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Came so far, yet so much the same

October 29, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Leadership Studies, Elijah Bonde:

One year ago, I was in a much different place. I was one month into my first year as a MA in Leadership Studies student. I was taking LEAD 550: Leadership Theory and Practice and LEAD 589: Organizational Theory and Change. I was also in my first year as Assistant Principal at my school and very recently engaged.

The experience of having this many new beginnings was overwhelming. I had to work on finding a balance between work, grad school, and my personal life. I found a way. My classes challenged me more than I have ever been challenged. I grew significantly throughout the year.

This year, I find myself having gone full circle. I just finished my first month of my second year. I am taking LEAD 580: Consulting to Group, the TA class for LEAD 550. I moved up to Principal this year and got married over the summer.

I find it fascinating that after one year in the program, I am so much farther along in my learning and knowledge and yet I am back at a similar starting point. Life moves in cycles and I am starting my second loop of grad school, looking forward to and preparing for my first loop after I graduate.

Get Involved as a First-Year Grad Student

October 20, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Adriana Del Vecchio:

I will never forget the day I realized all of my worldly possessions could fit in my car. That was the day I left for graduate school. I left for my intrepid journey across the country with a feeling of apprehension, nervousness, and excitement that my new home would be San Diego. The San Diego Zoo! The Pacific Ocean! Fish tacos! The apprehension and nervousness related more to the fact that I was starting graduate school. It truly didn’t hit me until I looked at my car filled to brim. All I can say is it’s been some of the most transformative years of my life.

But that’s looking at the big picture- graduate school as a whole. What about how to deal with the daily minutiae? The moment of terror when you receive a syllabus from a professor and its 22 pages long, when you realize the only possible way to get everything done is to cut your sleep in half, or what activities to join and how to “get involved” as a graduate student. Those are all thoughts I grappled with during my first year.

The number one best piece of advice I can give is GET INVOLVED. I spent my first semester frantically searching for a part time job. While that was necessary for my financial stability, it didn’t leave me much time to socialize with my peers, and soon to be colleagues, or become more involved in the USD community. I went from not being involved in anything my first semester, to currently being a SOLES Ambassador, actively involved with research for multiple professors, participating in a number of academic conferences, a member of the SOLES Student Graduate Association, and enjoying my practicum experience. When I look at my subjective well being from my first year to now in my third year, I am much happier. My student loans may be a bit higher and my bank account a bit lower, but I feel connected and invested in the USD community. I am reaping the benefits of what SOLES has to offer and making important connections that may help me down the line, both professionally and personally. Find your passion, get involved, and enjoy these pivotal years of your education.

5 Tips for Surviving the First Year of Graduate School

October 14, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in School Counseling, Jenna Engler:

5 Tips for Surviving the First Year of Graduate School

  1. Get involved early! Step out of your comfort zone and go to a meeting that sounds interesting or one you read about in your email. It not only helps you adapt more quickly to grad life but helps you meet people from other programs at SOLES.
  2. Ask for help! If you are struggling with academics or adjustment to graduate school, you’re not alone. Make an appointment with your advisor and talk it out, or meet with the counseling staff at USD. The staff here is very supportive of your well-being so take advantage of all the support you have on campus.
  3. Set aside “me time.” It is extremely hard to find that time, especially if you are working. However, you need to find balance in your life. It’s not easy but self-care is extremely important. Plus, graduate school is more than just academics! Enjoy the experience and get the most out of what USD and San Diego has to offer.
  4. Renting textbooks before buying. Saves you tons of money and also gives you the option to buy it later. But do it early because if you wait (like I am relentless for doing) then the used copies could be sold out online and then you are left paying more – bummer!
  5. Become “one” with your planner. I am not one to plan ahead and I never liked using planners much in the past, but I have become “one” with my planner and it saves me a lot of headache. Extra tip: Target typically has them for $1 in the dollar section at the beginning of every school year. No need to spend $20 or more unless you want to.

Home Sweet Home!!

October 8, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in School Counseling, Blanca Zuniga:

As I begin my second and last year at USD, I am full of appreciation and thanks for the experiences and opportunities I’ve had being a part of the SOLES community. I’ve had ample opportunity to grow both personally and professionally through travel, networking events, and friendships through and at SOLES. The close connections and relationships that I have been able to form with students and faculty is one of the many things that makes SOLES so unique.

I recall when I attended my first SOLES Open House. I was nervous because I was about to learn about a possible graduate program that I could potentially join. Being fresh out of undergrad, I felt like I was not ready for the journey that I was about to discover. At the same time, I was excited to discover what the grad school “talk” was all about.

As I drove around campus trying to find parking, I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful buildings and scenary that surrounded the school. I saw some students reading under the trees, while others sat on benches chatting with their friends. Being able to see a campus that valued nature and where students were comfortable being in, definitely provided me with a great first-impression.


Following directions and reading the campus map was an ordeal, but getting turned around allowed me to explore the university. As soon as I arrived at Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, I instantly felt the warmth that was present in the room. The friendly staff, the welcoming student ambassadors, and the overall environment instantly made me feel welcome. Learning more about the benefits of the program and what they had to offer students was just what I needed to hear to confirm my desire to attend USD.

Every time you are in a new situation, you hope that things will turn out ok. You rarely expect that any new situation you experience will be one of the greatest you’ll ever have. I can honestly say however, that the SOLES Open House was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. SOLES has such a strong value for their students and they are willing to help in any way possible. Their interest in students’ education and the effort and time they put into building relationships is incomparable with anywhere else. If you are debating about whether you should apply to USD, please take the time to come visit us! Just like I found my home at USD, you can as well.

If you aren’t able to make it to our Fall Open House (Saturday, October 11th, 2014), come see us at our Spring Open House on January 24, 2015!

Open House Event: Connecting with the SOLES community

October 3, 2014


A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Adriana Del Vecchio:

As I begin my final year of graduate school, I am struck by the sense of nostalgia I am experiencing. It is reminiscent of my final time spent at my undergraduate university, yet distinctly different. I have spent some time reflecting on my tenure here at USD, and remember the eagerness with which I approached the research and application process for graduate school. I often see the same dedication and excitement mirrored in the students I interact with at the SOLES Open House events. I am constantly and consistently impressed with the caliber of students who walk through the doors of Mother Rosalie Hill Hall. I find myself bonding instantaneously, recognizing their passion for helping others, education, and leadership. Even with this relatively short interaction, I often become invested in prospective students, hoping to see them at the interview process and imagining running into them in the halls at the beginning of the next academic year. Attending the SOLES Open House fulfills my desire to give back to the school that has given me so much in my graduate career, while simultaneously reaffirming my decision to become part of the SOLES community.

I encourage all of you who are interested in pursuing your master’s or doctoral degree at the University of San Diego to attend the SOLES Open House. This event gives prospective students the opportunity to rub elbows with faculty, current students, and potential peers and colleagues. It enables prospective students to gain a sense for the campus, our community, and glean an understanding of the SOLES’ mission and intention as educators, leaders, and mental health professionals. Hearing Dean Cordeiro’s opening speech gives you sense of the community we strive to build and maintain here at SOLES. Additionally, you have the chance to ask professors important questions regarding program requirements, expectations, and teaching methodology. You also have rare access to current students and can ask them those burning questions like, “Where is the best place to live?” “How do you balance graduate school and having a part time job?” and most importantly, “What’s the best taco joint in SD?” Not to mention you get to experience the breathtaking views that SOLES has to offer and some pretty phenomenal food! Just one of the many perks of becoming a part of SOLES. But in all seriousness, the Open House is an opportunity to expand your knowledge, and experience the culture of SOLES. It’s a great experience to help make that major decision in your life- attending graduate school!

SOLES Fall Open House 2014 is on Saturday, Oct. 11th from 9:30am-1pm. To register, go to:

Thinking back to SOLES Open House 2013

September 29, 2014

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

Each year the SOLES open house is far and away my favorite event to attend as a current student and ambassador. As potential new applicants explore the grounds and all that USD, and SOLES in particular has to offer, the intrigue and excitement is palpable. Moreover, I enjoy the opportunity to be a liaison between potential new students and the department and highlight the manner in which the department has supported my personal and professional pursuits over the past 2 years. While I often am pulled aside and asked for the “real deal” following the departure of faculty and staff, my answers always remain the same. One of the many unique and beautiful aspects of SOLES is encouragement from supervisors to be authentic. That said, I feel at liberty to disclose all facets of my experience, disappointments or shortcomings included. Most often I find myself noting that no program, academic or otherwise, can be a flawless experience for every individual. However, my experience has been one I take great pride and ownership in, and I proudly express that to others. Additionally, SOLES in unique in countless facets, and attracts an equally unique student population. Fit is everything. While I can tout countless wonderful opportunities unique to SOLES (i.e., international study opportunity), I can give no better advice to applicants than to trust your gut. Upon leaving our open house, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Does this feel like a fit for me?” Truly, the answer to this question will be important above all else.

Undoubtedly, each year USD and SOLES attracts an incredibly competitive and talented group of current and future professionals that will push and defy the limits previously set before them. They inevitably stretch the program to its fullest capacity as new niches are carved and partnerships made. The privilege of interacting with these applicants before they call SOLES home is one I take great pleasure in. The students I meet at open house are often the ones that push and motivate me a mere 9 months later as I come to call them my colleagues and we engage in this unique academic venture together. As yet another open house is upon us, I look forward to meeting this year’s potential applicants and future SOLES student body!

SOLES Fall Open House 2014 is on Saturday, Oct. 11th from 9:30am-1pm. To register, go to:

Be thankful and adventurous!

September 23, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling JoJo Lee: 

It is hard to believe that this will be my last year in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I still remember the first day when I walked into SOLES; I was amazed by the gorgeous building and exquisite interior design. Two years later, I am still amazed, but in a different way. Prior to being admitted into the program, I would have never been able to picture myself as being one of the founders of a student organization, a presenter at multiple professional psychological conferences, an author in multiple manuscripts, a student representative, and a student who travels to different countries for classes. I am grateful for the support of faculty and for the opportunities presented to me in SOLES.


Today, I walk into SOLES with a sense of pride and a heart full of thanksgiving. I feel very thankful and appreciative to have a very generous advisor, Dr. Ronn Johnson and a fantastic, supportive cohort. I realize now that all these relationships and opportunities wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t ASK. It sounds easy, but for whatever reason it can be difficult to do. Graduate students may graduate to become the future colleagues of our professors or classmates. Therefore, I believe it is extremely important to start building up a professional network early. Instead of hiding from the professors, keep knocking on their doors until they remember your name! In my opinion, because we are still in the process of learning, we have more “free passes” to make errors. I suggest our first year students not waste time to use those “free passes.” Be an adventurer and start exploring opportunities from our faculty and organizations. SOLES has so many resources available, check them out!

If you are not sure where to start, here are some links that may help you:

Student organizations at SOLES:

More campus involvement opportunities at USD:

Faculty and their research interests:


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