I made it through the first week of ICPSR, a summer program in quantitative methods for social scientists! I must unleash my inner nerd and talk about how thrilled I am to be here. I am currently taking a course on Maximum Likelihood Estimation (taught by Dean Lacy) in an effort to get a jump start on my master’s thesis (why wait until classes begin?). I am also in a math review for social scientists and an introductory lecture for R (John Fox). Oh! And I attended a very helpful one-time lecture on LateX (Dave Armstrong).
Why am I prattling on about the details of my course selection? Well, I have been trying to teach myself about MLE and to use R and LateX. While I have learned a good deal on my own, I am honestly so excited to sit in a comprehensive lecture and absorb everything like a sponge. ICPSR is honestly a candy store for social scientists…!
More importantly, this last week has taught me a few things that are beyond the scope of data analysis and statistics.
1. Hey, I actually know something! When I am at my home department (Penn State), I feel like I can’t possibly keep up! There is always more to learn, questions on questions, and my colleagues are all very smart and ambitious people who keep the bar HIGH! Though I feel as if I “know nothing”, this is not true. Granted, it’s week one of classes, but it’s been easy breezy. I have even been able to help other students understand “what the heck is going on”.
2. Penn State really is all that (and a bag of chips). I honestly forget how great my department is until I am around other graduate students. The resources that are available to me are not common in other programs. Also, as much as I bemoaned the required methods sequence (9 hours, but typically students fulfill 12 for funsies), I am grateful. While I am not a whiz at all the concepts that have been feverishly pitched my way, I have at least been exposed to a myriad of methodology madness.
3. EVERYONE is painfully awkward. I mean, we’re academics. You can imagine the kind of (crazy) people that self-select into graduate school, let alone political science. Anyway, being around other socially awkward nerds has really given me life! Knowing everyone is weird in the same way has bolstered my confidence. I talk to strangers, meet really interesting and smart grad students, and have made a lot of great connections. Since political science is a small world, I expect I will see these people again and again and again over the next several decades.
4. Stained glass, mahogany, and leather are an academic dream. The study spaces on this campus are beautiful and quiet…! I must say Univ. Michigan has got it going on. I haven’t worked in an office, conference room, or behind a wooden library partition this whole time – and I’ve been more productive than usual. I suppose I should keep searching for the magic study spot when I get back to Penn State.
Until next time,