Who’s ready for the next blog in my “Meet My Cohort” mini blog series? I am, so I hope you all are too. Last week we kicked off the series with Katherine Gagen, our future philanthropist in policy, and this week I am introducing you all to Hannah Wilcove! Hannah is 25 years old from Rockville, Maryland, and she graduated from University of Maryland- Baltimore County, where she majored in Women’s and Gender studies with a minor in Sociology. She is currently a 2nd year MPP student concentrating in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.
What did you do before coming to Heller?
I graduated from undergrad in 2019, and later that year, I joined a state senate race in Virginia because their state senate races are always in the off year. I then stayed on political campaigns throughout the 2020 election cycle.
Why did you choose Heller?
To speak about grad school more broadly, I realized that working on political campaigns and getting people elected was great and all, but I really wanted to focus more on what candidates did after we elected them. Once candidates get into office, what legislation and policies do they pass? I began looking at programs in public affairs and public administration and I quickly realized that the MPP had what I really wanted to focus in on was that aspect of public policy. Even though there are a lot of great public policy schools in the D.C. area, I chose Heller because first, I wanted to get out of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area, since I have spent my entire life there. Second, which is the bigger reason, is that I was very picky in the schools I was applying for, and I wanted schools that really focused on the human aspect and I loved Heller’s commitment to advancing social justice. I did not want to go to a school where all I did was learn economics and statistics and still teach a philosophy of policy that is still pretty white-male dominated, led, and influenced. I wanted a place where I be able to talk about gender, race, sexuality and talk about all kinds of different people that policy affects.
What is your favorite class at Heller?
Anyone who has spent more then two seconds with me knows the answer to this. My favorite class here at Heller is Policy Approaches to Gender Based Violence, taught by Kaitie Chakoian. She is able to create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable to discuss these extremely difficult topics. She is just incredible at moderating a classroom and facilitating a learning environment, which sounds like a bunch of buzzwords and academic jargon, but it really does matter when you are talking about difficult, personal, and traumatic topics like gender based violence. Having someone who knows how to teach and lead with empathy is really important.
What is your most challenging class at Heller?
I think for this, I want to say it was Policy Analysis, taught by Michael Doonan, because, one, the field of policy analysis is so broad that there were a lot of different elements to cover. In addition to that, this class had the biggest variety of assignments.
What are your plans after Heller?
I am still figuring this out! I am really open to a lot of different options. I know I want to go back into the work force and that I do not want to pursue a PhD because I really want to be out in the field. Something I been looking into is more lobbying and advocacy work, because that is an avenue that will allow me to lean into the areas I am incredible passionate about and voice my support for specific policies without having to tone it down, which you might have to in other roles or organizations. That is not to say I am not willing to do government work, but I think that being an advocate is something that really plays to my strengths and being able to do that professionally with the knowledge that I gained from this program would be a good fit for me.
Any advice you would like to give to prospective students?
I will say this to any graduate student, yes, classes are important, but also remember that you are still human. It is not healthy to just focus on the schoolwork side of things, you also need to and deserve to live, make new friends and spend time with them, making sure that you are eating and sleeping, and really prioritizing your mental health. You are going to hear a lot of people paying lip service to that, but figuring out what actions you can take to really preserve your mental health and find joy while navigating graduate school is going to make the process a lot better. Another thing I would like to mention is something that is great about Heller: this is not the kind of competitive environment that you might find in other schools or programs. I know when my sister was going through her law school process, she was warned how competitive it was but that is not the case here at Heller. It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors.
Can we get a little commotion for the last quote: “It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors”? What a strong way to close out a student interview! Thank you so much Hannah for stepping into the admissions blog room! Stay tuned for the next student feature in “Meet My Cohort” .