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Practicing Counseling Skills in Real Time

May 1, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in School Counseling Ambassador, Paige Iglesia:

I think one of the most valuable aspects of a SOLES education is being able to put the skills you learn into real world use. In our first semester of the School Counseling program, we have three classes: Skills, Ethics, and Theories. Each of these classes made me think about who I am and what I want in drastically different ways.

In Skills, we had to record three counseling sessions that we did with another student in class. The first time was horrible. It’s so incredibly awkward to hear and see yourself! But it is truly helpful. You get to see your little tics, you watch your body language, you get feedback from other students and your professor on what you could have said or things you did well. Then, second semester you get placed at a practicum site with 4-5 other School Counseling students based on your preferences. I am with a group of people who want to do most of their work at an elementary school, so this semester we are at O’Farrell High School, a charter school in Southeast San Diego.

Being at practicum has been an incredible experience. I really get to practice the skills I picked up last semester in real time with real students. I think one of the most valuable experiences at practicum is understanding more about myself as a counselor and what works best for me. We have to record our sessions again this semester and each week, my professor observes me in a live counseling session. These experiences have been so beneficial as I continue to learn about the counseling profession and myself as a counselor. We also do guidance lessons where we create curriculum and give the lessons to a variety of classes based off of what the school needs. As much as I love my students, I have to say that being in a small group with a few members of my cohort has been so fun and such a great learning experience! We get to watch each other grow and support each other as we all learn together.

Overall, I would say that practicum has been my favorite part of the School Counseling program so far! It has been challenging at times, but I would not change any of it. I am excited to continue practicing my skills and learning more at my field work site next year!


International Experience: Japan

April 24, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in School Counseling Ambassador, Amy Liechty:

Hello – my name is Amy! I’m a first year student in the school counseling program at USD. Today I’m writing about a global studies trip to Japan with Dr. Erika Cameron.

The trip, the highlight of our course on human development, was the experience of a lifetime. Dr. Cameron, or as we like to call her, “DCam”, packed our days full of adventure. We attended university lectures, visited kindergarten classrooms, served the homeless, and even spent the day at an international high school. Between academic experiences, I also wandered the streets of Tokyo, discovered hidden sushi counters in Toyama, and stared in awe at the cherry blossoms blooming everywhere we looked.

Building relationships with the counselors and educators we met along the way really made the country come alive. Our conversations profoundly changed the way I think about human development and my work as a counselor. In particular, our experience abroad encouraged me to reflect on my ideas about parenting, group identity, and how we develop a sense of self.

A week later, I’m still mulling over these ideas. But, I know building a philosophy of human development and counseling is the work of a lifetime. Sometimes, seeing the world through new eyes is the best way to learn and grow. I am grateful to have inspiring peers and excellent professors to walk with me as I continue the journey in the U.S. and beyond.

Cherry Blossoms (1)


April 3, 2017

A blog post from SOLES MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management Ambassador, Gail Wingfield:

I graduated from college a long, long time ago, way before laptop computers and cell phones. Since then my life has unfolded in ways I could not have anticipated. I have explored the depths of myself as well as exotic places like India. I taught meditation, raised a family and have spent over twenty years working for a nonprofit dedicated to presenting live theater to the San Diego community. When a group of passionate individuals work to bring a production to the stage there is rarely a dull moment, and yet a few years ago I started to take stock of my life and ask myself, “Is this it? What other options do I have?”

I’ll be honest. At first, going back to school did not enter my mind. When I heard about SOLES and started to consider the possibility, trepidation arose. Am I too old to go back to school? What if I don’t get accepted? What if I get in, but can’t handle the challenge? How am I going to pay for it? Then a video by Steve Harvey popped up on Facebook. He said, you have to jump in order to soar. Those words hit home. I submitted my application and have never looked back. The program has already given me so much, with more to come. Returning to school was one of the best decisions I ever made. For anyone hesitating to apply, you can do it! It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. Jump!



A Message From the Incoming SGSA President

August 11, 2016

A message from the 2016-2017 SOLES Graduate Student Association (SGSA) President, Judy Wai.

Coming to San Diego, I did not know a single soul, but joining SGSA provided me with the opportunity to find community at USD and be connected to a diverse graduate student body. SGSA is a graduate student organization on campus specifically designed to support the educational experience of graduate students within SOLES through on-campus and community bonding events, scholarship opportunities, networking experiences, and much more.

Joining SGSA my first year of graduate school has been one of the most impactful experiences. As cliché as that statement sounds, it is a true reflection of how rewarding being a part of SGSA has been. I joined SGSA as a First-Year School Counseling Representative and was provided with opportunities to attend Graduate Student Council meetings, socials such as brewery nights and Paint Nights, and other events that drew me closer to the wonderful people and resources within SOLES. After my first year of attending USD and joining SGSA, I have been provided with a community of friends and resources and gained skills and insights that I do not think I would have gained elsewhere.



For those who are not graduating or are new students, SGSA is currently looking to fill some open positions, such such as the Learning and Teaching Representative, Counseling and Family & Mental Health Professions Representative, the Leadership Studies Representative position, and First- Year Representatives. If you have any questions about the open positions or SGSA, please reach out via email at

As the incoming President of SGSA for the 2016-2017 academic year, I am ecstatic to meet you all and answer any questions you may have. I look forward to seeing you all soon!

Judy Wai
Judy Wai
2016-2017 SGSA President


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