My first week this Spring semester was notable only insofar as I noticed, by Wednesday, that I had only seen or run into one other student I knew. Where have all the policy students gone, I wondered? Graduated, further along in their programs and PDR’ing (that’s Professional Decision Report, our final project here), or who knows where. Sitting outside waiting for class there are not too many familiar faces, reinforcing the reality I have known all along, that many other colleagues and friends will have graduated before I do.
I had a happy surprise when I arrived at my Social Marketing and Media Advocacy class to look over and see Laura! It wasn’t a given that as Nonprofit Management and Urban Policy students, respectively, this would ever happen. That class will include a project for a client, and on hearing that formulation, I became a little nauseated, recalling the insanity of our Policy Lab a year ago (was it only 1 year? it feels much longer!) and its grueling schedule. (I remember one day I forgot where I put my lunch, which was sitting, reheated, in the microwave waiting for me. Good times.) Rest assured to you folks just embarking on this odyssey, it will be taxing, hopefully not too frustrating, and you will feel very accomplished at its end. Then you’ll have to talk to yourself in a soothing voice henceforth when “group work” is mentioned, reminding yourself that Lab’s pace is not the same as in other courses. You’ll be fine. This was my psychological task this week.
There are other, more systemic changes, underway at the New School right now too. Ironically, I could not attend a meeting which might have helped clarify some of these since I was in class, but there will be some sort of reorganization of Milano and the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA). Details are forthcoming, including those relating to any changes that will kick in next year as I complete my program. So far, there are some immediately noticeable cultural evolutions: more students from GPIA in my classes this term (several are in my Quantitative Methods course), and schoolwide emails addressed, on occasion, to “the Milano/GPIA community”. It’s hard to frame an appropriate reaction when little information is at hand, but I’m human, so I have some concerns, certainly. Upon more reflection, (this part is personal, so please do not hold this against Laura, Tushar, or Eulalia, dear readers) they center on the possibility of not claiming a space/division/location whose primary purpose and function is the creative, principled pursuit of progressive social change. There are so many values both stated and implied at Milano, largely responsible for my decision to come here as opposed to pursue policy studies at any number of other graduate programs lacking such a philosophical commitment.
I’m not clear as to how dramatic or structural any reorganization of Milano/GPIA is to be, but I hope whatever we become remains committed to the progressive pursuit of social justice. While these can be values individually held by students elsewhere at the New School, there truly is something important in having an academic division whose structure and population share such goals-as does Milano. I know my friends in GPIA are also concerned with making the world a better place, and have these values in mind, so my concerns are more structural than personal. (You can take the theorist to policy school, but you can’t….well, you get the idea by now I hope.)
In any case, I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more about this as the term progresses, and I am curious to see what happens.