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Stott: Time to plan for a different plan

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

I always have a plan.

Each day I wake up and start working on my to-do list. I move through projects and responsibilities systematically, and I succeed when I follow through on an outline. These strict tendencies are why I struggle to accommodate unexpected events.

In December, I was abruptly presented with the chance to study public administration at the graduate level.

My original plan didn’t afford this curveball. I had intended on applying for the master of public administration program at Northern Illinois University, but not for admission, until at least autumn – if not later.

I already had a full-time job lined up after graduation in December. I was prepared to work, get my life in order after a hectic final undergraduate semester and maybe spend time with loved ones whom my studying schedule had forced me to nearly abandon.

When the possibility of grad school was presented much earlier than I expected, I panicked.

“Why can’t things just happen in the order I expect them to happen?” I wondered in December.

I was close to rejecting the offer when I realized how much I might one day regret not taking the opportunity.

I wanted to attend grad school because there is more I want to learn about local government. I majored in political science as well as journalism for my bachelor’s degree at NIU, but I barely scratched the surface of government intricacies.

Regardless of your opinion of higher education, it’s hard to deny everyone has more to learn about the authority that exercises so much control over our daily lives.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more about government – municipal administration specifically – in a structured setting, learning from highly qualified instructors who push students to fully explore the field.

It was hard to abandon a job in a field I had envisioned myself in since I was a teenager. I was working full time at the Daily Chronicle as a copy editor when I decided to leave.

Returning to college has given me the opportunity to write a column again for the Daily Chronicle, however, which I wasn’t able to do as a full-time employee. I gratefully accepted the chance to write again – I’ll be here every Thursday – and I do miss the atmosphere of the newsroom, the fast-paced work environment and not having to arrive at work until 4 p.m.

But I know I would never be able to shake the need to learn more about such an integral mechanism of my life. Government is huge, and if you don’t agree you probably have a lot more to learn than I do.

For those of you who remember my columns from last year, I’m hoping to again provide insight from the perspective of an NIU student, especially as I learn more about public administration.

As far as my future beyond grad school, I’m not sure exactly how I’d like to use my degree.

You can be sure, though, that I am working on a plan.

• Lauren Stott is a Maple Park native and a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in the master of public administration program. She can be reached at lauren_stott@yahoo.com.

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