Inside USD

USD Graduation Arrives, Finally, on Hoheisel Time

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shayla Hoheisel’s big day has finally arrived. The operative word, ironically, is finally.

The University of San Diego’s College of Arts and Sciences Commencement takes place at 9 a.m. Sunday, the first of two undergraduate ceremonies. That Hoheisel’s graduation is scheduled to happen at the earlier time isn’t a coincidence, rather it’s fitting — she’s earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in only three years time.

She’s ready to move on to the next stage of her life and she’s anxious to get there.

“I like to challenge myself; I’m always up for it and being able to do it,” said the 21-year-old who’s a first-generation college student from Lakeville, Minn.

“I wasn’t anticipating graduating from USD in three years when I got here freshman year,” she said. “I started with SSS (Student Support Services) and I told them that school is so expensive that I didn’t think I’d be able to graduate.”

“Yes you will!” was the response she received from the TRiO/USD SSS staff. Academic Coordinator Rachel Acosta put Hoheisel on a rigorous three-year academic schedule that maxed out at 18 units per semester. Hoheisel would often take 21 total, factoring in a San Diego Mesa Community College course. Hoheisel also took summer classes at Mesa and in North Carolina to speed up the process.

But Hoheisel’s USD experience actually began through SSS’ Summer Bridge program, an orientation held in August that helps SSS students — those from low-income families, first-generation college students, underrepresented students and students with documented disabilities — adjust to the transition from high school or transfer students to USD. Students meet other USD students, take a mini-course with USD faculty members, go on field trips in San Diego and move into on-campus housing early.

“It was great for me to have a support group from the start,” she said of Summer Bridge. “I didn’t come to school the first day not knowing somebody. It was nice to get acclimated before everyone else — and to get my bunk bed first!”

Her student experiences grew exponentially after Summer Bridge. Despite the academic workload, Hoheisel’s on-campus activities included participation in Student Alumni Association, Founders Club, Ambassadors Club and the Student Life Pavilion Committee. She went on University Ministry’s day-trip to an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico and attended a weekend-long Search Retreat. Hoheisel was a research assistant for a semester, a peer advisor to USD students on academic probation and she works in the Jenny Craig Pavilion’s gym.

Off campus, she served as a mentor and tutor for the San Diego East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility’s Girls’ Rehabilitation Facility, worked with a school counselor at Point Loma’s Mason Elementary School, and volunteered at Active Care in Point Loma which works with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia sufferers.

Each of these experiences, albeit brief, shaped her, but Hoheisel may remember the Intersession trip she took to Duncans, Jamaica this past January the most.

“It was right up my alley,” she said of the 10-day trip, a community immersion program led by USD Center for Community Service-Learning Associate Director John Loggins. “It was so much fun. It’s a completely different culture. So much stood out to me. I just really loved it. My Mom told me it would be a life-changing experience. I told her at first, ‘I don’t know about life changing’ but when I came back I was crying. … I’ve told everyone since coming back that they need to go. They need to experience it for themselves.”

Jamaica’s “life-changing” effect is likely to fuel some of Hoheisel’s post-graduation plans. Engaged to a U.S. Marine currently stationed in Japan until this fall, she’s moving this summer with another friend to Jacksonville, N.C., the U.S. base for her fiancé’s unit. Hoheisel plans to get a job and live with her friend. Her fiancé’s military commitment ends next summer and the couple is planning to travel extensively. She mentioned bungee jumping in South Africa, seeing the Great Wall of China, venturing to South America and perhaps visiting a friend in Uruguay.

It’s obvious Hoheisel’s ready for life’s next adventures. But there’s still Sunday’s graduation ceremony and her parents and younger sister from Minnesota and local friends are here to see her walk across the Jenny Craig Pavilion stage.

Hoheisel, while anxious to move forward, noted that friends have been reminding her that this accomplishment — becoming the first member of her immediate family to earn a college degree — needs to truly sink in.

“You need to reflect on what you’ve just done,” she recalled what one friend said. “You got your degree in three years. You need to really pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished. You need to sit there at the graduation ceremony and take time to look around at everything, listen to what’s going on, feel the gown and the stole you’re wearing. Tell yourself, ‘I’m graduating from college. I need to really appreciate this moment. Give yourself credit for what you’ve done.’”

Finally.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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