Tag: Classes at Heller (page 1 of 4)

The Sprint to the Finish Line

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

I see the end. I am in the last half (or Module 2 as Heller lovingly refers to it), of my final year of grad school.  I have less than 6 weeks left, wrapping up a 2 year process in the pursuit of my MS in Global Health Policy and Management, and my MA in Sustainable International Development.

I had this rose-colored ideal of what my final month at graduate school would look like: dancing through a field of spring flowers while socializing with friends and having enough time each day for a midday nap. In this ideal, however, I was not accounting for the triad of a 20 hour a week internship, courses (and a capstone paper), and job applications. Oh, how the mind deceives.

So, in the midst of this chaos – with acute senioritis kicking in – it can feel like you are slowly being lowered into a bubbling vat of assignments with no way to slow the speed at which you descend… a bit dramatic?  Okay, maybe just a bit.

BUT, I am here to tell you – with time management and small goals, you can work to overcome this  impending sense of doom when you too are at this point in your graduate career. Today I present to you (to take or leave as you’d like), some ways in which you can work to proactively stay on top of assignments, especially when lengthy papers are all due the same week.

  1. Do a little each day – even weeks before it’s due. I have found that when I have time, I like to bite off small pieces of monster papers. So, when I wake up early I may work on a paper for just 30 minutes to write even a paragraph or two. For me, the hardest part of doing an assignment can actually be starting it, so this helps with that roadblock. It does not seem like much, but you will thank yourself later when almost half of the paper is written before the time crunch sets in. It also allows you to brainstorm when not working on the paper over a couple of weeks, instead of days.
  2. Set a time for your mind to rest. If you have read my other blogs, or know me at all, you will know I am a morning person, which means that bt the end of the day I am hardly capable of following a recipe. In undergrad, I used to think that I should not have the luxury of relaxing until I had everything done on my list. Now, however, I have learned that it is okay to set a “no-homework” threshold. For me, that is 7pm (keeping in mind I wake up around 5am, so adjust that time as you see fit in your schedule). When I hit that time, I allow myself to watch tv, go for a walk, call a friend, take a bath, whatever I need to do to relax. I do not think about the assignments due, nor do I allow myself to stress about them. This has really helped me in this season.
  3. Set manageable weekly goals. I have, in total, around 50 pages (at least) of writing I need to complete in the next 6 weeks for various classes and projects. If I opted to put them off until the last two weeks of school, I would not only be stressed out of my mind, but the work quality would surely suffer. So, I have listed out all – that’s right, every single assignment due from this point until the end of the semester and broken down how I can work on them each week. For some, I give loose guidelines like “general outlines” or “begin research and start listing sources” for this week. For others, I give hard guidelines like “at least 2 pages written each week”. This helps me because I am slowly working through a project, and doing various ones on rotation so it keeps my interest levels high; also, I am a list-maker so having the ability to cross things off each week really keeps my motivation level soaring. I make the tasks doable as well, so I don’t get discouraged.

As a graduate student, assignments are such an important part of the learning process, but sometimes – it feels like just too much. I hope my  little tips help – I have found them to help me. Keep reminding yourself why you began this process in the first place, you can do it! We can do it!

 

Q&A: What is a Proseminar?

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

This weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in a Heller proseminar with a focus on finance and budgeting, and it was excellent. So I figured, if you decide to become a Heller Graduate student (or maybe you already are one), you may also have the opportunity to take part in proseminars and may have some questions about what they are and how they work. Let’s take a moment to discuss what exactly they are:

Q: What makes proseminars different from regular courses?

A: Proseminars are 9 hour “crash courses” (my words, not Heller’s) that typically meet Friday – Sunday that feature a wide variety of topics. 

Q: Are proseminars required?

A: No, they are totally optional! If it is a topic you are interested in, then you can opt in to the course – but they are never required. 

Q: Do proseminars count for credits?

A: Yes! Proseminars count for 1 academic credit. 

Q: Why would I want to take a proseminar?

A: As was mentioned above, proseminars can cover a variety of topics – such as finance and budgeting for nonprofits;  technology for development; diversity, equity and inclusion; and many other changing topics! You. may chose to take them out of interest, or because they count towards your overall credit requirements (or both)!

Q: How many proseminars are offered each semester?

A: It depends. I have found that there are usually 2-3 each semester, but I believe that can change . 

Q: Do I have to pay to attend a proseminar?

A: No, these are free for students to join at no additional cost. It is akin to attending a free weekend learning conference.

Q: Are proseminars graded or on a pass/fail basis?

A: They are graded and count towards you GPA the same as a regular module or semester long course. 

Q: How do I enroll in a proseminar?

A: You will get an email from your program advisor a month or so ahead of time with all needed information – including an online sign-up form. 

Still have questions about a proseminar? Feel free to reach out to your program advisor for the most accurate information on when they are, what topics they may feature, how to enroll, and any additional questions!

 

Recap of a Stint in Virtual Learning

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

When I was looking into graduate schools back in 2020, one thing that was really important to me was having in person classes. Obviously, when the pandemic first hit, most graduate schools had all their classes online. That was why I decided to wait and apply for Fall 2021, when I knew it would be more likely that I could experience everything in person. Thankfully, the Fall 2021 semester was all in person and I got my wish.

However, in December 2021, the Omicron variant hit, and uncertainty about classes being online was in the air again. So many people I knew were getting infected, and I got more and more concerned we’d be moving online permanently. I constantly was checking my inbox over the break, looking for updates about if in person classes would begin. Finally, I saw the email– I quickly skimmed and found the information I was looking for. “Classes will begin online for the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester.” My heart sank a little bit; even though I knew it was the right decision with the new variant, that didn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed.

Now being back in person after those two weeks, it seems a good a time as any to look back on those two weeks of online classes. A few good things about being online were that I seemed to have so much more time. Since I wasn’t as worried about getting to campus, my time was my own, and I had a lot more of it. Also, being at home meant that I could take some time during the day to cook, get my laundry done etc, which I don’t get to do as much during a normal week. However, there were also negatives too. Because I also was working remotely, I was essentially staring at my computer for 12 hours a day every day. As someone who loves being outdoors and being social, this was a little bit tough for me. Plus, being online I have a much harder time concentrating, and find that I get distracted much easier.

While there were definitely some benefits to being virtual, I must say I’m very happy to be back in person. However, I have to give credit to the professors that made being online much more engaging that I anticipated. One professor that really stood out for me with her skills in teaching online classes was Professor Kaitie Chakoian.  Professor Chakoian teaches Policy Approaches to Gender-Based Violence, which is my favorite class of the semester so far. When we were online, she did such an great job at letting us be part of the discussion and coming up with exercises to really make sure everyone was able to participate. In addition, these discussions got us thinking on a deeper level about what rape culture really is and what constitutes it. Also, she made sure to give us frequent breaks as needed, and give us time to get into break out rooms to have further discussion about the topics of class. This was so helpful, as it gave us time to really absorb the material and ask any questions we might have. Professor Chakoian did an amazing job, and if we had to be online permanently, I would take her class in a heartbeat.

A Spoon Full of Sugar / Applied Regression Analysis

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Richard & Robert Sherman once penned these lyrics which would later be iconically sung by Mary Poppins:

“In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that

A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”

Last summer, as I was scheduling classes for my MS-GHPM Fall degree courses, I dreaded the thought of having to take the required Applied Regression Analysis course. I so enjoy discussing theory, writing papers, and talking out big ideas; tell me to open a program and run some statistics and you will find me in a full-on cold sweat.

Fast forward to the first week of classes as I stumble into class already in a mindset of ‘just get through this’. I’m greeted by a jolly man (pun intended as he has a slight resemblance to Santa Claus) who shares that he will do his best to make this course more enjoyable. I am still a bit hesitant and am thinking, ‘sure, I’ve heard that before. Good luck holding my interest in statistics!’. This medicine did not seem like it would go down easily – think coughing, bad taste, acid reflux and all.

Right off the bat, he had a warm and non-threatening presence. He made jokes, told stories, and was clearly extremely well versed in statistics. Somehow, over the course of just a few weeks, I was feeling extremely confident in my regression analysis abilities. The pace of the class was manageable, the assignments were not overwhelming, and I grew to look forward to the course. I went from having almost no data analysis skills to confidentially crafting a final paper analyzing univariate, bivariate, and multivariate models, improving the models, and creating a logit model predicting probabilities using real data processed through Stata. I was so proud of myself when I submitted that final paper!

As I now reflect on that entire experience over the semester, that Mary Poppins song came to mind: Professor Steve Fournier was the spoon full of sugar that helped the medicine go down! I knew I needed to brush up on my data analysis skills, but I avoided it at all costs because I thought it would be too challenging. He not only made it understandable and clear, but made me genuinely enjoy the learning process.

So, if you are afraid of challenging yourself in a new skill, or even applying for a program like MS GHPM with a focus on data please know professors here at Brandeis want to see you succeed – not fail. I am a testament to that fact as I took Regression and not only survived, but thrived!

If you’re reading this: thank you, Professor Fournier! You were excellent!

Why Study Public Policy?

Daniella Levine, MPP ’22

As I sit here, almost at the halfway point of my last semester at Heller, I cannot help but reflect on my experience. Instead of a sappy and sentimental post that I can feel bubbling to the top, I want to focus on the structure of the Heller MPP program and why this remains the right choice for me from an academic prospective.

To do so, I decided to go back to my statement of purpose. I wanted to see what I asked of Heller three years ago when I submitted my initial application and hold both Heller and myself accountable. Did we both accomplish what we set out to do?

“I have come to understand how little untrained professionals understand of the complexities of community work, which is the reason I am applying to your MPP program.”

After five years in a direct service role, I was ready to go back to school to enhance my skills. I had reached the limit of what I could do without further instruction and guidance, and knew that the best way for me to attain those skills was through a higher education degree. The work is multilayered and I wanted to garner the expertise to avoid burnout and frustration.

“What I am seeking is not just to mend the wounds caused by imbalance and injustice, but rather to learn how to identify, combat, and work to prevent these systemic injustices from taking root.” 

It took me a few years to confirm that an MPP was the right educational track. I played with the idea of an MSW or an MBA – but in the end, I knew the work I wanted to do was deeply  rooted in the policy realm.  I kept coming back to the old proverb: If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life. We need to address the systemic issues at play to ensure this man is fed everyday. A public policy degree provides the infrastructure for how to assimilate successfully into a policy-specific role in order to impart change.

“The ability to combine the MPP with a concentration in gender policy allows me to develop the skill-base necessary to impact a niche field. […] I want to explore the intersection of assimilation, gender, and the cultural socialization on gender normativity. I can study gender through a sociological or historical lens, but both paths feel too passive and retroactive.”

Heller’s academic structure encourages students to specialize in a specific area of policy. The program is constructed in such a way that each student receives an interdisciplinary education. I would not understand the intricacies of social policy without the integration of gender and race into the conversation. Heller not only promotes those conversations, but uplifts diversity as one of the school’s core tenants.

“Heller’s field experience opportunities and small class sizes are ideal as I have always been a tactile learner. Your program is the perfect mixture of purposeful work combined with the quantitative training necessary to make a difference locally and beyond.”

The class load, requirements, and design match my learning style and challenge me to be the best student I can be. Although I was initially afraid of the quantitative materials, I have found the work to be digestible and accessible. Each class is carefully thought out to ensure that each student graduate with the essential tools to excel in the public policy field.

“Heller offers me the chance to explore public policy in a community I have called home for the last five years with my desired educational track.”

Whether you are a transplant to Boston or a life-long New Englander, Heller is strategically located in a unique political arena. From local issues to national recognition, the Greater Boston area offers a plethora of avenues to explore the complexities of policy up close. With renowned research institutes and access to practitioners at the top of their field, you cannot beat the exposure Heller offers.

Professor Spotlight: Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Too often in academia,  you get stuck learning from a tenured professor who is out of touch with students (Netflix plug – The Chair). I attended a liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree, which allotted me the flexibility on the courses I took, choosing based on interest and professor ratings. So when entering into a more structured degree program, I was nervous about my ability to connect both with the required material and the professors.

I am about to finish my third semester at Heller, with a total of seven required courses under my belt and I have only good things to say about my time so far (taking into account that I completed six of those courses online due to the pandemic). Each professor adapted and modified their courses to support and uplift students while we were completely virtual, and have found ways to engage students who join class virtually during our current hybrid semester.

But I would be remiss if I told you I didn’t have favorites. Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch have taken two subjects that many might cower away from and made the material accessible, entertaining and informative. In a degree that attracts policy-driven individuals, more tactical courses like research methods and economic theory can be daunting at the onset. I am in awe of the intellect and integrity both professors hold. Dr. Marji Erickson Warfield is a Senior Scientist and Lecturer at Heller. Her work is designed to understand and evaluate ways to promote the well-being of children, youth and young adults with disabilities and the adaptation of their families.  Dr. Lisa Lynch is the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Heller. She is a Brandeis powerhouse and focuses her research on labor markets, unemployment, and organizational Innovation.

Both Marji and Lisa found ways to enliven subjects that might come off as dry and teach in such a way that makes the material not only understandable but demonstrate how it’s applicable to my professional goals. On top of their in-class work, they are wholly available to students outside of the classroom, through office hour appointments, events on campus and personalized emails with news or opportunities that match your specific policy interests. I have never felt like blank face in a sea of students; they go out of their way to chat in the halls and contribute to student-led initiatives. I am grateful to both professors for their inclusive teaching, and to Heller for prioritizing the hiring of such great faculty.

End of Semester Wrap-Up: Favorite Classes

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

After what feels like a whirlwind, we are finally at the end of the semester. It honestly feels weird to already be almost done because it felt like the semester went by so quickly. It was full of hard work, some stress, lots of learning and lots of great times with my friends and classmates. Some specific highlights I can recall are orientation, my first class of the year, a visit to Salem, and a Friendsgiving celebration. While looking back on the semester, I always like to reflect on the classes I took, and which ones were my favorite. This is what I would like to share in this blog post; specifically my favorite classes of the semester.

The very first class I took after arriving at Heller was actually a MPP class called Contemporary Issues in Gender and Public Policy. Even though this class was outside my degree, it ended up being one of my absolute favorites. Fighting for gender equality and gender justice are my passions, and what I want to focus my career around. I loved learning in this class all of the policies that either elevate gender equality or cause unforeseen problems that continue to disadvantage women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The professor also did an amazing job of addressing gender issues from an intersectional lens, and seeing how the impacts were different based on issues like race, class, gender identity etc. We also got the opportunity to have some speakers that are gender policy professionals and hear about their experience working in the field. It was amazing to hear about all the great work that they were doing and to hear exactly what kind of jobs you can do in this field. Lastly, our discussions in class were amazing. We all brought our different perspectives, and I left class every day feeling like I truly understood gender policy on a deeper level. Especially if you’re interested in gender issues, take this class!

One of my other favorite classes was Introduction to Geographic Information Systems. Especially in the environmental world, this software is a really important skill to have. While it seemed daunting at first, the professor really teaches the class in a very understandable and comprehensive way. He gives you a lot of confidence in your abilities to use the software and create a map that displays issues you’re interested in. It’s a great hard skill to have, and taking this class made me confident I can bring this software to my career. It also makes you think about the utility of maps in a different way; they’re applicable not only to the environment, but also health, policy issues and more! Also, even though it was a night class, we have had snacks every class, which definitely acts as a pretty great incentive to keep you more alert haha.

While I had lots of great classes this semester and learned a lot, these two were definitely my favorite out of the whole bunch. I come to the end of this semester feeling calm and content. While it was hard at times, I feel like I learned so many valuable skills and concepts that have made me more confident in my career. I also got the chance to participate in so many great events and make lots of wonderful friends. All in all? A great end to the year. 

Closing out the First Semester of Grad School

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Finally! I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my first fall semester of the MPP program. As I near the end of the semester, I have had time to reflect on the challenges, accomplishments, and personal goals I want to set for myself next semester.

When entering the program, I had no idea what to expect initially. Being one of the few in my cohort who began the program straight out of undergrad, I had to work around the preconceived notions and tactics I have built being a student. How would the professors be supportive? How will my cohort be supportive? What resources are offered on campus if I am having a hard time or struggling? At my previous school, grades mattered the most— if you did not receive anything over a C+, you were frowned upon by peers and professors. My professors at Heller were very supportive, responsive, and understanding. At the beginning of the semester, they all instituted that we should not focus just on our grades, but we should focus on how we connect with the material and find ourselves when writing and discussing these issues with our peers, teaching assistants, and professors. This made me more comfortable with meeting with professors outside of the classroom because I felt confident enough to ask questions and express my concerns. Additionally, although I see myself as a social butterfly, I entered Heller in a cocoon. I did not know how to really engage with my peers or start conversations that were not always school-related, but my cohort made it very easy. They all wanted to get to know each other, not just on a surface-based level, and being able to grab a seat in Zinner Forum and have a conversation with a few of my peers has made my days lighter.

After overcoming these small challenges, I can say I am very proud of myself for how far I have come in an academic space. Even though I still have a small fear of bringing my own opinions up in class discussions, I noticed I am not afraid to share more on issues that may directly or indirectly affect me. I also find myself really taking my time with the assignments I turn in, asking follow-up questions prompts, deadlines, or anything else that comes my way. During my time in undergrad, I became very self-conscious about my writing skills, but after this semester, I am more confident in working with my peers on peer reviews, making numerous drafts to get that final one, and really putting my best foot forward when writing on issues that I am passionate about.

Graduate school is still not easy, but this first semester has been very eye-opening and has allowed me substantial room to grow. My goal for next semester is to be able to lead more discussions in my classroom and also fight the urge to procrastinate when a project or assignment presents itself. I want to be able to really connect my personal experiences and passions to the research presented to me and flesh out more ways to combat the issues in a social justice manner. I am super excited to be kicking off my second semester and can not wait to see what it entails.

Succeeding in a Class out of my Comfort Zone

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

When I made the decision to come to Brandeis, one of the things I loved about Heller was the variety of classes available. There’s quantitative classes, qualitative classes, policy classes, and theoretical classes on ethics and more! One thing I promised myself when I started here was that I would make an effort to take some classes outside of my comfort zone. My background being in communications, I wanted to get some more experience with the research and data side of things.

With that in mind, I signed up for Professor Godoy’s Survey Design class in module 1. I was really worried about this class and doing well, but I decided to sign up for it anyways to learn a new skill. It was an online class, which was definitely something I had to get used to. I had to employ specific strategies to make sure I continued paying attention throughout the entire class, such as taking breaks to walk around, eat something and drink something.

In this class, you learn about how to create an ideal survey for a project. You learn about different biases that can occur both when selecting survey participants and interviewing them. You also learn about measurement errors when creating your hypothesis and designing your equation.  All of these were things I did not have experience in, so I was coming into the class completely blind.

However, now having finished the class, I can say I’m really glad that I took it. I really enjoyed the experience of getting to design my very own survey with a group and getting to apply all that I learned and put it into practice. While it was challenging, I was still able to succeed. Whenever I was confused, I made sure to ask the professor or the TA to clear up my confusion. Being able to see all the concepts at work in real life really helped to depend my understanding and it made the class less challenging in my opinion. I also feel that by the end of the class, I really gained a deeper understanding of what makes a good survey and of more mathematical terms in general.

In conclusion, take that class you’re nervous about! It can expand your skillset and even unleash a greater passion for the subject than you thought was possible.

Matching Heller Classes to Skills

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As my own job search begins to get underway in earnest, I have been thinking more about my own skills and those that I have developed at Heller specifically. I’m also thinking about the skills demanded by employers, and the degree to which Heller coursework aligns with these. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way in which skills I’ve gained or strengthened at Heller translate to the requirements included in job listings, and I thought I would share a few examples to help make the utility of specific Heller courses seem a bit more concrete.

Skill/experience: experience with statistics and statistical packages such as STATA, SPSS, R, etc.

Countless job listings include some version of the above preferred qualification. In Heller’s statistics courses like “Data, Models and Decisions,” students learn how to construct regression models and run various statistical tests using STATA, one of the more commonly used stats software packages. Additional courses such as “Working with National Datasets” and “Evaluating Survey Data Using Stata” expand upon fundamental skills and introduce students to other software platforms such as SPSS.

Skill/experience: experience conducting qualitative research including surveys, focus groups, interviews

Many research-oriented jobs, as well as jobs in consulting, program management, or international development, will require some amount of qualitative data collection and analysis. Core courses in Heller degree programs, such as “Research Methods and Evaluation” in the MPP program, introduce best practices in qualitative research and enable students to practice designing study proposals. Many classes include experiential components in which students have the option to interview external stakeholders. One example is the Team Consulting Project, the MBA capstone project in which students typically conduct research to inform recommendations to a real world client organization.

Skill/experience: experience managing a budget and performing financial analysis

One of my primary motivations to add a dual MBA to my MPP course of study was wanting to take accounting and corporate finance courses. Even non-MBAs, however, will have the chance to take coursework in economics, cost-benefit analysis, and program management. In addition, students who choose to participate in the Heller Student Association or a Heller working group can gain experience managing an organizational budget. Many students will develop these skills in internships, as well. Not to mention having a crash course in personal finance during grad school!

Skill/experience: teamwork, leadership, project management

While these are skills that can be learned in many types of settings, even as someone who worked for years in very collaborative office environments, I found that my efficacy and communication abilities working in groups improved during graduate school. All degree programs will include at least some group projects, and these are a great way to strengthen teamwork, listening, and interpersonal skills. While these may be difficult to capture on a resume, the Heller degree itself conveys that you have experience working in a close-knit, collaborative environment.

As I prepare to re-enter the working world, I feel grateful for the varied practical skills I have learned at Heller. Visiting the Career Center here is a great way to figure out how to effectively communicate my strengths in resumes and cover letters. While learning for its own sake is important, and highly valued here, it’s great to know that Heller is preparing students to work in settings where we can take on challenging, real world issues.

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