Tag: Student Life (page 1 of 5)

Embracing Winter in Boston!

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

Now that the semester is over, we all get to enjoy a break from academics, and for me, that means taking some time to explore more of the Boston area and check out the places I’ve saved over the semester. The only problem is now the days are short, and cold. Luckily, as Brandeis students, there are a number of museums and other places we can visit with a discount.

One of my personal favorites is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, while Brandeis does not offer a discount, if you present your student ID, you will receive a discounted admission. This museum is easy to get to as it is centrally located by a few public transit stops. There is also a great Netflix documentary about the largest heist that happened at the museum. This museum is not your typical museum and I highly recommend you check it out yourself.

Up next is the Museum of Fine Arts: the museum is large, but beautiful and I recommend you visit, maybe even twice.  Not only is the MFA conveniently located as well, but it is just a short walk from the Gardner Museum.  As Brandeis students, admission is free with your student ID. The MFA has great rotational exhibits and is a great place to spend a rainy day, or any day.

A couple other options to check out are the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum as well as the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. I have not been able to go to these museums yet, but they have great reviews and offer discounted admission with your student ID.

I also recommend checking out some of the seasonal activities, like ice skating, winter markets, winter outdoor dining or walking around to view the festive decorations and lights. While these activities do not necessarily have a student discount, some of these options are free, a great way to embrace the season and try something new.

Lastly, winter is the season to be cozy, and feel productive while watching your favorite movies, baking, and enjoying time with family. I definitely recommend checking out your local library and finding a good book to enjoy while the weather is less than favorable, this is one of my favorite winter activities, especially if it includes freshly baked cookies. This time is a way to spend our days doing new things and being away from our classes is a great time to recharge and rest before the next semester begins.

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!

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” .

Meet My Cohort: Katherine Gagen

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

In this blog post, I decided to branch away from my own journey, thoughts, and advice. I’m calling this mini blog series “Meet My Cohort”, where I am inviting  some of my classmates from our Fall 2021 cohort into the admissions blog room to hear about their experience before joining Heller and during their time here at Heller.  To kick off this mini blog series I had the lovely opportunity to interview my classmate Katherine Gagen.

Katherine Gagen is 28 years old from Newton, Massachusetts. She joined Heller in Fall 2021, she is now a 2nd year MPP/MBA student concentrating in Economic and Racial Equity. She started with the MPP curriculum upon arrival. During the Fall 2022 semester, she is currently enrolled in two Social Impact MBA courses and two MPP courses. She will be finished with her degree in December 2023.  She has her bachelors degree in Urban Studies and Hispanics Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

headshot of Katherine Gagen

Katherine Gagen, MPP/MBA’23

What did you do before coming to Heller?

After graduating from Trinity College, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship where I served as a English Teacher Assistant in Argentina, assisting individuals who wanted to become English teachers; I did that for a year. I then returned back to the States, where were I worked as an Executive Assistant with a surgeon, which was an entire 180, because I had zero math and science in my background. We traveled around the country, researching health care disparities between people in urban and rural areas, going to locations such as Montana, Puerto Rico, and Appalachia. I was interested in hearing about people’s stories, less on the medical side, but more so on how each community knew what they needed to do and how each community had solutions. I learned there wasn’t a one-size fits all solution. This piqued my interest in policy.  I wanted to be in a more policy focused role and interacting with individuals on a policy level. If I stayed to work with her, I would be doing communications or marketing, which led to my job at the American Academy of  Arts and Sciences, where I served as an associate on their American Institutions society and public goods team. We put out 31 recommendations on constitutional democracy . We worked on a big project “Commission on the practice of democratic citizenship” on its final report “Our common purpose reinventing American democracy for the 21st century”. We talked about civil society, people, community trust building, polarization  Another project I worked on was “Making Access to American Justice”. I worked with this organization for two years. Then it made me realize I needed more skills. Even though I did as much as I did, I felt like I could not move up in the organization. Everyone I worked with had a PhD, so I knew I need to get these skills to do what I wanted to do and to make the impact I wanted to make.

Why did you choose Heller? 

I had known about Heller for a really long time. I grew up in Newton, which is 10 minutes away, but always said I did not want to go to school so close to home. Yet as I was learning more about different master’s programs, there were two things that stood out the most to me about Heller.  The first was the dual degree: schools like NYU have a MPA/MBA program, and other schools had numerous options for dual degrees. But Heller’s MPP/MBA dual degree stuck out to me because I knew I wanted to get the skills of the business degree, because I am not self-motivated enough to find these skills on my own, but public policy and social policy is what I am primarily interested in. The option to get both of these degrees, which compliment each other very well, provides a holistic review on how public and private organizations work together and gives you the skills to move between the two. The second thing that drew me to Heller was their commitment to social justice being underlined throughout all of the courses and all of the degrees.

What is your favorite class  at Heller? 

My favorite class was Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice, and Problems with Professor Celeste Lee. During this class, we talked about what social justice philanthropy is and the questions that come along with it.  I personally want to go into the philanthropic sector, so it was really beneficial for me to talk through this philosophical questions about the most pressing issues happening to people today. We also got the chance to give out grants to organizations: we had $15,000 to give away. We spilt the class into two groups, my group focused on civic engagement and we ran a whole grant cycle putting out request for proposals, reviewed applications, conducted interviews and at the end we invited our grantees to come and celebrate with us. The class provided a good insight on what the grant making process looks like in practice using real world dollars, which was really cool!

What is your most challenging class at Heller? 

Accounting. But I will say the although the course itself is hard, Professor Brenda Anderson is so good at teaching accounting. She makes the hard topic easier to digest.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I would love to work in the philanthropic sector or social impact investing sector. There are a few things I am actually interested in: my public policy interest is in democracy building and urban planning (which is my background and what I studied in undergrad). I am really interested in creating more equitable and democratic cities where people can actually come together across divides. Thinking about how cities are planned, for example: highways are blocked off to so many communities, so how can we reimagine that, and think of creative solutions to not marginalize or cities or segregate our cities. On the philanthropic side, I am interested in looking into the power dynamics that exist between donor and grantee, and how to make this process more equitable as well thinking about what can we do to make the grant application cycle more equitable? How can we redistribute wealth and resources that individuals can actually benefit from, instead of the top-down donor approach of “I want to fund this so I will only be giving money to this certain thing”?  Ideally, if there was a way to combine these two interests, that would be really great. I am burnt-out from the non-profit space so I would be very excited to enter this other world.

Any advice you would  like to give to prospective students?  

Know why you want to attend graduate school. Don’t go to graduate school just to go. Have a reason even if that reason isn’t very specific. I know that sounds contradictory, but don’t do it just to get another degree, go to school with a purpose. If you have a purpose for why you want to go to graduate school, it will make your journey much more manageable in the way you navigate the courses you want to take and help benefit your career. If your purpose of going to graduate school is to narrow down your options, then that is okay, but do not do it just because. Also, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your financial circumstances when applying to graduate school .

Thank you Katherine for stepping into the Heller Admissions Blog Room. Stay tuned for the next post of “Meet My Cohort”!

Best Study Spaces, Part 2

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

In my last post, I shared my recommendations for study spaces at Heller and on the wider Brandeis campus. However, these are not your only options. If you’re in the mood to venture off-campus, here are the top four places I recommend.

Common Good Co.

Common Good Co. (not to be confused with Café on the Common or Common Café) is situated on Moody Street, an easy stroll to the Indian Market, Global Thrift Store, or the Dollar General. Common Good Co. is a café that doubles as a coworking space. It has a very casual and open atmosphere and students are welcome to sit at one of the tables or study on the couch. A few Heller students work here, so it’s very easy to run into someone you know. In addition to a selection of coffees and teas, Common Good Co. has a few baked goods and Cuban sandwiches. This is not the right place to go if you need to work in silence, but if you’re working with a group or looking to chill with other students, Common Good Co. is the place to go. 

Panera Bread

If you’re anything like me, you’ll understand how hard it is to study on an empty stomach. Panera offers a range of soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as indoor (tables or booths) and outdoor seating. The Panera closes at 10pm so it’s a great place to study and fuel up after an evening class. This Panera is located in the Main Street Marketplace, a shopping plaza that includes a salon, an urgent care clinic, and a vitamins and supplements shop. From this plaza, you have easy access to the rest of main street, including the Walgreens and the gas station. 

Waltham Public Library

The Waltham Public Library is conveniently located on Main Street, within easy walking distance from the Hannaford grocery market, the UPS store, and many restaurants. 

Many people do not think of the library as a very tech-savvy place, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Your library account gets you free access to an eBooks and audiobooks database, movie and music streaming, and online e-learning classes. The library is also a great place to print, copy and scan class documents. If you need a break from academic reading, you can sign up for the library’s newsletter, which will send you tailored recommendations for novels in your favorite genre. In terms of study space, you (and up to three other people) can freely pop into one of the library’s four study rooms for two hours at a time. If you’re studying with a group, you can reserve a larger meeting room. These larger rooms can fit up to 15 people and can be reserved for as little as 30 minutes and as long as 12 hours. International students can also access adult ESL classes and conversation groups at one of the library’s partner organizations or online via their YouTube channel. 

Your Apartment

Sometimes, the best (and most productive) study experience can happen right in your living space. Depending on the layout of your apartment, you may be able to do work in your living room, at your kitchen table, on your balcony, or in your bedroom. Your own apartment is a great option because you have control over the space and the noise-level and you can be intentional about removing distractions. Studying at home also means you don’t have to worry about opening and closing times, or spending money, or changing out of your pajamas! Taking time to arrange your room and apartment’s common areas can lead to better study habits and overall well-being. In my next post, I’ll share tips and tricks on how to liven up your space. 

Your First Semester

If you’re headed into your first semester at Heller, it can seem like there’s no end in sight when it comes to the amount of work that needs to get done. And while that’s true, it’s also important to remember that there are some ways you can prepare for this new chapter before you even start your classes. I’ve been there, too— I know how hard it can be to stay organized in graduate school, so I’ve compiled some tips to help you manage your work, stay on top of deadlines, and get through that first semester.

  1. Start strong. Yes, consistency is key, but the stronger you start off in your classwork, the better you’ll be prepared down the line, when assignments, exams, and group projects start to pile up. When I was in graduate school, I liked to start each semester by gathering all of my syllabi together and putting down important dates in my planner so I could see when things were coming up. That helped me to manage my time consistently.
  2. Reach out for help early. At this point in the semester, things haven’t gotten hectic for students or faculty yet, so take advantage of that. Spend the first couple of weeks getting to know your professors (see if they have walk-in office hours: it doesn’t have to be for a specific assignment, it can be to connect with them and to learn about what makes a student successful in their courses) and learning about the abundant amount of resources available to you on campus.
  3. Set a consistent schedule an stick to it. Do you work best first thing in the morning? Right after lunch? Late at night? Set aside a few times a week that you can commit to classwork and readings. Sometimes you’ll need more time, and sometimes less, but that’s okay: if you have less, it’s a good time to get ahead of schedule and prepare for the weeks ahead (i.e., start working on final projects or reviewing notes from classes). If you end up needing more time, it’s easier to find it when you at least have a few reliable times that you can dedicate to your work. You’ll find yourself working more efficiently if you know what your limits are and how long they last.

We hope that this will help you stay organized and set yourself up for success in graduate school. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about how to be more successful in graduate school, let us know!  Good luck; we hope that you enjoy your first semester of grad school!

Andy’s Best Study Spaces, Part 1

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Across Brandeis campus, fall classes have officially begun! With a new semester (and for new students on an unfamiliar campus), an important question comes up – where are the best places to study? In today’s post, I will share my top three recommendations for study spaces on campus.

Best for Group Work

Around the corner from the Heller School building is the Goldfarb library. This library has an open area on the ground floor as well as multiple descending levels. If you’re looking to work with a group, however, the best place to go is the upstairs wing next to the Maker Lab. This space is much more casual and lounge friendly with couches and cushion-y chairs. There is a shelf full of board games if you need a mental break. There are also large group tables where you can hook up your laptop to a projector. The lower level of this space houses the Starbucks so you and your group mates can fuel up before or after your meeting. 

Best for Quietness 

If you’re willing to walk a bit, it’s a great idea to check out the Shapiro Campus Center. Most people go here for the Einstein’s or to buy school swag, but it also has a great study space. On the upper level, there is a small computer lab with MacBooks and desks that fit one-to-two people. This room has huge windows that let in a lot of natural light so you don’t feel like you’re studying in a cave. There tends not to be any talking in this computer lab and it’s high enough in the building that the noise downstairs doesn’t travel up, so it’s the perfect spot if you need a quiet space. It’s out of the way enough that you’re less likely to run into people you know – which can be useful if you’re a person who gets distracted easily.

Best for Spaciousness

If you don’t want to wander too far from the Heller School, the Schneider building has study spaces of its own. The areas my classmates and I have used the most are the breakout rooms next to the main classrooms. These rooms seat a ton of people and include both a whiteboard and a projector. This is great for practicing presentations or writing out accounting problems. These breakout rooms have large tables so if you are studying alone, you have the space to really spread out. In my next post, I’ll talk about the best study spaces off-campus.

How to Prepare for Your First Semester

(This is an update of Doug Nevins’ 2021 post). As I write this blog post, less than a month remains before classes start at Heller. For admitted students, I imagine the next month will be filled with excitement, anticipation, and impatience. If you are planning to begin classes at Heller this fall, I hope you have the chance to take a break from work and other obligations and relax, travel, and see family, as well as apartment hunt and begin preparing for classes. Here’s my advice for preparing for the academic and professional side of things, so that you can hit the ground running once classes begin.

At this point, you should be able to view the schedule of classes either on Workday or on the Registrar’s website. You can get a sense of what classes you are required to take this fall, as well as what electives are suggested, by looking at either the website of your academic program or the Individualized Learning Plan forms available for most programs on the “for students” section of the Heller website. These forms can help you to outline your schedule for the next couple semesters. While it’s not necessary to have everything planned out before you start, I found it helpful to peruse these materials before the semester began.

Some additional cheat codes regarding class registration: you can view previous semesters on the Registrar’s site to get a sense of what electives are available in the spring, and once you have access to Workday, our course administration site, you can “browse syllabi” from previous semesters to learn more about courses you might take in the future (with the caveat in both cases that it’s subject to change).

Now is also a great time to review the list of faculty in your program and see who shares your interests and chairs your concentration (if applicable for your program). You might consider reaching out during orientation to a professor with whom you aren’t taking a class this fall – that way you can meet them a bit sooner and hear their perspective in addition to that of your adviser and first-semester professors.

I’d also encourage you to view the career center website and get set up on Handshake as soon as it is possible to do so. Fall information sessions with employers will be available to register soon. I’d definitely recommend scheduling a career advising appointment early in the semester and introduce yourself to the staff.

Lastly, once you have access to Workday, you can view jobs for students and apply for an on-campus job. You can also join career-focused Heller groups on Facebook and LinkedIn (there is also a Brandeis graduate student housing group on Facebook).

While you’ll be provided with the info you need by email and once you arrive on campus, spending some time perusing the website and finding information specific to your own interests and goals doesn’t hurt. Good luck as you gear up for the fall semester!

Ariel’s Advice for Getting the Most out of Heller

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

The Heller School is community-oriented, an environment that leans towards collaboration over competition. Graduate school is understandably a huge decision for someone and one that any person would want to get the full value from.  Admittedly, I was uncertain I would attend Brandeis when I was deciding where to go to graduate school. I applied to 8 different schools and was weighing my options. There are so many factors that go into making such a crucial decision, especially one that will enhance one’s career.  I ultimately chose The Heller School because I was able to combine my interest in obtaining technical business skills with a social impact lens in addition to continuing to work within a global scope. The combined dual Social Impact MBA/MA in Sustainable International Development was the best program offering for my interests and career trajectory. Now that I have graduated I can reflect on what made my experience significant and how you can get the most from your studies.

Tips and insights from a recent graduate:

  1. Connect: Developing relationships with professors, administrators, TA’s, and staff is a great way to connect with the greater Heller community. Professors are very friendly and approachable, if you have specific research and or career interest in mind make sure to reach out to relevant individuals that may be able to connect you with networking opportunities and resources in the future. Although I was quite shy during my studies I realize the positive impact introducing yourself to professors and staff can have. It’s also a great way to engage more in the classroom and seek out help when needed.
  2. Get Involved: Getting involved with working groups, on-campus jobs, speaker series, and other extracurricular activities is a great opportunity to get to know your peers better. I took advantage of the following extracurricular activities at Heller: Heller Board Fellows, Heller Startup Challenge, Brandeis Innovation’s Spark Incubator Program, and The Social Impact Case Collection. Getting involved with a program outside of the classroom helped develop my leadership skills and most importantly created a great sense of community and purpose as a graduate student.
  3. Take initiative: If you have a specific passion or interest that you want to explore there is always room to apply them to your studies. For example, at Heller, a majority of course assignments and projects are completed as a team and with your topic of interest. The advantage to this format is that you can tailor the majority of your studies to your passion and something you want to transfer to your career. Secondly, working under a common interest for example; housing justice, financial literacy, agricultural livelihoods, etc. allows you to bond through collaboration with other students. Lastly, The Heller Student Enrichment Funds and the Graduate Student Affairs are two great resources for students to subsidize or fund conference or research projects.
  4. Network: Informational interviews with Heller alumni is a great way to learn more about the job market and what type of career pursuits you may want to take advantage of upon graduation. Boston is a city with cutting-edge industries and innovation, explore the city and attend city-wide events for young professionals and students!

Most importantly, have fun, and best of luck!

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