Liz Stephens

M.A. in Higher Education Leadership

About Me

I was born and raised in the suburbs outside of Cleveland and studied business administration and marketing at Lake Erie College, a small liberal arts institution also outside of Cleveland. I worked in several different offices as a student worker and began my M.A. program right after I completed my bachelor's degree.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

I have several interests within higher education such as admissions, student success, retention initiatives and academic advising. However, I was a student-athlete as an undergraduate and collegiate athletics is my true passion. Currently, I am interested in working in student-athlete support services or potentially working directly for the NCAA.

How did you hear about SOLES, and why did you choose to enroll?

I heard about SOLES when I was researching higher ed programs. I was interested in relocating and experiencing an atmosphere completely different than Cleveland, and San Diego was it! I had also heard wonderful things from a mentor back home and I was especially interested and impressed with the leadership component of the program.

Tell us about any graduate assistantships you have done through SOLES.

I currently work as a graduate assistant at USD in the Center for Student Success, which is part of the Student Affairs SOLES Collaborative (SASC). I advise the Out-of-State Student Council and oversee the logistical responsibilities of our Student Success Coaching program. This program is open to all undergraduate students who are on academic probation or just need some extra support when it comes to time-management, study strategies, test anxiety or any other concerns related to academic or social transitions to college. In addition to handling the organization of the program, I also have the opportunity to “coach” or advise students in this confidential setting. It is extremely rewarding when a student comes in for an appointment and shares their improvement and success in a class or social situation. I have also had the opportunity to work with students from different backgrounds and it has been an incredible learning and personal growth opportunity.

Tell us about any research you have done at SOLES.

I am right in the midst of my action research project and focusing on out-of-state students and their struggles with culture shock and building community on campus. Students in the SASC cohort are required to complete an action research project rather than a traditional research thesis. Action research is a little bit different in the sense that you are doing research on an organization that you are actually a part of and actively working in as opposed to observing and collecting data on an outside group. It is a little confusing at first but I am excited to have the opportunity to find ways to make an impact on the student population I am working with.

Have you completed an international experience?

I spent two weeks in Madrid, Spain with Dr. Ana Estrada and Dr. Moises Baron. It was an amazing experience because we were able to stay with host families and really immerse ourselves. The class was multicultural counseling and I was able to directly apply my learning to my current role as a GA. I was also the only Higher Education Leadership student in the class so I was able to meet and engage with several students in other programs such as School Counseling, Marital and Family Therapy, and Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It was wonderful!

How has your SOLES education impacted your career goals?

So far, my SOLES education has impacted my career goals because I feel I have an understanding of what leadership really is and that it is constantly changing and differs for every organization, person and/or culture. I feel I have a better understanding of the traits I want in a leader and of my own leadership philosophy, which will definitely impact my career and where I choose to seek employment.

Which class has impacted you the most?

LEAD 550/600 has impacted me the most because I was able to identify my own strengths and weaknesses in exercising leadership and truly came to understand that leadership is not displayed based on one’s title, degree, position, etc. That class also gave me the opportunity to interact with students from all of the different leadership programs, as well as doctoral students.

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

Dr. Getz and Dr. Newman have been wonderful faculty advisors. They are approachable, knowledgeable and have always made themselves available when I have questions or concerns and even for career advice. Dr. Getz was able to put me in contact with administrators at other institutions in the area, which was a great help for networking since I am from out-of-state.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I plan to find a full-time position within student-affairs or collegiate athletics. My dream job right out of this program would be working as an academic advisor for student-athletes at a Division I institution but eventually I would love to become an athletics director and senior women’s administrator at a smaller Division I or II institution.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?

If you find that USD is the place for you, make the most of it! There are so many amazing people and opportunities on this campus and it goes by fast. Also, if you’re not from San Diego, take the time to explore the city - it really is “America’s Finest City”!