Stress, stress, stress

28 November 2012 § Leave a comment

Mental health. It’s the elephant in the room for graduate students, isn’t it?

Make no bones about it, graduate school can and will drive you to the brink. The stress from classes alone is enough to wind people up, leave them snapping at the ones closest to them and doing weird things. Add in volunteer work, workstudy, graduate research positions and involvement with the numerous offices, centers and organizations on campus just make for one big self-inflicted stressfest. Oh, and for those in their second year, the job search doesn’t help one bit. Sure, there are some positive signs on the horizon concerning job growth, but nothing that seems to say we’ve made it out of rough seas as of yet.

In a way, this is normal. Studies at a program this intensive and prestigious should not be easy. If they are, one is either not challenging themselves or that kind of person who only performs better and better as the pressure builds (I envy these people so much). However, there is a tendency among students here to pile on the work in the hopes of an amazing resume to the point of self-inflicted anxiety.

Here’s the silver lining to all of this – The University of Denver has amazing resources for this kind of problem. The Health and Counseling Center has resources on campus for numerous issues students may have help with. Sleep deprivation, stress release, group discussions, one-on-one sessions – you name it, they have it. Not only that, but they’re incredibly friendly, kind and completely objective. Just what a student needs when it’s time to rant about a peer, class, event or that jerk driver who ran the red light at Evans and University and scared you so bad you lost four years off your life.

Let’s face it – this isn’t a topic that many people want to talk about. It can seem humiliating, that one can’t figure out how to sort out their life. It can also be troubling for anyone considering a career in the government, especially when security clearances and many entrance exams ask specific questions about mental health. Look, it can be frightening and it can be somewhat humiliating. But at the end of the day, it just helps to talk to someone and that is all this really is. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

Dear Brian Hasbrouck:

9 October 2012 § Leave a comment

So, you wrote me a while back asking if syllabi for my classes were public. Then, because I am either horrible at time management or very dedicated to studying for my classes (One is the truth, one is what it appears to be), I forgot to reply to you. My apologies, sir. Here is my belated reply.

The great thing about the Korbel School is that all prospective syllabi are available online. They are public, searchable and up-to-date (Mostly). I mean, some syllabi aren’t even finalized until a week or so before class, mostly because our amazing clique of professors are doing things like jetting off to Argentina to advise MERCOSUR on how to found interstate banking regulatory agencies, but they’re usually good to go. So, where are these amazing syllabi? They’re on Korbel’s portfolio page, accessible here.

So, why is this important? First – It lets students who have massive stacks of paper on their desks refind syllabi and prepare for the next class. I would be the case study there. Second – It lets students do research on what classes they may want to take next quarter. Finally – Prospective students have a fantastic opportunity to peruse the classes offered at Korbel. With this in hand, they can better decide if Korbel is the best fit for them or request to sit in on a class of interest.

Brian, I hope that answered your question. Sorry I’m so late with the response. If you happen to be looking for a graduate student to work in your office, I promise I am 100% on time in the office (It’s worth a shot, right?).

Sincerely,

DG

Saturday Morning, And Still Impressed

16 September 2012 § 1 Comment

Just a quick note on something that happened in my first Saturday morning class, Political Risk Analysis.

Our professor took notes as we went around the room introducing our selves, making sure to press us for just what we were looking for out of the class. It wasn’t some idle request. Rather, she took detailed notes on who we were, what we were studying, what we were hoping to gain from this (short) class. At the end of the introduction, she sat, looked at her list, pursed her lips and responded:

“Okay. I am going to give you guys what you need.”

That’s not out of the ordinary at Korbel. However, given the rest of my experience with higher education, it is phenomenal. There are not many places I have visited, studied at, been a part of that showed that sort of a dedication to ensuring students receive the education they desire. Usually, it’s the other way around. Students shoehorn their needs into classes, with people often left either unfulfilled or disappointed in the course setup. With a few exceptions, most of the classes I have had at Korbel have been very open-ended, with strong emphasis on fulfilling what we need to complete our given focus, career path, future. It’s a good feeling, and one that is the norm around Korbel.

Add in to this already impressive trait the sheer number of experts and you have a potent mixture. It’s no wonder that Korbel graduates can be found at all levels of private, governmental and intergovernmental service. We have caring, sharp minds educating us, crafting studies for us, pointing us towards our dreams or showing us areas that we never thought we’d be interested in (Like my new-found appreciation for Eastern Europe).

And, in spite of having to be up early on a Saturday morning, I still have this good feeling about this class. All the more impressive, eh?

Brace Yourself. Finals are Coming.

2 March 2012 § Leave a comment

WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 PAPERS WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10 WEEK 10

OH NO

Pictured: Melodrama

 

Top Cities To Be A Student In – No Denver.

17 February 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jason Oberholtzer. His Tumblr, Ilovecharts, leaves me either intrigued or laughing so hard my sides hurt at least once a day. That’s why it pains me so much when I see him bring me information that is completely, patently wrong. In his blog on Forbes he posts a chart released by TopUniversities.com that ranks cities in the world that are best to be students in. So, this isn’t his doing, and I don’t like to shoot the messenger. Let’s just try and handle this with some grace and style… whatever, I’ll rant.

Here’s the list:

I feel like I should preface my rant with a short letter.

Dear Non-United States World:

Don’t confuse me for a national chauvinist. I like your cities. I like your countries. I mean, there’s not a city on here I wouldn’t jump at the chance to live in. I am, however, unapologetically biased towards the current city I live in. Nothing personal.

Sincerely,
DG

The fact that Denver isn’t in this list is a steaming pile of horse#%@. Since living here, I’ve been bowled over by the life that this city embodies. That’s not to say that there aren’t downsides to living here. Sure, when it snows the city does a crap job of plowing streets and snow quickly turns into pack ice. (Think that won’t do a number on your alignment? It will.) Yeah, the number of people who are evangelically snow-bound or outdoorsy vacillates between annoying and outright inconsiderate. Parking here is a nightmare.

Having said that, Denver sure as hell is one of the best cities to be a student in. I don’t think I’ve been in a city that has taken care of itself like Denver has.  Parks are ever-present in this city, and aren’t your usual oh-hey-look-a-flood-prone-area-let’s-turn-it-into-a-park. The Nuggets are doing great, you can get into Rockies games for next to nothing, the Avalanche are still not as good as my Red Wings. There are bars, clubs, longues everywhere. The standard of living here is affordable, the people are nice, the weather is awesome and the combination of federal offices and NGOs around here make employability with a degree from Korbel a certainty rather than a possibility.

TopUniversities.com, you’re absolutely wrong. Anyone here can tell you that.

Classy Like Marx

6 January 2012 § Leave a comment

Last quarter, I had an absolutely amazing class, a class that challenged me but taught me a lot and a class I would undue if I could get my hands on a DeLorean and a flux capacitor. To protect the guilty and the innocent, names shant be disclosed, but this quarter seems to be an absolutely fantastic lineup of classes that are that absolutely perfect mixture of challenge, personal interest and fantastic professors.

Postcommunist East European States - Taught by Dr. Epstein, this might be one of the more . I’m focusing on US foreign relations and diplomacy, and one of the main areas of interest to me is NATO. The eastward expansion of NATO, which was followed in turn by the eastward expansion of the EU, might be one of the most revolutionary paradigm shifts in American foreign policy since Nixon opened relations with the People’s Republic of China. That’s not to say it’s been smooth. Issues in Hungary show that neoliberal trade policies and immediate transitions to democracy have done a good bit of harm in these nascent democracies, while others, like Poland, have been remarkably successful. Add in to this two lectures from ambassadors and you have one hell of a class.

Great Books in International Political Economy - I never had many IPE classes in undergrad. There simply wasn’t an offering at my alma mater. No matter, the program here at Korbel is fantastic and will bring any IPE neophyte up to speed incredibly quickly. I took my first IPE class on a recommendation from a PhD student I know here, and immediately became fascinated with it (Can you fall in love with a study?). So, I enrolled in Dr. DeMartino’s class this quarter. HEre’s the thing – It’s going to be full of heavy reading (I went ahead and read the first book over winter break so I might have a little breathing room during this class). Having said that, Dr. DeMartino is an amazing lecturer. He is passionate, he is personable, he is a one-man-show. He literally lectures with his eyes closed for a good bit of the time, weaving his hands through the air as if he were a conductor, and his class notes were the master score. It will be challenging, but I have no doubt I will learn tons.

International Organizations - Okay, tiny admission to make. I’m a boderline realist. I will emphasize boderline. That said, I really like IGOs. The intrigue, the turf wars, the ideological basis, everything about them to me is like a game of cloak and dagger on the world stage that is more grandiose, more dramatic and more specialized than any state-to-state discussion could ever be. You just can’t beat the fashion show that is the opening of the UNGA and the crazy speeches made there (Qaddafi, I’ll always remember you for your nonsensical one-shot diatribe in New York). This class is going to have some great chances to contribute to discussion, to debate and a series of great readings on everything from the ideological and legal underpinnings of international organizations, to the pertinent issues they attempt to tackle.

Long story short? Classes here are pretty cool.

Rumsfeldian Philosophy

22 December 2011 § Leave a comment

Korbel can really do a doozy on these young first years.

I’ve noticed that coming back home. Home, where I was born and raised, is down in extreme south Arkansas. Not exactly a mecca for foreign policy wonks, but a haven for lovers of Z71s and Kenny Chesney. That doesn’t mean people here don’t ask questions, and some of the things I’ve said have surprised myself.

“How in the hell did I put that together?!”

It’s always interesting coming home, but after just one quarter, it’s amazing how quickly you notice the changes you’ve gone through simply by juxtaposing yourself to others. Suddenly you realize that one class with that one amazing professor did give you the answers to why things are happening the way they are in the world, that you have a more in-depth understanding of the machinery of the international stage. It’s in moments like that you realize that not only is every moment, every dime, every stressful moment from class in Korbel worth it, but you are becoming something far better than you ever thought you would.

That’s also when you realize you’re becoming a specialized professional. The only way I know how to explain it is paraphrasing something I read in Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. Twain talks about how for the casual passenger, and even the less specialized crew members of a steamship, the river is a mysterious, powerful thing that is as beautiful as it is dangerous. For the pilot, the river has lost all mystique. It is simply a collection of eddies showing hidden logs that could rip his hull apart, or slack water where he can push his boat to its limits or rapids from a spring flood. Twain equates this with how a physician might look at a blush on a woman’s face: Not that the woman may have some interest in the doctor, but that the girl may be infected with some pathogen and may be exhibiting signs of a fever.

Another example is my dad, an engineer, and that well-worn joke about black boxes and airplanes. “If black boxes always survive the crash, why don’t they just build the plane out of black boxes?” My dad finds no humor in this, because he understands weight/thrust ratios and limits of structural rigidity.

Not to say people at Korbel don’t have a sense of humor. Quite the opposite; humor is one of the only ways to cope with the stress, the subjects (especially the human rights kids, bless their hearts). But, humor changes. More knowledge means a differing, new perception, a differing perception means a different person and the cycle continues ad infinitum.

This doesn’t mean that Korbel has us drinking the [copyrighted beverage]. It just means that as we come to see more ways to view the world, we come to understand more about why people act the way they do. The international stage is no longer one long chain of deus ex machina beyond the understanding of the us, but something we come to fully grasp.

Funny how sometimes the only way we realize what we realize is to stack it up against something that is completely unexpected, like a country-lovin’, truck-drivin’, conspiracy-minded, overly-friendly barrista in a basement coffee shop.

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