One Big Happy Family
The people and programs within the new SOLES building make it more than just the sum of its parts
by Julene Snyder

While the view from the new School of Leadership and Education Sciences building is impressive, the vision behind it is awe-inspiring.

Dean Paula Cordeiro is thrilled that at last, SOLES students, faculty and administrators will be together under one roof. “I can’t tell you how dramatically different the space is from anything we have ever had,” she says. “It’s hard for us to even imagine the possibilities.”

Of course, it won’t be long until imagination becomes reality. From the sala, which Cordeiro describes as “an atheneum marketplace,” to the high-tech executive training classroom, to spaces designed for relaxation and creation of “new synergies,” the potential is infinite.

Already, the students who will be among the first to use the new facilities tend to speak of their own educational experiences — which range from obtaining teaching credentials to master’s degrees to doctoral scholarship — in glowing terms.

Master’s student Susan Allain, who’s in the counseling program with a specialization in elementary-age students, says that her SOLES experience has been a wholly positive one. And her work as a graduate assistant for professor Lonnie Rowell is tailor-made for her major: “He designed the USD model for collaborative action research,” she explains. Being paired with a counselor at a local school and working to make the counselor more effective is icing on the cake. But for Allain, the program’s real selling point is more intimate in nature. “I like how small the program is at USD,” she says. “It’s our own little community, our own little family. They know me, they know my name, they know about me.”

LaVonnya Fisher, who’s working on her doctorate in leadership studies, was initially drawn to her program after seeing the positive experience that her mother and sister had when they earned their law degrees at USD. “I like the family-style atmosphere of a private university, where the goal was not just to achieve a great education but to also get involved with the USD family,” she says. She’s interested in organizational culture in primary grades, and says that her strength lies in career-coaching. Fisher explains that narrowing down a dissertation topic takes time: “I still have a lot of time to narrow things down. Being able to take electives will help me solidify which way I want to go. You start out large and begin to narrow and revise to reflect new ideas as you go through the program.”

Master’s student Mario Garibay went directly into his leadership studies program from graduating from USD in 2006 with a B.A. in sociology and ethnic studies. “I chose this program because I was here as an undergrad and had a really good experience,” he says. He’s entirely happy with his choice, and says his job as graduate assistant for student affairs with a focus on Torero Days — which orients new students to campus life — mirrors what he’d ultimately like to do for a living.

“I’d love to work in student activities and other campus programs.”

Garibay’s psyched to be midway through his program just as the new SOLES building is being completed. “I’m totally excited,” he says. “It will be great to be in something that’s brand new and to be in one of the first classes.”

While Cordeiro, of course, is thrilled as well, she’s quick to point out that much of the credit belongs to her predecessors.

“I recently got a letter from Monsignor (Bill) Elliott, who was the first dean of the school. He said he can’t wait for the dedication on Oct. 20,” she says. “It’s going to be very exciting to have both him and Ed DeRoche, who was the second dean, there, and for the three of us to enjoy the work that we’ve all done to mold and shape the school. None of this could have been done without the incredible foundation that both of them laid.”