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SOLES International Experience: How to Make it Your Own

June 1, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in  Leadership Studies Ambassador, Molly Patrick

Where should I go for my SOLES International Experience trip? I immediately asked myself this question after I was accepted into the SOLES Masters in Leadership Studies program.  I have gained so much insight about myself and others from my previous travels abroad, and I knew the potential of an international experience during grad school would also be utterly life changing.  I started to feel a sneaky, slightly tingling, itchy, anxious feeling coming from the depths of my bowels. Since this was a requirement of the MA in Leadership Studies program, I wondered how in the world I would 1) be allowed to take that many days off from my full-time job, and 2) make it a truly worthwhile use of my precious graduate school time.  I was going to have to come up with something relatively quick, outside of the prescribed orchestrated trips offered, and something that my advisor would approve of academically. In concepting this trip, I wanted to try and combine two important factors that have helped me navigate my personal and professional trajectory up until this point, connections and culture.  My specific interests include understanding and working with the intersection of culture and leadership development, as well as facilitation, coaching, and consulting. Naturally, I fell into a direct opportunity to create and facilitate an intercultural leadership identity workshop at one of the most prestigious Universities in Mexico City, Tecnológico de Monterrey (El Tec).

Looking back, it was not an overnight extravaganza. I worked many long hours brainstorming, developing curriculum, planning, and practicing for my international leadership debut, with an exponential amount help from my accomplice and MALS cohort member Andrea Madeleine Medina. Being a native San Diegan, my geographical and cultural experiences have been highly in tune with the interconnectedness of Mexico and the United States. It only felt right to explore this element of my own identity further.

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Andrea Madeleine Medina (on left) and Molly Patrick (on right)

In addition, I took a major risk in calling upon my former colleague and now visiting professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Dr. Cris Bravo (another USD alum), to propose this workshop to be offered to his undergraduate students. Without hesitation, he obligingly accepted, and went out of his way to help us get the ball rolling.  I attribute this to the amazing community and connections USD has provided. I was thrilled to jump into furthering my cultural leadership development work internationally.

I, along with my co-facilitator Andrea Medina, ended up conducting a 2.5 hour workshop for 27 students in Mexico City at Tecnológico de Monterrey – Campus Santa Fe in late March 2018. The workshop focused on examining how our shared and differing cultures both in the U.S. and Mexico contribute to who we are and who we show up as in our leadership.  Using experiential learning, improvisational games, and immersive group activities, we were able to break down systems level cultural stereotypes, historical symbols, and values that inform how we understand our leadership roles and capacities. 

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Workshop Group in Mexico City at Tecnológico de Monterrey

Creating the workshop is not an aspect of this international that experience I take lightly. In fact, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have encountered to date. Being at a place where you are ready and willing to take risks to achieve your dreams is key, and has been a major part of my own leadership journey in this program on so many different levels. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work researching and planning the trip, and especially in preparing for an opportunity like this. I can tell you it was well worth the life, leadership, and spiritual experience in creating an intensive workshop from scratch. There’s really nothing quite like creating and facilitating something that is truly your own.

In summary, this is YOUR international experience. Do not be afraid to make it what you want. Take risks, go out, and make it happen.


End of Year Reflections

April 16, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in Marital and Family Therapy, Ambassador, Allie King

During a recent class, one of my professors asked my cohort to reflect upon our time at USD. He provided us with a list of discussion questions including what changes we have noticed in ourselves and what makes us feel most proud. Lastly, he asked us what we would miss most about USD once we graduate in May.

My answer to the last question was easy: the people. The experience of learning how to be a family therapist is like no other and I could not imagine going through this program without the support of my cohort, professors, and supervisors. These past two years have been a time of growth and discovery for me, and it has been such a gift to share experiences with a group of people who are going through a similar process. I also feel so fortunate to have the mentorship of my professors and supervisors who are always open to answering questions and sharing wisdom from their wealth of experience.

While I will miss the frequent interactions I have with my cohort, professors, and supervisors, I know the connections I made at USD will carry on past graduation. I am excited and feel prepared for my next chapter thanks to the education and training I received at USD.  I cannot believe how lucky I am to be starting my career in this profession, and what makes it even more meaningful is knowing that I am starting my career alongside my fellow cohort members: people who I know will be lifelong friends and colleagues. I feel incredibly grateful to have spent the last two years at USD and know that USD will always have a very special place in my heart.

Experiential Leadership Development

March 15, 2018

A blog post from SOLES PhD in Leadership Studies, Ambassador, Reo Watanabe

SOLES is unique for its focus on experiential learning. John Dewey emphasized that human beings, especially adults, learn best from their own experiences, and the cycle of action and reflection is the heart of experiential learning. I find this statement extremely applicable to leadership studies. One of the strengths of SOLES is in its abundant offerings of experiential learning opportunities.

There are numerous teaching opportunities on campus. I so far taught two leadership courses to college students and did a teaching assistantship in a graduate course. I especially appreciate the unique ecosystem to train leadership educators at SOLES. For example, I co-instructed one introductory leadership course for college students with an undergraduate instructor. She was then a sophomore and around the same age as the students in the class. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical about how to make a meaningful teaching team with her for the class, but it turned out that she demonstrated model leadership and had a lot to offer to the class and to me! In another course, I coached college students who taught the introductory leadership course as a co- instructor. I observed their pressure as an instructor and their struggle working with their co- instructor who was much senior to them. Regardless of the challenges, they worked hard and resiliently developed their leadership as an instructor. I was glad to see their dramatic growth. I learned a lot about leadership more by teaching than by studying.

The Conscious Leadership Academy is a pivot of experiential learning at SOLES and offers a wide range of experiential leadership development programs. One of its initiatives is the Group Relations Conference, which is held on campus twice a year. Participants will experience group dynamics in a real setting, which is a rare opportunity in the US at the university level. This January, I participated in a weekend workshop titled “Small Study Group Training in the Group Relations Tradition” to train myself as a consultant for the Group Relations Conference. I had opportunities to consult a small study group and received direct feedback from seasoned consultants in the field. These trainings had an immense impact on how I learn with others.

I believe experiential leadership development can only be achieved through hands-on training. As such, I am glad to be here at SOLES as a leadership scholar.


March 6, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Ambassador, Leila Atiyeh

Moving to a new city. Adjusting to a different pace of life. Going back to school well
after a decade of graduating from undergrad. Adjusting to a new lifestyle. Changing
careers. Forming a new professional identity.

It’s hard for me to believe that all of that happened in less than 3 years. In August 2015,
I moved from NYC to San Diego to start the CMHC grad program. Prior to starting the
program, I worked in business / management consulting for approximately 13 years. It
has always been my dream to be a psychotherapist, so I decided to follow my passion.
My two worlds couldn’t have been anymore different. The adjustment was challenging
and there were highs and lows. I recognize that it is all part of the transformation
process, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

The intimate cohort size, the relationships formed, the support from faculty, the warm
sunny days that feed my soul, and the magnificence of the ocean have all aided in my

I am now 3 months shy of graduating. The magnitude of my evolution still hasn’t fully hit me yet. However, I am ready to spread my new pair of wings. I have ideas of what I
would like to achieve in my career as a mental health clinician, but for now, I am excited to have the opportunity to flutter around in the wind, bask in the sun, and go wherever the wind takes me.

Looking Back and Leaping Forward

February 15, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, School Counseling PPS Credential, Ambassador, Carolyn Jercinovich

98 days. As I write this blog post, that is exactly how many days I have until I graduate from USD and SOLES. At first, that seemed like a pretty long time to me, but then I did the math to see what I was doing 98 days ago and realized that it is going to go by in the blink of an eye. So naturally, I have started to reminisce on the past almost year and a half in this program.

My time as a SOLES graduate student has been nothing short of a whirlwind, in the best way possible. I went into my program knowing that I would learn, be challenged, and grow, but now I realize that I have done all of these in ways that I did not expect. I have learned not only about what it means to be a school counselor, but I have also learned an incredible amount about myself – my strengths, my capabilities, my values, and my challenges. I have grown in my knowledge and skills as a counselor-in-training, but also as a person in the ways I see the world and the people around me. For someone who really loves to have a plan and for that plan to go as expected, I absolutely embrace the adventure that graduate school has been, for it has prepared me for a counseling career that will undoubtedly also be full of unexpected twists and turns.

So as I look forward to these next 98 days – days that I am sure will be full of even more learning and growing – my goal is to be very intentional about appreciating every single one of them. Carpe diem – it might be cliché, but it is absolutely how I want to spend the rest of graduate school and, while I am at it, the rest of my life.


The Balance of It All

February 1, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in Higher Education Leadership Ambassador, Kalena Michalec

In the midst of the semester, it can be hard to find life balance. Between the hundreds of pages of reading, assignments, assistantship/jobs, “doing” my action research, maintaining a semi-healthy lifestyle, and trying to keep my personal life, it is very exhausting. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for my first semester. I let things slip, picked up a burrito, ran late to a meeting, napped instead of going to the gym… It was difficult to find my flow and if you are feeling this way, you are not alone!

Eventually, I found a rhythm that worked for me and got my groove going. The best tips I have for doing this are:

1.     Use Google calendar or a planner to schedule all meetings, assignments, classes, appointments, etc. along with scheduling time for self-care.

2.     Do NOT let your personal enjoyments be forgotten. Prioritize each week at least one thing that brings you joy. This has been my key to maintaining my energy to keep going.

3.     Do not overcommit/know how much you can do. Be realistic with yourself and say no when you need to! It is okay.

4.     Check-in with your peers/family/friends and do not forget about everyone while your head is crammed in a book. Stay in contact with those that keep you grounded.

5.     Have faith! You got this.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

January 15, 2018

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Student Ambassador, Camille Ramirez

This coming Spring 2018, I will be taking my last few remaining classes of the semester,
continuing the last half of my year-long Practicum at a severe mental illness clinic,
graduating with a Master’s Degree from a 3-year program at University of San Diego,
and hopefully be on my way to acquiring a career that I’ve dreamt about for many years.
Personally, it’s a lot to look forward to, and unfortunately, a lot to worry about as well.

Every new year, I look forward to the many possibilities and events that the year can
bring. Depending on the year, but especially this year, I feel an array of emotions
ranging from excitement to fear, and everything in between. I have lived in San Diego
for about 3 years now, after moving here from Los Angeles to attend USD and attain a
degree for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Honestly, these 3 years have been both
long and short, long in that there has been lots of growth, memories, and experiences
throughout, but also short in that it feels like the time just flew by. I’m excited to
graduate, but I am also frightened. Will someone hire me? What do I do now? Where do I
go next?

As I try to plan and prepare as best I can for what’s next, these thoughts naturally bring about concern, dread and fear. It’s my personal folly in worrying so much. But in the
midst of all this trepidation, I paradoxically find myself realizing the importance of
embracing the moment. Yes, later this year I would have to apply to many jobs, it won’t
be easy and I will be stressed, but right now, I am content with what I have already accomplished and that should be enough for now. I accept all these thoughts and
feelings; I learn from them but not have them hold me back. I have already learned so
much in these past years, but the best part is that I am constantly learning – with my peers, about my clients, about the magic of therapy, about myself. So while I naturally fall back on worrying about many things in life, I am thankful I am able to step back, take whatever life throws at me and take it all in. The future is unknown, but one thing is
certain, it all starts in the present.

Happy New Year and Good Luck to You in 2018!

Why I Came To USD, and More Importantly, Why I Stayed

January 3, 2018

A blog post from SOLES Master’s Credential Cohort Program: Secondary Education Student Ambassador, Matthew Becerra

I am in the third semester of the Master’s Credential Cohort in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, and am a male teaching candidate of color who is planning on spending the rest of his life working as a public school teacher/educator.

Prior to USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences, I attended public schools (proudly) for 17 consecutive years, all the way through undergraduate studies.

However, when it came to graduate school I was intrigued and excited by the University of San Diego because of everything the school had to offer, particularly in alignment with the school’s mission and vision statements dedicated to social justice and positively impacting communities.

After a month of school, I started to actually question whether or not I belonged at USD. The transition happened so quickly and suddenly that I was personally feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, I was taking EDUC 581C, Multicultural and Philosophical Foundations of Education in a Global Society, and had Dr. Veronica Garza as my professor. Not only was the class itself rewarding, as we talked at length about inequities in education, but I was able to build rapport with Professor Garza, and now consider her a mentor. She showed genuine care and interest in my learning, by emailing me directly when I missed class, or to thank me for classroom discussion contributions. So when I came to her to express my concerns and doubts, she was an empowering voice of reason and comfort. She routinely would tell me “You DO belong here” when referencing the school and encouraged me to speak my truth. It is because of her support and reassurance (as well as our mutual love for the Los Angeles Dodgers) that I not only stayed enrolled but now have immersed myself into the graduate school community.

I share this to say, first and foremost, thank you Dr. Garza for your support. Secondly, I want all prospect students to know if you are looking for a space where the faculty care about you, truly, then I would recommend attending the School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

– Matthew Becerra

University of Cambridge and ILA Conference in Brussels

December 11, 2017

A blog post from SOLES PhD in Leadership Studies Ambassador, Ryosuke (Reo) Watanabe

We are finishing the semester now. In retrospect, the highlight of this semester was
LEAD 581i, a global study course to the UK and Belgium. I attended the European trip
led by Professor Cheryl Getz with other ten PhD and Master’s students in October.
Thanks to the long-term relationship between Professor Getz and Professor Georgia
Sorenson, the founder of the academy, we were fortunate to attend the opening event of
the James McGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at Churchill College in University of
Cambridge. The academy organized a weekend leadership workshop especially for us.
We had a great opportunity to learn leadership from the British perspective and discuss
the current issues on leadership with various scholars and the students at University of
Cambridge. We then attended the opening ceremony of the academy with other
outstanding scholars and practitioners of leadership studies gathered from around the
world. Burns is called a founder of leadership studies, and his transformational
leadership theory has made a huge influence on leadership studies, so I was personally
excited to attend the special event.

After the visit to Cambridge, we moved to Brussels to attend the International
Leadership Association (ILA) 19 th Annual Global Conference. There, we as leadership
scholars shared the sense of urgency, because the current world is full of leadership
challenges. The growing global instability was a frequent topic in the conference. As
there were so many sessions during just the four-day period, I was able to experience
only a slight part of it, but was surprised to know that many scholars respected and
referred our Leadership Studies program as the pioneering program in the field. I
appreciate the irreplaceable opportunity of networking with scholars outside SOLES and
learning leadership studies from diversified views.

For Those Grads Far Far Away From Home…

November 15, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling AmbassadorBetty Desta

Moving more than 9100 miles away from home for the first time can be a pretty big adjustment. Fully getting used to my life here took several months. Thinking back, I wish I could go back and tell myself all the things I know now…perhaps find a way to write myself a letter and mail it to my past self. It would go something like this…


Dear Betty:

Call home as often as you can. Although it may really be fun being away from home and getting to live life as an adult (finally!!!) it can get a bit lonely sometimes. Remember how much your sister used to annoy you when you were back home? Believe it or not, you now talk almost everyday. She has been the person you call when you happy, sad and bored. Sometimes calculating what time it is back home can be hard, but on the other hand, you may find yourself on the phone at 3 am in the morning, laughing hysterically about old memories and trying not to wake up your roommates.

Find a place that sells food from back home. In your first few months, not having food from back home will make you truly homesick. You will try a few shops and restaurants that will leave you disappointed (and slightly more homesick) but then when you do find a place that makes decent food that is reminiscent of back home, it will all be worth it!

Stay in touch with your old friends. Life gets busy, and it’s hard to stay in touch with old friends when life is taking you in such completely different ways. Yes, friends will go through lots of changes while you’re gone and you will experience major FOMO  and it’s okay. Make a point of checking in with your friends and catching up at least once in a while.

Explore all the new opportunities you have available now. You will find that the college experience is completely different here. You will feel awkward around the faculty because back home, a casual and warm relationship with professors is unheard of. There will also be so many new opportunities to get involved in research, clubs and other activities both on and off campus. It may feel overwhelming at first, but just make the first step – it’s always the hardest. Email your professors, join that student org, volunteer or get an internship off campus. These will help your career development immensely.

And most of all, don’t forget to have fun!