I used to believe that going to college was the key to getting a job. When things didn’t shake out like I hoped, I updated the belief by swapping out college with graduate school. Entering my 9th month of my Masters of Public Administration program, I realize now that my belief was wrong.
John Donne was a 17th century poet; Common is a 21st century poet. While the two were born centuries apart, their words bring clarity in a period of my life that is anything but.
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” – John Donne, 1624, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions.
“…I’m not always the perfect man. I’m not always doing the right things. That’s who I am. I’m working to be better.” – Common, 2007, The Guardian.
The second semester of graduate school is about my maturation from being curious about data science to being committed to becoming the best urban data scientist I can be. This commitment is not a movie montage moment where I surround myself with books and independently learn how to transition from a student to being an employee. Rather, this commitment involves asking for help from others and believing in myself.
In the spirit of Donne’s writings, I am a part of both the Maxwell School and School of Information Studies. When it comes to preparing for job interviews for policy jobs, no one is better at offering solid advice than the experienced and accommodating trio of Kelli Young, Laura McArdle, and Lauren Meyer at the Maxwell Center for Career Development. But when I need to learn how to showcase my visualization skills or highlight certain software skills on my resume, Christopher Perrello at iSchool Career Services is who I go to see.
Every Friday at the Center for Policy Research, my economics classmates and I go through the weekly problem sets with Professor Peter Wilcoxen. The enthusiasm he has for economics is clear; but to me, the best part is witnessing someone take as much time as is needed to simplify a complex concept. That patience and love of subject are a regular display of what I hope to accomplish in becoming an urban data scientist.
When I’m not getting help from professionals, I’m venting my frustrations with the job hunt with my fellow MPA and iSchool classmates. The best part of sharing my ups and downs with others is that everyone else has a similar story to tell. Reserving the “They want an interview!” or the “Why haven’t they called back?” story suppresses the chance for everyone to vent their experience on this rollercoaster ride.
No matter how high or how low the rollercoaster goes, I believe in myself. Every week I am challenging myself to make a new chart, interactive graphic, or communication skill. Today it is developing an application that visualizes monthly citizen complaints against City of Cincinnati police officers; tomorrow might be something completely different. While where I’ll end up after graduation is completely unknown, at least I have a community to rely on for support through the good times and the bad times.
26 weeks ago, my first day of the MPA program was on July 5, 2016; in 26 more weeks, I will graduate on June 30, 2017. The halfway mark of this graduate program seems like an ample opportunity to sit back and reflect on my time so far.
I Am a Truman Scholar
Through a combination of hard work and sheer good luck, I was awarded the 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Being a Truman Scholar has made it possible for me to embark on a career in public service thanks to the network, guidance, and support the Truman Foundation provides.
Thanks to a summer program hosted by the Truman Foundation, I met Christine Omolino – the Director of Admission and Financial Aid for Public Administration and International Affairs at the Maxwell School. Christine made me aware of the benefits of pursuing my MPA degree at Syracuse. Being able to talk with Christine made me feel comfortable committing one-year of my life to a graduate program dedicated to molding public service leaders.
Looking back, I am incredibly thankful for the Truman Foundation. My fellow Truman Scholars constantly amaze me and serve as a reminder that we have a responsibility to carry our lives with the same values of courage, integrity, and humility embodied by President Truman.
I am a Maxwellian
26 weeks goes by fast. I don’t remember every lecture nor do I remember every luncheon I have attended. What I remember is the friends and skills I have made over the first half of my MPA program.
Thanks to Professor Julia Carboni’s nonprofit management course, I know how to create a business plan for a nonprofit. More than any other class, the weekly exercises and the final project forced me to focus on myself as a writer, teammate, and public speaker. Through the detail-oriented feedback I received from the case memos and peer evaluations, I believe I made significant strides towards my goal to be great at all three roles.
Thanks to Professor John Palmer’s course, I know how the “sausage” that is the federal budget gets made. I know the difference between Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds. But more important to me is being able to communicate these issues to my friends and family.
Thanks to Professor Jesse Lecy’s course, I know that I love talking about data science with other data scientists. Thanks to online platforms like GitHub, I can share my code with the world and learn from others. Whether it is learning how to make a dashboard load faster or designing a dynamic histogram, I am amazed at the openness of the data science community.
It’s Been a Great Year
I can say the degree in six months will be a great accomplishment. Yet, the superior accomplishment is knowing my MPA degree has trained me to be a better leader and teammate. As a much needed aside, thank you, 2016. You were the year that finally delivered a Chicago Cubs’ first World Series Championship in 108 years. It was well celebrated here at the Maxwell School with President Lincoln and I.