Category: Career Development (page 1 of 4)

Health at Heller

It’s no secret that Heller is a top school for students interested in health policy or healthcare management. We’re proud to be ranked in the the top ten of U.S. News and World’s Report of graduate schools for health policy and management, placing at #8 on their list for 2023 (to paraphrase Beyoncé, “Top ten and we ain’t number ten”). There are so many wonderful faculty and students working on health policy, healthcare management, and healthcare systems at Heller that it might be a little overwhelming to figure out where you might fit in. Today, I’ve compiled a list of the programs and concentrations that focus on health at Heller so that you can find the right one for you!

Master of Public Policy: The MPP degree at Heller has not one, but two concentrations that focus on health & healthcare. The Health Policy concentration prepares students to address persistent problems in access, cost and quality. Areas of focus include health care delivery system reform, improvements in the social determinants of health and enacting improvements through state and national health care reform. Students in the Behavioral Health Policy concentration focus on the intersection of health, behavior, and systems of care, working to improve these systems in order to promote healthier lifestyles and assist individuals to engage in behaviors which lead to better health.

Social Impact MBA: The Healthcare Management concentration in our Social Impact MBA program prepares students to make an impact in today’s complex, ever-changing U.S. healthcare landscape. Whether you’re interested in addressing racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic healthcare disparities or developing strategies for cost reduction, with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Heller, you can contribute your expertise and insight as a manager, researcher, policy analyst or advisor working for a government agency, nonprofit or consultancy.

Master of Science in Global Health Policy and Management: Heller’s 9-month MS in Global Health Policy and Management program offers two concentrations: the Health Systems concentration and a STEM-designated concentration in Health Economics and Analytics. Regardless of the concentration, students graduate with a holistic understanding of health system design and function, so they’re prepared to design systems that will improve health outcomes for people around the world. 

PhD in Social Policy: The PhD program at Heller also has two concentrations that focus on health policy and health systems. The Health concentration in Heller’s PhD program prepares graduates for challenging careers developing research and policy that influence the quality, accessibility, financing and delivery of healthcare in the United States and globally. The Behavioral Health concentration prepares graduates for research and policy careers that focus on the intersection and linkage of health, behavior, and systems of care, targeting alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues.

Students in these programs benefit from access to the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy and Research, which conduct more than two-thirds of the outside-funded research at the Heller School and are the largest research institutes within Brandeis University, examining a variety of issues in the U.S. healthcare system, including access, quality, healthcare, delivery and utilization, and cost.

My Summer Internship Story

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

“Work all winter so you can have fun all summer” or whatever the kids are saying nowadays… was not my experience this summer! Since my sophomore year of high-school, I’ve challenged myself to obtain an internship during my summer breaks. Internships grant students the opportunity to showcase their soft skills, but also gives the chance to learn new skills. It provides the opportunity to gain real life work experience that is transferable to your future career goals and even in the classroom.

For the Master of Public Policy program here at Heller, it is highly recommended to do an internship over the summer for the reasons stated above and many others. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Department of Revenue – Child Support Enforcement  Division at the Metro office in Downtown Boston Government Center area. The Department of Revenue (DOR)  in Massachusetts manages the states taxes and child support. In addition to this, DOR  helps cities and towns manage their finances and administer the Underground Storage Tank program. The main focus of this agency is rulings and regulations, tax policy analysis, communications and legislative affairs.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE)  Division provides tools and services to parents who pay child support and parents and caretakers who receive child support. Child support is a way for parents to share financial responsibility for their child even though they do not live together.  Even though I have previous experience in social/human services, the child support office was just a place I knew no parent wanted to be summoned too. The stereotyping around child support is that the state just wants to take your money and give it to a person that you no longer want to have any connections with whatsoever. Yet the person you no longer want to have relations with is now either the mother or father of your child or children, sealing that connection for life. So who is really at fault? Certainly not the child, so the DOR steps in. In the past year the division has allocated $2 million in compensation for children in Massachusetts.

My work was very clear, transparent, and extremely eye-opening. I worked from home Mondays and Fridays and hopped the orange line train Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  As I have stated in previous blogs, I have learned to attend new experiences with minimal  preconceived notions and expectations, especially with the work I would be doing and the customers I would interact with. I was tasked with a two part summer project which required me to take a deep dive into our GMT testing process. GMT Testing in “normal people terms” is paternity testing in order to establish paternity between the child and alleged father.  All parties, alleged father, mother, and child have to participate in paternity testing.  The first part of the project, I spent time conducting data analysis using Excel about variations in our appointment attendance and testing result rates. I was able to provide Regional Directors with data that would help them meet their testing goals for the fiscal year. This part was daunting, to say the least, because I had minimal Excel experience beforehand but my supervisor never held that against me and trained me efficiently on how to navigate it. I wouldn’t say I am an Excel guru now but I certainly obtained good Excel skills.

For the second part of my project, I conducted a phone survey with mothers who were on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or formerly receiving TANF about their experiences with the GMT test process. I chose TANF mothers as my sample population because majority of child support case referrals are directly from our DTA offices. I called 90 mothers in hopes they would participate in my survey, and I received a response from 37 mothers, which, for me, was huge because I had never conducted a phone survey, and because I did not know if these women would even want to participate. I was able to gather information regarding trouble with scheduling of appointments, problems accessing the testing location, and concerns with our policies. Being able to hear these mothers stories and concerns made me feel extremely anxious, because I am a public policy student who is currently trying to break into this system. However, the system was already established in a way where all I could say to mothers who expressed concerns I was not trained for was, “I will take down your information and pass it along.” I sympathized with these mothers as a child whose mother applied to receive child support, yet rarely was given anything. I was able to present these findings in a final presentation followed by my personal recommendations to CSE regional directors who were very pleased with the results. However, I can not tell you if they will follow through with the feedback and recommendations. Maybe it will be a blog for another time? I hope!

To close out, I can say I was very proud of the work I was able to produce, the skills I was able to learn, and the people I connected with over the course of my summer.  I enjoyed my work so much that I switched my concentration from Economic and Racial Equity to Child, Youth, and Family Policy (CYF). I felt that the CYF concentration would be able to provide me with the tools to that would foster a healthy development of children, youth, and families a concentration that I honestly should of started with from the begin of my graduate school journey. Better late then never, right? Excited to see what this concentration entails as I approach my final year of grad school. Thank you, DOR, for an amazing summer and thank you, Heller, for providing me with the tools to succeed in that space!

 

Flash Forward: What are Heller graduates doing right now?

Every three months, a magazine appears in my mailbox. It’s not one I subscribed to, and most of the time, I have no idea what to expect in terms of the articles inside. But it’s one that I look forward to reading: The Brandeis magazine.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard about the Heller magazine (shout out to Heller’s amazing communications team!), but you might not realize that Brandeis puts out a magazine every quarter too. And unlike what I’m sure of the majority of recipients do (leaf through a few pages, read an article or two that catches their eye, reads the class news for their class), I can proudly say that I read each Brandeis magazine cover to cover. My favorite part, however, might not be what you’d expect. Even though I myself never attended Brandeis, and even though the articles for Brandeis magazine are always fascinated, I love the class news section.

I love it because I get a glimpse of what some of our Heller graduates are up to. You see, once students enroll, we hand them off to their program directors, professors, advisors, and program managers. Sure, a current student or even an alumni might occasionally stop by to chat with us, but for the most part, once a student is enrolled, we fall off the radar. Reading through the class news lets me know what became of the shy prospective SID student I talked to at a graduate school fair, or the PhD applicant whose statement of purpose blew me away.

Today, I thought it might be helpful to share some updates from Heller’s graduates: not so that you can catch up with them, as I do, but so you can get a sense of where you might be post-Heller.

Medani Bhandari, SID’04, is a professor and advisor to the chancellor at Gandaki University (Nepal), professor at Sumy State University (Ukraine), and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Akamai University (Hawaii, USA).

Jill Baren, MBA’19, is the 14th president (and first woman president) of Lake Forest College.

Devan Quinn, MPP’17, is director of policy at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation.

Jeanette Takamura, PhD’85, is a professor and dean emerita of the Columbia School of Social Work, where she served as the School’s first female dean. Dr. Takamura served as the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1997 to 2001.

Javaid Iqbal Sofi, MA SID/MS GHPM’21, is a fellow at the Harvard Public Health Review.

Leandre Waldo, MBA’02, is the chief of staff for the president of Saint Michael’s College.

Emmanuel Obasuyi, MS GHPM’15, is building a mobile-first electronic health record system for healthcare providers in emerging markets, which is being piloted in Nigeria.

Michael Ames, PhD’15, is president and CEO of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Alliance, a human-service organization. He’s also the president of the Massachusetts Association of Approved Special Education Schools’ board.

Jessica Sanon, MBA’18, founded sySTEMic Flow, a nonprofit which works to break down barriers for BIPOC women who study or work in STEM fields.

Amanda Kiessel, SID’03, is the co-creator of Good Market, a marketplace commons that makes it easier to connect with social enterprises, civic organizations, and businesses working to create a better world.

Andy’s Second Year Fall Schedule

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

On August 25th, I will officially be starting my second – and final – year of graduate school. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed so quickly! As a dual degree student, my schedule this fall looks a lot different from my single degree peers. 

In the Social Impact MBA, the courses follow a strict sequence. Through this format, the concepts build on each other as we progress through the course load. It also means that we go through the core courses together as a cohort, building a strong sense of camaraderie along the way. In contrast, the design of the MA in Sustainable International Development (SID) program has a bit more flexibility and freedom. While students are required to take courses in required subject matter (Gender, Economics, Ethics, and Environment), students have a selection of courses they can choose from to fulfill these requirements. SID students also have the freedom to choose in what order they take these courses. This greater ability to tailor your schedule also means that you are less likely to be in class with the same students course after course. I’ve found that I need to be a lot more intentional when it comes to building relationships with students in my SID cohort. Another distinction between the MBA and MA-SID course design is the length of courses. MBA courses are almost entirely full semester, meaning students are able to get very deep and granular with the material. In contrast, most SID courses are modules – essentially half-semester courses. This means SID students are able to get exposed to many more topics, but are unable to do the kind of deep-dive that is possible in a semester-length course. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other – it’s all about maximizing the advantages inherent in each program.

This semester, my classes primarily meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00-11:50am. Earlier in the week, I will be taking the final two classes of my MBA degree – Human Resources Management and Evaluation for Managers (a module course). When Evaluation for Managers comes to an end mid-way through the semester, I will start Applied Cost-Benefit Analysis for Development Practitioners. I’ll also have a Friday afternoon class and, in the second half of the semester, I’ll have a Wednesday evening course. My Friday courses are Gender and the Environment in the morning followed by Ethics, Rights, and Development in the afternoon from 2:20-5:10pm. My Wednesday evening course will be an Introduction to GIS and will take place from 6:30-9:20pm – I may need to become a coffee drinker to make it through! 

The biggest difference between this fall semester and my first fall semester is that I will also be interning with the Social Innovation Forum! Since MBA students complete their capstone projects in the summer between their first and second years, students have the option of completing a part-time internship in their second fall. Although it’s not required, an internship is a great experiential learning and networking opportunity. Students who complete a fall internship receive both academic credit AND a stipend. The time commitment for the internship is about 10 hours a week and many, at the moment, are done partly or entirely remotely. My internship with the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) will involve research support for the organization’s new national leadership initiative. I’m looking forward to learning more about SIF’s approach to social change and networking building among nonprofit practitioners. Overall, I’m really satisfied with my fall course schedule and am excited for this next leg of my graduate school journey to begin. 

Daniella’s Got a New Job!

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

As I’m writing this, it is my last day with Heller Admissions. I graduated with my Master of Public Policy degree on May 22, 2022 and have been lucky to continue working for admissions while I job search. Well, search no further! As of August 1, I will be starting as a Research Associate for the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. According to the job posting: “The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies is an academic research center that conducts rigorous policy relevant research about Jewish life and the Jewish community.” Heller has prepared me for this role in numerous ways; today, I thought it might be helpful for prospective students and applicants to see how Heller classes correspond to actual job skills.

Here are some of the Primary Responsibilities, Skills, and Experience listed in the job posting and how Heller helped me prepare for this job:

Participate in all phases of complex research projects including design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of results AND Assist with survey writing, programming, testing, and administration

In my first semester at Heller, I took a research methods course that walked us through best practices for data accrual. All of our assignments pushed us to create and evaluate survey tools and proposals.

For quantitative researchers: Expertise in statistical software packages (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Stata, R). Familiarity with Stata statistical software and its syntax language is strongly preferred; For quantitative researchers: Demonstrated research experience in survey design, administration, and analysis; Summarize study results through charts, graphs, and presentations; AND Experience with cleaning, validating, and manipulating data

Before two semesters of Applied Regression Analysis and Applied Econometrics, I would have never told you I was interested in pursuing a career in research. It is a vast world of numbers and syntax; a world that pre-Heller me wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole.  However, through these courses I’ve found immense fascination manipulating and cleaning data for my own benefit. To see the data align and measure the statistical impact of various social determinants has underscored the work I’ve done over the last two years in graduate school. It’s brought meaning and evidence to the cause I hope to champion and the work that needs to be done. Is STATA my best friend? Not yet, but I’m excited to grow these skills more in my new role and appreciate the courses that provided me with a solid foundation in quantitative research.

Assist in proposal development AND Experience as a task and project supervisor and/or manager

The semester-long capstone project both empowers and challenges students to create and facilitate their own research. From the proposal, to the report, to the presentation, we were solely in charge of the management and success of our capstone.

Conduct literature searches and reviews; Strong and effective written and verbal communication skills; AND Assist in the writing and editing of reports, journal articles, and presentations for both academic and lay audiences

The assignments for the MPP program are structured to imitate tasks you may be asked to complete in a policy-centered job. As such, each paper, blog post, literature review, project proposal, and analysis report I wrote over the last two years are all relevant to this new job. Each one helped me curate a succinct style and confident voice.

Demonstrated ability to work as part of a team, foster consensus, and collaborate with individuals and organizations with a range of interests and perspectives

Every class either requires or encourages group participation; something I was dreading about graduate school. However, again I was proven wrong. In college, a group project meant uneven work dispersal, varying commitment levels, and subsequent late nights. Group facilitation at Heller fostered collaboration. It showed me how to play to people’s strengths, learn from my peers, and identify my place on a team. It proved that group work is not only beneficial, but essential to successful work environments.

For qualitative researchers: Schedule and conduct telephone and in-person interviews, focus groups, and site visits AND Demonstrated research experience conducting interviews, focus groups and/or participant observation

And finally, a quick shout out to Heller Admissions. Over the last year and a half, I have been lucky to work on my interpersonal skills, through conducting interviews and responding to inquiries on all things Heller. This job has taught me how to conduct a tactful and appropriate interview,  liaise with our community, and engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue.

I am most thankful for my experience at Heller and look forward to continue to grow the foundations set in place by my graduate school experience in my career to come.

Daniella’s Internship Experience

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Last summer, I had the privilege to serve as a Policy Intern for the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (you can find tips and tricks on how to secure a summer internship here).  A year into CAREs funding from the federal government, the department continued to hear from partner agencies that a subpopulation of renters in Massachusetts could not access support. Known as encargados, these tenants were not listed on a lease and therefore, did not exist in the eyes of the law. This made them ineligible for CAREs support. Most landlords are unaware that these individuals even live on their property, as tenants sign the leases and then rent the space (often at a higher rate) to others. Tenants needed to secure landlord approval to attain rent assistance during the pandemic.

As a Policy Intern, my primary responsibility was to explore and research this issue and propose a policy recommendation to the entire department at the conclusion of my internship. I started by reviewing the current housing policies in Massachusetts and conducting a preliminary search on state-level protocols. After understanding the landscape, I interviewed key stakeholders and partner agencies on the ground to find out their perspectives on best practices. This was not only an invaluable step, but necessary in the process. A policy maker can suggest and implement what they may think is best, but without community input and support, the policy will not succeed.  Once I collected all the pertinent information, I met with colleagues to both brainstorm and process as a collective.  Finally, I aggregated all of the data and produced a recommendation for the department to use as a foundation for any official decision on how to best support encargados.

Going into the internship, I felt a bout of imposter syndrome. Who was I to recommend a state policy? Yet, by the end of my two months with the department, I was the expert on the matter. I soon came to realize that the purpose of my work was less about the actual syntax of the recommendation, and more about exposing this gap in Massachusetts’s housing policy.  This was not just a classroom simulation or assignment, I was in the field working on a recommendation that could benefit hundreds of people. A majority of people in the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development were unaware of this housing inequity and being able to champion it for the state was an honor and a unforgettable experience.

A Letter to My Past Self on Her First Day at Heller: Ariel Wexler

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Dear Past Ariel,

I imagine right now you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what the next 2 years at The Heller School will hold. Right now, it’s a few months into the pandemic, and there’s so much uncertainty in the world. I know now that you will spend the first year of your studies telecommuting from Los Angeles in your childhood bedroom. Despite waking up at 6 AM for your Leadership and Organizational Behavior class, you are quite comfortable taking long walks to the beach, dipping your head in the water as you count your blessings and begin the journey that is graduate school.  You’re just a few months out of the Peace Corps, having been evacuated from Guatemala in your last month of service. The borders of Guatemala have been closed off to foreigners since March and it is unsure when the pandemic will subside…if ever. I know as you begin your studies you are worried about achieving academic success in a rigorous business curriculum and how you will adjust and reintegrate into US culture with your peers.

Thanks to your hard work and dedication, you will successfully graduate in May 2022 with two masters degrees. Although the workload and courses were indeed challenging, you end up excelling in your studies and enjoying the process. When you started your program, you were interested in the possibility of integrating your interests in the intersection of international economic development and social enterprise as part of your experiential Team Consulting project capstone. You came out as a leader in your studies, and even planned a field research and discovery trip with your connections to the specialty coffee company Chica Bean for 9 students consulting with them over the summer of 2021. Even though the field trip occurs in your third semester of your studies, it will be in Guatemala that you meet members of your cohort for the first time in person. You have heard this countless times from friends and family: graduate school is about the network, and you will be elated to know that you make great solid connections with students from all over the world.  It makes the transition to being a student and to the US so much easier. Your second year residence in Waltham ends up being with a group of Peace Corps and Americorps alumni.

You will participate in the Heller Start-Up challenge your second year and win second place for a seaweed venture idea and go on to win first place in the Spark competition in February. Throughout this experience you will learn a great deal about entrepreneurship and be introduced to the business ecosystem of Boston. My advice to you would be to take a deep breath and enjoy every moment of the experience, and continue to invest deeply in education and people. Your hard-working and organized nature will continue to help you throughout your education. In addition to learning valuable skills you will progress in developing your confidence and better understanding your assets as a young professional. Continue to navigate the world with integrity and passion.

Good luck!

Future Ariel

Andy’s Team Consulting Experience Part II

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

The first time I heard about The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Belize and their partnership with the Belize Women’s Seaweed Farmers Association (BWFSA) was during the presentations at the TCP Fair. I lingered a bit in their breakout room during the Q&A portion of the event. As the President of BWFSA addressed our questions, I was immediately drawn in by the focus on female entrepreneurship and alternative livelihoods within the regional context of Central America. The immediate surge of excitement I felt was followed by abrupt hesitation. As much as I recognized the value of having a TCP option that complimented my professional focus in international development, I did not have an agriculture or environmental science background. I wondered, was it wise to take on a project outside my area of expertise? How would this project be relevant to my future career path? Would I have the right skills to contribute? At the end of the event, I decided to pursue my interest in other organizations, but The Nature Conservancy was always in the back of my mind. 

That was back in mid-March. Fast forward a month or so later and, at this point, it’s deep into Spring semester. I’m fully aware that the weeks left to choose a TCP team and commit to a TCP project are rapidly dwindling. 

There wasn’t really one moment that made my decision clear – it was the accumulation of several moments, both big and small, that reinforced one another. As I sat in class one morning, I reflected on these moments and realized I already had all the information I needed. I decided I couldn’t go wrong leaning into the incredible relationships I’d built here at Heller, and I knew I would regret not taking advantage of the space to explore and stretch myself professionally. Right there, at the start of our 10 minute break, I opened the “TCP Orgs” spreadsheet and wrote “Andy (1)” in the fourth space next to “The Nature Conservancy.” With now the minimum number of students signed-up, TNC Belize project was officially a TCP team! 

Like the Chica Bean TCP Teams before us, our group was able to secure funding to conduct field research and begin building relationships with our stakeholders in person. On May 16th, our team traveled first to Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s offshore islands, where we spoke with local entrepreneurs and professionals in the ecotourism industry. These conversations gave us an important perspective on the current business environment in Belize as well as the challenges facing marine conservation efforts. Next, we headed to San Ignacio, a town near the border with Guatemala. There we interviewed entrepreneurs who helped us understand the extent of Belize’s reliance on foreign imports and the implications this has on the production and sale of seaweed products in markets outside the country. In Belize City, we met with Saleem Chan, a Mariculture Specialist with The Nature Conservancy who is also serving as our primary facilitator. We met Saleem at the headquarters of the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), whose staff are dedicated to the management of marine reserves. Saleem sat down with us and described the history of seaweed agriculture in Belize as well as the current landscape of stakeholders involved in the industry. After leaving Belize City, we headed to Placencia, where the BWFSA members live. We spent a week meeting with several of them and getting a better sense of the culture in Placencia. Our fieldwork culminated with a trip to Hatchet Caye, where we saw the seaweed farms firsthand and learned the basics of farm maintenance. 

Now, it’s summer semester and we are officially moving full-speed ahead with our project! I am so grateful to be working alongside my brilliant teammates Gabi Rufo, MBA/SID’22, Beck Hayes, MBA/SID’22, Douglass Guernsey, MBA’22, and Shiko Rugene, MBA/MPP’23. All of us bring a unique set of skills and a nuanced perspective to the project. Thanks to the generosity of the Heller Enrichment Funds and the Office of Graduate Student Affairs, we have already laid significant groundwork for this project. We’re confident that we will come out on the other side with useful and relevant recommendations for the BWFSA and an unparalleled experience for our professional growth.

My Team Consulting Project Experience

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

On May 16, 2022, with a mind full of questions, a heart full of hope, and a suitcase full of island clothing, I boarded a plane with four of my MBA classmates. Destination: Belize City. This wasn’t the start of a “hot girl summer” vacation trip (though we made sure to fit in some much-needed beach time!). Our purpose in Belize was to conduct field research with The Nature Conservancy and the Belize Women Seaweed Farmers Association – two organizations at the forefront of the growing sustainable seaweed mariculture industry in Central America – as part of our Team Consulting Project (TCP). 

Instead of a thesis or practicum, Heller’s Social Impact MBA program culminates in a summer-long capstone project where MBA students form groups and provide consulting services for a client organization looking for support addressing a real-world management issue. This process started months before our plane departed Boston Logan Airport. It actually began mid-way through spring semester when the MBA Administration, headed by Carole Carlson and Larry Bailis, reached out with a survey asking for us to indicate industries and organizations of interest. What started off as a 50+ long list has been whittled down to 5 TCP groups serving 5 dynamic organizations. The selection process officially began with the TCP Fair, a two-hour evening event where organizations pitched themselves and their specific management challenge. From there, our cohort talked amongst ourselves, set up small group meetings with clients of interest, and obsessively monitored our ever-shifting “TCP Orgs” spreadsheet (created by the lovely Laura Burroughs!). 

My experience in the Heller Start-Up Challenge and in the SPARK Business Incubator program inspired an interest in working with early-stage entrepreneurs, especially women and people of color. As a result, I originally gravitated toward the Boston Impact Initiative. At the same time, my prior experience working with Syrian refugees and job-seeking immigrants piqued my interest in the Massachusetts Immigrants and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. Then again, as an RPCV and current student in the dual Social Impact MBA & MA in Sustainable International Development programs, I was eager to use this capstone project to further my experience working with local organizations in emerging markets. I was pulled in so many directions!

Around that time, I learned about a group of (at the time) second year students who had met with their TCP client, a women-owned coffee-centered social enterprise called Chica Bean, on the ground in Guatemala the prior summer with the support of funding from the Heller Enrichment Funds and the Office of Graduate Student Affairs. I was excited to learn that this was a possibility, but was unsure of what international organizations might be a feasible option. 

As the weeks went by, potential teams formed, collapsed, or reshuffled. At times, I felt super excited and hopeful about the upcoming TCP experience. Other times, I felt lost and overwhelmed by all of the options. Sometimes I was anxious. Would I make the right decision? Would I choose poorly and have an awful experience? I knew I had to be strategic, but did that mean prioritizing a project in an industry I had experience in or branching out into something new? I wasn’t sure if it was possible to have it all- the best team and the most epic project – so I zeroed in on identifying solid teammates. 

As I mentioned earlier, that spring I was also participating in weekly workshops with SPARK, an on-campus business accelerator for students who successfully pitched prize-winning start-up concepts at the SPARKTank competition. I was really impressed with the creativity and thoughtfulness of the five MBA cohort members who had also earned a spot in this incubator program. It was easy to imagine conducting a successful TCP project with (some combination of!) these classmates. However, based on our sprawling “TCP Orgs” spreadsheet, each of these classmates was interested in a different organization. Would there be a way for us to come together and agree on a project that suited everyone?

Tune in to my next blog post to see how our team finally formed and how we chose an organization to work with!

Tips: How to find a Graduate Assistantship

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Graduate school is an amazing time to learn new skills, take thought provoking classes and meet fascinating people both on campus and off. I was so excited to get to Heller and get to experience all this, but amongst the excitement, one worry kept popping up in my brain: money. While a wonderful experience, graduate school is definitely also a financial investment, and I was really concerned about earning money while I was in school.

One great way to offset the financial costs of graduate school is to get a graduate assistantship! What exactly is a graduate assistantship (GA)? It is an on-campus job specifically set aside for graduate students, and that generally pays a bit more than the undergraduate jobs. There are GAs in almost every department you can think of: admissions, the career center, the gender and sexuality center and more! GAs also help you to gain some experience in an area you’re interested in, such as research, programming, fundraising etc.

Here are some tips to securing a graduate assistant position!

  • Identify a department you are interested in working with

When thinking about graduate assistantships, it helps to have a specific department in mind you want to work with. I would suggest the summer before you enter school looking up the different departments at Brandeis and figuring out where your passions lie. Once you’ve figured out where you want to work, go ahead and reach out to the department heads on the Brandeis website and see if anything is available! 

 

  • Search for interesting positions on Workday

Workday is the Brandeis jobs website (which you’ll have access to once you enroll) and lists all the available student jobs on campus. Look around the postings and see which ones appeal to you.

 

  • Apply to multiple positions on Workday

You can also apply to the GAs on Workday. It’s a very easy process, but make sure to always include a cover letter that mentions the job you want! Even if it does not require it, it helps you stand out. 

 

  • Prep for your interview

Once you get an interview request, make sure to prep ahead of time by looking at the work the department does that you’re curious about. Also, look at the responsibilities and determine where your experience shows you can do these tasks and what you want to learn more about.

With any luck, after you interview, you’ll hear back from the department! If you don’t get an offer on the first one, try not to get too discouraged — there’s a lot of jobs you can keep applying to. I hope these tips helped and good luck on the job search!

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