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.
I was able to be a part of the Price Professional Mentorship Program (PPMP) in which I was matched up with an alumni mentor. He had gotten his MPA, so I have found it especially interesting to learn about his experience in the MPA program and learn about how he believes it helped him in his career path. Furthermore, through the PPMP I not only have the opportunity to get to know my mentor but also other mentors in the program. In January, there was a speed networking event where mentees were able to network with some of the other mentors. Networking can help you realize the connections you already have but are unaware of or the connections that you or someone else can help to establish. Furthermore, networking gives you a glance into someone else’s life and the opportunity to learn about what they did and subsequently how you can enhance your own experiences. The more you network, the more comfortable and at ease you become in the whole process. We live in a very interconnected world, so networking is just another step towards establishing more of those connections.
So far through my own networking experiences, I have met quite a few people that started their own organizations, which I find very inspiring.
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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.
Black History Month and Seats at the Table
The conversation about Forward LA and how at the time it had been 25 years since the Rodney King incident and following uprising of 1992 struck a particular nerve with me as an African American....
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“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!
Second, time management. Managing your time is key in graduate school. Get a planner, write down important dates and always review your schedule and tasks in advance....
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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.
Each OTR cohort arrives in the town of Speyer, Germany, over three days after the end of Spring semester. Speyer University, which is home for the next five weeks, is located about a 15 minute walk from the city center. Once students arrive in Speyer, they are provided with dorm keys and get to meet their roommates - usually a German student studying at the university for the summer. The campus is small but beautiful, and boasts a grassy courtyard replete with bounding wild rabbits, a (somewhat unpopular) cafeteria, several classrooms, and a library (strict librarian included). It is not uncommon to look out from the dorms to see afternoon barbecues, volleyball games, and week night dance classes happening around campus...
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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.
You will also struggle to get used to the Los Angeles traffic. I have lived through the five stages of grief about LA traffic, and finally accepted the harsh reality of it. Soon, all your plans too will be guided by the traffic situation at that time of the day.
But then, the sea will save you. The piers and the vibrancy of the beaches, the quick respite from the city’s humdrum is something that is unique to Los Angeles. De-stressing after the midterms? Pack your mat, and take a 45 min Expo-ride to Santa Monica – a day at the beach can cure almost anything, and that is something you’ll love to get used to.
Life in Los Angeles comes with a chance to experience endless beautiful sunsets. Whether you have taken a trip to the Griffith Observatory, or some National Park, or even caught in traffic on the Interstate 405, I promise you, the sunset will mesmerize you. And that is something I would love to get used to...
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I can’t believe how fast my first semester as a graduate student has come and gone. Needless to say, now that finals are over and I wait for my grades to post, I am deeply enjoying this glimpse of down-time between the end of fall and beginning of spring semester. The shift from being out of school for four years to life as a full-time employee and graduate student has been no easy transition.
I remember before starting my program, I received advice from an alumnus:
“Around week seven you will probably be so stressed with this transition that you will ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ But don’t worry. Pause…breathe…focus… and know that you’re not alone.”
This piece of advice truly supported me, especially when I found myself having dis-empowering conversations about time and commitment...
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Los Angeles is one of the best places I have been to and seen. Why Los Angeles you ask? Well because USC is in the heart of Los Angeles and it is in the best places to get your education.
First, Los Angeles is beautiful. From The Last Bookstore to the Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Broad Museum to the sunsets at the Santa Monica Pier to the greens at Huntington Garden. There is something beautiful to see and enjoy at every corner. It depends on what your eye sees as beautiful.
Second, it is very diverse. There are people and food in Los Angeles from every corner of the world. Yelp has made eating in Los Angeles very easy. All you have to do is search what you are craving and Yelp gives you multiple options for your search. In addition, if you are studying and don’t have the time to go out and eat, Yelp has a delivery option for some restaurants....
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How Dad Shattered Christmas
There’s something about this time of year that brings all of these nostalgic feelings. Going back home and thinking back on the past year, memories with family and friends, and how much or little has changed since then. One thing for me growing up in my family is that I was constantly having myths about the world around me shattered in front of my eyes, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. I remember for Christmas when I was about 7 I would show my gratitude by leaving out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. Since I wasn’t allowed to use the stove, I had to buy the cookies myself with whatever change I hadn’t spent on school lunch. The following morning when my siblings and I woke up, the first thing I did after opening gifts was to head straight for the kitchen. I saw an empty plate of cookies… but a glass full of milk. I went and asked my parents why Santa didn’t drink the milk, and I’ll never forget how my mom just looked at my dad and then he said “I guess he just wasn’t Thursday”. I then remembered my father was lactose intolerant and was the only one in our house who couldn’t drink milk.
Less comically, as the years went on, one of the other myths I saw shattered was the notion of the “self-made man”. The “grind” is a glorified idea in our culture, and to perfectly clear, I think being willing to grind and work hard is essential to any worthwhile goal, but the idea that a person could single-handedly push to take care of their own needs and make their goals happen without help from anyone else just always sounded kind of suspect to me. During this past semester as a grad student, and just talking to and watching other adults I’ve definitely seen how the whole idea of being self-sufficient is wildly overrated....
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Before starting the MPP Program or any of the Price Masters programs, you will get the opportunity to meet with alumni, current students of various programs, and other admitted students. Every person you speak with will give you insight into their experience, their suggestions on classes and what they would do if they were in your shoes.
When I expressed my desire to work full-time and complete the MPP program full-time, many individuals advised against the idea with very valid reasons and explanations on why. However, I stuck with my plan and as each week of Fall Semester passed, friends and coworkers were asking me how I was doing. My honest answer to everyone was simply, “I don’t know.” Reflecting back on the fall semester, I was able to accomplish a lot: school, work, various volunteer positions, and participate in select USC activities. Without the flexibility of classmates, group members, professors, and many more individuals, the completion of Fall Semester would not have been possible. The support system you receive from your cohort and other USC friends is tremendous because they are willing to help you academically, mentally, and socially....
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In my semester plus as an MPP at Price, there haven’t been too many surprises, and the ones that have come up have been positive ones. Things like how easy it is to get involved in student orgs and make a difference in my short time here and just how many people of diverse backgrounds and experiences I’d have the chance to work with have certainly surpassed my expectations.
One thing caught me off guard coming in even though I knew I would need to be prepared for coming in, and would have been helpful to prepare for more last summer before I started. We MPPs got thrown pretty much straight into the fire work-wise, with a lengthy literature review due a couple weeks in to the semester (and another paper due for many a week later, too.) While this was a great opportunity for us to get into the swing of things quickly and bust that summer hangover right away, I wished that over the summer I had taken some time to review some academic journals and research papers I had written in the past so I was more prepared to take on these tasks from the get-go at Price....