By Bridgitte Petras
Youngstown State University’s SALSA — not to be confused with the condiment — offers applied experience to YSU graduate students working towards their master’s degree in counseling in student affairs leadership and practice. It also gives exposure to undergraduates interested in this graduate program. Any students interested in this degree are eligible to join.
SALSA stands for Student Affairs Leadership Support Association. This program was created in 2007 by graduate students from the counseling department for student affairs. Within the past few years, SALSA has grown into an active and extensive organization.
There are 15 graduate students in the program that actively participate in seminars, workshop, conferences and community volunteer opportunities that focus on student affairs and higher education.
Kyoung Mi Choi, the faculty adviser of SALSA for three years, expressed how much this program contributes to those pursuing degrees in student affairs and higher education.
“[SALSA] provides counseling in human development theories and initiates so many to be active outside the class,” Choi said. “These [graduate] students are dedicated, passionate and caring. They really care about the program and even help others [undergraduate students] with their own careers.”
Chad Warrick, president of SALSA, has recently organized a mentorship program for undergraduates with the assistance of the other officers of the organization. This gives graduates a hands-on experience of dealing with student affairs, while undergraduates are informed about graduate school opportunities.
“Through the mentorship program, SALSA members want to make the transition from undergraduate to graduate school stream and easy for the students and hopefully get them engaged with the areas that most interest them,” Warrick said.
Undergraduate students have the opportunity to shadow graduates, schedule meetings with them to learn more about graduate programs and receive assistance with graduate applications and assistantships.
“I enjoy being able to push initiatives that benefit our [SALSA’s] professional growth, but also give the undergraduate students a meaningful experience that will benefit their personal and professional growth as a whole,” Warrick said. “The undergraduate population benefits immensely from the initiatives we push on campus.”
Any undergraduate student that is interested in higher education, student affairs or counseling can join by contacting Warrick.
Ashley Jones, vice president of SALSA, agreed that the mentorship program benefits each individual undergraduate of the organization.
“Each mentor/mentee relationship is based on the needs of the individual mentee,” Jones said.
Out of the 13-15 mentees active in the mentorship program, Jones meets with two students on a regular basis.
Max Gocala, a senior at YSU and one of Jones’ mentees, described his experience with SALSA.
“Ashley helps me to better prepare myself for grad school. She’s reviewed my resume, personal statement, given me tips on interview etiquette and much more,” he said. “Throughout it all I haven’t just gained valuable information, I’ve gained a fantastic friendship. That’s the true takeaway from this mentoring program: a lasting friendship and contact person who has been through it.”