Tuesday, May 20, 2014

UT Dallas MPA Grad Reflects on Her Experiences

By Laura Gorecki, MPA 
Laura Gorecki (center) after the 2014 Spring Commencement.

Graduation is such an exciting time, but it is also very stressful, and a little sad. I am very excited to move on to the next adventure in life, but I STILL do not know what I am doing after graduation, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at here and I am sad to be leaving. 

Now that the big day has finally arrived, I have been reflecting on all of my experiences as a student at UT Dallas and within EPPS. The thing that stands out the most is how much I have felt a part of a family, team, and community. All of the professors have been very supportive, and my fellow students have been great teammates and friends. It is exciting to hear my fellow students talking to each other about their career searches and plans for the future, and I look forward to hearing about where we all go from here. Even though it is a bit scary to leave here and not know what is next, I feel encouraged that all of the people I have gotten to know at UT Dallas are now on my team.

If I had any advice for other students, it would be this: Get to know your professors. Put your best effort into all of your assignments – not for the teacher or for the grade, but for yourself. Engage with those around you and take advantage of campus events. Say yes to opportunities as often as possible. Never go for the Easy A.

I came up with the above list after contemplating what I would do differently and what I would do the same if I were starting the college experience over again. One thing that served me well was getting to know my professors. Before the start or shortly after the start of each semester I went to see each of my professors during their office hours. This helped me get to know them and feel more comfortable participating in class discussions. It also helped them get to know me so they know my interests in order to guide me along on projects and opportunities. Overall, I found that if a professor knows what you are looking for they are often willing and able to help you find it.

I also benefitted from taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible to learn new things. I treated every research paper as a chance to learn about something I wanted to know more about, rather than just following the instructions and doing the minimum. This approach helped me learn beyond the syllabus and to enjoy the projects I worked on. I challenged myself to do my best work because I knew I would use the knowledge in the future if it pertained to my interests. I also never took a class I thought would be an Easy A or shied away from one that sounded too hard, because I know that nothing worth doing is ever easy, and because I am not just here for a degree, I’m here for the knowledge that comes with it.

One thing I would do differently is that I would be more engaged on campus. Students are a great resource for collaboration, insight, and new ideas. As a commuter student, I spent little time on campus outside of class, and I missed many experiences I may have enjoyed. Students have opportunities to listen to many great speakers, see artists of all kinds, and experience things that the public may not have access too. I missed campus groups, clubs, and volunteer opportunities. If I were re-doing college, I would do more of those things.

In short, be a part of UT Dallas while you are here and it will become a part of you for life. 

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