Why I chose Korbel

It may sound like a cheesy infomercial for a hair growth product but not only am I a staff member here, I’m also a student.  My full time hat is the Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, part time, I’m an MA candidate in the International Administration degree.

It was a long, twisted road but somehow the stars aligned and seven years after graduating with a BS in molecular biology and minor in creative writing, I ended up (like a deer in headlights might I add) in Comparative Politics during the winter quarter of 2007. Yes, I just dated myself. I wish I could say my story is unique but it’s actually quite similar to many of my fellow MA candidates here at Korbel; inspired by some form of volunteer or work experience abroad.

In high school I knew that I wanted to work in the medical field however I turned white at the sight of blood and laughed when people got hurt. The latter was a nervous reaction, really, I don’t wish pain on anyone but I quickly realized that would not jive with busted bones and gunshot wounds. The pharmaceutical industry seemed like a better fit and the money was enticing. Within a month after graduating from college I got a job as a clinical research associate for a small biopharmaceutical company in Providence, yipppeee- employed in my field. After a year of setting up trials for BPH and Prostatitis, working with VA doctors and writing package inserts (yes, those lengthy, tissue paper descriptions of all the terrible things prescription medication might do to you), I did the most logical thing I could think of – applied to the Peace Corps.

I had the typical, life altering experience from my 27 months of service that helped me realize that there was more I wanted to contribute to then alleviating the pain and inflammation associated with men’s prostates.  Sorry fellas. I wanted to take this new found passion and put it into practice, but realized that lab reports and knowing the technical term for plaque, streptococcus mutan, wouldn’t make me marketable in the nonprofit world. As fellow Peace Corps Volunteers began weighing out their options for life after service, I realized graduate school was the logical next step for me…after a couple years of travelling, of course. So there’s some background, here are the top 3 reasons why I chose Korbel:

1. FLEXIBILITY

While I was incredibly focused during my undergraduate studies, for my MA degree, I wanted to remain open to a variety of possibilities. I enjoyed medical biology so the global health certificate was of interest to me, I enjoyed working with USAID in the Peace Corps so the Int’l Development program appealed to me but I also loved the practicality of the Int’l Administration degree. Better yet, I loved that I could pursue Int’l Administration and have a concentration in development while taking some electives in global health. And the best part – I didn’t have to know exactly what I wanted to do when I applied or when I began the program. Students have 2 quarters (1 for PC Fellows and MIs due to the waived credits) to decide what degree program they want to pursue after dabbling in  a few classes, meeting with their advisor and talking with faculty and other students.

I ended up deciding on the MA degree in International Administration with a certificate in Finance from the Daniels College of Business. Why? Because, while I would love to be in the field, I really like the management side of things and somehow over the past 3 years managed to establish roots here in CO. Fortunately for me, there are the most nonprofits per capita in the country here in this state so I can work with international organizations right here in Denver.

2. PEACE CORPS FELLOWSHIP

Let’s be honest here – private school education is not cheap. No way to sugar coat the ticket price for a two years MA program at a well recognized graduate school. My appreciation for the fellows program here at Korbel was two-fold:

a.)    The financial benefit.  If accepted, RPCVs automatically receive the PC Fellowship which waives 18 credits along with the language requirement and internship requirement.  Fellows can graduate in 4 quarters rather than 6 quarters if they take 4 courses per quarter. This saves $23,064 in tuition plus living expenses. Not a bad deal. RPCVs (and MIs) are also considered for additional, one-year scholarships.

b.)    The fact that Korbel offers a fellowship

Fellows certainly don’t do the PC to make money. I left in more debt after PC then before I joined as interest accrued on my student loan while away and I dipped heavily into my savings. Amongst all of the APSIA schools, Korbel is one of the few that provides a fellowship for those who spent at least 2 years volunteering. This said something to me about the type of student Korbel was looking for and experiences they wanted students to bring to the classroom. Korbel now has the 2nd largest Fellows program in the country and DU has the most RPCVs in the country. While this was a rude awakening at first (I’m not unique?) it’s great to share stories about eating goat head soup and bucket baths. I’d like to add that I became a vegetarian while in the PC and I appreciate hot water every morning, especially in the winter.

c.)     The Field practicum requirement

This is essentially an internship working with high needs populations in the U.S. and is a requirement from PC HQ as part of the fellowship. While I have yet to begin my 150 hour field practicum, I can’t wait to gain practical work experience with a local nonprofit.

3. LOCATION

Being an outdoor enthusiast, concrete jungles don’t do it for me. I wanted to study at a school that was academically rigorous yet the surroundings afforded me the opportunity to trail run, rock climb, bike ride, snowboard, hike and do cartwheels in wide open areas of green grass. I did the WOOFing program throughout NZ for 6 months and feel in love with Kiwi environment – the endless out of door activities, the plethora of people equally as pumped about those activities, the environmental consciousness and the sunshine. Being denied a visa and realizing the inevitability of returning to the U.S. of A, Colorado seemed like the American equivalent of what I was looking for. As mentioned above, there are a ton of nonprofits which to me meant people who have similar values, Denver and Boulder are two of the most highly educated cities and fittest cities in the country, there is 300+ days of sunshine and a graduate program in international studies that is ranked #12 in the world.  While some see studying in Denver as a disadvantage if one wants to work in DC or elsewhere in the country/world, I respectfully but strongly disagree. While I don’t particularly want to work in DC, many fellow students do. Our office of career and professional development do a tremendous job with providing resources and opportunities for our students to connect with employers and alums throughout the country/world but specifically in DC, NY and Boston. Approximately 40% of our alums work in DC and they are employing our students all the time. In fact, many employers appreciate the off the beltway perspective our students obtain here.

At this point, I’m more than half way through my program and feel that I made a terrific decision in choosing the Josef Korbel School. I’ve been very pleased with the course content, the accessibility of my professors, the staff support and the quality of my fellow students. Is it perfect? No. Has it challenged me, absolutely, did I get into all the classes that I wanted, yes.  However, I’m only taking one a time. I will blog a bit more about this aspect of korbel next week.

So that’s a brief glimpse into my background and why I chose Korbel. Back to reviewing files.

All the best,
Nicole

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