Expectations vs Reality: Reflection on One Semester at the Price School – By Buddy Burch, MUP ’21

One year ago, after spending months on self-examination, GRE studying, and writing writing writing, I anxiously submitted my applications for graduate school. Fast forward one year: I am completing my first semester in the Master of Urban Planning Program at USC’s Price School. The aspect of the application process that challenged me the most one year ago was identifying the specific skills and opportunities that any school could offer me. I conducted arduous research on clubs and organizations, the course catalog, faculty research, and I spoke with current students, but I was never sure if what I was being told as an admissions candidate matched the realities “on the ground”. I chose to reflect on a few of the expectations that I had of the Price School (some that I think many prospective MUPs share) to determine if they are my academic reality.

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How to Deal with Difficult Group Members – By Samantha Abelove, MPA ’20

Oh no!

You were assigned a group project. There always seems to be that one group member who is a “problem”. Perhaps they are late submitting their portion of their work, you have different personalities, your working styles differ or they do not do their work at all. Of course, there are times when you have a group or group members who are fabulous and you wish you had them in your group for every group project! Unfortunately, that is just not always the case and we sometimes find ourselves in one of the situations listed above.

So what do you do?

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The Price is Right: From Dornsife to Price – By Danielle Dirksen, BS USP ’20

When the college application process started in high school, I was extremely unsure about what subject I’d like to take courses in, let alone potential career paths. I ended up applying to a dozen schools, either as Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, or some mixture of majors within Agriculture. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I wanted to do, but I knew I was passionate about sustainable living. I eventually accepted admission to USC as an Environmental Studies major.

My first semester at SC was, quite frankly, a disaster.  The transition period was much tougher than anticipated and I didn’t take advantage of any resources, academic or other. I ended up failing a class and withdrawing from another. The two classes I did see through to completion were both within the Environmental Studies (ENST) program and I enjoyed one of them, and the other did not capture my interest. It never occurred to me during the first semester, or even my second semester, that perhaps my poor grades were a partial reflection of my unhappiness with my current major.

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Take A Risk: Experience LA – By Kalin Sims, MNLM ’19

Sunny skies, warm vibes, and the best sunset you’ll see this side of the nation.

Why wouldn’t you want to experience Los Angeles?

If you ask anyone in L.A. what’s the best coast, they’ll tell you its the west coast. As a New York City native, I  can’t concur but I can definitely relate. The first time I came to California was in 2014, and ever since then I cannot get this view of palm trees swaying as a gentle breeze passes out of my mind. In between 2014 and the time I started USC for graduate school, I visited California a few more times to help make my decision. Whether I came in the spring or the winter, L.A. just felt like the place to be. I traded in my furs for flip-flops, and have yet to regret that decision.

There are so many things to do, so many people to meet, and so much knowledge to be learned. I’ve compiled 5 Reasons why you might what to give L.A. a shot. Read mine, and let me know if you have a different five, and what they are! I’m always learning.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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