Heller Admissions Blog

Demystifying the application process

Tag: Acceptance Story

Hello Heller!: Elizabeth Nguyen’s Acceptance Story

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Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/SID ’20

I found out that I was accepted into the Heller School on my birthday! At that time, I was living in Washington, D.C., working for the federal government. I remember getting onto the green metro line and seeing that I had received the alert that my application status had been updated. My excitement and eagerness meant that I only waited a few days to accept my invitation. In the end, I didn’t even finish the application process for the other two schools I had initially applied to because I had already gotten into my first choice with a great scholarship. It felt like the decision was already made – The Heller School was a school that I wanted to go to and that also wanted me.

Before starting my dual programs, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland (Eswatini), where I ran a social enterprise in rural communities and worked with university students who were interested in starting community-based social enterprises of their own. This introduced me to social impact-driven businesses or social enterprises, essentially what I see as the “good side” of business. As I started looking at various graduate programs, I was searching mostly for MBAs focusing on nonprofit management, social impact, and social entrepreneurship. I was specifically looking at programs where I could gain tangible skills and academic knowledge to support the work that I had done in the field, especially because I wanted to learn the ins and outs of businesses so that I could best support the communities that I had started to work with.

Another factor in my graduate school search was my desire to continue my education at a school that supported Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I looked at schools that had a strong Coverdell Fellows program and a strong community, both at the university level and the local city level. I found that Brandeis had a commitment to RPCVs by offering generous scholarships. I saw that there was a community of service-driven individuals with a commitment to international development and knew that I had found a second home.

During the application process, I had the opportunity to come to the Brandeis campus and visit Heller. The class that I shadowed was Carole Carlson’s social entrepreneurship class and it instantly confirmed that this was where I needed to be. (As I was a student, this ended up being my all-time favorite class at Heller.) Over the summer after my acceptance but before classes started, I decided that I wanted to add the Sustainable International degree as a dual degree. While I was traveling in Belgium with limited service, the MBA Admissions Director at Heller was very accessible and provided me with all of the documents I needed to go through the process. It made me even more confident and excited about my degrees. I felt extremely supported by the Heller staff to help me achieve my dreams.

There are two main decisions in my life that I have never had to second guess – joining the Peace Corps and completing my Social Impact MBA and MA in Sustainable International Development.

Hello Heller!: Doug Nevins’ Acceptance Story

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Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I had considered applying to programs at the Heller School for several years before I actually took the plunge. As an undergraduate alum and Brandeis staff member, Heller was always on my radar, but I wanted to be sure of my interests and goals before committing to graduate school. After considering applying to programs in education policy, law, and international affairs, I decided that an MPP was a perfect mix of interdisciplinary subjects, applicable to my current interests and flexible enough to explore new territory.

Funnily enough, when I received my admission update from Heller I was already on campus at my job in undergraduate admissions. Having been on the other end of sending decision letters for many years as an admissions counselor, it was a great feeling to receive one myself! I was so excited to be admitted to Heller.

Since I already knew the Brandeis community well, I had no doubt that I would enjoy my time at Heller. Still, I tried to learn all that I could. I was really impressed by the enthusiasm and openness of everyone I interacted with at Heller. For instance, after attending an admissions event, I emailed a thank you message to Mike, the MPP program head, who promptly invited me to a book talk at Heller that same evening! I walked up the hill from my office, was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a cocktail hour preceding the talk, and then spent an hour listening to a fascinating lecture about the 2018 midterm elections. In all my conversations with current students there and at other events I attended, everyone was gracious, friendly, and clearly passionate about Heller.

I ultimately chose Heller not only because of my long-term connection to Brandeis and positive associations with the university, but because Heller is its own unique community. The commitment to social justice and inclusion is real, and the academic culture is collaborative and fun in addition to being rigorous and engaging. I have loved my first year at Heller, and feel just as excited as when I first opened that email!

Hello Heller!: Sami Rovins’ Acceptance Story

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Sami Rovins, COEX/MS’21

I was halfway out the front door to go to work when I got the email from Brandeis letting me know there was an update to my application. I held my breath and opened up the application status page. When I saw that I had been accepted to the Heller School, my top choice school, I let out a happy scream so loud it woke up my dog. I was thrilled and immediately called my parents to share the good news. I spent the rest of the morning joyfully texting friends and struggling to contain my excitement while at work. 

The next day, I officially accepted my offer to study at the Heller School. I felt proud, anxious, thrilled, and excited all at the same time. For the past year, I had been envisioning this moment, and it was certainly worth the wait. I felt completely ready in that moment to begin my degree in Conflict Resolution & Coexistence (COEX).  

My journey to Heller had begun almost three years earlier when I first started researching graduate programs and came in contact with Sandy Jones. Sandy is COEX’s Deputy Director, and she was happy to guide me every step of the way for months until I finally submitted my application. I credit Sandy greatly with my decision to study at the Heller School; interacting with her was my first glimpse into how individualized my time at Heller would be. It was clear Sandy cared about me, my interests, and my goals. I felt encouraged knowing Heller could provide this type of graduate school experience. 

Ultimately, I also chose to study at Heller because COEX seemed to be a truly unique program perfectly tailored to what I hoped to focus on in my career, and I knew I wouldn’t find the same degree anywhere else. Having built trust with Sandy Jones and other attentive staff members at Heller, I felt very comfortable in my decision to accept Brandeis’ offer of admission. I could tell I would be joining a true community, not just a degree program. 

I was right – the community at the Heller School serves as friends, colleagues, and mentors to each other. From the start of our orientation, I immediately felt motivated by my classmates and knew I was listened to with genuine interest. We are a kind, caring, funny, and hard-working community at Heller. This was clear to me from the very start, based upon my many, many emails and Skype appointments with Sandy. 

I remember the day I was accepted to the Heller School so vividly, and I still experience that same excitement and joy when I think of my school, my classmates, and my professors now. It was clear to me from the start of my application process that Heller is a place where everyone is welcomed, cared about, and listened to and the Heller School has repeatedly proven itself to be exactly that place.

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