marks the start of my second year of graduate school at SOLES. As a Master’s student in the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program I have learned so much, not only about my industry and my work, but about myself. I continue to be inspired and awe struck by the manner in which USD elevates their student body to truly look within, find new ways to understand the world around them and most importantly to open mindedly examine the decisions they make. I can say with confidence that I came into this program a completely different person than I am now. I find myself seeking answers rather than feeling as though I have to know them.

I am continuously intrigued by the many different methods one can employ to solve problems and am truly excited about what is around the corner in my studies of leadership and the nonprofit industry. But I am not going to deny – the new friends I have made, the study groups that occur over pot luck, the idea sharing that revolves around a glass of wine or an evening by the beach are also amazing highlights of studying at the University of San Diego.


Reflecting on First Impressions

September 4, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Leadership Studies Kaitlin Bourne:

The thought of returning to graduate school ten years after completing my undergraduate work seemed like a daunting experience. I knew that being in back in school would be drastically different than I remembered as an undergrad, but was uncertain in which ways. I was nervous and curious at the same time. Before classes started, I journeyed to the School of Leadership and Educational Sciences (SOLES) to check out the vibe. As I walked into the immaculate building, I felt a strong sense of prestige, matched with smooth sense of calm. The views of the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean also provided a sense of adventure and creativity. I felt ready to explore what my future at SOLES would entail.

After heading up the marble staircase, I found myself wandering around the Leadership Department. I noticed a lot of energy buzzing around these offices. I happened to walk past an office of a professor I recognized from my interview. We caught eyes and I felt compelled to reintroduce myself to her. I wanted to share my excitement and gratitude for being accepted into the program. Surprisingly, as I went to shake her hand, she stood up to greet me with open arms. Yes, she welcomed me into the program with a big hug! Little did I know, this professor became one of my first professors in the program, teaching Leadership Practice and Theory, Dr. Terri Monroe. She spent time with me discussing the Leadership program, the coursework, and answering my questions. I couldn’t have felt more welcome. After leaving her office, I experienced a huge sense of relief. I felt supported, even by people who hardly knew me. I had just experienced the graciousness and generosity of the faculty at SOLES.


Throughout my first year in the program, I continued to witness this same genuine support from the entire faculty at SOLES. My professors have all been willing to meet with me when I have questions and/or simply need to discuss my study ambitions. I have experienced them fully invested in my growth as an individual and as a new student, it helped me feel more comfortable and confident in my pursuit of obtaining a Masters degree from the University of San Diego. Not only have my professors nurtured my growth, but they have also pushed me to grow in new and different ways. They have helped me recognize my strengths, as well as, my areas of improvement. Through creative reflection and engaging dialog, I have been able to discover more about myself and my reasons for studying leadership. I attribute much this growth to the relationships I have developed along the way, especially with my professors. Even after the completion of my coursework, I have remained in contact with them and continue to witness the same amount of support, encouragement, and availability. Additionally, I experienced my first encounter with the Department Chair, Dr. Afsaneh Nahavandi, the same way. Just last week, while waiting to schedule a meeting with her, she passed me in the hall. Instead of scheduling the appointment, she immediately invited me into her office to discuss my question. She even offered me a cup of tea! It is these sincere gestures that make SOLES a truly special place.

One of USD’s core values is compassionate service and this is what I experience from the faculty at SOLES. They are willing to go the extra mile to know who you are and why you are in the program. It is has been extremely helpful for me to make these connections and I invite you to do the same. Enjoy Fall 2014!

Let it Begin!

August 26, 2014
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I realized today that it has been exactly two months since I moved from Phoenix, Arizona to San Diego, California to start my journey as a first-year doctoral student in the SOLES Leadership Studies program at USD. Needless to say, everything is new, from where I live to where I work, but I have found that there is something thrilling about jumping into the unknown.

It is now week 3 of working in the Office of Admissions and Outreach as a graduate assistant and my responsibilities are fairly vast, spanning from meeting with prospective students to discuss specific SOLES programs to managing social media content. I also have the opportunity to lead our Ambassadors Program to connect current students to prospective students which, in my opinion, is fabulous. What better insight could an incoming student receive than to converse with someone who has gone before him/her? 

I am excited for what is to come in the next few months. The campus, much like a hibernating bear waking up after a long winter, is slowly coming to life. The growing number of students hustling and bustling from one office to the next to take care of a long list of to-dos is a strong indicator that the academic year is right around the corner. There is great anticipation of meeting new people and building relationships, discovering what classes will challenge my current way of thinking and exploring opportunities to teach and travel. I hope that as the year unfolds, you will eagerly await new posts from our SOLES contributors (student ambassadors, faculty, staff and alumni) who will share their experiences, thoughts and ideas with you.  


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Bali: The gifts and the lessons

July 7, 2014

During our pre-session meeting Dr. Rose Martinez asked us what drew us to this class, I remarked quite unashamed that for me it was her.  After having traveled to Chile with Rose and getting to know her in and around SOLES for various reasons, I find that her penchant for artistic expression is akin to my own.  We speak the same language. So off I went halfway across the world to soak up what I could of Bali from the person I thought could facilitate it best. My expectations were only to soak in a new way of being, thinking, and seeing the world.  I couldn’t conceptualize what it would be, and that was probably the biggest gift of them all, to go in completely open.  IMG_3477

What I was met with was art everywhere.  In the streets, on the sidewalks, in doors and on door frames, even the meals were plated in banana leaves and garnished with flowers.  Everything was art. Well, everything is art, but there was much more of an appreciate and a noticing of it within the Balinese culture.  It was as if the part of our senses that recognize expression were amplified. There was no white space, not in the paintings, not in the scenery, not in the culture. It was filled in completely and sometimes even colored outside of the lines.  In America there is a high value on structure, order, rules, and predictability.  The first time you drive or ride on a Balinese road you have to throw that out the window, if only for your sanity.  Here, it was different. Here the only rule was expression. Expression of pace. Expression of faith. Expression of culture. Expression of mythology. Expression of gratitude. Everything bursts with colors, smells are more pungent, sounds are more cacophonous, flavors are more complex.  Bali is living out loud.


Every person is a teacher. Every place is a school. Every moment is a lesson.
~Ibu Sari

There were a lot of touching moments and people that we met in Bali but none affected me quite like meeting Ibusari.  She was a 30 year old divorcee–which is a huge deal in Bali, it ostracizes you in a way because belonging to a family, specifically a man, is really your footing in the community–who was not only running a school for special needs children but she was also empowering women through a women’s center.  She was building community, for me I saw her as a female banjar leader, a banjar is a system of about 120 families that operates like a township of sorts, making decisions for the community through a town hall process where a leader (who is always male) governs the process however it is social not political in nature.  While I’m sure some American “feminists” would scoff at the idea of teaching women sewing or cooking or any other domestic skill, I found it to be beautiful.  There is no perimeter or limit to how to empower a woman, and within this culture knowing how to contribute to their families was of the utmost importance. I, for one, think its the same in our own culture it just tends to look a little different.  But why should there be any shame in developing domestic skill? What she was offering women was an endless horizon.  Learning from her and one another the strength of community, the support you can find within one another, and how far you can move a society when all members are empowered.  It honestly was the first time I ever felt anything remotely close to feminism.  It was liberating to know the power of sharing your story, and helping others to be the best them, whatever that might be having no expectation of the outcome.  It reminded me of Julia Stiles’ character in Mona Lisa Smile.  All that education to be a housewife? No. All that education to have the choice.



I wasn’t wrong when I assumed that Rose would facilitate learning in a unique way on this trip. What is it going to take for you to become? She would ask us.  Take things in, get emotional, ask deep questions of ourselves, reflect, inquire, swim, dance, talk, taste, and give yourself permission for the full range of human experience.  In so many words, she told us all of this on the trip. There were too many trips, too many faces, too many jokes laughs and moments to recall and recount with words that can never describe.  There were tears left in the Indian ocean, blood left on the beach, conversations thrown into the wind by myself if not each of us. I think it is safe to say we all left a little bit different than when we came.  And I think that’s the point of it all.  What I found I walked away from Bali learning was a little bit about an island in Indonesia, and a LOT about a woman named me.


Straight from SOLES Global

June 16, 2014


As you know, one of requirements for all SOLES graduate programs is that we all have an international academic experience. My name is Corinne, I am from France, and I work at the SOLES Global Center, located next to Bert’s cafe. First I would love for you to come and say hi next time you are in the building!

Now, I am here to convince you that the trips the Global Center offers are one of a kind experiences. This year, students have had the opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka, Bali, Spain, Kenya, England, Japan and many other destinations. Now you might think: “ Wait a minute, I cannot afford to travel, what am I going to do?” Do not worry: the units for Global Center trips are discounted to $700 per unit. Also, think of it as a once in a life-time experience and great investment. You get to travel with peers and teachers and learn in a new environment. The experiences are richer than I can even describe. Trust me! I went to Africa for my requirement and it was life changing in so many ways. Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 9.25.08 AM

If you are not able to travel, however, there are other options available to help you meet your international requirement, though any alternative must be discussed and approved by your faculty advisor. Come see us! My advice: You are in graduate school enjoy the ride and ride the wave even if it takes you out of your comfort zone! That is the point and there are valuable lessons to be learned in stepping out of our personal boundaries.

A bientôt


To read about other students’ Global Study experiences, look at posts tagged “Global Study“. 

Apartment Hunting

June 3, 2014

Coming from the Midwest, I was a little shocked with apartment prices here in San Diego. However, I would describe myself as “creatively frugal”, so I was determined to find an apartment within my tight budget. Although most people told me to expect paying $800/ month, I knew that was not an option, so I had to get creative. In addition to finding an apartment way under $800/month, I also had to find roommates. Not knowing a soul in San Diego, I turned to the Recently Admitted SOLES Facebook group to find potential roommates. I lucked out because I found my roommates and also one of them was willing to share a room to save on costs. I know sharing a room does not sound fun to most; however, you have to think of your priorities in apartment hunting. Is it location, price, safety, etc? Price and safety were major factors for me and sharing a room kept me within my budget and we were able to find an apartment close to campus. It is important to not only prioritize your wish list for an apartment but give yourself time to research places. Lovely, Trulia and Craigslist are a few websites I used and will use for next year’s apartment hunting. I highly recommend following the Facebook group for helpful tips and finding roommates. Good luck everyone!


Here are a few tips from other students who have been successful in finding housing in San Diego:

  1. VISIT! It is hard to really know what a place looks like (and the neighborhood surrounding it) without visiting first. This may be difficult for some but if you can swing it, come out for a long weekend to apartment hunt.
  2. Be ready to act fast! One student said: “One day I missed a place by, literally, 30 seconds. The next morning I found the studio that I ended up getting and wanted. It was posted (Craigslist) and I immediately called and left a voicemail with a self-description and what I was looking for. The gentleman called me back a few minutes later and did a short phone interview before agreeing to show me the place. I liked it and applied immediately and was accepted.” Another admits: “I found a place (had a showing with TWELVE other people at the same time!!!) put an application in the next day and was paying my deposit the day after that. Things go quickly!!”
  3. Don’t look more than 30 days before you want to move, and look around the first of the month. “A realtor suggested that I look as close to the first of the month as possible because that’s when people put in notice and owners/landlords put up listings.”
  4. Know what is a necessity and what you can live without.  Sure you’d love a rooftop deck, but is it a necessity? Do you need to live on the beach or would living 5 miles out be okay?  Do you need to be near public transportation?  Make a list of the non-negotiables and stick to it!

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