Skip to content

They say “dress for success”…

November 11, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and PhD in Leadership Studies, Conor McLaughlin:

Often, the way one dresses can have an impact on how they are perceived, and how they are able to take up their role. For example, whenever I am teaching a class, I wear a blazer and tie (though almost never a suit). I do this for 2 reasons: 1) I see teaching and engaging with students in a classroom as an experience that deserves some reverence, and 2) because there are a variety of people who have expectations that I have to navigate in my role as an instructor.


The first point may seem a bit overly dramatic, but I take my work (very) seriously, and I think that entering the space of a classroom and doing the work that goes on in that space should have a sense of occasion. I want to feel like I put some effort into showing up, and one of the ways I try to do that is in the way that I dress. My parents have a deeply engrained notion that going to their place of worship in less than a formal clothing is a sin, and the more I learn about the potential of education and classrooms to be places of personal and spiritual liberation, the more I see them as truly sacred spaces. So I tend to want to treat my most sacred places the way that other people want to treat theirs.

The second point is complicated (as most things tend to be), but needs to be addressed. At any given point during my day, I have to interact with undergraduate students, graduate students, administrators, faculty members, deans, department chairs, and friends. Each of those people probably have a pretty wide variety of expectations for how someone meeting them in their role will dress, and given that I share an office with 6 other people, finding a place to do a complete wardrobe change would be difficult, so I tend to stick with the outfit that works on the more formal side of the expectation scale. I do also need to distinguish myself from the undergraduate students (and sometimes other graduate students), and I do need to take up my role as an administrator, as a member of the faculty, and as a formal authority in many spaces, and dressing a particular way can serve as a short hand for that.

I will also acknowledge that playing with roles can be a good thing. I gave a presentation this past summer with a colleague, and we dressed very differently in our roles as facilitators. I in a coat and tie, she in cut-off shorts and a tank top. While not something we planned, given the topic of conversation the divergence and enforcing of those role expectations actually added to the conversation we were facilitating around assumptions, perceptions, and identity. My colleague and I had a conversation a few weeks later, and we acknowledged that in that space we had a lot of room to play with expectations, but that other spaces, like our classrooms or our formal offices, did not offer us the same amount of wiggle-room.

There are other ways to play with role expectations, and they can be subtle but effective. I am rarely seen in public without my nails painted, and I do this as both a way to disrupt some of the expectations about men and male identity in a formal role, and because I think it looks good on me. I also try to wear at least 3 different patterns in my outfit, which is both attention grabbing and can be a very effective way of letting people know that I like to do things a little different than most, since most people aren’t used to seeing someone in a coat and tie wearing floral, gingham, and polka-dots in the same outfit.

To close out, my hope with this is not to continue to enforce a strict and specific set of values and ideas about dressing for work, but rather to encourage people to think about new, fun ways to take up the roles that they have. While many people still tell me I should be “dressing for the job I want, not the one I have,” I’d like to think that I, and you, could be dressing for being our authentic selves in the roles we have to take up every day. The job I want most is to be me.

Higher Education Leadership: Lessons learned in SOLES

November 6, 2014

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Higher Education Leadership, Corey Fereday:


I am currently completing my second and final year in the MA Higher Education Leadership program in SOLES at USD. My experience up to date has been rewarding as I learn to apply successfully and understand more fully the role leadership and organizational development theories have in higher education.

I believe the leadership focus of the MA program that will allow me to work more dynamically and broadly at a higher education institution is very practical as I attempt to begin my career in higher education administration and work for positive change in a field that has been traditionally weary of deep structural shifts. Below, I have listed some lessons as I reflect on my experiences over the past year in SOLES in terms of successes and challenges:

  • I have been pushed to tap into various sources of interpreting experiences so that I can better balance objective and subjective understanding.
  • I have been challenged to identify underlying biases, assumptions and values thereby promoting greater self-actualization and intuitive understanding.
  • I have been offered opportunities to identify clear connections between theories and my work as a graduate assistant.
  • I have been given opportunities to partner with individuals who come from very different intellectual, spiritual and professional backgrounds.
  • I have been offered amazing support, advising and mentorship services by supervisors, colleagues and professors.
  • I have been called frequently to infuse and sustain meaning and purpose in my work.
  • I have been given tools to view organizational development, change and leadership in radically new ways.
  • I have been given ample opportunities to develop more mindful academic and professional skills.
  • I have gained a greater perspective on my interconnected roles in groups, organizations and society from a systems perspective.

These lessons are continuously emerging. I am excited to complete my degree and know that these lessons complement one another in a way where theory and practice are not mutually exclusive.

Higher education institutions are known for reacting slowly to external forces. Therefore, I believe that these lessons learned from my studies will help me more positively, uniquely and effectively engage with change efforts as I seek to work with students. I am particularly interested in helping students clarify their personal values and align them with academic and vocational pathways. My professional pathway may be admissions, residential life, student conduct or academic advising. Regardless, I hope to continue my education rooted in my initial SOLES experiences so that I am always thinking outside the box, considering alternative perspectives, and challenging myself to be better.

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:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 575 other followers