Tag: Community (page 1 of 4)

Reflecting on my Letter to my Future Self: Hannah Lougheed

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Wowwowwow. Can you believe it – I am done.  After two years full of classes, papers, exams, internships, blog posts, laughter, and tears, I have reached the finish line. As I look forward to my next steps career wise, I wanted to first look back and reflect on my “Letter to your Future Self” and see if I have made myself proud. Here is what I wrote a little  over a year ago:

Okay, now that we are here at graduation, here are some things I hope I can say as I finish this two year journey:

  • I made it through while making the best of my situation (Covid really changed everyone’s plans, but I hope I didn’t just “get through it” but that I made the most of it). I think I can say I accomplished this one. I will be honest, there were times where I felt as though I could not write another assignment, or read another article, but I never wished I was not at Heller nor did I feel that I needed to put my head down and just push through. I thoroughly enjoyed each class and tried to be as present in the moment as possible during this entire season. 
  • I created some long-lasting relationships with those at Heller who I can always lean on in the future, and who can lean on me. I genuinely love being with people while building friendships and connections. I feel that I have made some great friends and colleagues who I will stay in contact with for many years to come! This includes classmates, workmates, professors, staff, and roommates –  lots of incredible people to add to my people collection!
  • I took advantage of opportunities for various forms of growth while at Heller. Those who walked beside me throughout this Graduate School process can attest to the fact that I am always very involved. From taking on a leadership role as the Co-Chair within the Heller Student Association, to gaining invaluable connections as a Graduate Assistant with Admissions, and everything in between, I took advantage of a number of experiences during my time here which has added richly to my time and Heller, and has shaped me into the person I am today. 
  • I applied myself and did the best work I possibly could throughout my courses. This one is a mostly yes. I will amend it to say, “I did the best work I possibly could with the time and energy available“. In order to have done my absolute best work, I think I would have needed to be juggling fewer classes and activities. However, in juggling those various activities I increased my time management and prioritization skills. It became of matter of cost/benefit analysis for what I needed to gain from this experience. So I can still check this off the box, just with a bit of an amendment. 
  • I left an impact on Heller, and it left an impact on me. Heller has certainly left an impact on me, and I hope I have left one on Heller – but I cannot speak to that! Heller will forever hold a piece of my heart, as these two years have been incredibly formative in the creation of who I have become. 
  • This investment was totally worth it, and I would not have changed a thing… okay maybe the whole global pandemic thing! But besides that, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The investment was totally worth it, and for the most part, I would not have changed a thing. Hindsight is always 20/20, so maybe there were some classes I would swap out,  events I would have attended, and overall ‘life things’ I would have altered. Of course I did not prefer to be online the entire first year, but that was out of the control of anyone as Covid prevented all universities from functioning as normal. So overall, this one was fulfilled as well. 

So, all-in-all I would say I made myself proud! These two years have been incredible in many ways. Now, I  can reflect and be proud of myself for making it through while balancing so much! Time for a much deserved nap.

It has been wonderful contributing to this blog, and for anyone who is reading this, or has read my posts in the past – thank you! It means a lot that others care about my thoughts, and this has been a great outlet to process my time in graduate school. If anyone ever cares to reach out, please email me at hannahlougheed@gmail.com – I am always happy to chat about my time at Heller.

Daniella’s Top Ten Reasons to Choose Heller

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

It was just announced that the Heller School for Social Policy and Management has once again been ranked as one The US and News Report’s Top Ten Social Policy Programs in the country. As such, it only seems fitting that I do my own calculations.  Here are my top ten rankings and how they play out in my day-to-day schedule as a graduate student at Heller (numbers in no hierarchical order)

  1. The Research Institutes: Heller has ten research institutes on campus that are each at the forefront of their fields. Many of the researchers teach at Heller, and many more present their work frequently on campus and in classes. I feel embedded in social change.
  2. The Professors: The staff and faculty are some of the most caring, intellectual, and encouraging educators I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside. They are so well-versed in their academic fields and promote  open debate, dialogue, and discussion in every class. Going to school in the midst of a global pandemic and publicized racial reckoning can be daunting, and not one class went by where a professor didn’t check in on our wellbeing, providing space for us to process collectively, as one community.
  3.  The Courses: The wide array of course subjects allows each student to find classes in their interest area. Every course  investigates each topic through an intersectional lens, employing a holistic educational system. Each student sets their research topics for each class, which allows students to study their concentration in every class and through an intersectional approach.
  4. The Atmosphere and Commitment to Social Justice: Heller’s commitment to social justice manifests in the students who attend. Staff and students alike constantly push for the university to improve and meet its mission.
  5. The Friends: I would be nowhere without my cohort– check out my earlier blog about my peers and the make up of people who attend Heller.
  6. The Only MPP Program That Requires a DEI Course: That title says it all. Based on student feedback, Heller decided to integrate a DEI course into the core curriculum for the MPP program. And starting in Fall 2022, every students enrolled at Heller will be required to take a DEI course.  I am proud of the students before me for advocating for this class and impressed with the administration for listening – but that’s on brand, have you read points #3-#5?!
  7. The Concentrations: Heller offers students many concentration to help inform and structure their academic journey. There is also the opportunity to create your own concentration if not one encompasses a student’s needs. Most of the concentrations are linked to a research institute, solidifying their institutional reach.
  8. The Leadership: The shared field experience of Dean Weil, our newly appointed interim dean, Dr. Maria Madison, and many of our distinguished lecturers enhances the caliber of our curriculum.
  9. The Aid: Heller’s commitment to support every student’s education can be felt in all of the numbers above. However, this is reinforced in its generous aid packages to students. Education needs to be more accessible and Heller is working towards making higher education a reality for everyone.
  10.  The Alumni Network: Being associated with Heller is like wearing a badge of honor. People are proud to be a member of the Heller network; alumni hire alumni, staff help current students, Heller advocates for justice. Being a Heller graduate student is one of the highest accomplishments of my life and I look forward to being an ambassador for Heller as I enter the professional world.

Take a Break!

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

It has come to that point in the semester when assignment levels increase simultaneously to energy levels decreasing. It can feel like a true sprint to the finish line (as my last blog post highlights). We are, however, at the precipice of a break in the form of a full week off of classes! So, how do Heller Graduate students spend their breaks?

I find that I recharge best when home (in Pennsylvania) with family. There is nothing I love more than walking into my parents’ house and smelling that familiar yet indescribable smell, being in a well-known space, spending time with my dogs, and loving on my nieces and nephews – not to mention the home-cooked meals. I also find such joy in revisiting my favorite hiking spots and local restaurants. That is where I will be spending my week off, and I have been working hard the past few weekends to get ahead on assignments so I can be very present while home and truly take a break from school.

But enough about me, here are some of the fun things my classmates are planning to get into:

Beatriz Pleites: “I am going back to El Salvador [my home]. The plan is to hang out with my friends and go the beach!”

Ryan Lansing: “I am working over break so that I can be free to surprise my mom with a visit for her birthday/mother’s day in early May – I am the gift!”

Others have mentioned travelling to Quebec, New York, Cancun, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. Waltham is situated in a location that allows for fun 2-3 day trips accessible by car, bus, train or quick plane trip. Some of my classmates have decided to use the break as an opportunity to get ahead on assignments. Others hope to explore more of their own backyard, enjoying hikes and all of the fun activities Boston offers. Yet others told me they do not know what their break will look like, but they look forward to some unstructured time.

How do you prefer to spend breaks? Regardless of if you recharge through adventure and exploration. family time and familiarity, or quiet rest and relaxation, I wish you the best on your next break. Here is to hoping  that this break reinvigorates us graduate students to put our best foot forward for our final push to the finish line!

Heller Town Halls

One of the things that I, as a staff member, really appreciate about Heller is the Town Halls that we hold each semester. It’s actually something I hadn’t experienced before in my own graduate program or in other schools that I’ve worked at, so I’ve come to see it as a hallmark of Heller that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of what we’re trying to do here.  In short, Heller Town Halls are opportunities for the leadership at Heller to update students on the work or projects that are being done, and to give students the opportunity to comment or ask questions– and even to make demands– of the school’s leadership. Since we had a Town Hall earlier this week, I thought I’d report back on this semester’s town Hall.

The event kicked off, as it usually does, with a welcome from the office of the Dean, which includes representatives from career development; admissions; equity, inclusion, and diversity; academic and student services; communications; alumni relations; research; and many more. After each of the representatives from these offices had a chance to introduce themselves and provide updates on what their offices have been doing, the meeting was turned over to Maria Madison, who leads our Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Office.

Dr. Madison shared the results of the most recent climate survey, which typically happen every year but have been delayed due to COVID. Climate surveys are really important at Heller, since they’re one of the ways that we measure Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity progress, through looking at demographic, vulnerabilities (like health, safety, wellness, employment, housing, food security), belonging and inclusion (including perceived discrimination, and satisfaction with Heller and willingness to recommend to others. These four measures let the staff and faculty know whether we have been making progress in our commitment to social justice. Since Dr. Madison let us know that the numbers were preliminary, I don’t want to go into too much detail, it looks like in spite of the pandemic, overall, student satisfaction and willingness to recommend to others has improved. Dr. Madison also talked about important next steps for contextualizing and embedding anti-racism, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination into pedagogy, research, and policy work across Heller.

After some quick updates from Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean, Academic, and Student Services and Ron Etlinger, our Chief Administrative Officer, our current Heller Student Association chairs, Zari Havercome and Hannah Lougheed (who of course is also one of our talented GAs who writes for this blog!) shared the results of the elections for the new chairs of HSA and gave some end-of-the-year updates.

With all of that out of the way, the floor was open for questions from students, faculty, and staff and cupcakes were brought out to celebrate Heller being ranked in the top ten for social policy once again!

What Advice Would You Give To Your First Semester Self?

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

As my time at Heller is slowly drawing to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on what I’ve learned over the last year and half. At some moments, it’s hard to conceptualize who I was before this program. I was curious how my peers were processing as well, so I presented them with a simple question, what advice do you want to give your first semester self? Here is what some of them had to say:

“When it comes to exploring new policy areas, follow the fun! I know that a lot of us come in with an idea of what we’re going to do, but try to embrace the new and potentially unfamiliar places that your research and curiosity take you!” Adam Jones, MPP ’22

“I would urge first semester me to look outside of the program-specific classes to find other options that may be intriguing! Talk to second years to find out classes they really enjoyed and do not be afraid to look outside of MPP/Heller classes.” Hannah Orbach-Mandel, MPP ’22

“Trust yourself and the process; you got in for a reason and deserve to be here.” Sierra Dana,  MPP ’22

“I would say ‘get to know your classmates/cohort’ because I’ve learned as much from them as I have from my professors and they have been a great support system. ” Sasha Himeno-Price, MPP ’22

“This is pretty generic, but I wish I had stayed true to my interests and goals for the program, and committed to seeking out resources across Heller to explore those further. I found it easy to get sucked into weekly assignments and feel like I have not made the most of the larger landscape of people, research, sources, etc. that the school has to offer!” Lydia Slocum, MPP ’22

“I would tell myself that it is okay to not know your specific policy interest yet and that the program helps you figure all of that out – which you will.” Louisa Duggan, MPP ’22

“My advice to first semester self would be to prioritize rest, the work will always be there – Rose Farrell MPP, ’22

“Do not be afraid to ask questions and engage with your professors.” – Kerin Miller, MPP/MBA 22

Finally, I would like to add my own personal anecdote, some words I wish I followed as a first semester student: I came to Heller for gender policy, as you my have read in my previous posts, and when I first started, I was so intimidated by my peers who all had particular interests within their policy areas — and here I thought I was already ahead of the game because I wanted to study gender policy! Do not ever let imposter syndrome get the best of you and do not let yourself feel small alongside your peers. The impact you will each make is tremendous.

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.

Event Recap: Gender Working Group Open Mic Night

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

One of the great things about being at Heller is that there are lots of clubs you can join that match your interests! There are clubs like the Brandeis University Africa Forum, the Heller Student Association, Net Impact, the Racial Equity Working Group and more. One group that I became involved in since the beginning of the semester is the Gender Working Group. The Gender Working Group is a club that fights for gender equality on campus and tries to raise awareness of different gender issues around Heller.

About a month ago, the Gender Working Group held our first “Open Mic Night”, which I attended. The Open Mic Night was a great opportunity for people to perform (pieces related to gender or not) and also acted as a fundraiser for a local organization called REACH. REACH is a Waltham domestic violence organization that helps survivors find housing and different resources to get back on their feet. They also have programs related to the prevention of domestic violence within the Waltham community as well.

The Open Mic Night was held in Heller, on a Friday night about a week before classes ended. With it being so close to finals, we were really worried about how many people would show up. However, we still managed to get around 20-30 attendees, which was amazing! It was a truly wonderful event, raising awareness about domestic violence and gender issues. There were about 8 performances total. There were a few singers that sang songs about women empowerment, a few poems, a speech, and an amateur film. It was pretty amazing seeing the passion in each performer’s voice and how comfortable and confident they all seemed. As soon as the next performance started, I felt like I couldn’t look away.

There were also some yummy snacks available at the event, and as an incentive to donate to REACH, there was also body painting (face paint but on your arm to make it covid safe) available! I had a wonderful time at the Open Mic Night; it was really amazing getting to see how talented all of my classmates are. And also, seeing how much of a community Heller is that so many people showed up. We also ended up raising over $350 for REACH, which was pretty amazing. I left the night smiling and happy, and reminded of even through the stress of finals, why I am here at Heller.

The Heller Student Association

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

When I decided that Heller was the right place for me, I also decided right then and there to make sure I took advantage of the opportunities to get involved on campus and with my peers.  For some, it looks like joining a hiking club, proactively sitting in a public space to engage in conversations with others, or to be intentional with being active in a WhatsApp group chat. Whatever involvement flavor you feel most comfortable with, there is an opportunity here at Heller for you to get involved.

I have always been drawn to governing boards – be it in student council in high-school, an honors club in undergrad, or – currently – as a co-chair for the Heller Student Association. It has always been important for me to feel that my voice was heard when I spoke up, and I have learned that governing bodies such as the HSA really do work well to amplify the voices of those they serve. Upon completing our first “Town Hall” it served as a good reflection point for me (hence me blogging about it today).

The mission and vision of the Heller Student Association (also referred to as ‘HSA’) is:

“to take a holistic approach on understanding and empowerment in all of our educations through a focus on cross-collaboration between students, working groups, professors and staff at Heller. The mission of the HSA is to participate meaningfully in decisions affecting student’s time at Heller. We will amplify the voices of the student body by bringing your input to the faculty, administration, career services, staff, steering committees and program directors whom we meet with regularly.”

So how is this relevant for you,  dear blog reader? Well, if you are currently a student at Heller, know you always have access to a group that will work to amplify your voice – so long as it aligns with the aforementioned mission and vision of the organization. And, if you are a student considering Heller, know that the voices of you and your peers are taken seriously when/if you join this family. The faculty and staff at Heller have a great working relationship with the Heller Student Association and value our presence. As a Co-Chair, me and my fearless Co (shoutout to Zari) have the opportunity to listen and offer input on the students’ behalf at meetings that do not typically hold a student presence. We are not there just to check the “is a student present?” box. No, we are instead actively engaged in conversations that effect students.

All of this to say, if you’re wondering what it looks like to be in concert with the faculty and administration as a student, the Heller Student Association is a great example of that. Also, Heller has a wide variety of student groups that go far beyond being an advocacy/governing body. So, if your comfort for involvement includes joining an organization, consider the Heller Student Association!

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.

A Self-Care Weekend Away

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

It’s now officially December and we’re getting close to the end of my first semester at Heller. It has been such a whirlwind, and honestly, I can’t believe that I’m so close to the end. It simultaneously feels like it’s been a really long time, and also no time at all. However, the deeper into the semester you get, the easier it can be to feel some major burnout. I personally am working two jobs and have been taking 5 classes each module, which is a lot mentally and emotionally. So, it’s important not to forget to take care of yourself and give yourself some time away from school.

When I’m experiencing burnout, I like to have a change of scenery to clear my head. The great thing about living in a place like New England is there are so many beautiful and fun-filled places to visit that are only a short drive or train ride away. Luckily, my friends had already planned a trip up to Vermont to celebrate one of our birthdays. It ended up being at the perfect time because that was right when I was feeling some peak burnout and definitely needing some self-care time. We rented a mountain cabin up in Vermont, specifically on Okemo Mountain. It is gorgeous in New England in the fall, and Vermont was especially beautiful. All the trees were covered in deep red, yellow, and orange leaves.

We drove up to the mountains on Friday and got to the house around midday. As soon as we got out of the car, I felt like I was at peace. Being in nature, seeing the beauty of the trees and the mountains around me, and feeling the mountain air… it all made me feel relaxed. For me specifically, I really feel like being in nature is essential for me to reset after being stressed out. There’s something about being in the mountains during autumn that just feels right. 

And it was a fun-filled weekend! We got the opportunity to go hiking in the nearby mountains and see the beautiful lake. We also made some delicious meals like tortellini soup and pork tacos. We also got the opportunity to play some board games, like Uno and codenames. Also, one of the main highlights of the cabin is that it had a gaming console from the 80s that let you play older games like Pacman, Donkey Kong and Frogger on it. Needless to say, I got very into Frogger very easily, and now am a world-class champ (just kidding, haha).

All in all, it was a great, relaxing weekend getting to celebrate one of the first friends I made at Heller. I came back feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and incredibly thankful. Graduate school is an amazing experience, but it can easily feel overwhelming and stressful sometimes. Taking some time to take care of yourself is essential. Make sure to take some time to relax and get a change of scenery even amidst all the projects and events going on. I personally would recommend doing it in the mountains, but that part is up to you.

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