What can someone expect from a graduate program these days? A friend of mine who completed the masters program I'm currently enrolled in told me, "You get from it, what you bring to it." A good philosophy.
This weekend I completed semester #3 in my quest for a Master's degree at Manhattanville College in Purchase NY. This program is staffed by instructors who are extremely knowledgable about their subject matter, but are not teachers by trade. Therefore, the classes are more like an anecdotal history of their job experience than they are a structured educational program.
That being said, by doing the readings (and being aware through the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, NPR, CBS, and other media of ongoing current events) there is a way to develop a new knowledge of a subject matter and use these experts for 30 hours of targeted research assistance.
Through these teachers I've learned about professional association sources, on-line free tools, regulatory databases, career data, public information sources, and other related information I've never been exposed to before.
I've also learned that I'm a better student now than I was when I was 19. I take the assignments seriously, I participate in class, I wouldn't even consider skipping class (or even arriving late!), and I bring more curiosity and interest into the learning process and environment. The one thing I have in common with the 19-year old is the dread of getting up on a Saturday morning and getting to class...but I do it...and I'm there on time.
I had a long conversation with my most recent instructor on Saturday after some of the class had delivered their final project. The assignment was a brief press release for an earnings statement for a public company. We were to select the company and research recent earnings releases, make assumptions for the next reporting quarter, and draft a fictitious press release. Some of the people came to class with a 20-slide powerpoint presentation with history of the company, comparative graphs with other companies in the same industry, inflection point articles, etc.
Impressive, but not what she asked for. And on top of it the press release WAS ALL WRONG. It was painfully obviously that some of these students have little to no business experience because (a) you never deliver more to your boss than they ask you for - they simply don't have time to review a 20 slide presentation if they didn't want it and (b) when you deliver what they asked for, you do it right! They don't need to see that you put in 40 hours of work to get there. The presentation demonstrated that they had done their background work - and is good to show comprehensive use of the tools she taught - but at the end of the day, its the deliverable that counts.
This to me should be the difference between an undergraduate and a graduate experience. Bringing a mature mindset to the class and thinking (especially in a graduate of business program) like a business person.
This morning my teacher sent me an email with my grade - an A. I was feeling pretty good (for a Monday) about how quickly those three semesters have gone by and my 4.0 average, and then I realized that at my current pace (1 class/semester and giving myself summers off) I won't be done until February of 2011 and I'll be 44 years old. Ugh.
Oh well. The way time is flying by it will go fast enough. And my 40+ year old brain can't learn much faster than that pace anyway.