Whew! You’ve just finished your first month of graduate school, and it’s already time to start thinking about registering for next semester! Not only that, but you also have to declare a concentration. SPEA offers several different concentrations; about 11 for MPA students, 5 for MSES students, and 18 for dual (you can choose either an MPA, MSES, or one of the specific MPA/MSES). For a dual student (like me) it can feel like a whirlwind of possibilities! This may seem like a daunting task for many-but thankfully SPEA is very helpful in the registration/ declaring a concentration process.
Many people have some sort of an idea when they come to SPEA of what they want to do, or what field they want to work in; for those of us who don’t, SPEA offers concentration sessions. Concentration sessions are just what they sound like- informative sessions dedicated to describing particular concentrations. The sessions are quick and to the point, (about 20 minutes each), and led by the concentration advisers. They give you information such as what courses you have to take, and which semesters they are offered; they even tell you what courses are offered in other schools (such as in the Kelley School of Business) that may be useful towards your degree. Even if you already have an idea of what you want your concentration to be, it is still recommended that you attend as many concentration sessions as possible (because attending a session might just change your mind). It is also a good idea to meet with different professors for additional guidance.
Declaring a concentration aids you in the registration process because, once your concentration is declared the associated courses show up in your Academic Advising Report. This makes registration much easier since now all the courses you have to take/can choose from are in one nice, convenient place!
Also, at SPEA you can essentially customize your course load. To clarify, if you find another course that would serve as a better fit for one of your electives (even if it is from another school), as long as you provide a good explanation to your adviser as to why you want to substitute “course X” for “course Z” you generally can do it. You can even create a custom degree (with the aid of an adviser of course) if you don’t find that you fit into a particular concentration.
What’s great about SPEA is that everyone here is so willing to help you; they want to make sure that you get the best education possible, and that you are provided with the best tools to prepare you for your job after graduation. That’s one of the things that drew me to SPEA to pursue a dual MPA/MSES degree in Sustainability and Sustainable Development.