Posts Tagged ‘Milano’

It’s the summer time folks, at least for another few weeks. I hope all of you have been having a good summer. Some of you (heck, probably almost all of you) are trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bill for the fall semester. You are not alone! That’s both good and bad. It’s good because you know there are others you can commiserate with, but it’s bad because there are others you’re competing with for precious resources. Isn’t that how it goes though?

I’ve been spending my days at the Center for New York City Affairs. We have some really interesting events coming up this fall. Make sure you stayed tuned to your emails and the New School calendar. Also make sure you follow the Center on Twitter.

What have you been up to this summer? Exciting internships? Looking for jobs post-graduation? What’s the word hummingbird?

Oh, if you are looking for a job, don’t forget that the Milano Career Connections group meets every Wednesday from 4:30pm – 6:00pm at 72 Fifth Avenue, Room 528. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other Milano alumni who are also on the job hunt. Sometimes Milano alum actually drop in with job offers, so don’t sleep! Contact the Career Development and Placement office for more information.

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As I reflect on my time here at Milano, there are a few things that I think about. One is that I’m going to miss many of the people here after we go our different ways. I’ve met some brilliant, kind, passionate people here. Another thing is that the policy analysis framework is something that I anticipate will be useful far down the road.

But there’s another thought that I have, a thought that I didn’t expect to have when I came into the program. Certain policy issues and neighborhoods tend to be invisible at Milano. In other words, we just don’t see them.

I came to Milano because I have a burning desire to serve my community of Harlem in particular and urban black neighborhoods in general. I thought that at Milano, I would find a community of aspiring policy makers and scholars actively engaged in urban policy matters that directly impact urban communities of color. Sadly, this is not the case. This is not to say that Milano is completely devoid of any discussion of urban communities of color, but there is not the level of emphasis I would like to see in a program that is supposed to offer an alternative to Columbia’s SIPA and NYU’s Wagner. We only have a couple of courses that directly address issues of race, and both of them, to my knowledge, are taught by one professor – Darrick Hamilton. I think Leigh Graham’s classes may also address issues of race, but her Economic Development course wasn’t offered this semester and she’s off to another university next fall. Karen Merson has led the Making a Difference course, but my understanding is that the course is more of a general question-your-assumptions survey of oppression.

I think an urban policy program rooted in social justice should have greater emphasis on the plight and assets of urban communities of color and the potential policy options to improve the lives of people living in these communities.

Now, I should note that the Laboratory in Issue Analysis and Community Development Finance Lab has featured neighborhoods of color including Harlem, the South Bronx, and Brownsville. Political Economy of City definitely includes discussions of race and class but its only a piece. The course helps students understand how ghettoes came to be but doesn’t take the next step in examining possible policy solutions.

I think that a large reason why urban policy impacting communities of color is noticeably absent at Milano is because urban policy aimed at the improvement of communities of color is noticeably absent from government at all levels (notwithstanding Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative). Ironically, we learn about neoliberalism and the devolution of government over the past 30 – 40 years, but we do not examine potential policy alternatives to compensate. Just because the Federal Government isn’t funding community action programs and community development corporations like it was in the 1960’s doesn’t mean that problems that gave rise to such programs have been solved. It seems that once the Empowerment Zones money ran out, once Boyz N the Hood became cliché, and once hip-hop became the best-selling music genre, the problems facing urban communities of color weren’t “sexy” policy issues anymore. At best, we look at pieces – urban education (charter schools vs. district schools), affordable housing, and food deserts. But what about the whole picture?

How can we send policy makers out into the world without ensuring that they have a full understanding of how urban policy has impacted urban communities of color? How can we do this and claim to be a social justice institution?  The Obama Administration was supposed to shine a new light on urban policy in America, but the President’s urban policy efforts seem to be going nowhere fast. As a heterodox and social justice-oriented institution and program, we should not be constrained by what’s hot right now. Of course there is the reality of offering programs and courses based on demand. I’m not challenging that, but what I am saying is that Milano should not just be driven by consumer demand, it should encourage students to engage issues that are overlooked in the popular policy discourse. Milano needs to have a greater emphasis on race, class, and what’s going on in communities of color across the city.

EDITED TO ADD: I also have to give a shout out to Robert Zdenek’s Community Development course. Unfortunately it’s not being offered next year. Supply and demand.

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Last night I had a birthday party at Sylvia’s Also Lounge. It was great time! Lot of Milano folks came through. People had a blast. As a matter of fact most of the people there were from Milano. I thought to myself “if I’m from New York, how is it that most of my guests are people from school?” And then I realized that I’ve spent a better part of the past year and a half with Milano classmates. Most of my time is spent either at school or doing school work in some fashion. It naturally make sense that if I spend most of my time with Milano peeps, that most of my party would be Milano peeps.

Grad school is an intense period. You go hard for one, two, or three years (depending on your program and status) and then you shoot off into the job market (or go for another degree). The intensity is a form a pressure that creates bonds between you and people you might never have become friends with under different circumstances. The many hours spent doing group projects, the late night study sessions, the mutual griping over this class or that professor – these things build relationships. My Milano classmates are, in a real sense, my Milano family.

The inevitable sling shot into job market is only a few weeks away for my cohort. Some people will stay in New York (yay!), others will go off to other places (boo!). Never again will we find ourselves coalescing at the study center, or 72 Fifth Ave. (affectionately known as the Milano building). Sure there will be happy hours, unofficial reunions, random run-ins and Facebook, but the cap is about to be placed on the bottle that holds the lightning of our grad school experience.

For each of us there will be new memories, new experiences, new adventures ahead. New reasons to smile, new people to accept into each of our families, whether personal, professional, or academic.

But for now, the lightning still strikes, and I intend to enjoy its light.

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I’m sitting in the New School Study Center, which is currently occupied by the Occupy Wall Street movement. The building was taken last Thursday and has since become a home base for the All-City Student General Assembly.

It’s quite an interesting scene. I wonder how many people here are New School students vs. students from other universities vs. non-students. I’d love to give all of the details of what I see right now but I’m not sure if that would violate some some of social compact that is going on here. Journalists are not being allowed upstairs and I by no means am no journalist, but I’m sure there’s a reason for the limited info. No video or photo are allowed either. I’m sure someone else is blogging all the details, I haven’t been reading any blogs covering #ows. Really I’m just a grad student that wants to know what’s going on with my study space.

Thus, I have some mixed feelings about this whole situation. On the one hand, I wholeheartedly support the movement in its calling out of gross inequality and the unjust economic system that we have that values profits over people. The Occupy Wall Street movement has taken the national political debate from budget cuts to issues of inequality.

At the same time, the study center is relatively new, and I’m a paying student. I get upset when I see people leave crumbs on the tables in the study rooms, much less people turning this into a full-time base of operations. I must admit that it’s a lot cleaner up here than I expected to find it. That being said, the walls seem to be nothing more than a giant canvas. I’m not happy about that because that’s just disrespectful. Taping posters is one thing, painting is another, and just scrawling phrases is something else entirely. I wonder who will have to clean up when this is all done.

Part of me thinks some of the wall writing should be left for posterity. After all, this is the New School, isn’t it?

There is something that I don’t get about this current occupation: the point. It seems that there are different people with different agendas united by a general dissatisfaction with the way things are. Some of the arguments seem a bit misguided. I would love lower tuition (one of the calls here), but there the economics of running an institution. I suspect there is an alternative plan for funding universities, but saying “don’t pay tuition” is not a solid plan in my view.

I recognize that some of my thoughts are not in line with some of my fellow class mates, and that’s okay. We’re all better off with a diversity of view points.

As for me, I need to go #occupy this case study for elements of finance.

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The new school year is a upon us. The orientation manuals have been dusted off, financial aid has allowed our OCD to show through, rosters have been adjusted with additions and deletions, and we are ready to…just do it. This semester I’m taking my first official policy class (policy analysis) and OCM class (foundations of organizational change), both classes are stretching me both organizationally and intellectually.

I think my policy analysis course will challenge me to think more mainstream. As it stands I often find myself looking at issues from the non-dominate position. If  the majority is arguing for stronger public education choices then I feel compelled to argue for decentralized choices such as charter schools. However, if I am with those who are keen on charter school options, then I oscillate to the need for a strong centralized public school system. It’s not that I’m unsure of my position on the issue, but rather that I believe by taking the contrarian position it will allow the conversation to move closer to a policy prescriptive. The problem with this approach is that I have become jaded and there is less policy in the discussions. Hopefully, by the end of the class I will be able to regain a sense of appreciation for the ‘popular’ policy choices and will be able to add some semblance of balance to my policy diet.

One week down and we’ll see how it goes…..

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Growing up there were always those kids who relished the last day of school. They counted every day, hour, second until the final ringing of the bell and the opportunity to loosen the tie and to get out the ‘monkey suit’ commonly known as our school uniform.  For me I knew that summer just meant a different schedule, but structure none the less. By college I regarded summer break as the opportunity to process and store away the previous semester before returning to the trough in the Fall. Part of the beauty of having 4 years to complete undergrad is if you fall of track you have time to get back on track … or at least a summer or two to find your way back.

This June as I finished up my first semester I found myself exhausted. Mostly mentally exhausted but by proxy a little bit physically exhausted.  For my first semester I expected more reading. I expected a scheduling that would be a challenge having hoofed it from 9 to 5 for the last few years.  I expected a learning curve for writing, and most of all I expected to be physically exhausted by the end of the semester.  What I definitely didn’t expect was the group process to kick my tail. It challenged me at times, it begged me to catch up at other times and most of all by the end of the semester I realized it had enriched what I learned through the course readings.  By June I had transformed into one of those kids counting off the days to the ‘official’ start of summer.  I spent a few weeks trying to get back some semblance of my pre-grad school schedule. I spent another few weeks decompressing….and boy was that fun.  But before I knew it I was hit with the panic.

For the full time (2 year program) student you have one summer to make sure you haven’t fallen off track, aren’t about to fall off track or to figure out what your track should be. Many, arguably most paid internships take place during the summer (corporations/organizations use paid internships geared towards grad students as a stop gap on projects during the summer months when salaried employees are often using vacation time). Besides the internship route summer makes an excellent time for figuring out post program fellowships.  By the time I decompressed and before I knew it…it was July and I had 35 days  left  to summer.

Of course by July most paid internships are gone. While I’ve squandered part of my summer and have lost some internship opportunities I’ve been plugging away with figuring out the post-school-fellowship-thing. Also to make sure I am on track to finish up strong in my program I have been reworking my resume, updating my interview skills, working references, looking for spring or (next) summer internship opportunities that I will be able to parlay into employment opportunities …. cause the job market is no joke.  While summer is about decompressing it is more about keeping focus for year 2 and staying on track to capitalize on the grad school experience.

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