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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!


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The Balinese cuisine is made with a lot of spice

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Puri Agung Peliatan Royal Palace

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

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Balinese architecture is very detailed and grandiose

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I met Gigi at the Elephant Safari Park!!

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Tirta Empul Temple


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The Indian Ocean was striking and beautiful

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Beautiful scenery during our boat ride in the India Ocean


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

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A beautiful commnity-based hotel called Puri Taman Sari

What Road Trips Teach You About the Classroom

June 11, 2015
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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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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:

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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! :)

The American Counseling Association (ACA) Conference in pictures

April 29, 2015

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

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the ACA Conference and Exposition 2015 in Orlando, FL. It was not only my first conference since starting the CMHC program, but in fact, my first conference ever!

I was chosen to volunteer, and although this was not easy, it also meant I was able to attend at a reduced rate. When I was not volunteering, I attended sessions and lectures on suicidality, ethics, the gut and brain loop, and a host of other fascinating topics; I even watched a ‘live’ couples counseling session, and we met Dr. Corey, whose books we have been reading for our classes.

During my time at the conference, I was able to meet fellow counseling students from across the U.S., network with professionals, and bond with my peers. It was an unforgettable experience, both personally and professionally, and I will hopefully attend more conferences in the future.

Here are some of my favorite moments:

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The Hyatt Regency, where the ACA Conference & Expo 2015 was held…such a beautiful location.

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A very early start on my first volunteering assignment, it was still dark outside!

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The Exposition Hall had information about the profession, such as local branches and associations, and populations. Additionally, we were able to speak to professionals and receive guidance on our areas of interest.

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We were even able to meet Dr. Gerald Corey, Author and Professor at California State University Fullerton!

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Proud future counselors

Attending the American Counseling Association (ACA) Conference

April 27, 2015

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

When I decided to attend the University of San Diego: SOLES, I did not envision many opportunities beyond education and professional experiences in San Diego. I was ecstatic about meeting new colleagues, professors, and peers, but I never imagined having the chance to travel across the country with three friends in my cohort to attend the American Counseling Association (ACA) Conference in Orlando, FL. The ACA conference was filled with educational and networking events, and was also a time to truly bond with classmates and learn more about each other’s life experiences.

As we touched down in Orlando, I looked up at the Hyatt, where the conference would take place, looming in front of me. At that moment, I knew that it was going to be an intense weekend.

We first checked in at our hotel, and were shown to a miniscule room with two double beds and one bathroom. Initially, we were concerned; we were four women who would need time and space to get ready for professional events over the course of the weekend. However, the tight accommodations ultimately allowed us to bond as classmates, and forced us to get ready quickly and be considerate of others’ obligations and space. Overall, the room we shared was a place of laughter, chaos, and friendship, and was an aspect of the trip that I would not trade or replace.

The next day, the conference began, and there were several events, presentations, and symposiums to choose from. We downloaded the ACA conference app on our smartphones, and it provided us with a list of each seminar, speaker, or event that would be taking place each day. These included discussions such as, “Group Play Therapy: Effects on Social-Emotional Competencies”; Bullying Prevention and Treatment: A Creative Approach”; “Using Motivational Interviewing Techniques with Children in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program”; “A Model for Changing Relational Schema of Abused Children”, and many more. The seminars ranged from counseling theories and techniques, to evidence-based research presentations, to discussions about neuroscience and how mental health affects the human body. Several events occurred concurrently, making it impossible to attend everything. But there were two discussions that resonated with me.

On day two of the conference, I had the opportunity to attend a session entitled, “LGBTQ: After Coming Out, It Gets Easier, Right?” This presentation was about how professional counselors and students in higher education graduate programs can come out comfortably in new environments, such as new job positions with diverse colleagues or in new academic settings. Often, people lose sight of the fact that coming out is a process, and that when people relocate they may have to go through this process all over again. Therefore, in this session, there was a role-play between a counselor and supervisor that highlighted the stresses of coming out in new cities or institutions, and how this could be easier. I learned to never make assumptions about one’s identity, and that as clinicians it is important to create a safe space for everyone to be comfortable and open about who they are.

During the final morning of the conference, we attended a session that provided me with the insight that I was in the right field and was truly meant to be a counselor. This event was a live couple’s counseling session featuring an actual couple grappling with the triumphs and tribulations of marriage and life. Using the perspective of Alderian therapy, the counselor went through the couple’s intake forms and then began asking questions about aspects of the relationship that they were struggling with, such as communication and openness about each other’s feelings.

As the counselor was using humor to engage the audience and to provide a more relaxed session and approach, I had an epiphany. Not only did I realize that I felt purposeful guiding others to solutions, but the professional environment captivated me, and I knew I was in the right place. While experiencing these moments with friends that now serve as a strong support system and influence on my life, I also knew that SOLES was the only program for me.


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