Nick Franco

Ph.D. in Leadership Studies

What do you hope to do with your degree?

My long-term goal is to become a tenure-track faculty member in Leadership Studies, Higher Education/Student Affairs, or Women’s/Gender Studies. As Dr. Bob Donmoyer phrased it, I have the “DNA” of a professor. I truly feel it is what I am meant to do.

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

I happened to befriend several SOLES PhD students during my MA program, all of whom encouraged me to apply to the PhD program once I finished my thesis. After ongoing conversations with them, and a one-to-one meeting with Dr. Cheryl Getz, I decided to apply and, then, enroll. The program had flexibility for my research interests, and the faculty and students seemed like people I would want to call my colleagues—and they have certainly become my colleagues as I have progressed through the program.

What is your background?

I earned a BA in Social Work and Women’s Studies from California State University, Sacramento. I then earned my MA in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University, where I held several graduate assistant positions in student affairs—residential life and student conduct, primarily. During my first year at USD, I also worked as a graduate advisor to the Interfraternity Council, the governing body for fraternity chapters on campus.

Are you currently working?

I have held a doctoral graduate assistant position since June 2011 working as the coordinator for the Student Affairs/SOLES Collaborative (SASC). As the SASC coordinator, I oversee and perform various aspects of this unique university collaboration, including but not limited to: course development and instruction, recruitment and selection, assessment and evaluation, budget and administrative management, and divisional trainings.

I also took on a consulting position with Jewish Family Service (JFS) of San Diego in September 2012. I collaborate with JFS and Planned Parenthood to develop, coordinate, and execute curriculum and logistics for Planned Parenthood's Youth Leadership Academy (YLA).

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

Though I mention my doctoral graduate assistantship above, I want to say that it has had an incredible impact on my experience here at USD. Not only has the position allowed me to make deep connections with the Higher Education Leadership MA students I support as the SASC coordinator, but it has also provided me opportunities to apply what I am learning in the classroom to my work in student affairs.

Additionally, one of my favorite aspects of the SASC coordinator’s responsibilities is to co-instruct LEAD 594: Student Affairs Graduate Assistant Seminar. I collaborate with two faculty members from Leadership Studies and my supervisor from student affairs to create and execute curriculum for the course. I specifically co-instruct the first-year cohort of the SASC program with Dr. Cheryl Getz.

Lastly, I have also been a co-instructor for the Emerging Leaders program (LEAD 161), an introductory leadership course for first-year students. I strongly recommend those interested in teaching to apply for this unique opportunity to not only teach first-year students but also gain experience teaching alongside a senior undergraduate student.

Tell us about any research or independent study you have done at SOLES.

As part of the qualitative research course, I researched online size acceptance activism and eventually presented my work at the National Women’s Studies Association conference a few months after completing the course.

Have you completed an international experience?

I will be completing this very soon. I have designed my own international experience course that will hopefully benefit my current research on biracial and multiracial identities. I will learn the Spanish language, conduct interviews with my abuelita (“grandmother” in Spanish), and cross the border to Mexico to travel to her hometown—all while reflecting, writing, and researching in order to produce an autoethnography of my experiences.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career goals?

SOLES has provided me the foundations necessary to pursue both a career in student affairs and a career as a faculty member.

Which class has impacted you the most?

Adult Development (LEAD 605) has impacted me the most. It is difficult to explain in a few sentences (or in writing), but basically the course prompted some painful yet transformational changes in the way I see myself, interact with others, and understand my roles within “the collective.”

Are there specific SOLES faculty you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

Dr. Bob Donmoyer has been tremendously helpful. He has provided me academic and career advising, challenged me (gently) to go beyond what I think is possible, and offered kind words and advice during times of stress. I am so grateful for his presence in the department.

In working closely with Dr. Cheryl Getz as my faculty advisor and with SASC, I have learned quite a bit about navigating politics as well using and embodying (not just saying) a “both/and” framework. She has also provided a space during our one-to-one advising sessions for helping me process how the program has impact both my professional and my personal life, and I have appreciated having her as my advisor and colleague.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Having gone from BA, to MA, to PhD with no “break” in between, I plan to work full time in student affairs after I graduate. I will use that time to continue publishing and to also keep an eye out for my “dream job,” which right now would be a tenure-track faculty position at a large public university in Gender Studies.

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

I became involved with the SOLES Graduate Student Association (SGSA) and the Graduate Student Council (GSC), and currently serve as the GSC Chair. In addition to my doctoral graduate assistant position, these roles on campus have been more rewarding than I anticipated. Through these positions, I have served on ten university committees and have developed relationships with various administrators and “important people” on campus, including Dr. Lyons (our president), Dr. Byrd (University Librarian), USD Trustees, and many others. I encourage you to get involved either with the GSC or the SGSA!