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Posts Tagged ‘time management’

Sooo…I decided to drop public finance and take it in the fall. I think that’s the best decision for me. The project I’m working at the Center for New York City Affairs is the creation of a community schools partnership laboratory course, based on the Community Development Finance Lab model. We’re trying to work with at least one or two schools in Harlem. I came back to grad school in New York specifically to get tools to help my community, so having the time to dedicate to this project is more important than meeting a traditional graduation time table.

I didn’t come to grad school just to increase my salary and get a traditional job in public administration. I came to grad school to make a difference in my community. That is what is important to me.

I think it’s very easy to get caught in the “get a job get a job get a job” state of mind. And the reality is that we all need to be looking for jobs, no doubt. But I already had a job. I came to school to make a difference, to pursue my dreams, to find a path to do what I find to be fulfilling and meaningful.

Thus I will not be graduating in May 2012. And that’s okay with me.

When you’re paying all of this money to get an education and accruing debt that you’ll probably be paying off for decades, it’s important to get the experience and the tools that YOU want, not what other people think you should have.

If you’re interested in the community schools partnership lab course, then stay tuned. We’re cooking it up for fall 2012.

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When I came to Milano in the fall of 2010, I was 100% set on graduating in two years. Get in, get out, get on with serving urban black communities. I was also 100% set on getting the most out of my graduate experience – taking advantage of opportunities for personal and professional growth and enrichment. At the beginning of this semester though I found myself in a quandary – in my desire to graduate in two years and take full advantage of the graduate school experience I put more on my plate than is wise. I’m a TA for policy lab, I’m taking the second  half of Community Development Finance Lab, I’m taking Public Fiance and doing my PDR. And I’m taking Legislative Process for my last elective (good class). And I’m working.

Um…yeah.

That all seems very daunting, so I seriously considered pushing one or two classes to the fall. Of course, that would mean that I would graduate in January 2013 (degrees are conferred twice a year and there is only one graduation ceremony which is in May). I talked to several professors about trying to power through and graduate in the spring with my full load and I’ve been told that A) it’s not a great idea, but B) it’s doable.

“Doable” in the sense that there are students who work full-time and go to school full-time and seemingly have a high tolerance for stress. That’s 100% NOT the experience I wanted coming into grad school. In fact, I purposefully decided to go to school full-time (and took out required loan$) just so that I could really dive deep into my studies without being unnecessarily stressed.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.

But what would I drop? Everything I’m doing has value academically, personally, and professionally.

After much thought and prayer (and a dose of you-need-to-graduate-and-get-a-job reality from my father), I decided to power through.

Is it the best decision? We’ll see. Although I love all the things I’m doing, I fear that I won’t be able to dedicate the necessary time and care that each item deserves.

But I have decided. I am moving forward. I can definitely use your prayers and support.

Onward to May!!

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I’ve been meaning to pen a post about how real in the field it is right now but…well…it’s real in the field! (For those who don’t get the hip-hop lexicon, I’m saying that things are very hectic right now)

I’m a TA for Trial Round of Policy Analysis and the groups presented this week. I’m so proud of both of my groups. They worked very hard and really dug into their issues. I’m blessed to be a TA and I’m grateful for this experience.

That being said, I have my own presentations and papers to get done. The clock is ticking on the final days of the semester and I’m not trying to take a knee or punt.

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Pulling Words

I like to write. I do. I really do. But for some reason it’s hard to write. It is. It really is.

Well, sometimes.

I’ve had several short writing assignments this semester. For some of them I’ve been able to knock out the writing within 2 hours or less. For others, it’s like I’m pulling words out of the paper. I’m working on a short writing assignment now, and I can’t seem to get the words on the page quickly. How long should it take to write 3 – 5 pages? In theory, that’s nothing. An afternoon jaunt. A mere postscript to the papers that extend into the double-digits. This is graduate school after all. A couple of pages should be as easy as walking into a parked car, right? Right?

Wrong.

At least wrong for me. Right now. What’s doubly frustrating is that I pretty much know what I want to say. I’ve done the reading, pulled out the quotes, done some critical thinking about it all. The only thing left to do is put it on the page. Yet I feel like I’m pulling words out of the page, tugging them onto screen.

Perhaps it’s the old stumbling block of wanting every word to be perfect, every letter a delectable morsel of prose that causes the reader to salivate from the first sentence. Yes, I want my writing to be good. I want the reader to enjoy the experience, not just see words on the page. I want my sentences to connect and flow and take the reader on the journey from beginning to end, leaving them with a desire for more.

Is that too much to ask for an academic paper? I don’t know any other way. I don’t want to know any other way.

I have found that sometimes just writing helps. By that I mean just typing out words even if it sounds like garbage. It helps get the juices flowing, and you can always go back and edit.

Ah, but the necessity of editing is evidence of imperfection. Of course there will always be typos, and maybe some light copy editing. But it can be painful to write a bunch of words for the sake of forward momentum, and then read them and recognize them for the artless blob that they are.

Thus, I find myself taking days to write just a few pages.

Since I do have those double-digit papers looming, I need to get these short ones out of the way. I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey.

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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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