A Reflection on CIBO from First Year MPPs

CIBO’s name has a dual meaning. 1) As an acronym for Complete Immersion Batten Orientation, and 2) as a direct translation for food, which students got a lot of during the two-week MPP orientation. With the return to a fully in-person orientation, we got to see first hand why students sometimes call Batten “Fatten.” Putting aside CIBO’s offering of free food, the Class of 2024’s Batten Orientation was filled with many experiences worth reflecting on. 

The MPP 2024 cohort is composed of “postgraduate” MPPs enrolling immediately from their undergraduate career or after time in the workforce, and current UVA students beginning the Accelerated Program during the final year of their undergraduate experience. I am one of Batten’s new postgraduate MPP students after graduating from Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia this past May.

Before sharing more about the experiences of some of my new classmates, let me share a little more about the different components of orientation. After accepting my offer in the spring, this summer, I began an asynchronous, online math refresher module called “Analytics of the MPP.” In this module, I had the chance to review concepts such as algebra, calculus, and economics. There were quizzes at the end of each concept, as well as a final exam. This refresher course was taken during the month of July where Professor Dan Player took time out of his summer to teach us the material and get to know us a little bit more by asking us about a variety of things, like our favorite books and hometowns. The math refresher offered a taste of what professor-student relationships were to come. 

After this online portion, it was time to pack up and move to Charlottesville. For the two weeks prior to the first day of classes, we began the in-person components of CIBO. The first four days were lovingly called Math Camp. From 9-4 each day, we reviewed similar material such as STATA (the statistical analysis tool we use at Batten), partial derivatives, simplifying exponents, and supply and demand curves. Most members of the cohort came during these first four days. For me, it was additional time to become comfortable with the material and my cohort after not working with some of these concepts in years (if ever)! Once we got through the introductions to STATA and reviews of calculus, the rest of the cohort arrived for the kick-off event: a ropes course and community barbeque. With the ropes course, we had the opportunity to evaluate our own beliefs surrounding trust. The ropes course offered our cohort the chance to reveal our vulnerabilities so that that trust can be established for further development. This experience was capped off by a chance to celebrate the end of the heavy academic components of the program with the community barbeque with members of the Batten faculty and staff. 

After a weekend of different activities led by faculty and staff, including yoga with Dean Solomon, our second week of CIBO commenced with a big focus on group dynamics and leadership as they relate to policy. 

For some students who had previous work experience before joining the program, like Beejal Ved, CIBO offered her the opportunity to not “feel as intimidated” once the semester officially started. Ved shared that she felt she was “a little bit more familiar with the actual people that [she] was going to be working alongside.” Ved continues to reference the familiarity and comfort that came with meeting professors at the barbeque or with students at the math boot camp. 

With CIBO’s 9 am to 4 pm in-person structure, Beejal, as she previously worked a remote 9 to 5 job, felt she learned to “be present.” CIBO allowed her to “think ahead a little bit” so that she wasn’t starting her first day with “zero plan.” 

For others, including new Accelerated MPP student Dhruv Rungta, the best part of CIBO was in building relationships within the cohort. Rungta shared that he was a little worried about starting the semester not knowing anyone, despite having already been at the University for three years prior. Rungta shared that CIBO “allowed [the incoming cohort] to interact in a variety of settings, get to know each other and create a more cohort field before the semester had even started.” Additionally, one of the benefits of the CIBO program for Rungta was the ability to gain “some exposure to the content that we were going to be working with.” 

As CIBO offered a spotlight into the incoming class’s next two years, Rungta shared that “Despite the fact that not all of us [may be] going into policy, we are being prepared with the skillset required and needed in order to succeed in those fields.” While the MPP '24 Cohort is diverse in its experience, the greatest takeaway from CIBO is collective in that the relationships that developed were beneficial to the interactions and experiences to come. 

Now that I am a few weeks into the start of the semester, I can see that CIBO prepared me and my classmates for a future of long nights, incredible friendships, and faculty-student support. As a first-generation college student, I never imagined myself going to graduate school, especially at UVA. There was a lot of intimidation preoccupying me before stepping foot on Grounds (UVA’s campus), but Batten has exceeded my expectations entirely. I am honored to explore my passion and goals with such a warm, welcoming community at Batten.