SOLES Alumna Spotlight: Jamie Inarda '19 (MA), Leadership Studies

Jamie Inarda
begin quoteThe way I looked at leadership before the program and the way I developed and continue to learn about my outlook on leadership, is that its not always the one who is in front; the support system in the background plays a crucial role.

Tell us about your degree program and why you chose SOLES.

After I completed my undergraduate degree in 2009, I served two terms in AmeriCorps NCCC. After those two years of service, I moved back home to San Diego and decided to do another year of AmeriCorps as a VISTA. When you complete an AmeriCorps service term, you earn an education stipend and my stipend was set to expire the year that I applied to grad school. I had always thought about grad school, and it was now or never since I had this stipend.

One of my best friends graduated from the Nonprofit Management program at SOLES two or three years before I applied. She really enjoyed the school, and I had heard of SOLES reputation, too. I knew I didn’t want to leave San Diego for grad school. For me, everything comes back to service. I think that’s why I chose the Master’s in Leadership Studies program; it gave me the opportunity to impact more people in a way that was meaningful. The way I looked at leadership before the program and the way I developed and continue to learn about my outlook on leadership, is that it’s not always the one who is in front; the support system in the background plays a crucial role. I like to be that support system and I feel like the Leadership Studies program was the way to do it, especially since I work with volunteers every day.

Who was your favorite professor at SOLES?

I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Afsaneh Nahavandi as my advisor when I started the program, and then it switched over to Dr. Tony Jimenez-Luque after she left SOLES. I honestly could not have asked for two better advisors. They were fantastic. I had graduated from my undergrad in 2009, so going back to grad school eight years later without having done anything educational-based for a really long time was a bit difficult. Dr. Nahavandi taught one of my first classes when I started the program and I really enjoyed her teaching style and the subject matter, so that really helped, as well.

What was your favorite class at SOLES?

My favorite class was Youth Leadership. I enjoyed this class because I work with high school students. I know it’s an elective, but that class is what helped develop my Capstone which is probably why I enjoyed it the most. I think we were at the bare minimum number of students to host a class, which for me made it much more open and engaging. This class was the launching point for me changing my focus and finalizing my Capstone project to youth leadership development.

Where was your favorite place on campus?

Obviously, the views at USD are ridiculous and beautiful, so we’re fortunate in that way. But I liked going behind the KIPJ to a spot where there is a Saint Francis of Assisi statue. My birthday is October 4 and the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi patron saint of animals, which is probably why that has stuck with me so long. I learned that in grade school and it’s one of those really random things that I’ll never forget.

Tell us about your international experience.      

I ended up doing an independent study. I went to Mexico City with my best friend, who is a Chicano Studies professor, for seven days. It really turned into something much more meaningful than I thought it would, which was awesome. I am a first generation Filipina American, and the premise of what I was there for was to find the cultural similarities and differences between Spanish colonization in the Philippines and Mexico. My identity has always been something I have struggled with and found interesting because culturally, Filipinos are much closer to Latinos. There’s an amazing book called Filipinos: The Latinos of Asia, written by Dr. Anthony Ocampo, that I read a couple of years ago which inspired this independent study. When it comes down to the comparisons of being in Mexico City and identifying as Filipina, I did find a lot of similarities. 

In order to do the independent study, I had to prepare learning objectives. I journaled every day, which included daily plans and how I found connections to my Filipina culture. I wrote two to three pages every day, and then Dr. Jimenez-Luque had to read and assess it all after I returned.

What was your fondest memory from your time at SOLES?

My fondest and most stressful memory is wrapped into one. Developing my Capstone was stressful, of course; it started as one idea, which I don’t even remember any more, and I’m really glad with how it ended. The journey of getting there was my fondest memory because I relied on my professors and my peers for their honest feedback on everything. That kind of teamwork is why I appreciated it. I made a lifelong friend through this process, and that was one of my fondest memories of going through it.

I also enjoyed going through the Coaching Program. I have one class left that I would like to finish. That was a fantastic elective to go through. I work with high school and college students, and I don’t have any kind of psych or medical background, so being able to navigate conversations with them and learning that through those coaching courses was fantastic.  

Tell us a little bit about your journey since graduating from SOLES.

I have been in quarantine since March 18, due to my own underlying health issues. I still work for Sharp Chula Vista and even before that date, our hospital was taking precautions to limit the amount of people in the hospital. Back in April, around the same time I celebrated my five year anniversary being an employee of Sharp, we were told that our department was being flexed off, which also meant our volunteers would not be returning any time soon, making it more difficult for our department to be there at this time. With this pandemic, life has been less than ideal, but I’m thankful every day that my loved ones are safe.

How has your education from SOLES impacted your career and your career goals for the future?

I learned some tools that I’ve utilized at work that have been very interesting to watch unfold, especially in dealing with people who have differing viewpoints. I did the Leadership Studies program because I wanted a degree that was more broad, and I wanted an opportunity to take what I have learned into different sectors. I have worked with and been a volunteer for my entire life. I would love to continue to work with volunteers, but at this point I’m not sure what the future holds. Being exposed to the Higher Ed Leadership Studies program at SOLES, being a SOLES Student Ambassador, and being involved on campus during my undergrad, has made me look into working in higher education, specifically working with transfer and non-traditional students. I was a transfer student when I was an undergrad and it took me some time to find my footing, so I know there is work already being done to fill those gaps and I would love to be a part of that support system.

What advice would you give to a current SOLES student in the Leadership Studies program?

It sounds cliché, but don’t be afraid to ask for help or to reach out to your peers. Asking for help can be difficult, but you’re all going through a shared process in some sort of way. It’s best to rely on people who are going through a similar situation. If I were to talk to myself, I would do more of my share of reaching out to professors; I don’t think I did that enough for myself. I know that professors presented the opportunity to reach out if you needed to, and I think I would have taken better advantage of that if I were to do it over.


Amanda Gonzales
(619) 260-4539


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