Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Week of Second Semester

I started this semester with an awesome schedule. Classes only on Monday and Wednesday. Nothing before 11 am. A semester-long three-day weekend. By Wednesday morning I picked up a 2.5-hour long class at 9:30 on Fridays. Dammit.

I was originally registered for V507 Data Analysis and Modeling for Public Affairs. I never really wanted to take this class. I initially registered for it because the Director of Graduate Student Services included V507 with Rubin in her list of classes not to leave SPEA without taking. However, I registered reluctantly. Later, I brought the class up with a professor adviser and mentioned my lack of excitement. Once again I was reassured it was worth it just to have a class with Prof. Rubin. I was never truly convinced, but I went along with it.

I discovered too late I had ordered the wrong edition of the textbook from Amazon. After our first class on Monday (where we were introduced to what appeared to be 3D math under the guise of "review"), I went to the book store on Tuesday and put down $140 on the book. Luckily I was sharing with Mike, who had agreed to be my homework buddy. That night I sat down at the kitchen table, cracked the shiny new cover and came to an important realization. THIS SHIT IS HARD. I don't even want to take this class. I don't even need this class. There are lots of other classes I want to be taking. Why am I doing this to myself?

And so I learned an expensive lesson ($70 for my half of a book I will never use, lost shipping costs on the book I ordered from Amazon and must now return, and $10 for the course pack I gave away).

I think part of the problem here is the way advising works for SPEA graduate students. There are not any dedicated advisers for the graduate program. There are professors who have volunteered to be advisers for certain concentrations. The first adviser I saw in the Nonprofit Concentration didn't seem to be all that interested in what I was talking about, probably because it is outside her area of interest (she is US nonprofit organizations; I am international NGOs). The second adviser I saw was definitely more up my ally, but still recommended I take this class I don't need, which I find strange.

Before juggling my schedule, I went to four classes on Monday. First was the this dreaded statistics class. The room was packed beyond the fire code capacity and not just because many people on the wait list had come to the class. Apparently, the class cap was already larger than the size of the room. There were definitely more than 50 of us. The professor commented on the unusual size of the class.

After two hours of GA work at the Institute for Development Strategies, I went to my evaluation class. This is a class I am extremely excited about. However, once again the professor commented on the number of us in the room. She had changed the syllabus due to the size of the class. No longer would we write a final paper, we would simply give a presentation on the work and write a short executive summary.

The the class started out well with a group in-class assignment that involved eating three cookies. You cannot really go wrong there. We were to evaluate these three different cookies. We had to come up with the purpose for the cookies, the evaluation criteria, etc. My group felt rather clever deciding we were evaluating cookies to find one for Cookie Monster to sponsor. As it turned out, at least three other groups were working for Cookie Monster as well. There was then some discussion on whether or not Cookie Monster still existed. Rumor had it he had become the Vegetable Monster. A little in-class internets research on the old Droid cleared up these vicious lies. According to the Muppet Wiki, Cookie Monster has always been a healthy eater (appearing on puzzles with fruits and veggies in the 70s and debuting a healthy foods rap in the 80s).
Cookie Monster responded to the rumor in a February 2010 tweet, stating "Time to put end to rumors. YES, me eat vegetables. NO, not going to be called Vegetable Monster! Dis whole thing silly." Cookie Monster tweeted about his healthy eating again in March 2010, stating "Maybe you hear rumor that me going on a diet. Not true. Me just eating healthy foods AND cookies. What wrong with dat?" In August 2010, Cookie posted a video on his official Facebook fan page saying that he eats three square meals a day, including many circular desserts. In September 2010, another video was posted, where Cookie names what he ate today: three varieties of cookies and tofu stir-fry. He adds "What? You think cookie all me eat?"
See the sort of important things I am learning? Who knew Cookie Monster even had a Twitter account? Maybe I should follow him.

Next up was my public finance and budgeting class. The teacher is an Uzbek Ph.D. candidate. My notes for this class include a story about his father working for two months to afford a pair of bell-bottom jeans, the Russian government under the impression it was going to develop an iPhone killer and zombies. I also have these two quotes: one is Winston Churchill, the other is the teacher's.
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with an average voter."

"Economists always assume some weird stuff."
The finance class, at about 30 students was my smallest class of the day, and, strangely enough, in the largest room.

After finance came my nonprofit and voluntary sector requirement. Once again another class packed to the gills with more than 50 of us in the room. I made a note to myself in the margins during this class.
First I did the Fourth Estate. Now I am doing the Third Sector. I like to get into industries during the worst times.*
*Get a degree in journalism and go to work in newspapers while the industry is supposedly in its death throes. Get a degree in nonprofit management during a economic downturn when all nonprofits are scrabbling for funding.

After my Tuesday night realization, I dropped the stats class and picked up Approaches to Development, my new 9:30 am on Friday class. I heart this class. First, I heart the topics. As the professor said, "I can't think of more pressing issues for human society than the issues we will discuss in this class." Second, I heart that as part of this class we will be participating in the WikiMedia Public Policy Initiative. Before class, we were assigned to read the Wikipedia entry on International Development, which is a complete disaster. We were also assigned to read policies on editing Wikipedia articles. I assumed with excitement we would be fixing this terrible article as part of class. However, it is ever more exciting than that. As part of this class we will write or significantly edit a public policy article of our choice (with in the confines of class topics) as part of this initiative to increase the amount of public policy information available on Wikipedia. The journalist in me is geeking out a little.

So there you, my first week of school. I will continue to try to keep up with my commitment to blog more.

— Sara

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