It is surreal for me to believe that I am eight weeks done with my Master's program. It is unbelievable for me to recognize that I have over 750 pages of peer-reviewed, edited, and authored literature ranging from topics within higher education, policy and education, critical theory, criticality in international higher education, and even higher education as it stands for different groups of people like students with disabilities, Students of Color, and faculty/staff.
We live in a world where we expect and acknowledge that education at its core is becoming privatized and commoditized at a growing and alarming rate. Despite efforts from educational administrators, the grasp of big business is slowly becoming tighter on the frail fiscal being that is higher education. Plain and simple: Educational institutions do not have the funds to do what they were designed to do. Looking at primary schools, there are schools that are shut down for simply not having some type of break time. Is this important? Yes, but schools sacrifice this time for more instructional time because the students crave the knowledge more than anything else. When we look at secondary schools, we see the relationship between public schools and public people and that if there is no money in the public, very little is going to be reinvested in the school district. This is an unfortunate reality that many people will not face but for those forced into these gentrified districts they are given under-resources schools and expected to thrive when no one is expected to give them the resources. Looking at higher education, we see academic faculty being denied grants, tenure, and promotions simply because they are writing information that makes them happy and excited about their work. Why would a faculty member spend 5-7 years working on becoming an expert in their career to simply just let it be and use their bare research skills to do research for companies that are fueling the commodification that faculty are trying to prevent.
At any level of education, there is a cost. The more and more I read about education at any level, the more I see the cost and its impact on students. The cost is real, not transparent, and rarely benefits the student. How do mitigate the cost then without sacrificing the educational experience? Only time and active resistance will tell.
As I type this I am awaiting my first class of the day: Master's Seminar I. Yes, you read that right. My first class of the day. Thankfully, my program caters to a multitude of students aside from traditional graduate students. Many of us in the program have full-time jobs or obligations prior to class. In order to most effectively educate us, the professors time classes in the evenings so that as many people can benefit from them as possible.
The building I am in is quite beautiful. It was recently redone so not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it is functionally appealing as well. From what others have said, I am in for a treat for both of my classes tonight; the other one being Higher Education Policy. I am excited to continue on this journey and it feels relatively normal to be in an academic building with peers who may or may not be learning the same things. Within the College of Education you have Student Development (where the School Psychologists, counselors, and Social Justice Education programs are); Educational Policy, Research, and Administration (EPRA--which is me); and Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies (where the teachers are).
With supportive faculty, amazing friends, and a workplace that understands that connections between practice and theory, I know that UMass is the place for me to be. I am thankful for the ability to be here and am excited to see what this amazing school has to offer!!