Dani Kuzmanovic

M.A. in Counseling, specialization in School Counseling

What do you hope to do with your degree?

I hope to work in a non-traditional school setting. I would like to either in work in an American International School, or work with a more specific population in a non-public school.

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

I did all of my researching online, and wanted to enroll in a CACREP accredited counseling program. San Diego was one of the places I really wanted to live while in school, and after looking at the details of the counseling program, it quickly became my number one choice to enroll.

What is your background?

I am from a small suburb outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I attended undergrad at the University of Wisconsin Madison (go badgers!), and graduated with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. While in Madison, I worked in a variety of educational and research based child care centers. I also volunteered at the Canopy Center, a non-profit dedicated to helping families and children that experienced abuse. Through my work at the Canopy Center I also worked as a parent advocate on the Parent Stressline, a helpline designed to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Are you currently working?

I am currently working part-time as a research assistant for a project run through the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at SOLES. I am also a nanny for a family living in San Diego.

Tell us about any practicum you have done through SOLES.

I began my practicum in January of 2013, and am working at Springall Academy. Springall is a non-public K-12 school for students with emotional or behavioral disorders, which helps them to eventually transition back into public schools. I was very excited to begin my practicum at this site, as I knew it would be an extremely valuable experience. I get to work closely with the principal of the school Dr. Dierolf, who is also an adjunct professor in USD’s counseling department, and a USD school counseling graduate as well. Learning from her experiences and her work at this school, I am able to really see the value of her counseling degree through her work with students. The work I have done with the students is a great reminder of why I chose the counseling field, and it has been rewarding to see that I can put the skills I learn in class to use in a concrete way.

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

My research through SOLES has been a very impactful experience. I began the research I am currently involved with in October of 2012, and have been working closely with my professor, two other students in my cohort, and our research advisor. The project we are working on is funded by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and began with a needs based assessment of families and children of Wounded Warriors across the entire nation. We have done ample research on the programs already in place to help this specific population, and have interviewed many non-profit and government leaders to see what wounded warriors and their children could most benefit from. We have also conducted focus groups, interviewing the children, spouses, and wounded to hear about their needs. I had never previously had experience working with a military population, and the experience I have gotten in the last few months will be unforgettable. The research we are doing greatly helped my in developing my personal and professional identity in counseling, and learn a lot about the psychological needs of military families.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career goals?

Before entering into the school counseling program here at USD, I didn’t realize all of the options I had with a school counseling degree. I have now started to look into international opportunities for counseling, and learned about some non-traditional settings I would be able to work in as well. I think the most impactful part of my education is the experience I have received with my professors. Each one seemed so invested our education, and I have learned a lot about their experiences in many different levels of the counseling field. The CACREP accreditation also allows for a very thorough and well-rounded education, which I really value.

Which class has impacted you the most?

So far the most impactful class has been pre-practicum. The class consisted of myself and 11 others in my cohort, and we worked closely with two others on a weekly basis. Dr. Cameron, our instructor, immediately jumped in and had us practice counseling, and each class she taught us valuable techniques and skills we could use. It was amazing to see our growth and improvement from class to class, and the self-reflection required by the coursework was extremely valuable to me on an educational and personal level.

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

I honestly believe that every instructor has brought something different to each class, all of which contributed to my success in the class, as well as my success in my practicum. Dr. JohnsonDr. Cameron, and Dr. Martin have all integrated their experiences in their own careers to serve as a learning tool. I was able to learn about working with a huge span of populations from a multicultural standpoint, and hear about experiences working with juvenile fire-starters, extremely high achieving students, working with principals and counseling colleagues, etc.

What is your dream job?

After graduation, I would love to work internationally, or with international students. My dream job would be working in an American International school in Europe, and helping international students transition to colleges in the US.

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

I am so thankful that I decided to come to USD for my masters in school counseling. The cohort is small and the professors genuinely care about your learning. It is a very warm and welcoming environment, and is collaborative between professors and students. I love that we are able to work directly in a school setting beginning our second semester, and gain valuable counseling experience at multiple age levels. I was able to find research opportunities right away, and am really looking forward to the unique features of the program, such as the international experience and action research during my second year!

Connect with me!

Dani is a Student Ambassador for the School of Leadership and Education Sciences! Dani is available to speak with prospective students at many of our Open Houses and Information Sessions. If you are not able to attend an event but would still like to connect with Dani about her student experience, contact SOLES Admissions and Outreach or check out her entries on our Admissions Blog.