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As with all gigantic life decisions, I am teetering back and forth on which school/program to attend and ultimately getting nowhere. That is why I have decided to reach out to the collective wisdom of you all on Grad Cafe to hopefully give me some insight on which program would be the best for me or at least verify that my concerns are valid.

Unfortunately, outside of dealing with Russian Affairs, I have not fully committed to a specific concentration of Global Public Policy (ei Security Policy, Human Rights Policy, Global Governance, etc..). Also, after browsing a few other posts regarding decisions I have noticed that people simply say "School 1 or School 2." I am going to specifically state the schools' names in the hope that former or current students can possibly provide some insight. With that in mind here are my thoughts on the two programs.

University of Pittsburgh - GSPIA

  • Would be pursuing Masters in Public and International Affairs with a Major in Security and Intel Studies, a minor in Public Policy Research and Analysis, and a Graduate Certificate in Russian and Eastern European Studies
    • Yes, they call their concentrations and sub-concentration majors and minors
    • I am currently in talks to see if I can switch the major and minor, but one is in the MPIA program and the other is in the MPA program so I have received mixed answers
  • Unique Positives
    • $$$ - Received 75% tuition scholarship and a PA Resident
    • Allows me to really hone my Russian area knowledge with an abundance of interdisciplinary Russian course. Also Pitt also has its own Summer Language Institute with intensive language classes and trips to Moscow
    •  Offers a semester in DC in which I would be able to intern and take classes at the prestigious Center for Strategic and International Studies with fellow GSPIA and Maxwell Students
  • Concerns
    • Fear that future job prospects may be lower because of the lack of qualitative themed courses (in comparison to UMN)
    •  Poor rankings in comparison ( I know I should not worry about this but its always there)

University of Minnesota - The Humphrey School of Public Affairs

  • Would be pursuing a MPP with a Global Policy concentration with a self made sub-concentration
  • Unique Positives
    • Heavy focus on breath of courses and bigger picture ideas. (Multiple stat, finance, and econ courses required)
    • Seems to give students skills instead of strict knowledge which would be better of job prospects
    • Has a very expansive alumni base which seems to almost run the Twin Cities which makes it possible to, for lack of a better term, "experiment" with policy ideas and initiatives 
    • USWNR 2016 rank #8 in Public Policy 
  • Concerns
    • Only offers 4 Russian Language classes. No other area specific courses
    • Appears better suited to for local and state government affairs (area I am in now and trying to get out of)
    • $$$ - received decent scholarship, but comparatively it is more expensive. However, not unbearable (unlike other top schools which I ruled out)
    • Dean which brought the international element to the program is stepping down in a few months

 

I realize this probably an oversimplification, but I feel as though the decision comes down to specific knowledge v. broad skill set. Which is better? I have no idea that is why I am asking for your help. Anything you all can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Good luck making this important decision. I am not in your field. While reading your post, I thought it would be worthwhile to make a couple of inquiries into whether or not your could take some qualitative courses at another institution (or department) and transfer the credits over (or perhaps take a few extra courses in this area and go over the number of required courses). Second, it seems to me that you could learn Russian even by taking undergrad courses somewhere or participating in a language immersion program in Russia after you complete the program. If the sole purpose of wanting to get the certificate is to acquire language skills then there are definitely other ways you could achieve this goal.

I'll be honest, I was all for option number two until I read that the program is better to suited for a field you already work in and want to get out of. So what would be the benefits of taking that program for someone in your circumstances?

I think you need to step back and get a clear picture of your long term goals, understand what is required for you to achieve those goals, and decide which program will best help you get there. Any other details should be removed from the equation when making this decision. 

Edited by thelionking
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8 hours ago, thelionking said:

Good luck making this important decision. I am not in your field. While reading your post, I thought it would be worthwhile to make a couple of inquiries into whether or not your could take some qualitative courses at another institution (or department) and transfer the credits over (or perhaps take a few extra courses in this area and go over the number of required courses). Second, it seems to me that you could learn Russian even by taking undergrad courses somewhere or participating in a language immersion program in Russia after you complete the program. If the sole purpose of wanting to get the certificate is to acquire language skills then there are definitely other ways you could achieve this goal.

I'll be honest, I was all for option number two until I read that the program is better to suited for a field you already work in and want to get out of. So what would be the benefits of taking that program for someone in your circumstances?

I think you need to step back and get a clear picture of your long term goals, understand what is required for you to achieve those goals, and decide which program will best help you get there. Any other details should be removed from the equation when making this decision. 

Thank you! And I really appreciate you commenting and giving me ideas on which to reflect!

To give you a better sense on the areas you inquired about:

1) Pitt's program does offer a number of qualitative courses which I plan to take in order to acquire the Policy Research and Analysis minor, but my concern is the quality of the courses compared to those at UMN. The quality of those courses seem to be what gives UMN a bit of an edge over mid-tier programs. However, this may not be that big of an issue, but I honestly have no idea.

2) I completely agree with you that if I simply wanted the Russian Language skill that I could get that just about anywhere, but IMO Pitt offers just a bit more than that. For example, UMN does offer Russian Language courses, but only up to "Advanced" (which is only one level higher than my current proficiency). Pitt on the other hand, offers "Advanced I," Advanced II," "Fourth-Year I and II," and "Developing Russian Proficiency." I am not really sure what that last one is, but I plan on asking when I visit this weekend. In addition to the language courses, Pitt also offers at least 7 Russian History courses, 3 Russian Culture courses, 2 specific Russian Political Science courses (more if you count their sphere of influence), and even a Russian Law course. In comparison, UMN does not offer any such specific courses outside of language (at least what I have found so far).

3) As for the benefits of going to UMN, although the program is better suited for local and state gov't, the skills that I would acquire (especially from the qualitative courses) would also translate into the international realm. And perhaps I misstated when I said it was better suited for the field that I am already employed. I am a low level state employee and have very little room for advancement (colleague of mine has had the same job for close to a decade). I am currently in constituent services and not in the policy field, so I am in the state government sector (which I do not want to be a part of) and not the policy field (which I do want to be a part of). Hopefully that makes some sense...

Again, I completely agree with you that the primary decision maker should be which program will best get me to my long term goals. I have no doubt that I will be able to achieve my long term goals with either program, but deciding which one is "best" is throwing me through a loop. Perhaps I am thinking way too much about this, but I would rather think too much than too little.

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That's quite a decision to make. The way you put it, each program has some gaps. If all of these factors are equally important for you to get the training you need for your desired career, I'd look at alternative ways for you to fill in those gaps that can be done outside of the program (perhaps some skills or knowledge can be acquired in the workplace after graduation or at a practicum, through continuing education/workshops, international language immersion programs, or elsewhere while in you're in school, right now over the next few months, or after you graduate). If you find that something would be difficult or next to impossible to get outside of the program, then it might make sense to choose that particular program if it's an essential skill you need to have in your field or a highly desirable one. 

Don't be afraid to reach out to the department with your questions. They might be able to answer some of those questions or concerns that you have. If you haven't done so already, I'd find out where alumni have ended up working. If you notice one of the two schools produces more grads that do the work you want to get into, this is a strong sign that the program could be the one for you.    

Edited by thelionking
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@thelionking Thank you again! I know there is not going to be a perfect match when it comes to programs lining up with everything I want/need, but I am currently in the process of speaking to several different departments within each university to see if they will be able to assist me in filling these gaps. However, thought I would post on Grad Cafe in the meantime to 1) confirm that my concerns are valid and 2) see if anyone is/was running into the same types of issues and what their decisions they have made.

And honestly I have not given much thought about continuing education/workshops. That is definitely something I will look into the next couple days. Thanks!

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