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Student Ambassadors

If you have questions about joining USC Rossier, our student ambassadors can provide you with helpful insight through the lens of their own experiences. View the profiles below and connect with a student of your choice.

If you are interested in connecting with current PhD students, please visit the PhD Student Directory.

 

Courtney Berck

Program: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Undergrad Institution: University of Southern California
Undergrad Major: Theatre

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Unique experiences in your background:
I grew up as a performer and worked for a while as a voice over actress. I decided I wanted a career where I used more of my intellect and compassion so I came back to USC.

Future plans and career goals:
I plan to become a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I would one day love to have my own private practice where I can work with clients dealing with anxiety in transitional periods of their lives. I want to help others deal with issues I have spent my own life figuring out.

Why did you choose USC?
Having gone to USC as an undergraduate, I already knew that I loved this community. I always had professors who believed in me, and one professor in particular served as my mentor and helped me with my application to graduate school. The Trojan family is so supportive, and it just felt right to come back to the place where I already received such an excellent education.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
I appreciate the small and intimate class setting where I get to use my classmates’ experience to inform my future work with clients. I also appreciate the connections I have made so far with my professors. They are always there to lend an ear and help me through difficult times.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I love reading and am hoping to find a new book club soon. I am an avid TV watcher, and I love to craft.

Fun facts about you:

  • I love to cook and bake with my boyfriend.
  • I love country music.
  • I love playing board games.

Tip for prospective students:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help (on your application or in your class). Graduate school relies on a lot more independent learning, but that does not mean you are on your own. Also, do your best to find a balance. Let yourself have fun with your friends and do the stuff that makes you happy. It makes all the hard work feel like nothing.


Katie Boothby

Program: Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
Year of program graduation:
Hometown: Manassas, Virginia and Rochester, New York
Undergrad Institution: West Virginia University
Undergrad Major: Theatre-Acting

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am the first person in my family to attend college.

Future plans and career goals:
I am excited to have the opportunity to work as a teacher in Los Angeles. My goal is to encourage my students to be problem solvers, innovative thinkers, and global communicators. Another goal is to constantly continue to learn about education from everyone I work with. I don’t want to ever stop learning! I would love to get my PhD in the future.

Why did you choose USC?
USC Rossier’s commitment to equity and learning was the driving force in why I chose this program. When I visited the school, the admissions staff was welcoming. The professors I met during the MAT preview day were incredibly insightful, and led fascinating discussions. I felt that Rossier would be the best choice for me, because I want to teach in California.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
I love that the admissions staff and professors are welcoming. They’re available to answer any questions you might have, and they encourage you to ask questions as a process for learning. My cohort is also a wonderful group of people who make me feel excited about the learning process and collaboration.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
Along with being a student ambassador, I’m working as a part time nanny, and substitute preschool teacher.

Fun facts about you:

  • I’m watching documentaries!
  • I love going to all of the flea markets around LA to collect vintage clothing!
  • I love taking mini adventures in my Jeep to explore all different areas of California.

Tip for prospective students:
Stay calm and realize that you CAN do this! Understand that you’re capable, and deserving of a high-quality education from an incredible school. Make checklists for the tasks you need to get done, and don’t try to overdo it by doing everything in one day. Plan ahead, and be as confident in yourself as you can possibly be.


Monica Dornick

Program: USC Masters in Marriage in Family Therapy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Carlsbad, CA
Undergrad Institution: UCLA
Undergrad Major: Geography

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am a Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguard, working the beaches of LA for the past 5 years. Also was a member of the UCLA Women’s Swim Team, and an All-American Swimmer.

Future plans and career goals:
I hope to work with women, couples, and sexual violence survivors in the community. I hope to help others overcome generational family trauma. My ultimate goal is to open a private practice, incorporating mindfulness into my practice, and/or potentially pursuing a PhD.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC because of the close-knit community and the amazing resources the school provides. I also really admire and respect the faculty of the MFT program and the USC Rossier mission of social justice and responsibility.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
The helpfulness of the faculty and the culture of the program. Every member of my cohort is committed to not only bettering themselves but the community as well and I am constantly finding inspiration from the faculty and my peers. Our professors are as equally committed to fostering growth among our cohort as well, which has been so positively transformative thus far.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I am a Los Angeles County Ocean Lifeguard as well as a Junior Lifeguard Instructor. Currently, I am a Teacher’s Aide for a 2nd grade class in the South Bay. I’m an avid yogi, ocean and mountain enthusiast, and try to watch the sunset every single day (when I’m not in class of course).

Fun facts about you:

  • I occasionally compete in bodysurfing competitions and other ocean related events like open water swims
  • First saw snow in real life at 23 and now the mountains are some of my most favorite places
  • My favorite bands include Alt-J and Sylvan Esso

Tip for prospective students:
Believe that you deserve to be here and view yourself as interviewing the school just as much as they are inquiring about you. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you want to ask. Probably most importantly, connect with the current students and faculty. Personally, taking a more humanistic approach to the application process allowed my authenticity to shine through and let the faculty see how much this program aligned with my values and aspirations.


Abigail Garcia

Program: Master of Education in Educational Counseling
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Panorama City, CA
Undergrad Institution: Los Angeles Valley College and UC San Diego
Undergrad Major: B.A in Sociology – Social Inequalities and a Minor in Education Studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am a first-generation college student and the first woman in my family to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and pursue higher education.

Future plans and career goals:
I plan on working at the community college setting, although I am open to working at the four-year level.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC because of the role it’s played in my life. Although I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, I have family members who live right next to USC so I was always in the area. As a result, it feels rewarding to attend a school that I grew up near but never thought I would attend, and to be able to give back and be involved with the community that I grew up with.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
I value the connection I have with my professors and the sense of community that the school offers. Although I can get overwhelmed at times, I can always turn to a professor, classmate, or colleague for insight and support.

Fun fact about you:

  • I am extremely proud of my Salvadoran culture and pride myself on being a Salvadoreña
  • I love working out and I was a boxer from the ages of 17-21
  • I love music and my go-to genres are hip hop and reggaeton
  • My favorite way to destress is by taking naps

One tip for prospective students:
Do not be afraid to reach out for help when applying to grad school. It is important to gain insight and receive different perspectives.


Keren-Or Givol

Program: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergrad Institution: The University of Arizona
Undergrad Major: Psychology

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Unique experiences in your background:
I come from a research heavy background though I have always been interested in practicing. My experiences in various labs and my lab manager position in my gap year have taught me so much about becoming a producer of research and I am so thrilled to become a consumer of research in this field and to use my knowledge in versatile ways.

Future plans and career goals:
My future plans and career goals upon graduation are to work with adolescent victims of abuse in hopes to foster strong familial and communal connections. I would love to open a private practice with a focus in therapy for adolescent victims and families experiencing or recovering from abuse. I am also extremely interested in research and can see myself combining my two interests.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC because I aligned with both the USC Rossier mission statement and the statement of the Marriage and Family Therapy program. During my interview day, I had that “this is it” moment. USC felt right for me. The people and the place. Everything I heard on interview day has truly lived up and even exceed my expectations and I couldn’t be luckier to be at this school and in this program. Fight on!

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
I truly value how each and every day is a day of self-reflection and growth. The classroom environment is enriching, supportive, and encouraging. Your cohort members are people you will rely on for everything and I value their friendship so much.

I also value the effort of our professors and cohort members to create this environment for us to learn and grow together. During interview day, current students told me how incredible the classroom environment is, how incredible professors are, and how amazing your cohort members will be, but you really do not realize it until you are in it. I really value that space we create together.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
Outside of my studies I love spending time with my family and friends. I also am a teacher and tutor on the weekends. During my undergraduate career I played ultimate frisbee and I joined USC’s women’s club ultimate frisbee team here as well. I love being physically active and I love hiking and adventures!

Fun fact about you:

  • I am originally from Israel and speak Hebrew fluently!
  • I play on the ultimate frisbee team at USC and I also played in undergrad at the University of Arizona.

One tip for prospective students:
I wrote, “Cheers to my past, my present, and my future” on my graduation cap from the University of Arizona. Of course, this has a personal meaning to me just as it would have a different meaning for everyone. We all come from difference places and we have had different experiences. This program emphasizes that which is one of the many reasons I love it so much.

Come into the application process embracing who you are: your past, present, and your future. It is all so exciting. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Be your true and honest self and I would encourage you to be as genuine as you can be in your interviews, interactions and your application. Everyone wants to get to know you so as cliche as it sounds—just be you!


Jennifer Gomez

Program: Master’s of Education in Learning Design and Technology online
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Palm Springs, CA
Undergrad Institution: California Polytechnic State University, Pomona
Undergrad Major: Business Administration

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student/graduate. I began my educational journey by attending a community college where I received an Associate’s and continued through to Cal Poly Pomona for my Bachelor’s and a teaching credential.

Future plans and career goals:
I plan to use the skills and knowledge gained in USC’s LDT program to become a leader within my K-12 educator position and to proceed into teaching in higher education. After more years of experience in the classroom at different levels, I hope to become a Director of Instruction and Curriculum.

Why did you choose USC?
Growing up with the odds stacked against me, I never thought that I could apply to USC and make it in, even though I graduated high school with honors.

Being an educator, I want to be the best role model for my students and that means taking risks—thus, I applied to USC. This school provides incredible learning experiences and has an amazing network of alumni. The prestige of the university speaks for itself and it is an honor to be attending.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
I was nervous that being a part of an online program would undermine my experience of being a USC student. However, USC Rossier has made sure that we are as integrated into the experience as possible. Getting to know my cohort has been the best experience because we share some of the same values and are supportive of each other.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
Outside of my studies, I teach English as a Second Language to adult learners within my community and work with my school’s theater program. I also spend time with my family, take care of my dogs, bake, and enjoy going to sporting events.

Fun fact about you:

  • You can see me on The Price is Right giving my sister-in-law the winning bid to win the Grand Prize
  • Willing to stand in line for 2+ hours for some Howlin’ Rays
  • Have played basketball, intramural football, cheerleading, dance, and club soccer.

One tip for prospective students:
The courses and tasks may seem daunting, but don’t stress. Enjoy the journey and build relationships with your cohort. Reach out to your professors—they are all so great, knowledgeable, and friendly.


Marcel Guerra

Program: Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
Undergrad Institution: California State University, Bakersfield
Undergrad Major: Communications – concentration in Journalism

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Unique experiences in your background:
My father is from Venezuela and my mother is from Brazil, which makes me fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. I am a product of the Bakersfield City School District having gone through the district from Kindergarten through 8th grade. I am in my 5th year of working for BCSD as an 8th grade Math/Science teacher as well as 7th grade Project Lead the Way Teacher.

Future plans and career goals:
I plan to continue giving back to my community and the Bakersfield City School District and apply the knowledge I acquire in the program to developing curriculum and content for my math team and my students, in order to better their learning experience in a way where technology is an empowering asset to and for them.

Why did you choose USC?
USC has always been my dream university since I saw their marching band perform at Disneyland in 1994! The Fight Song is something I’ve known since I was a little kid. Moreover, I always was compelled by USC academics and the prestige of the university.

What do you value the most about your experience at USC Rossier?
The applicability of what I learn to my daily job! It’s unbelievable to me that things that I’m learning just starting the LDT program are things that I can take the following day to work and apply inside my classroom. I love the fact that my students and school can benefit from my education starting now.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I’m very involved in the school where I work as well as my district in general. I coach girls’ soccer at my middle school. I also participate heavily in the BCSD Migrant Education Program where I coach the Spanish Debate team and take students to the State competition every year.

Fun fact about you:

  • I love spending time at home with my family when I’m not at work. (two sons – 3 years old and 2 months old, as well as two dogs and five cats)
  • I love gardening and mowing my lawn.
  • I have dual-citizenship (USA/Brazil)

One tip for prospective students:
Believe in yourself and put aside the doubt! I never thought the day would come when I could say that I’m a Trojan. But, alas, the day is here. Do your research and see what your program entails as well as the application requirements. Lastly, make the decision to commit and go through with everything necessary to make it happen. What you’ll get from it all is invaluable.


Joan Harrison

Program: Master of Education in Enrollment Management and Policy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: New York City
Undergrad Institution: Hunter College, CUNY and Universite laval, Quebec (I did not graduate from either of these institutions)
Undergrad Major: English

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Unique experiences in your background:
I was born in Scotland and came to New York as a young woman. I now find myself working at a school that was founded by another Scottish immigrant, Alexander Robertson, in 1789

Future plans and career goals:
I’d like to stay in Enrollment Management. I enjoy the variety of the work and getting to meet people from many different areas and countries.

Why did you choose USC?
The USC Rossier School of Education has the only Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice in the country. Its faculty are experts in this field. In fact, they are the brain trust of enrollment management.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
The collegial atmosphere between our cohort and the faculty is unparalleled. I feel completely supported and primed to do my best work.

One tip for prospective students:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It sounds like banal advice but at this university you will get as much help as you ask for, and promptly.


Evan Hassan

Program: M. Ed. in Enrollment Management and Policy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Encino, California
Undergrad Institution:Indiana University and California State University, Northridge
Undergrad Major: Communication Studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
Between undergrad and applying for my master’s at USC, I have taught kindergarten for the last 12 years. This has offered quite a different insight to education than that of my EMP cohort.

Future plans and career goals:
I aspire to work as a Director of Admissions and/or Enrollment Manager for an independent school, where I can ultimately work my way up to becoming a Head of School. Wherever my path takes me, I plan to make a difference in education.

Why did you choose the EMP program?
I have learned so much about education through teaching, but I recognize that enrollment managers have an effect that reaches well beyond the classroom. Because USC Rossier’s EMP program is online, it is taught by leaders in the field from all over the country. I love that this program aspires to produce enrollment managers who can positively effect educational equity and societal change.

What do you value the most about your experience in the EMP program?
My professors and cohort. The professors have set the table for us to have so many eye-opening conversations. Because everyone comes from different positions within enrollment management our discussions are filled with different perspectives.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
While I work hard at USC, I continue to teach kindergarten. I also love traveling far, as well as hanging nearby with family and friends. Backpacking and hiking recalibrate my system, and I try to get to the mountains as much as possible. When they’re covered by snow, I love to ski them!

Fun fact about you:

  • I have learned so much about life through sports. Soccer is my first love and I still enjoy playing every week.
  • I never ate Thai food until I went to Thailand, and now I can’t stop eating it.
  • I traveled the country playing adult kickball, and called it quits after my team won the national championship

One tip for prospective students:
You can do it! Whether you are the most accomplished student or you have been out of education for years, you have a place at here. USC Rossier truly wants to diversify their classes, and they do so by looking holistically at all applicants and what they bring to the table. Trust that your experiences make you valuable, because you are undoubtedly unique.


Kia Hill

Program: Masters of Education in Learning Design and Technology (LDT) Online
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Indianapolis, IN
Undergrad Institution: Purdue University, West Lafayette
Undergrad Major: Interdisc. Biology with a minor in Law & Society.

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Unique experiences in your background:
I have a very large immediate family. My mother had a total of eleven children so we were so close to being cheaper by the dozen! I am considered the trailblazer of my family as a first-generation college graduate with intentions to continue my education further. I hope to continue to make my family proud and inspire my younger siblings and the next generations of learners.

Future plans and career goals:
Short Term Goals: My short-term goals are to obtain USC’s Master of Education LDT degree that aligns perfectly with my career aspirations to continue in education design and enhance my skills to leverage technology, apply learning and motivation research, and design holistic learning experiences within the education equity framework. Long Goals/Career Goals: My long-term career goal is to be a Continuing Medical Education Director within the next five to six years.

Why did you choose USC?
One reason I was interested in joining the Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology program is because I wanted to combine my work experience as a full-time employee in Continuing Medical Education (CME) curricular design, project management and learning management system administration with a master’s degree. I chose an online program because, as a full time working professional, I needed the flexibility of being able to remotely access classroom sessions.

The main reason that I choose USC was that, compared to the other institutions with education technology programs, the robust integration of learning theories, instructional design and the use of technology was unmatched. USC is equipped with knowledgeable instructors that are passionate about providing you valuable courses and a personal, virtual educational experience.

What have you valued most about your experience here?
The support of the instructors and faculty is incredible! I am able to incorporate what I learn from LDT in real time at work. Also, in this program there are many learners from various backgrounds in terms of education and profession.

The video-conferencing system truly does make you feel like the Brady Bunch where you can see all of your classmates and instructor at one time. There are virtual break-out sessions and instructor office hours which are very helpful. I definitely feel tremendously supported by my instructors and peers to speak out during the sessions and engage others. Along with access to all of the USC resources such as student libraries, professional development, alumni networks and faculty mentoring relationships there are many valuable experiences here at USC Rossier.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I enjoy living a health-focused lifestyle by visiting my local wellness center and engaging in exercises such as hiking, skiing, BJJ and eating a plant-based diet. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling and volunteering.

Fun facts about you:

  • I wrestled in high school and did Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in college
  • I am an artist in my spare time. I enjoy drawling cartoons and graphics.
  • I have a big sweet tooth (favorite chocolate is Ferrero Rocher)
  • I consider myself a vegan chef and foodie

Tip for prospective students:
Pre-admission tips: Utilize all of the resources that USC Rossier has to offer. There are mock-class sessions, informational webinars and of course feel free to contact me as your student ambassador! I want you to help you truly feel secure that you’re making the right decision for you by joining us in the Trojan family.


Rosalva Isidoro

Program: Master of Education in Educational Counseling
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Undergrad Institution: Santa Monica College and University of California, Los Angeles
Undergrad Major: English, Double Minors in Chicana/o Studies and Labor and Workplace Studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
I was born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles. I am a first- generation, Latina, low-income, transfer student. I have four sisters, one brother and my parents are from Puebla, Mexico. I’m the first one in my family to pursue a master’s degree.

Future plans and career goals:
I want to become a Community College counselor, however I am open to K-12 counseling as well. I am thinking of pursuing a doctoral degree in Higher Education Leadership.

Why did you choose USC and what have you valued the most about your experience here?
I chose USC because of its proximity to my home, it’s prestigious name, the curriculum, and the Trojan family.

What have you valued most about your experience here?
I have valued my cohort experience, the professors in my program, as well as the relationships that I’m establishing with students at work.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I am currently working as an Academic Coach for the USC Kortschak Center For Learning And Creativity. I also work with my parents on Sundays; we are street vendors and sell barbacoa. I make handmade, laminated floral bookmarks as a hobby and sell them to fund my graduate studies!

Fun facts about you:

  • I am aiming to read a book of my interest per month!
  • I have attended seven concerts this year so far!
  • I have a big sweet tooth (favorite chocolate is Ferrero Rocher)
  • My favorite artist is Kendrick Lamar and band is Radiohead

Tip for prospective students:
Work and submit your application on the first round if possible, and do not be afraid to ask any questions regarding the application, program, or student experience. Build strong connections with your cohort, staff and faculty. Get involved on campus, use the resources available to you and take care of yourself emotionally and physically.


Samantha Jungheim

Program: Master of Arts in Teaching—Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Year of program graduation: 2020
Hometown: Laguna Beach, CA
Undergrad Institution: San Francisco Art Institute
Undergrad Major: Painting

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Unique experiences in your background:
My background in visual art differs from many of my classmates in the MAT-TESOL program. Studying art has made me a better communicator and I’m able to tap into my creativity when making lesson plans. I also studied abroad in Paris for 5 months and taught English in Korea for 2.5 years. Both of my experiences living abroad have informed my teaching style.

Future plans and career goals:
After graduating I plan on applying to several fellowships to teach abroad. Long term, I would like to teach adults English in the L.A. area and create teaching materials.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC for a variety of reasons such as USC Rossier’s mission for educational equity. USC also has an amazing community and network that is located in an international city, which aligns with my goal to educate international adults in English.

What have you valued most about your experience here?
I really value my interaction with the MAT-TESOL faculty. Every time I have a conversation with them I gain more insight into the TESOL field.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
Currently, I work at the USC American Language Institute and Office for International Services. My two roles on campus allow me to help and learn from international students and their spouses.

Fun facts about you:

  • Before starting at USC, I did a week-long yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia.
  • I’m a fourth generation Angelino (born in L.A.), but I mostly grew up in Orange County.
  • I’m studying Korean in my free time.

Tip for prospective students:
Look at the website and make a to-do list of what you need to accomplish to complete your application. Go step by step to finish the application (don’t try to finish it in one sitting!). Find a few different people to read your statement of purpose and revise your statement before submitting your application.


Helia Soo Lee

Program: Masters of Arts in Teaching
Single Subject Math (Secondary)
Year of program graduation: 2020
Hometown: Lake Forest, CA
Undergrad Institution: University of California, Davis
Undergrad Major: Mathematics

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Unique experiences in your background:
Even though I was a math major, I interned in the communications department in Washington D.C.

Future plans and career goals:
I hope to teach math at high school or community college level, then earn a doctorate to teach at a university level. Lately, I’ve been thinking about going into policy and working in Washington D.C., but I’m willing to go where I am called.

Why did you chose USC?
I chose USC because I wanted to be in the heart of achieving equitable education. Yes, I had my prejudices about the university and if I will be able to thrive as a minority, first-generation student, but all my judgements crumbled as I read the USC Rossier Mission Statement. Who wouldn’t want to “interrogate systems of power,” and “solve the most intractable” problems in education? Sign me up.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
At times, I feel completely overwhelmed by the challenges of becoming a good educator. Professors and peers have never failed to encourage me through those times and remind me that gaps can be closed, students can be reached, and support can be found. One of my professors always begins her class by saying “I have been thinking of you all week,” and I tear up every time because I know she means it.

Fun facts about you:

  • I love brunches!
  • Math is not my favorite subject… don’t tell my students.

Tip for prospective students:
Plan things out. You need time to reflect because this is an important step in your life. I had so many emotional conversations with friends and mentors before and during the application process. Be frustrated for couple days, focused and serious for couple more, write self-reflections for few hours, and you’ll realize you’ve finished.


Kevin Liu

Program: Master of Education in Educational Counseling
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Arcadia and Guangzhou, China
Undergrad Institution: Pasadena City College, UCLA
Undergrad Major: Anthropology

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Unique experiences in your background:
I was born in China and I moved to California when I was five years old. I used to want to be a dentist, but decided that counseling was a better fit for me. I have gone on mission trips to serve a local church in Mexico twice, a dental mission trip to Honduras, and I have studied abroad in England.

Future plans and career goals:
I want to be a counselor in college, and potentially get an EdD.

Why did you choose USC?
I was sold on its excellence and appreciate that the school is clear on its mission. Plus, I liked the prospect of being a part of the Trojan Family, which would benefit me greatly professionally. Through Preview Days, I knew that USC was a secure choice and that I will do great things through the help of the school.

What have you valued most about your experience here?
I love the classes! These are all topics that interest me, and I enjoy being around people who are passionate about counseling as well. The professors are very approachable, and I benefit from hearing about their experiences in the field.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I am currently an International Success Coach at Pasadena City College. I am also a member of Chinese Christian Family Church, where I serve as a youth counselor, mentor, and a Bible study teacher, as well as a brother to my church family. I also like to boulder.

Fun facts about you:

  • I am a certified scuba diver
  • I was a part of a contemporary dance company in high school called Orchesis Dance company. I also was a bboy (break dancer) for five years.
  • I love to read.
  • Sitting with a good posture (straight back) is comfortable for me, but apparently it stresses people out. So, I instead intentionally assume a “relaxed” position when I am around people to make them more comfortable and willing to talk.

Tip for prospective students:
Collaborate with people! This is a profession that requires teamwork, so the same should apply to being a graduate student. As you are applying for schools, ask people for help. Talk to trusted people and ask them to tell you your weaknesses and strengths. Also, have conversations with people where you share your intention on applying to school. These conversations will help you know what to write in your personal statement. Ask people to read your personal statement and to edit it. Do not be an island!


Cassandra Padilla

Program: M. Ed. in Enrollment Management and Policy (online)
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: East Los Angeles, CA
Undergrad Institution:Union College in New York
Undergrad Major: Theatre

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am a proud Mexican-American womxn and a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I was raised in a single parent household and I am the second oldest of 7 children. In high school, my college counselor would only help students apply to community colleges, but I knew I was meant for more. Believe it or not, my dream college was Harvard. I was fortunate to have applied and been accepted into the One Voice Scholars program where they assist first-generation, low income high school students in college application assistance and financial support with application costs to attend 4-year private institutions.

When I got to college, I was selected to be a part of the Academic Opportunity Program, which provided personal, academic, and financial support to first-generation students. Without this program, I would not have realized what I wanted to do with my life: give back to the communities that I represent in providing college access opportunities. After graduating, I served two years as a College Advisor with the USC College Advising Corps in the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice (CERPP), where we serve low-income, first-generation, underrepresented high school seniors.

Future plans and career goals:
I would love to either be the Dean of Admissions or Director of an Educational Opportunity Program at any school in Southern California.

Why did you choose the EMP program?
I chose this program because I wanted to be submerged into higher education and not just one side of it. In this program, you are not only learning about admissions (which is what many people assume). You are learning about admissions, financial aid, orientation programs, and so much more and how they all come together to improve student retention at their institutions.

What do you value the most about your experience in the EMP program?
I value the support I am given from my professors and the learning I am receiving from the top experts in the higher education field. My professors truly enjoy what they teach and it shows.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
Outside of work and studies, I work as a bartender at Angel City Brewery to increase my beer knowledge and volunteer as a College Adviser at Girls Today Women Tomorrow.

Fun fact about you:

  • I am a part of Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and volunteer with the East Los Angeles Women’s Center and other nonprofit organizations that seek to provide support from domestic violence services to health services and empower womxn of all identities.
  • I love to cook and bake for my family. From a grilled cheese sandwich to Spaghetti alla Carbonara, I love to challenge myself with new recipes and add a little twist to it!

One tip for prospective students:
Do not jump into the first interesting graduate school program you find. Take your time and do research into the other programs offered at the same college or others. With enough research, you will find the programs that fit your goals and more!


Angela Paniagua

Program: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Highland, Ca
Undergrad Institution:California State University San Bernardino
Undergrad Major: Psychology, minor in gender and sexuality studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
I went to community college for 10 years before I figured out I wanted to do with my academic career. Within the last few years I have been a crisis counselor at the San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services Agency. I helped co-facilitate a support group at my undergrad for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and child abuse.

Future plans and career goals:
My future plans and goals are to become a licensed marriage family therapist working in the Orange County or Los Angeles area. I would also like to continue working with survivors of intimate partner abuse. My career goal is have my own private practice one day and possibly pursue a PsyD.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC because my values and goals aligned with the USC Rossier mission statement. Also, USC was my top choice for MFT programs and I knew if I was going to be a therapist I wanted my educational background to come from USC. USC provides students with many resources and opportunities to help us grow personally and professionally. I knew by coming to USC I would feel valued and supported as a student and future therapist.

What do you value the most about your experience at USC Rossier?
One of the experiences that I have valued most is how everyone is willing to help one another. From faulty, staff, current students, and alumni everyone is willing to help you achieve your goals and provide you with support. Also, I appreciate how the USC Rossier mission statement is implemented in all of our classes.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I currently work at the ticket office at USC. I also try to volunteer around the Los Angeles area or on campus as much as possible.

Fun facts about you:

  • I love Disney and try to go to Disneyland twice a month.
  • I have a Pomeranian Yorkie who dances and sings (barks) whenever he hears 24k Magic by Bruno Mars.
  • I’ve watched Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl so many times that I can recite ALL the lines.

One tip for prospective students:
Attend the mixers snd information sessions to get a better understanding of the program. When I was applying to the program I wanted to know the perspectives of the current students as well as from alumni. Ask questions throughout the entire application process and beyond. Reach out to faculty, staff, alumni, and current students. We are all here to help you throughout the application process and we want to help you through it all. And lastly, be proud of yourselves! Even taking the first step of looking into programs is a huge step in the right direction. Continue to fight on!


Sarah Reyes

Program: Master of Education in Educational Counseling
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Highland Park, Los Angeles, CA
Undergrad Institution: Occidental College
Undergrad Major: Latino/a and Latin American Studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
I am a First-Generation Latina. While most people
go away to college, the school I chose was only one mile away from home. I lived on campus my four years there and would mostly go home just for the holidays.

Future plans and career goals:
As of right now I would like to be a counselor in either a 2-year
or 4-year college. I am also interested in working at a cultural center at a small liberal arts school like the one I attended.

Why did you choose USC?
While working for the USC College Advising Corps, I met many current students in the Educational Counseling Program and I felt like this was the perfect place to continue my education. I also saw the value in being part of the Trojan Family.

What have you valued the most about your experience here?
I like the cohort model of the program and how open everyone is. The faculty also seem really helpful and supportive.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I have a small business where I create jewelry and accessories. On the weekends I go to events throughout the city to share my art with others.

Fun facts about you:

  • My dog, Zero, is named after the ghost dog in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • I love to paint, but I don’t know how to draw.
  • I own over 300 books.

Tip for prospective students:
Reach out if you have any questions about the application process or about the program itself. Everyone is really nice and helpful and would love to talk to you!


Carrie Smolen

Program: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Undergrad Institution: Wesleyan University
Undergrad Major: Film Studies

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Unique experiences in your background:
I moved to Los Angeles with the intention of pursuing a career in film, but quickly realized that “the industry” didn’t feel like a good fit for me. After that, I owned and operated a food truck called The Pudding Truck for nearly five years, which was an incredible experience in so many ways, but ultimately I felt like being a small business owner left me in conflict with the more sensitive and empathetic parts of my personality. I feel confident that career-wise, the “third time’s the charm” for me, and so far my experiences in the MFT program and working as a crisis counselor have affirmed that instinct.

Future plans and career goals:
I am still figuring out the specifics of my career goals, but one thing I love about the prospect of working in mental health is that I’ll have the ability to do a few different things simultaneously. I love the idea of slowly growing a private practice while working with a school or agency to be able to learn and challenge myself in a number of different ways at the same time. At this point, I am drawn to the idea of working with adolescents as well as with the families and support systems of folks living with mental health diagnoses.

Why did you choose USC?
Knowing that I wanted to pursue my MFT in LA, Rossier seemed far and away to be the most reputable and rigorous program I encountered. Beyond that, I felt an instant connection with the members of the faculty that I got to meet, as well as a few members of the Trojan alumni community, which is known for being very supportive of one another. Since the mental health field is so much about making connections, both professionally and in terms of personal growth and support, I knew that a program designed around an intimate cohort model with a large and encouraging network of alums would be the right environment for me to pursue this career path.

What have you valued most about your experience at USC Rossier?
The faculty and the other members of my cohort have made this experience so far absolutely incredible. I have already learned a ton about this work and about myself, and I just can’t wait to continue to go deeper.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I currently volunteer with The Trevor Project and The Leadership Lab at the LA LGBT Center. I tend to spend the rest of my time working out in HIIT classes, cooking and baking, watching movies, TV, and comedy shows, learning how to garden, and hanging out with my friends, family, husband, and cat (though I am staunchly both a cat AND a dog person and don’t believe in that binary)!

Fun facts about you:

  • I was once in a photoshoot for Glamour Magazine with Bono!
  • I can make balloon animals
  • During undergrad, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires.

Tip for prospective students:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Grad school is a huge commitment, so it’s okay to want to make sure that it feels like the best possible fit for you. I’m also proof that you don’t have to have a background in psychology or be right out of undergrad to feel at home here. I personally believe that having a little life experience in other arenas can only help make you a better therapist!


Dante Treggs

Program: Master’s of Learning Design & Technology
Year of program graduation: 2021
Hometown: Alta Loma, CA
Undergrad Institution: Lees-McRae College. Banner Elk, NC
Undergrad Major: Psychology with a minor in Business Management

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Unique experiences in your background:
I was raised by a single mother who worked every day to give me and my little brother the best she could. I am the first in my family to graduate from college with an undergraduate degree and first to pursue their master’s. I understand the many struggles minority communities face, encountering some of them myself. I know firsthand the determination and hard work it takes thrive when in difficult situations. That strength is what makes me a Trojan. Fight On!

Future plans and career goals:
Work and collaborate with companies who appreciate diversity and encourage equity. I plan to continue building my learning group, but I also look forward to helping companies and individuals grow as well.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose USC because my long-term, personal, and career goals align with USC’s mission statement. USC’s involvement in their surrounding communities and the EPIC Trojan family are also reasons I chose USC.

What have you valued the most about your experience here?
I value the immediate connections and bonds I’ve made with my classmates. Many of us chose USC Rossier for the same reasons, with hopes to make a difference. Being surrounded with people who have the same goals and mantra as you really empowers you to succeed and feel supported.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I founded and direct a learning group for under-privileged students, called P.L.U.S. (Personalized Learning for Urban Students). I try to sneak in time to hike with my Labrador J.J. and I’m part of a book club.

Fun facts about you:

  • People say my Black Labrador an I look alike (I am a dog person).
  • I worked as a Deckhand on 3 different boats for 2 years off the coast of North Carolina. (I enjoy boating)
  • I have OCD, so sometimes I organize and clean things just for fun.
  • I love watching and playing sports.

Tip for prospective students:
Manage your time wisely and take a step back to look at your past successes and failures. You are pursuing something that is accomplishable, but it will take effort and dedication. Put not only your best foot forward but use both feet and every resource available to you to reach your dreams.


Ni Yin

Program: Master of Arts in Teaching—Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Year of program graduation: 2020
Hometown: Guangdong, China
Undergrad Institution: Ocean University of China
Undergrad Major: Chemistry

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Unique experiences in your background:
I made up my mind to change major!

Future plans and career goals:
As a student, I want to keep an excellent GPA and make many new friends. I plan to get a California teaching credential and find a job because my brothers and sister may come here for education.

Why did you choose USC?
I chose California as my dream location because I love the weather here so much, just like my hometown. I have been here for 7 years and am impressed by the trees which are really tall and only have a few leaves on top. I started searching universities in California then I found USC, a top-ranked university, and USC Rossier, which also ranks highly. Additionally, the TESOL program provides students opportunities to do fieldwork and the credential track that I am interested in.

What have you valued the most about your experience here?
I attended the summer intensive course a month ago. It helped me be well-prepared for this fall semester because there are so many big differences between the Chinese education system and America’s.

More importantly, I met so many warm-hearted and energetic teachers and classmates in the course. We had class from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Monday to Friday, found delicious restaurants and had lunch together. Moreover, after completing many assignments and projects, my academic skills improved as well as the relationship with my classmates and teachers. And during those processes, we helped and collaborated with each other all the time, which is the reason why I did not feel homesick.

What are you involved in outside your studies?
I signed up for the TESOL club and I became the USC Rossier student ambassador! Moreover, I am applying to be an online English teacher to gain more teaching experience.

Fun facts about you:
I got my English name Joey because of my Chinese name. In China, we have a tradition that the name of all the children of the same generation needs to have the same character. So my given name is Zuer, which pronounces like Joey in Cantonese. As for my hobby, I have practiced brush lettering, one kind of English calligraphy, for almost 2 years. What’s more, I knew nothing about cooking before I came here. But now, my cooking skills have improved a lot and my friends want me to open a restaurant.

Tip for prospective students:
Be confident! Plan in advance! Be busy!
It is okay and not uncommon that people feel stressed out during the application. Believing in yourself is the first thing to do in order to solve problems. Making a detailed plan early can also help. Then last but not least, try hard and stay busy. I firmly believe a Chinese saying that states if you keep going and keep trying, then the shadow will flee away and you can see the daybreak.