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Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

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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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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