Master's Degree in Political Management
Date & Time: March 15, 2012 at 12 NOON ET
- Michael Cornfield, Ph.D., Acting Program Director, Political Management Program
- Miguel Caldeira, Current Student
- Hanna Lappalainen, Enrollment Advisor
- Bobby Dhillon, Host/Moderator
Full Webinar Transcript:
Bobby Dhillon: Hello, everyone! Welcome to the George Washington University's Political Management online webinar. My name is Bobby, and I will be your moderator for today.
Before we begin, I would like to go over logistics of the presentation and address some commonly asked questions. All participants are in listen-only mode. To ask questions, type your questions into the chat box on the right-hand side of your screen and hit enter. All questions will be answered in the order asked. At the end of the webinar, you will receive a copy of these slides and a recording of the webinar.
Now let's get over to our panelists. Your panelists today are: Michael Cornfield. Michael Cornfield is a Political Scientist; studies and advises on campaign politics, public affairs, and the internet. He is author of two books on the subject: "Politics Moves Online: Campaigning and the Internet" and "The Civic Web: Online Politics and Democratic Values."
Cornfield currently serves as Acting Director of the Political Management Program. He has been an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management since 1994. He helped found its Semester in Washington Program for visiting undergraduates and its Institution for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet.
Miguel Caldeira has a Master's Degree in Communication Studies. He has worked as a TV reporter in conflict/post-conflict and developing countries like Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo as a journalist specialized in political issues. In 2006, Miguel moved to one of the most recent democracies in the world: East Timor, a small island near Australia. In East Timor, he worked for the United Nations Agency UNDP as Media Advisor, Media Trainer, and Project Manager for immediate development project aiming to support local journalists. He was recently recruited by UNICEF and moved to New York to work as a Communications Specialist.
Hanna Lappalainen is our Enrollment Advisor, working on behalf of the Graduate School of Political Management. She walks new students through the entire admissions and financial aid process, making it easy for them to get started and pursue their degree.
So let's get started. Now today's agenda: We will be discussing the George Washington University Political Management Program; the program concentrations; what you will learn in the program; how can you advance in the program; the online learning experience; the student experience; admissions and funding; and of course, answering your questions, which you can do by entering in on the chat box on your right-hand side.
So what I'm gonna do at this moment: I'm gonna be handing the presentation over to Michael Cornfield. Michael, take it away.
Michael: Thank you, Bobby, and thank all of you for joining us this afternoon or morning, wherever you happen to be.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Political Management School because it's unique. The Graduate School of Political Management was created in New York City as a stand-alone entity in 1987, so we are just starting our Silver Anniversary Celebration. And if you come into the school, you will be invited to some of the events, both virtually; and perhaps if you can come to Washington, live during our Silver Anniversary Celebration. And the idea behind the school is that applied politics, campaign politics, is now sufficiently complicated and lucrative to warrant having a non-partisan school devoted entirely to teaching people how to campaign for office and how to campaign to get legislation or experiential knowledge.
The school moved to Washington, D.C., in 1994 because frankly, that's where the critical mass of campaign specialists reside. If you wanted to learn film, you would wanna hook up in Los Angeles. If you wanted to learn about finance, you would go to New York. Well, we're in Washington for the obvious reason. We offer you a Master's Degree from one of the Top 50 universities in the United States. It's delivered fully online, as you can see, and it's 36 credit hours, which is to say 12 courses taken in succession. And what we teach you in three words, before we get to the rest of the words on the screen, are: concepts, skills, and connections. You gain a comprehensive understanding of what campaign management is and as it applies to lobbying and government relations; issues, management, and advocacy; and you can see the rest of it. In other words, campaigns are complex, multi-faceted operations. You need a strategy; you need a message; you need money; you need supporters.
You need data; you need a candidate or a spokesperson; you need organization; you need to negotiate with opponents; and you need to understand the laws. And the business of managing campaigns that are run by candidates for office, or by interest groups, or trade associations, or political parties, or NGO's – whoever wants to go into public communications to make appeals for public support to help them achieve their campaign goals, these require a specialized knowledge that we teach you. So you'll learn how to influence the process, be successful, and make a difference. We do rely on some theories, but we are not here as an academic institution entirely to teach you how to teach others or to teach you how to do research. When you do writing for us, it's in the form of memos, strategy memos, op eds, videos, the forms that campaigners use in the real world. So we're a blend, again, of theoretical knowledge, cross disciplines, and practical knowledge.
When you come to the Graduate School of Political Management, you'll take a couple of courses that everyone has to take, and I'll talk about that in a minute, but we wanted to get the idea that you have two basic options. You can concentrate on electoral politics, election campaigns; that's the most famous kind of campaign, anyone who runs for office at any level, from City Council and School Board to President of the United States and that you learn how to put a campaign team together. You learn what targeting entails and how to operate with the press, which today includes bloggers as well as reporters who work at journalism organizations. You learn leadership skills, how to keep your supporters who are on staff and who are volunteers motivated. And you'll learn some of the new advanced skills that are importing quantitative data and statistical operations and algorithms to work databases and to micro target, which is to identify those people in particular segments of a population who are key to the difference between winning and losing.
Now if you go over and decide to concentrate on advocacy, you'll be focusing on state legislatures, Congress, on the Executive Branch; even the Judicial Branch; decision-making bodies in government who are campaigned, too, in addition to being lobbied, and you'll learn the difference on public policy issues. You'll also learn crisis communications. There are times when corporations or unions or government bodies are caught in a breaking-news scandal, and they need to campaign to restore their reputation. You'll learn how to reach out to stakeholder groups and to the general public so that those who are making decisions can see that you have grassroots support.
We have a specialized course in state-level advocacy. And you'll learn social media analytics and persuasive skills; how to Tweet; how to put up videos; how to manage the conversations and the competition that arises in the social media, which is our newest venue for public debate. Here's how we've got the sequence of courses structured. In the first course, which is called Fundamentals of Political Management, you learn how to apply history to current situations. We start you off where many people start when they're learning about politics and where many of you no doubt have already been, which is to say absorbing political information through the news media. And then we show you that while news media accounts of politics are valuable that there's another, more strategic way of looking at the same events as they unfold. And one of the things that applies, whether you go into election campaigns or advocacy campaigns, is that there's usually a precedent somewhere in history where political managers faced similar situations to what you're facing.
And we teach you how to research those historical cases and apply them properly to the case at hand, which is what you're involved in. Then in Phase 2, you take courses where you learn specialized skills in what I call the 4 M's, which are the earth, fire, air, and water, if you will, of all campaigns. Every campaign needs money; every campaign needs a message, which is sort of the public rationale for why people who get that message should support your campaign as compared with somebody else's. Mobilization: how to get people to turn out, either to vote, or to demonstrate, or boycott, or sign a petition. And finally, measurement. Measurement used to be just polling. Then it became polling and focus groups.
Then it became polling, and focus groups, and social media data analytics. So that's an illustration of how, with each passing year, the basics of putting a campaign together are getting so complicated that campaigns hire people to manage. Right now, just in Washington, D.C., alone, lobbying, lower-case lobbying, which includes the old-fashioned lobbying that has a bad reputation of hanging in the corridor and button-holing legislatures, but in the modern connotation, which also includes mobilizing public support and dealing with the media, lobbying is now a $9 billion a year industry just in Washington, D.C. It was half that five years ago. That doesn't mean it's gonna keep doubling, but it's a growing business, similarly, as you've no doubt noticed, spending on campaigns for office is growing and growing quickly.
This cycle, the 2012 cycle in the United States, which is a Presidential year, somewhere between $4 and $5 billion will be spent on campaigns. So when you come to the Graduate School of Political Management, you are preparing yourself to take positions within an industry that was at $5 billion ten years ago and is now at $15 billion and is gonna continue to grow because things are not getting simpler; they're getting more complicated. And people need specialists to help them in the complex art of managing a campaign.
The last phase of your education at the Graduate School of Political Management: you'll learn about the ethical dilemmas that political managers have to face; you'll learn advanced strategy; and you'll have the opportunity to create research, and write and present a sustained piece of practical campaign research, which we call the independent study.
What do you get for your money? Why should you come here? Several reasons. In addition to the content that I've mentioned, we also help you identify your political aptitudes. There's a lot of discussion that goes on. There's a lot of reading that will provoke self-reflection. And you'll be opened to career paths and opportunities that you hadn't really considered before. And as you do, you'll figure out how to upgrade and refine your resume so that you can get a job doing something that you're good at, which usually means something that you enjoy doing. And that's what makes us happiest, is when you can take your passions for public affairs, and develop skills, and master concepts, and make connections so that you can do something that is fulfilling. I mentioned the connections. You are going to be introduced to a network of people, not just your classmates that you you'll know best, but an alumni group of thousands of people who are doing similar things to you. And when you put a campaign together on behalf of a client, or a candidate, or an organization, you will discover that most campaigns are ad hawk creations. They start at zero, depending on what the issue is and what the situation is, and you put together teams of specialists. And you'll be one of those specialists, and you'll know other specialists who can help you. And they'll be situated in state capitals and foreign capitals around the world. So you'll be able to know how to put a campaign together and who would belong on your campaign.
The last bullet point here is that the campaign life can be very exciting, but excitement is the flipside of anxiety-producing because campaigns start and end, and the ending can be rather abrupt. And whether you win your campaign or lose your campaign, at the end of a campaign that forces you to make changes in what you're doing and who you're doing it with. And so one of things we counsel you on and teach you is how to move up and down within an organization and how to move side to side in an organization; how to break out of an organization and take the entrepreneurial route and open your own shop if that's what you wanna do. So that's a sort of overview of the program. And I'll give it back to Bobby.
Bobby: Thank you very much, Michael. What we're gonna do right now is we're gonna conduct a poll. So we'll give the attendees an opportunity to give their thoughts. And so the first poll that we're looking to conduct is: What are you looking to accomplish after completing this program? Is it: career advancement, a new career, or to continue your academic studies? So just take a moment to fill in the poll, and we will keep the poll open throughout the presentation itself. So as we move along, Michael, I will hand the presentation back over to you to discuss online learning.
Michael: You may not be familiar with what learning at a graduate level entails through digital media. Maybe you do, but we've decided to devote a good part of this webinar to just showing you what the mechanics are and then with our former student, what life is like when you're in the graduate school program online.
The basic approach is as follows: you meet other people; you meet your instructors, and you meet your facilitators – that's the equivalent of a TA; and you take one course at a time for six weeks, and you're responsible for participating in weekly discussions, completing assignments, and doing group work week by week. And as you do this, it's forcing you to interact with people, and in some cases, take the lead for a team to complete an assignment. It's a seven-day-a-week commitment. That doesn't mean you have to spend every hour of those seven days obviously.
And one of the advantages of doing this online is that many things are asynchronous. You don't have to show up at a particular time. There are exceptions to that. So you have the flexibility to work on assignments and fit it into the rhythms of your daily life, whatever that entails.
Bobby: Okay, we're just gonna do another poll at the moment, just before we proceed. The next poll that we're looking to conduct is: Have you taken an online course before? Yes or no? What are your top concerns about studying online? So what I'm gonna do at this moment is open up the poll for everyone to provide their answers on how they feel about the online learning. And as we do that, I will hand the presentation back over to you, Michael, and I'll open it up to Miguel Caldeira to discuss the online classroom. Take it away.
Michael: So I'm sure that being perceptive people, you're noticing that by giving you online poll questions to answer is we're easing you into the kinds of interactions that you would be making in parts of your online education with us.
This is a screen shot of the main page of the GSPM Embanet online interface, which is called Moodle, M-O-O-D-L-E. Maybe Bobby or Hanna can tell us where that name came from because I don't know the answer to that. But this is what it looks like. This is where you would enter your username and password to get into the educational site.
Here's what the homepage for an online course looks like. This is one of our core required courses, Communications Elements 6203. And as you can see, there are seven stripes. One gives you the equivalent of a syllabus and other descriptions of course essentials. The syllabus itself is in the dark blue box up above. Then week by week, what the main topic is, and Miguel will tell you how to work your way week by week through the course interface. And then you'll notice down the right side a list of resources. And since this is about communication and so much of communication, as I talked about earlier, that begins and sometimes ends with media coverage, you can see that there are lists of articles and commentaries from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
I'm gonna turn it over to Miguel.
Miguel: Thank you very much, Professor Cornfield, and welcome to everyone. It's a pleasure to join you today in this webinar. Basically, this online discussion board is the introduction to a network of people that Professor Cornfield was talking about. This is basically our classroom. So we have all the topics that we are supposed to study, and in here, in this space, we basically share our knowledge and learn from other students. So I would say that this is my favorite space on Moodle. I also don't know what Moodle stands for, but it's for sure part of my life now. We have several discussions during the week, and it's actually a very much interactive method. I thought initially, by learning online, that I would not have the chance to learn from others and really get in touch with them, but that's not the case.
I mean, I was studying abroad. I started to study when I was in Timor, thousands of miles away from Washington. But I made good friends, and we learned a lot about each other, and what we know, and what others know. And sometimes, you learn more by reading the posts from colleagues than from reading the books. So it's basically the most interactive part of our online course happens here in these different discussion boards. We also have the chats with the facilitator or the professor, but those are a bit more formal. In here is really a classroom where we can say whatever we think; where we can share whatever we learned and whatever we read.
After studying, after sharing, after reading, we are supposed to also have exams and quizzes. And we really take them seriously. I mean, it's really an opportunity to demonstrate that we have new ideas; we have fresh ideas; we understood what the concepts were during the week. And then we are evaluated. I remember one quiz that I had, it was one of my favorite courses. And I was really excited about the quiz, and I interrupted my day of work because I wanted to do this exam, and I have a great grade, so it was worthwhile to do it. And it's basically a test that, in a certain point of our course will evaluate us, and we will have the chance to demonstrate what we have learned so far.
Back to you, Bobby.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much, both Michael and Miguel, for discussing the online classroom. Now what I'm gonna do is I'm going to discuss the student experience. And with that, I'm gonna hand it back over to Miguel Caldeira, who is a current student with the program itself. And Miguel, a few commonly asked questions that we always get is: Why did you decide to enroll in the program? And what do you enjoy the most about the program itself? So take it away.
Miguel: So I was working in Timor, and when you introduced me, you explained that I have already a Master's Course before. But I was managing a project, and actually, one of the professors that I recruited was a George Washington University professor at the time. At the same time, I got a proposal to manage or support managing a campaign in Timor. Well, I realized I didn't have enough knowledge or the skills to do it, and I'm quite honest. So I basically start making some research. I didn't get the job. But I made some research, and I decided to enroll. I mean, so it was basically for professional reasons but also because I realized that all the online courses that I found were not as interesting as this one, not only because of the reputation, but the professors, the way the course was prepared.
It was 100 percent online, and I was so far away from Washington it would be hard for me to come here. So I decided to enroll, and it was really worthwhile. It completely changed my life. In passing to the second question, what did I enjoy the most about the program? I enjoyed very much the independence that it gives to all students, the interaction that we get from it. As Professor Cornfield said before, it's not about reading theories, but it's about concepts, and it's adapting itself. And we see, throughout the program, that the professors are not only up to date on what's happening around the world, but the experience that we have – we are always discussing themes that are in the agenda.
So it's not something that was – of course, we also study 'Sonso and Machiavelli and so on as background to understand what's going on and to prepare what challenges we are facing in this world that is permanently changing so the independence, the discipline, the teachers that are amazing, and the students. And quickly, I would like to share one example when I was in Timor. And in the ethics course, we were discussing negative ads. And we were actually discussing one specific ad, and in one of the discussion boards, one of the students said actually, the Congressman that prepared this ad is a person with whom I work with right now.
So it was unbelievable for me that I was on the other side of the world. I was discussing an ad that was presented by the professor. But one of the students knew the person and was working on it, so it was really special for me to be able to meet this amazing network of people, as Professor Cornfield said.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences, Miguel. A couple of other commonly asked questions that questions that we get are: How do you balance school and other obligations? What has surprised you the most about online learning?
Miguel: So this is a question that makes sense, and actually, I asked these questions to myself before enrolling. And I must be honest. It's tough. We really need to have discipline, and this program will be part of our lives. So if we are really committed to go through it and to study and so on, it's possible. And it's rewarding at the end of the day. I mean, I got married during the program. I changed from one country to another. I'm in the U.S. now. My work is not the same. So my life completely changed, not because of the course only. But with discipline and knowing what the priorities are, it's possible and it's rewarding. Preparing yourselves for changes in your life, but at the same time, you'll be so excited about being part of the discussions that it will be positive and a very rewarding part of your new life.
What surprised me the most about the online learning? I have the chance actually to go to Washington, so to visit the university and to meet the professors, and I thought it would be a completely different experience for me. I never have the chance to take any online course before. And it was more interesting. I studied as much as I did at the university, but it was a modern course. And we spent most of the day in front of our computers. And to have the chance of having the university giving us the opportunity of doing something that we do most of the day – social networking and so on – and learning about it, that was what surprised me the most. I was able to study in a renowned university, using tools that I use every single day. And I know much more now than I knew before enrolling in the course.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much, Miguel, for sharing your experiences with the program. What we're gonna do right now is we're gonna hand it over to Admissions and Funding, and we have Hanna Lappalainen, who is the Enrollment Advisor for the program itself. And so Hanna's gonna discuss the admission requirements. Take it away, Hanna.
Hanna: Okay, thank you, Bobby. This is Hanna, and I'm not sure what Moodle means either. Actually, it's just a learning platform just like Blackboard. So anyway, for the admissions, the most important thing and the first thing you should do is speak to an enrollment advisor because they will be able to assist you all the way through to registration. The application process is relatively straightforward. It is all web-based. And the only things we need by mail is the official transcripts and some universities now provide e-scripts, which are electronic official transcripts, so we do accept those.
The requirements for the application are pretty basic, as you can see in the list here. Three letters of recommendation are needed. Now typically, the school asks for one professional, one academic, and the third one to be either/or. We do have a lot of students in the program that are more mature and haven't been in school for a long time, so in that case, you can replace the academic recommendation with a professional one, so you don't have to worry about the academic one if you haven't been in school for a while.
The Statement of Purpose, it should really describe your motivation, why you've chosen the program, and what your future goals are. And it's about 250 to 500 words. Now the Bachelor's Degree, I know it does say 3.0. However, the admissions committee does have some flexibility, and each student is evaluated on an individual basis, and they don't also only look at the GPA. They look at the rest of the application package: your recommenders, your professional experience, etc. So even if your GPA is slightly before 3.0, don't hesitate to call an enrollment advisor.
We do also have testing requirements for the program, and there's three ways of meeting it. We accept the GRE, the Graduate Record Exam. It's the general test, and there's three categories. And you should above the 30th percentile in each of those categories. Some students can apply for a GRE waiver, and it is an application process. And basically, to qualify to apply for the GRE waiver, students need to have at least three years of relevant professional full-time managerial experience and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. And the only thing that's not mentioned here is LSAT. We do also accept the LSAT, and the score needs to be 150 or higher.
Here's the tuition and fees. Basically, the program is 12 courses, or 36 credits. It's $1,345 per credit hour, and the two-year program is $48,420.
Okay, funding options. There's quite a few. Again, speak to your enrollment advisor because they can let you know what forms you need to fill out and submit depending on the type of benefits you're applying for. Although some students have employer-sponsored tuition assistance, typically, most students don't get reimbursed until they successfully pass a course by their employer. So at that point, you may wanna consider applying for the Federal Aid Student Loan, and then when your employer does reimburse you, you can pay down a loan. FAFSA, basically at the graduate level, it's not the same as undergrad, so you are just applying for the loan, and it's not a need-based situation. And again, your enrollment advisor will provide you with all of the links and links to the form that you need to apply for the loan.
For the military students, there's a great deal of support. One of the things you need to do is order your certificate of eligibility to find out exactly what kind of benefits you are eligible for. GW Vet's office will need that certificate in order to be able to process your military benefits. And again, ask your enrollment advisor, and they will walk you through the process.
Bobby: Thank you very much for covering the admission requirements, Hanna. So what we're gonna do right now is we're gonna open up our third and final poll. Our poll questions are: Did you enjoy today's webinar session? So please provide your comments. Also, what are some key tools that you use in obtaining information about political management? Would it be social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +; the newspaper; internet news; television; or radio? So take a moment to put in those answers, and we will keep the poll open.
Now we will be open to taking any questions from the attendees that attended today. We did receive some questions throughout the process itself. The first question that we have – so I believe, Hanna, if you can go ahead and answer this question – is: What are my options if I want to attend online classes for the first year and then decide to move to on-campus classes?
Hanna: Good question. George Washington allows students to transfer once from online to on-campus, or on-campus to online throughout the program. So if you choose to, let's say, to transfer to on-campus or online, make sure that you're able to keep the schedule. On campus, the students attend two nights a week. So also, if you do wanna switch, it's really important to speak to your student services advisor. Your student services advisor will be helping you with that transition. And it's pretty much seamless. There's no application process. Thank you.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much for that. Another question that we have is: Is the education obtained in the program immediately applicable, and how does an election year impact the scope of education? Perhaps maybe Michael could speak to that.
Michael: Many of the professors will construct assignments and choose topics that are in the news. So being at the school during part or all of an election cycle can make a difference. In addition, some of the professors will encourage you to draw on your current work experiences if you're in a campaign situation. I am in charge of the independent studies right now, and many students, I would say even most students, choose a topic for independent research that flows right out of their current or recent work experience. So you're able to build on your practical experiences and achieve things for your job while you are engaged in your education.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much for that. Another question that we have is: One of the top concerns mentioned by attendees was interaction between students and faculty. Miguel and Michael, can you share your experiences?
Michael: I'll let Miguel go first.
Miguel: Okay, thank you. Even if you are far away from Washington like I was, the university – not only the professors and the assistant ____, they really do whatever they can to make us feel close to the university and to all the advantages of being involved with such a renowned university so from the opportunities that arise. And I'll give you just one example. After, if I'm not mistaken, my first year, I started receiving and being part of a network that exists for alumni of GW. And I receive emails with job vacancies that exist in Washington. I mean, I never applied, but it's really interesting because we are knowing what's going on, what is needed, and also that we are part of this network.
And the reason is, as Professor Cornfield said before, we are talking about an industry that is growing, and we really noticed that there is a demand for specialties, and now we are part of the offer and what they are looking for. So I would say that GW is, beside a university, a very renowned and important entry point for this billion-dollar industry that Professor Cornfield was talking about.
I also have the chance, as I said, when I move to New York, to visit the university, and we have a two-day workshop. And I actually have the chance to participate in two sessions in the classroom, on-campus. And it was also very exciting to meet all of my colleagues and also some professors that I have worked with. And then we kept in touch, and that's really fascinating, and I'm glad I moved here.
Michael: All I would add is that GW and Embanet together, we keep track of all interactions and the extent of interactions. And students evaluate their interactions with their instructors and their facilitators. And we monitor performance. And when someone is not performing well, we point that out to them, and we show them the data, and we work with them to either improve their performance, or we look for alternative people to fill those roles because we take interaction very seriously. It is absolutely crucial to the success of the program.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much for that, both Miguel and Michael. A question for Miguel: What does an average week look like for a student enrolled in an online program?
Miguel: Well, my weeks changed dramatically, from producing assignments in my honeymoon to not having internet access for three or four days in Timor – it happened to me – to being in New York, where everything is so easy. So it changed. Basically, on my honeymoon, I was going to internet cafes and downloading all the information or copying all of the information for the week and studying and then submitting the assignments. Usually, we have around three to four assignments per week, but they are not – I mean, if we distribute the work throughout the week, it's perfectly manageable. And again, it's a matter of discipline. We also have the discussion boards, but that is so exciting that I'm not even count with it because we are talking about two to three paragraphs of sharing whatever we want or asking questions.
But I would say that if someone set aside either one hour per day, one hour and a half, it's enough. Or if you don't have that chance, if you concentrate a bit more on weekends that is usually when we have to submit the assignments. I would say that I study around seven, eight hours per week. But then I also purchase the materials quite in advance. So the books that are required for each course, if we purchase them and we are informed about the materials in advance, so if we purchase them and start reading them in advance, that also helps a great deal. And again, it's a matter of also being up to date on what's going on. We are discussing so many occasions, themes that we discuss at home with our families and so on. It's just a matter of applying the knowledge we have in the classroom to discuss these themes. So it's perfectly manageable as long as we adapt our lives, and we have discipline enough to be successful.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much, Miguel. A question for Michael: Is a degree from the online version of the school completely equal to the one obtained on-campus at the George Washington University?
Michael: Well, the experience is slightly different, but in terms of reputation and credibility and standing within the political marketplace, yes, they're equal.
Bobby: Thank you very much. A question that we have for Hanna is: What assistance are you offering for the disabled students?
Hanna: The disabled students? It depends on what your disability is. They do accommodate disabilities. I know for the GRE testing, for instance, that there is a test for the disabled. You would contact the office for disabilities, and they would help you with your needs. Thank you.
Bobby: Wonderful. Another question for you, Hanna, is: Can I take breaks between classes, or do I have to go straight through?
Hanna: It's highly advisable to go straight through. Basically, the program is not designed to be jumped in and out of. The courses come around in a carousel format, so all courses aren't available every semester. However, obviously everybody knows that life happens, so sometimes, students may need to do a stop out for a class or even a semester. At that point, if as students you feel that you know that you might need to do a stop out, you need to contact your student services advisor. And what they will do is they will give you a new revised academic plan. Now obviously, it will influence your graduation date and when you graduate. And also, it might influence, if you're using the Federal Aid Student Loan, for instance, because students need to be enrolled in the two classes per semester, like the six credits per semester.
So when you do start the program, you will be assigned a student services advisor who will be assisting you all the way through. So if you need to, stop out. Don't just stop without telling anyone or asking how it'll affect your class cycle. Thank you.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much. A question for Michael is: Can students attend grad ceremonies on-campus?
Michael: Absolutely. Come on down. We wanna see you. We wanna meet you. We wanna have you visit Washington with your parents or your loved ones.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much. A question for Hanna is: Can you discuss the deadlines that are applicable for the upcoming summer term? Could you also discuss the start dates as well?
Hanna: So basically, the start dates. The Summer 1 class begins May 7th, and the Summer 2 class begins July 2nd. The deadlines: typically, as a rule of thumb, students should have all their application materials submitted two months prior to class start date. This is because the admissions committee, it might take three to four weeks for a decision to come through. Then you need to process your funding, whatever it is – military benefits or students loans. We also have to set you up with orientation, registration. Then you need to order books so you're able to be ready for your class start date.
Now obviously, not everybody gets their materials in the two months prior, so I would advise at least six weeks. I think it's important, again, to keep in touch with your enrollment advisor because they will be able to sort of assist you so you won't be missing the start date that you want. Thank you.
Bobby: Thank you very much for that, Hanna. A question for Michael is: When choosing a concentration – let's just say it's somebody who is having difficulty choosing between electoral or advocacy – how can we help them make a decision with their specific concentration?
Michael: Well, one thing you can do is you can email me. I would also throw that question up to the experts, which is to say your fellow students, your instructors, your facilitators, and talk it through. It's perfectly understandable that your chosen emphasis might switch or oscillate while you're in the program. While Hanna is right that you really need to stay in the sequence as much as possible because some courses don't repeat very often, there's enough variation so that you can dip into one concentration for a course. And if you find that that's not the direction you wanna go in, dip back to the other one.
Hanna: I'd also like to add that is when students enter the program they're basically doing the seven-course core curriculum first, before they branch off into the concentrations. So you have enough time to discuss those issues with your professors, with your cohorts, etc. Thank you.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much. This is our last question for the day. This question is for Miguel. Miguel, do you have any further recommendations that you wanna provide on how to balance or how to organize your life with the online program itself?
Miguel: So I would say that usually, what I do is in the beginning of the week, I try to be really honest with each course, meaning that I don't look ahead. I mean, I study the materials before, and then we have, as Professor Cornfield explain, by week, we have an amount of assignments or readings and materials. And what I do is I try to, since the first day, I don't read the second and third and fourth week because I wanna keep it like if I was in a classroom. So I basically on Mondays, I study everything that I am supposed to study for the week. And then I divide my workload according to my availability. I have dinners as everybody else, social programs, and corporate commitments, and also professional.
And then I always have a very honest and direct communication with my fellow students and colleagues and the facilitator and the professor. This is critical so that everybody is on the same page. And meeting the deadlines is also something very important for obvious reasons. However, it happened to me if I was traveling from Timor to the U.S., it took me 36 hours to come here. And I have an assignment that the deadline was during my trip. So I informed the facilitator, and she was very kind and flexible. And she said, "No problem, Miguel. You can hand over the assignment one or two days after as long as we informed in advance."
So basically what I do is in the beginning of the week is I study, and then I divide my workload according to the work I have to do. And so far, I mean, everything is going okay, and I'm almost there.
Bobby: Wonderful. Thank you very much for sharing and giving your recommendations as well, Miguel. Now this is all the time that we have for today. Here are some closing thoughts before we conclude this webinar.
An enrollment advisor will be following up with you over the next few days to go over any questions that were not addressed during the webinar. A recording of this webinar will be available on our website within the next few weeks. If you would like to contact an advisor immediately, you can reach them toll-free by phone at 1-866-232-0232 at extension 3422.
Thank you everyone for participating in today's webinar. This concludes our webinar, and have yourself a great day. Thank you very much.