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Ace-ing the Interview!

April 10, 2014

1Admissions interviews can be really tough for many of us. It is an opportunity for you to present yourself to the university faculty. In other words, you need to know how to market yourself. Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to be one of the interviewers for the admission interview process. During the process, it was not difficult to recognize some students are more anxious than the others. And the sad thing is, this performance anxiety can become the obstacle for you to reach your goal. Before your nerves get the better of you, learn what to expect – and how to ace your college interview.

Understanding the process

What is the interview for? It is usually an opportunity for the admission officers to look for qualities that cannot be reflected in the application. Interviewing is another extra opportunity for you to display your strong interest to the program, and it lets the interviewers get to know your personality behind those GPA and GRE scores. Therefore, please don’t hide yourself during the interview. Speak up!

Also, please don’t hesitate to contact the admissions office and the department about your questions and concerns. It is another way to show your sincerity and passion to the school. Some interviewers may recognize your name because you had contacted them before. It is a good start to let them remember you.

Be prepared!

Just like any other examinations, you need to be prepared in order to make good impressions from the interviewers. Research the college/program by checking out its website, brochure, and course catalog. Learn as much about the institution as possible before you walk into the interview. Knowing what is the school mission may give you a hint on what are the qualities do the interviewers are looking for.

Review your application materials. Refreshing your mind about what makes you special. Interviewers may not remember everything on your application. It is your role to emphasize what you want them to know about you.

Practice some generic and specific questions. There are usually few basic questions that you probably know already: Why do you want to go to USD? What do you expect to gain from the program? How would you prepare yourself to the program? You will also want to prepare for questions that ask you to identify key topics or experiences that are important to you. Think in advance about some of your experiences that can link back to the interest of your major. Something that are unique about you and allow the interviewers to remember you.

Ask questions. Show your interest in the school by asking specific question. Of course, don’t ask question that can be easily answered by reading the school’s brochure.

2On the BIG day

Profession attire never goes wrong for an interview. Make sure you spare some time to look for directions if you are not familiar with the area. Plan  to arrive at least 15 minutes early. The extra time will let you take a few minutes to relax and prepare yourself physically and mentally. Introduce yourself to the faculty, and greet them with a handshake and smile. :)

Again, this is the time to sell yourself. Please don’t answer the question simply with a “yes” or “no.” Elaborate your answer with specific examples, just as what you might usually do on your essay. Also, be honest and positive! You don’t want to fake the answer, because people can tell. Be yourself and be honest, that is the key! Highlight the good things about yourself and put a positive “spin” your background. Remember, problems can be also viewed as challenges!

Follow up

Make notes about the interview. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer. Thank the person for his or her time and refer to somethings specific that you both have discussed.

Last but not least, remember to RELAX!


Permission Slips

April 2, 2014

I was on the brink and I think everyone could tell. I silently wished myself away into Zachary’s office to talk to him but he was missing. I needed to plan out my class I was set to teach in two short hours and the curriculum was frustrating me.  So I walked away from it. And there he was in the hallway, I was not sure where he came from nor did I particularly care, I was relieved.  He asked, “Do you need to talk?” I said, “I need to plan” and then followed him for a chat.

HumptyDumpty-1The outcome of our conversation was that I was doing a lot of suppressing and not enough addressing.  I told him I was not happy with my performance as a student this semester but it felt like with all the energy I was spending just trying to keep it together, I didn’t have the space for much else.  This is particularly problematic when you are in the process of finishing your coursework and the big-bad-d-word (dissertation) is staring you square in the face.  He asked me when I was going to come to a place of rest.  I said um, next summer? He gave me a look that I cannot quite put into words. Only when you tell your dissertation committee member that you do not have time to take care of yourself until 15 months from now, you can imagine what that look might be.  He cleanly said, “no, when in the next week do you have time to fall apart?” I mentally searched my calendar for a free moment.  Tuesdays I teach…Wednesdays I have work and Policy class…Thursdays… “I can fall apart Thursday after work?” “Good,” he said, “Thursday it is. And make a time every week for the next 7 weeks to fall apart.”

I put it in my calendar and I told my students about it in our weekly check in.  They laughed curiously as to how one could schedule time to fall apart. I explained it as I understood it:

Many times we tell ourselves that we do not have time to address the things that plague us, make us sad mad angry frustrated or overwhelmed.  We go on about our lives pretending that we are making it through when we are gasping for air, head just barely above water.  So, giving yourself time to fall apart does two things: It creates the space for you to be able to address it in your life and it gives you permission not to have to be strong all the time.  Because we need that, we desperately need to know its okay not to be okay.

One of my students responded saying, “Now that is some serious self-care!” I love them.  As an aside, I believe my honesty with my class both about my state of being and in following my intuition with the lesson paid off. It was by far our best most productive class to date.

I share this story with you all because as a graduate student or even just in life, we often get so focused on the tasks that we do not check in with ourselves. Or, in my case, we check in but we do not create the time because the thought of all those emotions flooding in feels incredibly unappealing.  But the truth of the matter is, we have to give ourselves permission to be hot a** messes.  I have to be able to say to myself, today your socks aren’t going to match. Today your hair is going to be a little bit frizzy. Today your right eye make-up is going to look far superior to your left eye.  Today this assignment is going to be good enough but not your best.  Today you are going to be imperfect.  And that is okay!   

The call to be perfect is one that is too loud in our society and the battle between classmates and cohorts to prove who knows more about which theorist theory or concept can be down right daunting.  I have to make a conscious effort to not let it be the only call I hear, and I think it makes all the difference in being a graduate student who is surviving and being a graduate student who is thriving.  YOU are far more important than an A in a class if you have to kill yourself to get it.  The opportunity cost of grades or academic performance should (and I hate that word but I use it quite intentionally) never (and yes I am also saying never) NEVER be your well-being.  So, today I write myself a permissions slip to fall apart.  Today, my hero is Humpty Dumpty…without broken eggs what would brunch be?

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Being YOU on purpose

March 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 12.35.58 PMHave you had a moment recently where you stop, for just a moment in your busy life, to acknowledge how AMAZING you truly are? If you can’t remember the last time you stopped to appreciate your life or your accomplishments, I challenge you to take the time to do so today. Most of us are often too busy worrying about the future to truly be thankful for the present. How often do we actually take a moment to pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves a few kind words? Not often enough! I started thinking about this a lot during the positive psychology course that I took in January, especially reflecting on what I wanted this new year to look like for me. As the course continued I quickly began to realize that I had been so focused on the outcome in all the things I was doing, that I was barley enjoying the process. This insight, paired with the content of what I was learning about positive psychology, inspired me to become more in touch with my experiences. I began journaling, building on my relationships, and got back into my yoga. Overall, I became more present in my life and in my experience, and I hope to inspire you!

One particular afternoon I was being very hard on myself, feeling quite negative and stressing myself out on one of those “I am not good enough” moments- when I had a powerful revelation. I was sitting in my room at my desk when I turned around to face my wall and finally understood the words of my wise friend (Bob Dylan) that have been hanging right there above my bed, “All I can do is be me, whoever that is.” So simple, yet such a challenging phrase to encompass.

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 12.36.26 PMWe are our own worst critique… but what if you decided to be your own biggest fan instead? We are so quick to judge ourselves on what we are doing wrong that we rarely acknowledge what we are doing right. Consider this: there is no right or wrong, there is just you.

The world would be a better place if we learned to be kind to ourselves. We have the power to choose to be a fan, rather than a critique of our own being. We have the power to choose to live our life with loving kindness and gratitude, and it starts by loving and accepting ourselves just the way we are, without judgment. To be kind to ourselves, and not just those around us is the biggest challenge of all. This means focusing on the 90% that is going well for you, rather than the 10% that is not, as I learned we tend to do as human beings.

We can enhance the appreciation that we have for our lives by taking the time to count our blessings, express gratitude, and live in the present moment. We can learn to accept ourselves for who we are, instead of spending time trying to change who we are, by becoming aware of our greatness. We can heighten our optimism by indulging in activities that make us feel good.

Love and be loved, but most importantly: love yourself.

So what I want this year to look like for me? I decided that I do not want to base the success of this year on the lines that will be added onto my resume. I want to look back on New Years 2015 and notice that I was able to live 2014 with love and kindness, accepting without judgment, and that I saved moments for me. I will spend time with my loved ones, I will keep my mind, body and spirit healthy through yoga and running, and I will always remember to laugh.

I found my to-do list, what’s yours?

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Surviving and Enjoying Professional Conferences

March 19, 2014

unnamedAs a higher education person, March and April are some of the most fun-filled, hectic times of the year because most of the national conferences are going on right now or coming up. NASPA is happening, ACPA is in 10 days, NCORE is in a few months, and AERA is just a few weeks from now. While I am not attending all of those conferences (though some people do and my mind is boggled by that idea every year) I am headed to ACPA, and I have begun to start thinking about packing. This is my 7th year going to these types of conferences, and I have come up with a few things that I think might be helpful to keep in mind as you prepare to go to conferences this year.

  1. COMFORTABLE SHOES: this cannot be over emphasized. Conference time means being on your feet a lot, and while those 4-inch heels or brand new oxfords may look amazing, how happy will you be wearing them after a day of doing 4-5 miles worth of laps around a convention center? Make sure you bring something you can walk comfortably in for a long distance. And if that happens to be a pair of 4-inch heels, more power to you, because you are capable of doing something that I can most certainly not.
  2.  A power strip: with the advent of mobile technology, conferences have been embracing social media in a big way, and it can be very important to use those tools to connect and network with your peers. This can also mean that you need to be prepared to plug in mid-day to recharge (in more ways than one, but right now we can stick to the literal version). A power strip is key because often there are only a few outlets in a room, and if AV equipment or other people take them first you are out of options. So bring a power strip in your bag to sessions. Not only will it make more opportunities to recharge for you, you will probably make more than a few new friends who also need a recharge station.
  3. A decent sized bag: there is no exact science to this. You want it to be big enough to carry what you need, but not so big that it knocks over things around you or drags you down while going from session to session. I have had my messenger bag for almost 10 years as this point, and it works pretty well for me. It fits a laptop, ipad, cables, water bottle, sun glasses, pens, business cards, and still leaves plenty of room for other hand outs, books, or other things that tend to get handed out to attendees. I’ve seen people use a purse for everything, some with a regular book bag, and some with a small rolling suitcase. As long as you have what you need, that should be your measure, as long as you have something to hold your stuff.
  4. Snacks: while there may be some meals provided and other things available depending on the conference you attend, you may not know what there is or when you will have the chance to eat, so having something to snack on is hugely important. I try to bring something on the healthy/filling side like granola bars and almonds, or tangerines, but the occasional cookie is nice too. The last thing anyone wants is to be in the middle of an important session and to get a case of the hangries (as in I am so hungry I am angry at everyone and everything that is not food). I cannot think of something I would want to have happen less than to get hangry at a potential employer, publisher, or colleague.
  5. A sense of what you need to recharge yourself: now we get to the more metaphorical idea of recharging. If you are an extrovert, sitting still for hour long sessions back to back to back will be very draining, so make sure you build in time to socialize with friends or new folks you have met at the conference. It will help you be more engaged and you will get more out of the conference. If you are an introvert, make sure you are building in alone time to get back some of the energy you are expending networking and rubbing elbows with all of those future employers, publishers, and colleagues.

Those are a few of the things that I have picked up along the way, with one addition: HAVE FUN. Conferences can be a blast, and there are a lot of opportunities that happen because of the connections that happen at conferences. Embrace the possibilities, and enjoy yourself!

When Intention and Reality Collide

March 6, 2014

When Intention and Reality Collide

By Kathryn Bingham; published first @ Leadistics

Life isn’t—and perhaps shouldn’t be—about absolute perfection. Setting and striving for ambitious goals offers a certain joy in the journey and anticipated achievement. And yet, sometimes, we face roadblocks, interference and struggle. We’re not operating in “flow.” Our plans go awry.

“The best laid plans of mice and men” should read, “the best laid plans of mice, men and doc students!” (If you’re not a doctoral student, substitute your role into the phrase.) Relationships need to be nurtured and maintained. Information you need is not accessible.  People you count on do not come through. Interruptions and distractions impede progress. The “bug” circulating in your community slams you, tapping your resilience. Life happens. And you miss a target, self-imposed or one set by others.

I embrace the domain of goal setting with enthusiasm. Aspirations are not only challenging in content (hello, “doc student”), but time span. My style is to set personal deadlines in advance of any “real” deadlines. Achieving personal deadlines creates a win—gifting me with time to share or pursue broad interests. The difference between the “personal” and “real” deadline creates “slack”—time that can be consumed in an adaptation to the original plan as needed. (Process geeks reading this description will recognize “critical chain” methodologies.)

So, how do you recover when intention and reality collide? I use a three-step process: Clearing, Analyzing, Reorienting—a “car” to take me to my goal:

  •  Clearing requires taking a break—a separation from the issue at hand. Taking a walk (or a nap!). Going for coffee. Working out. Tapping into fun and laughter. Whatever the “clearing” activity, the key involves focusing on the moments and the people I’m with, and resolutely NOT consciously allocating brain time to the challenge.
  • Analyzing involves recognizing equally what was and what wasn’t working and contemplating my assumptions, beliefs and values—how am I “being” and not just how am I “doing.” What had I anticipated, and which if-then strategies had I employed successfully? What did I miss? What did I not do, that I should have?
  • Reorienting incorporates two components. The external “technical” piece is a simple plan modification—what occurs when on a calendar. I also own the internal element of assuring I live consistent with my values, learn from and adapt to environmental change, and both prioritize my engagement with others and harmonize who I am within what I seek to do.

There are times I feel aligned with the universe—expansive, empowered and maximizing potential beyond the conventionally possible. And I have times where I am acutely aware of my own humanness. Reconciling the two involves faith, courage, a sense of humor, committing to act on my intentions . . . and, sometimes, taking a car ride.

Journey to Daraja Academy

February 26, 2014

January 7-21, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for a school counseling SOLES global trip.  During my program interview in the spring of 2012, I first heard Kenya was a possible destination, and I was determined to go.  From past students, I heard testimony of a life changing trip and fond memories of the girls of Daraja Academy.

Daraja Academy was founded by a former USD graduate, and is located in the small rural community of Nanyuki, Kenya.  It is a boarding school for girls, and gives them an opportunity to get a high school education that they otherwise could not afford.  Each girl is selected through an extensive application and interview process, and represents one of the 40 tribes located across Kenya.

The most amazing quality of each and every girl I met was her dedication to her education, which was seen through every interaction during our visit.  The lamplights in the residence hall would flicker on at 4 am to light the exam materials of the studious seniors.  The laundry and individual chores would be finished by the 7 am breakfast time, before an eight hour day of intense classwork.  The teachers in each class would speak with passion, constantly reminding the girls of their potential in this day.  When speaking about their school, the girls would discuss what their education meant to them, and all of the things they could do to help their home communities if they studied hard at Daraja.  With dreams of being photographers, pilots, business women, teachers, or leaders in the community, the girls were visibly eager for knowledge.

My personal experience at Daraja has shaped my goals as a school counselor.  It is unbelievably important to me to serve underrepresented communities, and do so with caring and compassion.  As an outsider knowing very little about the history of education in Kenya, I was amazed at the resiliency shown by the students of Daraja.  Many of them faced trauma and adversity that I could not imagine, yet they remained optimistic for their future.  I hope to support the students I work with to build resiliency, and help to promote a passion for learning like I saw at Daraja.

It is difficult to put this life changing experience into words, so I’ve created a video documenting 10 of the most memorable moments of my trip.  Traveling to Kenya through the school counseling program was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had, and I would recommend taking advantage of any opportunities to travel and learn abroad!


Click photo for YouTube video for a summary of my 10 most memorable moments of the school counseling international experience in Kenya at the Daraja Academy.

An MFT message

February 17, 2014

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Here is a video made by current Marital and Family Therapy students for all the prospective students currently considering the MFT program.


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