Enjoying the Journey

It’s been a few months since my last post, and in this time I’ve learned that life does indeed get more exciting with age. I’ve also learned that hard work leads to great opportunities. It is my hope that I continue to be challenged and rewarded as I have been since last spring quarter.

First of all, I am sincerely thankful to the Voinovich School for its flexibility in allowing me to earn credit toward my degree in nontraditional ways. Over the summer I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland with the City and the Environment program, taking a class in sustainable urban planning and another in the history of Edinburgh. This epic six-week adventure was the first step toward my Environmental Sustainability graduate certificate. In addition, I interned with the Cockburn Association, a nonprofit civic trust that aims to uphold the history and integrity of the city through the reviewing of city development plans and the discussion of issues surrounding sustainable transportation and planning. The trip was invaluable not only because of what I learned in the classroom, but what I learned outside of it. Studying abroad is exciting because of the need to adapt quickly to a new environment so that you can accomplish your goals while visiting. The experience was possible because my adviser, Dr. Millesen, approved of my request to have the Environmental Sustainability courses count as electives toward my MPA degree.

This semester I march onward toward the completion of my graduate studies. I’m currently enrolled in Natural Resource Conservation, Environmental Sustainability, Economics of the Environment, and Graphic Design. Yes, there’s a general theme this semester – and then the one “why not, I’ve always been interested and this could benefit my future if I take the marketing/communications route” class. Four classes at the graduate level on semesters has proven to be quite a heavy workload, but I’m excited to be learning more about increasingly pressing issues that have heavy implications on the future of mankind. These are the sorts of challenges that leaders in all walks of life will have to address soon.

In addition to the class load, I am a Teaching Assistant this year with the Global Leadership Center at Ohio University. The experience has been rewarding beyond what I even imagined it could be. As a 2010 alumnus of the challenging program, I am thrilled to be back with it once again, and this time on the other side of it. Involvement with something as adaptive and educational as the GLC from both the student and instructor perspective has illuminated the hard work and commitment it takes to creating the effective leaders of the future. On a separate yet personally satisfying note is the perk that complements working with the GLC – an opportunity to travel abroad! I look forward to our class trip to Vietnam next semester as OU students work closer with students at Nha Trang University.

This year will be exciting, but I’ll have to make sure that I practice what I preach in the classroom. If I expect students to submit quality work, I must be a quality instructor. In addition, I must also submit quality work to my professors and superiors. Leading isn’t a job, but a lifestyle – and I am confident that the Voinovich School and Ohio University have given me the guidance to appreciate this distinction.

Expecting the Unexpected for Year Two

As I bombard my professors’ e-mail accounts with constant approval-seeking that my goals during the two years at the Voinovich School makes any sense, I realize that my second year in the program will be wildly different from my first. While the first year was comprised entirely of MPA courses and practicum experience, the second year will nearly completely feature neither.

As mentioned in my previous post, I will be studying abroad in Scotland this summer for one month, taking GEOG 5560: City and the Environment and HIST 593: Edinburgh since 1750. In addition, I will be interning with the Cockburn Association, an urban planning civic society based in Edinburgh. The plan is to earn two classes worth of credit toward my Environmental Sustainability Graduate Certificate during this time. The first class mentioned above and the internship will fulfill those roles, while the history class will serve to educate students in the program about the city in which we will be living during the duration of the program.

Regarding the Fall, it’ll be interesting enough adjusting to the switch to semesters from quarters. On top of that, I’ll be taking four classes, instead of the usual two-class-one-internship approach through which I’ve been operating these past two quarters. I’ll most likely be volunteering with Rural Action in addition to the class load as well. The biggest challenge of it all, however, will be that each class will be outside of the MPA curriculum and within the various departments of environmental studies, economics, journalism, and political science. None of my classmates I’ve gotten to know over the year will be in any of my classes and the content will be foreign to me. The environmental studies and economics classes will count toward my graduate certificate while the journalism class, Graphics and Audiences, is something I’m taking because I think it could complement my communications background and give me some insight into marketing (in case I decide to go that route). I’m enrolled in the political science class, Environmental Politics/Policy because that’s the sort of policy I’m interested in (along with food policy, which I believe goes hand in hand with it).

Although it seems like I’m disregarding my MPA degree during my second year in the program, I’m actually helping to fulfill it with required elective courses…and then some. By the time Spring semester rolls around, I’ll only have one required MPA class and one required certificate course to take, freeing up some wiggle room for more exploration. Learning should not be held down by parameters established to earn a degree, but instead should evolve beyond such parameters to earn an education. This is what I’ve been excited to earn all throughout the program. And I’m thankful that the Voinovich School offers such an opportunity.

Excited About the Future

In my last blog, I posted about the importance of perseverance. I said that things happen and don’t for a reason. As much as I wanted the trip to Ghana to happen this summer with the African Culture through the Arts program, the trip was cancelled. However, the connections I had made in the process of applying for the Ghana trip led to another great opportunity. I will be going to Scotland this summer with the Edinburgh: City and the Environment program!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted visit Scotland and now not only will I be able to see most of the country, I’ll earn credits toward both my MPA degree and my Environmental Sustainability graduate certificate. In addition, I will be interning with the Cockburn Association, a civic society that advocates for issues regarding transportation, planning and the environment in the city of Edinburgh. Although all my practicum hours will have been fulfilled by the time I leave for Scotland, this experience will be incredibly valuable because I will gain insight into the workings of an urban planning entity in one of Europe’s most progressive cities. None of this would have been possible without the dedicated faculty at the Voinovich School that makes education as exciting and meaningful as possible for its students.

As for now, I must focus on the AZA concert that I will be African dancing and drumming in on May at Mem Aud, read up on articles for Organizational Theory on leadership in organizations, get working on the next assignment for Financial Management, do book edits for a Voinovich School faculty member, and compile information from Rural Action’s various programs into the organization’s e-newsletter, the Rural Rambler. Life is simultaneously exciting and with exception to the humidity, comfortable.