Graduate School is Not a Destination

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.

Snow covered Hall of Languages.

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The “Maxwell Mafia” and What it Can Do for You

I’m back! After a brief winter-break hiatus, I’m back to impart some Maxwell knowledge. This month’s topic? Internships!

Most people go to graduate school for two reasons: (1) to feed their hunger for knowledge, and (2) to improve job/salary prospects. With this post, I hope to show you the real advantages of being part of the “Maxwell Mafia” in finding work opportunities.

As a Public Diplomacy (PD) student, I am “strongly encouraged” to intern abroad during the summer between the two years of my program. So while I’m not on the job-hunt yet, I am on the internship-hunt!

From Maxwell, there are two ways to intern abroad. You can either participate in one of the many Global Program options provided by SU, or you can do it on your own.

The way I understand it, the “global program option” through the school is helpful because it means Syracuse already has connections in your country of choice, and faculty/staff help you to find and secure your internship. Initially, I was looking at the Global Programs in Brussels and Geneva. The process is like this: you apply to the Global Program of your choice (standard essay questions, resume, etc.), you interview with the program directors in both locations, and successful applicants are admitted. From there, you have conversations with the in-country Syracuse faculty member so he/she gets a better idea of your interest and what kind of internship would be a good fit for you. While he/she looks around to help find available internship opportunities in your field of interest, Syracuse faculty stateside help you refine and perfect your application materials—resumes, cover letters, interview techniques, and more.

This is me pretty much every week with Laura, going over cover letter after cover letter.

Ultimately, though, I chose not to apply to the Syracuse Global Programs simply because I am more comfortable picking the exact internship I want rather than involving third parties. The downside, obviously, is I don’t get the same in-country assistance that a Global Program would provide me. HOWEVER, Maxwell is still helping me every step of the way in my quest to find the right position for me. I’ve been meeting with my new best friend Laura (really, I love her) at the Maxwell Career Development Center (called CDC around Maxwell) weekly to work on cover letters and resumes. What’s more, she’s been extremely helpful about putting me in touch with Maxwell alums abroad that work in my area of interest.

Being a PD student, I have the added benefit of also having access to the Newhouse School’s career center. Media internships in general require totally different (more artistic) kinds of application material, so they’ve been a great help, too.

Bottom line is that being here gives me direct access to resources and contacts that I would not have had otherwise. Us Maxwell students are beyond lucky, because we all have a small army of people here to help make sure we end up in our perfect positions after graduation. Plus every time I have a mini “crisis” about my future, they are nice enough to listen…and then help coach me after I finally stop ranting. 🙂

As always, feel free to reach out any time with questions! Until next month.

The Future of Education

After almost 8 months here in Maxwell School, I now have a clear idea of it works; what the program expect from students, and how far we can be shot away into greatness. As you know, it’s the first public administration school in the country, and the number one for 21 consecutive years.

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After studying Communications in Peru and International studies in Barcelona,  I can say that, even while quality is hard to measure, this program is clearly more demanding and asks for more participation. Stating that Barcelona was more relaxed than Peru, while not as academically rigorous, it gave me the freedom to explore deeper some particular topics.

So, during my time here I have been thinking, not only about teaching styles, but about how education can help you to achieve all your working goals. We can think about how people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg dropped out school and achieved so much, while every serious research says that higher education is the safest investment you can make.

Going to the root of the problem, some assure that is not about schools, but how some schools build their teaching styles. For Sir Ken Robinson, education is still the model made up for industrial needs two centuries ago. Where you should only be good in what you are told: stigmatizing other capacities that challenge the status quo.

Let’s think about Finland, how a couple of decades ago was only one more northern European country in terms of education, and now is one of the best in the world, competing with Asian countries and spending less time studying. The secret of Finland is no longer a mystery; they make students enjoy school. Malcom Gladwell said about success: “Nothing happens without desire and passion. Otherwise, nothing else falls in place.”

Furthermore, Finland is taking things to a whole new level. They want to change their system, taking out school subjects and instead having challenges to achieve, where students will need to use cross-subject knowledge, and their personal abilities as team members. A Sen learning say: “The obstacle is the path.”

This is a very important issue, there’s an analogy attributed to Einstein that says: if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. That’s how Howard Gardner came up with the theory of Multiple-intelligences, which is now the most respected by the scientific community: Linguistic, Logical/mathematical, Visual/spatial, Musical, Bodily kinaesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist. Ask yourself which one’s you master.

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In my opinion, this approach should be considered also for higher education, as in the real-world teams are built up by people with different abilities that complement each other. This is also the case of institutions and companies that are seeking shareholders to improve their overall impact and be more effective with resources. Moreover, critical thinking and creativity should also be more emphasized, as they keep organizations ahead in the marketplace, and can really achieve the changes we want in the world.

For most respected researchers, the future of administration will be based on psychology and leadership: how to understand others, and how take out the best of them. While the future of public administration seems a little blurrier as there are challenging ideological positions. For me, will be about how to be adaptable in this everchanging environment, with all its new possibilities. Considering science, empowerment of the poor, and partnerships with other actors that could bring solutions to achieve a sustainable development for nations.

While Maxwell School is not the perfect place to study (and any place will be), I can say that is one of the best, and you will find your own reasons why. What I can tell you is that you will be defied from the very start, not only to challenge what others said before you, but to challenge yourself.

Here you could find: Some of the best Professors available always ready to guide you. Intrinsic institutional values based on reshaping the world for a better society. Interaction with some of the brightest people from all around the world, that carry those same values.

We should never underestimate the power of connections, as it’s what this world is made of, and nothing is more important than what motivates us to achieve our goals.

Think about Maxwell if you feel prepared to make a real impact in the world.

Isn’t that why we are all here?

Socrates said: “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”