Heller Admissions Blog

Demystifying the application process

Heller Bucket List: Elizabeth Nguyen’s “Must Do” Experiences around Waltham

Woman in patterned shirt smiling at the camera

Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/SID ’20

There are a number of exciting things to do and see when you start your program at Heller. For those of you moving to the area for the first time (or even those of you who have been here your whole lives), the amount of “must-do” activities can sometimes seem overwhelming, but remember, you have your whole program to cross them off your list. After two years at Heller, here is my list of things to make sure you do at Brandeis, in Boston, and in the New England area!

  1. Go to Brandeis events – Sign up for the general Brandeis listservs and follow the Brandeis Facebook pages to find out more about Brandeis events going on outside of the Heller building. I follow the Campus Activities Board and have gotten information about great events the past two years that I have signed up for with my Heller friends. During Halloween, there was a fun zombie escape room (we escaped!), a zoom chat with John Finlay from Netflix’s show “Tiger King”, free tickets to a Red Sox game, and even free ice cream in the summer!

    A group of eight students smile in a dimly lit room

    My team after completing the Escape Room

  2. Check out the Mapparium in Boston – This three-story tall stained-glass globe is one of the coolest places I have seen in Boston, and every time I have someone visiting, we try to go see it. The map itself is from 1935 and has some countries with different names compared to today. As a traveler and history nerd, it always is so interesting to find new bits of information on the map and see how the world has changed! Since it’s a perfect sphere, it also has fun acoustics, so bring a friend to test it out.
  3. Explore Cambridge and Boston –  There is a great free campus shuttle during the school year that drops you in Cambridge or Boston for you to explore the city for the day. Cambridge has great options for food, including coffee from Tatte or Pokeworks for sushi. I sometimes also like to explore the Harvard campus with its beautiful buildings for some hidden places to study. Boston is a great city to explore as well, from its historic Freedom Trail sites to museums like the Museum of Science, the Aquarium, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Some of these places are free with a student ID!
  4. Take a day trip outside of the city – As someone from California, it still amazes me that driving an hour and a half can easily bring you to another state. Living in Massachusetts, you have the option to drop into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and hike mountains, sunbathe at beaches, and explore cute little towns! I like going to Newport, Rhode Island for a quick getaway or up to Maine to shop at the different outlets. Sometimes, I will even drive with friends and family along the New England coast to look at the beautiful lighthouses!
  5. Go leaf-peeping in the fall – New England is famous for its fall/autumn leaves, and rightly so, because they are so beautiful. Make sure to follow along on the leaf peeping maps to tell you where you should drive to see in New England to best see the peak leaf season… but even just walking to campus, you will see the leaves change color dramatically. This fall season makes you fall in love with the Boston area and will make you want to stay forever.

As you can see, I’ve tried to include choices that are safe in our “new normal”, but these will be experiences to cross off your Heller Bucket List for years to come. No matter when you’re joining us, you’ll find that the area has a lot to offer, so make sure you get out and experience all that you can: you’ll be surprised at how fast your program flies by!

Deciding on a Dual Degree: Doug Nevins’ Perspective

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I came to Heller as an MPP student, intending to focus my studies on research, quantitative analysis, and policy communication. Having worked for years in higher education, I was interested in how universities and other non-profit organizations make strategic and financial decisions, but as a policy student with an interest in economic inequality, I admittedly was a bit skeptical of corporate America and the financial system. For that reason, I was unsure if an MBA could ever be a good fit for me.

However, after beginning my MPP courses at Heller, I met numerous MBA and dual MBA/MPP students who shared my passion for social change and economic equity. As I gained a greater understanding of the different types of organizations engaged in policy work and social advocacy, including nonprofits, foundations, and public agencies, I became increasingly curious about how they work in a strategic and operational sense. I also became interested in gaining a deeper understanding of finance and corporate structures, topics that many policy researchers who are concerned with inequality and labor issues need to understand. It became increasingly clear that the Heller MBA coursework would enable me to greatly expand my skill set and give me a chance to focus on leadership, consensus-building, and operational thinking.

To be sure that the MBA was the right fit, I enrolled in “Strategic Management,” taught by Prof. Carole Carlson, this past spring. The course was taught in an accelerated format and met for 4.5 hours once a week. However, I was pleased to find that the time flew by. The class was heavily discussion-based and required us to think on our feet and speak extemporaneously about complex cases involving business and organizational strategy. I found that over the course of the semester I became more confident speaking up in class and better able to analyze business plans and management decisions, areas in which I had limited prior experience. My classmates brought perspectives strongly influenced by values of social justice and equity, and drew upon their work experience in diverse settings including education, healthcare, and international organizations like the UN. This experience convinced me to apply to the Social Impact MBA, and I am excited to begin the program in earnest this fall.

Completing the summer quantitative pre-course has been challenging at times, and it’s a bit daunting to think about taking accounting and finance courses, subjects that are entirely new to me. Still, I’m looking forward to focusing more on quantitative skills this fall, and I’m excited about opportunities like the Team Consulting Project next summer. I really appreciate the breadth of opportunities at Heller, and the opportunity to complete a second degree in such a short amount of time.

Heller To-Do List: Sami Rovins Goals for the next year

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

My Heller “to-do” list is long, but a few events in particular come to mind. Before my time at Heller comes to a close, I’d love to throw a party and invite my cohort and other fellow Heller students in different degree programs over to my house. Heller students are a tight-knit group, but we are all so busy that we don’t always find the time to relax and unwind together. Throwing an off-campus get-together would be the perfect opportunity for that. As graduate students, we can become so hyper-focused on school that we sometimes lose sight of other important aspects to our lives. It’s so valuable to socialize with each other and to find the time to relax after a busy week at Heller. It also feels important for us to celebrate our accomplishments together as a group. We all work so hard throughout the week, and a party on the weekend would be our chance to unwind and ultimately get to know each other even better.

I would also love to attend more Graduate Student Association (GSA) events. In the past, I’ve felt hesitant to join for a few reasons. Either I had way too much work, or I felt too tired at the end of the day, or I was anxious about socializing with people who I didn’t already know. But once the event happened, I would realize that attending it would have been a positive experience and would have enhanced my day: the GSA provides a wide range of events, and it seems there is truly something for everyone. My bucket list also includes spending more time in the office of Graduate Student Affairs, which is very close to the Heller building on campus. There’s always something delicious to eat there, and it’s a terrific place to spend some time if you need a break from Heller’s building.

Another outing I’d love to go on with my cohort is to spend a beach day at Walden Pond. Only 25 minutes from campus, Walden Pond is the perfect place to spend a fun and relaxing Spring or Summer afternoon. This type of off-campus adventure is also on my Heller bucket list because I know how much my fellow classmates would enjoy it. I’d love the opportunity to drive over to Walden Pond with a group of Heller friends. It would be yet another way to unwind, relax, and get to know each other away from campus and the context of school. Walden Pond is also a significant and historic place to visit in the Boston area. Visiting it with Heller friends would be a great opportunity for all of us to get to know our new home better. I hope to have the opportunity to check off Walden Pond and all of my bucket list items before my time at Heller comes to an end!

Last Chance to Submit Your Application!

Hi everyone! Tomorrow’s the big day: the last chance for domestic students to submit their application to a master’s program at Heller. If you haven’t, check out my earlier post with five tips for finishing your application, but sometimes, we need a little motivation! So today, rather than sharing the how of finishing your application, I’m going to share three reasons why you should submit your application to motivate you to cross the finish line.

  1. Our peers agree: we’re top-notch. Heller is consistently ranked a top-ten school in social policy by US News and World, which reflect peer assessments of deans, directors, and department chairs at 276 schools of public affairs. For 2021, Heller was ranked in the top 10 for social policy and top 20 for health policy and management. Heller is one of only two New England graduate schools of public affairs to be ranked in those specialty areas.
  2. Diversity is more than a buzzword at Heller, it’s a commitment. When you join Heller, you’ll become a part of an incredibly diverse community: last year, we welcomed students from 66 different countries (more than 60 languages are spoken at Heller), making international students about a third of our incoming class. 39% of our incoming domestic students were students of color. Moreover, Heller is home to many students with disabilities, students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, and students from a variety of religious backgrounds. This diverse environment challenges every student to consider new points of view, and offers the unique opportunity to learn not only from our experienced faculty, but students who are nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, policy analysts and more.
  3. The Boston area is a great place to be for graduate school. I may be biased because I moved from Atlanta to Boston for my graduate education, but I truly think the Boston area is a great place to be when you’re getting your master’s degree. The MBTA system (which connects to the commuter rail line that goes right to campus) makes the city easy to explore, and the city is filled with intelligent, passionate people in a similar place in their lives, whether they’re studying engineering at MIT, or music at Berklee. The Waltham area is great because if you choose to live in Waltham, you’ll be able to find more affordable living, but if you want to live in the city, it’s easy to commute to campus. Once you’re in Waltham, there’s plenty of restaurants and beautiful paths along the Charles to keep you busy.

You’re almost there! Just push through and press that submit button, and then help yourself to your favorite treat to celebrate! Best of luck; I look forward to welcoming you to Heller!

Graduating During a Pandemic: Elizabeth Nguyen’s Experience

Class of 2020 – Graduating this past May, my cohort had it differently than most Heller graduates. I think the word that I would use to describe the majority of this year is “surreal”… When March hit, COVID-19 was escalating quickly and it was clear that all of our in-person classes would need to move online immediately. It felt like that the transitions of all of my classes (including ones I was a student in or a teaching assistant in) to online happened quickly and dramatically – one day, we were in class, and then the next, the Heller building was closed.

Twenty students pictured in a Zoom call

Maintaining community through Zoom

My Operations Management class was one of the first classes to transition online.  Fortunately, many of the MBA classes are also already taught through the Heller School’s Executive Physician’s MBA, which contributed to a seamless transition. Regardless of the graduate program, every professor had to adapt their classes, whether that included introducing an offline component, uploading additional documents onto LATTE, or utilizing Zoom functions such as breakout rooms for added smaller group discussions. All of the professors were also very flexible with the students, readjusting different classroom requirements and projects to accommodate the changes and challenges that the students were facing. There was also a request for constant feedback from the professors and the Heller Administration to provide insight to the professors and helped them adjust their classes as needed.

Dean Weil toasting the community during a Zoom Call

Dean Weil hosts Cocktails with the Dean

I think that one of Heller’s strengths through the pandemic is that there was a push to maintain the sense of the Heller community. There have been official and unofficial events to continue to connect with people the Heller community. For example, the Heller Student Association planned an exciting Heller Trivia Night event which included hundreds of students, staff, alumni, and prospective students. In planning for this event, I recruited my core group of friends from my MBA program – and we won first place!  In true Heller form, my team also decided to donate our winnings as gift cards to Healthy Waltham to help the Waltham community. The Dean also hosts consistently hosts Heller-wide “Cocktails with the Dean”, which is a great chance to see the faculty and staff of Heller in a casual environment.

Over the past few months, my friends and I have managed to stay connected across states and often countries through using Zoom. We will have Zoom calls to check up on everyone, weekly movie nights, and even recently had a fun “Powerpoint Presentation Party” where we presented powerpoints about obscure and interesting topics. While we cannot be in person to connect, I am grateful for technology connecting people I haven’t seen in a long time.

Elizabeth in a cap and gown smiling next to the Heller School Sign

Ready for graduation!

As a 2020 Heller Graduate, the entire graduation process also felt “surreal” at first. Because we were not going to receive the cap and gown until after graduation, I borrowed a cap and gown from a recent graduate to take photos at Brandeis. I think this was the beginning of everything feeling “real” to me. While I watched the online graduation ceremony, it was still disappointing not to be able to see my classmates and my family who were supposed to fly in for the graduation. To help make the graduation more personal, I had two Zoom calls, including one for family and for friends to celebrate. One added benefit of the online ceremony was that I was able to have my extended family, including my grandparents, watch the graduation. Even my Zoom calls were able to bring together from different aspects of my life – high school, college, Peace Corps, and graduate school. In this sense, regardless of the disappointing aspects of graduation, there was still a silver lining! I was able to see and celebrate with more people across the US because of technology. Brandeis has promised an in-person ceremony next year and I am hopeful it will help make the graduation feel more real!

What I Wish I’d Known When I Started Heller: Sami Rovins’ Perspective

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

For me, starting grad school was simultaneously an overwhelming, exciting, confusing, and invigorating experience. I certainly had no clue what to expect. So, what advice would I give to someone just beginning their Heller journey?

First, I want to remind incoming Heller students to stay calm: you are here for a reason, and you should be confident in your ability to do important and impactful work here. At times, you may slip into comparing yourself to other students, measuring their professional backgrounds and experiences against yours. But here at Heller, we are all in the same boat. No one is doing “better” or “worse” work than anyone else, and Heller is certainly not a competition. Essentially, everybody has the same goal of being a benefit to their communities, their nations, and the world.

Another piece of advice I can give is: the cold weather isn’t as horrible as everyone makes it out to be! Granted, I am from the Northeast and therefore used to the cold. Be sure to buy good, sturdy snow boots, especially if you intend on walking to Brandeis, or around Waltham and Boston. Get waterproof gloves, wool socks, a warm hat that covers your ears, and a waterproof coat— these items are definitely necessary to get through winter in Waltham comfortably.   But remember, winter will always come to an end and Massachusetts summers are beautiful.

I would also recommend that you explore Boston and the surrounding areas as much as possible! I sometimes get stuck in “campus mode” and spend all day tucked away in Heller. It will make a huge difference to your mental health if you find time to explore outside of Brandeis. The historic Walden Pond is only a 20-minute drive from Waltham, Cambridge has wonderful bookstores, and Salem offers everything from cute vintage shops to museums about witches. Leaving campus helped me to clear my head, and ultimately allowed me to perform better as a student. Exploring is also a great way to gain ownership over your new home and a way to feel more present and “at home” in Massachusetts overall.

The last piece of advice I want to emphasize is about cultivating relationships at Heller. I am prone to shyness, and in my first few weeks at Heller, I felt reticent to begin fostering significant relationships with professors and with my cohort. My advice to you is: Don’t hold back! Again, everyone is in the same boat and we are here at Heller for the same reasons. Share your interests and experiences with your classmates and with Heller faculty. Take advantage of professors’ office hours, attend on-campus events, and make weekend plans to unwind with your cohort. The opportunity to foster and cultivate relationships is one of the most valuable things Heller offers to its students. Ask your professors questions, even if you think it might sound silly. Listen to the members of your cohort as they describe their unique experiences. I am so very thankful for the people I have met during my first year at Heller. I have met faculty who sparked new interests within me, and friendships I am certain I will maintain throughout my life. Studying at Heller is a significant experience that we all share – cultivate those relationships and let them flourish!

Stuck at Home? Start Exploring Boston!

Even though the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston may be re-opening this week, many of us aren’t yet ready to start exploring everything that Boston has to offer. Luckily, many Boston attractions are hosting virtual tours, giving people the opportunity to experience the cultural institutions that make Boston so special. If you’re on the fence about whether the Boston area is the right setting for your graduate studies, or if you want to get started on exploring before your move, today I’m sharing some of my favorite museums and attractions around Boston that are currently hosting virtual tours.

1. The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

Interior courtyard with palm trees enclosed by a white stone building

Courtyard, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Photo: Sean Dungan

Every time a friend or relative visits me in Boston, this is at the top of my list of places to take them. It’s unlike any museum I’ve ever been to— the lush courtyard in the middle surrounded by beautiful Venetian architecture as well as it’s unique blend of Asian, European, and African art make it feel completely separate from the rest of Boston. As an added point of interest, it’s also the site of the largest art heist in history. In 1990, thieves stole $500 million works of art, including pieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt. As you explore the museum, keep an eye out for the empty frames that the museum has left hanging.

2. The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

Interior of an old brick building with various inventions lining the walls and exhibit space

Interior of the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. Photo by: Mark Spooner

This museum may not be as well known as some of the larger museums on this list, but I consider it a hidden gem. I hadn’t visited it until I started working at Heller, but it soon became one of my favorites. It’s the site of America’s first factory, and the museum holds artifacts of the industrial revolution from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and provides insight into Boston’s role in the Industrial Revolution, as well as a look into Waltham’s history. While the collection itself is more interactive, the museum website has a variety of pictures and videos to let you experience many of its exhibits.

3. The Peabody Essex Museum

Large scale sculpture of a face in an open room

Maritime Hall, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem. Photo by: Ken Sawyer

While not strictly in Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum is one of my favorite museums to visit in the area. They have an eclectic collection featuring artists from around the world and often have immersive, experiential works that make visiting it worthwhile during your time in Boston. Currently, you can view their collections of Chinese, maritime, Oceanic, African, and Native American art, including photographs, sculptures, paintings, and jewelry. Fashion aficionados will also appreciate the Alexander McQueen dress on display— there really is something for everyone!

4. The Boston Common and Public Gardens

Aerial view of a large park with a small stone gazebo in the middle

Parkman Bandstand, Boston Commons, Boston. Photo: Abhi Suryawanshi

While this isn’t a museum, it’s certainly worth a visit while you’re in the Boston area as an important historical site. The Boston Common was originally founded as a common grazing area for cattle (hence the name), but eventually developed into the first public park in America. Over the years, it has been used for numerous protests, from the American Revolution to Black Lives Matter protests, and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have delivered speeches here. Across Charles Street lies the Boston Public Garden, which is part of the Emerald Necklace string of parks designed by  Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park in New York City). During the spring, tulips lining the walkway to the George Washington statue and blooming cherry blossoms make for an amazing photo opportunity.

5. Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum

Exterior of a building with a glass wall, through which you can see Dora Garcia's artwork She Has Many Names

Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum. Photo by: Dona Garcia and ProjecteSD

I would be remiss if I didn’t feature Brandeis’ very own Rose Art Museum. They always have thought-provoking exhibits, but I’m particularly fond of their permanent collection, The Undisciplined Collector. It’s a wood-paneled room filled with artifacts and artwork that’s meant to evoke the feeling of stepping into a 1960s living room. If you’re a fan of mid-century furniture or design (or maybe just really liked Mad Men), be sure to check this one out.

The location of your graduate school can play a huge role in your experience, and in my (perhaps slightly biased) opinion, the Boston area is a great place to be during graduate school. There are tons of cultural events and attractions, and there’s never any shortage of things to do, both in the city center and the neighborhoods and suburbs surrounding Boston. Even while you’re stuck at home, there’s no limit to what Boston and Waltham have to offer!

Heller Reading List: Doug Nevins Shares His Favorite Readings

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

For this week’s blog post, I’ll be reflecting on a few interesting readings which were assigned in my MPP courses this past year. Before starting my program,  I actually missed having assigned readings and the opportunity to discuss them in a class setting. Heller has more than lived up to my expectations in terms of the rigor and relevance of assigned readings.

Summer reading: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Cover of The New Jim Crow

MPP students typically read this book over the summer and discuss it with their cohort during orientation. While I had been familiar with some of Alexander’s findings and arguments, I had never read the complete book until last summer (I regret not doing so sooner). It is truly a remarkable, troubling, and eye-opening book. The book documents how mass incarceration functions as the newest form of racist, structural oppression in a long history of oppressive systems in the United States. Alexander is particularly adept at tracing the judicial history that has codified our racist policing and carceral systems and insulated them from legal challenges. I think The New Jim Crow is essential reading (for policy students and for pretty much anyone), particularly in our current moment.

Fall and spring semester: The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism by Gøsta Esping-Andersen

Cover of the Three Worlds of Welfare CapitalismI know – it probably sounds a bit dry! However, reading selections from this book in two courses at Heller really influenced my thinking about history and comparative political economy. If you’ve heard Bernie Sanders talk about the virtues of Danish health care and social welfare, but wondered what historical factors actually influenced the differences between US and European social policy, this book provides an excellent introduction. It served as excellent fodder for classroom debates about how fixed and permanent the differences between the three welfare state models identified by Esping-Andersen actually are, and about what lessons we might draw from non-US contexts about ways to improve our own system.

Fall semester: Beaten Down, Worked Up by Steven GreenhouseCover of Beaten Down, Worked Up

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I am very interested in labor history and policy, and thoroughly enjoyed the elective which I took on this subject in Fall 2019. This book provided an excellent and very readable historical overview of several key periods in US labor history, from early victories by garment workers’ unions in NYC, to the conflicts between public-sector unions and Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, to cutting edge organizing efforts led by gig economy workers. Greenhouse is a former NY Times labor reporter, and his style is both informative and fun to read. Prof. Bob Kuttner invited Greenhouse to visit our class and discuss labor history past and present. This was a great opportunity to hear stories about labor organizing and to learn a bit more about the process of reporting on unions worker-led organizations.

I’ve really appreciated the balance of different types of assigned readings at Heller, which has included accessible non-fiction works, journalistic and historical accounts, political and sociological theory, and policy and research reports. I hope these three examples provide some insight into the value of the readings assigned in the MPP curriculum. I know I’m looking forward to this coming year’s assignments as well!

Why Heller? 60 Reasons for 60 Years! (Part 3)

41. “The level of discipline and rigor I learned at Heller has kept me and my organization sustainable and excellent in the work we’ve done. It’s required an intensive strategy and relentless discipline, which I would have never gotten without the Heller School.” Toni Burke, MPP’09
42. “Heller’s mission of using knowledge to promote social justice is really what I see as my mission.” Robyn Powell, PhD’20
43. “The staff during orientation recognized the sacrifices that everyone had made in order to come here, which was very important.” Zizwa Mwafulirwa, MS GHPM’20
44. “Heller is the only public policy school I know of that advertises itself as a social justice graduate school. That means there’s a self-selection on the part of students: They’re not just here to get a credential, but to gain a deeper set of insights so that they can do social justice work more effectively. That’s what I love about teaching here.” Robert Kuttner, Meyer and Ida Kirstein Visiting Professor
45. “At Heller, we go through simulations that relay real-world experiences. Our professors are respected international experts in their field — and we learn the word is mightier than guns, and that by bringing people together, they can work through their differences.” Peter Ter, MA SID/COEX’14
46. “Heller is truly a people-centered school. I knew that my professors were interested in my learning and development. The small size of the MPP program helped me get to know them and feel comfortable asking them for advice.” Erin Robinson, MPP’16
47. “Since I’ve come to Heller, I’ve loved seeing how committed the students and alumni are to pursuing careers where they tackle core issues.” Benny Belvin, Assistant Dean of Career Development
48. “Heller stepped up with a way I could conduct my own education and research that was relevant to the queer rights movement and HIV policy. I’ll be honest: the dual MPP and MBA was extremely difficult but so rewarding, because I learned more than I ever thought I could have.” James Miller, MBA/MPP’11
49. “For me, the SID program was a stepping stone to a dream career in international development. The research and project management skills I learned in the program have been very useful in my job. Being a part of a diverse cohort was also a very unique learning experience that only Heller could offer.” Megha Hedge, SID’14
50. “Here, I can get experience from the stars of our field. That’s really exciting. It’s like a great football club—like I’ve been invited to play with Barcelona, one of the best clubs in the world—that’s what it means to me to study at Heller.” Nikita Trafimovich, COEX’20
51. “We all have values and an image in our mind of the way the world should be. These are our roadmap for seeking to improve society, which is of great importance to the Heller School. But it is not enough. Our students must know how the policy world works and how public actions actually affect us.” Jeffrey Prottas, Director of the PhD program
52. “You’re not only learning from the faculty, from the professors, you’re also learning from your peers as well. It’s not just you alone, trying to find answers to the problems of this world. You find a community of people from different cultures and countries and ethnicities that all have the same goal.” Esther Daniel, COEX/SID’20
53. “Both the SID and MBA programs mix the theoretical with the practical. Together, these programs—along with the Heller staff and faculty— built upon my previous professional and educational experiences and positioned me well to get to where I am today.” Josh Cramer-Montes, MBA/MA SID’17
54. “Heller people are my people. Everybody here has done such interesting things with their lives to affect positive change.” Leila Quinn, MBA/MPP’19
55. “The students, alumni and researchers at Heller are chance agents, working to build a more equitable and just world, addressing an urgent need.” Kate Kaplan, Director of Development and Alumni Relations
56. “There’s also diversity of thought. It’s really common that a student will say something in class that I never, ever would have thought of myself. I love that about this program.” Tozoe Marton, MS GHPM/MA SID’20
57. “The chance to study with University Professor Anita Hill is the main reason I was drawn to Heller, and has far exceeded my expectations. Professor Hill not only champions social change but embodies a professorship that fosters and energizes that power necessary to influence policy discourse and help shape history.” Nicole Rinier, MBA/MPP’21
58. “At Heller, we are very involved with what’s happening on the ground. We provide research to support action. As a policy researcher, I want to impact policy discussions and policy creation.” Tatjana Meschede, Senior Scientist
59. “Heller is a great place for people who would like to be bridges.” Kristen Whited Beals, MBA/MPP’15
60. “Heller’s motto, ‘Knowledge advancing social justice,’ emphasizes our ongoing responsibility to grapple with emerging social policy challenges. Even as we recognize the strides we’ve made, the real spirit of our 60th anniversary and the next chapter is about addressing pressing societal problems at local, national and international levels. We eschew simple answers or ‘silver-bullet’ solutions. Instead, the Heller community devises evidence-based responses from multiple disciplines in teaching, research and public engagement.” David Weil, Dean and Professor

Working to Change the World: Elizabeth Nguyen on her Team Consulting Project

Woman in patterned shirt smiling at the camera

Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/SID ’20

The MBA Team Consulting Project (TCP), or the MBA program’s capstone project was one of my favorite parts of Heller experience. Over the summer, teams of 3-6 MBA students work with an organization to help with a proposed management challenge. What’s unique however, is that organizations pitch proposals to the students, who are then asked to form teams around their preferred choice. I wanted a project that combined both my MBA and MA in Sustainable International Development degrees, and was excited when Oxfam, a well-known international organization, was one of our choices. The Oxfam team that was formed included three other classmates with international development, corporate social responsibility, and supply chain experiences and expertise that made the group ideal for this project.

We worked with Oxfam’s Private Sector Engagement division on their “Behind the Brands” initiative to pressure the supply chains of the ten largest food and beverage companies in the world. While consumers recognize names such as Unilever, Nestle, or Coca Cola, the agribusinesses who supply to these companies are less visible and less pressured to improve their environmental sustainability and human rights practices. Our goal was to provide our client with a toolkit of resources for future conversations with these agribusinesses in four key areas – land, climate, gender, and transparency and accountability.Three students stand in front of a board with sticky notes

We examined the agribusinesses’ current Oxfam scorecard results, analyzed where they fell short, and researched policies, commitments, and best practices that could be referenced for improvements. The project allowed us to pull from MBA classes such as “Managing the Triple Bottom Line” and “Strategic Management” through analyzing how to make the business case for corporate social responsibility and developing a sweet spot analysis and a theory of change.

Teamwork for this project was a challenging learning curve. Early on, we identified our individual leadership styles and communicated how we work in groups. We also established ways to destress, such as having lunch together or walking around campus. This helped us step away from our work and remember that despite our disagreements, that we were all still friends.

Chart with various projects outlinedThis project was high stakes, with months of team meetings, stakeholder interviews, and research culminating in final presentations in front of the Heller community and Oxfam stakeholders. In preparation for the presentation, I memorized and recited my lines over and over again. At one point, I apparently was even reciting my part of the presentation in my sleep! Our presentation was visually appealing and well executed, showing all of our expertise, research, and analysis. When my cohort finished presenting our TCPs, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief – we were doneFour students smile in front of an Oxfam America sign! Our client, who flew in from DC for our two presentations, was happy with our deliverables and hard work over the summer.

The overall experience of completing the MBA Team Consulting Project was incredible and when I think of all of our final presentations, I am still amazed at how much the teams have been able to accomplish in just a few months!

 

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