TJ Murphy: Hi Kevin. Thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s clear up one thing first: You and I share the same last name, are we related to each other?
Kevin Murphy: We are related to one another. I am your nephew. Your third oldest nephew.
**TJ Murphy: **Yes, of course. I thought your name sounded familiar. Just curious, who’s your favorite uncle?
**Kevin Murphy: **Well you of course. But I try not to make it obvious that I play favorites.
TJ Murphy: Same here. Truth is you are easily one of my all time favorite nephews. So, tell us a little bit about your undergraduate background. School? Degree?
**Kevin Murphy: **I went to Saint Louis #University where I studied Urban Affairs and Anthropology.
**TJ Murphy: **And you already have one graduate degree, correct?
**Kevin Murphy: **I do. Just last month I received my Masters in Education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. My concentration was in middle school education.
TJ Murphy: You worked for Teach for America right after college. Was that Master’s a requirement they had for you?
**Kevin Murphy: **Not a requirement but it was something most people in the program did. Whether I completed the Masters program or not I still would of taken some classes to become a certified teacher. So taking some more classes and getting a Masters seemed like a good idea. Plus, Teach for America really streamlines the process for its corps members.
**TJ Murphy: **What was Teach for America like? How has that experience informed where you’d like to go next with your career?
**Kevin Murphy: **Teach for America was hard. No way to sugar coat it really. Long days, long nights, short weekends, etc. That being said I am glad I did it and I am glad I have a Masters in Education because I can go back into the classroom in the future if I so choose. There have always been other things I am really passionate about that I wanted to explore while I was still young. In all honesty, I could have stayed in the classroom for another 40 years and been very happy. Which is part of the reason I knew I needed to pull myself away…I could always go back.
**TJ Murphy: **I think you make a very good point there. There comes a time early in our careers where we feel if we don’t pull the trigger now to follow a passion…it may be harder to do later. So what is that passion for you, now?
**Kevin Murphy: **Well I am realizing that just because I left one passion (teaching) my others are not immediately crystallizing. Haha. I am passionate about all types of urban issues, specifically the ones in my hometown of St. Louis, but I am essentially figuring out in what capacity I see myself working and whatnot. So I am definitely going to spend this year (and maybe more time) trying to figure that out.
**TJ Murphy: **I think St. Louis is a very interesting place when it comes to urban issues, and I’m not talking just about Ferguson.
**Kevin Murphy: **Absolutely. Ferguson definitely has shined a bright spotlight nationally on some of our regional issues but most media outlets only scratched the surface. St. Louis is a fantastic place but sometimes its greatest assets are its biggest weaknesses.
TJ Murphy: I want to know more about the iconic St Louis flag-depicting the fleur-de-lis and the convergence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers-I don’t know of any other city in the US that flies its flag so proudly and I wonder why that is?
Kevin Murphy: It’s a great flag. The fleur-de-lis recognizes our french heritage. Like you said, the rivers represent where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet north of the city. Then there are different colors that all represent different things, too. Yeah, I really don’t know why more cities don’t do it. I love the fact that we do it. However, in St. Louis, being from the actual city or county is a big deal. So locally, the flag is a marker of “I am from the city”. Which is good and bad. Good because people from the city need to be prideful especially in the face of so much bad press. Bad because some people in the region see it as divisive. No one from the county flies the flag for the most part. If you ever have time check out this Ted talk on city flags. Basically, this guy says that most cities don’t fly their flag because most city flags are ugly.
**TJ Murphy: **It is pretty, I surely agree. So, how long have you felt you’d do some kind of graduate degree in urban affairs? And what are you looking for now?
Kevin Murphy: As soon as I discovered the field of urban affairs/urban planning I knew I wanted to keep learning about it. Plus, if you work in the field you most likely have a graduate level degree. Now, I am looking for a program outside of St. Louis that can teach me things that I can one day bring back to St. Louis and hopefully apply for the better.
**TJ Murphy: **How are you going about exploring programs elsewhere? What sort of criteria seem to be important to you at this stage of exploration?
**Kevin Murphy: **Exploring programs really consists of talking to people who have gone through urban planning school before and getting their thoughts. Plus, researching individuals schools and looking at the classes they offer, what the professors are working on, etc. At this point, the most important thing is answering the question “How will this program prepare me to come back to St. Louis?” For example, if I go to a school in NYC and it only focuses on dealing with issues of gentrification that will not really help me because St. Louis has not had too many issues with that, yet. So just finding the right balance between progressive ideas and relevant issues.
**TJ Murphy: **That’s a pretty interesting answer. First, you have specific questions that only a conversation with an expert can help you with. It is about fulfilling personal needs. What I also hear is you’re someone who has a clear vision of what they want to accomplish in their career, and that looking for a grad school that can best prepare them for that objective is not at all a simple process. Master’s or Doctoral programs? Or do you not know yet?
**Kevin Murphy: **Yeah, I definitely agree that is where I am at. One of the only other big questions I have is when I want to start on this journey. And I would be more than happy doing a Masters or Doctoral program. I really love going to school for this –or at least I did in undergrad– so a Doctoral program is not out of the realm of possibility.
**TJ Murphy: **Have you visited yet with any program directors? Is that helping you clarify your options? Or are you getting that candy store counter feeling?
**Kevin Murphy: **Both. I’d say it totally depends on the program. I have reached out to some program directors who have been incredibly welcoming and receptive. Others…not so much.
**TJ Murphy: **Maybe you caught that last one on a bad day….
**Kevin Murphy: **Very true. I think some programs want you to apply first, too. However, that costs money so I know I’ll prefer to have a strong sense of a program before I apply.
**TJ Murphy: **You’ve been on Gradschoolmatch ever since I forced you to sign up early in our beta phase. What do you think of it now?
**Kevin Murphy: **I really like it. Honest. It actually showed me a few programs that I hadn’t really considered for school yet.
**TJ Murphy: **We hear that a lot. I mean, all the time. Though I have to say, you don’t have much of profile. Have any programs discovered you?
**Kevin Murphy: **Yeah! A school actually messaged me already. Just kind of an introductory message but it was really nice to see.
**TJ Murphy: **Awesome! We actually hear that reaction a lot, too. It proves our machine actually works! Have you discovered the workpage yet? Kind of like a spreadsheet to tally up your target list, type in notes like, “great stipend” or “really nice director” or deadline dates, etc.
**Kevin Murphy: **I noticed it on the side bar but hadn’t explored it yet! I am definitely a rookie on the site. However, I will say it is super easy to use. So it’s just me dilly dallying
TJ Murphy: Of course. We hear that a lot, too. So, although you earned your bachelors a few years ago, it sounds like you are in no hurry to get started with your next graduate program. That you’re taking some time to do a lot of research. I guess when this discovery process is over, you’ll have a strong idea of what you want?
Kevin Murphy: Exactly. When I know exactly what I want, too, I can actually reach out better and ask how I’d fit at certain schools. I just had a conversation yesterday with two urban planners and for me the final piece is figuring out what I want to do in urban planning. Do I want to be part of the design process, more socially focused, policy driven, etc. It is a pretty broad field and I know I want to be a part of it and why I do but not sure in what capacity.
**TJ Murphy: **That’s really great. It makes no sense to rush into something that you’re uncertain about. Whatever decision you make will change your career trajectory. That’s just a given. Anyway, the big lesson for me is that you’re a lurker prospect, and probably very typical. You’re on your way to graduate school, but you’ll only apply after fully researching what you want to do. That kind of specialization is what forces people to find the right graduate school fit.
Hey, anyway, I’ve stolen enough of your time, thanks for the chat. Good luck with everything, and we’ll see you Thanksgiving if not before.
Kevin Murphy: Sounds good! See you Thanksgiving, too, and tell your fam I said hey!