Spea International Night

SPEA’s International Night is an annual event in spring, hosted by the Master’s Program Office, SPEA Overseas Education Program/Institute for Development Strategies, International Public Affairs Association (IPAA), Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and the International Student Community. This event also engages practicum students from the Masters in Arts Administration in planning and organizing.

International Night is truly a great way to appreciate the diversity of experiences held by SPEA students. Undergraduates interested in Peace Corps service are able to learn from those who have returned, faculty and administrators can see their students outside of the classroom, but most importantly, students can relax and mingle with each other in a stress-free atmosphere.
We are proud to say we have around 150-200 guests including faculty, staff, administrators, and students of all levels, and around 16 countries represented this year. The countries ranged from China, Vietnam, and Mongolia to Belize, Panama, and Peru, all the way to Rwanda and Guatemala. Representatives are encouraged to dress in their host country or their native country’s apparel. Throughout the night students are free to move from table to table learning about the pervious service of their peers and different culture and arts around the world.

The diverse international students group at SPEA, in conjunction with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, put on an evening filled with food, performances, and fellowship. We choose different hosting venues each year. In the past, it has been at the IU Art Museum, where you get a chance to have a closer look at the available art. This year, the Indiana Memorial Union provided a sophisticated space for socializing and networking. Another distinguishing highlight of the event is that we accepted recipes from students of their favorite international food, and catering prepared them to serve during the evening. The recipe book is available for anyone to download, as well.

The evening is also filled with performances by various individuals and student groups. The Chinese Calligraphy Group and different dancing groups take an active part in our event each year. The international students at SPEA contributed many performances to the night as well, such as a lute performance. Student artists in the Arts Administration program present talent shows varying from British songs to Chinese Guzheng.

SPEA’s International Night is a notoriously popular event with attendance growing every year. As any good SPEA student would note, the trend is for the event to continue to grow as word of mouth spreads and also as the student body grows. The involvement of culture centers and institutes around the campus, including Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Polish Studies Center, Inner Asian Uralic National Resource Center, Russian and East European Institute and Institute for European Studies, also helps to highlight all the diversity present on our campus and in our SPE community.

SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar: My Experience

Today’s blog post about attending SPEA’s Professional Development Seminar comes from first year MPA/MSES student, Jeff Covert.

Our perception of professionalism is often clouded by fancy suits, TV actors and by high paychecks. For example, if you were to Google the word “professionalism” today, you would encounter many results—from the latest ties to advertisements for professional seminars—the word fits a spectrum of interpretations. A dictionary definition however directs our attention to some important aspects of the word.  The New Oxford American dictionary defines professionalism as “the competence or skill expected of a professional”. The definition stresses “skill” and “competence” and suggests that above all, a professional is one who can perform to their expectations.  As striving young professionals, it is important to stress performance as the distinguishing characteristic between a professional and an actor. Without this understanding, one can easily associate frivolous objects or actions towards becoming a professional.

The Professional Development Seminar at IU encapsulated professionalism to the fullest extent, not only through the presentations but also through the actions of the presenters. Our hosts displayed skill and competence through great rhetoric, well-prepared presentations and through providing insights from their own professional experiences. It was apparent that the IU’s skilled staff did not develop into professionals overnight; it took practice and commitment, and above all, it meant holding themselves accountable for their performance.

As a professional you are accountable for developing the skillset and competency necessary to meet the expectations associated with your position. In our constantly changing environment, this is not something to be turned on at 9 and then off at 5. Professionalism is a continuous development that allows us to meet expectations now, and in the future. By attending this seminar we were introduced to the expectations for which we will be held accountable. It is therefore our responsibility to develop, and hone in on our skills so that we may become competent, skillful individuals.

It is important to note that much responsibility comes with the title of “professional”. Everyone must hold them selves accountable, whether it is in the public or private sector, we must take responsibility for our actions because even the most skilled professionals can quickly lose credibility. We see this constantly in the news; a few people who come to mind are Lance Armstrong, Johnathan Weiner and Governor Christy. These three people have exceeded their professional expectations only to see their credibility scrutinized by one act of misconduct.  Therefore a professional must realize the fragility of their credibility, and notice that it can be lost in minutes, but take years to develop.  

The IU professionalism seminar instilled many of the important aspects of becoming a professional—competence, skills and building credibility. As students at IU, we are fortunate to be under the tutelage of professionals who hold themself accountable for our development. By attending SPEA, we are exposed to all the necessary resources enabling us to develop the skills and competence expected of a professional. However, it is up to us to take advantage of our resources and strive to become respected professionals.

My Experience at SPEA’s Spring Experience Day

Today’s blog post about attending SPEA’s Spring Experience Day comes from first year MPA/MSES student, Kristin Shaw.

The spring semester of my senior year was coming to an end, so finals, papers, and project deadlines were starting to sneak up on me. I took one weekend off, amidst the craziness, to attend SPEA’s Spring Experience Day.

At the time, I still wasn’t sure which school I would attend to pursue my advanced degree, but as soon as I got to Bloomington, I felt welcomed by my host and started to fall in love with both Bloomington, IN and SPEA. The opportunity to visit SPEA allowed me to see what a day in the life of a SPEA student is like, and the event helped me understand SPEA students’ devotion to schoolwork and how they balance school and student life.

Having arrived early on the day before the event, I was able to sit in on a class before my host and I headed to Uptown for a great meal and an opportunity to meet other prospective students and current SPEA students. During the meal, I learned what a Hoosier really is, where the best restaurants in Bloomington are, the reasons that the current students chose SPEA, and what they all were studying.

Friday was a jam-packed day, full of more information about the program. We started the morning with some icebreakers and a delicious breakfast. Once the information sessions began, all of my questions about the MPA program were answered. We talked about concentrations, the different degree programs, options for studying abroad, different opportunities for funding, and ended the day with an inspirational speech from Jennifer Forney, Director of Student Services, that helped solidify my decision to attend SPEA.

But the day wasn’t quite done yet, and we went back to my host’s apartment to get dressed up for the SPEA Gala & Auction, where money is raised for student funding through a live and silent auction. Gala was a great chance to see the family-like qualities SPEA has, as students mingled with professors. My favorite part was the live auction when students competitively bid for a coveted cooking class with one of the professors.

By the end of the day, I had fallen in love with SPEA and Bloomington. The icing on the cake would have been experiencing the Bloomington farmers market on Saturday morning, but instead I had to fly back to finish my papers and projects, and prepare for finals. Even as I flew back, I knew that picking a grad school was much less daunting, having attended the Spring Experience Day. As a first year MPA/MSES student, I’m excited to see what I can accomplish during my time at SPEA!