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Posts Tagged ‘policy’

Earlier this week my policy group and I officially completed the first round of lab.  It was definitely a tough haul but everything worked out in the end.  The process itself is very interesting: we spent several weeks going in one direction on the project, but then had to shift and go in another direction – two weeks before we had to present to the client.  With the deadline looming, we re-worked our entire analysis, even to the last minute.  After our briefing, we went to work on the analytic brief, adding information that didn’t make it to the briefing, filling in spots that the client requested, and clarifying key points.  Five people working on one document – not a party.  The whole thing was stressful, time consuming, and very irritating.  The result?  The client is very pleased.

Lab really is one of those experiences that helps you grow as a student, as a professional, and as a person.  Yes it’s stressful.  Yes it’s time consuming.  Yes it’s irritating.  But it’s good for the soul.  And I really do mean that.  Depending on the group you have, you can build very strong bonds with your group mates.  That 12-hour analysis session of yesterday will be the nostalgic joke of tomorrow that you all laugh about.  You learn to work with people.  You learn to compromise.  You learn when to lead and when to follow, when to speak up and when to shut up.  It’s tough, rough, and not fun by any recreation standards.  And it’s all worth it.

On Monday I’ll get a new group and a new policy issue.  And it will all begin again.

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Well, internet, you may have heard there was some ruckus going on at the New School lately, and I can report this: most of us were honestly so crazed about Lab that after our question “OK, but CAN WE USE THE MEETING SPACE?” was answered, my compadres and I really didn’t have time to raise our heads from computers long enough to get a read on that situation.  I will just say that I am an advocate of nonviolent protest and am likewise concerned whenever I see what appears to be a very aggressive physical law enforcement response.   It is really not affect to say that the Lab people have been too busy to notice much else.

So I’ve been mighty quiet lately but that is owing to a few things.  First off, um, LAB.  Secondly, I’m really trying to take better care of myself during this round, so doing things like going to yoga, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, watching movies, reading poetry, and meditating amidst the sorry scene of my living room have somewhat taken precedence over writing.  Not to mention the fact that this time I’m in a new place which is this: I just don’t know what to say.  There.

Saturday, as on most days this term, I schlepped Bagzilla, my beloved (est.) 47-pound bag bearing my laptop, chargers, water bottle (which is always empty by the time I get to Milano after a day at the office), Advil, some notes, a deteriorating calendar, and assorted daily effluvia to campus and our group met.  Yadda yadda yadda, I realized I had to grapple with Excel to come up with some numbers for this project.

Now here is the thing.  I have NEVER claimed to be any sort of economist.  This isn’t owing so much to math anxiety as much as, well, more of an interest in and natural affinity for WORDS.  (Please, economists, don’t hate, congratulate, and we’ll all be just fine.)

So I spent Sunday trying to figure out how to generate numbers that were actually meaningful to our project, and then realized I was doing it wrong, and then saw my colleagues’ work, and sort of tweaked some things, but frankly?  I’m still not sure on this math. 

So what has been lovingly christened The Excel Spreadsheet of Doom is out there in google group land, and better numeric minds than mine shall hopefully make more sense of it.  In the meantime, I am trying to muster the strength physically, emotionally, and mentally to push through to the end of the term.  I’ve had some rather sad moments over all of this lately, even wondering what I could have to look forward to other than lab, and then someone reminded me, this ends SOON.

It is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend, so after a Friday of work and lab, spending a spectacular Saturday enjoying, somehow, some part of this weather is really eagerly anticipated.  Another?  I realized I should start trolling for a really amazing, cheap summer vacation destination so I have some great incentive.  So far, hanging out with the sea turtles and monkeys in the Costa Rica rainforest is sounding fabulous.  We’ll see.  Also?  FROGS!!!  (I love frogs.)

-Kristen

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Wow, I really haven’t  updated in far too long, but if you had followed me around in real time with a camera, internets….well, frankly it would have been a mix of sadness, giggles, exhaustion, medication, occasionally irrational outbursts, and usually ending up at laughing again.  That’s something at least.

To use a great line from “The Princess Bride”: “Let me explain…no, there is too much.  Let me sum up!” here is where we are at, the royal “we” being the lab students, my team, or even me since I’ve started thinking royally.  This is a long one, but it’s been a long time!

We were supposed to give our powerpoint presentation early in the week; we had an unexpected delay; we ended up having an extra full week to tweak, fiddle with, receive comments about, and generally drive ourselves insane over the powerpoint presentation; we went last (LAST!); we turned right around and are now preparing the written report that gets handed in on the first day back from spring break.

In case I haven’t mentioned this part yet?  Right now?  Is Spring Break.

Never has maintaining a sense of humor been more important.  I’ve not always been successful.  At some point of trying to edit slides and consolidate, and get a rhythm going in my part of of the presentation, I pretty much melted down about the entire situation, and had to excuse myself to the ladies room for a good cry.  (Funny, I excused myself from the room but now I’m just announcing it to the internet.  Ah, egos are charming, right?)

Some random thoughts, moments, and notions as we FINALLY approach the conclusion of this round:

1)  Every graduate program has one of these required elements, held up as an Amazing Experience Which Makes Us Different.  They do have some distinctions, but at the end of the day simply put, what you’ll be doing is a big project, which will exhaust you, test your patience, and trigger enormous stresses.  That is why regardless of where you enroll for your graduate degree, I seriously advise you to come up with something to help calm yourself when you need it, and to think about ways to take care of yourself.  When you’re too busy to use those healthy tactics, at least you can daydream about doing them.

2) Never underestimate the healing powers of rice pudding.

3) In terms of #1, knowing that no matter where you are, you’d have some version of this to get through, you’ll come up with, or your teammates will come up with, at least 5 reasons why the way that these projects are structured is inherently wrong, bad, and a completely awful way to spend your time.  I’d only share this: during my first MA I was one of those people, about master’s projects and orals, and who remembers what else, but I was definitely not shy about airing my opinion.  This time I find I’m much more selfishly interested in when I might sleep again.  Both are valid ways to be graduate students, but one of them has me less upset.  Experience is AWESOME.  My former grad school profs would be doing spittakes if they saw me these days, all “AHH, ok, let’s get through this” rather than suggesting a restructuring of–well, EVERYTHING.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, comments, or things I’d suggest about how to refine this process–I think I’m just a little jaded about How Grad School Works.  Part of that is that grad students and professors become pains to each other.   In the words of Sean Penn, “I am well aware of how difficult I make it for people to appreciate me.”

4) Whole Foods has a really tasty hot food bar and I became really fond of the tofu mixed with quinoa salad.  At some point towards the end of this half I became too busy to actually grocery shop, cook, or clean up.  So finding any kind of sort of healthy food during the day was really critical.  Other days, :), Chipotle’s bean burrito bowl did the trick. 

5) If you’re working full time during lab, there may be some awkwardness on all fronts–your employer will surely notice your fatigued and preoccupied state, your teammates will worry that you will become a shameless freeloading slacker, and you will vacillate between pride at not collapsing and fear that you are not doing anyone any good anywhere.  I still haven’t figured out how to sit with this, so instead have volunteered to do as much in both places as I could, and try not to feel too guilty.  (My friends who are working moms have inspired me a GREAT deal on this front.)  You are not Gumby.

6) I really want to finish this round up, but I’m really going to miss my team.  If you’re going to spend so many hours together, being around people who can work together and even laugh a little is so preferable, and I feel lucky that way.

I’m off to meet with my team again (aka my second family) and get this report into better shape.  Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be finished and free this Friday.  I am getting a massage, and having a really tasty cocktail somewhere or other.  It is going to rock.

-KD

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