My Classes Will Help Me Get Rich

This semester is awesome so far. A lot of reading, to be sure, but just about everything I’m learning is completely new in that I’m being exposed to whole realms of study I didn’t follow before.

On top of that, I’ve become a lot closer with one of my fellow students, Jen. I want to say more about her, but not now. When we talk, hours disappear and the rest of the world melts away.

Next week I am going to NYC with about sixty of the other MSFSers to go to some nice venues like the UN, McGraw Hill, and S&P in order to listen to alumni talk about their careers after graduating. There will be two days of activities including a small lunch with an alumn. I picked this former Army captain who now works with leveraged finance at Deutsche Bank. It will be me and him and the fighter pilot from our class. I picked him because I figure leveraged debt will be something relevant to my future — and useful since I know a very intelligent guy who’s working on a company requiring that model who I am sort of interested in working for eventually. Plus, this alumn is ex-Army so we’ll hit it off.

Next Saturday is Groundhog’s Day, my birthday, so I’ll be staying in Manhattan all weekend and celebrating. Most importantly, Jen will be there also and is helping to coordinate the party. I will get to eat dinner with her parents, too! I think the plan is to go to a Thai restaurant with a small group of my friends on Saturday in the meat-packing district. I just wanted to eat with a few of the girls and a few of the guys… No big party until afterwards, when hopefully we can all meet at a club somewhere. I will probably have another private dinner back in DC the weekend after that.

So, classes.

I have Arabic again. It’s a lot of work. The teacher likes me and is actively trying to help me. I wonder if I’ll be able to apply the skills in the future. Would I ever be working in a Gulf State? I didn’t apply for a State Dept. language program over the summer because I didn’t get it soon enough and didn’t feel like getting transcripts from all my schools again. I could have studied in Oman or Yemen if I got accepted, though. Is that what I want?

Political economy of international communications policy. There are only four of us in the class. The prof is really smart and knowledgeable. Right now we’re reading about the history of the telegraph transitioning to radio and then to television. Kind of dry but I know why we’re doing it. It’s interesting to see how the British brought wire worldwide and changed the scope of things. I was reading an excerpt from Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”, proposing that nationalism is an imagined political community, and there was a reference to my grandfather, Victor Turner. Beautiful.

I’ll be interested asking the prof, who works at the FCC, about the 700MHz wireless auction. The wiring of our world is going to be huge in the 21st century. Eventually, as William Gibson has been waiting for, human knowledge will go exponential, go vertical. Africa will even be wired. An entire virtual map will be overlayed on the physical map of the Earth.

My prof laughs a bit too hard at her own jokes and is a little quirky in an innocent computer person kind of way. But you can tell she’s had positions of great responsibility and knows how to defend her turf and carve out more turf. She wears Asian-style blouses and looks meek in appearance, but is not.

Political analysis and statistics. Considering my business idea is going to be heavily statistics-based, this is right up my alley. We’ll be comparing statistics against each other within the context of political elections, international development, and so on. This will formalize a lot of the stuff I’ve been trying to figure out on my own, so I’m happy. I thought I would hate the class but it’ll be invaluable to me. I think it will probably get more miserable as more calculus will be required. But for now it’s great. Plus, I sit next to Jen.

Our professor seems very young. He has a PhD from Indiana. He has some grey hairs but is thin as a rail and the girls think he’s cute. He mentioned early in the first class that he has a girlfriend, which does little to deter grad students. His voice cracks. But he’s wickedly smart. And he’s worked on projects for water policy along the border and has studied police corruption. We can relate to him because he’s close to our generation. The first day, I gave my little schpiel in front of the class and he glanced at his watch and I called him out on it and everyone laughed so I think I got him off-guard already.

Development orthodoxies. I don’t know any of the writers involved with international development theory save for the big ones like Amartya Sen and Jeffrey Sachs, who are quoted quite frequently in the latest UNDP and World Bank literature. This indicates that the field is growing rapidly and there’s a lot of new minds like mine entering the field. It’s interesting to see how the developed world is approaching development — especially since I tangentially work at USAID in its division that specializes in combining private, public, and philanthropic interests together to help poor people.

The reading is fairly negative, since development has alienated a lot of people in the last few decades with very poorly thought-out policies that, in my opinion, smack of Reaganomics and neo-liberal economics. I’m hoping that era is drawing to a close.

Our prof is the acting development concentration head. He’s incredibly intelligent (I keep saying this about my professors!) and really challenges us during the seminars. I imagine being very keen on the pitfalls and paths for opportunity in the development world by the end of this class.

Social entrepreneurship. This is like the mean, competitive complement to the development orthodoxies class. Our job is to take a business idea for a social enterprise and then refine it, boil it down to its essence, and learn how to pitch it and how its operations will work. Our professor is an energetic guy who knows start-ups well and who e-mails us at odd times at night. I think I’m probably very similar to him in respects like that. Through this class I’m not only learning how to identify new markets and opportunities but I’m also getting to know the many social entrepreneurship organizations out there that are linked all these innovative people together. My uncle is involved in this stuff and I need to talk to him more about it — but I want to learn more first.

Last week, some guys from a San Fran consulting company came out to USAID to give us some advice. I gelled with them immediately and I have a stronger feeling that I belong out near Silicon Valley and San Fran where all the innovative, creative, initiative-taking entrepreneurs are forming clusters of intelligence.

So there you have it. Not a comprehensive look but I’m tired of writing and have only had a few classes so far. Needless to say, my mind is fully-engaged, typing notes into my iPhone and Google Docs constantly, and viewing dozens of new web sites a day. i really feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Now I need to convert all this into a promising summer internship/job.

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