This post comes from Andrew Bredeson, a first year MPA student.
Four months after my visit to SPEA confirmed my sneaking suspicion that this was the right place for me, I rolled into town late one night in early August. I was happy to find that the place I rented through Craigslist actually existed and was not, as my mother had feared, falling apart and/or full of vermin. Things were looking good.
A week of Math Camp got me back into school mode after a summer away. Four hours of math will do that, especially for a humanities major. Sitting in a classroom every day for a week, learning about derivatives and quadratic functions reminded me that summer was coming to an end, and it was time to focus.
With the excitement of unpacking, and the anticipation that comes with finding yourself in a new place populated by new faces, it would have been easy to forget why I was here. Dr. Wakhungu’s Math Camp course got me into the right mindset, however, and it was with a mixture of eagerness and intimidation that I looked towards the semester ahead.
It wasn’t all work, though. Math Camp was just as beneficial socially as it was academically. The nervousness and awkwardness of the first few days quickly faded. The standard introductory “this is who I am, what I’ve done, how I wound up here” speech became rote, yet the responses from those I met were interesting every time. A welcome barbeque by SPEA’s Graduate Student Association and a celebratory night on the town for a fellow math-campers’ birthday eased any lingering social jitters. SPEA’s Masters Students Orientation was up next.
From the first minutes of Orientation, as Bloomington’s finest bagels were still being consumed, a few things were clear: SPEA faculty and staff are extremely proud of this program. It was clear to my fellow first year students and I that we were now in a place where the tradition was one of excellence, and where the expectation was a continuation of that. I know I wasn’t alone in leaving that first day pumped up about getting going, grabbing the bull by its horns, all of that.
The rest of Orientation was both informative and full of food. Trainings, information sessions, and tours assisted in laying a foundation of knowledge regarding available programs and resources we could take advantage of to succeed at SPEA. In the meantime, I enjoyed checking out the town and its many fine establishments with new friends, running on the B Line trail, and shredding my legs biking over Monroe County’s endless rolling hills.
Orientation wrapped up with one more barbeque, hosted by the SPEA Masters’ Program Office, where returning students and faculty members joined those of us new to SPEA. The weather was beautiful, and it was a relaxing and informal way to cap what had been an exciting, but also tiring and for several of us, slightly intimidating week.
A month and a half later, I’m happy to report that what I thought I was realizing as Orientation was coming to a close is undoubtedly true. SPEA is awesome, this school is amazing, and the biggest reason is the people. It is invigorating to be surrounded by so many smart, passionate people who are all here for a common cause – self-enrichment to make us better managers, analysts, administrators, and leaders, so we can work to make society better for all. Math Camp and Orientation got us started, and now it’s up to us to go from here.