Well, the first week of the program is officially in the record books! It was both challenging and motivating at the same time. The academic week started Tuesday afternoon with a library orientation. It was a good review for me, and I’m sure that it was beneficial for the rest of the cohort. In addition to discussing online and physical resources, the librarian also gave a brief overview of Zotero. I can say from personal experience that Zotero is a very valuable asset for any student at any level when noting references.
I had two classes on Tuesday immediately following the library orientation. The first class was PUBP 801. The 801 class is an introduction to research as it relates to public policy. It seems fairly straightforward, but I have recognized early that there will be a lot of work involved to “do things right”. We must quickly identify a research question and this research question will serve as the foundation to a lot what we do through the course of the semester.
The second class of the evening was PUBP 730. Unlike 801, 730 is a combined masters- and PhD-level course, so the mix is about 50/50 between masters and PhD students. The professor is a political scientist, which is important given that this course explores policy systems and theory in the United States.
The third, and final, class of the week is a Thursday afternoon introductory statistics course – PUBP 704. I haven’t had a statistics class since 1989, so having this class is going to be very helpful in preparing me for PUBP 804 – next semester’s statistics course.
Looking back on the week, yes, there’s a lot of work to be done to keep in step with the curricula. But I’m already seeing interrelationships between the courses which will help with the learning process. For instance, in 801, we will identify a research problem. We will then be working throughout the semester to develop a research proposal from that original problem. In 704, we will write a research paper that includes statistical analysis. These are two building blocks that can be used in the future as we develop our dissertation proposals and then research and write our dissertations.
Looking back, it’s great to be back in class and to feel like an integral part of an academic community again. I’ve taken courses and pursued programs of study on a part-time basis in the past, but with only one exception, I’ve felt somewhat disconnected from the academic community to which I belonged. Because I’m a full-time student, there’s a much greater connection with the community. I’m looking forward to advancing through the upcoming semester!