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Master of Urban Planning – Things Have Quickly Become Demanding

In my first blog in this series, I described my motivations for pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree and how I will strive to find connections between my studies and HOA management.   I also explained how pleased I was to have seemingly discovered that the program would not be as demanding as I had initially thought.  Over the past two weeks, I have realized that I may have been wishfully thinking in that regard.

After the first week and a half or so of the ‘getting to know you’ and ‘allow me to explain the syllabus’ phase that accompanies any incoming class of new students, the assignments really started to pile on.  In order to maintain my position working for CAP Management predominantly in the area of environmental sustainability at homeowners associations, I am taking fewer classes than some of my peers, but I am finding that three classes still present me with a demanding course load.  The most challenging of these courses is my law class.  There is a lot to know about the history of zoning!  This topic is quite different than HOA law, which is constantly evolving and presents itself in a very matter of fact manner.  While thoroughly analyzing past cases is time consuming, it isn’t terribly taxing.  What is challenging is completing all of the multiple reports on these cases each week in addition to other projects for the same course.  For one class, it certainly consumes a disproportionate share of my time!

While at a lesser scale, my other two courses have a fairly high amount of work to be completed during the semester as well.  This would be easily manageable if assignments were dispersed evenly throughout the semester.   To the contrary, I’ve found that a great deal of work in my courses is assigned at random.  All students, each at various points during the semester, will need to provide presentations and other speeches as their names are drawn from a hat.  As a matter of chance, almost all of my shares of these tasks were assigned at the very beginning!  If I could have predicted this, I wouldn’t have scheduled my “hand in by this date, but do the work whenever” projects for these first few weeks.  One such project has me interviewing a professional urban planner and compiling a report on our conversation.  With this occurring during the same time that I am preparing the abovementioned assignments and other regularly scheduled coursework, it is fair to say that I have been a very busy guy since my last blog posting.

As it stands now, my social life is less than half as voluminous as it was three weeks ago.  In all honesty, this is the most difficult part of transitioning back into the student role after three years of being out of college.  I am confident that after this current onslaught of coursework is complete, I will be able to find a balance that still allows me to be at least somewhat socially engaged during the week.  It certainly helps that my student peers elected me as the social events co-chair on the American Planning Association Student Chapter (APAS) Board.  I am very pleased to hold this title and even more pleased that I will be able to share the responsibility of wearing that hat with another student.  As much as I would love to plan each social mixer or outing myself, I simply have too much work to do for my classes and with my HOA management position at CAP Management.  What I truly need is to find a balance between the three important areas of working for grades, working for income and maintaining a strong social presence.  I have faith for if I could do it so well during my undergraduate career, then surely I can do it again!

It is hard for me to complain about any aspect of this higher education.  While demanding, everything, perhaps with the exception of computer programs, is all very interesting and engaging.  Everyone that I’ve met at school has been awesome.  It is great to be surrounded by some many like minded and friendly people.  And the best part is, they all want to have a good time!  I am excited to commence my social co-chair duties to help create a fun atmosphere around my studies.

By my next posting, which I intend to do every three weeks or so, I hopefully will have found that balance I am seeking and should be able to report my findings on connections between urban planning on a regional scale and the homeowners associations that you live in or work with.  We do, after all, all reside together in metropolitan Denver regardless of the living unit we find ourselves in.  Wish me luck and thanks for reading!