Heller Admissions Blog

Demystifying the application process

Tag: Choosing the Right Graduate Program

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!

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!

Five Tips to Making Your Decision (Without Visiting Campus!)

Brandeis University sign with blooming tulipsAh, spring: when the flowers start blooming across Brandeis’ campus and the weather in Waltham begins to get warmer. Spring is all about new beginnings, and for many working in admissions, it’s one of the most exciting times of the year: when we get to welcome our admitted students to campus.  Back in January, we were gearing up to host hundreds of admitted students to help them make their final decision. For many students, stepping on campus is a lot like falling in love: when it’s right, you just know.

We were able to host two of our six planned Admitted Student Days before the world as we knew it ground to a halt. We’re not alone: all across the country (all across the world!), schools have stopped all campus activities, and students are faced with the challenge of choosing the right program without ever visiting campus.

But there’s good news:  there are many dedicated professionals who are ready and willing to assist you, and a lot of resources available to help you make this big decision. Today, I’m bringing you five ways to get a feel for an institution without ever stepping foot on campus.

  1. Admitted Student Webinars and Virtual Events.  Most colleges have been working overtime to provide students with opportunities to connect with current students or faculty members, so take advantage of this! Heller is currently hosting Housing Chats so that admitted students can connect with current students to ask questions about moving to the Boston area and how to find housing and roommates. We’re also working on creating more virtual content, so keep checking back!
  2. Check out magazines and newsletters. One of the best ways to gain insight into a program is by searching for different perspectives. Magazines, newsletters, and other types of publications aimed at current students or alumni can provide greater insight into a school’s culture. You can find the Heller magazine and our Social Impact Report (which focuses on the ground-breaking research happening at Heller) on our website.
  3. Take a virtual tour (or two). It can be hard to picture yourself on campus without visiting. Luckily, many institutions have been putting a renewed focus on their virtual tours. You can check out Heller’s virtual tour for a detailed look at our building, or the full Brandeis tour to see the rest of our beautiful campus.
  4. Scroll through social media. This is an often-overlooked way to get a feel for a graduate program, but it can be a great resource for trying to determine if the school would be a good fit for you. You should absolutely follow the institution’s social media handles, but also take a look at your program’s and student groups’ social media accounts. Because these have a different target audience, you may get a different insight than you would from just following the institutional account.
  5. Reach out to the admissions staff. Most of our typical spring travel has been canceled, so admissions teams might be even more available than they ordinarily would be this time of year. With many of us working from home, it may be tricky to get someone on the phone right away, but if you send an email, most schools are being very responsive to students’ questions. You can reach Heller Admissions at helleradmissions@brandeis.edu, or visit our contact page to find the email of your program’s admissions contact.

Although it may seem overwhelming, this can be an opportunity to learn even more about the programs that you’re considering. And at the end of the day, remember to trust your gut: you know yourself best! You can make a hundred pros and cons lists, read endless program overviews, and scroll through social media until your thumb aches, but when you’re able to envision yourself on campus and it feels right, don’t be afraid to trust that feeling.

I’m Admitted, Now What?: Choosing the Right Program

Deciding what graduate programs to apply to is hard enough. But deciding what school to attend after you’ve received multiple offers? That can feel almost impossible. Today, I’d like to share some tips to help you choose which graduate school to attend. 

Get your facts straight. Even though you most likely did a significant amount of research when choosing which schools to apply to, now’s the time to dig even deeper. Many programs host Admitted Student Days (although most offerings are currently virtual), or connect accepted prospective students to current students or faculty members in other ways. Take advantage of this opportunity, and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Ask current students what their cost of living is, how available faculty are outside of classroom hours, and what their workload is. Ask faculty what mentorship opportunities exist, what their current research projects are, and what their expectations of their students are. Try to get a feel for what the environment of the program is: is it more collaborative or competitive? What activities are available to students outside of classes? What are the relationships between students and faculty like? Remember that there are no right answers; only what would fit you best. 

Compare financial aid packages. Take a close look at the financial aid packages you’ve been offered. Some packages cover fees, while others don’t. Similar programs can vary in length, so a longer program may end up costing more in the long run, even if they’ve given you a higher scholarship. Some packages or stipends are contingent on being a teaching or research assistant, so factor that in as well. If you live out of state, you might also want to consider the cost of travelling home to visit family during your time in the program. The College Board has a great tool for comparing different financial aid packages, although it is intended for undergraduate programs, so you’ll need to substitute estimated living expenses for room and board, and you’ll want to factor in the length of the program as well. 

Weigh your options. For some students, it comes down to a gut decision. But for the more indecisive among us, it can be helpful to create a spreadsheet that takes into account your priororities. Here’s a sample one that I made to help illustrate this, but remember, the weight that you give each category is totally up to you, and you may have other priorities that I didn’t even list.

College A College B
Factor Score Weight Weighted Score Factor Score Weight Weighted Score
Research Opportunities 10 10% 1 Research Opportunities 9 10% 0.9
Community Feel 6 10% 0.6 Community Feel 8 10% 0.8
Academic Rigor 8 40% 3.2 Academic Rigor 6 40% 2.4
Cost 9 30% 2.7 Cost 7 30% 2.1
Student Life 8 10% 0.8 Student Life 5 10% 0.5

By adding the weighted scores together, you should get a total out of ten. In this example, College A scores an 8.3 out of 10, while College B gets a 6.7. Looks like School A is the place for me!

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)