Beyond the Borders: The Blessed Messiness – By Isaiah Simmons, MPP ’19

Don’t Have the House Lookin’ Any Old Type of Way

So I have this weird barometer for being able to trust potential friends: I know we’re on the path to being good  friends if I’ve seen your living space dirty.

This implies two things:

- I’ve visited more than once

- You understand what things really matter

Why does this matter to me? I grew up in a household, like many others where one of the main rules was for company to come over, the house had to be clean, or as my mom used to say “don’t have the house lookin’ any old type of way.” I have always struggled with this, because even as an acne-stricken youth, I understood that nobody who had any type of life kept their house spotless all the time, and I would ask my parents “aren’t they coming to see us and not the house?” After being immediately scolded, I would go back scrambling to throwing things in a closet, sweeping and all other sorts of Cinderellean chores.

As an adult now, I can see how in so many ways how it seems easier to live our lives like that: not allowing people in until we feel things are to our liking, until we can display ourselves at put together and welcoming. I feel this idea is important to understand as graduate students and as public policy students because, there’s inherent messiness to navigate during your time in graduate school, and as students looking to shape public policy and practice.

Continue reading »

Two Masters in Two Years: Public Administration & Jewish Nonprofit Management – by Leah Phillips, MPA ’19

I am halfway through my second year of graduate school (ah!) and it is hard to imagine being in only one of my two incredible programs. I am pursuing a dual masters with USC and Hebrew Union College. It is the exact right program for me, and I am so glad I accidentally discovered it in just the nick of time. So, here are my two programs: MPA at USC and a Masters in Jewish Nonprofit Management from HUC’s Zelikow School. I’ll share a bit about how I ended up in two degree programs, how much I appreciate the partnership and symmetry between them, and why I know I’ll be leaving graduate school and entering the real world with a more well-rounded experience because of this dual degree.

Looking back to two years ago when I was applying to graduate school, I knew Price was the right place for me, and was applying to just the MPA here at USC. I am from Los Angeles and knew this was where I wanted to continue my studies and my career. Creating a network here in LA and learning from and with others who are passionate about going into the public sector was so exciting for me. People seemed surprised that I was only applying to this one program, but I knew it was the right school for me (and luckily I got in!). After getting accepted and while in the process of deciding whether this was the right year for me to go to graduate school, I reached out to a friend who had received her MPA from Price to ask about her experience. She immediately asked if I was going to be doing this dual degree program, which at the time I had never heard about. My response was, “Two masters in two years?!” She shared how much she gained from having been in both of these programs, and HUC is just next to USC (and has parking!). It was just a couple of weeks before that application was due, but after speaking with my friend, the recruiter (also a graduate of the same dual degree program), and the director of the program - I decided to go for it. I didn’t understand what it would be, but I could tell I wanted these people on my team. And this friend of mine could not have been more right.

Continue reading »

The Price Semester in Washington D.C. Program – by Ellie Crecelius, BS PP ’20

I vividly remember my 7th grade spring break. I unenthusiastically climbed into my family’s minivan, and with my two brothers and three dogs in tow, embarked on a tumultuous family road trip east. At first, I resented my parents for the long drive, but my father insisted on taking us to see the nation’s capital. My mother attempted to appease me by scoring “exclusive” tickets to a Congressional session. Because a trip to the Spy Museum was promised immediately after, I reluctantly agreed to ascend the steps of the Capitol and listen to a bunch of old men discuss issues I found utterly monotonous. However, as soon as I stepped into the Senate gallery, an intense feeling that I can only describe as a combination of reverence and patriotism overcame me. I was in awe of my first direct exposure to our representative democracy.

Since then I have only become more interested in the inner workings of the United States political system. As such, it was only natural that I apply to Price’s Semester in Washington D.C. Program. I was intrigued by the idea of utilizing the theoretical lessons I had learned through my Price classes in a hands-on internship. After I was offered acceptance to the program, I had to decide where I wanted to work. At first, I thought about interning at the Department of Health and Human Services; however, I ultimately opted to accept an internship in the legislative office of the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Continue reading »

How to Navigate your First Semester of Grad School – by Azniv Libaryan, MHA ’20

I cannot believe how fast my first semester of graduate school is coming to an end and with the blink of an eye, our final exams are approaching. Transitioning from my undergraduate to graduate program after a short gap-year was not easy, but was possible thanks to advice from my lovely supporters. I remember celebrating my acceptance to the MHA program and counting down the days to orientation and the program start date. As excited as I was, I started to fear the reality of entering such a prestigious program and university for graduate studies. I recall one of my supporters telling me, “How many people are in your cohort? About 60-70? Azniv you are one of 60-70 only accepted to your program. You know what that means? That means you are capable of excelling or else they would not choose you.” This piece of advice really resonated with me and now when my friends and I are worrying or stressing for exams, I continuously remind them of this statistic and our capabilities to excel.

It is difficult to commit to a full-time, two year program such as the MHA, which also requires a residency component in your second year.  I kept asking myself is this the right time for me? I knew that I was making the right decision for my future, and delaying my education would delay my success. Though it was a difficult decision, I chose to leave my job of over 8 years in the healthcare field for a prestigious health system in Los Angeles and to commit myself to the program and my education. Thankfully, I already came in with many work/life balance skills, which I developed when working full-time and pursuing my undergraduate degree.

Continue reading »

What The Moment Is Calling You To – by Isaiah Simmons, MPP ’19


So there is a large portion of us who are within the demographic to remember the golden age of MTV when they had shows like True Life, Made, The Hills, Punk’d and Next. While I loved True Life, I thought Next was very interesting. If you didn’t get the chance to experience this show here’s the basic premise: there’s one person who five people are eager to go on a blind date with. The one person has the power to end the date whenever they want and invite the next person by simply saying “next”. The people on the date would receive $1 for every minute the date lasted. At the end the dater picks the one person they’d want to go on a second date with and gives that lucky person the option to either take the money and run, or forfeit the money and go on a second date. I would definitely encourage you to look this up on YouTube, it’s a great way to spend a lunch break.

In a lot of ways I feel that’s what the fall semester kind of looks like: we’re eager to start and see what’s in store, not exactly knowing what’s around the corner. And if we’re not exactly sure what it is we wanna do long term, we at least want to make sure we’re getting our money’s worth for the time we’ve invested in our grad degree and professional endeavors.  So at this point in the semester, we ask after preparing the best we could this past summer:

So, what’s supposed to happen next?

That’s the dominating question at this point almost three weeks into the semester.

Just wrapped up a summer internship, coming into the 2nd year thinking about all that comes with that?

Trying to remember if you know algebra, stats, or how to balance work and studying after taking some time to work?

Trying to figure out what on earth you’re going to do with this degree?

Striving to see how people have any sort of social life in grad school?

So what’s supposed to happen next?

Continue reading »

Networking at Price: A Place with Bountiful Opportunities – by Ebele Obi, MPA ’19

When I was a prospective Price student, I had heard that the Trojan network was insanely strong. I am still navigating the whole networking terrain, but I will certainly say that here at Price the opportunity to network is everywhere – from your classes, the guest speakers you meet at events and in your classes, fellow classmates, alumni, and more! I have a classmate who shared with me how she reached out to one of the panelists at a program organization event and ended up with an internship at the respective panelist’s organization. I am not saying that this is everyone’s story, but the opportunity to just learn and grow your network is ever-present during your Price experience. I will admit that it can be easy to zone in on other aspects of the Price experience (e.g., courses, work, events, etc.), but I am coming to understand the importance of taking the time and effort to integrate networking throughout my time here at Price. To me, networking is about broadening your perspective and seeing how someone else made their own achievements in life; to me, networking is about taking an active interest in someone else’s journey and forming a connection.

Continue reading »

A Seat at the Table: Black History Month and Price’s Call to Action – by Isaiah Simmons, MPP ’19

Invitations to the Table

I remember my first visit to USC very clearly. It was in March 2017, I had flown out to San Diego for Spring break from Williamsburg, VA and I was coming to visit with Price admissions and the Price Center for Social Innovation over two days. I took an Amtrak train from San Diego to LA at 8:25 AM and I was given an agenda for how my day at the Social Innovation Center would go and made a list of questions to ask, and I guess I was fated to be here because the man I sat next to on the train just so happened to be a Price student in the MPA program who spent the entire three hour train ride telling me about his USC experience, his program, and perhaps most importantly, where to get off at the Union Station stop. So I already had a good feeling about the visit. But then as I looked at my agenda, I saw I was scheduled to have a meetings with several grad assistants at the Social Innovation Center and with Dr. Painter, the center’s director.

As I met with Dr. Painter and discussed with him the purpose of the Social Innovation Center, and the upcoming Forward LA conference looking at the progress of Los Angeles in the 25 years since the Uprising of 1992. In talking with Dr. Painter and looking at the work the Center was doing, I immediately got the sense they were concerned not just about producing students with degrees, but students and work that would impact actual lives and make changes to address some of the social ills that have occurred in the past.

Continue reading »

Transitioning to Life as a Graduate Student – by Ranika Baghoomian, MHA ‘19

“Graduate school is very different from undergraduate.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to take a gap before committing to graduate school?”

Those are just a few of the comments I heard prior to the start of my first semester at Price. It feels like just yesterday I was celebrating my acceptance to USC’s MHA program and now, with the blink of an eye, I can proudly say I completed my first semester as a graduate student with a few useful lessons that I gained which helped me throughout the transition.

First, stay motivated. Study sessions until 3 a.m. and endless cups of coffee during midterms week made me question my decision to attend graduate school; however, refocusing on my goal and reminding myself why I chose to commit to my education really helped me stay on track. As a graduate student, self-care is extremely important and reminding yourself how far you made it will help you push through, believe me!

Continue reading »

Life on the Rhine- by Stephanie Castro, MPA ’18

When students think about the Price school experience, they likely include the general benefits of living in LA - great weather, diverse neighborhoods, more attractions than they have the time to see. But the Price experience can also take you somewhere almost 6000 miles away, for those who take advantage of USC Price on the Rhine.

The Price on the Rhine (OTR) course is a unique opportunity to study comparative public administration - while living in the German countryside! Taking place during the summer term, it provides students with six units of elective course credits and an incredible experience studying abroad. The OTR program is competitive and requires submission of an application. For the fortunate students selected to participate, travel and lodging is generously provided by donors and arranged by the University.

Continue reading »

Moving to Los Angeles from Another Country- by Upasana Paul, MPL ’19

For someone whose ideas of Los Angeles has stemmed from mostly Hollywood movies, the first reality check was when I realized that there was absolutely zero odds of strangers spontaneously bursting into song and dance on the 110 freeway. I had just flown from across the globe, survived an intense customs check, jet-lagged and still running on a different time-zone, my first impression of the city was… well, not exactly, awe stricken.

Moving to Los Angeles from a country, as different as India, comes with its own struggles. The struggles of getting used to a weather that fluctuates between very sunny to moderately sunny, and that’s about the most seasonal change one would experience here throughout the year, barring a month or two. And if you are from a tropical country as I, you would struggle to get used to the landscape as well – struggling to get used to the lack of greenery around.

Continue reading »