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The Graduate

Calling professors by their first names

Kelly Conroy
MSM Class of 2012

(10/2012) Iím taking a break from writing about the nature of the Emmitsburg-News Journal for this issue to reflect on the past month as a graduate student. This IS the graduate column. Thereís still a lot more to tell about the ENJ and why it does things the way it does, so stay tuned for future editions.

Grad school isnít just an extended college experience. Itís not like having an extra senior year. The nameplate that my professor put in front of him in my first class had only his first name listed. I glanced down at my syllabus to learn his last name. Then, the other students began addressing my teacher by his first name. "Weird," was my first thought when a student didnít address the teacher as "professor."

"Call me by my first name," my professor wrote at the end of an email to me. And there it wasóI wasnít just allowed to address my professor by his first name, but was asked to do so. Being treated as an adult in a professional settingónice.

Calling professors by their first names was just one of the surprises that I learned upon entering grad school. One of the other biggest surprises was the out of class homework time. With classes only meeting once per week, the time that needs to be put in to keep up with work is extensive. The nights that I donít go to class are filled with studying, paper writing and reading for those classes. This style of learning is a more mature approach. Students have to budget their own time in order to get all of the work done. Professors arenít teaching every piece of information because youíre expected to learn some of it on your own.

I love the freedom that comes from being in graduate school. I can choose to do my work a week in advance, or a little bit every day for a week. I am expected to read and understand large chunks of reading material, which might not be mentioned until the midterm or final. I can reread the parts I donít understand and move quickly through the topics that are easier for me to grasp.

"My son is home sick with a fever, my daughter has a volleyball game tonight and my husband is on a business trip," a woman sitting next to me in class explained, "And I need to make grad school a priority before I let it go for too long."

Some of my classmates have gone out of their way to encourage me in graduate school. They warn that life only gets more hectic as you get older, and itís best to attend graduate school right out of college. Grad school is not meant for everyone, and people have to decide when the right time for them is, but I am glad that I went straight from college into further schooling.

Studying and writing papers is normal for me. Maybe in 5 years that wonít be the case. One of my other classmates assured me that the adjustment process back to school was hard for him. On the other hand, another one of my classmates claimed that grad school was "fun" because he hadnít done school in so long.

The classes move extremely quickly. Since I was not a Business major and am earning my Masters in Business Administration, I am required to take some prerequisite courses. I completed all of Accounting I in just four weeks. I can assure you that the quality and quantity of material in this course was extensive.

Students in grad school often have "real-world" experience. In college, my classmates and I envisioned what we wanted life after college to be, dreamed about it, and planned for it. Now, I am surrounded by many students who have been in the work force for many years. Some of the students want to change jobs, or they want to improve their skills for promotions, or they are just interested in the classes. I am grateful for their input because it brings the subjects to life.

Discussing stocks and bonds is not always the most interesting topic. When a classmate brings up a real case about his companyís choices with stocks and bonds, their importance becomes obvious.

Learning the differences and similarities between monopolies, duopolies, and oligopolies is just facts at first. Then, a classmate mentions how his company might merge with another company. The class continues with a discussion about whether the merger should be allowed and if it is beneficial to the consumers and other producers. The debate comes alive because it is a real issueóaffecting all of us today.

In grad school, Iím surrounded by a whole new group of people. I received my undergraduate degree from the Mount and am now earning my graduate degree from the Mount. However, they are two distinct experiences. Iím not in the loop about undergraduate campus activities, nor do I see my friends between every class in the hallways. I have a whole new set of professors and a whole new set of classes to take.

Semesters no longer define my life! One of my undergraduate friends recently described her life in terms of her semesters-freshman year fall was awesome; spring was challenging with managing time; sophomore year fall was great because she met her best friends; sophomore year spring she got involved with more clubs on campus, etc.

Now sessions can define my life! In grad school, the semester is split into two sessions. So, thereís a Fall I and a Fall II session and a Spring I and a Spring II session. This allows me to describe my life in smaller and more distinct amounts of time! On a more serious note, it also lets me take more of a variety of classes. I will have studied six different subjects because I will have taken six different courses by the end of the fall semester.

Another major component of grad school that I have already observed is teamwork and group projects. My tendency is to want to do school projects on my own without help from others. I often want to do projects on my own schedule. The teamwork aspect of grad school has pushed me out of my comfort zone. It has made me look to others for their input and ideas. Iíve been working on trying to combine the best ideas from groups and compromise when disagreements arise. Itís hard. Itís one of the things that is especially hard for me, but I know that it will be valuable tool to own in the workplace in the future.

Grad school is often seen as the stepping-stone to the next thing. I donít want to treat it like that. Grad school should be a destination in itself. Itís taken a lot of hard work to make it to grad school and I want to use grad school as an opportunity for more learning and sharing.

Just as grad school is a destination, my housing is also my physical destination. I live in a grad house on campus that I think used to be an old farmhouse. I wonder about the people who used to live here. Itís a pretty big house. Perhaps it was a large family with three girls and three boys who owned a cornfield? How old is the beautiful wood flooring in my room? Did the family mark down their growth charts on one of the wooden planks in the living room? Whose initials are engraved into the floor in the middle of a heart?

Iíve begun to do some searches to find information about the grad houseís history so that I donít base all of the stories off of my imagination. Itís easy to let my mind run wild with stories about this three-story house with nooks and crannies, extra spaces, and interesting noises. Itís challenging to find sources to offer historical information, but I wonít give up the search! I know that the house has survived through many decades. It has also seen many different owners and even more renters. I know this house has some great stories, and if I find them, Iíll be sure to share.

The people who lived in this house were brought here for different reasonsóperhaps to work the cornfields, or to be near to the University, or because their family is located in Emmitsburg. I also came with my own history to this grad house and am here for grad school. Who knows where I will be taken next, but I think Iíll be glad I spent this time pursuing more schooling, no matter what.

Read other articles by Kelly Conroy