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Tips for Surviving Graduate School

September 22, 2015

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Lara Touckley:

Grad School Energy Levels

  1. Find Your Balance

It’s hard to believe that pushing yourself academically, socially, as well as at home and at work, can be strenuous! As much as we’d love to finish all readings, assignments, AND do well in other areas in life, at times, it might be difficult to do it all (probably when you have 2 midterms, 3 papers and 5 assignments due). It’s important to remember, that although it’s recommended to finish your readings before class; it’s not punishable by death if you don’t! After all, there are only 24 hours per day. So prioritize! Deadlines are, after all, deadlines. Read some chapters before class, and leave others for when you have more free time. (But don’t forget to read them eventually; if they’ve been assigned to you then they’re [most probably] important.)

  1. Self-Care

Prioritize yourself! You’re acing everything; you’re on an academic roll- great for you, IF you’re taking care of yourself too. We oftentimes forget about our needs and ourselves. Well newsflash: if you’re not mentally and emotionally okay, then the perfect GPA you’ve worked so hard to achieve will start suffering the consequences. In short, everybody loses! So give studying your all, but give yourself your all too! Remember those things you once enjoyed and performed so often? Oh yeah, hobbies! Remind yourself of what they are and make sure you spoil yourself a little. (Don’t go neglecting school though..)

  1. Know How You Work, And Plan Accordingly

After years (and years and years) of studying, we all know how we work. If you read slow, give yourself extra time to finish the readings. If you’re a master at writing papers (then you’re in the right place!), then you know that it takes you less time to write an A-paper. Manage your time according to your strengths and not-so-strengths (I like to believe we don’t have weaknesses. Yes, some might call that denial). Do you understand best in class, or do you need to spare some time for office hours with your professor? Do study groups work better for you than studying individually? Ask yourself all these questions and go for it! Try to be as efficient as possible in as little time as possible.

  1. Get Involved

Psht, we heard that a lot right? Well, there’s a reason for that- it’s important! Dig around and find things that might be helpful for you in your professional development, and go for it! Have you already had plenty of experience? Perhaps performing research and reading articles might be helpful. Likewise, if you’ve done a lot of research, then volunteering and getting involved in the community can help!

It’s as important to do well academically, as it is in the community. As a professor once told us, “you write your own reference letter.”

  1. Rent Books

You can rent books from the library in order to save money, and then buy the book if you really like it! Otherwise, you can just rent your books online! If you enjoy reading off of a screen then that’s even better! Renting (and even buying) e-books are cheaper, and you can access them right away!

  1. Ask Away!
  • Your colleagues might be able to help you if you ever need it. If they can’t, then the realization that you’re not the only “lost” student is a self-esteem booster! I would then advise to directly ask your professor about your inquiries.
  • As for research opportunities, don’t be afraid to ask professors to work with them! Ideally, you would work with a professor whose interests are close to yours.
  • Your advisor is there to, well, advise you! Personally, my advisor was a huge help to me. She/he can give suggest different places to volunteer, help you improve academically, etc.
  • You can also ask us, SOLES Ambassadors, any questions you have and we’ll do the best we can to answer them!

Adventure Awaits at SOLES!

September 8, 2015

At many times, San Diego feels like paradise-lush palm trees, beautiful sandy beaches, and clear blue skies. What more could a Seattleite ask for? In early August, I packed my bags and embarked on an exciting adventure to pursue my Masters in Higher Education Leadership at USD and begin my graduate assistantship with SOLES Admissions & Outreach.


School of Leadership and Educational Sciences: Mother Rosalie Hall

Prior to relocating to San Diego, the thought of leaving an established life in Seattle was daunting. Yet something about SOLES felt right-even prior to my campus visit earlier this year in February. Maybe it was their personal, caring approach in our initial interactions, but I was sold. I actually confirmed prior to visiting the campus! Upon admission to the program, I was immediately met with the warmth and kindness of SOLES students, staff, and faculty. Based off my experiences so far, I firmly believe that I could not have made a better decision.Not only does this campus radiate physical beauty with its breathtaking Spanish architecture and phenomenal landscaping, but USD’s core values speaks volumes. The desire to provide a compassionate, diverse, and inclusive environment for students has deeply resonated with my personal values and I eagerly look forward what these next two years with SOLES will bring. I hope to carry that into my work following the completion of the program.

SOLES Networking

The possibilities at SOLES are endless! The First Lecture of the year & SOLES Networking Events

Reflecting on my time at USD, my transition to SOLES has brought forth tremendous growth opportunities. This past month in San Diego has proved to be a humbling, thrilling, and rewarding experience. Not only have I discovered a new found responsibility and independence, but I also have been challenged to incorporate leadership in the classroom, work force, and everyday life. From the task of learning a new job to learning about USD’s culture-I feel so incredibly blessed for this opportunity to pursue my goals as a Higher Education professional.

So cheers to new friendships, experiences, and perspectives!
*Continue to check our blog or subscribe to read posts from our various student ambassadors.


Some of my wonderful cohort from the MA in Higher Education Leadership program

La Jolla

Breathtaking Sunsets at La Jolla


Beautiful Coronado Island

A taste of Bali, Indonesia

July 1, 2015

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Counseling with specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Miguel Martinez:

The international requirement in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC) program was one main contributing factor to my decision in attending USD SOLES. As I finish my first year in the CMHC program I think about the amazing opportunities this program has offered, and the privilege we’ve received as graduate students for studying abroad. I reflect back and I do not regret my decision for choosing USD and traveling across the world to Southeast Asia. I love exploring new places, and my interest in learning about new cultures and languages has taken me to countries in Europe, and now I can check off Southeast Asia from my bucket list.

Traveling and seeing new cultures for the first time is an indescribable feeling, and this feeling motivates me to pursue new adventures. In this academic year (2014-2015) we were given the option in the CMHC program to travel to Bali or Jamaica, and I selected Bali, Indonesia. Without hesitation I selected a country in Southeast Asia because I wanted to gain knowledge about their culture, spiritual beliefs, and their overall views of society.

During our Bali trip, we visited three different locations: Ubud, Amed, and Mengwi. In Ubud, we visited incredible places such as the royal palace, temples, rice fields, and we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the cremation ceremony of a princess in Bali. As a cohort, we then traveled to the coastal strip of Bali and visited Amed. It was one of the most relaxing parts of the trip, and having class in an open area with a view of the Indian Ocean was breathtaking and surreal. During our stay in Amed, we also witnessed the beautiful sunrise over the Indian Ocean as we rode a sailboat into the sea. Before we departed Bali, we made a quick stop in Mengwi where we stayed in a community-based hotel called Puri Taman Sari own by Agung Prana, a founder of the Coral Restoration Project in Bali. In Mengwi we visited one of the prominent temples in Bali called Tanah Lot, which means Land in the Sea. This temple was located on a rock just offshore and it was a beautiful sightseen.

Immersing into the Balinese culture taught me a lot about myself, and showed me the potential I have to work with culturally diverse people as a future clinical mental health counselor. I met Balinese locals (youth and elder) and every interaction was a new learning experience. Here are a few snapshots of my trip in Bali. Enjoy!


Miguel 1

The Balinese cuisine is made with a lot of spice

Miguel 2

Puri Agung Peliatan Royal Palace

Miguel 3

Balinese Royal Cremation ceremony: The body of the princess was placed at the top of the tower.

Miguel 4

Balinese architecture is very detailed and grandiose

Miguel 5

I met Gigi at the Elephant Safari Park!!

Miguel 6

Tirta Empul Temple


Miguel 7

The Indian Ocean was striking and beautiful

Miguel 8

Beautiful scenery during our boat ride in the India Ocean


Miguel 9

The Tanah Lot Temple (Land in the Sea in Balinese language)

Miguel 10

A beautiful commnity-based hotel called Puri Taman Sari

What Road Trips Teach You About the Classroom

June 11, 2015
Colleen 4

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and Master’s Credential Cohort (MCC) 2-year, Colleen Stevenson 

To fulfill my international experience requirement, I chose to go on a road trip with other members of my cohort to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Here’s a few ways the experience influenced my perspective of teaching:

  1. Students need to get outside.

So much of what we discuss in our classes at USD surround the importance of creating culturally relevant lessons and connecting what students are learning to the real world. During our road trip we stopped at various national parks between California and New Mexico. It was amazing to see how the educational practices and theories that I was learning in school began to connect in the real world as we ourselves were learning about new cultures and historical sites. When opportunities to teach beyond the classroom walls arise it should be taken. Not only does it allow for a break outside of the norm, but it shows students that learning can happen anywhere.

Colleen 3

  1. If can’t get out of the classroom, bring the outside to them

Making real world connections is key to student engagement and lesson retention. So when the real world comes into their classroom it’s hard to look away. During our trip we visited the Petrified Forrest National Park in Arizona and while the three of us all teach different subjects we each found a connection from the park to bring into the classroom.

For history, the park’s ancient ruins became a resource for how societies form including hierarchies and social structure. The park’s petroglyphs sparked conversation about language through visuals and in an English classroom could be a text for what communication can look like. And for the elementary or science classroom, students could discuss how the markings stayed on the rocks after all these years.

Be it pictures, mementos, or artifacts students deserve to see the world around them. We need to show students that school is not bound to four walls but bridges the gaps to the world around them.

Colleen 2

  1. Don’t Take a Picture and Read About it Later

Do your research. The more you understand on a topic the more appreciation you will receive. In my placement, I talk to my students about the importance of knowing when a text is written and the background of the author. The more you know, the more you can infer why a text was written, and in turn the larger purpose or message. Without the previous knowledge, the Petrified Forest would seem like a large space of rocks. The layers within the Grand Canyon would seem like neat shading, and the alien themed storefronts in Roswell, New Mexico would seem out of place.

Giving your students the background they need increases their access points to the text or lesson while also expanding their ability to make deeper, stronger, and more meaningful connections. Additionally, asserting the background knowledge of your students’ unique personalities into a lesson is helpful towards increasing classroom engagement.

Colleen 1

  1. Don’t be Afraid to Ask

Be it for directions, background information, or the nearest gas station. Freeways were a new territory, just as many of the skills we teach in the classroom are new territory for our students. When students are afraid to ask questions, they could end up wasting time doing a project incorrectly, only to have needed 2 minutes of clarification to have properly understood the assignment. Same goes for new teachers (maybe even double). Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues, mentors, or administration for help. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Speaking up is a powerful skill, one that our students can even learn from our example. It’s the difference between staying in the dark for fear of looking foolish and turning on a light because being in the dark isn’t helping.

Or in our case, waiting at a rest stop for a tow truck to bring us gas when we only needed to ask the rest stop manager for help.

Head ups: They always have extra gallons to spare.

Pictures from SOLES events 2014-15

May 20, 2015

The end of spring 2015 is slowly coming to a close. Here are some pictures that highlight what occurred during the year. Pictures are from a 1st year PhD social gathering, Leadership Studies Open House, USD Hiking League trips, and SOLES Student Graduate Student Association events.

Thank you to Emily Davis, Student Ambassador and MA in Higher Education Leadership student, for a majority of these pictures.










SOLES Graduate Student Association & Ways to Get Involved

May 13, 2015

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MA in Higher Education Leadership, Emily Davis:

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 10.37.02 PM

I knew immediately when I began my program Fall 2014 that I wanted to be involved in something more than just academics. I certainly believe that you can grow and learn just as much outside the classroom as you can inside, so I began to explore my options. I eventually applied for the SOLES Graduate Student Association (SGSA) and accepted the position of Communications Director for the 2014-2015 academic year.

As part of SGSA, there have been several opportunities that have truly shaped my first year in the Higher Education Leadership program. Here are three highlights:

  1. Professional Development

As a Higher Education Leadership student, it has been exciting for me to explore the world of graduate student life. I have been stretched as I learned new and unique ways to market, plan, and implement events for graduate students. In SGSA you have the opportunity to represent the student voice, plan amazing events, develop a brand, manage a budget, and so much more.

  1. Fun and Memorable Events

Some of my favorite memories from my first year are at SGSA events! This year we have hosted Meet & Greets meals, Coffee Hours, a Wine & Paint night, a Brewery Social, community service events, a Holiday Brunch, and our Annual Awards Dinner. Our events are ever-changing based on the desires of the students.

  1. Relationships and Networking

I am so lucky to have worked with amazing individuals who served on the 14-15 SGSA team, and consider them colleagues as well as friends. SGSA events are great ways to get to know people from across the SOLES community, including faculty and staff. Our goal is to integrate the cohorts and programs in a way that allows you to build your professional network and memories at the same time.

I am honored to have just been appointed President of SGSA for the 15-16 school year, so consider this my formal invitation for you to consider joining our team by way of Program Representative, Committee member, or simply attending our events! If you have any questions about SGSA at any time, please contact us at I can’t wait to see you all in the fall!

Ready (Or Not) for San Diego!

May 6, 2015

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and PhD in Leadership Studies, Tara Edberg:

Moving to a new place can be daunting, moving cross-country even more so, as there is so much to think about and consider. I did it 3 years ago when I started my PhD in Leadership Studies so I thought I would share some advice. California is the 8th state I have lived in, so I have learned a thing or two in my moves. This is just my personal advice, I am sure other Ambassadors have additional advice they can share. Here are my thoughts:

  1. In San Diego most rental properties are not posted until the month they will be available, therefore when you find a place you typically move in within the month. So you do not have to look for a rental until 30 days before you move. This can be difficult to do from far away. Some people fly in, in order to find a place, others have a friend in town that can go to viewings, some do everything online (which can be risky), and still others move in to a month-by-month rental situation so they can get to SD, find the neighborhood and a place they like and then move to a more permanent location. That is what I did and it worked out great. I moved in to a bedroom in a house that I found on Craigslist, and once I was here and familiar with the area I moved to a new place a couple months after moving to San Diego.
  2. Each San Diego neighborhood has its own personality, this article ( does a pretty nice job speaking to many neighborhoods but sometimes you have to read between the lines (ex. Ocean Beach’s “1960s hippie vibe”). Also, there are neighborhoods not included on the list you may want to consider (Mission Valley, Mission Hills, Point Loma, etc.). Finally, it might be helpful to know that the beach communities have a lot of our undergraduate students in them: Mission Beach has a lot of USD students, Pacific Beach has a lot of SDSU students, etc., and some people prefer to not live in the undergraduate scene. Most of the Grad students I know live in Mission Valley/Hills, Hillcrest/North Park, and Downtown. I live in North Park and love it! If you are curious about a specific neighborhood, feel free to post your question on the Facebook group and Ambassadors will chime in.
  3. The other question you will have to consider is having a roommate vs. not having a roommate. If you are looking to find a roommate you can fill out the roommate survey and you will get the contact information of other students who are looking. Having a roommate will obviously allow you to rent a bigger space for less money. Rents vary, but most people I know pay between $750-1,200 a month. When I first moved here I found a room in a house for $600 a month, but the house and the neighborhood left a lot to be desired. For me, I knew I wanted to have my own space, in a walkable neighborhood, and preferred not to have a roommate so I was looking for a studio. I found a great studio bungalow (AKA Mother In-Law Quarters) in North Park on Craigslist that was being rented by the owners.
  4. After looking at the costs I decided it was not worth it to rent a moving truck, drive it cross-country with horrible gas mileage, and have the added stress of possibly needing to tow my car. I also looked in to Pods, which were also very expensive. In the end it would cost more to move my furniture than simply buying new. So I sold most of my furniture, stored some belongings with my parents and moved out to San Diego with what I could fit in, and on, my SUV. So be sure you look at costs of moving your belongings and consider if it is worth it. One thing I found out during my research, but I did not need, is you can actually ship boxes with Greyhound. I will probably use this service to ship some belongings on my next adventure.

These are the major questions I feel like people have when moving here. Sorry this blog is so long, but I hope you find it helpful. If you have questions feel free to post them on the Facebook page or email me (, I am staying off social media through May. Good luck in your transition! :)


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