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Posts Tagged ‘course selection’

I’m currently taking Legislative Process with Jeff Smith. I gotta say, I absolutely love this course. If you’re a political junkie, you’ll love this course too.

As the title suggests, we cover the legislative process process on the federal, state, and local levels.

Jeff is an engaging and dynamic professor. He’s a political scientist by training but a politico by profession, so he offers a great mix of theory and practice that you might not get with a standard political science course.

Along with that, we have a mix of dry academic political science readings along with current news articles and entertaining accounts of congressional battles.

Long story short – if you like to read Politico, watch C-SPAN, or talk about politics, this course is for you.

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Sooo…I decided to drop public finance and take it in the fall. I think that’s the best decision for me. The project I’m working at the Center for New York City Affairs is the creation of a community schools partnership laboratory course, based on the Community Development Finance Lab model. We’re trying to work with at least one or two schools in Harlem. I came back to grad school in New York specifically to get tools to help my community, so having the time to dedicate to this project is more important than meeting a traditional graduation time table.

I didn’t come to grad school just to increase my salary and get a traditional job in public administration. I came to grad school to make a difference in my community. That is what is important to me.

I think it’s very easy to get caught in the “get a job get a job get a job” state of mind. And the reality is that we all need to be looking for jobs, no doubt. But I already had a job. I came to school to make a difference, to pursue my dreams, to find a path to do what I find to be fulfilling and meaningful.

Thus I will not be graduating in May 2012. And that’s okay with me.

When you’re paying all of this money to get an education and accruing debt that you’ll probably be paying off for decades, it’s important to get the experience and the tools that YOU want, not what other people think you should have.

If you’re interested in the community schools partnership lab course, then stay tuned. We’re cooking it up for fall 2012.

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Flicker…flicker flicker. Blink.

That’s me. I don’t know if it’s a rough spot in the semester or what, but I feel like I’m burning out. This finance class (elements of finance) has really gotten to me and I want to just throw my hands up and say “I’m done.” Work is very interesting and part-time, but just because I’m not on the clock doesn’t mean there isn’ t stuff that needs to get done. Throw the TA gig on top of that, my other courses, Toastmasters, and oh yeah, my personal life. Let’s sprinkle in the search for a PDR client and the ever-encroaching employment search and we’ve got ourselves a full pot of stew!

Of course, this is the situation that I’ve chosen. I realize that. No one made me take a job, apply to be a TA, take the courses I’m taking, or go to grad school at all. Seems weird to vent/complain/stress about a situation of my own choosing. But then again most of our situations in life are of our own choosing. That’s a larger conversation so we’ll leave that point for another time. But back to grad school blues…

I think that being in the third semester of a four-semester (full-time) program probably brings a certain stress, and next semester I’m sure will bring a whole other set of stress. I just registered for spring classes today so that probably adds to the mix. As I move through this semester I’ve begun to reflect on my academic experience. It’s probably somewhat premature to do a postmortem since I’m not even 75% through the program, but at this point my classes are decided for the most part. There’s no more “ooh maybe I’ll take that class.” And since my classes are pretty set at this point, it’s easy to begin thinking about what kind of skills I’m going to graduate with. Also, for the PDR, we’re supposed to use the skills we’ve gained at Milano to produce this professional report.

At this point I’m not sure I’ve taken the right courses. I mean I’ve taken the courses that meet graduation requirments, that’s not the issue. My question is whether my course work reflects my true desires of what I want to do with my life. The reality is that choosing classes to set up your career can be much more difficult than one might think. Everyone comes to grad school with certain dreams and desires. As you gain experience and skills your original dreams and desires might change, but you don’t get more electives to balance it out. Then you start thinking about classes that you took (or are taking currently) that maybe you weren’t/aren’t really into and you question it. Then the program might offer some brand new elective that wasn’t available when you came in, and you have to figure out if you can use your precious remaining credits on it – and if it meets your interests better than the course track you’ve already planned out during previous semesters. Just to spice it up, there may be a tension between getting tools (hard skills courses like finance) to courses that are just interesting but don’t necessarily provide you with a marketable skill (other than reading and writing). So in a way the academic experience is a negotiation between past, present, and future selves.

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The second year, third semester is under way. We’re in the third week, so why does it feel like the sixth? Summer was good and productive.  I interned in Newark, NJ working on public education. Very good and eye-opening experience. I didn’t plan to get an internship in education policy but it definitely broadened my policy scope. I went to a session Career Development on internships last semester in which one of the students recommend keeping your options open, and I agree with that 100%.

But enough about the summer, we’re back in school now.  I’m taking four classes. Two of them deal with finance. Did I mention I’m not quantitatively inclined? I’m taking these classes precisely because I’m not strong in this area. I figure it’s better to work on your weaknesses in grad school than to only focus on your areas of strength. There’s no point to spend all of this money on a degree just to augment what you do well and not learn any new skills. In fact, isn’t learning new skills the purpose of going to school? Yup. Exactly.

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