Archive for the 'Curriculum' Category

Today is the beginning of the end of the semester for me. Tonight I take the final for my public finance class.

I’m pretty terrified.

Yes, I have - of course - put time into studying. I’ve read darn near the entire textbook, and I’ve attended every class and done a good job on all the homework. The problem is going to be the format of the test - which will be the same as that of the midterm.

Now on the multiple-choice midterm, I had the second-highest grade in class. I was only one point behind, too. However, the problem is that the midterm (and final) were written by the authors of the textbook. Our class discussions have been helpful (and I have pages and pages of notes) but the questions asked are truly obscure.

For instance (and I’m generalizing here):

“This phrase” is an example of:
a) something
b) something else
c) a third thing
d) even a fourth option

I’ve never heard of “this phrase”. I even went back to the book (as did the person who got the highest grade on the midterm) to try to look up the answer. We looked up all the different things that could be the answer, and still never found it. That makes it a little difficult - even on a multiple choice test.

I’m looking forward to this test, though… because after I take it, it’ll be done.

The semester is starting to wind down and it’s time to register for classes for my final semester. In this last semester I’m only going to take three courses, which is technically part-time but it’s all I need to graduate. I assure you, I’d love to take more but, since I paid to take two courses over the summer, I can’t afford to go full time now.

Such is life.

In any event, the schedule of classes available has been posted. I’ve managed to narrow down my list of classes I want to take to 8:

    Strategic Applications
    Sales Force Management
    Not-for-profit Management
    Net Enhanced Organizations
    Data Mining
    Operations Management
    Value Chain Management
    Leadership

Now, I definitely want to take Leadership. And, if possible, I’d like to constrain any daytime classes to Tuesdays and Thursdays (so I can do job-hunting stuff the other days.) Finally, and I’m a little flexible on this, I’d really rather not have an 8 AM class since I’m NOT a morning person and I learn better with good sleep.

So what shall I do? It’s a conundrum.

I’m enjoying my public finance class.

We’re learning a lot about the State of Oregon budget process – more than about local or federal systems. This is great for me; I have a real interest in how my state works. Furthermore, since we’re so close to the state capitol, we have access to people (who come in as guest speakers) who really know how this works. For instance, we’ve had someone from the state Office of Economic Analysis come talk to us. We’ve also had a speaker from the Legislative Fiscal Office. These speakers help make real an otherwise merely conceptual topic.

Some of the more interesting points in the class are our discussion of taxation theory; what constitutes progressive versus regressive taxation and the idea of taxing wealth versus taxing income. (For the record, I wholly and completely oppose taxing wealth, which includes the taxation of property.)

I’m glad I’m taking it.

I spent all day in a mock negotiating session today. I was one of a team of four people, and what I learned about negotiation is that there are unreasonable, stupid people out there. People who – when theoretically on your own team – do not seem to understand basic math or be able to clearly communicate an idea. The worst part of this is that these people may someday be in charge.

In my specific instance during all this, I left the negotiation frustrated beyond capacity for reason. There are people on my team that I now know I will never work with, because my interests (win/win scenarios) are not aligned with theirs.

So be it.

A hypothetical that I posed:

“Would you ask someone to pay for 50% of your car so they could use it 30% of the time?”

If you can, I salute you. I can tell you, however, that if someone asked that of me I’d be incredibly insulted. (And let me assure you, we talked about the “zones” in distributive bargaining – those zones being reasonable, credible, and insulting offers.)

Anyway, I’m ready to be done with this class. I’ve learned a lot, but it just cost me a Saturday that was supposed to be an otherwise great day.

It’s time to start playing games. Seriously.

At this point in the semester, most of the work I’m going to be doing on a daily basis will be for simulations. My marketing strategy class will be working with something called MarkStrat. We’ve divided into teams and we will be competing in a strategic simulation as we fight for market share in a growing market, working on innovation, customer interaction, market definition, etc. Thus far it’s a lot of fun, but I also enjoy strategic game.

The other game is SimProject, for my project management class. It’s a project management simulation where groups will be bidding on resources, assigning those resources to tasks, and managing the group while trying to complete the project (and competing against other groups based on total project duration, project cost, and a few other variables.)

Both are going to be a lot of work, but I’m going to do whatever it takes for my teams to win. Not that I’m competitive…

One of the most exciting classes thus far has been my Negotiations class. I’ve always felt that my negotiation skills were very weak (strange, since my father’s been selling cars my whole life.)

Perhaps the most interesting conversation was on negotiation styles. If were were to draw and x-y graph, assign the y-axis to the “issue” being negotiated and the x-axis to the “relationship” between the negotiators:
“Avoiders” would be the group of people who exist near the interesection of the two axes. This is the group of people that’s hardest to negotiate with because they avoid it as much as possible.
“Accommodators” are the group of people who live on the x-axis - the “relationship” access. Due to the relationship between the negotiators, these people will more or less agree to anything for a while - but will resent it (perhaps explosively so.)
“Competitors” are people for whom the issue is more important than the relationship. This group of people generally have to “win” at whatever the negotiation is about (and, if they lose, they’ll usually keep a tally of that.
“Compromisers” would exist along a diagonal line drawn between the two axes. These people tend to want to find a resolution that makes all negotiating parties happy and give everyone something they want - however, they also tend to give up importatnt points pretty quickly to find a solution and can sometimes come up with an answer nobody’s happy with.
“Collaborators” are a mysterious group that would maximize both the issue and the relationship, finding a solution like the compromisers but without the drawbacks.

In the classroom categorization we did, I found myself to strongly tend towards compromise and avoidance. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it means the challenge for me will be understanding the other types of people that represent the negotiation style that I’m not. Hopefully I can get that out of the class - and practice it, too.

Now that classes have started (indeed, it’s already day two) I figured I should share the courses I’ve chosen to take this semester.

Negotiation

Project Management

Marketing Strategy

Business and Economic Forecasting

Public Finance

Why, you might ask, have I chosen to take these classes? That’s a fantastic question. I signed up for Negotiation because I a) want to work on my negotiation skills, and b) I’d heard rave reviews of the course. Project Management interests me greatly, is being taught by a professor I like, and it meets some arbitrary requirement set by the university for “integrative electives.” Marketing Strategy is also taught by a professor I like (and learn from) and I’m enjoying his view of marketing. Business and Economic Forecasting is taught by a professor I admire and pretty much everyone wants to take his class. Finally, Public Finance I’m taking because I a) needed a fifth class, b) have friends taking it, and c) want to give finance another try without having to stress about “corporate valuation”.

So that’s that. I’ll keep y’all posted as this semester unfolds.

So as I mentioned in my previous post, summer classes are over.  I actually ended up taking two classes over the summer which was occasionally stressful (and certainly not inexpensive) but the advantage is that, if all goes well, I’ll only need 3 classes my final semester when the job hunt really picks up!

As I also said, I took a class called Enterprise Architecture over the summer where we looked at how businesses (and IT systems) are constructed to be in alignment with a business’s goals. I also did an “Internship for Credit” course where I was able to take what I worked on and learned in my internship and, with the addition of a paper or two written, get course credit for it.  Fantastic, I’m telling you.

Anyway, I’ll post the grades for these as soon as I get them.  Stay tuned!

… and I’ve started my summer class.  I’m taking a class called “Enterprise Architecture”, which deals a lot with managing information and databases within an organization.  Our topics of study will be database design with relational databases and decision support systems. It’s going to be interesting; 3 projects over the summer, but not a whole lot of class sessions (since the professor will be jaunting around Europe for a month) so we’ll be doing a lot of stuff online - a good thing, since I’ve had enough classrooms for a while.

So, most of my grades have been posted for Spring semester. I’m pretty happy; it appears my overall GPA (3.68 from last semester) should only move up or down by .02 - which is pretty good, for me. So here’s what I know thus far (with bizarre course titles translated in parenthesis):

Managing Exchange (Global Business): B

Finance and Macroeconomics: B+

Managing Organizations (Ethics): A

Managing Processes and Information Systems: A

Integrated Professional Development (Strategy): A

I’m still waiting on my grade for Statistical Inference and Modeling, but that should be pretty decent. So, with my overall GPA above a 3.3 (the minimum cutoff to keep my scholarship) it appears I will be coming back next semester.

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