Archive for the 'Curriculum' Category

And I officially have my MBA. It started in August of 2006 and, this morning, ended when I was hooded and handed my diploma.

I’ve been asked several times if it was “worth it”. I can’t answer - I simply say that there has not been enough time to put the experience in its proper historical context. I can say, however, that I would not have finished had it not been for the support of my family and friends - and that I’ve made even more good friends while being here. To all of them, I can say “Thank you.”

In my regalia

El Diploma

Next step in the adventure: Find a job, which has thus far been eluding me.

I’m done with my classes.

I just gave my last school presentation for my Data Mining class. We finished successfully, and now I’ve just 9 days until graduation - but I’m done with all my schoolwork. Provided that I pass all my classes (and I should) I’ve taken 22 classes in the last two years, and done an incredible amount of work. Barring any strange unforeseen circumstances, I’ll receive my Masters degree soon (and get a job at some point after that.) This, as they say, is the end.

What will I do with myself now?

We’re down to less than three weeks from graduation. In terms of classes, I have merely this week and next week left. You’d think I’d be thrilled, but I still haven’t found a job yet and that’s a major source of stress.

Still, I’m looking forward to being done. This has been a major adventure in my life. I’ve made some great friends and gained a huge amount of highly relevant knowledge. I’ve been supported by loving friends and family, which has made a huge difference.

Before graduation I have - at this point - a presentation to give in Leadership and a ton of work and presentations for Data Mining. I’m pretty much done with Operations Management - but for an off-site visit. The end it is sight!

Graduation day - May 11th - is rapidly approaching. A mere 40 days remain before the conclusion of this program* and I’m ejected back into the harsh, cruel reality of the professional world.

In terms of classes, I believe I’ve taken all the tests I’ll be taking as part of this program. In my leadership class there remains only a large presentation (and the background research.) In my Operations Management class there also remains only a presentation. And, to keep with the trend, in my Data Mining class, has two projects to complete. Classes are technically over on the 29th, with finals afterwards; since I have no finals, I have less than a month of classes left.

What does this mean? I’m searching for a job with painful intensity, yet still trying to stay engaged in classes. It’s difficult since the pace of the two necessities is vastly different. Yet, I will figure it all out… for better or for worse.

*barring, of course, unforeseen events.

“Out of control emotions make smart people stupid.” - Daniel Goleman

One of the topics we’re coving in my leadership class right now is the concept of emotional intelligence. The idea, posited by Daniel Goleman (quoted above), is that emotional intelligence is one of the most powerful factors that good leaders have in common. Emotional intelligence is, generally, comprised of elements such as empathy, self-control, self-awareness, etc.

The idea is interesting to me - that lack of quantitative intelligence can make a bad leader, but emotional intelligence is what it takes to make a good one. I’m not sure how I’d rate in his criteria; I feel that I know myself and what I’m capable of, but I know that there are certain criteria I don’t hold as well as others.

Nonetheless, I find the concept interesting as we delve more and more into leadership.

One of the three classes I’m taking is “Leadership”. The class is about (if I understand correctly):

  • What a leader is
  • What makes a good leader
  • Knowing ourselves
  • What we can do to make ourselves good leaders

I’m looking forward to the self-examination. Tragically, this involves taking a lot of personality tests - something I’ve always disdained because they never seem to take into account the nuances of a person. The reasoning behind taking them, though, is simple: know ourselves and be able to see how we stack up against a so-called leader. (Then knowing what areas of self we have to work on to be most effective.)

The class is a lot of work. Not that I’m one to complain about work, I just find it to be occupying a disproportionate amount of my time. The professor’s method is to assign us a bunch of reading - all of it relevant - but trust us to read it and not test us on it or even necessarily discuss it in class. The idea, it seems, is that we’ll read it because it’s good for us. I, of course, always do the readings, but I cry with frustration whenever I try to decipher the syllabus to figure out exactly what we’re supposed to be doing. I mean, it says things like “on the first and fifth sessions, do [this]“, and makes me cross reference the reading we’re supposed to be doing with the list that tells me who wrote it, since I have to hunt it down in the library catalogs myself. Just a minor frustration, really, but a frustration nonetheless.

Since a leadership position is a goal of mine, I hope I get a lot out of this class. I’ve already known some areas I need to work on for a long time and I know many of my weaknesses, but it will be interesting to see what’s revealed through this class.

Tomorrow is my first day of school of my last semester of my MBA program (if, of course, all goes according to plan.) I’m signed up for a paltry three classes at this point, which is precisely the number I need to graduate. There are, of course, plenty of classes I want to take, but financial reasons (if nothing else) prevent that.

I’m currently registered for:
Data Mining/Information Based Products
Operations Management

I’m hoping that these three classes will round out my education nicely as well as giving me the background I need for success in the future. Hopefully, too, the schedule will give me plenty of time for job hunting - and I assure you, my dear reader(s), that a job is something I’m eager to find.

It’s just days before spring semester starts (and a full month after I took my last final), and I finally received all my grades for fall semester.

Business & Economic Forecasting: A-
Negotiation: A-
Marketing Strategy: A-
Public Finance: A
Project Management: A

While my grades were better over the summer, my GPA then was based off just one class. This time I took five graduate courses and managed to end up with a 3.82 GPA for the semester and it pushed my overall GPA up to a 3.74!

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty awesome about that.

Well, I took my last final for fall semester and I am officially done with courses for 2007. Oh, I still have some work to do for various professors, but none of it is for a specific class. Also, I’m done a week early (since I only had one final and my professor graciously allowed me to take it before the weekend) so I can now enjoy my winter break until about January 14th!

In my Public Finance class, which ended yesterday, the other half of the final was that we had to give a small-group presentation on ways to fix Oregon’s revenue problems. You see, Oregon relies on income taxes for most of the money for the general fund which, combined with the lottery, gasoline taxes, and federal funds more or less makes up all of Oregon’s budget. The problem with income taxes is that they’re generally volatile and highly responsive to positive or negative economic indicators. (For instance, tax revenues were way down in the 1981-83 biennium due to timber issues and almost catastrophically low in 2001-03 due to the tech crash.)

How do you solve the problem of such amazingly high revenue swings?

Two groups approached the problem from a tax diversification standpoint. One encouraged the raising of property taxes (due to several measures in the late 90’s which limited property taxes), and another group advocated switching almost entirely to a sales-tax funded system, much like the State of Washington. Neither of these solutions appealed to my group; we don’t necessarily like taxes that much and we dislike the income tax the least because it’s very progressive in nature.

Looking at the problem, we realized that Oregon tends to have high highs and low lows. Moreover, Oregon’s revenues tend to be strong in all but recession/depression years. Another issue is that, due to the balanced budget amendment Oregon has, we can’t borrow to cover short years. Furthermore, when we do have a good tax year, we refund most of the excess collected taxes in the form of the kicker.

My group’s (highly elegant) solution was to eliminate the kicker, instead redirecting those funds into a rainy day fund that would automatically be added to the budget during periods of revenue shortfall. (I say “automatically”, as opposed to “by legislative or administrative action”, so that it can’t be used as a political tool.) Had we started this after the 1981-83 recession, we could have more than halved the effect of the 2001-2003 crisis on state government, which - considering that the State of Oregon is the state’s largest employer - would have resulted in remarkably positive results. Add to this the economic bonus of NOT slashing all government spending during a crisis - which, in our opinion, is vastly more beneficial than the small economic bonus provided by kicker checks - and I think our presentation was pretty solid.

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