Tag: Heller Reading List

How to Get Ready for Grad School in Less Than an Hour a Day: A Guide by Andrea Tyree

 

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Preparing for graduate school can feel overwhelming. After the high of acceptance passes, you’re hit with some tough questions Where will I live? How will I pay for it all? Am I ready for class discussions?

Personally, that last question hit me hard. I worried that I wouldn’t be as politically savvy or knowledgeable as my classmates. Now half a year in, I can assure my past self—and you—that you are fine. Chances are, if you’ve made it into one of Heller’s graduate programs, you know enough about the issues within your field to get by. But if you’re like me and want to be as prepared as possible, do it in the least stressful way: listen to podcasts.

Okay, I know at least 25% of you just rolled your eyes cause it’s 2021 and podcasts are done to death. I know, I know, I know… But that’s also what makes them so great! No matter what you’re interested in, there’s a podcast for it. Need to up your financial game? There’s a podcast for that. Want to better understand race relations? There’s a podcast for that. Want to watch The Office while you’re driving? There’s a podcast for that (and it’s fantastic).

So if you’re looking to prep for grad school by catching up on current events, history, politics, breakthroughs in medicine or science, or anything else, try listening to a podcast in your spare time! With the help of some of my classmates, I’ve put together a starter list of useful podcasts for incoming and current students:


  1. Up First by NPR

I recommend this for anyone who feels like they don’t have enough time in their day. This 10-15 minute NPR podcast is a great listen while you’re getting ready in the morning. It reviews some of the top (usually national) news stories that will help you feel prepared for that 9:00 am class.

  1. Today, Explained by Vox AND/OR The Daily by The New York Times AND/OR Pod Save America by Crooked Media

If you want a deeper dive into current issues (or hear about more than 3 topics), then any of these podcasts are great alternatives. The episodes run a bit longer (~30 min to 1 hour), but if you want to hear a thorough breakdown of the news, these are three podcasts I recommend.

  1. Worldly by Vox AND/OR Global News Podcast by BBC

Tired of hearing only about American politics? Want to stay on top of what’s going on in the rest of the world? Check out one of these podcasts! Worldly deep dives into the issues by placing them in the context of history and politics, while Global News provides daily updates on various issues.

  1. Justice in America by The Appeal

If you’re interested in criminal justice, then this is the podcast for you. It covers a wide range of topics within the criminal justice system and examines each piece’s impact on impoverished communities and communities of color.

  1. Code Switch by NPR

Truly one of the best podcasts out there. It explains how race affects everything, provides a platform for the most marginalized and underrepresented to speak their truth, and puts it all into a digestible format. If you’ve been wondering how to be a better ally to people of color or understand how their struggles affect all of us, then this podcast is for you.

  1. Adulting by WNYC Studios

Okay this isn’t a serious podcast about politics, social issues, or current events, but I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning one of the most hilarious podcasts out there (imo). If you need a good laugh, want to feel seen as a struggling grad student/adult, or just need a distraction from the state of the world, this podcast is for you. Plus, if you’re not a Michelle Buteau stan, what are you doing?

Doug’s New Year’s Resolutions

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

While I’m wary at this point of setting New Year’s resolutions, and try not to make any that are too unrealistic (case in point: I actually CANCELLED my Planet Fitness membership last week), I’m tempted each January to set some goals or develop a new hobby or discipline. This year I am aspiring to read more for pleasure, and hoping that the January break gives me time to get a head start of sorts.

The impossibility of reading for pleasure, given the voluminous quantity of reading assignments for class, is a bit of a running joke in graduate school. Still, I’ve found that during the pandemic period I’ve turned increasingly to movies and TV for entertainment, and while these have their virtues I am looking to integrate some novel and short story reading into my routine (plus, I am running out of things to watch!) As a former English major, I have always enjoyed fiction and poetry, but increasingly my reading habits have turned to non-fiction. I devour news and articles about current events, but these do not offer nearly the same enjoyment as a great book.

So, I thought I’d share a few of the titles I have on my shelf at the moment.

3 by Vonnegut – as advertised, this collection includes three Kurt Vonnegut novels – Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions. While I read Slaughterhouse-Five in high school, I’m not sure I fully appreciated it, and as many friends have recommended Vonnegut to me I think it’s time to delve more deeply into his work.

Ripley novels – another collection, this one including the first three novels in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series. I read the excellent The Talented Mr. Ripley a long time ago (the movie is good too!) but have not followed up with subsequent titles. I think I also am missing being able to travel, so novels involving holidays in Paris and Tuscany (even when the protagonist is as evil as Ripley) are an attractive alternative.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – this one is actually not yet on my shelf, but I am planning to take it out from my local library, currently offering contactless pick-ups. While I love the fairly recent film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I have never read any John le Carre, and given his recent passing, it seems like the time to get started. His first novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, is reputed to be a good place to start.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead’s alternate history novel, in which the titular railroad is a literal rail network, has been on my shelf for a while and seems like a timely read.

While there’s no guarantee how much time I’ll have once classes begin, I’m resolving (publicly!) to make an effort to read these novels and others this year. I’d welcome any recommendations! Happy reading.

 

Heller Reading List: Andrea Tyree Shares Her Favorite Readings

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Recently, an old friend visited my apartment and, as I was showing him around, he noticed something peculiar. I have a stack of books on my desk, some I’ve read in preparation for coming to Heller and some for specific classes. Most of my class readings are online (invest in blue-light blocking glasses, folks) but there have been a couple I’ve purchased or borrowed (thanks Mom!) outright to really annotate. This particular stack included How to Be Antiracist, The New Jim Crow, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, and Hillbilly Elegy.

Noticing this stack, my friend stopped and laughed out loud: “One of these things does not belong.” He wondered why in the world Hillbilly Elegy was included in a stack of social justice literature? Why would professors at Heller, a quite progressive institution, have us read such a biased and inaccurate portrayal of the Appalachian region? (P.S. The new Netflix film is worse.)

“Because,” I beamed with pride, “we tore it apart in my Assets and Social Policy class.” I picked up the book and showed him the countless tabs I had placed throughout the book where I found faults in the author’s storyline and argument.

Now I know I’ve already written about my Assets and Social Policy course, but this course has some of the most enlightening and engaging readings. From learning about the cultural wealth and capital that communities of color have built as a result of systemic oppression (“Whose Culture Has Capital?”) to examining the role of gender-based violence on women’s assets and wealth (“The Role of Sexual Violence in Creating and Maintaining Economic Insecurity Among Asset-Poor Women of Color”), I’ve gained knowledge in this course that I’ll carry with me throughout my life.

Yet my favorite lesson focused on rural poverty—a form of poverty not often acknowledged in social and racial justice conversations—centering on an analysis of Hillbilly Elegy. I warned my classmates ahead of time, “Y’all, as a native West Virginia, I have to represent the thousands of us who cannot stand this book. I’m about to go in on J.D. Vance (the author).”

And go in I did.

Our professor, Jess, created space for a thoughtful and critical conversation on the narrative of poverty within this book. We analyzed how the author placed the responsibility of poverty on Appalachian communities, identifying it as a character flaw rather than the result of generations of systemic oppression, resource drain, and lack of external investment in these communities. We addressed our personal and societal biases against rural, impoverished America and discussed ways to invest in it.

It was one of the first classes where I truly felt seen and heard. I’m grateful that my peers were able to analyze and critique a novel that feeds into the negative narrative about rural America and, specifically, Appalachia. And I’m proud of how I stood strong for my community. It’s moments like those that remind me of why I chose Heller and excite me for what’s to come.

Heller Reading List: Sami Rovins Shares Her Favorite Readings

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

The readings I encountered in Professor Firchow’s course, “Theory and Analysis of Conflict Resolution and Coexistence” were especially compelling. In this debate-centered class, we read a lot of material that made me think critically about a range of topics related to conflict resolution and peacebuilding. While discussing the topic of civil resistance, Professor Firchow assigned us to read Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 study. Their study focused on the effectiveness of 323 different nonviolent campaigns that took place between the years 1900 and 2006. Their findings indicated that civil resistance campaigns are significantly more successful than campaigns that are violent. Chenoweth and Stephan contended that nonviolent campaigns are successful because they include participation from a wide array of citizens, because they encourage regime defections, and because they employ a diversity of strategies and tactics.

I was struck by this study because it clearly contributed significant and concrete data to the field of civil resistance. The authors did so by surveying a wide array of nonviolent campaigns taking place over 106 years. The 323 campaigns Chenoweth and Stephan analyzed demonstrated that nonviolent resistance campaigns against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements. Nonviolent civil resistance also increased the chances that the overthrow of a dictatorship would ultimately lead to peace and democracy. They also found that during those 106 years, countries in which nonviolent campaigns failed were about four times as likely to later transition to democracy as countries where violent resistance movements took place. Essentially, Chenoweth and Stephan argue that nonviolent resistance is not simply the “moral” thing to do, but it is also the most effective means of creating change.

I found the authors’ arguments convincing and appreciated their use of data collected over a vast number of years. Their findings were a huge contribution to the fields of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. I also think the authors’ arguments are so valuable now more than ever, considering the protests we’ve witnessed across the US. These protests have predominantly been nonviolent, yet there have been incidents of violence and looting as well. For those of us who are fighting and hoping for change, Chenoweth and Stephan’s study could not be more relevant today. I also appreciate this aspect of the readings we were assigned in Professor Firchow’s class. These readings provide for intellectually stimulating debate in the classroom, but they also serve a very practical purpose as we move forward in our careers as peacebuilders in this world.

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!

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