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Commencement Day!

May 25, 2016

A blog post from recent MA in Higher Education Leadership graduate, Maren Reisch:

There’s something about a milestone that is bittersweet. Birthdays are great, but they mean we’re another year older. The holidays are fun, but there’s always that exhausted let down at the end.

But that let down doesn’t exist at graduation ceremonies. Because commencement is a beginning, not an ending. There’s so much potential in what we could do, or might do, or dream of doing. There’s a feeling of anticipation as graduates walk across the stage (hopefully without tripping), shake an important hand, and receive a document holder that will one day have a diploma inside of it. There is excitement, tears, laughter, and pride as the newest classes of graduates emerge from their degree programs, newly equipped to take on the world.

Maren and ParentsThis year, I graduated with my Master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership. It’s been a whirlwind two years. Commencement day feels like a blur, but five specific thoughts were running through my head all throughout the ceremony.

  1. You will remember this day for the rest of your life. Okay, probably a grandiose thing to think, but it’s true. Just like my commencement from undergrad, this ceremony is meaningful and symbolizes a passage from student to practitioner.
  1. What do I do with all this stuff? “Stuff” refers to everything—bags, phones, robes, cords, leis, stoles, and caps. There are so many things that are on your person during the ceremony that it’s almost hard to move. Plus, the giant robe makes even the smallest motion pretty monumental. My robe was getting trapped under my chair and tangled up in my legs through the whole ceremony. It took me awhile to get situated, but I think if I ever go through commencement again, I’ll leave all of my things with someone who’s not wearing seven layers of stuff!
  1. Where is my family? I’m from the east coast, but I somehow had nine people here for me during the ceremony. When I entered the Jenny Craig Pavilion, the first thing I thought was “Wow, there’s a lot of people in the stands!” The second thing I thought was “Where’s my group?” I managed to find them because my mom was standing up and waving with both hands. It was my favorite moment of the whole ceremony because I could tell how proud she was of me, even from so far away. I periodically checked in on my family once I’d located them in the stands. It helped me stay grounded and present to know that they were there supporting me!
  1. Have hope, have faith, and stay positive. Not very many people in my program graduated with a job already lined up. It’s been a struggle to stay positive in the job hunt as I watch my bank account dwindle and my graduate assistantship draw to a close. But I have faith in the work that I’ve done and the degree that I’ve earned. I will be employed soon, and I will use the skills and talents that USD has sharpened to engage in meaningful work.
  1. I am ready. I am prepared for whatever is next on my journey, no matter what it is. I am so grateful to have this education, and I know that wherever I go next I will embrace new experiences with an open heart. I am welcoming the uncertainty, leaning into the discomfort of transition, and I am ready.

What the Summer Will Bring

May 17, 2016

A blog post from graduating MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling specialization, Ambassador Juliana Abercrobmie:

A typical summer for me or any other SOLES graduate student involves beach trips, friends and family, summer courses, and hopefully some study abroad. These are all things that I love and would usually be looking forward to as the semester wraps up, but this summer is a new story. This summer, I graduate. Actually, this WEEKEND I graduate. It’s finally time!


I think every summer comes with the promise of newness–it’s an opportunity to rejuvenate. This summer is no different, but the rejuvenation that lies ahead is also my first step into my career. This year, the summer brings a whole new adventure. I’ll have my MA degree and be ready to make my entrance as a professional clinical counseling intern (PCCI) working toward licensure as a professional clinical counselor (LPCC). So what does that mean? Well, it means lots of anxiety and excitement! I’m worried over securing my first post-graduate employment but I am so excited to see what comes next. I’ve spent tons of time working with my campus advisors and the Career Center to perfect my resume and cover letters, and I’ve already had a few interviews. The future is certainly bright from this angle and the truth is, I feel ready. I have learned and grown for 3 years in the ever-challenging yet infinitely supportive SOLES environment, and now it’s time to fly. I just need to pick my direction…

So let’s look at what it takes to make that next step after graduate school. Let’s call this my recipe for success, and it only calls for 3 ingredients: attitude, confidence, and preparation.

First off, attitude. You have to have the right attitude to move forward with your goals. You might be tired of being told to “stay positive” but the proof is in the pudding. If you keep yourself motivated and looking on the bright side, you’re training your brain to recognize new opportunities rather than dwell on missed ones. How do I know that? Positive psychology. As part of my counseling graduate program, I took a course on positive psych with Dr. Ana Estrada and I learned all about the study and practice of happiness. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness (2008), about 50% of our happiness comes from genetics (thanks, mom!), 10% comes from our circumstances (thanks, student debt!), and the remaining 40% depends entirely on what we do. Get that? We control a whole FORTY PERCENT of how happy we are or are not just by how we go about our day. So, by deciding to keep and practice my positive attitude, I am teaching my brain and emotions to always look for the opportunities in every situation. Bring on the possibilities!

Next up, confidence. You have to know you can and will be successful. This means believing in yourself and your abilities! My experience through SOLES has helped me find the confidence and self-efficacy necessary to move forward in my professional life. Now, more than ever, I believe in my ability to adapt, learn, grow, and contribute. Much of this confidence has come from my classes, where I established the foundation of knowledge necessary to start my professional development. Another huge factor has been my practicum experience: I’ve been working as a counseling intern at a psychiatric hospital for one year now and it has allowed me to see what all that education and training can do when put to work. I love the work that I do, and I know now more than ever that I can do it professionally!

Now third and finally, we need preparation. Staying positive and believing in myself are important, but nothing tops being prepared. Lucky for us, SOLES does an excellent job getting us ready for life after graduation. All of those classes and assignments and long nights studying are getting us ready for professional life. Then, of course, we supplement all that academic learning with fieldwork and advising and giving ourselves time and space to work on our personal development as well. It all prepares us to pursue our professional goals and our professional success. I may feel anxiety now over not knowing exactly what my next job will be, but I have no doubt that I will find a job. Furthermore, I am stress-free in the knowledge that I can and will be successful. SOLES students are widely regarded as knowledgeable and competent professionals across disciplines, and I am proud to join the ranks of successful SOLES graduates in just a few days.

All in all, being a SOLES graduate student is challenging, stressful, and often exhausting, but it’s worth it. We learn, we grow, we adventure, and we challenge. We pursue our dreams and become active and accomplished professionals in our fields. SOLES, and my CMHC program in particular, goes above and beyond to ensure that I and every other graduate student have every tool and resource we might need to pursue a lifetime of personal and professional development. I am grateful to the administrators, my professors, and my classmates for all that we have experienced and learned together, and I look forward to the many adventures that still lie ahead. Thank you to my old SOLES family, and welcome to the new one! Here’s to a happy summer for all of us!


Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

May 11, 2016

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling, School Counseling specialization 2015 graduate , Michelle Nakamura:

Almost a year ago, I was standing where you are now. I was finishing up my finals and anticipating graduation. Actually I was anticipating the future. It was scary and unknown.


Here I am now, finishing up my first year as a high school counselor. Not even sure where to start or how to condense the story of the rollercoaster I’ve been riding for the past year. So here goes my first year…

I probably applied to about 20 sites in two states and looked at jobs in a third state. I got about 7 interviews and took all of them. My first and longest interview was an all day event where I was not only interviewed by the administration but also the current counselors, a student panel, and parent panel. Talk about intense! The majority of my interviews had me driving up to the Bay area once a week for a month. Finding a job is a job itself, but don’t get deterred! It’s okay if you’re not the first in your cohort to get a job. If you don’t get a call back after the interview, think of it as extra practice for next time. I actually applied to my current site twice – the first time I applied I did not get an interview but when a new position opened up with them I applied again.

I moved from San Diego to the Bay area in August, about one week after I was interview/hired and a few days before work started. I was “homeless”, without regular housing, for almost a month as I searched for an apartment. I was moving between Airbnbs and sleeping on a couch of a friend’s friend that I had just met. Oh the things you do for the job. I still find it a little crazy how I managed during that first month.

I knew that my first year was going to be crazy but a lot of things happened so unexpectedly. It is sad to say but I knew at some point in my career I would handle the aftermath of a suicide. That happened during my second week of work and it hit me hard. We take classes to prepare for crisis but you really won’t understand how you’re going to handle it until it happens. I struggled as students came in after they found out; it was heart breaking to see them cry. That was a rough week for our school. I was thrown a curveball myself when two months into the job I was told that my position was funded by “one time money.” I had moved my entire life for this job and was never told this was a “one time money” position. Can you imagine not knowing if you have a job or not for over 6 months? I was pink slipped but within the next few weeks a combination of events happened that allowed me to be rehired for a position that was not funded by a grant.

Of course with rollercoasters you also have your ups. My counseling team is so strong and supportive. It was a steep learning curve but I never felt like I was running around like a headless chicken. They were patient with my questions and appreciative when I could help them with something I was stronger at. One of my students, who is transgender, felt comfortable enough to share this with me. She wanted a counselor to read something to all her classes about her transition and I was proud to participate. We even transformed one of the staff bathrooms to be an All gender bathroom for this growing population. I love when my seniors go out of their way to share with me a college they got into or committed to. I love building a relationship with my students that they know they can reach out for help. I love seeing them make progress and seeing in their eyes true appreciation for my help. I love making a difference.

I love being a school counselor and I can’t wait for many more wonderful, crazy, never the same days.

Good luck and congratulations class of 2016!!

Staff pic

International Experience: Sri Lanka

April 22, 2016

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

“You’ll get what you need.”

I have heard this advice countless times during my years at SOLES, often coming from my wonderful advisor, Cheryl Getz. At first I didn’t know how powerful it was, but let me tell you—this mantra has come to sum up my entire SOLES experience.

In particular, I had no idea what I needed when I went to Sri Lanka for two weeks in January of this year. I almost didn’t go on this trip for financial reasons, and was actually not at all excited to go when I got on the plane. And thank God I did, because that trip has changed my life. This trip is certainly not your typical study abroad or educational trip, and for that I am so thankful.


Instead of visiting museums, you’re hiking over 1,000 stairs to an ancient palace and your jaw drops at the sheer beauty of your surroundings. I didn’t know how much I needed to re-center myself in nature.



Instead of staying in a hotel, you’re staying in a peace center, a hostel, and the location of a future higher education institution; all dedicated towards empowering the Sri Lankan people. I didn’t know how much I needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone.



Instead of hypothesizing about community development, you’re living it and staying in the homes of the community members. You’re a little nervous because communicating without speaking the same language is so hard, but you’re content and joyful because everyone speaks the language of dancing and laughter. I didn’t know how much I needed to let myself be loved by strangers.



Instead of sitting stagnant in a classroom, you’re learning how to lay brick to form walls and digging dirt out of the side of a cliff to lay the foundation of a community center. I didn’t know how much I needed to work with my hands and remember the importance of simplicity.



Instead of studying with classmates, you’re studying with incredible individuals that have become dear, life-long friends. I didn’t know how much I needed to be vulnerable and let other people walk alongside me in my journey.

If I can give you any advice as you’re beginning your SOLES journey it would be this: embrace the things that feel the most uncomfortable. Sometimes, they stay feeling uncomfortable. But sometimes, your life will be transformed when you get what you never knew you needed.

International Experience: Jamaica and Japan

April 19, 2016

A blog post from SOLES MA in Counseling with specialization in School Counseling Ambassador, Natalie Crook:

As my time at USD is beginning to wind down, I look back at how much my life has changed (for the better!) over the last two years. I have been given opportunity after opportunity to become the best counselor I can be. Whether it is interning across the county or spending hours researching guidance lessons, I never thought I would have made it so far in such a short period of time. One of the most significant opportunities I have had during the Counseling program was the international requirement. I never could have imagined the experience that was to come. Throughout my two-year journey at USD, I have had the chance to travel abroad twice! The first opportunity was Jamaica, where we studied multicultural counseling and college and career counseling. The second opportunity was Japan, where we studied crisis and trauma interventions. Although both trips included the same professors and many of the same students, each experience was vastly different.


I should really start out by saying that I am not a traveler. Any application or awkward icebreaker that I have ever participated in that asked, “interest?” I always wish I could have written, “traveling!” But no, I am more of a “laying on the couch in my PJ’s” kind of girl. I just don’t think that response would get me a job! The point I am trying to make is that these adventures were far outside of my bubble. Between climbing waterfalls and snorkeling in Jamaica, to eating crazy foods and staying up way past my bedtime in Japan, these were all memories for the record book. But don’t get me wrong, although we were having plenty of fun, we were learning more than we could have ever learned in a textbook. During both trips we visited schools and worked with locals to better understand their education system, including their counseling services. We had the opportunity to work with high school students in Jamaica who were preparing for graduation and mapping out their hopes and dreams. We also were able to listen to community members of Fukishima tell their tales of survival after the strongest tsunami destroyed their town. Both journeys were life changing and, without USD, I don’t know if I would have been able to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity.Jamaica

International Experience: Changsha, Hunan, China

March 23, 2016

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and MEd in TESOL, Literacy and Culture, Tina-Marie Freeman:

SOLES offers a plethora of options to complete the mandatory international credit. I have classmates who have gone to Tijuana, attended on-campus talks, and taken a course in Japan. Yet despite the many opportunities available, I had my heart set on a summer internship in Hunan Province, China. Through the efforts of my advisor and the SOLES faculty, I was able to make this opportunity a reality.

As a student in the M.Ed. in TESOL, Literacy, and Culture program, I was interested in applying the skills and theories that I had been learning. San Diego offers incredible opportunities for ESOL, but I hoped to explore the opportunities abroad and better understand how the teaching strategies I had acquired applied to English as a Foreign Language. Thus, I spent three months working for a start-up English training school located in southeastern China. The company was comprised of people from the U.S., Canada, China, and Zimbabwe.tesol_teach_in_china_01_body

As a small business exploring multiple ventures, its employees took on a variety of roles, often switching projects at a moment’s notice to accommodate a new priority. I was initially hired to work on designing assessments for students and finding ways to track student progress. While I continued to work on this project throughout the three months, I was also teaching EFL classes to children, teenagers, and adults. I designed a loose curriculum and several lessons for an adult Business English class, which we taught each week at a large Chinese company. When a niche market for prepping elementary and middle school kids for English speech competitions was discovered, I was summoned to create lessons and assessments. I was able to teach, reflect upon, and revise these lessons as the program continued.

The company demanded diligence and enthusiasm from its employees, but I was able to practice the many skills and theories that I had learned during my first year in the M.Ed. program. I learned much about the education system in China, and enough to know that my experience in one city, in one part of the country, does not reflect the attitudes and practices of the entire country. Upon returning to USD for the fall semester, I was able to use my experiences in my coursework, specifically for the class English as an International Language. My experience teaching a business English course in China as well as the information gleaned from this course allowed me to begin creating my own curriculum and textbook for adult ESOL students who are hoping to use English in the global business market.

The TESOL program at the University of San Diego prepares its graduates for the many contexts in which they will be teaching by emphasizing the importance of students’ culture, educational history, and ideology toward education and student-teacher relationships and roles. My international experience gave me the chance to test the theories I was learning as well as provide opportunities that are, and will continue, to shape my future career in ESOL.

Life after SOLES

March 3, 2016

A blog post from SOLES MA in Leadership Studies Alumna and SOLES Ambassador, Jodi Austin:

In the fall of 2013, I embarked on a journey that forever changed the course of my life.   When I initially began the MA in Leadership Studies program, I believed I was giving myself a chance to open doors that would have otherwise remained closed. During my two years at SOLES, I not only opened doors, I experienced something money could not buy….a greater connection to myself and people around me. These connections help shape my life after SOLES.Jodi 1

Maintaining contact with my professional networks developed during my time at school has been critical to my success. Prior to beginning the program, I did not understand the benefits of maintaining these valuable connections; however it is important to have relationships with colleagues who share professional and possibly personal interests. The second important piece to life after has been maintaining my self-awareness. It is important to know when people, places, and things no longer serve a purpose in life. There is nothing worse than feeling stagnated, while in moving along this journey called life. The final part of my life after SOLES has been popping that bubble called the comfort zone. Being self-aware will aid in getting out of the comfort zone. Pushing my boundaries has helped me manage my creativity, strategize better, slow down and take calculated leaps. Leaving my comfort zone has not always been easy, but I would not have it any other way.Jodi 2

Another big part of my life after SOLES has been remaining active in the SOLES learning community. One of my favorite ways to remain active is by being a student ambassador. This allows me share my experience with potential students. I attend open houses and correspond with applicants answering any questions they may have about the SOLES programs. I also volunteer my time during fall semester serving a Senior Teaching assistant. Participating in this way allows me to remain in contact with students and faculty. Although, I miss being a student at the University of San Diego, I am grateful for the time I spent, the connections I made, and the ability to still be an active participant in the SOLES community.Jodi 3