Jumping Into the Second Semester of a Uniquely Flexible MPA Program
Whew! First year, second semester: Here we go!
After the first semester of my first year came to a roaring stop (it was full speed ahead until the last day of finals), I certainly enjoyed my time at home over the holidays. Now, three weeks into the second semester my studies are picking up steam again.
This semester I am taking a suite of courses that align well: Organizational Change, Evaluation of International Organizations, Translational Research, Community and Environmental Dispute Resolution, and Stakeholder Engagement. It was hard to choose! In fact, today is the last day to add a class, and I was up late last night making some last-minute adjustments.
One of the reasons I chose to come to Cornell is I really wanted the freedom to chart my own course for my master’s. I could have easily attended several schools with fairly rigid course requirements, and almost no ability to choose electives, but this path suits me much better.
I wanted a master’s degree that would be relevant to my line of work AND my life experiences thus far. Flexibility meant I could seek out courses, professors and connections across campus in a way that simply isn’t possible with a rigid requirement list.
Plus, here at CIPA, I have the entirety of Cornell’s amazing academic programs to choose from for my courses. For example, CIPA does have requirements for quantitative courses (which is good!), however, instead of only taking CIPA economics or statistics courses, I could take Urban Economics at the City and Regional Planning School, Resource Economics at the Agriculture School, or myriad options in the Business or Labor schools.
Another great example: We all have to select a few courses that qualify as professional development, but as each CIPA Fellow is pursuing a slightly different career trajectory that course could be almost anything from desktop modeling (to refine Excel, Word, and Powerpoint skills), to Computer Engineering and Systems Management courses, or a course in research design in Development Sociology.
This semester, I’m taking a course at the City and Regional Planning School, and last semester I took a course at the Industrial and Labor Relations School. Each school has its own distinct culture and approach to learning and interaction, so at each class outside CIPA I get to learn more about what makes Cornell tick, and make connections with people who will certainly be leaders in their fields soon enough- if they aren’t already. Of course, it would be easy to keep my classes within CIPA, there are so many thought-provoking courses and great professors, but I like to mix it up and make sure I am exposing myself to a breadth of ideas and inspiring topics. Plus, you never know which building will be hosting an open-invite lunch for a guest speaker, and if you stick to only a few buildings….well I’ll let you figure that out!
In other fun news, it was -30F with the wind chill last week! But before you run from the idea of coming to Cornell, please know those freezing days were followed by bright sunshine and 50 and 60F days!
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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.