Higher Education & Student Affairs

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Cohort Dynamics and Merits, Six Weeks In by Toni Nogalski

Toni Nogalski, Grad Apprentice for the Counseling Center

Toni Nogalski, Grad Apprentice for the Counseling Center

In the grand scheme of things, six weeks is not a long time. On the one hand, 42 days is longer than our shortest-sitting President served in the White House (William Henry Harrison; 32 days), but on the other, it took all of nine weeks for the Pilgrims to cross the Atlantic (66 days to reach Plymouth Rock from England). When we look back at those two isolated time periods, the focus is on how quickly the ninth Commander-in-Chief succumbed to pneumonia after his ill-advised walk in the rain, yet when considering how the Puritans fared on the Mayflower, we think about how time must have dragged in those close, unpleasant quarters. The difference between the two cases is not so much defined by the fact one took longer than the other; rather, it was the rate at which the individuals changed in that short period of time that defined how they were remembered.

The HESA ’18 cohort has been at the graduate school game for approximately six weeks at this point, and it has been interesting to see how much has changed within our group in this brief period of time. When we started the semester, most of us politely kept to ourselves and maintained carefully constructed boundaries so as to not come on too strong, share too much, or otherwise dive into socializing too quickly. In times of great transition it is not only expedient, but also self-protective to revert to a bland, sanitized version of yourself until you figure out to whom you would like to open up to. Our cohort is technically evenly split 1:1 introverts vs. extroverts, but even those on with outgoing personalities are not so compelled to one side that they approach new situations with gusto.

With very few truly extroverted outliers, our cohort began the semester acting very different from the way it presents itself 42 days later. Obviously, individual friendships are forming on their own, but the most interesting interaction is within the group context. I find myself looking forward to working with any one of my peers, and class discussion is surprisingly comfortable and easy, even when we are encouraged to share our own personal experiences. We have also already started challenging each other to defend our opinions and values. Most impressive of all, I can say something unique, nice, and accurate about each member of my cohort. This alone is indicative of how quickly you get to know and come to value those in your cohort.

When I found out I got into the Baylor HESA program, I was excited by many elements of it, but I was not impressed with the cohort model being used as a selling feature. Tuition with full stipend, challenging classes, awesome apprenticeship, and just the idea of being at Baylor itself were more than enough to get me here, so when I heard Dr. Sriram and others talk about the cohort model as something unique and distinctive, I politely listened, but mostly didn’t care. It isn’t that I thought I wouldn’t benefit from being around people going through the same thing as myself; I just figured my appreciation others would be on a more individual, rather than global, level.

Now that I’m in the throes of graduate school, the other things I thought I valued more than the cohort model have much less value to me on a daily basis. Tuition and stipend make my life so much better, but mostly because it means I do not have to worry about money as much as I would without it. The classes are challenging, but that has an obvious drawback when you are actually doing the work (same goes for work with apprenticeship). More and more, when I think about what I look forward to as the work demand goes up, it’s the fact that I’m part of a group and not all by myself.

It has taken me six weeks to internalize and articulate the benefit of the cohort model, and I am glad it happened quickly. Graduate school is as difficult as it is rewarding, and a big part of the rewarding bit is the fact that I get to share this experience with a variety of people who are smart, funny, and push me to do better.

yolande_graham • October 10, 2016

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