Tag: Ronunique Clark (page 1 of 2)

Ronunique’s Final Semester Schedule

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Welcome back! How long has it been? Seems like it was forever ago when I wrote my first blog post for the Heller Admissions Blog. I blinked, and now we are in the final semester of my Master of Public Policy program.  “Oh yeah, you made it, you made it”, just like Teyana Taylor said.  So with graduation being about 100 days away, let’s chat about the classes I will be taking this semester to wrap up the Master of Public Policy Program:

Capstone Seminar with Mary Brolin

This is the most important class I will be registered for in my entire academic career here at Heller. The capstone seminar course is designed for students to highlight the policy analysis skills that we have developed throughout our time here.  We generally choose a topic that is relevant to our concentration; having a topic in close proximity with your concentration makes it easier to obtain background knowledge to the policy area and any relevant literature. After determining our topic, we develop action plans to help us conduct our research, literature reviews to diagnose our policy problem, and weigh out the pros and cons for potential policy solutions. By the end of the course, we should have a 25-30 page policy brief, and in the final week of classes, we have a oral presentation on our policy brief.  What makes me excited for this course is the opportunity to showcase the policies I am passionate about and what I  believe to be potential policy solutions.  Bet you want to know what I choose for my topic, huh? Seems like you will have to come to capstone presentations to find it out 😉

Public Finance with Sakshi Jain

This course focuses on the facts and analytical tools to help us determine and understand the theory behind public spending. Some of the focus questions for this course are: what is public spending? When can public spending be too little or too much? Is public spending properly allocated among competing uses and levels of government? As we navigate these questions we will be responsible for producing two blog posts (will I ever be able to escape writing blogs?), a group presentation with a policy brief on a tax policy of interest, and a final funding proposal which will be an extension of our group presentation and policy brief.  I am hoping to leave this class with more knowledge on how we decide on public finance, like: what measures do we use? How do we develop these measures? Who has the final say? I plan to be a sponge in this class and soak up all the knowledge that I can, because a public finance class for a policy student can either make or break you.

Social Experimentation in Children, Youth, and Family Policymaking with Dolores Acevedo Garcia

This course provides a graduate level introduction to the use of social experimentation methods in policy research. When I first saw that this course was up for registration, I actually said, “Ooooh!”.  Honestly, who doesn’t love a course where you can learn how to critically assess policy content, design, results and recommendations, especially when it is social policy focused? We will cover the five basic elements of social experiments (research questions, experimental design, measurement methods, implementation, and interpretation of results) through case studies. We will be responsible for producing an in class policy review, which will serve as our midterm for the course, a non-comprehensive systematic review, and a non-comprehensive review of reviews. I feel this course will really challenge my critical thinking and writing skills in order to help me understand how to design experimental studies to assess the effects of social policies.

Child and Family Policy with Marji Warfield

We have only been back in school for two weeks but I would say this course is starting to become my favorite. The course is organized in three sections: (1) a focus on discussing the definition of family, family functions, and family challenges, in addition to examining the emergence of family policies and how families with diverse identities intersect with different human service systems; (2) family policies designed to support family functions assessing this through policy models on problem definition and policy solutions in conjunction with theoretical frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and (3) implementation challenges and dilemmas will be investigated through the use of a policy implementation framework and family policy themes. In the class we will be responsible for producing three written papers (a fact sheet, a problem definition and policy solutions, and policy implementation), a individual presentation, and participate in share sessions which are connected to our in class book clubs. What I enjoy the most so far in this class is how we are able to engage with the materials assigned and be able to have open and honest conversations about what families look like. We are able to connect to the material on our personal experiences but not for it to be overpowering of our end goal of effective policy making and solutions.

I am looking forward to wrapping up my final semester here at Heller this year with these final core and concentration required courses I hope to have developed a sustainably and transferable work portfolio. Will we make it to the finish line? Stay tuned!

3 Reasons Why You Should Schedule an Ambassador Appointment

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

As a graduate assistant with the Heller Admissions Office for a 2nd year, I can say that I have enjoyed learning the ins and out of the admissions office. Being able to assist prospective students for programs at Heller and current students enrolled at Heller has allowed me to engage effectively with the process of higher academia. One cool part about my role as a graduate assistant is that I am able to dedicate time to speaking with applicants or potential applicants through what we call Ambassador Appointments. I am here to tell you three reasons why scheduling an Admissions Ambassador Appointment may be helpful!

1.  Connecting with a student who is currently in your program of interest

Currently in our office we have a student connected to the following programs: Public Policy , Social Impact MBA, Global Health Policy and Management, Conflict Resolution and Coexistence , and Sustainable International Development, with two of our graduate ambassadors  in a dual program offered by the school.  Speaking directly to someone who is currently a full time student in your program of interest seems like a cheat code to the game.  My co-workers and I are full time students navigating our respective programs everyday, so we know first hand what our program is about such as concentrations, classes, professors, and general student body life.

2. Get the answer to your questions

We love being able to answer any questions you have regarding the application process such statement of purpose, recommendation letters, or work experience. Or answering your general questions like “Why did you decide to choose Heller?” “What did you do before coming to Heller?” Just as we do when we are responding to your emails or answering your phone calls, we always want to provide you with the most adequate, updated information.  Now remember, we are employed by the Admissions office, which works directly with sensitive information, so most questions may not be answered such as “Could you tell me if I got admitted or not?” or “Has my application been reviewed yet?” To make sure everyone is on a equal playing field, there is certain information that we can not provide.  In addition to this, sometimes sending emails can be hassle waiting on a response, making sure it made it to the correct individual, and just overall technical difficulties.  Meeting with an graduate ambassador, you are able to receive answers to most of your questions whether they are big or small and if we do not know the answer at the moment we will work to find it and follow up with you about it.

3. Booking an appointment is easy because we are flexible!

Making an appointment with a graduate ambassador is super easy and we are more then flexible.  We utilize a Ambassador Portal link that lists all of our ambassadors and our available appointment slots. Don’t see a time that works for you? No worries, we will work with you to find a suitable time. Once you have registered for an Ambassador Appointment you will receive three confirmation emails; first email is confirming that your appointment has been made the second email will be your reminder email which you will receive 24 hours before the appointment, and the final email will be sent 2 hours before your appointment time with a link to connect us via video. Yes, I know, a lot of emails but we don’t want to miss you! Also, if you do not want to utilize our virtual option we will be more then happy to chat with you over the phone.  We understand life can get in a way of a lot and sometimes we do not have control over what can happen in our day. These meetings are not mandatory so you can schedule whenever you need.

What I think is the most fun part for prospective students is getting to know us, as we all come from different backgrounds in our educational and work experience sometimes you may be surprised to hear that you had or have the same career and academic goals or that are educational and work experience focused on a different path but led us here. Conversations with graduate ambassadors are suppose to be relaxed, engaging, and ultimately helpful for you as you are making your decision regarding graduate school. If this has relieved your anxiety of what an Ambassador Appointment entails then sign up for one using this link here. We look forward to connecting with you 🙂

Meet My Co-hort: Robert Hitt

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

We took a brief intermission and now we are back with another blog in my mini blog series of Meet My Cohort. Did you miss it? I hope so! This week I had the great pleasure to sit down with Robert Hitt, who is 31 years old and from Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a bachelors of science in Biology. He is now a 2nd year Master of Public Policy Student concentrating in Economic and Racial Equity.

Robert Hitt, MPP’23

What did you do before coming to Heller? 

I came back to the United States a year prior to coming to Heller, but before that I was teaching English in Rabat, Morocco for four years. When I came back, I started  working at Mass General Hospital as  a Clinical Laboratory Assistant, which is where I worked before leaving to go to Morocco.  I continued working this position during my 1st year at Heller but only part-time, 3 days a week. I wouldn’t recommend this during your first year, at least.

Why did you choose Heller? 

 

When I was in Morocco, the pandemic had just hit, and we were in lock down. We couldn’t really leave our apartment besides going to the grocery store, and the school I was working at was shut down. This was also in the midst of the 2020 Presidential Election, and I began thinking hard about what I wanted to do with my career. I enjoyed teaching, but knew I did not want to continue with that, and I knew I wanted to come back to the United States, but at the time we were waiting for my wife’s visa to get approved. Thinking about what I wanted to do, I knew I was interested in politics and law, which left me debating between policy or law school. I spoke with a lot of my family members that were lawyers, who all told me not to go to law school. I still might, who knows, but someone had mentioned public policy, and I thought this idea was neat. If I did public policy, I wouldn’t have to try to use the law in a way that I thought was just, but to shape laws or influence how they’re made.  This was appealing to me, so I applied to a couple different programs, but I appreciated Heller’s social justice bent. In addition to this, I saw that Bob Kuttner was a professor here, and I been reading his work. I reached out to him and observed one of his classes “Capitalism and Social Policy”  and I enjoyed it. Bob Kuttner was really kind to me and he offered me a internship at the Prospect when I joined his  class in Spring 2022. Knowing he was there, I realized the school really aligned with my values.

 What is or was your favorite class at Heller?

Because I am interested in workers rights and labor power, I will say my favorite classes are Economic Theory and Economic Labor, both taught by Professor Lisa Lynch. I find the classes to be really engaging. We don’t only talk about how the labor market affects worker power but also how workers can exert their power in the workplace and gain better wages/benefits for themselves. This is what I really want to do after Heller: improve the wellbeing of workers and facilitate them in using their power.

What is or was your most challenging class at Heller?

Maybe Law and Social Justice: Constructions of Race and Ethnicity and Their Consequences, taught by Professor Anita Hill. There were a lot of concepts I was not familiar with and at times the subject matter was difficult and uncomfortable. Yet I think for myself as a white man, it was really important for me to be exposed to these subjects . I still feel like I am not fully conversant on all of the topics in terms of transformational justice and restorative justice, but at least it gave me a baseline which is really good and helpful.

What are some activities you are currently doing at Heller?

No disrespect to the faculty or administration, but the best part of Heller is my classmates. With a group of classmates we started our own independent student magazine, The Open Air Journal. We are able to publish student work which in other cases would go to waste in someone’s computer file and constructively criticize the way things are done at Heller. In general, Heller has been open to hearing about this criticism which is a tribute to them. Through this organization, we were able to meet a bunch of students throughout the programs, COEX, SID, and I got to know a lot of my own classmates in the MPP program a little better through their writing. For me, personally, I feel like that is where I come alive and I can express myself. I really value that we are able to provide our classmates with a space to experience this in addition to improving their writing skills. We are publishing our Fall 2022 edition online this month, November 21st, and we have submissions from all different co-horts: creative, academic, and even a podcast! This is a long term project so even when I am gone there will be first years taking over, so if anyone reading is interested, let me know and I can facilitate that.

What are your plans after Heller?

I am going to win the lottery and not worry about anything. Nah, I am just kidding! I either want to work in organized labor directly or work in policy, whether that is in a think tank or government agency. I want to be helping workers rights and/or facilitating worker power whether that is in the Department of Labor, Office of Budget and Management, or a progressive think tank. I am looking all around I have a couple of target organizations in mind but I am keeping my options open as well.

Any advice you would like to give prospective students? 

Believe that you are worthy of being here and that the institution has to live up to you and not the other way around.

Wow, what a strong way to end this blog post! Thank you Bob for stepping into the Admissions Blog Room. If you are interested or know someone who maybe interested in joining the Open Air Journal  when arriving to Heller contact openair@brandeis.edu. See everyone soon for another blog in Meet My Co-hort!

Event Recap: Punishment Culture and the Persistence of Mass Incarceration in Massachusetts

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

In my concentration course this semester, our professor asked if we could attend a bonus lecture as part of our regularly scheduled class. I decided to attend the Joshua A. Guberman Lecture: Punishment, Culture, and the Persistence of Mass Incarceration in Massachusetts, presented by Elizabeth Matos.  Brandeis University created the Joshua A. Guberman lecture to honor Guberman, who had passionate concern for individual well being and social justice. I chose to attend this lecture because I have had an interest all my life in criminal justice, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline, anything that involved the justice system in America. I felt that the lecture would be a good place for me to start getting my brain going about my presentation in my class and to learn more about what mass incarceration looks like in Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Matos was a an amazing speaker and lecturer, linking her life story to her current work in a phenomenal way. She walked us through the origins of mass incarceration: what triggered this mass wave of incarceration of Black and Brown people in America and connecting the historical origins to what we are seeing in mass incarceration trends today, especially in Massachusetts. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and Black and Brown individuals  are 4 times more likely to be incarcerated versus their white peers. Even though Massachusetts is on the lower end of incarceration rate, it does not mitigate the fact that they still dedicate most of the budget to spending on prisons.  According to the Department of Corrections 2020 annual report, the state spends, on average, $61,241 per prisoner at its largest prison,  MCI-Norfolk, and $111,674 per prisoner at its only exclusively maximum-security prison, Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. . Now imagine if we dedicated this money to community resources and schools in low and middle income communities. What would Massachusetts look like?

I had two major takeaways from sitting in on this lecture. The first takeaway is that Massachusetts is the only state in the country that will utilize correctional centers as places to treat people who have mental health and substance abuse issues. Individuals who struggle with mental health crises or substance abuse issues are not offered residential treatment, instead, they are sent to solitary confinement.  Elizabeth highlighted the story of Ayesha Johnson, a 35 year Black women who died in the custody of Boston Suffolk Prison, after only being there for a few hours. Even though the state ended the practice of incarcerating women for civil commitments in 2016, Johnson was civilly committed under ‘Section 35’ in Massachusetts, which is meant for people who need mental support. She did not need to be locked up because she did not commit a crime, she needed extensive treatment and support. But instead she ended up becoming another statistic of our harsh criminal justice system. Prisons are not places of treatment, they are a place of discipline and often torture. It made me question where did we go wrong if we deem that having a mental health issue or substance abuse problem is a crime? Individuals who struggle with these issues are often criminalized more often, especially if they are Black and Brown: just another tactic in this new system we know as the New Jim Crow.

My second takeaway from this lecture is what we dedicate to the spending budget for prisons. I mentioned that the state of Massachusetts spends $61,241  per prisoner at is largest prison. Even though efforts for rehabilitation and treatment have definitely grown over the last decade or so, we are still far removed from what biggest goal of prisons should be: rehabilitation.  When an individual is incarcerated, they give up everything they have and now they no longer own a car, or have a job, they do not see their families, they are now property of the state. Yet when the state no longer has them as property, they are released from prison with nothing to fall back on at all. How is someone supposed to become a law abiding citizen when they have to start from the bottom. I wondered,  ‘How could we better support the assimilation in society after an individual is released from prison? How could we prepare an individual for this while they are awaiting release? How could we make sure they are rehabilitated and they do not reoffend?’ I asked these questions to Elizabeth at the end of her lecture, and she reassured me that this element of mass incarceration has grown better over time. The re-entry space has more resources then they ever had, because what people experience in prisons affect their reentry. Now, we have peer coaches and peer actor individuals who were also formerly incarcerated, supporting the release of individuals back into society. Yet in order to keep pushing for a more effective re-entry space, we must have all hands on deck from all aspect of our government.

I am really happy that I decided to attend this lecture. I did leave the lecture with more questions and more worries, however, I did feel I learned something new about a state I have lived in for the last five years of my life. I got to understand how this state handles mass incarceration and what efforts are being pushed, discussed, and implemented in hopes of ending the spread of mass incarceration and to really encourage a more robust restorative justice practicing society.  Thank you Heller for hosting this lecture, and thank you Elizabeth for providing the knowledge on this topic and helping us as students, faculty, and peers in continuing our fight for justice in the area of mass incarceration!

Meet My Cohort: Brian Stanley

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Are you guys still with me in this mini blog series of Meet My Cohort? I hope you are! Huge thank you to Hannah Wilcove for stepping into the admissions blog room. Next up in this series is truly one of my favorite cohort mates in this program. Super honored to be able to sit down and chat with Brian Stanley. Brian is 25 years old, from Clifton Park, New York, and in 2019 he graduated from Boston University (hey fellow Terrier) with a bachelors in Political Science and minor in Sociology. He is currently a 2nd year Master of Public Policy candidate concentrating in Environmental Justice.

 What did you do before coming to Heller?

Brian Stanley, MPP’23

Before Heller I was working at the AIDS Action Committee, which was a branch of Fenway Health. I was working as a high-need, low-income HIV case manager for Essex County, basically everything above Boston. I had a case load of about 50 people and I was the only arm of Fenway there, so I was living in Salem for two years: I started this job in 2019 and left in 2021 before starting this program. In addition to this, I was also working in food service at the time, largely because being a case manager doing social service work with a bachelors degree isn’t the greatest pay, and living in Salem, you wouldn’t be able to live off just that. Aside from the difficulty in having to work two jobs, they were both fulfilling opportunities  and both of these experiences informed my route today. It was different crowds of people administratively, professionally, and socially.

Why did you choose Heller?

I applied to a lot of programs and this was one of the few policy programs I applied to.  I felt between the faculty and Heller’s messaging that even if the experience was not going to be what I expected it to be, that there  would be people here with the same interests in environmental, social justice and equity.  Prioritizing these interests in different ways, so even if the program wasn’t what I expected it to be I knew the connections and network I would build will still be a solid motivation to continue on in the program. Like the other programs I was applying for I did not think their messaging was on point enough, their diversity statements and program directors did not have that same inclusive language, and I mean it could all be a front, but I think people who would be attractive to these certain elements in a program are the people I would vibe with. I also looked at Heller’s institutes which demonstrated their values and that someone here wasn’t just doing the talk but also walking the walk.  I felt like that was another green flag, once again even if the program wasn’t what I expected, I knew there were faculty, staff, and students doing the work is what I can vibe with.

What is your favorite class at Heller? 

I hate to be a repeat to Hannah, but my favorite class was Policy Approaches to Gender Based Violence taught by Kaitie Chakoian. The course was really phenomenal: it broke down real complex human concepts around violence,  recovery, and healing in ways that were both accessible and still human. I feel some of the other courses here have difficulty translating what it means to be worthy of justice, integrity, and human value to something we can understand. Then we end up in language of federalism when we could be in the language of human terms, but Kaitie really broke down concepts well, she was engaging, and she provide extensive feedback on assignments, which I think highlighted her excellence and commitment to excellence. Super phenomenal and probably my favorite.

What was your most challenging class at Heller?

Thinking about this I break into two categories. I think for me, first, it would be Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice, and Problems taught by Celeste Reid Lee and Sheryl Seller class directly out of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy. It was intellectually challenging because I did not know anything from this field: I did not understand how philanthropy can relate to social justice, or even if philanthropy could relate to social justice. I thought the speakers were phenomenal but I did find the course to be challenging because of the materials. However, the instructors from the Sillerman Center were amazing in the way they coordinated the course, feedback on material, and really broke down a lot of the concepts. For me, another layer of challenging is a course I am taking right now, which is Environmental and Climate Justice taught by Prakash Kashwan. It is actually a undergraduate class I am taking. The reason why this class is challenging is because its a undergraduate course, and the instructor is working to engage meaningfully with everyone, who are all from different academic levels, and the assignment structures are very different. It’s a lot of reading response, with week to week assignments, which in some ways it becomes  regurgitating information instead of synthesizing it so its a completely different flow. He is integrating some elements of graduate courses such as take home exam options to synthesize material and the way he teaches information is wonderful and his linkages of decolonization, capitalism, and climate change is astounding. He himself is great but the structure of the course is what I find challenging.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I think I’m going to work on deciding between a career in research versus a career in something on the ground. I do not have anything concrete yet I have been applying though! These are all opportunities to say the least, eventually I may want to pursue a PhD,  but I have to really nail down what is worth doing with the limit time that I do have. So for me that is trying to figure out where do my moral and ethics align, because I know ultimately they align with community, justice, and equity, but I have to figure out my role in that conversation. It reminds me of the quote  from Audre Lorde, “the masters tools will never dismantles the master’s house” and so like how do you embody that with a masters degree in public policy, right? I have no idea, but I am really excited to find out what that looks like and surrounding myself with people who are dealing with these questions.

Any advice you would like to give prospective students? 

It is very critical to give yourself to give yourself as many options as you can because things that you decide are worth doing are worth doing and no matter what decision you’re making, you will think something else may be worth it differently. I think committing yourself to principle of what you want  to do and what you want to be are fundamental to succeeding anywhere. So giving yourself the most options, applying to every program, speaking to faculty, and dealing with research is what I would say is the best choice. The worst thing you could do is do one thing and feel trapped. That’s how you lose drive in a program or drive in future decision. Give yourself space to fail, there is literally no one at this school or in this program that has been committed to something 100% percent and all the time. When it comes down to it, you need to be more committed to what those principles are, even if its just making more money in the future, you need to decide if its worth it. That’s my two cents.

Thank you Brian, for stepping into the admission blog room, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with you! What a fulfilling way to now lead us into a brief intermission of my mini blog series “Meet My Cohort”, but don’t worry I will be back with some more of my classmates and their stories.

Meet My Cohort: Hannah Wilcove

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Who’s ready for the next blog in my “Meet My Cohort” mini blog series? I am, so I hope you all are too. Last week we kicked off the series with Katherine Gagen, our future philanthropist in policy, and this week I am introducing you all to Hannah Wilcove! Hannah is 25 years old from Rockville, Maryland, and she graduated from University of Maryland- Baltimore County, where she majored in Women’s and Gender studies with a minor in Sociology. She is currently a 2nd year MPP student concentrating in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

What did you do before coming to Heller?

I graduated from undergrad in 2019, and later that year, I joined a state senate race in Virginia because their state senate races are always in the off year. I then stayed on political campaigns throughout the 2020 election cycle.

Hannah Wilcove, MPP’23

Why did you choose Heller? 

To speak about grad school more broadly, I realized that working on political campaigns and getting people elected was great and all, but I really wanted to focus more on what candidates did after we elected them. Once candidates get into office, what legislation and policies do they pass? I began looking at programs in public affairs and public administration and I quickly realized that the MPP had what I really wanted to focus in on was that aspect of public policy. Even though there are a lot of great public policy schools in the D.C. area, I chose Heller because first, I wanted to get out of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area, since I have spent my entire life there.  Second, which is the bigger reason, is that I was very picky in the schools I was applying for, and I wanted schools that really focused on the human aspect and I loved Heller’s commitment to advancing social justice. I did not want to go to a school where all I did was learn economics and statistics and still teach a philosophy of policy that is still pretty white-male dominated, led, and influenced. I wanted a place where I be able to talk about gender, race, sexuality and talk about all kinds of different people that policy affects.

What is your favorite class at Heller?

Anyone who has spent more then two seconds with me knows the answer to this. My favorite class here at Heller is Policy Approaches to Gender Based Violence, taught by Kaitie Chakoian. She is able to create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable to discuss these extremely difficult topics. She is just incredible at moderating a classroom and facilitating a learning environment, which sounds like a bunch of buzzwords and academic jargon, but it really does matter when you are talking about difficult, personal, and traumatic topics like gender based violence. Having someone who knows how to teach and lead with empathy is really important.

What is your most challenging class at Heller?

I think for this, I want to say it was Policy Analysis, taught by Michael Doonan, because, one, the field of policy analysis is so broad that there were a lot of different elements to cover. In addition to that,  this class had the biggest variety of assignments.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I am still figuring this out! I am really open to a lot of different options. I know I want to go back into the work force and that I do not want to pursue a PhD because I really want to be out in the field. Something I been looking into is more lobbying and advocacy work, because that is an avenue that will allow me to lean into the areas I am incredible passionate about and voice my support for specific policies without having to tone it down, which you might have to in other roles or organizations. That is not to say I am not willing to do government work, but I think that being an advocate is something that really plays to my strengths and being able to do that professionally with the knowledge that I gained from this program would be a good fit for me.

Any advice you would like to give to prospective students? 

I will say this to any graduate student, yes, classes are important, but also remember that you are still human. It is not healthy to just focus on the schoolwork side of things, you also need to and deserve to live, make new friends and spend time with them, making sure that you are eating and sleeping, and really prioritizing your mental health.  You are going to hear a lot of people paying lip service to that, but figuring out what actions you can take to really preserve your mental health and find joy while navigating graduate school is going to make the process a lot better. Another thing I would like to mention is something that is great about Heller: this is not the kind of competitive environment that you might find in other schools or programs. I know when my sister was going through her law school process, she was warned how competitive it was but that is not the case here at Heller.  It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors.

Can we get a little commotion for the last quote: “It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors”? What a strong way to close out a student interview! Thank you so much Hannah for stepping into the admissions blog room! Stay tuned for the next student feature in “Meet My Cohort” .

My Summer Internship Story

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

“Work all winter so you can have fun all summer” or whatever the kids are saying nowadays… was not my experience this summer! Since my sophomore year of high-school, I’ve challenged myself to obtain an internship during my summer breaks. Internships grant students the opportunity to showcase their soft skills, but also gives the chance to learn new skills. It provides the opportunity to gain real life work experience that is transferable to your future career goals and even in the classroom.

For the Master of Public Policy program here at Heller, it is highly recommended to do an internship over the summer for the reasons stated above and many others. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Department of Revenue – Child Support Enforcement  Division at the Metro office in Downtown Boston Government Center area. The Department of Revenue (DOR)  in Massachusetts manages the states taxes and child support. In addition to this, DOR  helps cities and towns manage their finances and administer the Underground Storage Tank program. The main focus of this agency is rulings and regulations, tax policy analysis, communications and legislative affairs.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE)  Division provides tools and services to parents who pay child support and parents and caretakers who receive child support. Child support is a way for parents to share financial responsibility for their child even though they do not live together.  Even though I have previous experience in social/human services, the child support office was just a place I knew no parent wanted to be summoned too. The stereotyping around child support is that the state just wants to take your money and give it to a person that you no longer want to have any connections with whatsoever. Yet the person you no longer want to have relations with is now either the mother or father of your child or children, sealing that connection for life. So who is really at fault? Certainly not the child, so the DOR steps in. In the past year the division has allocated $2 million in compensation for children in Massachusetts.

My work was very clear, transparent, and extremely eye-opening. I worked from home Mondays and Fridays and hopped the orange line train Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  As I have stated in previous blogs, I have learned to attend new experiences with minimal  preconceived notions and expectations, especially with the work I would be doing and the customers I would interact with. I was tasked with a two part summer project which required me to take a deep dive into our GMT testing process. GMT Testing in “normal people terms” is paternity testing in order to establish paternity between the child and alleged father.  All parties, alleged father, mother, and child have to participate in paternity testing.  The first part of the project, I spent time conducting data analysis using Excel about variations in our appointment attendance and testing result rates. I was able to provide Regional Directors with data that would help them meet their testing goals for the fiscal year. This part was daunting, to say the least, because I had minimal Excel experience beforehand but my supervisor never held that against me and trained me efficiently on how to navigate it. I wouldn’t say I am an Excel guru now but I certainly obtained good Excel skills.

For the second part of my project, I conducted a phone survey with mothers who were on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or formerly receiving TANF about their experiences with the GMT test process. I chose TANF mothers as my sample population because majority of child support case referrals are directly from our DTA offices. I called 90 mothers in hopes they would participate in my survey, and I received a response from 37 mothers, which, for me, was huge because I had never conducted a phone survey, and because I did not know if these women would even want to participate. I was able to gather information regarding trouble with scheduling of appointments, problems accessing the testing location, and concerns with our policies. Being able to hear these mothers stories and concerns made me feel extremely anxious, because I am a public policy student who is currently trying to break into this system. However, the system was already established in a way where all I could say to mothers who expressed concerns I was not trained for was, “I will take down your information and pass it along.” I sympathized with these mothers as a child whose mother applied to receive child support, yet rarely was given anything. I was able to present these findings in a final presentation followed by my personal recommendations to CSE regional directors who were very pleased with the results. However, I can not tell you if they will follow through with the feedback and recommendations. Maybe it will be a blog for another time? I hope!

To close out, I can say I was very proud of the work I was able to produce, the skills I was able to learn, and the people I connected with over the course of my summer.  I enjoyed my work so much that I switched my concentration from Economic and Racial Equity to Child, Youth, and Family Policy (CYF). I felt that the CYF concentration would be able to provide me with the tools to that would foster a healthy development of children, youth, and families a concentration that I honestly should of started with from the begin of my graduate school journey. Better late then never, right? Excited to see what this concentration entails as I approach my final year of grad school. Thank you, DOR, for an amazing summer and thank you, Heller, for providing me with the tools to succeed in that space!

 

5 Item Bucket List for Summer 2022

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?  My favorite season is finally approaching and yes, you guessed it, it’s summertime.  I love summer for many reasons: it’s a time for warm weather and clear skies, relaxation, and spending time with family and friends. What is most exciting about this summer is that after 5 years of attending school in Boston, this will be my first time staying over  the summer. I always hear how fun it is to be in Boston over the summer and I am hoping to reap all the lovely benefits. This summer I am challenging myself to complete a mini 5 item bucket list before school starts back in the Fall.

1.  Take a Trip To Salem

I know what you are thinking— there is no way I been in Massachusetts this long and have not visited Salem. I am busy girl with a lot of academic priorities, cut me some slack! Salem is famous for its Witch Trial of 1692 and its author Nathaniel  Hawthorne. The place is filled with architecture, world class museums, shopping, and restaurants you can easily spend the entire day exploring Salem. If you have any favorite museums and restaurants in Salem please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

2. Read 2-3 Books from my favorite genres

I love reading books for leisure, but I found it difficult to read for my own pleasure while also juggling academics.  One of my best friends from undergrad inspired this task on my bucket list as she has already read about 15 books since the start of this year alone.  I am so excited to walk into a library or bookstore to pick out books from some of favorite genres such as Young Adult Fiction or Thrillers. I would also like to read one book that promotes mental health and self care so that I can learn some tips and tricks to prepare for Fall semester.

3. Teach Myself How to Knit

This item is something that has been on my mind for a little over a year now. When I was younger I would enjoy making friendship bracelets with the really thin string, making my friends and family endless bracelets filled with different designs and colors. I thought to myself, if I can sit for hours flipping, tucking, stretching this thin thread, how hard would it be to knit a thing or two? I feel that knitting will bring me joy, relaxation, and it is also a hobby that I can do anytime or anywhere. If I do say so myself, this item is the one I’m excited for the most.

4. Road Trip

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned road trip. Coming from California, I have always found it to be super interesting that I can drive one or two hours from Boston and possibly end up in an entirely different state! If you drive one to two hours in California, do you know where you would be? Yup, still in California. I am not sure yet if I want to make my way up North or South but the options are endless and hopefully I will have enough gas money to make it through!

5. Volunteer

I have found much pleasure in taking time to make sure I give back to the community. I have previous experience volunteering with the Petey Greene program assisting individuals who are incarcerated  with tutoring help completing their high school diplomas, GED, or college courses. I hope that this summer I can  either volunteer again with the program or sign up to assist at a local food bank or shelter also dragging my friends along with me to do the same!

This mini bucket list is not much but it is something to look forward to, and I hope that I am able to complete at least two (if not all of the tasks) I have listed this summer. I hope to create a bunch memories, a lot of knitted items, and to impact someone else’s life.

My Experience as a First Generation Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Nearly five years ago, I took a huge leap of faith and gathered all my belongings to move 3,000 miles away from everything I knew in hopes to purse higher education. Fast forward: I am now nearing the completion of my first year as a first generation Master of Public Policy student. WOO!

In retrospect, I attempted to begin my journey without any expectations because when I began undergrad I had so many expectations for what I thought my college experience would entail, but everything does not always go according to plan. I wanted to come into my graduate student journey with a clean slate and a open heart and mind. I did not want to assume that any of my classmates would be similar to me, or that my professors would either be helpful or not, or if I would even be able to utilize all the resources provided  to me.  I came into this program wanting to be a sponge, soaking up all information and knowledge in relation to my interest and my future career goals. This program however has exceed anything expectations that I could have possibly created.

One thing I’ve appreciated the most about my time here at Heller is that the classroom  is extremely collaborative, open, and vulnerable space for students to voice their interests, opinions, and concerns on important policy issues. In undergrad, I rarely felt comfortable working in groups or voicing my opinions because I felt others would not understand my views or value them. I appreciated the push from my fellow peers and my professors at Heller, who encouraged me to share my experiences and thoughts. To my surprise, in most cases, others would have similar experiences, shared interests and thoughts. My professors deemed my insight as important and provided extensive feedback on how to tailor my skills. Being a first generation graduate student, it meant the world to me to enter a space without feeling as if you do not belong there.  Reassurance is key for connecting with first generation students because we can easily feel imposter syndrome. The feeling of knowing that you earned your spot like every one else and that your insight matters is the best feeling when navigating higher education.

What I have learned on my journey thus far is that time management is everything. This is something most first generation students struggle with because we do not have the luxury of just being able to attend school; at times we have to cater to needs of family members or work jobs that will assist us in paying for our education and survival. This can be overwhelming for many individuals, but what I have learned from this is that it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to say that you do not understand, and it is okay to say that it is not feasible for you at the moment and to ask for an extension. No one in this program wants to see you fail because of things outside of your control. Being able to speak up about  your needs is important and you never know who might be able to support you or point you in the right direction.

School is far from easy and I never expected graduate school to be so. I knew I was in for a challenge, I just did not know what it was going to be exactly. I am proud of how far I have come and I am looking forward to what is to come next. To all my first generation graduate students: do not forget that you deserve to be where you are no matter where you come from.  Continue to always show up in spaces as your greater self and even though some days maybe harder then others, just remember where you started and where you will be when you are done. Take care of yourselves– we got this!

Who runs the world? GIRLS! How to Celebrate Women’s History Month

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

We are now entering March, also known as  Women’s History Month! WOO!  Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the evolution of women all around the globe. To celebrate, I wanted to make a quick list of fun things to do with your girlfriends during Women’s History Month:

  1. Girls Karaoke Night- Who doesn’t love a night of singing and dancing with your girlfriends. Find a good karaoke spot or host karaoke night in your home listening to your favorite women artist/groups  without any picks from the boys!
  2.  Brunch- Now what is a Women’s History Month without a good brunch! Me and my friends love trying out new brunch spots around the area.  Some of my favorite brunch spots currently in the Boston Area: Koy, a modern Asian cuisine restuarant with great music near Faneuil Hall; LuLu’s in Allston, the most perfect comfort food; and my ultimate favorite Earl’s inside the Prudential Center, they never failed a girls night!
  3. Host a Spa/Sleepover- There’s nothing better then a sleepover with your favorite friends! You can plan a personal spa day at a spa of your choice before the start of the sleepover. We are girl bosses on a budget and Groupon has amazing deals that I encourage everyone to check out. Or buy spa-like products from your favorite stores such as Target, Ulta, Sephora where you can relax with face and foot mask or enjoy doing each others makeup!

These are just a few fun ways to celebrate yourself as a women and the women you love in your life as well. Once again, Happy Women’s History Month!

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