“Don’t you think you could be a successful student and get a job after graduation if you take 14 or better yet, 12 credits this semester?” she asked.
I struggled for, like, the 5th time in the past few weeks to explain to someone why I lied to myself again.
You see, I told myself in October, November, and December of last year (2008) that if I could just make it to the end of the semester, I would not do this thing, this thing that I am about to do, again.
You see, I’m about to take 16 credits.
And while I would have no problem eating crow and dropping a class if I get too overwhelmed or if one of them sucked, but based on the class titles, the descriptions, and the professors, I NEED to be in ALL these classes. They complete my theme.
I get that 16 credits is a lot for graduate school, but if I could do it last semester, then I can do again this semester. Dammit!
But when I tried to explain the concept of my theme to my therapist today, she was making some hellafied faces at me. Similar to the faces of all the other people over the past month who have heard about the marathon of classes that I’m taking this Spring.
My classmates, mostly, are barely taking enough classes to be full time and stare at me wide-eyed when I explain to them my hustle plan. And my faculty advisor, bless his heart, is so focused on getting my capstone (master’s thesis) completed that he may have a conniption fit if he finds out my class schedule. My girlfriend, if I complain one ioda, may push me down a flight of stairs and scream after me, “I TOLD YOU SOOOOOO!” Not because she’s evil, but because she has spend considerable breath telling me to drop something, anything, so that I don’t find myself burnt out and super stressed in April.
My mother, on the other hand, thinks I’m a genius and is so very proud. Her only concern is what we are doing for graduation. Are we having a dinner, throwing a party, sending out invitations? For her, graduating isn’t an option. Passing my classes isn’t an option. She just assumes (rightly so) that everything that needs to get done will get done. And frankly, she doesn’t give two sh!ts how they get done. All she knows is, her oldest daughter is graduating with a Master’s degree on Mother’s Day and is going to be fabulously successful. And while I know that she really doesn’t understand the work that will go into accomplishing that goal, I love the fact that she just assumes it’s going to happen. She even wants to come to school to hear me defend my paper. (she’s so sweet).
But for everyone who isn’t my mother-those of ya’ll who are now thinking, “Why the hell does Monica HAVE to take 16 credits and what the hell is this theme she speaks of?”
Here is your answer.
I’m taking 16 credits because I am in school to learn and I believe that I have a duty to take advance of this time that I am taking for graduate school. Why pay the tuition, and take the time off (when I could be working) to come to graduate school if I’m just going to pussyfoot around and half-ass it?
I’m taking 16 credits because I genuinely want to learn, and everything that I’m enrolled in sounds so COOL. And I would never forgive myself if I don’t soak up as much as I can from the professors that I am taking. One of my professors is one of the coolest men I know. He’s funny, brilliant, and he’s f-ing famous.
I ‘m taking 16 credits because at some point in the future, I’m going to go on interviews (or at least have to explain to someone what I’ve learned in graduate school), and having a wide breath of knowledge and some topics that I’ve dug a little deeper into sounds like a reasonable idea.
And that leads me to the idea of a theme. A theme is a set of inter-related classes that paint a broader picture of a theory or policy or an application.
See, Fall 2008 also had a theme. The theme of last semester was Housing and Community Development.
Housing Policy was my favorite class. I learned how to develop affordable housing, I learned about new ideas and trends in affordable housing. I learned so much about the housing crisis and I am kicking myself right now for not posting more about it over the semester. I learned the policy (and economic) implications for developing affordable housing. I also learned what the hell “affordable” means. I also learned that there are people who are poor enough that affordable housing isn’t affordable.
The class made me sad, it made me mad, some days it made me want to throw things. But at the end of the day, it reminded me how much I love houses, homes and communities. It reignited my passion for housing. And gave me some tools that will help me to work in that area.
One other class that worked with my theme was Urban Revitalization. While Housing Policy looked at mostly federal regulations, UR was all about neighborhoods. Getting down to where people live, literally. UR made me think about housing and real estate as a neighborhood issue. To be successful as a housing advocate or developer, I have to have a workable relationship with the neighborhoods where I work. This class was the flip side of Housing Policy, and I’m glad I took them both together.
While these classes make up the bulk of my theme, I took the research from these two classes to write papers for other classes. Basically I wrote 1 paper, and adapted it for the requirements of other classes. I think I used it 3 or 4 times.
This allowed me to dig deeper into a topic area, Inclusionary Zoning. Basically, inclusionary zoning is a mechanism that local governments can use to create and sustain affordable housing. And you, dear readers, are reading the words of an inclusionary zoning expert. *** popping my collar**** I can talk about IZ from a legal point (constitutional and case law) from an economic point and a social policy point. I even worked on a project for a local organization that hopefully will spurn inclusionary zoning policies in my local community.
This spring semester, my theme is Real Estate Development and Social Entrepreneurship. AND my classes compliment my capstone and will provide the background for my dissertation. (Ya’ll knew I wanted to be Dr. Monica one day, right?)
My classes include New Urbanism and Sustainable Development, Real Estate Funding, Capital Budgeting, Policy Implications of the Creative Class, Intro to Social Entrepreneurship and some other stuff that they are making me take. See the theme? NOW do you see why I have to leave my schedule intact?
I want to use these classes, especially New Urbanism class, and the Creative Class Policy class to build on my capstone research (which I realize that I haven’t really explained at all on this blog, maybe I’ll get to it next time) and set up my dissertation research. And the other classes, Budgeting, Real Estate Funding and Social Entrepreneurship, along with one class from the Fall, Non-Profit Law, will help me start my real estate development business.
Anyway, the point here is that there is a method to my madness. While I may want to die come April, when this is all over, I will have accomplished something significant. I will have a body of work on topics that I care about and (hopefully) publishable articles, I will be clear candidate for the types of employment I want and I will already have the groundwork for my dissertation all set up for when that time comes. And oh yeah, I’ll be able to tell folks what I’ve been doing for the past 2 years.
So yeah, I may be crazy, but 16 credits and 5 months of super hard work doesn’t seem like that much when I think of where it will put me in the long run. And to answer my therapist’s question, no, it wouldn’t be the same with 12 credits. It would destroy my theme, and furthermore, what would I drop?!?!?!?
So I’m preparing to hunker down, and get it done. I’ll see you at the finish line.