Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love. ~Author Unknown

Friday, May 13, 2011

First year of grad school? Check.

I remember my mom telling me once I started undergrad at TWU that no matter what happened from that point on, I could always say, "I have completed (insert number) hours of college work." I don't know what the context of that remark was; maybe we were talking about emergencies or life situations that come up in the middle of college that stop you from finishing. Whatever the conversation was, it comes to mind now as I say that as of yesterday, I have completed 18 hours of graduate work(and I still have a 4.0, yay!). That's right, first year of graduate school is officially dunzo. So, as I often like to do, I've compiled a list of my top five favorite things about grad school. In no particular order...

1. My classmates
At first when thinking about grad school, I'd looked for an online program, but there weren't many to choose from, at least not from institutions that I was familiar with. I did find a couple of hybrid programs that mixed face to face instruction with online courses, but when I found the UNT program, I was really drawn to the curriculum and the format of their MPA. Looking back from where I am now, I am so glad that I didn't go with a hybrid, because I love the people in my program! The program has done a great job of selecting a diverse group of students, and as a small class, we have a lot of opportunity to get to know each other both in and out of school... for instance, at Jupiter House and Love Shack. Yesss.

2. The higher level of commitment
Graduate school is different from undergraduate because people actually want to be there. Now, I had a lot of talented classmates in the honors program and in my upper level courses at TWU. But in graduate school, especially in our field where you don't really HAVE to have a master's degree, it's nice because most everyone is like me, AKA a nerd. We all get to know our teachers, we all print out our lecture notes before class, and we all average our grades constantly all semester to see how we are doing and what we need on our finals... except we calculate what we need to make A's, not what we need to pass the class. LOVE IT.

3. The elective choices
My specialization in my MPA is Non-Profit Management, and I love the different electives that I get to choose from for this emphasis. I get to take things like Capacity Building, Volunteer Management, Fund Development and Program Evaluation. Pretty much my cup of tea x 100.

4. The connections
I imagine that most graduate programs are this way, but I really appreciate how our faculty keep in touch with our alumnae. It is a great feeling to know that we can volunteer and/or be called upon to come back to UNT after we are done to talk about our careers and help the MPA students know that there is a light at the end of the school tunnel. Of course, it doesn't hurt if we donate to the scholarship program as well! Our faculty groom us for these opportunities even now as students, which I think continues to ensure a strong foundation for the future of the program. I, for one, plan to serve on MPA advisory committees and attend networking luncheons with students in the future, provided I am still around and have anything to offer. Hopefully I will have at least some small tidbit of wisdom.

5. The expectations
Another thing our faculty do is expect us to be good at our jobs and to do them objectively and ethically. I had the chair of our department for a class this semester, and he would address our class by saying, "Okay, managers, what do we notice about this situation?" They already expect us to be smart enough to problem solve as students, which makes me want to actually think critically and not just follow what it says in my textbooks.

So, there ya have it! My hopefully not-too-snobby sounding (didn't mean for it to be) list about why I love my graduate program. Here's to one year down and one to go!

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