Spring Semester 2011

Now that I’m a theoretical two weeks into the Spring Semester, it’s time to provide my first update.  I say “theoretical” because the University was closed Wednesday and Thursday of the first week of classes due to inclement weather.  So I’ve attended my Tuesday class twice, but my Wednesday and Thursday classes only once so far.

Here are this semester’s courses and my initial impressions:

PUBP 720: Managerial Economics and Policy Analysis – This is a fundamental microeconomics course.  It’s a prerequisite course in the PhD program and a mandatory course in the Master’s programs, so it’s very popular.  The room is packed, but I think I’m going to enjoy it.  The professor’s philosophy is to keep the readings short and assign problem sets as students learn more by doing.

PUBP 804: Multivariate Statistical Analysis in Public Policy – I’ve got my work cut out here.  This is the follow-on to the PUBP 704 prerequisite course I took last semester.  There’s definitely a heavy emphasis on the use of STATA and I think this will be my most challenging class.

PUBP 805: Public Policy Systems and Theory – This is another follow-on course and shares similarities with PUBP 730; a prerequisite course I also took last semester.  So far, this has to be my favorite course.  We will be covering the political environment, agenda setting, policy theories, and their application.  There is a lot of reading involved: we will have read eight books by the time the semester is over.

PUBP 850: Professional Development – This is the seminar course for all SPP PhD students.  We take it in our first year of study.  It shares some similarity with last semester’s PUBP 801 course in that there will be numerous guest lecturers, but the course emphasizes scholarly research, professional development, and ethics and professional norms rather than 801’s focus on a research proposal.

All-in-all, it’s a course load of 11 semester hours, so I’m still full-time.  I’m also still working full-time, but keeping my fingers crossed that I get accepted to a program in which I’m able to reduce my working hours to 20/week while attending classes full-time.  Announcements were supposed to have been made in January, but as of yet my status is unknown.

Finally, there is an important bit of news to share about the Arlington facilities.  Until this semester, the School of Public Policy has had different homes around the Fairfax and Arlington campuses, but never a building specifically built for the School.  Until now.  Founder’s Hall is the new home of the School of Public Policy and is definitely state of the art.  Way to go Mason!  For a brief history of the Arlington Campus, click here.

Spring Registration

About a week and a half ago, we registered for Spring classes and I have to say it was quite an experience! We (the PhD students) had been told that we should register as soon as the window opened in order to get into the classes we wanted; especially since one of the courses most of us needed is also a mandatory course for Masters students.

I arrived on campus in plenty of time to “get comfortable” and log in ahead of the 3:00 PM window opening. I checked a couple of times before the appointed time with no luck. 3:00 definitely means 3:00. At exactly 3:00 PM, I was able to log in to the registration website. Fortunately, I had written down the numeric codes for the four courses I’ll be taking next semester. I typed them in and clicked send. The screen froze.

I had no idea what to do. Thoughts ran through my mind that the hype was only that – hype. But then the Masters student who was sitting at the table next to mine trying to register using his laptop sprung up and bolted toward the computer room in a panic. Maybe the hype was real …

I waited for 30 seconds and my screen was still not responding. I checked other sites in another window – they worked. Clearly this was a traffic issue on the registration site. In a moment of frustration, I closed the window I was using for registration and tried to log in again. After what seemed like forever (in reality, a matter of 2-3 minutes) I was back in. I reentered the codes and clicked send. This time, I got past the initial screen, but received a notice saying that my registration had already been updated.

When I checked my schedule, it turns out that my registration had made it in on my first attempt; I just didn’t receive confirmation. At 3:10 PM, out of morbid curiosity, I checked availability of the dual-tracked course. There were three sections available. Sure enough, two of the three were already full and the third had only a couple of seats available. Wow! I’ve never experienced anything like that!

So what courses am I taking next term?

PUBP 720 – Managerial Economics
PUBP 804 – Multivariate Statistical Analysis
PUBP 805 – Public Policy Systems and Theory
PUBP 850 – Seminar in Public Policy

More to come as this term winds to a close …