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A Day in the Life of Nicole Manapol!

Nicole ManapolMy day cannot start without that first cup of coffee, lovingly brewed in the French Press that has managed to stick with me through 4 countries, six cities and 14 moves. The ritual of putting on the kettle, grinding the coffee, and preparing the French Press, then hopping back into the warmth of my bed for a few minutes while I wait for the kettle to whistle, provides the perfect amount of time to contemplate my plan of action for the day.

And oh do you need a plan of action at MIIS. Having worked for 10+ years traveling frequently between the US and field offices I thought grad school in a small, coastal town would be my opportunity to slow down, take some time out and focus. Ha! Grad school is like having five bosses (or schizophrenia) – you’re mind constantly moving from one subject to the next, pumping out projects that, in the real world, would be implemented over the course of a year or two – not a matter of weeks. Yet despite the frenetic pace I love school. Your primary job is to learn what you want – it’s one of the rare occasions in life when you get to be fully selfish.

After coffee I’m out the door, rushing to get over to CSUMB for my 8am meeting with the Service Learning Institute to discuss a partnership initiative in Costa Rica that I will be focusing on for my MPA capstone. On the drive I marvel at the coastline, the sun glittering off the water, casting its rays through dramatic cloud formations as the morning fog recedes over the rugged hills and sand dunes. I roll down the windows to breathe in the sea air – morning commutes don’t get much better than this.

At CSUMB the Director of the Service Learning Institute and his Associate Director, have another pot of coffee ready as we catch up on new developments and excitedly discuss the work ahead over the next several months. Despite the early hour I feel energized. I wish I could spend the rest of the day here but it’s time to get back to MIIS for my 10am Data Analysis class.

At noon I consider lunch but then remember I have a Skype call with Alfredo…then a group meeting to go over case studies for my 2pm class with Kent…and oh shoot I’ve got to move my car! Lunch may just have to be that bag of trail mix in my glove compartment again…

As I sit down with my group to prepare for what promises to be an intense discussion on power dynamics with Kent Glenzer – we all smile knowingly at each other as we pull up the case – this was a tough one and we’re all a bit sleep deprived but ready to dive in. Donna pulls out her lunch and offers me some – she knows I haven’t eaten. I gratefully accept. This is the best part of the grad school experience – your classmates who quickly become your family and most importantly, your sanity. As we begin to pick apart the case I’m grateful for this feisty, intelligent and passionate group of people, not just for being my friends, but for what I know they will contribute to this world.

As class ends at 3.50 pm my mind has already moved on to the 50+ emails awaiting me in the Frontier Market Scouts inbox as we come to the end of another record application cycle. Working for the Frontier Market Scouts Program has been one of my most rewarding experiences at MIIS. Aside from working with one of the most fun and entrepreneurial teams on campus (you know who you are!), I get to see inspiring social innovation in action, everyday, all over the world.

As I respond to the last email it’s 6pm – just in time to catch the sunset at Asilomar beach – a just reward and needed break before the next round begins….

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