Heller Admissions Blog

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Category: Academics

Deciding on a Dual Degree: Doug Nevins’ Perspective

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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.

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!

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 Choose Heller? 60 Reasons for 60 Years! (Part 2)

We’re continuing to celebrate Heller’s sixtieth anniversary with our 60 Reasons for 60 Years series, where you can hear from current students, alumni, staff, and faculty about what makes Heller a unique experience.

21. “Everybody at Heller wants everyone else to succeed. My classmates would say, ‘I want you to be whatever you want to be in the world. I’m going to cheer you on.’ That spirit— it’s what the world needs. It touched me in a deep way. I am changed forever because I have these people in my life.” Megan Casey, MA COEX’18
22. “Literally in my first class at Heller, which was with Janet Boguslaw, I learned this language around asset building, the racial wealth gap and the hidden welfare state. It was an amazing experience.”  Alexandra Bastien, MPP’12
23. “I chose Heller because I was interested in an interdisciplinary approach. I wanted to think about the issues I was interested in in a broader context, and I’ve had that opportunity—to think about how education and discipline connect with health, mental health, housing, poverty and equity issues.” Joanna Taylor, PhD candidate
24. “At Heller, there’s the opportunity to be proactive and create your own path through the programs. I leveraged what professors had to offer with their experiences, had the experience of teaching and grading, and took advantage of being in Boston to work with NGOs there.” Rebecca Herrington, MA SID/COEX’14
25. “My dissertation experience was wonderful. As the first person in my family to graduate college, I appreciated the fact that my professor encouraged someone like me to write a book, even though it was hard. It meant a lot to me.” Carol Hardy-Fanta, PhD’91
26. “Heller’s a unique environment. I lit a match and it started a fire. I don’t think I could have found that anywhere else.” Isaac Cudjoe, MA COEX’19
27. “Through a combination of academic and real-world experiences during my time at Heller, I became more attuned to the role that government can play in addressing social determinants of health and other upstream factors that can improve population health and reduce inequities.” Fran Hodgins, MBA/MPP’18
28. “I chose to come to Heller because of the international focus and the diversity. The connections have been the best part of my experience so far. It’s given me new perspectives of different places in the world I’ll never go.” Tomesha Campbell, MA SID/COEX’19
29. “I got more than I expected at Heller. Everything from the classes and the professors, to the optional training in Excel, to the Career Development Center staff and website.” Farida Mushi, MS GHPM’16
30. “Heller students are among the most progressive crowds I’ve ever been with.” Alain Lempereur, Director of the COEX program
31. “I realized, to shift paradigms we were witnessing with respect to economic fragmentation, I needed to have the tools to champion all the outcomes I’d like to see and that’s what led me to Heller.” Ricky Ochilo, MPP/MBA’15
32. “With my interest in Heller specifically, I really appreciated the grounded focus on social inclusion and social justice. What drew me to the specific Assets and Inequality Concentration was Tom Shapiro and the work that he does on toxic inequality, and focusing not specifically on just wealth employment but also asset attainment.” Aaron Colemen, PhD Candidate
33. “I chose Brandeis because of the programs here at Heller. They were really attractive to me, as I want to work with people in my home country to bring a change in mindset.” Sita Leota, MA SID’20
34. “The writing quality that I got from the Heller program— writing memos and policy analyses— distinguished me from the other candidates for the job.” Todd Swisher, MPP’16
35. “I’ve seen the school’s commitment to social justice and also how diverse the classroom is. It’s the first time for me that I’m in a place where I see so many other Asian-American women too, so I feel like it’s a great place for my learning, and I also feel more at home.” Chibo Shinagawa, MS GHPM’19
36. “Heller’s curriculum, faculty, staff, and students prepared me well to work directly with senior-level financial and strategic decision makers.” Roger Perez, MBA/MA SID’16
37. “Our students are really, really good at going into a situation, understanding it in a sensitive way, using data-driven analysis to develop objective solutions and figuring out how an organization can implement it. That is a suite of very valuable skills.” Carole Carlson, MBA Program Director
38. “The practicum option was attractive because international development is something that’s so dependent on experience. The opportunity to spend the second year traveling and working and getting exposure was really valuable.” Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano, MA SID’17 
39. “I’ve made very good connections through both Heller and UPEACE. You meet such genuinely wonderful people who have a similar mindset of mutual support, from all over the world.” Kyla Graves, COEX/ILHR’19
40. “We’re trained at Heller to not just pursue business opportunities, but to take on the harder challenge, which is always to look at the social impact of business on our team, on our community, on our economy.” Brenna Schneider, MBA’12

Look out for our final post in this series coming soon!

Changing the World 101: Labor Income, Labor Power, and Labor Markets

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Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I’ve enjoyed all of my courses at Heller, and it would be impossible to choose a favorite. That said, one of the best things about Heller is the option to take module courses, half-semester classes which offer a chance to explore a more specialized topic in what is typically a small seminar setting. In my first semester at Heller, I chose to take “Labor Income, Labor Power, and Labor Markets,” co-taught by Professor Robert Kuttner and Dean David Weil. I found this course so engaging and informative that it is hard to believe, in retrospect, that it only met for seven weeks! While adding a fifth class for half a semester made my finals period quite intense, it was 100% worth it.

Part of my motivation for pursuing an MPP, and the Heller MPP in particular, was that this type of degree seemed like the ideal combination of academic subjects including history, political science, and economics, all in the service of gaining skills needed to analyze and advocate for effective and just policies. This course reflected that balance perfectly. It combined discussions of the economics of labor markets, lectures on the history of the labor movement (including lots of colorful and inspiring stories), and reflections from students on their own experiences with work and labor issues in a multinational context. Professor Kuttner provided insights from his time as a journalist covering labor issues and politics, while Dean Weil drew upon examples from his time in the Department of Labor and from his research related to the “fissured workplace.” Both were incredibly engaging and entertaining as professors. We also had the chance to hear from visiting scholars of labor history and economics. This meant that the course, while firmly grounded in history, also drew upon the direct experiences of our instructors and their work on contemporary research and policy challenges.

While I have been interested for quite a while in activism and social justice advocacy, this course helped me to see social movements in the context of political economy and to use analytical tools to assess and understand their impact. The chance to draw lessons from history and gain an understanding of how labor organizing can influence policy outcomes was very influential in helping me to hone my interests, which lie in the realm of workforce development and education policy. This course represents what I think is special about Heller – the opportunity to explore themes of social justice and equity in an academically rigorous, critical, and collaborative fashion. I am thankful that I chose to take a chance on a fifth course last semester – don’t forget to check for interesting modules at Heller!

Why Choose Heller? 60 Reasons for 60 Years! (Part 1)

Since our founding in 1959, Heller faculty, students, researchers, staff, and alumni have remained united by a vision of “knowledge advancing social justice” and a commitment to rigorous research and engagement with policymakers, practitioners and recipients of social policies, as well as academics. To celebrate our 60th anniversary, we’ll be sharing sixty messages from students, alumni, faculty, and staff over the next few weeks.

1. “I’ve never experienced the support that the staff gives the students at any other higher education institution, and for that, I will always be grateful.” Nicole Rodriguez, MPP’14
2. “We always treat the person as the number-one priority when we’re dealing with any issues, be they academic, personal or professional. And we make sure to link them to the resources they need.” Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Services
3. “Heller was where I first understood health policy, its links to global health, and the social justice issues around global health. Heller helped me choose a focus on research to provide rigorous evidence that health policymakers can use to make meaningful decisions.” Adeyemi Okunogbe, MS GHPM’12 
4. “My education at Heller, including a deeper understanding of economic, political and sociological theories, coupled with skills in statistics and research methods, has given me a distinct advantage.” Antoinette Hays, PhD’90
5. “Having classmates from all over the world helps you to get rid of some of the biases you have.” Shadi Sheikhsaraf, MA SID/COEX ’17
6. “I was drawn in by Heller’s social justice focus. I didn’t want to have to do a more traditional graduate program and translate that to the work I wanted to do. I wanted to be around people who cared about the same things I cared about.” Maryse Pearce, MBA/MPP’18
7. “My Heller cohort continues to be my extended family and professional network. I frequently reach out to individuals or groups to inquire about specific topics and I’m always amazed by the overwhelming support.” Rodrigo Moran, MA SID’16
8. “The students are enormously dedicated and engaged. I was thinking, during orientation, that it kind of feels like a family, and that’s wonderful, especially when you are dealing with such difficult issues and topics.” Pamina Firchow, Associate Professor
9. “At Heller, social justice is in the DNA.” Michael Levine, PhD’85
10. “Heller not only had the SID program, but also the environmental conservation concentration that I wanted. My coursework at Heller and summer internship are preparing me to address sustainable energy challenges in Africa from a global perspective.” Abdishakur Ahmed, MA SID’20
11. “Our community is passionate about local and global social justice, and we have a strong academic purpose.” Maria Madison, Associate Dean for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
12. “Heller sends grads out with the tools to understand data and models, and also with the skills to understand whether a policy is going to help people or hurt people.” Brian Kennedy, MPP’16
13. “I just had a great experience at Heller. The faculty, the students — the community was fantastic.” Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD’77
14. “The most important thing I took away from Heller was the way I approach my work. As someone passionate about social change, I bring a much stronger equity lens to every aspect of my work as a result of my time at Heller. I also feel more confident, more organized, and generally more impactful in my work processes.” Analissa Iversen, MBA/MPP’16
15. “The professors are very approachable, they’re always telling us to come visit them, and they really make themselves available.” Dahiana Loaiza, MS GHPM ’14/MA SID ’21
16. “I’m really, really happy here, with how much I’m learning and seeing everything from other perspectives,” she says. “My professors are convinced there’s a resolution for everything. A lot of us came from war zones, where people just gave up. They show us different ways to do things and what’s possible.” Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, MA COEX’19
17. “Through a combination of academic and real-world experiences during my time at Heller, I became more attuned to the role that government can play in addressing social determinants of health and other upstream factors that can improve population health and reduce inequities.” Fran Hodgins, MBA/MPP’18
18. “I went into Heller to pursue what I was most passionate about and learned things I knew nothing about before, like organizational theory with Jody Hoffer Gittell.” Anne Douglass, PhD’09
19. “Heller helped me to understand the theories behind what I was doing in my work. At Heller, you meet a lot of inspiring people and you learn the way they have done things in their own countries. I now understand the problems in Nigeria, the challenges to young people in America, the struggles around gender identities in India.” Qaisar Roonjha, MA SID’19 
20. “I chose to attend Heller to be part of a community of policymakers intent on incorporating social justice into every aspect of their work.” Billierae Engelman, MPP’19

Stay tuned for part 2 and part 3, coming up over the next few weeks!

Deciding on a Dual Degree: Sami Rovins’ Perspective

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

I began my time at Heller as a Conflict Resolution and Coexistence student, but quickly realized I wanted to pursue a degree in Global Health Policy and Management as well: I am extremely interested in the intersection of conflict management, gender, and sexual health, and in the future, I hope to work with women and girls in conflict zones to address their sexual and reproductive health needs.  I feel confident that earning degrees in both COEX and GHPM will further this goal and will allow my knowledge in these fields to expand even greater.  I love that I have the opportunity at Heller to blend the curriculums of the COEX and GHPM programs and that I have the chance to tailor each program to fit my professional goals and interests. 

When I was first considering adding a dual degree, I wasn’t sure if the GHPM and COEX programs even made sense together: the two degrees seemed completely different from each other, and I was worried about how the dual degree would work, or how it might be viewed by future employers. Luckily, I had Heller faculty to ask a million questions about it. Sarah LaMorey, COEX’s practicum coordinator, was incredibly helpful and encouraging of my idea to pursue a dual degree. Sandy Jones was also a great resource; she is the Executive Director of Global Programs (COEX, SID, and MS-GHPM), in addition to being one of my professors. With the encouragement and positivity of Heller faculty on my side, I became much more confident in my goal of pursuing a dual degree, and feel more confident that combining these two degrees will propel me forward in my chosen career.  I really appreciate having the chance to combine two degrees which truly seemed completely different from each other at first. 

I do still feel nervous, though, about starting the Global Health Policy and Management portion of my dual degree in the Fall. I have never studied medicine or health policy, and science has never been a subject I’m particularly good at, so I know it may be an academic struggle for me at times. I am especially nervous about understanding statistics and analyzing data – I’m not exactly a numbers person! Even still, I feel confident that the GHPM degree will bolster the knowledge and experience I have already gained from COEX in a way that is crucial towards advancing my career aspirations. 

As my year as a COEX student is now coming to an end, I am looking forward to starting my journey as a GHPM student. I know it will be quite a challenge, especially as someone without a background in science or medicine. Luckily, I already know what I can expect from Heller – a supportive cohort, excellent professors, and challenging, enlightening classes. 

Changing the World 101: Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Choosing my favorite class at Heller so far is not an easy task, but one course, in particular, does come to mind. Professor Nanako Tamaru’s class, “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding” was an excellent course for so many reasons. First, I appreciated the class size. Most classes at Heller are relatively small, but Nanako’s course had only 11 students enrolled. As a result, “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding” felt particularly intimate and personal, and allowed for even more equal participation among the students. Although it was technically a COEX course, I was the only COEX student there, and my classmates came from a variety of programs at Heller; I really appreciated the differences in perspective that this fostered and encouraged.

The course began in module 2 of my second semester at Heller, the same time quarantine was beginning. Virtual learning hasn’t been easy for me, but Nanako’s class was engaging, challenging, and fun, despite the difficult circumstances. She was able to conduct the class with so much enthusiasm and an eye for detail. Nanako was conscious and considerate of the difficulties her students faced as we suddenly transitioned to online learning, and I always felt comfortable asking for the help or clarity I needed. Nanako managed to turn a potentially rough and tricky transition into an opportunity to engage deeply with her students. Nanako was always happy and eager to illuminate the course with her own professional experience and knowledge.

Most classes at Heller have many assignments intended to be worked on as a group of students, but “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding” mainly focused on individual assignments. Although I do usually enjoy group work, I loved the variety in the individual assignments we were given. Our assignments included writing an op-ed, as well as giving a presentation on anything that interested us relating to women and security. I also loved the freedom Nanako gave us in choosing what we each wrote our op-ed on, which gave me the opportunity to explore in greater detail the topics that were most relevant to me, my interests, and career choices; I decided to write about how women from the lowest caste in Indian society are on the vanguard of creating radical change in South Asia. Nanako published everyone’s op-eds on the class’s website, which fostered an even greater sense of accomplishment. And now I have the experience of constructing and writing an op-ed under my belt!

In the end, Nanako’s course taught me how and why women need to be incorporated into all aspects of peacebuilding and development. Without women’s inclusion and participation, the programs we design and implement as practitioners will simply be ineffective. As someone who intends to focus on women’s health as my career moves forward, this lesson was especially important and impactful. Although there are many other classes at Heller that left a profound impression on me, Professor Nanako’s “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding” was absolutely one of the most challenging, helpful, and enjoyable courses I’ve taken as a grad student.

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