Creating My Education

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges about part-time graduate school is scheduling. With a job that requires a lot of nights and weekends, building a schedule that allows me to actually make it to my classes and continue my program in a direction that actually can lead to an M.A. in Global Communication from GW.

Summers are among the most difficult times for such things. With a compressed schedule, once a week classes meet twice, meaning that classes often overlap. Professors, looking to get research done when they aren’t grading hundreds of undergraduates, take time away. Those that stick around struggle to fill classes.

For the first time, I’m contemplating an independent study as a graduate student. I’d like to build a course addressing the way American policies and politics impact the construction of public diplomacy and aid operations. Though PD officers and leaders can ask for the tools they need to handle the challenges of their work, it is Congress and all of the interests that surround it that control the hardware store. Navigating the myriad committees, think tanks and bureaucratic postures to get buy-in is a fascinating, challenging, and arguably counter-productive way to do one’s job, and I’d like to analyze how all of that gets built.

I haven’t yet reached out to a faculty member, and I’m only just beginning to construct my personal syllabus to present to whoever sponsors me. I want to take full ownership of this, because I feel this is an opportunity to take a critical next step in my educational experience.

Much of my journey thus far has  been deferential. I take it at face value that the faculty I learn from know exactly what they’re talking about and have the right approaches to the subjects at hand. I have taken it for granted far too often that an article that is peer-reviewed in a subject that I am unfamiliar with has to be well-constructed, logical and true. I now think, however, that graduate school is about stepping into the ring and arguing on behalf of a different view. It is about challenging my assumptions and the research and methodologies and saying that that’s not right.

One day, I’d love to start combing through those fundamental articles that built my understanding of political communication and tackling them a second time. Those books and articles about how people understand the world around them, how politics is communicated through theater and how the press relates to the public and government have become my Catechism. Was I right to accept that?

All that said, I want to assemble a curriculum that makes sense to me, engage it the way I think it needs to be engaged, and synthesize it in a way that I become arbitrator rather than passive receiver. Before I reach out to anyone with determined expertise and experience, I want to see if I can do it right on my own.

That said, to all the PD folks who at one time or another bookmarked my blog and thought it disappeared forever, please please please send suggested readings. GAO docs, peer reviewed articles, books, news stories, blog posts, whatever. I’m going to aim high this summer, and would love some of your suggestions as I put together my plan.

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One Response to Creating My Education

  1. Jay says:

    A huge gradschool moment for me was questioning an article by my major professor, who is one of the great academic minds in PR, and her giving constructive feedback in response. Good grad school, especially in communication fields, is necessarily about questioning underlying assumptions. As a field of study, communication in general and certainly poli comm is way too young for stuff to be considered sacred text. Plus, so many theories even from a decade or two ago failed to account for a ton of elements that could never be expected.

    Hell, my thesis from eight years ago on the relationship between journalists and PR pros re: ethics reads like something from the stone ages.

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