Humphrey School Interim Dean Catherine Squires welcomes students to the new academic year, which began this week, with this message of encouragement and advice on how to get the most out of their Humphrey School experience.
Greetings Humphrey School students,
I would like to welcome you to the start of the 2021-2022 academic year at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; we are thrilled to have you as part of our community!
During the last two academic years, we have all had to draw deeply from community resources and stamina to weather the swiftly changing situations and often dire circumstances brought on by the pandemic, political upheaval, and more.
We all bring new perspectives, insights, and questions to the classroom from the wide variety of challenges we have faced in the past 18 months.
I know that you have been sent and shared a lot of information since you were accepted to the Humphrey School, and you will continue to get more from my office and others! So I’ll share a short set of tips for taking advantage of what the School and University have to offer you while you are working on your degree.
Engage beyond the classroom. While your No. 1 goal is to complete your degree, there are other activities and events that will enrich your understanding of class topics and connect you to networks of practitioners and experts. Attend talks, join a student organization, and seek out opportunities to meet alumni.
Get to know students from outside your “zone.” It is not often that we are able to interact with people from all over the world, and with such a wide variety of career and scholarly interests. Seek out ways to meet students who aren’t in your degree program, and try to meet students from backgrounds different from your own.
This fall, students are joining us from all walks of life, from across the United States and from almost 90 countries, making up our largest class in at least five years. Some of you are recent college graduates, while others are returning to higher education after years outside academia. All of you bring amazing gifts and talents, and you will learn so much from your interactions with each other as well as from your instructors—and we will learn from you.
Practice listening. It is tempting in the policy arena to fall into debate mode. But sometimes debate isn’t the best vehicle for understanding different viewpoints or gaining new knowledge. We need to practice hearing each other as we get to know each other. Listening deeply, asking open-ended questions, and engaging with your fellow speakers in other ways helps build relationships of mutual interest and respect.
Pace yourself. Graduate school can be both exhilarating and exhausting. As much as you can, engage in practices that restore your energy and keep your spirits up, whether that is taking a walk by the beautiful Mississippi River or making time to call a beloved relative. You deserve and require time to rest. Reach out to your peers, consult with your instructors, or make an appointment with staff in student services when you are having a hard time. We want to support you on this journey.
Visit your professors, during office hours or scheduled appointments. To reiterate: graduate school can be exhausting! And it is more exhausting when you try to wrestle with new readings, lectures, and data by yourself. Seek out your instructors. It is not a weakness to ask followup questions after a lecture or admit that you were befuddled by the readings. Office hours remind us that knowledge building is not a solitary exercise. Check your syllabus or reach out to your instructors to find out when they hold in-person or virtual office hours, and make use of them.
I wish for you all a safe, successful semester. I also wish for you all the capacity to give yourselves and each other grace and space for the emotions that may come up as we re-enter the campus community. Remember that many of us—students, staff and faculty—took their first steps into the building just this week. What is a familiar landscape to some is new to many more.
Patience and compassion will serve us all well as we re-engage in physical spaces, find our ways through the halls, and negotiate the use of technology for those times and events where we cannot gather in person.
To close, I want to thank you for choosing the Humphrey School to continue your education and professional development. You bring to us unique talents and contributions that will enrich the School community, university, and beyond. We are so glad you are here.
Catherine Squires, interim dean