Tag Archives: Grad School

Lessons from a First Year in ACS

About five months ago, around the time I started this still-young blog, I shared my lessons from a first semester in ACS – the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program. It didn’t seem like there were many firsthand experiences shared, so I decided to pitch my voice into that void on the off chance that I might help someone out or at least get them to think about ACS.

One semester later, I feel like there are a few more lessons worthy of sharing as I wrap up my first of two years in grad school. The overarching lesson? Grad school isn’t that different from many things I’ve learned in the Army: Continue reading Lessons from a First Year in ACS

Put a Hat on It

In statistics, there is a symbol known simply as a “hat.” It looks like this: ^. According to Wikipedia (the grad student’s seedy dealer, from whom you can never academically admit getting your stuff), the hat operator “is used to denote an estimator or an estimated value.”

Seriously, we call “p” just “p” (like the actual letter), and “hat_p” is called “p hat.” It doesn’t get much lazier than that.

Continue reading Put a Hat on It

Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

Post #7 in the “In Between” series.

I’ve come to appreciate a handful of things about basic military administration and organization since I’ve spent some time away from it. As a leader, you have the very real responsibility of keeping your organization knit together and operating functionally and smoothly by mastering those administrative/organizational exigencies. We often lose sight of just how fundamental much of what we do in the military is.

From my brief foray into the civilian world, let me share just a few things I miss.

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Don’t be like Zoidberg.

 

Continue reading Organizational Organization: Things You’ll Miss When They’re Gone

Addicted to Action

After I passed the guidon off to my replacement and moved to California for grad school, I was sad to leave the organization I led for 15 months and the relationships that I forged, but I was relieved to be done. My responsibilities were abdicated, the rat race was complete, and I was off to a new adventure in the Golden State. I now have more time with my family, an amazingly flexible schedule, and the rare chance to expand my educational horizons.

Then it hit me. I miss the action.

I miss the time spent taking care of business, planning training, executing tasks, working with fellow soldiers, and basically staying busy all of the time. I had an Outlook calendar full of events and just had to look at my unit training calendar or the battalion’s long range calendar to know what to expect for the rest of the quarter and those in the future.

And the calendars were full, but never mind that. There were plenty of unscheduled tasks to keep me (and everyone else) gainfully employed because of what many call “fires.”

For the uninitiated, a fire is a problem that, as you can guess, needs to be “put out.” They are usually challenges that crop up outside of the normal battle rhythm or planned events that must be resolved before flaring up, spreading, and drawing the ire of higher-ups.

“If nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter.”

The problem is that an organization can extinguish fires as they crop up, or they can jump from fire to fire with an unhealthy intent, creating fires where they need not be.  In my short career, there have been frequent periods when just about every day there was a fire to put out.  I found myself joking with peers that, “if nothing’s on fire, here’s a lighter!”- a reflection of the attitude that the organization seemingly always had to have a crisis to handle or we weren’t working hard enough.

What existed was an addiction to action.

I don’t miss that.

Continue reading Addicted to Action

In Between: The One About the Value of Free Time

Sometimes I don’t have anything particularly funny or snarky to write, and sometimes I’m in between more academically-aimed historical or other scholastic pieces. In those periods, I still have things I want to write about, they just fit somewhere in between.  This is the fourth post in a category I call “In Between.”


As part of my master’s curriculum, I recently participated in a multiple-day project that serves as a sort of “rite of passage” for students in the program—an over-the-weekend policy analysis exercise designed to “simulate a real-life work environment in which rapid-response and “land-on-your-feet” skills are at a premium.”

While the project was certainly a valuable education in rapidly developing a meaningful policy analysis product, I came away from it with, what was to me, a profound realization that a civilian school just coopted my entire weekend—with the explicit intent to use the weekend, not weekdays—for a project that could have easily been programmed into a weekday setting with just a little pre-semester intradepartmental coordination.

Continue reading In Between: The One About the Value of Free Time

Army vs. Berkeley: A Study of Classroom Differences

I’ve spent half a career in Army classrooms ranging from the formality of TRADOC to the casualness of company EO/SHARP training.  When you do something long enough, doing it any other way is a strange experience, and you can’t help but notice every little difference.  That’s how it’s been for me in grad school at the University of California, Berkeley.

I’d like to share some of those differences with you.

Continue reading Army vs. Berkeley: A Study of Classroom Differences

Lessons from a First Semester in ACS

Note: This post was originally published here on January 3, 2016.

If only the Army would give me five years…
I’m a fan of online research. Searching for a good book? Take a look at what other people are reading. Want to eat out? Find the highest rated restaurant in the area. Looking at taking a certain class? Research the professor. About to start grad school via the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program? Look up other folks’ experiences in that program.

You may notice that last one isn’t linked to anything. That’s because, before moving out to start grad school, I couldn’t find a whole lot in the way of firsthand accounts from officers in the ACS pipeline. This is my contribution to what I feel is a sorely lacking selection of literature on the subject.

After two rounds of applications (first to teach at West Point and then to get into a reputable graduate program), I started my first semester of grad school as part of the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) program in August. Here are some things I have learned at the conclusion of the semester and a quarter of the way through my Masters program.

Continue reading Lessons from a First Semester in ACS