Advisor, On-Campus Housing Council
University of California, Los Angeles
I chose to pursue a degree in college counseling and student development because I wanted to change lives. My undergraduate experience was difficult because I wasn’t connecting with my major—my grades suffered because I wasn’t passionate about my classes or my future, and I had no idea what I wanted to do or become after college. In my senior year I met my mentor, Jennifer Jones of Southern Methodist University, and that’s when it clicked! I wanted to work with college students. So I spent an additional year in college making up classes, and I was more determined than ever to get to graduate school. I wanted to change someone’s life the way my mentor changed mine.
In 2009, I attended the Western Regional Careers in Student Affairs Day, which is where I met Azusa Pacific professor Sharyn Slavin Miller, PhD. She shared with me her passion for student affairs and what APU’s CCSD program offered. It was during that conversation I knew APU was the place for me. The program could have been in Timbuktu; if Sharyn taught there, that’s where I wanted to be.
There are so many things I loved about the program! Small class sizes, bonding opportunities in my cohort, amazing professors who wanted to see us succeed and excel, and friendly alumni. The professors changed my world! They made sure I knew how much I could learn from the program, but also how much the program could learn from me. They helped me realize how much my voice mattered, not just in the classroom but in the student affairs profession. They taught me how to be comfortable in silence and be present for students during a crisis. My interactions with those professors forever changed how I interact with students.
During the capstone process, Sharyn took class time to check in with our cohort and ask, “How are you?” Cohort members opened up about their capstone processes, graduate assistantships, lack of sleep, family situations, and it was a no-holds-barred conversation—it gave us a safe space to vent, cry, and experience the emotions we were neglecting during the capstone frenzy. The professors pride themselves on caring about and tending to the whole person, and Sharyn wanted to make sure the students she spent the past two years building a relationship with were okay during the most stressful time of our graduate student experience. The whole APU CCSD experience was embodied in that moment.
I also learned to accept and embrace who I am and Whose I am. It was during my CCSD journey that I truly developed a personal relationship with God, and I started unpacking and discovering my God-given gifts. My professors taught me that everyone’s spiritual journey is different—fall in love with your journey and trust the process.
I recommend this program because it’s a life-changing journey. It’s a second family, home away from home, and prepares you to dive into a profession that is very rewarding and sticky at the same time. It teaches how to serve others and make time for yourself to learn, grow, and build relationships within your cohort and across the profession. And the opportunities presented are priceless—the opportunities to assist with research, present research at various conferences, and to connect with world-renowned professionals.
Lena Nomvo Vanda
I loved, loved, loved my experience in this program! The support of the professors was amazing and I would not have made it through the two years without them; they are truly on our team and are our cheerleaders, and they develop students into professionals.
I was going through a rough season in my second year, and one of my professors noticed I wasn’t doing too well and invited me into her office just to talk. I let her know some of what was going on and I also got to hear a little about how things were going for her; we talked about life, God, and student affairs. It’s so easy to feel disconnected in grad school, because there’s barely enough time to think or talk about anything other than school and work, but in that moment I felt like things came together. I had someone who understood my relationship with God and knew what student affairs is and supported me. It was nice just to stop and have a conversation with someone I looked up to in the profession. And I had many of those moments with each of my professors and classmates.
Thanks to class discussions and experiences with my professors, I am also confident in bringing up spirituality in a secular setting—I don’t feel like my Christian faith and my profession are separate things. At the same time, I was able to share research, discussions on spirituality, and faith with classmates and peers from all faith backgrounds. I learned who I am. I learned the art of discovering myself, helping others discover who they are, and that this process will continue throughout my life.
The faculty were always more interested in who I was than what I knew. I liked that, and afterwards I felt like I wasn’t just prepared to help students, but to be a helper. This program prepared me for a life of ministry, whether that’s in a secular setting, an education institution, or a church. I want to use my life to serve God, and I feel I am able to bring honor to His name in new and deeper ways because of this program.
Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs and Student Organizations
During my sophomore year in college, I realized that I wanted to have a career in student affairs. I was already aware of the growing demand for individuals to have a master’s degree, even at entry-level positions, and when I was young my grandfather taught me to live my life by “ADDing”—he said people do well in life if they apply themselves, dedicate themselves, and discipline themselves. Azusa Pacific’s Master of Science in College Counseling and Student Development enabled me to do that, preparing me in immeasurable ways to do the work I’m doing now.
There were three things I was looking for in a master’s program: I wanted to stay in Southern California, I wanted a top-tier program with established faculty, and I wanted to integrate my faith into my work. APU was the obvious choice—I didn't even apply to other programs.
My experience in the program was amazing! I wouldn't trade it for anything. There are many great things about this program, but what stands out most is its developmental aspect. Student affairs focuses on student/adult development, and the faculty in this program invested in us not only as professionals but as human beings; we were challenged to think and reflect on our own development as we were learning theories to use with our students. It’s difficult to challenge students to do work we haven’t done, so I am incredibly thankful I was a part of a program that challenged me to do the personal work on a weekly basis.
I LOVE the faculty in this program. Some people say that flippantly, but not me. Each of them invested in me personally, professionally, and spiritually, and I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for them. Many times they gave me opportunities to work with them and present at national conferences, and on multiple occasions I was in their offices balling my eyes out because I didn’t get a position and felt inadequate. Regardless of the situation, I was blessed by their openness and genuine regard for my well-being.
I remember going into the program feeling very confident in my knowledge of the field. I was very involved in my undergraduate experience and served as a resident advisor for three years, and like many other adults who’ve just received their bachelor’s degree, I thought I knew some things. I did, in fact, know some things, but I quickly learned there was a whole other world—student affairs—I needed to learn about, and am still learning about; the idea of being a lifelong learner, or a student of life, took on a whole new meaning. So if you are looking for a program that will challenge you personally, professionally, and spiritually, this is the one. The cohort model is invaluable—it helped me overcome my tendency to compare myself with others and get down on myself—and the professors provide opportunities and mentorship in ways that will change your life.
Note: This information is current for the 2023-24 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.