Archive for October, 2008

Greetings, Idealist readers!

I refer to my new program at Milano as Grad School: Part Deux, partly to catch some of that “great sequel” luck.  When I finished my first MA in Women’s Studies in 2002, I did not think that I would return for more grad school unless absolutely necessary–it is expensive, it is time-consuming, it is intense, it requires a real commitment, and I needed a good break.  After graduating, I intended on entering the workforce as some sort of policy wonk, at the time wondrously naive about how despite my years of nonprofit and community organizing experience, not having the proper training to conduct professional policy analysis was a serious liability.  (Sadly, no one was looking for a scholar focusing on the development and use of personal narratives in social movements).  I had a lifelong interest in politics and social change, but not a lot of practical skills to offer to serve that passion.

Time and I moved on; I moved from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C. and then to New York where I joined the Teaching Fellows program.  I’ve written elsewhere about that (speaking of intense experiences) and after a frustrating and short stint teaching 7th grade in the South Bronx, I settled into a job as a legal assistant, determined to 1) figure out what kind of training could refocus and really launch a more satisfying career–after all, social change is and has been important to me throughout my life–and 2) go about actually doing it.

The first step, of investigation, brought me through law school admissions offices, creative writing courses, lots of reading, and a sober realization that nothing I had seen felt “right” to pursue.  In the meantime, I had begun attending events at Milano (their Urban Conversations programs in 2005-06), and after a year or so of that, a friend stated the obvious: if I was spending my free time there in the evening, maybe I should look into their programs!  (No one can accuse me of underthinking). 

I participated in a Career Changing workshop, attended more formal admissions events, and realized over time that the gut feeling I had the first time I met people from Milano was true–this was a special place, with people devoted to pursuing change, and learning about the world in new and complex ways.  Bonus, as a former Midwesterner: everyone I spoke with was so nice.  After years of dealing with New York attorneys the culture shock was palpable.

I did the obligatory check of other programs in the area/region who have similar policy programs, but the fit of my interests in urban life, education, and diverse life experiences was not as strong.  I decided that I would apply to Milano, and if I was not accepted, to broaden my search and consider moving again to enroll at another program.  Fortunately, it never came to that. 

I began attending this fall, as a part-time student, and while I am incredibly stressed out about finding a day job (chiropractors and martini-bearing bartenders are welcome guests) and settling in after a quick move of apartments, I am only beginning to discover the opportunities and challenges that this program will bring.

For me, writing is how I come to understand things, whether it is my own experience or what is happening in the world, so blogging is a fun project.  While I’m keeping up at my own site, it is special to have the chance to share the journey of this year with all of you (not to mention the fact that this enables my procrastination).

On that front, it is back to work for me.  As a former women’s studies and literature student, I am mightily stymied by the so-called “simple” Excel spreadsheet homework du jour.  We didn’t do formulas in lit crit!  (See: Dead Poets Society, J. Evans Pritchard).

I love venting about pop culture, politics, cooking, yoga, New York City, and escaping it at the beach.  I look forward to hearing from you with any questions or comments, and thanks for reading!


Read Full Post »

Its official: The blogging has begun! As part of our Milano Blog, we’ve each decided to share a bit of our backgrounds to help explain why and how we’ve started the grad school journey.

I suppose I subconsciously began to think about grad school and my educational future before I was even finished with my undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa. I was completing a degree in International Studies and working on my Senior Project focusing on the role of women in the Rwandan genocides. The women I was reading and writing about had incredibly stirring and unforgettable experiences, and after having their entire lives uprooted and shattered by violence and hatred, the women of the villages began to rebuild. Murderers and victims, strangers and friends, criminals and those innocent, all worked together to create a new government, structure and vision for their country. These women were inspirational and innovative in their approach and I was moved by their commitment to their communities, even after those same communities failed many of them. This really led me to think about my own community and the ways in which I wanted to contribute.

Throughout college, while working part-time for local political campaigns as well as national and local nonprofit organizations, I felt the pull of the nonprofit world. Upon graduation, and after a short stint as a full-time campaign worker, I decided to forge head in that direction instead of following my political heart. I took in everything around me while working at political advocacy nonprofits and at an environmental nonprofit, and I finally decided that I wanted to learn again in a structured, educational setting.

My first step was to research what kinds of programs were out there. I have always been interested in more issues than I can keep straight, but I knew that a few things remained certain. 1) I knew that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector (but not at what capacity) and that I thoroughly enjoyed learning the process of how nonprofits thrived (or failed!) and that 2) I wanted to experience a completely different educational setting than I had gone through at Iowa. I looked at many programs and weighed the differences between a traditional MPA (Masters in Public Administration), a more policy focused program like a MPP (Masters in Public Policy) or Public Affairs, and a narrower Nonprofit Management program.

I also looked at school settings that were similar to what I was looking for. Criteria that was important to me included 1) that the school had an international focus, 2) an urban setting, 3) smaller university 4) unique perspective, 5) ability for cross-study and 6) the availability of local nonprofits at  which to work/intern/volunteer. Four schools fit these criteria (some more than others…) and I applied to all four.

After weighing my offers of admission, I made the decision to enroll at the Milano Nonprofit Management program at The New School. I chose this school because of its renowned reputation for having independent thinkers, for its successful Nonprofit Management program and for the opportunity to live, work and study in New York City. I felt that being a student in NYC was an opportunity I could not pass up!

The actual process of applying for graduate school was more difficult than I was prepared for, especially since I had only applied to (and only even considered) one undergraduate school.

For me the most difficult step (besides studying for the GRE’s) was securing the recommendation letters that I needed. It was not that I was lacking substantial relationships and connections with my professors from college, but I was unsure what to do about a professional reference. Since I had been out of school for a few years and wanted to showcase my professional experience, I felt it would be beneficial for me to have a recommendation that demonstrated that. The challenge was that I had not yet spoken with my employers about the fact that I was considering a switch to full-time schooling and to leave the organization. The last thing anyone wants to do is to stir up these kinds of issues while at a job you enjoy and would be saddened to leave. Eventually I was able to share my intentions with a trusted colleague who wrote a wonderful recommendation. This is a step in the process that no one should let hold them back!

After I worked my way through the rest of the applications, the essays, the fees, the waiting (Oh, that waiting!) and the decision process, I knew that I was ready. Ready for whatever I would encounter at The New School and ready to take on the challenge of moving to The Big Apple! I was ready to continue on the path of my original goal to find the best ways to contribute to my community.

Read Full Post »

The Milano Grad Blog is an initiative to provide a multi-perspective view to the experience of attending a professional graduate school in New York City. Created and run by individuals who share a passion for social change, we hope to share not only our G-School experiences but also how they impact our personal, academic &  professional lives.

Read Full Post »