If you can’t be a good example…

Then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning. This is what my life feels like right now, haha. If you can’t tell from my past posts, I’ve really struggled with this program. I mentioned before that I was considering switching to Public Health for a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) and I did decide to do that beginning Winter quarter 2010. So I’d like to explain how this whole situation came to be, and hopefully offer some things to consider before you (someone who may be investigating graduate programs) choose a school/program.

I think I chose this out of fear, rather than passion. I applied to Fisher not even thinking they would give my application a second look. Obviously, I misjudged my ability to write a captivating essay. 🙂 When I got accepted, I was floored, and for good reason. In December 2008, I had been laid off from my dream job (this is important to know for later)  at the Columbus AIDS Task Force. In the meantime (@ 3-4 months later), I was still on unemployment, looking for work, and couldn’t even get an interview for an administrative assistant or bank teller position. That’s when the acceptance letter came. It’s kind of sad looking back, but I really felt like I had value as a member of society again because someone was actually intersted in me. Around the same time, I got accepted to the MPH program at OSU, too. Both came with NICE financial aid packages. As you may imagine, having no income changes your view on the importance of money. That is one of the perks about an MBA- you’re more likely to get a high salary compared to other career options when you finish. What can I say? I was unnaturally vulnerable and the starting salary stats in the Fisher brochures sang out to my survival instincts.  (I should have known that business schools employ expert marketing techniques in their recruitment brochures, lol.) And this is how I ended up at Fisher.

Reflecting on my path here, it seems easy to see that this was not the most rational decision. So, let me tell you some tips to consider if you’re on the fence about ANY grad school program.

1. Studying something you’re not totally into takes twice as much energy as studying something you love.  If you want to know what that program will be like, try to spend a full day in a real student’s shoes. Go to all of their classes (not just the most popular professor’s), read what they’re reading, etc. If you’re exhausted after a only a few hours, try something else. For me, I feel energized and more curious after attending Public Health classes. After 4 hours of business classes I’m exhausted and ready for the weekend on a Monday. This is important to know because you’ll be spending a lot of time studying. You want to have energy for life’s other pleasures afterwards.

2. If you’ve had a dream job (like me at CATF)- analyze why you love it. Even after I found out I was losing my job, I really didn’t want to leave because I enjoyed it so much. I even thought about “staying on” for free.  Helping people, empowering others, and learning what it takes to make a difference for people society tends to forget about is my passion. It was also a small, intimate group of 30 people. So, think of grad school as looking for a new job. If something really works for you, find out if it’s replicated somehow in the program you’re considering. Turns out, Fisher is a little big for me. The intro classes have @ 75 people. In Public Health, there’s only 10-20. Also, while business school isn’t heartless, its focus is a little different, haha.

3. Trust your instincts!!!! I know, I know. Everyone says this, but ultimately you usually find out why you should have done it when it’s too late. I knew this was not the right choice for me before classes even started. While I questioned it silently, I never said anything because to everyone else it seemed like a great opportunity- especially given my circumstances of unemployment and being broke. This was my ticket out. A top business school. An MBA. Prestige & fortune (potentially, lol).  I thought I could make it work by changing myself into the MBA-type. And I’d be successful and never have to worry about a career or income again. Turns out, I feel anything but successful now because in a way, I betrayed myself.

So, the moral of this story is that grad school is hard. It’s even harder when you have to devote so much time and effort to something that ultimately doesn’t work for you. Choose wisely, and choose for you. If you have doubts, explore them until you have answers. If you love something (your job or a subject), don’t discount it because there’s probably a good reason you love it and not something else. Don’t be afraid to explore new things, (I’ve learned a lot in business classes- probably a lot more than I bargained for), but don’t be afraid to reconsider.

Fall (is) Back

May I just announce that this time of the year is my favorite! First of all, Halloween in the top three holidays of the year. I LOVE the creativity and humor in all the costumes. Since I’ve been in Columbus, I’ve always enjoyed the Short North, and it just so happens that they throw one of the best parties in the town. There’s a costume contest with celebrity judges- this year was someone from Project Runway (can’t remember who, though.) I was in a bit of a costume bind this year, so I ended up going as a 40/50’s jazz lounge singer ( a la Billie Holiday, Ella, etc.).Think red lips, curled and pinned hair, lots of lashes and powder, & retro dress. It was fun- I felt very ladylike.

Another thing that is so delightful (yes, really) is the weather and the changing/ed leaves. I think it almost inspires people to squeeze the last bit of fun out of the non-winter weather. Make sense? Anyways, this weekend I drove up to my hometown of Mansfield in Richland County and took a hike at Mohican State Park with my parents and brother. If you’ve lived in Ohio and haven’t visited, I’d recommend it. I believe the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” is inspired by the Native American tribe that lived in the region. (But don’t quote me…) After that, we drove back to Columbus, but before getting on with our evening we stopped at Jeni’s– one of the best ice cream parlors in Columbus. Nothing ends the perfect weekend for me like a single of Queen City Cayenne and Salty Caramel- that’s my personal recommendation. But it actually DID get better with the time change. Sometimes there’s seriously nothing better than an extra hour of sleep. Time to fall back. And “fall in love” with fall 🙂

Honesty and Optimism

These are the two things that I have come to value most these past few weeks. Something just hasn’t been “clicking” for me as a Fisher grad student. I have no complaints about the school itself at all, but I have had to ask myself if I really want to be here. Do I have passion for what I’m learning? Is this really how I want to spend the next two years? Is there another way to accomplish my goals- a better fit for what I need to grow? And because there’s an Econ exam tomorrow, I’m going to answer, “Only if there’s something better for me to do, haha.”

But seriously, I have struggled with these questions for a while now, and it’s time to just admit that the Fisher Full Time MBA program may not be “the one” (in a graduate program sense)  for me. I actually had these thoughts before classes even started. I had applied to both the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the MBA program, was admitted and received equal financial aid offers to attend either school. Lucky me, I know.

At first I felt HORRIBLE about having these thoughts. I thought I was the only one in history who would ever even think about leaving a MBA program at such a good school. But it turns out that there are many grad students each year who change programs. Turns out that if the graduate program you selected isn’t quite the best fit for you, OSU offers you the option of transferring to another school as long as they will take you. And many times you can transfer your financial aid, too.

Graduate school is a big investment in terms of your time, effort, and sacrifices for family and friends. There are many fabulous options, Fisher included, but you need to choose what is the best fit for you, regardless. My intent with this is not to discourage anyone from attending Fisher, but to know exactly (or as close as possible) how the program will benefit your needs and career/life goals.

So this week I’ll be attending a MPH class just to really make sure that this is the decision I want to make… I’ll keep you posted on what I end up deciding either way.

It’s all starting to become clearer now…

I laughed a little when I typed that because I’m starting to realize what people mean when they say that grad school is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. lol. With our first midterm down, an avalanche of all the work, assignments, tests, career opportunities has tumbled upon me. You ever heard that phrase “laugh to keep from crying?”  (NOTE: I’m about to write an “honest” reflection, so it helps if you imagine us on the Oprah Winfrey show.)

While this time has become a given me a new feeling of stress, it’s also given me a new (and improved) type of appreciation for my fellow classmates. I have to admit, that coming from the non-profit world, I live with a few stereotypes of the “typical” MBA type. You may have some, too, after all that has happened with our economy. But I sometimes wonder if you can’t find more patient, helpful, and humble (with slight undertones of competitiveness, haha)  than outside Fisher.

I have to admit I was probably overly freaked out about our first Stats midterm. But some of my team and cohort members helped me out and help calm me down. While it may not have meant much to them, that little act  of patience and teaching helped change my personal, and incorrect, view of what I thought a MBA program stood for.  I guess it’s OK to be wrong sometimes. 😉

Best Week Ever! Just like the TV show, baby!

Did I draw you in with my catchy title? Good, because I’m lying. And I just tricked you into listening (well, reading) me vent. This week has sucked. Hard. I thought it would be over by today: Sunday, 10/11/09. A new week. A fresh start. But, nooooo. Same old bad news.

First off I have had the WORST issues with this software program for our Statistics class. For some special reason, my computer that I just got less than a month ago, will not download/upload/run/whatever the software that we need. Several days ago I spent three hours at Best Buy with two Geeks from the Geek Squad trying to figure out a solution. We ended up erasing everything on my computer and starting from scratch, with a 99.99% guarantee that everything would run correctly with a fresh download. Not the case. Because this was, like, the 5th time I’d been to Best Buy in the last week for the same issue I was frustrated. So I took it back, and left it for the weekendfor them to test, analyze, and fix. They did the same thing again, even though I was hesitant, and gave me the same promise. I picked it up today (when they told me it would be done by Friday) only to have it not work again. And then those Geeks acted like they were doing me a favor by not charging me $ to fake fix it. Excuse me? Did I miss something??? So now I have to go back AGAIN to tell them that it’s probably my computer. Mind you, I told them this in the first place, given that at least 150 other MBA students have this same software and NO issues similar to mine. Now, if you read my previous blog titled “Time is money!” you’ll understand why this is big deal to me.

But this isn’t all…on Wednesday night the thing I feared most happened: I got sick. Normally, I can just take Airborne when I feel that little tingle in my nose or throat and I stay well. But this little bug was a monster. On Thursday morning, I went to campus but ended up leaving 10 minutes after I got there because I was, well, sick and tired. Even though I didn’t feel so hot, I came back for the noon info session on finding a Corporate Mentor. Then I felt guilty for skipping classes earlier and let one of my classmates persuade me to go to the afternoon session of Econ. I decided not to care about the Stats class I missed because of my computer issue.  Friday didn’t end up any better. I woke up and couldn’t even talk because my throat was so sore and lymph nodes were swollen. I still dragged myself out of bed and went to the first half of the Marketing Boot Camp. I found this very “edutaining” but left early because of my illness issues.

There’s still a LOT more to my week from hell but this entry is getting too long and I need to take some more cough syrup. If you read this far, thank you for your e-sympathy. Feel free to send me some chocolate when I get better and can actually taste it. Or you can always just get me a new computer that can handle StatTools software. O:)

Time is money!

It didn’t take me long to realize that as a grad student, your perception of time becomes different than anything you’ve ever expereienced before. Busy is a bit of an understatement right now.

During orientation when we found out our Myers-Briggs Personality Type, (I’m an INTJ- Introverted Intuition with Extraverted Thinking), one of the descriptors for me was that I “abhor confusion, mess, and inefficiency” which is exactly what my life feels like right now.  Needless to say, I do abhor it. I get mad at myself everyday because I feel like I waste SO much time and I can’t figure out how. Everything from getting ready in the morning, to forgetting something that makes my day easier (lunch, a notebook or jumpdrive, etc.), to organizing my class assignments has been anything but efficient. I figured there would be some adjustment, but I didn’t expect to feel like a hot mess 24/7.  I’ve been brainstorming ways to tweak my habits and schedule a bit this weekend and came up with a few things that might work:

  • I just bought counter stools so I can sit at a “desk like” place to work (like I am now! heyyy!) which helps me concentrate. A no-brainer, but I first had to admit that I just couldn’t focus in front of the TV. 🙂
  • Keeping one binder with all of the upcoming week’s assignments divided by class. This cuts down on the number of binders and books I have to carry and lessens the chance of me forgetting something important when I’m thinking about 20 other things in the morning.
  • Wrapping my hair at night. For those of you unfamiliar with ethnic hair, African-American women can tie up their hair with rollers or “wrap” it around their head to keep it straight. Then when you wake up in the morning, your hair is smooth and ready to go, which saves you the time of styling it in the AM. The catch is not being lazy enough to skip this step before you go to bed.
  • Getting a new(er) car. I currently drive a white 1996 Camry. Good car, but after being on the road 13 years there’s a reason I fondly call her “Betty White.” Anyways, with all of her little mechanical issues, I just don’t have time to run to Auto Zone or the mechaninc when the CHECK ENGINE light comes on, or there’s a bad noise to be investigated. This, by the way, happened everyday during the first week of classes, lol. So I found something a little newer, which should save me the hassle of dealing a car when I can focus on class.

Speaking of focusing on class, I should go so I can get some reading in before I watch Dallas Divas (or whatever it’s called) tonight. 🙂

Day one is done! ….Well, not really.

So today was my first day of grad school in the MBA program! And it was a 12 hour day and counting. I guess that means we really get our money’s worth, haha.

Anyways…it went a little something like this:

First, I came in early to print a few things off in the Gerlach computer lab and check (for the 108th time) if my financial aid issues had been cleared up. They hadn’t, which frustrated me quite a bit, but I had to put it on the backburner to focus on classes.

From 8:30a-10:30a I have Organizational Behavior and Leadership Effectiveness followed by Accounting until noonish. I have a hunch that the Org. Behavior class is going to be my favorite. Some of my classmates may not agree, but leadership (and the lack of it at times) and how a group functions fascinates me. I’m excited to delve more into the topics. Oh, and I got a headache in accounting.

After classes, I ate my packed lunch and did the readings for tomorrow’s Managerial Economics class. When I met with my group later, I discovered that I had read the wrong Chapter 11 in the textbook. Yes, there were apparently two Chapter 11’s. And they’re both kind of long, but, hey, at least now I have more understanding about game theory, no?

So now it’s about 8pm and I’m getting a little sleepy, but I still have to finish reading the other Chapter 11 and re-read the accompanying articles to get a better feel for the material.  I also need to organize my new life! I’m kind of anal about scheduling and time management so I bought one of the planners that divides your day into 15 minute increments. I bought some colored pens and highlighters so I’m actually looking forward to it. It’ll look like an art project when I’m done. 🙂 AND, I can sleep easy because as of 8:14p my financial aid is in the clear. All in a day’s work.