The Brandeis GPS blog

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

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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. 

FinTech is changing your life, and you don’t even know it

By Ashley Nagle Eknaian

Don’t believe me? Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you have any cash in your wallet right now?
  2. Have you ever bought something using your mobile phone?
  3. Have you been inside a bank branch in the last 6 months?

Now, let’s travel back in time to the year 2007; would your answers still be the same? Probably not. My point here is that 10 years ago, your experiences carrying, spending, saving, transferring, investing, and borrowing money were very different than they are today. In 2017, I am willing to bet that you use some sort of fintech app for your everyday financial needs. Using your mobile wallet to pay for coffee/tea in the morning? Repaying a friend for lunch using Venmo? Donating to a crowdfunding campaign? Checking your bank balance? Buying insurance? Refinancing your student loans? Considering a Robo-advisor to handle your investments? Leveraging an auto savings app to build a nest egg? All are examples of FinTech innovation that we now have access to with a tap and a swipe on our mobile devices.

FinTech is changing your life and you don't even know it

VC’s & banks take notice

As technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives from social media to healthcare, why would our interactions with money be any different? Investment dollars have been pouring into FinTech the last few years ($17.4 Billion in venture backed funding in 2016 alone), which means that there are some very smart people trying to revolutionize every aspect of the financial services you use every day. While not all startups will be successful in this endeavor, the few that do will continue to transform the financial services ecosystem. And let’s not forget about big banks, top financial institutions have taken notice of the FinTech boom and taken action. These companies are building innovation labs, hiring top tech talent and investing / acquiring startups to ensure they stay relevant for customers in what has become a rapidly changing and competitive environment.

Technology rules

With all of the technology now available to create smarter, faster, and cheaper products and services, no corner of the financial industry will be left static. Take the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether – could there be a day in the not-so-distant future where physical currency becomes obsolete? You may think that sounds crazy, however, the next time you make a purchase, ask the company if it accepts bitcoin as a form of payment – the answer may surprise you. Technology will continue to change and be applied to financial services at a pace that we could never have imagined just a few short years ago. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, not to mention a little technology called “distributed ledger” will all play a role in fueling the next evolution of FinTech innovation for both institutions and consumers.

Global dominance

FinTech isn’t a regional, socio-economic or generational phenomenon. FinTech is global, and it will impact the entire financial ecosystem, from central banks to the unbanked. Get ready, because FinTech has only just begun changing your life.

Ashley Nagle Eknaian, program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis University

Countdown to Commencement: Congratulations to the class of 2017!

On Sunday, May 21, at The Faculty Club at Brandeis University, The Rabb School of Continuing Studies will award diplomas to 112 Brandeis GPS students at its 2017 commencement ceremony. We are so excited that 44 members of the graduating class are expected to join us for the on-campus ceremony. We can’t wait to celebrate the achievements of all of our graduates!

As GPS programs are all fully online, many graduates are coming from out-of-state (and even out of the country!), and will be visiting the Brandeis campus for the first time. Students are traveling as far as Australia, Canada and throughout the U.S., including California, Maryland, Florida, Washington and North Carolina.

The ceremony will feature remarks from Raymond Tsang, Strategic Analytics graduate, and Student Speaker Kara Wasnewsky, Instructional Design and Technology graduate.

Kara Wasnewsky is a May 2017 graduate of the Instructional Design and Technology program. She graduated summa cum laude from Fitchburg State University in 2011 where she earned a bachelor’s of science in communication media. She is currently a Learning Tool Strategist at Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, where she designs online instructio
nal tools to assist instructors and students in higher education classrooms across the country. Kara lives in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Raymond Tsang is a veteran software engineer at Dell Technologies, Data Protection Unit.  Previously, Raymond served as a Senior Software Architect at Wilshire Inc, a financial consulting firm based in Santa Monica.  He is also the founder of StockTrendCharts.com, a website that predicts stock trends using a proprietary algorithm.  He graduated from UC, San Diego with a Bachelor degree in Computer Science & Engineering and is completing his Master degree with Brandeis University in Strategic Analytics.

Diplomas will be awarded to students graduating from the following programs:

  • 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 graduates)
  • MS in Instructional Design and Technology (4 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management (18 graduates)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (33 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (16 graduates)

Congratulations to all of our graduates, we can’t wait to celebrate with you and hear about all of  your future accomplishments!

Countdown to Commencement: User Centered Design

As we’re gearing up for the Brandeis GPS commencement ceremony on May 21,  GPS students are gathering their families and preparing to travel to Waltham to celebrate their accomplishments. While planning is underway, we wanted to celebrate the first graduates of one of the newest GPS programs.

Launched in fall 2015, the MS in User-Centered Design represents a growing movement of designers who seek to produce technologies that adapt to the user rather than attempt to force behavioral change.

Many professionals currently working in IT, web development, digital marketing and computer science share the belief that the way people experience design is critical to the success of any creation. The User-Centered Design program at Brandeis GPS allows professionals with titles such as interactive designer, human factors engineer, user experience strategist, web developer, and more to expand their knowledge and career potential. The fully online, part-time program equips students to identify the human factors that influence user response, apply social and psychological principles to predict user response, and build prototypes and evaluate design effectiveness, analyzing qualitative and quantitative information.

In the Workforce

Today, professionals specializing in user-centered design are always in high demand.  In 2015 CNN Money identified user-centered design jobs as #14 on their nationwide list of top jobs, and  Glassdoor included user-centered design positions in their list of the top 25 “Highest Paying Jobs with the Most Openings Right Now.”

With some of the biggest names in technology and innovation looking to hire user center design specialists, those with this specialization are in high demand. Companies like Amazon, IBM, Deloitte, and Apple, among others, are constantly seeking new hires with the latest training in the field.

User Centered Design at Brandeis

The User Centered Design faculty understand the challenges of modern industry. When not teaching they’re developing technologies for higher education communities or advocating for design innovation, they structure their GPS curriculum to draw on real-world expertise and connections that ultimately help our students advance their career goals. Courses are taught by professionals in the field who draw on their work experience to mentor GPS students in the classroom.

The 30-credit User-Centered Design degree has seven required courses and three electives. Required courses provide students with a focused education surrounding fundamental topics in the field, while electives build upon specific professional skill sets and allow students to enrich and round out their studies.

We can’t wait to hear all that the class of 2017 will achieve as they use their knowledge to transform the development processes in many fields. We are confident that the skills they have gained as GPS students will allow them to further their career goals while making products, software, and other tools, that focus on usability. Congratulations to the User Centered Design students and the entire class of 2017!

Countdown to Commencement: (Re)Meet Kara Wasnewsky, Brandeis GPS Commencement Student Speaker

In 2015, Brandeis GPS profiled Kara Wasnewsky (Noonan), a student in our instructional design graduate program. Two years later, we are thrilled to announce that Kara has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker. We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kara about her journey and how her experience in the MS in Instructional Design and Technology has influenced her career path.

When she started the part-time, online graduate program, Kara was an Associate Media Producer at Pearson looking for a master’s degree that “provided the ideal integration of edtech and instructional design.” We checked back in with Kara recently and to hear her reflections on her experience in the IDT, the impact it had on her career, and advice she has for future students.

A more strategic role

A year after Kara began the program, she was promoted to a learning tool strategist. Now, instead of working on media components that go into larger products, she creates more complex learning tools that can be used within a product or on their own. Working on instructional videos and other learning tools, Kara explained to us how her video production methods have evolved even further as she continued the program.

“I learned to utilize visuals and narration to create an effective learning experience. When designing instructional videos you must be cautious of cognitive overload. I have been much more deliberate about the decisions I make for the visuals used in the videos I produce. I make sure that the visuals enhance the concept that is being discussed in the video, rather than just being there to decorate the screen.”

Kara also noted that the most rewarding outcome of the program for her is the confidence she has gained. “With the knowledge and skills gained through the Brandeis program, I have become much more confident in my ideas. I speak up much more on the projects I work on because I know what will be most beneficial for the learner and can back up my ideas with science.” Building on her new skills gained through her master’s degree, Kara hope to one day transition to an instructional designer at a college or university, working closely with instructors and immediately track the impact of the learning experiences they create.

Learning from peers

While in the IDT program, Kara was able to learn from her classmates, not just her instructors. She noted this as a valuable part of her learning experience.

“Fellow students are really key to these online courses, since a lot of our understanding comes from the sharing of ideas between us. My classmates came from various roles in higher ed, k-12 and corporate training. I work in a corporate environment, but I create learning experiences for undergraduate students, so I really took a lot away from the variety of backgrounds.

Reading the interpretations of a concept from these different perspectives helped me to understand it in new ways. Without the diversity of the class, I would have just interpreted things as I understood them through the context of my experience working at an academic publisher. I would not have uncovered the nuances with how things can be applied in different settings. It really made for some interesting discussions.”

As a creator of online learning tools, Kara is a proponent of the benefits of the online classroom, and thinks that the greatest benefit of this learning style is the opportunity for thoughtful reflection.

“In a face-to-face course discussions happen spur of the moment, so it is difficult to really have rich discussions. I was always quiet in classes, so I rarely even participated in discussions. In the online courses at Brandeis you are required to post weekly to a discussion board and to comment on two posts of your peers. The posts that are made are always very thoughtful, since the student has time think about what they are going to post before they do.”

A note to future students

Kara advises future students to “think about what your personal goals are for obtaining the degree and make sure that you get everything you can out of the program. Many of the projects that will be completed in the program can be tailored to your specific interests, so if you identify those interests early you will have an impressive portfolio of work that is in line with your personal goals.”

Kara certainly followed her own advice and we look forward to hearing about her future accomplishments. Congratulations Kara and the entire class of 2017!

This year’s 2017 commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 21, at 8 a.m. Follow #GPSclassof2017 to be part of the celebration!

SPOTLIGHT ON JOBS: QinetiQ North America

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:  QinetiQ North America, Waltham, MA

About: QinetiQ North America delivers world-class technology and revolutionary products to defense, security and commercial markets worldwide.  Our offerings range from survivability and unmanned systems to power, controls, sensors and transportation solutions. Customers rely on our products to increase readiness, improve mission effectiveness, streamline operations, increase situational awareness and enhance security.

Position: Program Manager

Position Details: Program Manager will support QNA Maritime Systems business area by supporting new and ongoing Navy development, production, and lifecycle support programs. Program Manager will also identify and capture new Maritime business.

Manage design, development, manufacturing, test and installation activities for commercial and Department of Defense projects. Individual will be responsible for initiating projects by directly working with customer/sponsors to define top level scope and overall objectives. This individual will be a key contributor to plan projects by reviewing customer requirements, defining WBS, estimate durations/costs, developing schedules, and critical path analysis. During the execution of the project the program manager shall lead a team to execute planned tasks to deliver specific scope on time and on budget. The program manager will be expected to use his/her skills and knowledge of the system to identify issues as they occur and provide direction to maintain cost & schedule performance.

Responsibilities:

  • Interface with customer and support requests to modify/add scope to project by providing proposals.
  • Develop schedules and budgets using WBS, critical path and estimating techniques.
  • Develop project plans including developing MS Project schedules.
  • Communicate weekly plans to the project team.
  • Direct project team and provide guidance to mitigate issues as they occur.
  • Work with the team to take project performance and update MS Project plan

Requirements: 

  • 2 – 10 years as a project manager, technical lead or Cost Account Manager on an electromechanical development/production project.
  • BS Engineering or BA Business or related field.
  • Program Management Professional (PMP) certification preferred.
  • Must have experience managing DOD acquisition programs.
  • MS Project – Must have hands on experience.
  • EVMS – Must have 2+ years of experience managing with EVMS.
  • Excellent People Skills – Must be capable of leading a team of technical personnel, capable of conflict resolution. Must be capable of managing a customer to assure the customer’s needs are met without incurring scope growth.
  • Scope/Requirements Analysis – Must be capable of working with a customer to translate the customer’s wants and needs to top level scope and requirements.
  • Estimating – Must be capable of working with Subject Matter Experts to develop estimates for duration and cost.
  • Schedule/Budgets – Must be capable of developing a WBS and translating that to a Microsoft Project schedule. Develop budget for all work packages in the WBS.

Desired Skills:

  • Experience with Navy LRIP and/or FRP programs
  • Development and Maintenance of Logistics Management Information (LMI) in accordance with MIL-STD-1388-2B, GEIA-STD-0007, or MIL-PRF-49506
  • Spares analysis and spares development
  • Experience writing DoD proposals

Apply:  Apply here on the QinetiQ job portal 

Please make sure to reference seeing this position through the Brandeis GPS job spotlight post.

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Standards of excellence in online learning

The stigma that surrounded online learning when it first came to market is no more, with more students taking online classes than ever before. A National Center for Education Statistics report found that graduate students enrolled in fully online courses in 2014 made up 25 percent of all graduate enrollments that year. Why the shift? U.S. News and World Report hypothesizes that online course delivery from elite educational institutions played a role in changing people’s perceptions of what it’s like to learn inside a virtual classroom.

Online graduate students at Brandeis are held to the same standards of excellence as any other student enrolled in the nationally ranked university. Brandeis GPS students join a network of thousands of students and alumni who are passionate, dedicated change-makers. GPS students experience a curriculum built with the same academic rigor that drives the entire university. All GPS classes meet comprehensive standards for online course development and delivery. Under the guidance of professional advisory boards, each online degree program undergoes extensive biennial reviews that examine programmatic content to ensure industry relevancy.

Founded in 1948, at a time when universities had quotas based on race, religion, and gender, Brandeis championed the idea that people should be able to attend university solely based on their academic merit. While there are no such quotas today, Brandeis University still upholds these principles of diversity and inclusivity. GPS is dedicated to extending the benefit of a Brandeis graduate education to a diverse working professional population.

With the abundance of online resources GPS offers, local students can also take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities on campus, including the library and the gym.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With four 10-week session each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

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