Tonight is my last class of the 2011-2012 academic year; my first year in grad school! This year has been challenging on many levels, but on the whole, I can say it was a pleasure and I am glad I did it.
A lot of classes have forced me to stretch my thinking. I am still struggling with the balance between effective professional communication and the “publish-then-filter” approach to social/digital media publishing. I discovered that I actually enjoy statistics (shocking!), and that not all group projects are evil (thanks, guys!). Some of these projects forced me to face the fact that I am actually an adult; I can make big decisions, I can follow through, and I can even be a leader. In fact, I have potential to be a very effective business leader. This idea terrifies me, and most of the time–despite the wonderful encouragement from those around me–I feel very inadequate and young when presented directly with these opportunities.
A lot of what I’ve learned has been very fun and fulfilling. I know how to publish a blog! How to design effective marketing strategies that align with–or even improve–business goals, incorporate social and mobile media opportunities, and prepare for potential legal obstacles. Most of all, learning just how much is out there that I don’t know has been amazing. A lot of that has been learned from my classmates (you guys rock!). It’s been a real pleasure having such a tight core group of people to grow with.
This year has challenged me personally as well. Time management has been a big one. As organized as I often appear, I usually prefer to just have fun (like most of us), read, play video games, to just be my young, geeky self. So I’ve had to teach myself to say NO to the fun things and focus my energies on being productive. On the flip side, I’ve also had to practice saying NO to really good things and opportunities. Sometimes to protect my school time, and sometimes to protect family time. One of my biggest regrets for this program is that it just isn’t feasible for me to commute over for all the extracurricular fun, which also happens to usually involve networking and spending time with amazing people that I want to learn from.
Another big area of person growth was highlighted by the four group projects I’ve had this year, some of which have been awesome and some of which have been… opportunities to practice grace. A few professors have needed some of that as well. This is actually one area I feel I’ve grown the most in; choosing not to foster or inflame hard feelings or bitterness when someone lets you down, but to just let it go and move on.
In addition to group project difficulties, and the a fore mentioned professors, my cohort is discovering that our program is very young. As such, there are a lot of internal, administrative, and leadership process that are still being ironed out. On top of the fact that leadership turned over about four years ago, and the two co-directors just came on full time about a year ago–maybe two years?– anyway, recently. There has been a lot of changes to the program. Some have been amazing (Huzzah for Law and Policy class!), some, not so amazing (you know it’s Wednesday when the Research Strategy Support Group Facebook page lights up with intense controversy), and some just haven’t had the bugs worked out. In keeping with the mindset that supports “publish-then-filter,” exciting opportunities have been jumped at, only then to discover that the manner of the jumping may not have been the best choice (SXSW conflict). And, while the leadership has been very receptive to feedback, some things take a little longer to change than many of us would like (see previous comment about Research Strategy group).
These struggles have made a lot of classmates very unhappy, and I absolutely understand their frustration. We give up a lot to be in this program and we have very high expectations. From mingling with earlier cohorts in my elective classes, it seems like my cohort is on average younger, and possibly more idealistic that previous cohorts. Like most up-and-comings, we expect a lot, and we can be very judgmental when disappointed.
However, speaking personally, this year has been a big success for me. I am so glad that I discovered this program, that I was accepted, and that God has put me in a place in life to pursue it. Next year is shaping up to be really exciting! There are some big decisions to be made this summer (God help us!), but Lord willing, next year will be even better that this year.
Thank you MCDM, for a fantastic first round.