That’s right. I want to go to post graduate life with weekends. Real ones, where the most pressing matter is whether to read a novel before or after my long run. Or should I go take care of those annoying errands first? These quandaries sound like PERFECTION.
Last week my Advanced Seminar (the “PDR class”) reconvened a month wiser and nearer to completion. During the course of our conversation, we were invited not only to reflect upon our own experiences with these projects (of which more in a bit here) but also how this capstone experience functioned within Milano’s Urban Policy program.
The reliable, endearing thing about graduate students is that our programs do such a good job training us to think critically that some of us cannot help but turn that cultivated talent upon our own departments. Every grad student I’ve ever known or heard of has had at some time or other a vague sense that there is Something Missing, or bears a vaguely disgruntled air. For some people, that time may be minimal; for others it is a constant companion throughout their program. Once a faculty member (not from Milano/The New School) told me that there was an excellent reason for this: “If you were all perfectly happy, you’d never leave. Also, knowing what you would have wanted at the end of your program means you’ve changed direction since the beginning. Another sign of progress.”
Yes. That. I’ve been saving my reflections on this program for another post, but in very specific terms, here are some of the highlights of my class conversation on Advanced Seminar and our program:
a) We wish for more communication with other students about how this process functions and what it is like ahead of time. (Which fits this blog’s mandate, but it was hard/impossible to forecast what this would be like, let alone write along in real time.)
b) More consistent academic advising might help shore up our preparation a bit. For me, advanced quant was not necessary for my project and career goals, but for others it might be. This is where the limitations of any program serving many students with a few faculty emerge.
c) Push those skills courses: for most policy students, taking advanced quant, finance, community development, or nonprofit finance coursework can only be helpful down the line. I will share here that I’ve heard-and hold–mixed views on doing a GIS course. My colleagues in community planning do extensive work with the tool, which we’ll not accrue over one semester. If you have a job requiring its use, chances are you’ll be learning on it anyway. On the other hand, I’ve heard good things about the actual class.
d) Students: claim your own education, ask questions, knock on doors, and don’t wait to have your hands held. That is definitely one approach to this process (grad school, your PDR or your career). Up to a point, developing assertiveness is necessary, and overcoming challenges along the way contributes to a great learning experience. But there is definitely more than one way to think about these matters and how much (or little) advisement or direction from faculty should be expected. In my section, we had to turn in a deliverable every couple to few weeks, meaning steady progress was made all term. From what I understand, other sections of the course work a bit differently. I end up feeling like since we’re still in school, having a place to crash-land or try out approaches with active guidance will serve us well since this sort of “safe failure” isn’t necessarily possible after May without far worse consequences.
e) PDR was a great capstone experience allowing us to sum up all of the skills and interests we have developed at Milano, and a satisfying end to a program full of hands-on client based work. Thanks to the PDR, you will know how to plan and execute a solo project and gain experience as a consultant with a professional client. It is a terrific transition to our soon-to-be professional identities.
So yes, there was some variation of opinion. Which is fair, accurate, and all good. We’re all not going to have the same experiences.
(I’m asking my classmates if they’re so inclined to contribute via the comments section. But forgive us if we’re not a font of info just now, since drafts are due this week!)
As to What Our PDR Did For Us, some of my colleagues’ work is to be published, some have job offers owing to the experience, and others discovered a field or type of work that they will be pursuing after graduation. Of course, for others it was a bit anticlimactic and not all sorts of amazing–but that is alright!
With that, I’m off to continue work on mine. Remember, with time here waning, if there are any issues you’d like me to write about before I leave you in Talib, Eulaila, and others’ capable hands, let us know!