Today we have a guest post from SPEA first-year student, Michael Bergstrom. Michael attended last year’s Spring Experience Day and is currently an MPA student.
SPEA began to woo me through a prospective student social hour in Washington DC, where I networked with current students, alumni, and career services staff. Beyond being impressed with SPEA’s great taste in food (they chose a local hotspot), I was impacted by the students’ rich experiences and interests, as well as the strong alumni network in the capitol region. The social hour left me wanting to know more about SPEA. Was the school as vibrant as the students expressed? Would the MPA program prepare me for the next steps in my career? I was anxious to learn more. When SPEA extended an invitation to Experience Day, I was eager to connect with the program and quickly submitted my RSVP.
Throughout Experience Day, I encountered each of the students and staff that I’d met in DC. Through a warm greeting by Master’s Program Office Staff and interactions with SPEA’s Student Ambassadors, one aspect of the day that sticks with me was that among nearly one hundred visitors, they remembered me from our brief meeting in DC. Not only did they remember me, but they were engaging with a large number of visitors on a very personal basis. These personal connections exemplify one of SPEA’s distinguishing characteristics: its emphasis on being part of a community.
SPEA’s dynamic community, made up of faculty, staff, students and alumni, is one of the major reasons I decided to enroll, and Experience Day provided me a great opportunity to get connected. Throughout the day, I had the opportunity to socialize with students, and hear from key faculty. Student Ambassadors made themselves available to guide us throughout the day’s sessions, and socialize with us during breaks and lunch. Current students set up a series of presentations to highlight coursework from their fields of interest. We heard from SPEA’s leadership team, and learned about the coursework and concentrations from the MPA and MSES program directors. A professor prepared an engaging lecture on interest groups and their role in democracy, which provided insight into SPEA’s rigorous academic environment. The Director of Career Development presented the services and opportunities that his office provides to help successfully transition students into internships and careers. Alumni traveled from across the country to engage with prospective students. We participated in a forum to learn about their diverse careers, and how SPEA prepared them. Throughout these interactions, I observed how valuable this network is, with faculty, students and alumni making themselves accessible to the SPEA community. Beyond diverse specialties and experiences, everyone within the SPEA family seemed geared towards a collaborative environment, and this was something that I really wanted to be a part of.
In addition to connecting with SPEA’s community, Experience Day provided a great opportunity to enjoy IU and Bloomington. SPEA coordinated a guided bus tour of the community, which highlighted IU’s beautiful campus, along with community spots popular among students. Bloomington provides a variety of restaurants, cultures, recreational opportunities, and resources that rival a much larger city. Whether I’d have a craving for Burmese food, want to check out a comedy club, or engage in community service, it was evident that Bloomington would provide a variety of opportunities.
Experience Day provided the affirmation I needed before committing to SPEA. It allowed me to build upon those relationships I’d forged with the Master’s Program Office. I connected with other prospective students, many of whom I’d develop friendships with in our first semester. Finally, I was able to engage with faculty and students in an intimate setting, which made selecting SPEA an easy decision!