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Studyin'

smart
I can't believe it's been so long since I've had a proper update. 

I had my third day in London half drafted, but I've other things to talk about so maybe I'll get it later.  Perhaps I'll have some sort of Lenten vow (on top of my "work out every day" and "eat less crap" vague notions) to post more and London can be recapped then. 

Today, though, I talk about school. 

Back in 1997, I started the classwork for a Masters in Public Health. That spring, I took Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I was halfway through law school, and I was overjoyed to be studying something that didn't make me angry and depressed and just plain miserable. My school was a hippie school. Grading was qualitative rather than quantitative.  Public health people are by definition do-gooders. And I got along with my classmates much, much better than I did with those at the law school. Granted, I was still taking two interesting courses over at the law school (as well as an internship with the Harris County Attorney's Office).  But, I could just breathe better at the School of Public Health.  

That summer, I took a healthcare policy course while still at the County Attorney's Office, but for pay! Pitiful pay, but pay nonetheless.

And the next fall was the semester that I look back with awe. I took 20 hours of classes: 17 at the law school (which included a research position with one of my professors) and 3 at the school of public health. Plus another 10 or so hours of work for the county.  How the fuck I did that, I will never know. But I was highly motivated because I wanted to get the hell out of law school a semester early. And I did.  I graduated from law school in December 1997. 

The next semester was all public health.   Four lovely classes: Administration and Public Health, and Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health and my awesome awesome awesome Overview of Environmental Health.  And a really cool seminar on Dialog, Deliberation and Democracy.  Oh, and the bar exam.  I loved, loved, loved my classes, but by the end of the semester I was truly burned out.  And I couldn't find a job.  I had three more credits to finish up, plus a thesis, and then I was done.  But I didn't have it in me.  I'd been to four elite institutions of higher learning from the fall of 1991 to the spring of 1998.  I'd written more papers than I can count. I'd studied and worked and labored and done everything I could to learn. But for some reason, I couldn't get this one paper out of me.  

I went through a year and a half of pretty awful depression.  I wrote a paper on healthcare compliance for credit somewhere in 1999, but I just couldn't get motivated to work on my thesis.  I tried a few times, but I just couldn't find a topic that worked for me.  Most of my efforts were spent looking for a job.  

And so, when I was offered a job in December 1999 and  moved to California, I always sort of thought, Ok, maybe I'll finish later on.  

I moved back to Texas in 2002.  And I tried again two or three times.  I got pretty close in 2007, but then a paper came out that covered everything my thesis was going to cover.  I got dejected. 

Somewhere in that year, I got a letter saying that I was going to be dropped all together if I didn't register that semester and if I wanted to come back, I'd have to reapply.  I decided to let it go. 

Fast forward the early part of this decade.  A few friends had recently gone back to school to finish up projects that had been started decades ago.   My brother leaving for graduate school had parted by daring me to finish my masters before he finished his.  At a Planned Parenthood event a year or so ago, I'd heard from a current MPH student that the thesis was now optional, and you could take a class instead.  Finally, my friend James restarted a degree he'd started in the early 90s.  Most of his current classmates weren't even born when he was last in the program.  My husband decided that he would like to go back to school too. 

In September, having seen all these signs, I made an inqury at the School of Public Health about readmission.  I got an immediate e-mail back telling me that I had four days to reapply.  Holy crap! I quickly got a hold of my old advisor, who retired last semester but is coming back to teach this semester. And he wrote a letter of support.  I got all of the other documentation in right in the nick of time.  

And the next thing I knew, I was back.  The requirements had changed. Instead of 36 hours of class, I needed 45. But they now accepted more courses from the law school than they used to.  I was four hours short, but I needed to take this culminating experience class and an ethics course anyways.  I met with someone in student affairs who helped me fill out the paperwork that I needed to demonstrate that I'd taken everything I needed to. 

I was in New Student Orientation on January 8. And I've been in class for the last five weeks.  

Today, though, was when I truly felt back.  

Public health is a really broad discipline.  It can be anything from data analysis to community intervention to policy development to working in a lab.  We generally choose an area of inquiry, while having a passing knowledge of the rest of the discipline.   The capstone class is supposed to be a synthesis of all of the learning that we've spent our Master's study on.  There are a number of projects that we work on in the class, but we also are tested on the five core subjects of public health: epidemiology, bio-statistics, environmental health, health promotion and behavioral sciences, and management and policy sciences.  We have handouts that are basic reviews of the courses, but our professors encouraged us to "review our notes from those classes" to prepare for the tests.  

Needless to say, it's been over 15 years since I've taken any of these classes. I honestly started to panic. 

Fortunately, I'm anal, and I have all of my papers from my previous masters study on my computer (plus all of college, all of Oxford and all of law school). Bless my environmental health professor who made us turn in summaries of the lectures after each class.  And apparently, I wrote nothing for Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health, because I have nothing.  

So though I barely remember what a Chi-Square is or how the hell to do regression analysis (or hell, even a standard deviation), I began to sort through stuff last week. I decided that since I do the management and policy stuff every day, I'd ignore that and hope I wasn't missing out on some new theory.  And I went through the environmental stuff pretty quickly, really remembering how much I loved that class.  It was when I got to the behavioral stuff that things started to click.  I remembered specific lectures, and I remembered getting excited about a variety of theories.  Then, epi started coming back to me. Of course I remembered the well and John Snow (not a Game of Thrones reference), but I also started seeing stuff in the review material that I deal with peripherally every day: Clinical trials and research methodology.  Various rates and cohorts and case studies and more.  I looked at biostats, but I decided to punt on that aspect for now.  I had enough other stuff to worry about. 

So I studied for the first time in 13 years. Really studied.  The last time I studied for anything was the California Bar in 2000.  

Our first quiz was today.  It was done on the learning management software (this is new to me) during the first 30 minutes of class.  And the results were immediate.  I was well above passing.  We have to pass two of four of these tests to pass this course.  I'm much more confident that I'm going to have my masters in May than I ever have been.  I still have a ton of work to do, and I have to pass my ethics course as well.  But, I'm feeling good about this.  

And my over-education will be complete.  


For now anyways.  

Comments

( 4 comments — Say something )
fallconsmate
Feb. 13th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
how absolutely wonderful for you!!! you've been on my mind a bit, since you hadnt updated in a while, and i saw a photo recently that made me think of your pretty girl doggie. :)

TheEngineer stopped just short of his Doctorate degree. after his sponsor told him to change his thesis subject for the fifth time (apparently there was a matter of TheEngineer finding errors in previous students' theses that the professor had passed them on, and the professor took umbridge at this) he just quit. but he's still respected in the field he works in, so not having the doctorate hasnt hurt him at all.

may your Master's come without too much stress, and huzzah for you for keeping going at it!
melusinehr
Feb. 14th, 2013 12:44 am (UTC)
Good for you for picking it back up! I am all about over-education, myself. Best of luck finishing the semester!
jungleeyedgirl
Feb. 14th, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
For now anyways.

There's always another degree.

Not that I would know. *cough*

(It is indescribably weird being on the "taking tests" end of things again. I can't quite get my teacher's brain to shut off.)
badrahessa
Feb. 15th, 2013 05:30 am (UTC)
I swear , it feels like almost everyone I know is going back to college to finish something or starting it to build a new career.

Nice! I'm finally part of the majority ( lol ).

( 4 comments — Say something )