Archive for February, 2011

We’ve just closed out the first full month of the semester, yet it already feels like we’re two months in. Exams and briefings are coming up, and the last vestiges of rust from the long winter break should be shaken off by now.  Today is a holiday, but that’s only in the technical sense. Holidays are like weekends in grad school: you don’t have any classes, but that’s just an opportunity for your study group to meet.

My  lab group spent several hours discussing our policy issue on Sunday, drawing a complicated flowchart all over the blackboard in a classroom we commandeered.  We even had colored chalk, which was quite exciting (yes, colored chalk will excite you in grad school).  Today and tomorrow we’ll be at it again, and I anticipate another  set of marathon meetings.

When you’re in the thick of things, sometimes it’s good to take a moment to relax or do something enjoyable.  On Saturday evening I was convinced to procrastinate my quantitative methods studies and instead hang out and watch the NBA All-Start activities.  Although procrastination is not a good thing generally, I think it was a good decision to chill.  I had a great time with a good group of guys, talking laughing, eating pizza, and watching basketball.  Saturday evening reminded me that it’s important to maintain human contact that doesn’t involvement policy analysis.

With the aforementioned briefings and exams coming up, I don’t expect to have many more opportunities to hang out.  I do expect, however, to spend a lot of “quality time” with my lab group. Between the policy lab and quantitative methods (and the demands of grad school in general) I expected to be extremely busy this semester. I also hope to find some quality time to relax and keep perspective.


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The Whole Picture

I had the privilege of participating in a speech evaluation contest last tonight, hosted by The New Voice, the New School’s chapter of Toastmasters International. It was a great experience, and I plan to continue my involvement with the New Voice. Yes I have plenty of work to do as a full-time student – especially with the policy lab – but attending Toastmasters is important too.  See, to me graduate school is about than just getting a piece of paper to bolster one’s credentials.  It’s about more than taking certain classes to broaden your skills, or networking to boost your career potential.  Graduate school is about the whole picture.  With a wealth of extracurricular activities available, graduate school has so much more to offer than just school.

Now I know this isn’t undergrad.  A person doesn’t come to grad school to join a bunch of clubs and go on field trips – you come to get a professional degree.  But the opportunities here can really aid one’s growth both professionally and personally. Almost every week there is an exciting panel discussion or lecture or some other event going on that I’d love to attend.  And one of my goals as a graduate student is to get to as many of them as I can.  That’s why I chose to back go to school full-time, because I want to get the full experience.  I want to debate and discuss with classmates.  I want to hear from noted experts and come away with a new point of view or insight.  I want to grow and challenge myself in ways that I might not be able to if I was working full-time.

As any part-time or otherwise working student can tell you, what I desire is somewhat of a luxury.  Not everyone has the liberty to be a full-time student.  Even as a full-time student, I’m not able to get to as many events as I’d like due to all of the schoolwork on my plate.  Academic success is certainly the first priority of my grad school endeavors, but what a shame it would be if I didn’t take advantage of everything being a student has to offer (such as writing on this blog!).  After all, you never know when the next lecture, activity, or event you attend will provide you with your next professional contact.  Like anything in life, grad school can be what you make it.  I definitely recommend getting the whole picture.

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I’ve just started my second semester here at Milano.  As an urban policy student, I’ve been thrust into the intensive experience know as the laboratory in issue analysis.  It’s technically a course but it’s more like being a consultant with training wheels.  My only other class is statistics (we’re advised to take only one course in addition to the lab).  The change from first semester to second semester is quite dramatic.  Last fall I was taking four classes and auditing a language course.  With a total of five classes my schedule was packed.  This semester I have a lot more leeway as to how to spend my time, which is a double-edged sword.  Structure can help one focus.  At least, it helps me focus.  With the lab, my schedule is much more fluid.  I may have different commitments from week to week, so time management is essential.

On top of navigating the lab, being a second semester student brings its own challenges.  In one sense I’m veteran, having completed a quarter of the program.  In another sense I still feel like a new student since I’ve been in class for less than six months.  After coming back from a long winter break, there’s a bit of disorientation.  Some of my classmates from the fall have switched to other programs within the school and so I hardly see them anymore.

On the flip side, I haven’t really spent time with most of the people in the urban policy program yet, much less the entire school.  The policy lab will definitely give me an opportunity to do that.  So plenty of opportunities lie ahead.  First semester was great (and tough), but now we move onward to meet new people, make new friends, and tackle to social issues of the day.

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