Thursday, August 29, 2013

I went to graduate school

Around March of 2011, I had an idea. What if we built insulating walls of straw mini-bales around manufactured homes? Would it be cost-effective? That is, could a small investment help people have lower heating and cooling costs? Would those costs be enough lower to repay the investment well?

This is an economics question. Some people might see it as an engineering question or a political question. For me, the critical aspect was cost vs. benefit, and that means economics. So I went off to New Mexico State University, the college a few blocks from my home, and discovered that the Agricultural Economics department felt welcoming and would in fact help me research whether this idea made economic sense.

By summer term, I was enrolled in the Master of Agricultural Economics program. I took two classes that summer. By Fall term, I had a graduate assistantship, and I continued to help teach classes in the Ag Econ department until I graduated on May 11th, 2013.

I had a great experience. My department and the entire University were warm and supportive. I enjoyed what I had to learn. I had all the drama of completing a thesis, and I discovered that yes, on paper at least, insulating manufactured homes with straw mini-bales looks effective, although the payback period is longer than I had hoped.

Graduate school has a logic of its own. It organized my hours while I was attending... walking to campus, attending classes, completing homework, grading homework in the classes I assisted with. I joined one campus group, and had good conversations with the graduate students sharing my office and studying with me. I enjoyed the professors of my department, and the administrative assistants, too.

And after a while, I scarcely emerged from that world.

Hello, again, internet! :-)

Now I've graduated, and had some time to recover from the final push to finish the thesis and complete all the requirements for the degree. I do recommend the experience of taking a Master's degree at NMSU, and the Agricultural Economics department was everything I'd hope for: knowledgeable, willing to help me through the requirements, available, organized, and friendly.

What's next? I'm not sure. I'm beginning to feel rested and restless. That has always led to me finding a new project before.

And I've definitely been thinking of things I want to write about! So here I am.

May you accomplish wonderful projects!