Sunday, November 25, 2012

Waitlist Woes

Although they abolished it for incoming classes, my class is required, as part of the degree, to take a Strategy course. On a related note, in order to obtain a concentration in Strategy, one needs to have taken three elective courses in Strategy. The Strategy course selection has been very very slim. Classes that have "Strategy" in the title are not necessarily considered for the Strategy concentration; there are extremely few courses (I've only seen one) that have dealt with Strategy in a concentrated form.

I was looking over my class selections at the beginning of the Mini and realised that I could take an extra class. I'm a bit of a sucker for getting my money's worth of education from this institute, and the course title "Renewable Corporate Strategy" seemed to be great - a pure strategy course that meets on Thursday nights. This would mean that I would have a class on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, but I've found I'm starting to prefer night classes so this wasn't a problem. I register for it, and discover I'm number 12 on the waitlist.

Now, Tepper has a little-known and not-well-enforced policy that states this:

"All students admitted to any course with a waiting list must attend the first class, unless notified otherwise. No-shows may lose their space to other waitlisted students unless they receive prior permission to miss class by contacting the professor."

 In a prior handbook, I believe it also stated that if a student did not attend the first day of class, without reasonable notice to the professor, then that student stood a chance of getting dropped from the class and a student from the waitlist would take her/his place.

I was made aware of this policy in a class I took last mini - Managing Intellectual Capital - since the professor enforces this strictly. His classes are very popular, and so he makes pains to ensure that only those who are truly interested (i.e. the ones who show up) are the ones that get the privilege of getting taught by him. For some naive reason, I thought this was how a lot of super-popular classes worked. I was wrong.

I turn up to the Strategy class, and the room is nearly full to busting. It's OK - I participate in the class and really enjoy the topics of discussion. Later, I mention to the Professor that I am on the waitlist, and he purses his lips and says that although 3-4 students typically drop the class, it may not be possible for me to participate just because of where I am.

Next week, the classroom is noticeably emptier. In fact, he passed out tent name cards and a large stack was left over. I had been told previously, by another classmate also on the waitlist, that she had been removed from the waitlist and put into the class through intervention by Student Services. I looked eagerly myself, but I was now number 7.

For the first half of the class, I was somewhat upset - I am there, someone on the waitlist wanting to get an education from this professor in this class, and yet there were a good number of people who chose to skip the class, who had taken their seat for granted. What was worse is that, when I looked through the tentcards, I saw a few names on there who were participating in a brewery tour that was happening at the same time!

I talked to the Professor again about my chances of getting in the class, pointing out the large number of people who didn't turn up. I also mentioned the policy that some professors (ahem, above) adhered to, and how it was not right that I, an eager student, wouldn't be able to join the class, especially given how some students aren't taking their academic duties seriously. He seemed genuinely concerned, but torn because it was "fair" that the students who originally got in the class should be able to stay in the class. He promised to talk to Student Services for me. Coincidentally, this was the last day to Add/Drop classes, and thus my last chance.

The next day, I awaken to an email from Student Services telling me that I had been dropped from the waitlist, and that they were very sorry that they weren't able to accommodate all the students who wanted to take the class. Then they drivelled on about how they've dropped the Strategy concentration requirement to just 2 Strategy electives, and also allowed for some of the courses with "strategy" in the title, like Pricing Strategy, Technology Strategy, Brand Strategy, to be also considered as part of the Strategy concentration, provided that one of the more Strategy-centric courses was also taken.

I was not interested in taking the course to complete a requirement or a concentration, but for the education I would receive since it was a pure Strategy course and didn't deal with theoretics (like Game Theory). It seems as though the focus was on providing a core Strategy class for the first years than to provide any significant or relevant strategy class for the rest of the school, and thus we missed out. I also feel that there should be an enforced "turn up to the first class or you'll get dropped" for the classes with a long waitlist. To me, "fairness" is having all the students interested in the education from the class be there, and not those who just had it as a choice. But that also, in this case, opens up the can of worms that is my disagreement with having to take "requirement" electives in order to graduate. Thankfully they removed it from the subsequent classes and replaced it with a core class, but oh, it really sucks when I'm pre-registering for a class and I have to give up a class I want to take to take a class I have to take.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Autumn in Pittsburgh

Over the last couple of months, the city has exploded into this amazing display of brilliant reds, yellows, oranges, and rusts. Since Pittsburgh had a bit of a drought over the summer, the theory is that that has triggered the amazing colours you see below:

These trees turned red in early October. They are at the front of the CMU campus by Forbes Ave.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

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A couple of weeks later, the red turned into a sparkling gold:

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android 

Gold is a common colour around here. The following two shots are on North Craig Street in late September/early October:
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These are shots taken from my place in North Oakland the last couple of weeks:

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And from this morning:
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This tree is outside Skibo gym, opposite Posner Hall, early October:
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Finally, these trees are in South Side, across the river from CMU, taken this morning:
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Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Friday, November 2, 2012

Electives Part 3

A little late out the gate - I was too busy doing a lot of nothing during the break :) I am also fortunate to say that Hurricane Sandy had little-to-no effect on Pittsburgh, other than rain and cold.

Managing Intellectual Capital and Knowledge-Intensive Businesses (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Robert Kelley)
Background: Given how I want to work in IT/entertainment industries, where the brainwork is the product, this course seemed pretty ideal. Professor Kelley has a reputation for being an excellent teacher also.

Course Deliverables: Class participation 1/3; Individual paper 1/3, Group project & presentation 1/3

Good Stuff: I immensely enjoyed his class. A lot of his class was discussion-based, which meant that it was less sage-on-the-stage format and more hearing the inputs and thoughts of my classmates. This also explains the heavy emphasis on class participation in the grading scheme. This format allowed the very long class (6:30-10.00) to go by rather quickly. It also seemed a lot of people didn't skip the class either, which meant that they were likewise engaged.
The topics we could choose for our group project were interesting and revolved around IC and organizations. We chose to do the topic on how to structure the organization to best manage IC. I like researching academic papers and reading/learning all this stuff, so I volunteered to do this piece. Thankfully, my teammates all preferred to do the other aspects of the project, which meant this was a perfect fit.
The individual paper was to draw up a business plan, essentially, of one's own career progression. It was interesting, since I do this type of work already in my head, but putting it down on paper and seeing how much I'm really worth was a great exercise.

Bad Stuff: There was a LOT of reading to do in this class. Again, not that much of an issue for me, but I would spend an entire Saturday doing the readings.

Commercialization & Innovation: Strategy (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Art Boni)
Background: I was told I had to take this class as part of the Technology Leadership track, even though it wasn't on the track course listing.

Course Deliverables: I think it was just a final project presentation. Participation was also assessed.

Good Stuff: Similar to another entrepreneurship course I took in Mini 1 2011, this was pretty light on the deliverables. The content was interesting - about identifying a market need before doing anything related to business plans - and the idea we ended up following through with was non-rigid facial tracking technology - the same technology used in Avatar, only we applied it to video games.

Bad Stuff: It had a LOT of overlap with another course in this mini (see below) and thus didn't grab my attention all to well.

Innovation Ecosystems (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Jim Herbsleb)
Background: Another Track-requisite course, but it's new and was added for the academic year.

Course Deliverables: A project proposal, presentation, and final write-up on an ecosystem.

Good Stuff: This ended up being a very engaging and interesting course that opened my mind up to this idea of ecosystems and complements. It had been touched on before in my Technology Strategy course, but this was truly immersive and very interesting. It had a lot of applicability to technology products.

Bad Stuff: This was the class with the unfortunate episode with the teammate that I had discussed a few posts back. It didn't colour my view of the class itself, since the professor was very understanding of the situation.

Information Security & Privacy (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Norman Sadeh)
Background: Another Track-requisite course.

Course Deliverables: A mid-term and final exam, an individual homework assignment, and a group project

Good Stuff: Another pretty interesting course, I was more intrigued by the privacy side of things than the security side of things. We had a guest speaker - the CSO of Alcoa - in for one class and he was very interesting. The exams were surprisingly easy. I also liked how the professor released the Homework assignment three weeks before it was due, which gave me plenty of time to pace myself. I've learned my lesson with CS-based courses; they can't be completed at the last minute :) (my other classmates, however, didn't learn this lesson and was frantically trying to complete this homework, which took a good 12 hours to complete, on the sunday before it was due). The professor also seemed very engaged and interested in our projects and encouraged us to come and see him constantly for guidance and advice.

Bad Stuff: The work requirements were skewed. Let's take, for example, the mid-term exam. There was one question which was a fill-in-the-word type of question. There were 6 words that needed to be filled in. Each word was worth the same number of points as a short paragraph answer in other questions - which meant that by putting in the wrong word, it was heavily penalised.
Other students complained about the homework and how long it was, but since my expectations had changed to be more aware that the CS-courses are work-intensive, I don't have anything to complain about.

This little anecdote doesn't fall into either good or bad, but my group had a member who was in the school of Computer Science. The Friday before the project was due, he sent the group an email explaining how he dropped the class since he would be shuttling between San Francisco and Seattle for job interviews for the next two weeks. Our group took it in our stride - we had all taken upon ourselves to do different sections of the work, and his wasn't that important to the grand scheme of the project. It just seemed odd that he would wait until this last minute to let us know, when presumably he would've already known about the interviews and made the trip plans before that Friday.

Government & Business (Mini 1, 2012. Taught by Jay Apt and Michael Griffin
Background: I added this class after the mini had already started, when I felt that my courseload for the mini was too light. A friend of mine had told me it was being taught by a former NASA astronaut, so curious, I enrolled.

Course Deliverables: 2 Case writeups, 2 Homeworks. Optional: Debate involvement. Class participation was also taken into consideration, I believe.

Good Stuff: This was a fascinating class. I keep making the mistake of thinking government is a dry, boring topic. This really opened my eyes to how businesses encourage regulation by the government to their advantage, of how government isn't always anti- or pro-business, since a regulation always puts one sort of business against another, and how little lobbying money does - businesses pay for lobbying (which, before this class, was extremely distasteful in my eyes) but they tend to woo only those in the government who are sympathetic to their cause or strong supporters. I took this class for curiosity sake, and I'm really glad I did.

Bad Stuff: There was slight confusion with groups, since we had to change groups to be composed of new people for the second half of the assignments, but that was it. I had a really great time in this class and learned a lot.