Thursday, May 1, 2014

On not Selling out: Getting my MBA

I have a confession to make.  The name of this blog is actually a misnomer. I’ll get to that. First some personal history.

I started studying economics and finance seriously after I lost my job in late 2008. I had just started a sales job in September of that year. I was in training when the magic weekend happened.  I made three sales in October. I made none in November. In early December, first thing in the morning, my manager let me go. The only thing I cared about was to make sure that they would not be challenging my unemployment.

I went to McDonalds and tried to figure out what went on. 

Up to that point, I was intellectually curious but I often ignored the goings on in the economy.  I’m thirty-two years old and up to that point for my memorable life, the economy had pretty much just worked.  The business page (of the USA Today) that my parents bought was the one I leafed through first because it was the most boring.

I had been concerned about individual worker’s rights: I was once reprimanded at my pizza place job for talking about unionization; I lost a student election of my English grad student association where I was pro-union and the competition was not as focused on GTA’s right.

But it was 2008, and being without a job or any good prospects rocked me. I had gone to school and done well, and the great American jobs machine had failed me personally. I didn’t like it and I wanted to figure out what had gone wrong. 

I then read as widely as possible, from left to right but with an emphasis on the center to far left. I thought that at that point a heterodox school was built better to explain the failings that had hit. I started writing some, reading books, and posting reviews on Amazon of those books. With no job, it is hard to stay engaged mentally. 

I was unemployed for about two years. Early during that time, I had applied for a position at the education school of the University of Illinois at Chicago. I was waitlisted and then denied.  It was probably for the best. I really liked teaching when I did it, but I had a bad experience and I think UIC’s decision helped me put that part of my life to bed. The problem is that I was still unemployed with few prospects. I kept reading and posting and started following the blogs and twitter personalities. The more I read, the more I thought I could help contribute to the conversation (why I have this here, yelling in the dark). 

So  I went back to UIC, this time I talked to the Director of Graduate Studies in the Economics department. We went over my transcripts and developed a plan of attack. I would need some undergrad classes to get to the point where I would be prepared for the classes at the graduate level. It would take a couple of years, part time because of the progression. 

Did you know that it is hard to find money to borrow for undergrad classes when you already have a BA? I have one, with honors from WVU. The problem is that it is in Creative Writing – Poetry. So basically that dream died on the vine. I kept reading and posting and pestering @noaopinion and @azizenomics and others. I eventually got placed in a city program for job retraining and I ended up working in the finance department of a nonprofit.

I like it here. I do good things for the community. The best thing is that I finally had money. Over the past two years I’ve taken those prerequisite classes. I’ve got A’s in both the intro accounting and both the basic econ classes. So you see that it is not all autodidactic. There’s my lie.  

I have different life needs now than I did when I talked to the DGS at UIC for economics. If I could do anything right now I would be going into a PhD program. If it was on me, it would be at Amherst or UMKC. That’s not going to happen. I’m married; we own a house. Instead at the point I need to be focused on doing what is best for my family, while indulging were I can. That is why I started looking at MPA programs and the like – I can serve the community and learn interesting and applicable things. I was really inspired by the opportunity I had to get a certificate in nonprofit leadership from Notre Dame.  I want more of that. I want to build a network in my community of the western suburbs of Chicago. I still want to take over the world, but I also don’t want to sell out. 

I go to orientation at Concordia University Chicago today for orientation. I’m enrolled to get my MBA with a concentration in nonprofit management. Don’t let me sell out. I’ll get that PhD eventually.  The world will be mine.