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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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I’m surprised at my experience with Quantitative Methods (statistics) so far.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I haven’t taken any math-based courses in a long time.  I remember being good at math, but not terribly interested, particularly once I honed in on a passion for theoretical reading and studying literature and history.   So while I didn’t feel a lot of anticipatory anxiety, I was curious to see how I would react to this kind of work after such a “break”.  Thusfar, it is going well, and I feel like I am mastering the necessary concepts.  I would still rather be doing other kinds of work–I didn’t honestly expect that to change–but I do not dread tackling my homework.  I also appreciate that my instructor decided, based on his past teaching experience, to spend time making sure that we are individually working problems rather than counting on someone else in a group to figure things out.  For me, group work is not a helpful way to really learn some types of material, and this is certainly one.

Meanwhile, in my other course I was thrilled to begin class reading and encounter some of my old theoretical favorites waiting (hence this post’s title, a geeky Foucauldian joke).  I know that reading theory about media, activism, or policy are often not the most popular of assignments at Milano (that could be a broadly incorrect generalization, so forgive me if I’m wrong) but for me it is always fascinating and a pleasure to delve into.  I also enjoy doing hands-on work, and I don’t see a dichotomy between theory/practice as irrevocable, but that’s also many years in Women’s Studies speaking, where “theory/praxis” considerations were embedded in nearly everything we were learning.   So my classwork is operating as I had hoped, with the media advocacy work a reward for completing Quant graphs.

And what of blogging?  Well, creative work is the reward for all of it!

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a math whiz. In fact, when another woman in my Quantitative Methods class characterized her feelings about math and numbers as “terror,” I knew I could relate. I was bewildered by algebra and bored by my stat class in college. However three weeks into Quantitative Methods and I don’t hate it. This is a BIG step in the right direction for me. What I fnd most helpful is how my professor and the class  attempts to present statistical concepts in a framework that fits with the public service slant of my education. This ultimately answers the never-ending questions of, “When will I ever use this???” I’ve been able to incorporate some of what I’ve learned so far in my readings for other classes (mostly Education and International Development). I won’t say that I have been fully pulled to the math dark side, but I have overcome my “math terror.” (At least for now…) Phew!

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