First-Year Wrap-Up & Advice to Incoming MPA Students

First-Year Wrap-Up & Advice to Incoming MPA Students-image

An end of the year blog? You probably shouldn’t ask — I’m still in the middle of papers, but here you are: How was it? What was the year like? Did you have a favorite course/instructor/place to get coffee? What do I tell people who are thinking about attending CIPA and are still on the fence? Is an MPA worth it?

That, my dear reader, is a lot of questions, and I bet you have more. My name is Sarah, and I just wrapped up my first year of study in Cornell's MPA program. In this blog, I’ll address some of the above questions  and more!

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My fellow CIPA fellows exceeded my expectations:

First of all: my year has exceeded my expectations! This is not just about my success this year. I am very aware that the success of my cohort will reflect on me for a long time, and that we are reaping the benefits of years of effective, engaging, thoughtful, and brilliant CIPA Fellows working all over the world. I was impressed time and again by my hardworking colleagues, asking tough questions, and tackling challenging projects.

So, some nuts and bolts for those of you deciding where to live: hopefully, you’ve read my posts about how much I like living in Fall Creek. It helps that I have kids and the schools are so close, but many CIPA Fellows live here, so I’m not an outlier in this respect! If you have decided to be a CIPA Fellow (welcome!), you’ll want to really consider where you live because you won’t likely move between your first and second year.

Making a housing decision in Ithaca:

I drew up a list (okay, maybe it was a spreadsheet) of things that were critical in my housing decision. I knew I would be up on campus constantly, I was also pretty sure if I could run home in three minutes I would feel like school was invading my personal life. A bit of separation from school is a good thing. I also wanted to be somewhere I could easily walk to get a cup of coffee and/or walk through a park, but still go downtown to see what’s happening on a given weekend.

Well, Fall Creek has all that in spades. I also wanted someplace relatively quiet. I knew I didn’t want to live next to the dorms, but I also wanted to stay away from any main thoroughfares. Here in Fall Creek, I can walk and bike to most things in central Ithaca, but it is quiet while still being lively- more in terms of people traffic than car traffic, which is more my style. Also, I never have to go up and down the hill on the weekends so there is a small amount of topographical isolation as well as cultural and geographic. It has been a great mix for me, I recommend it.

Go for the MPA!

Since I can’t answer all your questions in one short blog, I will tell you this: if you have any desire to open your mind to new concepts, tools, friends, and connections, and getting an MPA is attractive to you, I think you should go for it. Two years away from work is a very short time, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the time passes and how much your world and your mind can expand in that time: GO FOR IT!

About me:

Sarah Brown is a first-year CIPA student. An organic farmer from Washington State, she spent last year in a small village in Hungary as a Fulbright Fellow, studying rural social innovation. She has come to CIPA hoping to build her tool-kit, which will allow her to be more effective in pushing a positive agenda for social change. Sarah has brought her two elementary-aged children with her to Ithaca and is single-parenting these two years while her husband stays behind to work in Washington.

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