The Brandeis GPS blog

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

Tag: Faces of GPS (page 1 of 6)

Meet the newest GPS student advisor

Paris Mansoor, student advisorParis Mansoor, our newest student advisor, recently joined Brandeis GPS from Wellesley College, where she served as Assistant Registrar. She brings a wealth of knowledge in higher education to the role, as well as a deep commitment to supporting students.

Read below to hear more about Paris’ professional background and personal interests, as well as the best piece of advice she received as a student.

Q: What led you to becoming a student advisor at Brandeis GPS?
A: When I graduated college, my first full-time job was as a financial advisor at Boston University (BU). Getting a taste of helping students made me realize very quickly that my life passion was in higher education. I really enjoyed advising students about policies and procedures and helping them navigate the system. My love of advising and assisting students continued throughout my career with most of my time spent as an assistant registrar at BU Dental School and at Wellesley College. I wanted to be a student advisor at Brandeis because I knew the role would allow me to have more direct involvement with students in working with them from the start of their program all the way to the end.

Q:  What is the best piece of advice that you received as a student?
A: The best advice I have ever received as a student was to take a challenging project/task and break it down into smaller tasks or pieces. Map it all out and work on each different piece on a set schedule. Continue working on each piece while still keeping in mind how it all fits together. Sometimes grouping similar tasks together is best and other times working on one piece at a time from start to end is the way to go. It’s like planting seeds all over your garden, but then watering and tending to each section as needed until you have a complete garden. I still use this advice everyday in my personal life and work.

Q: What would your ideal Saturday or Sunday look like?
A: My ideal Saturday would consist of having french pastries and yummy iced coffee in the early part of the day while spending time with my husband and son on a sandy beach. In the afternoon, I would watch my 9-year-old son play town/club soccer and then close out the day with a game of Monopoly with friends and family.

Q: What’s the most important thing that you want students to know about you?
A: I absolutely love advising and helping students. I am here for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out, ask questions or just simply say hello. I am looking forward to working with you and to being a part of your team to make your journey at GPS a success.

Brandeis University appoints data expert Mark Coleman as Strategic Analytics program chair

 

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies has appointed Mark Coleman, Director of Business Analytics at Carbonite, as its new chair of the Strategic Analytics program.

In his role at Carbonite, Mark leads a multi-disciplinary team of data scientists, analysts, and data engineers that provide data-driven insight, analytical reporting services, and predictive modeling to all core functions across the company.

As program chair, Mark is responsible for ensuring that all Strategic Analytics courses adhere to the university’s high quality standards and that the program’s goals and outcomes remain current and relevant. His deep experience and knowledge of analytics as well the latest industry trends will help translate new in-demand skills into curriculum development. 

“I am thrilled to be joining the Strategic Analytics Program at Brandeis,” said Mark. “Analytics and data science have emerged as transformative technologies, driving innovation and disruptions to virtually every industry across the globe. As Program Chair, my role is to both thoughtfully champion the importance of analytics and data-driven thinking, and to ensure our program gives our students the critical intellectual and technical foundations to succeed in their analytics careers.”

Mark’s robust experience in data science and analytics includes senior analytical management and data science positions at Warner Brothers, The Hartford and Liberty Mutual. He also founded and served as CEO of a successful analytics consulting and forecasting practice for the institutional investment community, and is a regular speaker at analytics industry forums.

Mark has an MA in Economics from Boston College, and BAs in Applied Mathematics and Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

 

Common myths about online learning

Online learning can mean different things to different people. As technology continues to transform the way humans consume information and interact with others, universities have risen to the challenge of providing high-quality digital learning opportunities. But despite today’s prevalence of top-tier online programs and courses, many misconceptions about online learning remain. To deconstruct some of these myths, we sat down with Christie Barone, Assistant Director of Enrollment Management at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies.

GPS: In your experience speaking with prospective graduate students, what are the most common myths you’ve heard about online learning?

Christie Barone: Many prospective students think they are going to be in a large class. We cap all GPS classes at 20 students to ensure that everyone is receiving a quality, engaging education. Related to that, some prospective students are concerned that instructors will be inaccessible. Our instructors provide direct feedback on assignments and are heavily involved in discussion posts. 

There still seems to be a stigma around online learning. We get a lot of questions about whether a student’s diploma will contain some sort of disclaimer about distance learning. At Brandeis, graduates receive an official university diploma. There is no mention about their programs being online. 

GPS: What would you tell a prospective student who is wondering whether online learning is right for them?

Barone: I would say to someone who is working full-time and trying to figure out how to balance everything that our online format allows him or her the flexibility to choose when they complete their coursework. They do not have to be online at a certain time. Many students (especially those who have been out of school for a while) wonder if they’ll be able to fit graduate school into their already busy lives. Students can take up to two courses before they apply to a program. This is a great opportunity for students to get used to fitting coursework into their schedule and see if online learning is a good fit. I have seen many students have such a great experience that they end up applying to Brandeis. 

GPS: Some students considering online learning might be worried about the remoteness of an online classroom. How do you address this concern? 

Barone: Brandeis GPS students truly get to know their classmates and instructors. This can be through discussion and social forums, group projects, connecting on LinkedIn for networking, and even having many of the same classes with students who started the same program as you at the same time. All Brandeis students have access to Zoom conferencing services for free, and that’s a great way to video chat with your instructor and see them face-to-face. A lot of instructors will be available for phone appointments, via email, and sometimes through a private discussion forum.  Finally, while students technically never have to come to campus, we would love to meet you!  Students do receive ID cards, which grant them access to all campus services and facilities, including the gym and the library. We also invite students to attend our on-campus commencement ceremonies, and we live-stream the ceremonies as well. 

GPS: What makes the Brandeis GPS online learning experience different from other universities?

Barone: Our course content is built in-house. Our instructional designers who create courses and work with faculty are part of Brandeis University, and the whole division is driven to achieve the university’s standards of excellence. Our faculty go through a rigorous, six-week training program to prepare them for the unique nature of teaching online. Going back to our earlier conversation about online learning myths, there’s a misconception that learning online is easier than a more traditional on-campus program, but that’s not true here. These are graduate-level courses and students put in a lot of work to reach their academic — and ultimately professional — goals.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Brandeis announces commitment to open source movement

Brandeis University and Open Source Initiative to launch new educational partnership
Resources designed to fill key skills gaps as open source industry matures.

PORTLAND, OR – Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) will partner with The Open Source Initiative® (OSI) to provide new educational offerings for the open source community, the university announced at OSCON 2019. 

As more companies start leveraging Open Source Software to reduce costs, decrease time to deployment and foster innovation, the organizations that have realized success as open source consumers are now extending their participation within open source communities as collaborators and contributors. This shift can create new challenges to traditional business processes and models, requiring dedicated policies, programs and personnel to ensure that the investments in open source projects produce the desired benefits while still aligning with the values of the open source communities. The Brandeis GPS-OSI partnership will help address the growing demand for expertise within organizations seeking to authentically collaborate with, and productively manage, open source resources. 

“Understanding how to assess, engage, and contribute to open source communities while also delivering value to your company is the next generation skill set employers are looking for,” said Patrick Masson, general manager of the Open Source Initiative. “We’re thrilled to work with Brandeis to help continue the incredible growth of open source software and projects.”

Learn more about the new specialization in Open Source Technology Management

True to open source software process and principles, the educational offerings coming out of the partnership will be crowd-sourced and jointly developed by an advisory board comprised of university curriculum development experts and senior open source advocates from Amazon, Red Hat, Bloomberg, Twitter and other leading companies. 

“Brandeis GPS is known for developing programs that keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in technology,” said Dr. James La Creta, the university’s chief information officer and chair of the Master of Science in Technology Management program. “Much like the other graduate programs at Brandeis GPS, open source technology’s flexibility, speed, and cost-effectiveness makes it extremely desirable for organizations. It yields a better quality product, creates a culture of collaboration, and attracts curious and innovative talent that all CIO’s covet.”

Courses and other initiatives are currently in development, and the university expects to announce more information about the first open source educational program later this year. Visit www.brandeis.edu/open-source to learn more.

About Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies
Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) offers fully online, part-time graduate programs, specializations, and professional development courses in today’s most in-demand fields. With graduate programs that include Technology Management, Information Security Leadership, User-Centered Design, and Digital Innovation for FinTech, Brandeis GPS strives to provide programs that empower students to be on the leading edge of advancements in technology and innovation. Courses are led by industry experts who deliver professional insights and individualized support. Brandeis GPS is dedicated to extending the rigorous academic standards that make Brandeis University one of the top institutions in the country to a diverse population seeking to advance their careers through continuing studies. 

About The Open Source Initiative

Founded in 1998, The Open Source Initiative protects and promotes Open Source Software, development and communities, championing software freedom in society through education, collaboration, and infrastructure, stewarding the Open Source Definition, and preventing abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement. The OSI is a public charity with global vision based in California. For more information about the OSI, please see, opensource.org.

Student Spotlight: Charlie D’Angelo

Student spotlight on Charlie D'Angelo from Northborough, Massachusetts. He is part of the Digital Marketing and Design Program and is a digital marketing manager at Boston Scientific. He has taken seven class. Movie theater or Netflix? Netflix. Favorite ice cream flavor? Chocolate almond chip. If there were 25 hours in a day, how would you use that extra hour? Learn to play the piano. Mr D'Angelo says, "Digital marketing expertise is so important in today's business world, and my goals include being the most knowledgeable digital professional I can be to help Boston Scientific continue to grow."

The Power of Learning Experience Design

By Carol Damm

Carol DammHow would you like to go on a week-long retreat to Hawaii, all expenses paid, with your colleagues to put together a framework to enable programmatic changes to how you offer your courses? This was what we termed an outrageous solution presented by a team of instructional designers and instructional technologists at a recent workshop I organized on Learning Experience Design in Higher Ed. We challenged the attendees to move outside of their comfort zone and to not let existing practice within higher ed to frame their thinking.

Featuring Brandeis University’s Brian Salerno, Gary David from Bentley University, and Melissa Kane at Brown University, the NERCOMP workshop’s goal was to show participants why and how they should be integrating learning experience design as a practice in higher ed.

Learning experience design applies user-centered design methodologies along with a deep understanding of cognitive psychology and learning sciences to creating impactful and transformative solutions for learners and the wider ecosystem within which learning happens. User-centered design methods have been adopted across industries because the approach effectively enables out-of-box thinking to identify problems and generate new solutions. At the same time, the approach remains grounded by keeping primary stakeholders — whether users or learners — at the center of the process.

So, while an all-expense paid trip to Maui would not be happening, these creative minds hit on an essential component of bringing about mandated change within a department: the faculty would need to work together to determine how to meet the mandate and the university would need to provide support for this effort by contributing to an attractive experience or focused time frame within which they can shape how they will meet this challenge. In order to improve the learning experience, those who construct that experience will need support.

The solution that the team provided incorporated other innovative practice as did all of the presentations made that day; whether supporting a faculty member who needed to revise a course based on student feedback, creating a professional development course for a diverse population of working professionals, or creating an IT solution to improve the student experience in a learning management system.

If you are interested in reviewing the slides of the presentation or reviewing some of the resources, you can find out more here.

 

Carol Damm is the Director of Programs and Assessment at Brandeis GPS and an adjunct faculty in the MS in Learning Experience Design program.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Hiring in an Ever-Changing Landscape

By Jesse Mazur

The New Hotness

You can’t go a month without hearing about the latest new framework or language that will solve all of your coding problems. In the mobile and front-end worlds it feels like last year’s state-of-the-art project is next year’s crufty legacy code. In this ever-changing landscape, engineers are always trying to learn the latest technique, attend a new bootcamp, or crank out a new personal project in order to keep up. The result can be piles of resumes that contain every new buzz word under the sun, and applicants painting themselves as the best candidate for just about any engineering position. How can hiring managers ensure that they find the right person? How can aspiring engineers land the right job?

The answer: fundamentals.

Back to Basics

There will always be a new way to do things. In the iOS world we saw a major shift from Objective C to Swift. In the Android world we are seeing a shift from Java to Kotlin. In the web world, we saw jQuery take the JavaScript world by storm, then Google’s Angular was the only way anyone wanted to write web apps. Now, it seems like Facebook’s React is leading the pack. What has not changed are the basic building blocks of software: data structures and algorithms. Minor differences aside, an array is always an array and a for loop is always a for loop. What many new engineers are missing when they go after “the new hotness” are those fundamentals. It’s not just about knowing how to set up an Action/Reducer in React that makes someone a good engineer. That skill will make them relevant right now, in the world where React is king, but in a few years there will be a new player in the game and that skill will be yesterday’s news. The engineers that will continue to shine will be those who understand the fundamentals of programming so that they can adapt to the next wave of short-lived must-have tech stacks.

The Current Process

There are certainly valid criticisms of common tech hiring practices. Long interview loops with difficult coding problems written primarily on a whiteboard inevitably leave something to be desired. The reason for this process is often misunderstood and can lead to dissatisfied candidates complaining about unfair, puzzle-like questions. “When was the last time anyone actually used a red black tree on the job anyway?!” Not all of those complaints are unwarranted. An engineer, at her core, is a problem solver. The programming language is simply one of many tools she uses to solve the problem. The spirit of these questions is to reveal the candidate’s problem solving skills in order to understand if she will be able to solve similar problems on the job. Coding interviews shouldn’t be vocabulary tests or mind bending trick questions. A well-worded question will challenge the candidate, but it will also be practical and relevant to the work they will be doing on the job. It will have several possible solutions, each of which may leverage different data structures and algorithms. Its difficulty will also scale, so that a more seasoned engineer will solve it more elegantly, while handling more edge cases right off the bat. An experienced interviewer should be able to gauge that skill early on and know what curve balls to throw the candidate to calibrate the questions to the candidate’s level.

Talent vs Skill

A final piece of the puzzle is the ability to recognize and balance the difference between talent and skill. In this context, talent is defined as an innate ability or trait the candidate possesses— something that cannot necessarily be taught. A skill, on the other hand, can be defined as something that can be mastered with practice over time. Finding the correct engineer should start with identifying which talents she needs to embody in order to be successful in the role, then defining the ideal skillset. For example, a candidate with a natural drive to deliver results, who is a quick learner with good fundamentals, might not need to be 100% familiar with the bleeding-edge framework being used on a given project. She can probably join the team, learn quickly, and get a project to the finish line on time.

Conclusion

The engineering world is always changing and there will always be some new way to solve the same old problems. Finding candidates with innate talents that are necessary for the role, who also have a strong grasp of the fundamentals, will set up any dev team for longer term success. Trying to hire a team of engineers who only know the latest and greatest means having a staff that will not outlast the ever-shortening lifespan of tech stacks. What’s more, trying to find that unicorn-ninja-coder may actually take longer than simply finding a solid engineer who can learn on the job.

Jesse Mazur is a Senior Director of Engineering at Meredith Corporation, the largest US media conglomerate (People, Sports Illustrated, Real Simple, etc.), and a member of the Brandeis GPS Master of Software Engineering advisory board.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

Rabb School 2019 commencement ceremony celebrates commitment to having it all

The Rabb School of Continuing Studies awarded diplomas to 117 Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) students at its 2019 commencement ceremony this morning. Approximately one-third of the graduating class attended the event, which took place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Faculty Club on campus.

One of four schools at Brandeis University, the Rabb School is dedicated to developing innovative ways to deliver a Brandeis education to non-traditional communities. The GPS students graduating today have earned their masters of science degrees fully online, often while holding down full-time jobs and balancing other professional and personal obligations.

“You embody the larger mission of Brandeis, which is distinguished by academic excellence and the pursuit of truth and knowledge,” said Karen Muncaster, Vice President of the Rabb School, in her opening address. “The entire University community has great respect for what you have accomplished and how you have done it.”

Keishalee Shaw, a graduate of the Strategic Analytics program and this year’s student speaker, encouraged 2019 graduates to embrace life’s curveballs.

“Today we celebrate our success … and remind ourselves that our desire to learn was and will always be greater than any obstacle we have faced along this journey or will face in the future,” said Shaw.

Commencement speaker Michael Figueroa, president and executive director of the Advanced Cyber Security Center, challenged the graduating class to consider the value their advanced degrees can bring to situations beyond individual professional accomplishments.

“Go ahead, dream big,” Figueroa said. “Perhaps your dream is about literacy, providing people with the education they need to overcome poverty. Or, perhaps you’re concerned about global health, preventing the spread of virulent diseases and providing basic healthcare services to underprivileged peoples. Maybe climate change drives you. Whatever it is, hold on to it.You have already invested in your degree. Now, put that investment to good use.”

The full breakdown of diplomas awarded this morning is as follows:

  • Master of Software Engineering (11 graduates)
  • MS in Bioinformatics (7 graduates)
  • MS in Digital Marketing and Design (8 graduates)
  • MS in Health and Medical Informatics (12 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security (6 graduates)
  • MS in Information Security Leadership (2 graduates)
  • MS in Information Technology Management (5 graduates)
  • MS in Instructional Design & Technology (6 graduates)
  • MS in Project and Program Management (31 graduates)
  • MS in Technology Management ( 2 graduates)
  • MS in Strategic Analytics (26 graduates)
  • MS in User-Centered Design (1 graduate)

View a recording of the commencement ceremony here. Congratulations to our graduates!

GPS FinTech instructor editorial featured in Boston Business Journal

Sarah Biller HeadshotIn a recent editorial in the Boston Business Journal, GPS FinTech instructor Sarah Biller discusses Boston fintechs and their unique position to be able to transform the finance industry and solve some of America’s most pressing financial challenges. Biller is co-founder of FinTech Sandbox and founding advisor of MassChallenge FinTech.

Read the full article here, and request more information about studying FinTech at Brandeis here.

Sean Milligan wins 2019 Rabb School Award for Outstanding Teaching

Sean Milligan gets an Outstanding Teacher Award plaqueSean Milligan, an instructor in the online Master’s in Project and Program Management program, has been awarded the 2019 Rabb School Award for Outstanding Teaching. Sean flew in from Pompano Beach, Florida to receive the award last week. The annual honor is given based on student evaluations, the development and implementation of top quality courses and a support for the goals of the Rabb School.

Sean completed his Master’s in Project and Program Management in 2014, and has been an instructor in the Rabb School of Continuing Studies since Fall 2015. His teaching specializes in addressing the common challenges that project managers face every day and presenting real-world solutions to those challenges, as well as transforming project and program managers into project and program leaders by employing various human factors that are inherent in the team environment.

At Brandeis, Sean teaches Challenges in Project Management and The Human Side of Project Leadership. He was instrumental in developing these key courses that allow students to engage with the important topics of the leadership of people, human-centered project communication, dealing with challenging personalities, managing geographically dispersed teams, overcoming stakeholders’ time management issues, and the navigation of external challenges as they relate to the project management life-cycle.

“I see him as a devoted person, a ‘workaholic’. He handled a huge volume of work within a short time-frame [supporting] numerous students,” commented one of his students. “He demonstrated that he practices what he preaches (or teaches). He always responds to your needs and asks further questions that prompt you [to conduct] further research.”

Sean Milligan HeadshotIn addition to teaching in the program, Sean serves as a Global Services and Support Director for a privately-owned software development company specializing in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions for the manufacturing industry. He has more than 25 years of experience in managing projects and programs for a number of industries. He is a member of the Project Management Institute, is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and is a certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner.

When not working or teaching, Sean enjoys traveling, running, hiking, a good dining experience, and is a serious Red Sox fan.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

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