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Thread: The value of having real-world working adults in your classes:

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    The value of having real-world working adults in your classes:

    Well, as you've seen from my other posts, I had originally planned on going to graduate school at the University of Texas for a Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning. After talking with the department, though, I realized it will not happen. They flat out told me that it is not possible to work full-time and complete their degree program (most core classes are only offered during the daytime, you must register for a minimum of 9 hours per semester, etc.) Since I absolutely cannot quit my job to go to graduate school, this put me back at the drawing board.

    Fortunately, there is an MPA program at Texas State University that lets you have a concentration in Urban Planning (among many others). Texas State is located in another city about 30 miles away, but they actually offer courses for their MPA program right here in downtown Austin (which is where I work anyway). From what I'm told by the department director (as well as Suburb Repairman who is in the same program), the majority of the students are working adults in their late 20's, early 30's. All the courses are offered in the evenings so it's perfect for full-time workers. Another benefit, which I had not considered before, is that it will be good exposure to be in classes with people who are public administrators/planners in the "real-world". Given that UT's program does not allow for the schedule of working folks, I imagine it is mainly composed of younger people who have no real-world experience.

    So, while I would get 48 hours of planning courses at UT, and only 9 hours at Texas State (plus 30 hours of Public Admin. courses), I would be in class with other adults and many of them may be able to share their experiences of the application of the concepts... not just the theories.

    Is this more valuable in the end? It seems like it would be.

    Any comments?
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  2. #2
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    1.There is a UT in Texas? …The only UT I know of is in Knoxville

    2. I think the value of having real world working adults in class is very beneficial. They have always added a ton in the classes I have been in.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I wonder if I get credit hours for recruiting you into the Texas State program?

    The real world people in the classes have a great ability to relate the theories being discussed into a practical context. There are three planning folks in my personnel administration course alone, so you will get some of the practical application in a real world context. The personnel professor is actually a former planner as well. As I recall, only two of the professors in the MPA program at Texas State are pure Ivory Tower people with no practical experience. Nearly all of them have worked in the public sector somewhere, mostly in state government, but with a few in local and federal.

    Also, there is nothing that says that you are restricted to taking only nine credit hours of planning courses--you can always take a few extra ones if you feel like you are missing something. The one thing you will miss out on at Texas State is the lack of design studio courses.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Real world workers in your classes are useful for being able to apply the concepts being taught to real life, thus demonstrating how things work outside of a textbook. However, when the real world workers become annoying know-it-alls, or make wild suggestions that don't really have anything to do with your class, they need to be put out to pasture.

    As an example of a wild suggestion, I took a class called Rural Planning, and one woman in there kept trying to suggest that sewers should just be run to all farms just to get it over with. She worked for a firm in Detroit, and she was great with urban matters.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Sweet....

    Texas State U.....very nice......and home to Byron Augustin winner of one of the 2005 Piper Professor awards (Geography) and most importantly, a University of Northern Colorado Graduate!!

    http://www.geo.txstate.edu/directory.../augustin.html

    Why not get a Masters in Geography? or PhD and teach....? Oh, and you have to have real world people in class, its a great way to extract the best from the professors, certainly from those who are just talking heads and aren't challenged because everyone in class is too green....That's interesting about U. Texas....I'll file that bit of info in my mind for later discussion with U. Texas grads......most other schools seem to have a time limit and don't have minimum required hours to be taken.....
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    Texas State U.....very nice......and home to Byron Augustin winner of one of the 2005 Piper Professor awards (Geography) and most importantly, a University of Northern Colorado Graduate!!

    http://www.geo.txstate.edu/directory.../augustin.html

    Why not get a Masters in Geography? or PhD and teach....? Oh, and you have to have real world people in class, its a great way to extract the best from the professors, certainly from those who are just talking heads and aren't challenged because everyone in class is too green....That's interesting about U. Texas....I'll file that bit of info in my mind for later discussion with U. Texas grads......most other schools seem to have a time limit and don't have minimum required hours to be taken.....
    I don't know if I'm "teacher" material, lol. I have thought about the Master's in Geography with a Land Use concentration, but I think the MPA will suit my needs a little better. I think I might get a Ph.D. after I retire but I doubt I will get one while I'm working.... no time. I can retire at 43 if I stay with the City, so that's really not too old to go for a second career

    Ah.... Byron Augustin. I went to Texas State for 2 years and actually had a class with him. You may find this hard to believe but Dr. Augustin gave me the only "F" I've ever received in my entire academic career (gradeschool and college). There are many reasons and it is mainly my fault, but I had a big problem with his "no hats in class" and other old fashioned rules, so I never went except on test days. I had decent grades on all the exams despite never going to class, but he still gave me a failing grade since he didn't like me. Ah well.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  7. #7
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    I don't know if I'm "teacher" material, lol. I have thought about the Master's in Geography with a Land Use concentration, but I think the MPA will suit my needs a little better. I think I might get a Ph.D. after I retire but I doubt I will get one while I'm working.... no time. I can retire at 43 if I stay with the City, so that's really not too old to go for a second career

    Ah.... Byron Augustin. I went to Texas State for 2 years and actually had a class with him. You may find this hard to believe but Dr. Augustin gave me the only "F" I've ever received in my entire academic career (gradeschool and college). There are many reasons and it is mainly my fault, but I had a big problem with his "no hats in class" and other old fashioned rules, so I never went except on test days. I had decent grades on all the exams despite never going to class, but he still gave me a failing grade since he didn't like me. Ah well.
    Heh, heh... a hat victim! Attendance policies are a b****!

    I have a really funny story about his step-son that lived on my hall while I was a RA, but I don't want to get him in trouble with Doc by posting it on here!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    Heh, heh... a hat victim! Attendance policies are a b****!

    I have a really funny story about his step-son that lived on my hall while I was a RA, but I don't want to get him in trouble with Doc by posting it on here!
    He's not on here is he?
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    He's not on here is he?
    Doubt it, but don't want to find out!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    A useful graduate program features not only students with work experience, it boasts professors possessing meaningful real world experience in the subject they teach.

    I earned a BA in Urban Planning at Rutgers, then - after a couple years real world experience - a MS in Real Estate at New York University.

    NYU professors were experienced real estate veterans. Most had law or business degrees. For example, Donald Trump's general counsel George Ross (from the Apprentice) taught a real estate negotiation class. My investment analysis teacher was a developer and my finance professors were investment bankers. The coursework was very applied - lots of finance, economics, and defending coursework in front of critical professors and industry professionals. If it wouldn't work in the real world, the professors would let you know it.

    Meanwhile, most students worked full time. Lots were architects or lawyers preparing a career switch. These students' work experiences enabled them to add a lot to class discussion.

    On the other hand, Rutgers professors had fancy PhD degrees, but were career academics. The coursework involved interesting big thoughts that are hard to implement in the real world.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jtmnkri
    A useful graduate program features not only students with work experience, it boasts professors possessing meaningful real world experience in the subject they teach.

    <SNIP>

    On the other hand, Rutgers professors had fancy PhD degrees, but were career academics. The coursework involved interesting big thoughts that are hard to implement in the real world.
    I agree. Generally speaking, I prefer for my professors to be working professionals who teach part-time or folks who were professionals in the field they teach in before switching to teaching. I also have read a little on the topic and students who have 'real life' experience and responsibilities approach college differently from "traditional" students. They do not have the luxury of time for pursuing projects that are just theory. They tend to use actual projects from their work or things they really want to pursue seriously for the subject of their papers, etc. (That is actually where most of the content for my Solano Rail website comes from: I returned over and over to the rail plan as a subject for various class projects/papers until I had a solid body of work that might just benefit the real world and not be merely an academic exercise.)

    I am not personally big on "pie in the sky" theories that aren't likely to work in the real world. And I see less of that in class rooms with working adults as the students and current or former professionals as the teacher.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    It is the classic debate between science for science's sake, or applied science. I am definitely more in the applied science camp, but I appreciate that my graduate program achieved a very good balance between the two. I guess I will show another bias when I say that I am glad to see the program offered a good deal of finance and economics. I really think this is missing from most planning programs.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I guess I will show another bias when I say that I am glad to see the program offered a good deal of finance and economics. I really think this is missing from most planning programs.
    Economics and finance weren't required for my BA in urban planning. I studied economics and finance while earning my MS in real estate degree. The reason I got the 2nd degree is because I quickly learned you need to know more than a conventional planning degree offers to really succeed in any planning or urban development discipline.

    I had a couple good internships during my senior year of undergrad college. These jobs made me understand that finance and economics - not urban planners - drive the built environment. Plus, I read a great book, American Cities: What Works, What Doesn't that argues the six elements of urban development project success are market, location, design, financing, entrepreneurship, and time.

    I selected a masters program that offerred the real estate-related finance, economic, and market analysis classes I knew I needed.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    *sigh*

    Ok, i guess its time to defend my school....

    Well, yes, the three core classes first semester and I think most of the cores throughout the program are offered in the day. I agree that this is kinda crappy for those of us that work, however, I think it is good in that it makes the program not feel like night school. You CAN take less than 9hours, but you won't be considered a full-time student...which makes sense, in my opinion.

    As far as there not being any working adults or people with realworld experience...well, that just isnt true.

    I would say the average age of my incoming class is somewhere around 28-30 years old. I am one of only 5 people (I think) that came straight out of undergrad into the program. We have several people that are already in their careers. NONE of us work in the public sector though, which suprises me. I'd say about 1/3 to 1/2 of the class works in a related field. We have a couple of architects, a couple of landscape architects, several GIS people (including me), and a couple of project managers at consulting firms. 2 or 3 students work full time...one is also on a city commision (i forgot which one). There are a couple of students with MBAs as well.

    As for working while taking class...yeah its hard. I am working 16-20 hours per week, plus 12 hours of class. I have about 200-250 pages of reading per week, alot of it out of a land use law book, plus statistics. Im also taking a TOD class where I have to do GIS analysis and site visits on one of the proposed Commuter Rail Stations...by the end of the semester a partner and I will have designed a site plan for a theoretical TOD for the Howard Lane location......I actually find going to work relaxing.

    Today I was in the office at 7:30am, left at 11:45, was in class from 12:30-2, volunteered at a foodbank for an hour, then read until 10pm. On wednesdays I have class from 9:30am until 2pm with only ONE fifteen minute break.

    Oh and as for the profs having experience...one of my profs is part time, she is also a practicing lawyer, one was an economist in his previous life, one has been teaching GIS to Iraqis and one was at the CTR at A&M before coming to UT.

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