The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Brandeis GPS to partner with inaugural Boston FinTech Week

For the first time ever, the city of Boston will be hosting Boston FinTech Week, a four-day event featuring some of the world’s biggest and brightest financial services institutions and the people behind them.

Sponsored in part by Brandeis GPS, Boston FinTech Week (which runs from September 11-14) is a collection of conferences, networking opportunities, workshops, and more centered on innovation in Boston’s financial services ecosystem. Throughout the week, attendees can expect to be submerged in everything FinTech, from insights and trends in Massachusetts FinTech to the integration of artificial intelligence into financial services institutions. A closing party in the Seaport District hosted by MassChallenge will conclude the weeklong festivities on Thursday evening.

Given the recent launch of our MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech, GPS is thrilled to partner with Boston FinTech Week and have a presence at several events. We hope you’ll join us at the following events (all times are EDT):

All events are free at Boston FinTech Week, but pre-registration is required. If you’d like to learn more about the event and programs offered, check out the event website here. Make sure to RSVP to events featuring Brandeis GPS faces so that you can reach out and talk to us, and don’t forget share your experience using the hashtag #BostonFinTechWeek.

“Where everybody knows your name”

By Nicole Russo

I don’t think that I realized this at the time, but a major contributing factor in my pursuit of a career in higher education was community. In my own undergraduate experience, I felt support from my fellow peers, as well as mentorship and guidance from the faculty and staff. I had not experienced this same sense of belonging in a school community before and consequently, I really cherished it.

When it came time to graduate and decide upon a first job, I realized that I never wanted to leave the college setting. And I didn’t. I spent the next five years doing work in admissions and student affairs on various college campuses in the Boston area. I had the opportunity to work with different student age groups and within a variety of campus cultures.

Similar to my undergrad self, a value that I have seen within all student demographics is a desire to belong and to find our place in the grand scheme. In choosing to pursue higher education, we all put so much on the line. Our time, our financial resources, our hopes for the future. It’s a vulnerable time of life, whether you are 18 or 68, and it can feel like a gigantic leap into the unknown.

My aim as a student advisor at Brandeis GPS is for my students to feel supported and to never feel that they

are going at it alone. In being enrolled in an online, part-time graduate program, I recognize that being a student is only a singular aspect of a student’s identity. My goal is to approach student advising with this consideration at the forefront and to recognize how the dimensions of our lives intersect. For instance, the birth of a child or the death of a family member has the potential to impact academic performance in a course. I want to be able to know about these happenings, so that we can collaboratively seek out resources and create solutions. I hope to get to know my students as whole people.

Sometimes when I think of community, I think about the NBC sitcom Cheers that depicts a Boston neighborhood bar where “everyone knows your name.” Like the bar regulars in Cheers, I hope that my students similarly feel seen, heard and valued at Brandeis GPS. I am looking forward to accompanying you as you create your community here.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

From Brandeis, to Brandeis

After starting his master’s as an undergraduate, a Brandeis University alumnus proves that full-time work and graduate school can co-exist.

Three days after graduating from Brandeis University with a BS in Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) and a minor in Economics, Allan Chuang (class of 2017) enrolled in the university’s Health and Medical Informatics (HMI) program — a master’s of science degree offered through the university’s division of Graduate Professional Studies. Brandeis GPS caught up with Allan to learn more about his new life as a part-time graduate student and what motivated him to continue his Brandeis education.

The first time Allan Chuang learned of Brandeis GPS was through an email sent by the university’s registrar during the first or second week of his senior year. After reading that graduating seniors could enroll in GPS’s online graduate courses, he began researching programs and discovered that the HMI program and Brandeis GPS offered courses that would expand his current access to health policy education.

“I found that HMI is very similar to HSSP and since GPS was offering the program’s intro course, I just decided to give it a shot,” said Chuang.

This past spring, Chuang enrolled in Perspectives on Health/Medical Information Systems. Despite taking four other courses during this last undergraduate semester, he found the workload manageable and enjoyed the flexibility of online learning. In addition to setting aside blocks of study time and finding new coffee shops to work from, he also stressed how discipline and self-motivation were critical to his academic success.

“Taking a GPS course is like going to the gym,” said Chuang. If you go to the gym every day with a routine schedule, you get in the habit of putting in your work.”

After graduating from Brandeis last May, Chuang accepted a position at a travel tech start-up in Taiwan. Despite working 50-60 hours each week, Chuang enrolled in a second GPS course and recently applied and was accepted into the Health and Medical Informatics program.

“People in my classes aren’t just students, they are also very experienced healthcare professionals — some have been in the industry for more than 15-20 years,” said Chuang. “We have very vibrant discussions. It’s a good opportunity to network and get to know people in the healthcare fields.”

Those vibrant discussions are at the heart of each GPS course. Chuang looks forward to the weekly feedback he receives from his instructor, which challenges him to engage even more deeply in peer-to-peer dialogue.

Chuang decided to continue his education at Brandeis GPS because of the university’s dedication to academic excellence and high reputation in the greater Boston area. The fact that students have up to five years to complete their degree, and that Brandeis GPS gives Brandeis alumni a 15% tuition discount on online classes, also motivated him to enroll.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Can mono-solution providers survive?

By Mike Storiale

When FinTech began its ascent, single-solution providers opened the door to expertise and simplicity rarely brought to the table by traditional banks. Solutions designed to meet unique needs created excitement from consumers and investors alike.

Throughout the industry, experts discussed the need for an open architecture from banks and FinTechs to empower customers to build a set of financial solutions that worked best for them. As the industry matured, however, it became apparent that a more rudimentary problem was holding FinTechs back – a balanced business model.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of innovative companies that created a single solution with little diversification. The dot-com crash in the early 2000’s was full of well-intentioned problem-solvers who built great organizations, but lacked the contingency plan a balanced product offering affords. They were flying high without a net.

Customers Are Finicky

The mono-solution business model that most FinTechs chose excited customers who could relate to specific problems they felt their banks were not solving. When early entrants offered a better way to send money and alternative lending options, as well as simpler checking accounts, they seemed attractive in an industry that traditionally ignored outcries from its customers for better products.

Moreover, customers had often been plagued with the decision fatigue that came with traditional banks’ offerings of multiple variations of each product, few of which fit anyone perfectly.

But while consumers were willing to try new products that FinTechs brought to the table, they remained reluctant to leave the mainstream banking system for a new financial lifestyle. For banks, this gave them the opportunity to win customers back as they developed complementing products to compete with the innovators creeping in on their space.

Even though research showed that few consumers ever felt “warm” with their bank, often ranking them just slightly less hated than airlines and cable companies, it was difficult to leave the one-stop-shop that was completely intertwined with their everyday lives. Though cobbling your perfect financial offering together sounds utopian, for most consumers it was simply more work than they were willing to take on.

A Risky Model

While the boon of the early years may make some think otherwise, FinTech is not immune to typical business risks. One of the core rules of business is to diversify your product offering to protect yourself, though when we begin new technology ventures, we often believe that we will be able to succeed on a single solution. FinTech’s rise began during a time filled with historically low interest rates, massive changes in regulation, and a consumer base willing to try new things.

While this opened the door for success, it also meant that it mattered less if a start-up’s balance sheet was diversified enough to withstand market fluctuations, because fluctuations simply weren’t happening. Solutions that focused on lending to consumers outside of the traditional market didn’t have to experience the risks of a volatile rate environment. As the inevitable becomes reality, however, speculation circulates as to whether an unbalanced offering can withstand the storms the financial industry often faces.

In addition to market risks, the gap is narrowing in the “tortoise and the hare” race between FinTechs and Bank’s. Even the smallest banks have begun investing money into innovation, while the ones with significant capital have started entire technology hubs and enacted strategies to acquire their biggest tech challengers.

Although big banks continue to face regulatory scrutiny of their core business model, they have evolved and learned how to innovate, catching up in the race to grab customers with products that differentiate themselves. At the same time, FinTechs are finding it difficult to maintain the minimal regulatory oversight that enabled the rapid growth seen in the early years of innovation.

Last month, SoFi filed the paperwork to obtain an industrial bank charter, opening the door for the online lender to offer the same core banking services as its mega-bank counterparts. SoFi’s bold step is not the approach taken by all FinTechs, but many continue to look for partnerships with more full-service financial companies to ensure revenues continue to flow, even if their core business falls out of favor.

The Tipping Point

The outlook for the next five years in FinTech growth may closely trend with the growth in new bank charters. While de novo bank growth stalled after 2008, the up-tick in 2015 and 2016 highlights start-ups that believe they can become successful hybrid organizations; part bank, part FinTech.

Still, taking the hybrid path isn’t without its own challenges. Stringent capital requirements, intense regulatory oversight, and the difficulty of growing a balanced product mix can make it unattractive for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Mono-solution providers should evaluate the future of their revenue stream to determine if diversification can help mitigate their risks in a changing market.  If they are able to take their innovation into new, multi-service arenas, we can expect to see unprecedented growth in the industry.

Mike Storiale is an Adjunct Professor in the Digital Innovation for FinTech program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. He teaches a graduate course on the global economy and the emergence of FinTech. 

“What’s an instructional designer?”

By Lance Eaton

That’s always the first question I get when I tell people that I am an instructional designer (an ID for those of us “in the know”).

It all started when I was 6 years old, and my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I peered up into his face and said with an earnest seriousness that no child should muster, “I want to be an instructional designer.”

Ok, that’s a lie. In my career as an instructional designer, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to become one when they grew up. In fact, many of them, like me, stumbled onto this career and realized they’d come into their calling — and that people would pay them to do something they rather enjoy!

Probably a year before I became an ID, I couldn’t tell you what an ID was. “Ummm…they design instruction?” In 2011, I was teaching full-time as a part-time instructor (or as I called it, the adjunct shuffle), patching together 6-8 courses a semester at six different institutions. Technology was my saving grace in that it helped me implement different and interesting projects without completely losing my mind (or my students’ papers). As a result of some of that work, I was soon asked to present on how I was using blogs, social media and other technology to enhance learning. When an ID position opened up at North Shore Community College, I was encouraged to apply given my skill set both with teaching and learning with technology, but also for my ability to effectively explain this work to colleagues. The rest is, as they say, history (ok, there’s a few more pieces to it, but this is the abbreviated blog-version!).

Helping instructors think about technology and pedagogy is the essence of instructional design. Eventually, I developed a succinct answer to the question above: “I work with instructors to develop online and hybrid courses or utilize other technology in pedagogically sound ways that maximizes learning and minimizes frustration for learners and instructors as much as possible.”

But even that description often needs further explanation. In comparison to the physical classroom, online instructors and students are thousands of hours behind when it comes to experience. Instructors have vast quantities of implicit knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in the physical classroom as a result of their own education, their teaching experience, and disciplinary expertise. However, that implicit knowledge needs to be made explicit in the online environment so that both instructor and student can succeed. This is where IDs come in; helping instructors figure out exactly how they can be effective in this new learning environment. It’s a rewarding opportunity — I get to meet different instructors with unique approaches to teaching and learning that I am then able to share with other instructors for consideration as they make their journeys into the online learning experience.

So with that, I’d like to say that I’m really excited to land at Brandeis GPS with some amazing colleagues and fantastic instructors. I look forward to learning and growing, which, as quintessential life-long learners, is something ID folk love to do.

Lance Eaton is an instructional designer at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. His previous work includes working at North Community College and Regis College as instructional designer. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Take advantage of your benefits

Brandeis alumni

It was so good to see Brandeis University alumni at #DeisReunion17 last weekend! In case you missed us at the festivities on campus, we want to make sure you know about the Brandeis alumni tuition discount on all Graduate Professional Studies courses and programs.

Fall 2017 Term and Spring 2018 Term dates and sessions

Whether you’re looking to obtain a master’s degree or supplement your resume and develop new skills with professional courses, continue your Brandeis experience with our part-time, fully online curricula.

View our Fall 1 and Fall 2 course schedules, or click the links below to learn more about our graduate programs:

Additional Benefits:

As a GPS student, you’ll enjoy:

Interested in learning more about Brandeis GPS? Check out our website or contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Take advantage of your degree

It’s been a few weeks since the GPS class of 2017 commencement ceremony. Congratulations once again to those who received their degree!

We’re checking in to remind all GPS alumni – past and recent – about your tuition discount and an important change to our academic calendar. Starting in fall 2017, GPS will be moving away from three ten-week terms to two terms per year. However, each term will contain two 10-week sessions. So instead of three 10-week sessions, students are able to enroll in four ten-week sessions per year (fall 1, fall 2, spring 1, and spring 2). 

Fall 2017 Term and Spring 2018 Term dates and sessions

Achieve academic success

The four-session calendar provides the following benefits:

  • An easier path to qualify for federal aid
  • Students using federal aid can take one class at a time instead of two, increasing the opportunity for academic success.
  • Faster time for degree completion — 2.5 years instead of 3.3 years (with even more expedited options available).
  • Two-week break between sessions and a four-week break between terms

In addition to our calendar change, you may have noticed some program additions to our catalog. Last fall, we launched the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech, and the previous year we introduced two new programs: the MS in Digital Marketing and Design, and the MS in User-Centered Design.

Take courses for professional development

As a GPS alumni, you will enjoy 15 percent discount on tuition for any future courses you’d like to take, whether you intend to pursue another full master’s degree from GPS or solely take courses for professional development.

If you’re interested in receiving a second degree, click here to learn more about our sequential degree policy.

To learn more about taking additional courses, view our Fall 2017 course schedule and contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

 

SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS: Celgene

Members of the Brandeis GPS Community may submit job postings from within their industries to advertise exclusively to our community. This is a great way to further connect and seek out opportunities as they come up. If you are interested in posting an opportunity, please complete the following form found here.

Where: Cambridge, MA

About: Celgene is a global biopharmaceutical company leading the way in medical innovation to help patients live longer, better lives. Our purpose as a company is to discover and develop therapies that will change the course of human health.  We value our passion for patients, quest for innovation, spirit of independence and love of challenge. With a presence in more than 70 countries – and growing – we look for talented people to grow our business, advance our science and contribute to our unique culture.

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow Computational Biology

Position Details: We are actively recruiting a talented candidate to develop and apply computational approaches to large human omics datasets in a highly collaborative pharmaceutical environment.

Responsibilities:

We seek a talented, collaborative interdisciplinary scientist to catalyze the development and application of computational approaches for translating genetic associations to mechanistic understandings. The successful candidate will develop and apply computational strategies to extract mechanistic insights from large proprietary genetic-centric and omics rich human datasets. In particular, this role is expected to elucidate context-specific and genetic-inspired mechanisms in autoimmune and/or neurodegeneration diseases by:

  • Developing QTL analyses and network-centric approaches for carrying forward genetic variations into mechanistic insights;
  • Pioneering deep-learning algorithms for biomedical research;
  • Deriving novel insights using longitudinal progression-based patient records.

The position offers an exciting opportunity to leverage access to proprietary resources and broad team expertise within the industry setting.Expertise in genetics and omics datasets are

Expertise in genetics and omics datasets are prerequisite. Experiences in algorithm development are highly desired.

Requirements:

  •  Expertise in GWAS and QTL analyses.
  •  Experience with relevant programming/scripting tools (e.g. R, MATLAB, Python, C/C++).
  •  Experience with public datasets GTEx, ENCODE, ADNI a plus.
  •  Experience with deep learning a plus.
  •  Knowledge and/or interests in autoimmune and/or neurodegeneration indications a bonus.
  •  A track record demonstrating scientific creativity, collaboration, and independence.
  •  Excellent written and oral communication skills.

Qualifications:

  • PhD in computational biology, bioinformatics, computer science, or related disciplines

Apply:

  • Interested applicants should apply through the Celgene website. Link to the job page here.
  • See more career opportunities at Celgene here.
  • Please make sure to reference seeing this position through the GPS Spotlight on Jobs post.

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SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS: REsurety

Members of the Brandeis GPS Community may submit job postings from within their industries to advertise exclusively to our community. This is a great way to further connect and seek out opportunities as they come up. If you are interested in posting an opportunity, please complete the following form found here.

Where: REsurety, Boston, MA with a flexible Q2 start date

About: REsurety is a venture-backed FinTech startup that is eliminating the challenge of resource intermittency for the wind power industry. We are revenue-positive, have active customers, and work in partnership with some of the world’s leading risk market players. Our team keeps an informal office with open lines of communication, little hierarchy, and a rapid pace. If putting your skills to work to drive down the cost of renewable energy by solving the challenge of resource intermittency sounds exciting, then we would love to receive your application.

Position: Power Market Research Scientist

Position Details: As a Power Market Research Scientist, you will research and model future market structures, including how the buildout of renewable energy generation affects power prices.

Responsibilities:

  • Lead research into the effects of renewable capacity buildout on power markets, producing actionable insights that can be incorporated into our existing code base
  • Model the generation stack at various ISOs (ERCOT, SSP, etc.), enabling stochastic scenario analysis
  • Forecast the effects of increased transmission buildout on electricity markets
  • Improve upon and/or replace existing statistical models
  • Integrate your research with REsurety’s engineering team to productize results

Requirements:

  • Strong fundamental understanding of power markets
  • Degree in energy economics, computational finance, financial engineering, data science, or related field
  • A passion for REsurety’s mission: More Profitable Clean Energy

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Knowledge of wind industry resource assessment, operations, and economics
  • Working knowledge of statistical analysis
  • Programming experience with R (preferred), MATLAB, Python, or similar languages
  • Experience with GAMS and/or PowerWorld a plus

Apply: Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to Michael Garrison: mgarrison@resurety.com.

  • See the official job posting PDF here.
  • See more career opportunities for REsurety here.

Please make sure to reference seeing this position through the GPS Spotlight on Jobs post.

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Click here to subscribe!

Congratulations to the Brandeis GPS class of 2017!

The Rabb School of Continuing Studies awarded diplomas to more than 100 GPS students at its 2017 commencement ceremony this Sunday, May 21. Approximately 45 members of the graduating class attended the event, which took place on campus from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Faculty Club.

“Not only have you mastered a rigorous curriculum, but most of you have done this while working full-time and while balancing family responsibilities,” said Rabb School of Continuing Studies Vice President Karen Muncaster. “You are bright and you are capable and you’re going to change the world.”

Given the online nature of GPS programs, many graduates arrived from out-of-state and visited the Brandeis campus for the first time. Some students are traveling as far as Australia, Canada and throughout the U.S., including California, Maryland, Florida, Illinois, Washington and North Carolina.

“Persevering through these programs is a truly relentless pursuit of long-term goals and requires incredible passion,” said student speaker and MS in Instructional Design and Technology recipient Kara Wasnewsky, whose cohort makes up the first group of graduates from that program.

The ceremony also featured remarks from Corey Thomas, CEO and president of Rapid7.

“My hope is that you achieve escape velocity, that you continually find the best in yourself, and that you resist the gravitational pull of apathy and mediocrity, said Thomas. “We need people who can go out and find common ground and mutual solutions. Be that catalyst who doesn’t just stay in your lane—be the one who seeks to unite.”

The full breakdown of diplomas handed out is as follows:

  • Master of Software Engineering (15 graduates)
  • MS in Bioinformatics (3 graduates)
  • MS in Health and Medical Informatics (11 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security Leadership (12)
  • MS in Instructional Design & Technology (4 graduates)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (33 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (16 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management (18 graduates)

Congratulations to our graduates!

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