Brandeis GPS Blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Month: May 2022

2022 Graduation Ceremony

Your academic achievements are made even more noteworthy because they were made in the midst of “real life”.  I want you to know that the entire University community has great respect for what you have accomplished and how you have done it.” – Dr. Lynne Rosansky, Vice President for the Rabb School of Continuing Studies, in her opening address.

The Rabb School of Continuing Studies honored 130 Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) graduates with an in-person celebration on May 22, 2022. Student speaker, Irina Gaziyeva, a graduate of the MS in Project and Program Management, addressed the Class of 2022 along with guest speaker, Michael Katz, Digital Marketing and Design advisory board member.

In her opening address, Rosansky congratulated graduates on their hard work and dedication during their master’s degree programs. 

“Each of you have persevered through many challenges, joys and disappointments as our world turned virtual,” she said. “Take a moment – reflect. Today is your day – the day to celebrate your success.”

Rosansky also honored User-Centered Design instructor David Lumerman as the recipient of this year’s Rabb School Outstanding Teacher Award. 

“Dave has a reputation for going “above and beyond” with respect to his responsiveness and attention to student needs,” she said. Instructors like Dave who show such dedication and passion shape the learning experience for GPS students.

“I am grateful that I was in school during these years because it allowed me to stay focused, self-motivated, and accountable, said Irina Gaziyeva, and she discussed the challenges of the past few years. “We faced these challenges together.”

Reflecting on her classes and the faculty, “I got to experience small classes and engaging discussions with my classmates. These discussions were the center of my grad school experience.”

Toward the end of her speech, Gaziyeva highlighted “Commencement means the beginning- A beginning of new adventures, new ideas, and new projects.”

Michael Katz, shared his professional journey and the struggles to find balance in life akin to a 3-legged stool “familial life, social life and professional life.” Emphasizing that “your professional passion is so important. Without professional passion, it’s hard to steady that stool leg.”

Katz encouraged graduates to find a company they want to work for. He added “You’re a Brandeis graduate after all, and you have so much to offer. The knowledge and experience you’ve gained throughout your graduate program will allow you the freedom and opportunities to be more selective and not settle.”

Diplomas awarded in each program as follows:

  • Graduate Certificate in Learning Analytics (1 graduate)
  • MS in Bioinformatics (10 graduates)
  • MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech (3 graduate)
  • MS in Digital Marketing and Design (29 graduates)
  • MS in Health Informatics (4 graduates)
  • MS in Health and Medical Informatics (5 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security Leadership (7 graduates)
  • MS in Instructional Design and Technology (1 graduate)
  • MS in Learning Experience Design (4 graduates)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (21 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (15 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management (10 graduates)
  • MS in User-Centered Design (16 graduates)
  • MS in Software Engineering (4 graduates)

The graduation ceremony will be viewed online. Congratulations to our graduates!

Featured Graduate: Gayathri Hariharan

Gayathri Hariharan, Internal Audit Manager, MathWorks
Program: Technology Management MS
Graduation: May 2020

I come from a family with humble roots and simple beginnings in Chennai, India. My parents instilled the importance of education in me at a very young age and raised me to believe that education and formal learning establish the foundation for a successful life. My mother is my greatest inspiration – one of her qualities that continues to amaze me is that she has never stopped learning and exploring. She has always motivated me to pursue higher education.

Brandeis GPS was the institution of choice when I decided to do my Masters in Tech Management. Several of my family members and friends recommended Brandeis either through their privilege of being an alumnus or through their network. Having the opportunity to study at such a prestigious institution was a valuable experience, given the diverse network of students and faculty. I started my program with the objective of learning about the current trends in technology with a focus on cybersecurity and data analytics – the ultimate goal was to improve my career trajectory. The coursework was structured in a way to allow me to manage my personal and professional life while providing an opportunity to excel in the master’s program. I was able to set aggressive goals for myself and keep the momentum throughout the program. The faculty and staff at GPS were extremely helpful in guiding me to select courses that enhanced my capabilities and knowledge base in Technology, Management, and Data Analytics. My peers made the experience even better by contributing great ideas and perspectives every week. I found myself gravitating towards supplemental reading, a habit that I’m glad to have acquired through this master’s program. I found it truly rewarding when I completed my final project for the last coursework – that sense of accomplishment is inexplicable!

While 2020 is a memorable year for the world due to the pandemic, it was a milestone year in my life as I received my master’s degree from Brandeis GPS. The program has been instrumental in helping me redefine my professional career. The orientation provided by the coursework has improved my strategic thinking capabilities and problem-solving techniques. I have seen a profound impact on the way I think, create, and work. I have become the go-to person at work to help strategize and drive complex projects – I now have a seat at the table! As a woman in Tech, an immigrant and a mother of two beautiful children, I find this to be empowering in a day and age where we are breaking stereotypes and stigmas, and the society at large has a heightened awareness of diversity and inclusion.

I can say with confidence that my master’s degree has added a new dimension to my professional life and enhanced my creativity. In a world that is rife with social unrest and injustice, knowledge alone will pave the way for peace and well-being. I wish the best of luck to all those who are sharpening their knowledge at this great institution to shatter the glass ceilings in today’s corporate world!

Gayathri is the Re-Commencement Rabb School student marshal.
For more information online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

Lunch & Learn Recap with Alex Fedorov

On Thursday, May 12th 2022 I gave a talk entitled User Onboarding: Retaining more users by nurturing first time experiences. Here is a quick synopsis of the presentation.

I asked the questions: What is user onboarding, why is it important and to whom, and how should organizations think about applying it to their digital products?

This is relevant right now in my field because we spend a lot of time and effort getting the core product experience “right” but often tack on onboarding flows as an afterthought. This is a contributing factor in user churn and retention. Currently, almost 75% of people who download an app will abandon it within one day, and about 90% within one week.

Key takeaways:
  • Onboarding can be defined as the practice of optimizing a digital product for a user’s first-time experience with the goal of educating and orienting new users.

  • Good onboarding can be instrumental to retaining new users by helping them get started and realize value with minimal friction.

  • If possible, consider Gradual Engagement which is the practice of allowing users to try out some of your product before forcing registering.

  • Try to align your onboarding path with a core feature that users find valuable – in other words, get early users to the “A-Ha moment”.

  • Understand the core onboarding  patterns in use today: Instructional Tours, Wizards & Checklists, and Interactive Guidance to determine which is the right fit for your product. Note that some of the most effective onboarding employs a “learn by doing” approach.

  • Consider Out-of-app cues such as welcome emails, text messages and notifications to draw the user back in to ideally take a meaningful action.

  • Decide upon and implement onboarding decisions as a team. Measure and track metrics and activity related to user acquisition, early use, repeat use, and retention to see how your strategy is performing to retain the maximum amount of users.

Alex is an Advisory Board member for the User-Centered Design master’s degree program.


Join us next week for the Lunch & Learn seriesFor more information on the User-Centered Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

Featured Graduate: Junayed Sarwar

Junayed Sarwar, Operational Specialist at SF Denim
Program: Project and Program Management MS
Graduation: May 2022

While working in the manufacturing plant as an operations specialist I felt I needed to enhance my managerial skills as I was assisting the firm’s management team to expand their production capacity and establish a new manufacturing plant to accommodate this growth. In 2020, when the pandemic started much of the world went into different variations of lockdown. At the time I was working in Bangladesh, the government had issued most companies to start working remotely except for export-oriented manufacturing firms to work remotely for 60% of the time and the remaining percentage from offices.  This allowed me to effectively utilize my time to enhance my skills so that I could improve my managerial skills. When researching online programs, I came upon Brandeis’s master’s degree in Project and Program Management. I liked how the program was designed for working individuals who were looking to further their skills in the field.  The program provided not just a fundamental understanding of project management but also its practical applications. 

The professors’ backgrounds were quite diverse and helped broaden my perspective and learn how to apply different tactics to better motivate and manage my team. For example, Professor Sean J. Milligan’s Challenges in Project Management class, further developed my skills in understanding the various challenges arising during the lifecycle. I learned how to anticipate and prevent/minimize challenges. As an experienced project manager, he was able to create a balanced learning environment of the fundamentals and practical implications. I feel lucky and privileged to complete a postgraduate degree from a renowned institute like Brandies. My master’s degree has not only enhanced my skills and further my career, it has also helped me grow as an individual. This experience has opened windows to opportunities both academically and in my career in the future.

Junayed is the Rabb School 2022 student marshal.

For more information on the Project and Program Management MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Annie Shebanow

Faculty: Dr. Annie Shebanow

Program: Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate

Bio: Dr. Annie Shebanow has many years of technology and business leadership experience. She holds a Doctor of Computer Science degree. Annie has worked with doctoral students online as a dissertation committee member and was a lead faculty at Colorado Technical University. She has designed technical courses for various universities – Foundation Data Analytics, Network Security, Advanced Networking Systems, Information Forensic, Data Security, Data Mining, Business Intelligence, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, Data Analytics capstone course. On the business side, Annie has founded six technology companies.

What do you do as an instructor to help students get up to speed learning new coding languages (Python, R, etc.) and analytics tools, especially if they do not have technical backgrounds?

When I teach a programming language, I start with very basic tasks in the language to get students comfortable with the syntax then build upon the prior tasks every week.

As an instructor, in the beginning of the term I meet with my students often on Zoom sessions to get them up to speed with the course material and the programming language. I share many examples of how to write a code to conduct a particular function. To learn analytics methods and tools, I start with fundamentals and use real-life examples for every topic of the week.

How will your class help students solve problems in their current work environments? Or in the healthcare space in particular? 

The weekly topics are aligned with students’ current environment in the healthcare industry. The source of the data used for analytics is from healthcare organizations, discussions, and assignments are set for the students to look into their own healthcare organization to complete the weekly deliverables.  

How do you think this certification will help students in their career path?

The healthcare certification teaches students the data analytics foundations, techniques, and how to extract the right information from a very large amount of data. This certification program is designed to move students from the basics of healthcare data analytics to the technical and non-technical leadership positions, it is the stamp of approval for new skillset.

Is getting the healthcare certification difficult?

No, getting the healthcare certification is not difficult, it requires some attention to the subjects the program is offering, and a few hours of your time every week. 

Getting certification is a fun journey especially with the team of caring instructors.


Brandeis Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate is a collaboration between Brandeis GPS and Brandeis International Business School. 

Featured Graduate: Irina Gaziyeva

Irina Gaziyeva, Administrative Assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program: Project and Program Management MS
Graduation: May 2022

Obtaining a Master’s degree was always in my mind, but I never knew what I wanted to pursue. In 2019, I decided to make some personal changes, focus on growth and self-improvement, enhance my self-awareness, and develop a new sense of direction and motivation. I knew that investing in education would boost my confidence and would allow me to make new connections and expand my knowledge. In the fall of that year, reflecting on my work and life experience, I decided that I wanted to pursue a project management degree. After extensive research, I stumbled upon the Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies program- it was a perfect fit for me. 

I found a program (Project and Program Management) that I was interested in, and I could still have a full-time job and have time to take classes. My life is like a project itself, and I am its manager. Like on a project, I set goals for myself and execute them. I consider all aspects and sometimes have to take risks to achieve a goal. I am not afraid to face my fears or the unknown because I will either grow through the process or become more resilient no matter what the outcome is. My desired result is to absorb all the possible information and knowledge from this program and apply them to my personal and professional goals. I will never stop challenging myself because it helps me become more assertive and wiser. I believe in my potential and my ability to turn that potential into success.

The past two years have been challenging for all of us. Pandemic, social injustice, and elections, to name a few. The pandemic has forced us to adapt to the new norm. I had to adjust to working from home and continue to take my classes and, at the same time, maintain sanity during these difficult times. I am grateful that I was in school during these two years because it allowed me to stay focused, self-motivated, and accountable. 

All ten courses that I had to take taught me so much, and I enjoyed every class, especially our weekly class discussions. They were engaging and full of compelling and unique ideas—the interactive dialogues among peers and the instructor. Every classmate brought their individual life and work experience to these discussions, and each instructor challenged us to think outside the box. I have met some fantastic people along the way and learned so much about the program and myself. 

My plan after graduation is to apply my newly gained knowledge in my career. I currently work in higher education and would like to continue working in academia to help students grow. My goal is to impact their lives and ensure that they are going to succeed in the real world. 

My advice to incoming students is not to be afraid to take chances, be open-minded and develop practical time management tips and strategies to balance life, work, and school.

Irina is the 2022 Rabb School diploma ceremony student speaker

For more information on the Project and Program Management MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

Featured Graduate: Dean Hoffer

Dean Hoffer, Data Scientist at Aromyx Corporation
Program: Bioinformatics MS
Graduation: May 2022

When I applied to the Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies, Bioinformatics MS program I was a Research Scientist in an immunotherapeutics lab and was unhappy with my day-to-day work. My background is in immunology as a flow cytometry specialist, and I spent the majority of my career researching and designing experimental therapeutics. Over time, I began to realize that my career was reaching the ceiling with only a BS and I needed to take the next steps to progress as a scientist. With my two months of self-taught, very basic Python, I was dreaming of transitioning out of the lab and into a fully remote, computational role. Without Brandeis and the GPS program that career change would have never been possible.

My time at Brandeis passed quicker than I could have imagined. The weekly structure of the courses was easy to manage with a full workload, and the courses and material were all very useful and pertinent to the current state of the bioinformatics field. However, it is impossible to teach all the material needed in a field, and I think the most important skill that I learned at Brandeis is how to self-teach new material on the job. I also wanted to mention that I think Professor Andrey Sivachenko deserves special recognition for his courses on R and statistical theory. While challenging, these classes were easily the most valuable and well-taught courses I have taken at Brandeis GPS.

In my two years in the Bioinformatics GPS program, I was able to gain a high level of competency in several programming languages and a very strong understanding of statistical theory, all while working full-time. Before even completing the MS, I had accepted two different Data Scientist positions at different companies. I currently do research as a Data Scientist at Aromyx to define the human perception of smell and taste, building machine learning models with cheminformatics, genomics, and proteomics. Brandeis GPS has been a huge success and has helped me transition careers into a higher impact, less stressful, more rewarding, and more fun role. I encourage anyone curious to try it out. The design of the program allows for flexibility, maintaining income, hobbies, and work-life balance. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back for a second MS in a few years!


For more information on the Bioinformatics MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

UX is my superpower

Photo of David Lumerman.User experience is all about solving problems, and having a deep understanding of mechanics behind the actions people take gives a UX practitioner more tools to solve these problems.

Like Batman, the world’s greatest detective, you use a combination of the clues found in our surroundings, in user norms like heuristics, and active listening to users, and even the needs and goals of stakeholders to solve the problems, combat evil (or at least bad UX) ands save Gotham City.

This all begins with asking the right question.

As an adjunct professor at Brandeis the “Why” is something I explore with all the students in the program. The “Why” becomes the caped crusader’s utility belt, and all the tools fit into the various compartments. Understanding the “Why” is key to being able to deliver good UX and improvement for the people we are trying to help. Making things better, more efficient and easier to use is the key.

The most successful students in the program can not only relay the information but use this utility belt to extrapolate and apply the lessons to the work they produce.

By building a foundation of heuristics, applying critical thinking and good observation you can successfully tackle any UX task. The tools may evolve, the user’s gulf of understanding may be increased, but the fundamentals of what makes for good UX and good design form the bedrock of the user experience discipline

A good superhero is empathetic.

If you have ever observed participants in a one-on-one usability test you immediately begin to empathize with the people performing the actions. It’s actually one of the hardest things to do when running sessions, to not interject and alleviate the discomfort you are observing. When counseling students it is something I emphasize that you need to be comfortable with their discomfort for the greater good. The greater good of the project, the design and the user experience.

I see this struggle as a good thing. If UX folks are not bothered by the discomfort they are inflicting, maybe they are not empathizing enough.

UX is hard. It’s a relatively new field that fights to gain a seat at the table. I equate it sometimes as running head long into a brick wall, checking the wall for cracks, and shaking it off and doing it again.

The best of us have a passion for running into that wall. If given a choice, be Batman. Always be Batman.



David Lumerman, M.S., has been an Adjunct Professor at Brandeis University since 2017 conducting courses in including User Interface design, User Experience Design, Cognitive and Social Psychology of User-Centered Design, Design Operation and Leadership, and the Capstone in User-Centered Design. During this time he has redeveloped both the User Interface Design and Design Operation and Leadership courses.

Mr. Lumerman is the Corporate Vice President of User Experience at New York Life Insurance, where he develops engaging interaction for New York Life websites, applications and interactive experiences, and has done so for over 20 years. Previously, David developed online games and game shows with Pearson Television and Uproar! Games, most notably the interactive versions of “Family Feud” and “To Tell the Truth.” He earned his Masters degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and undergraduate degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

An avid outdoorsman, David is proficient in Dutch Oven Cooking and is actively involved in running outdoor programs through the Boy Scouts of America. He has been married for over 30 years to his wife Dvorah, and has two sons, Sam and Henry, who are both Eagle Scouts.

Dave is the recipient of the 2022 “Rabb School Outstanding Teacher Award”.

For more information on the User-Centered Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit

Q&A with the Chair of Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate

Bio: Arnold Kamis is an Associate Professor of Data Analytics at Brandeis International Business School and Chair of the Brandeis Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate. He does research with data analytics on information technology, decision support, online consumer behavior, and healthcare information. He has many publications in premiere journals, including MIS Quarterly, Decision Support Systems, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and Communications of the ACM. He blends social science and data science to make research contributions that are rigorous, business-relevant, and aiming to make an impact. For example, Arnold and coauthors have developed a stable three-year model of CDC data (n = 1.5M) to model why American adults do not obtain influenza vaccinations. He has designed and taught multiple courses in business/data analytics and data visualization. Arnold has served on many journal editorial boards, including Decision Analytics and Health Systems. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University.


What do you expect students will walk away from this certificate able to accomplish/achieve? / What will this certificate enable them to do?

I expect that students will walk away with a detailed understanding of healthcare data and the varied approaches to the different types of data reporting, data quality, and risk management. They will learn the lifecycle of healthcare data analytics, from problem identification to data analysis, culminating in effective communication of results with dashboards and other tools. They will be able to think about, visualize, analyze, and communicate patterns and relationships found in clinical and/or financial healthcare data. 


How will the skills students learn in this program help them make an impact in their organizations? In what ways will these skills help them support/influence decision-making across their organizations?

The students with this certificate under their belt will be in a position to provide accurate, consistent, and reliable information to decision makers in their organization. By removing barriers to data acquisition, analytics, and reporting, the alumni will support and enhance their organizational processes. They will influence operational, tactical, and strategic uses of integrated information and analytics. All of this will drive evidence-based organizational improvements. 


What is most exciting to you about this certificate program? Why do you think it is timely? Why is it of value now and in the future to employers?

I am excited because this new certificate will give students a solid knowledge base and skillset to advance their careers. This will be valuable by itself, but can also be a stepping stone toward their MBA degree. It is timely because healthcare organizations are investing increasingly in data analytics to cope with their data overload. They need skilled professionals to extract value from data and improve their evidence-based decision making. The demand for analytics professionals is growing.


Brandeis Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate is a collaboration between Brandeis GPS and Brandeis International Business School. 

Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate

As Assistant Director of Partnership Engagement for Brandeis GPS, I am constantly thinking about the growth of our programs to support our students and our corporate and community partners. 

I was recently asked how best to describe what we do as the Partnership Engagement team at Brandeis GPS. 

The short response is that we create mutually beneficial partnerships between Brandeis GPS and organizations in the public and private sector. We work with our partners to put out quality educational and professional development programs. In this way, we support innovation, employee growth and development, and community engagement. 

These statements are true, but they fall short of fully  describing how we engage with our partnerships – both with our corporate and community partners, as well as with our collaborators from other parts of the Brandeis campus.

 What we really aim to do in partnership engagement is form lasting, meaningful, trusting relationships with the people who make up our partner organizations. We aim to be the folks they know they can pick up the phone and problem-solve with when they see a pressing employee need in their organization or among the members of their professional association.

GPS was born out of a partnership with a local company who wanted to offer rigorous, professional education to their employees, as well as the career-enhancing opportunity to gain a master’s degree. When that company’s leadership turned to Brandeis and asked us to develop the first Graduate Professional Studies master’s degree, GPS was born.

Now, years later, we have heeded the call from another valued partner, this time a major Boston hospital. We listened to our partner, who helped us understand their employees’ need for technical skills deeply embedded in the healthcare industry. We reached across campus to collaborate with Brandeis International Business School and created a Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate, exclusively for working professionals in the healthcare industry.

Not only will the program help students master today’s essential analytics skills, including programming languages like Python and R, and  data visualization tools like Tableau, the Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate will give students the knowledge, skills and confidence to perform quality data analysis, create effective visualizations, and confidently communicate their insights to key stakeholders at their organization. In this way, while this Master’s Certificate is technical training, it also prepares students for making an impact through high-quality, data-driven decisions.

This program is especially exciting for us because it was born out of two collaborations: with our healthcare industry partner (a major Boston hospital) and with Brandeis International Business School.

The certificate comprises a meaningful standalone credential that will contribute to your career in healthcare. At the same time, if you decide you want to continue on to complete a full master’s degree, the credits you earn are transferable to Brandeis degrees.

Credits you earn from the Healthcare Analytics certificate can be applied to the following graduate programs at Brandeis University:

The full benefit of this program, as always, includes the knowledgeable, attentive faculty, GPS student services support, and the flexibility of being fully online.

Written by: Michaela Henry, PhD, Assistant Director of Partnership Engagement


Brandeis Healthcare Analytics Master’s Certificate is a collaboration between Brandeis GPS and Brandeis International Business School. To learn more about Brandeis GPS Corporate Partnerships, email: 

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