Tag: Letters

A Letter to My Past Self on Her First Day at Heller: Ariel Wexler

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Dear Past Ariel,

I imagine right now you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what the next 2 years at The Heller School will hold. Right now, it’s a few months into the pandemic, and there’s so much uncertainty in the world. I know now that you will spend the first year of your studies telecommuting from Los Angeles in your childhood bedroom. Despite waking up at 6 AM for your Leadership and Organizational Behavior class, you are quite comfortable taking long walks to the beach, dipping your head in the water as you count your blessings and begin the journey that is graduate school.  You’re just a few months out of the Peace Corps, having been evacuated from Guatemala in your last month of service. The borders of Guatemala have been closed off to foreigners since March and it is unsure when the pandemic will subside…if ever. I know as you begin your studies you are worried about achieving academic success in a rigorous business curriculum and how you will adjust and reintegrate into US culture with your peers.

Thanks to your hard work and dedication, you will successfully graduate in May 2022 with two masters degrees. Although the workload and courses were indeed challenging, you end up excelling in your studies and enjoying the process. When you started your program, you were interested in the possibility of integrating your interests in the intersection of international economic development and social enterprise as part of your experiential Team Consulting project capstone. You came out as a leader in your studies, and even planned a field research and discovery trip with your connections to the specialty coffee company Chica Bean for 9 students consulting with them over the summer of 2021. Even though the field trip occurs in your third semester of your studies, it will be in Guatemala that you meet members of your cohort for the first time in person. You have heard this countless times from friends and family: graduate school is about the network, and you will be elated to know that you make great solid connections with students from all over the world.  It makes the transition to being a student and to the US so much easier. Your second year residence in Waltham ends up being with a group of Peace Corps and Americorps alumni.

You will participate in the Heller Start-Up challenge your second year and win second place for a seaweed venture idea and go on to win first place in the Spark competition in February. Throughout this experience you will learn a great deal about entrepreneurship and be introduced to the business ecosystem of Boston. My advice to you would be to take a deep breath and enjoy every moment of the experience, and continue to invest deeply in education and people. Your hard-working and organized nature will continue to help you throughout your education. In addition to learning valuable skills you will progress in developing your confidence and better understanding your assets as a young professional. Continue to navigate the world with integrity and passion.

Good luck!

Future Ariel

Reflecting on my Letter to my Future Self: Daniella Levine

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

I sat by my window in my third floor apartment in Cambridge and looked out on to the street, at the rain ricocheting off the trees. I tried to verbalize Why Heller after a semester of online learning and the weight of a dreary day.  Now, as I sit inside the Heller building on a sun-filled spring morning, I am again lost for words, yet for a completely different reason. There are days when I am unsure of what I’ve learned or frustrated that I have to leave bed, but over the last week, amidst finals and presenting my capstone, I have felt nothing but nostalgia and pride. For better or worse, I have faced a multitude of roadblocks over the last two years. Some of which were felt by the collective community and others more personal. Yet, nothing has deterred me from my studies and my time at Heller. At first, I resented the pandemic for forcing me to choose a local school as opposed to leaving the Boston area. I now (job permitting), intend to stay in the Boston area for work, as Heller has provided me a community here that I’m not ready to say goodbye to yet (of course, unless you are a DC hiring manager, and then I am eager to leave this all behind!).

I am actually shocked to re-read what I wrote in early February 2021 and realize that I was so articulate about my field of study and what I hoped to accomplish. I did not know what I was doing a semester in, and while I am much more equipped now, I still do not have all the answers  (as I aptly surmised). But that is something I’ve come to understand over the last two years, there will always be a new theory, a proposed law, a unprecedented leaked SCOTUS decision that will alter the socio-political landscape. Well, hopefully not the last one… Regardless, Heller taught me to conceptualize the historical foundation in order to adapt to new contemporary issues that arise.

My commitment to gender policy has only intensified and I sometimes get dizzy thinking about the breadth and complexities of the issues. During my time at Heller, I have researched workplace policy, Paid Family and Medical Leave, pay transparency laws, gender-based violence policy, the Violence Against Women’s Act, queer anthropology, carceral feminism, and HIV-prevention policies. Within each of those categories, I have employed an intersectional approach— dissecting the impact of socio-economic standing, race, ethnicity, age, citizen status, gender,  and historical implications. I see myself as something of a gender generalist.

To answer some of the questions from my past self— Heller did in fact provide me a deeper and more theoretical/academic comprehension of contemporary issues to ground the work. I also feel more confident about my critical thinking skills.  While I did not engage too frequently with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office at Heller, I was a member of the Racial Equity Working Group (REWG) and helped to push diversity and inclusion on campus and hold the administration accountable, and I feel very proud of REWGs’s reach. Past self, I did take classes from renowned lecturers like Laurence Simon, Lisa Lynch, Jess Santos, Kaitie Chakoian, Brian Horton, Mary Brolin, Sarah Soroui, Maria Madison and so many more. And I was even able to fit in the Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing course with Larry Bailis.

My time at Heller has been invaluable and I feel so blessed to have spent the last two years learning at such a vibrant, passionate, socially-conscience, and diverse institution.

I am honored to be a Heller student and come May 22, 2022, I look forward to my next role as Heller Alumna.

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.

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation): Hannah Plumb

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Hey Future Hannah,

You just graduated Heller with a Master’s of Arts in Sustainable International Development. You’re now officially: Hannah, M.A. How does it feel? I hope you are feeling incredibly proud of yourself, and taking time to acknowledge your achievements. Despite your worries and stress, you managed to finish it all! Even those quantitative classes, the economics classes and your Master’s thesis you were so worried about; you did it! Take a deep breath, and do something to celebrate! If you’re anything like current Hannah, you’ll probably go out for a celebratory ice cream.

My current question is what’s next for you? Are you taking some time off to travel (hopefully in a covid safe world)? Are you going straight into your career? Decided to do another graduate degree (take a breather girl!)? Whatever it may be, I do hope you give yourself a little time in between graduation and your next steps. If you decided to go the career path, I am so curious which route you ended up going down. With an NGO? A nonprofit? I know current Hannah is wanting to graduate a gender professional– did that dream become a reality? Whatever you decide to do, I know it will be great regardless.

I know that you’ve already done the hard part, but just a few thoughts from your past self. I hope you challenged yourself in grad school- took lots of classes in new subjects and tried new things. I hope you gave yourself grace when you were juggling so many things, and maybe could not put as much focus on projects as you’d like. I hope you always made time for self-care and hanging out with friends. And, I hope you made the most of your time here at Heller. Because believe it or not, it’s now over and you’re onto the next great thing.

Best,

Hannah

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation): Ronunique Clark

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Dear future Ronunique,

The time has final come! It is May 2023 and you were able to complete not one, but two degrees during a global pandemic. Cheers to that! Even when everyone thought you were crazy for going into a Master’s program 3 months after graduating from undergrad, you were able to overcome and prove them wrong. Another exciting part is that not only have you gotten your Master of Public Policy, but your first best-friend, Mom, is graduating at the same time with her bachelor’s degree. Please hold the tears for after the ceremonies.

You made it this far, and I know it was not easy. The readings, the group work, and the e-board meetings all seemed to be happening so fast but you were able to stick to it no matter the circumstances. If no one else ever tells you, I am more than proud and 13-year-old Ronunique thinks you are very cool! What is to come next? You have gained all this incredible knowledge on how to compact social inequities, where do you go from here? I hope that you stuck with your dream of creating an initiative that will educate formerly incarcerated individuals in California on why voting matters, how to register to vote, and making sure that their votes are counted! Do you plan to go back home to the Bay Area to assist your community in the fight to end violence? Have you taken your gems elsewhere to another community in need? Are you helping the fight for access to adequate government programs? Are you doing non-profit work or working as a program manager for a government sector? Whatever you decided to do, I know you made the right decision and that you are going to do it well.

Remember your favorite quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do it.  Because what the world needs is people who come alive.” I know you are showing up to every space alive and giving the people what they want and need. You have been more than a representation but an inspiration to others who come after you.  Do not forget to always be your best yourself in every situation. You have always been more than enough. I know you have not only impacted your own life, but others as well, which has and will always be your number one purpose in life. You were adaptable, strong, and resilient. I can not wait to see where and what you do in this next chapter. The price was high but the reward was greater.

Until then best wishes,

Ronunique

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