Four years ago I had a breakthrough moment at an Idealist Graduate School Fair in Austin, TX. I’d been entertaining the idea of going back to school since I graduated in 2002, but when the “Why Go To Grad School” session I was attending turned into a “Why Get An MPA” session instead, I was hooked. Since graduating I had done a variety of AmeriCorps programs, and worked at a few camps and farms, but I didn’t see how any of my experiences would readily translate into a career. I was a pro at diagnosing problems, but I felt like I didn’t possess the skills to make critical recommendations and implement change. I knew at that point grad school was where I wanted and needed to be, however, I’d already signed up for the Peace Corps and it was another couple of years in Bulgaria and working short-term jobs until I got here.
If you’ve been out of school for a while, you can probably relate to how overwhelming going back could be, but minus the stress of paper deadlines, projects, and tests, it’s really fun to be back in class again. Learning new things was always my favorite part of a new job and knowing that what I’m learning now has practical applications makes it even more interesting. At least once a week I learn something in class that connects back to my previous work experiences and recommits me to being here. And the best part is that a lot of the information overlaps. As the weeks progress, I see how statistics relates to public management theories and how public finance and budgeting relates to life. But be forewarned, if you don’t want to be thinking about the price elasticity of drinks at football games and marginal cost when you see people selling t-shirts, an MPA program may not be for you!