Wowwowwow. Can you believe it – I am done. After two years full of classes, papers, exams, internships, blog posts, laughter, and tears, I have reached the finish line. As I look forward to my next steps career wise, I wanted to first look back and reflect on my “Letter to your Future Self” and see if I have made myself proud. Here is what I wrote a little over a year ago:
Okay, now that we are here at graduation, here are some things I hope I can say as I finish this two year journey:
So, all-in-all I would say I made myself proud! These two years have been incredible in many ways. Now, I can reflect and be proud of myself for making it through while balancing so much! Time for a much deserved nap.
It has been wonderful contributing to this blog, and for anyone who is reading this, or has read my posts in the past – thank you! It means a lot that others care about my thoughts, and this has been a great outlet to process my time in graduate school. If anyone ever cares to reach out, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I am always happy to chat about my time at Heller.
Last week, it was announced that on July 1st, Dean David Weil will step down as dean of the Heller School. Though I’m very sad to see Dean Weil step down, I was so excited to learn that Dr. Maria Madison will serve as our interim dean. Dr. Madison is currently the associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity and director of the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE), and I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with her throughout the PhD admissions process. So, to celebrate this announcement, I thought I’d share five facts you probably don’t know about Dr. Madison.
There you have it, five facts that you probably didn’t know about Heller’s (soon-to-be) Interim Dean, Dr. Madison!
It was just announced that the Heller School for Social Policy and Management has once again been ranked as one The US and News Report’s Top Ten Social Policy Programs in the country. As such, it only seems fitting that I do my own calculations. Here are my top ten rankings and how they play out in my day-to-day schedule as a graduate student at Heller (numbers in no hierarchical order)
It has come to that point in the semester when assignment levels increase simultaneously to energy levels decreasing. It can feel like a true sprint to the finish line (as my last blog post highlights). We are, however, at the precipice of a break in the form of a full week off of classes! So, how do Heller Graduate students spend their breaks?
I find that I recharge best when home (in Pennsylvania) with family. There is nothing I love more than walking into my parents’ house and smelling that familiar yet indescribable smell, being in a well-known space, spending time with my dogs, and loving on my nieces and nephews – not to mention the home-cooked meals. I also find such joy in revisiting my favorite hiking spots and local restaurants. That is where I will be spending my week off, and I have been working hard the past few weekends to get ahead on assignments so I can be very present while home and truly take a break from school.
But enough about me, here are some of the fun things my classmates are planning to get into:
Beatriz Pleites: “I am going back to El Salvador [my home]. The plan is to hang out with my friends and go the beach!”
Ryan Lansing: “I am working over break so that I can be free to surprise my mom with a visit for her birthday/mother’s day in early May – I am the gift!”
Others have mentioned travelling to Quebec, New York, Cancun, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. Waltham is situated in a location that allows for fun 2-3 day trips accessible by car, bus, train or quick plane trip. Some of my classmates have decided to use the break as an opportunity to get ahead on assignments. Others hope to explore more of their own backyard, enjoying hikes and all of the fun activities Boston offers. Yet others told me they do not know what their break will look like, but they look forward to some unstructured time.
How do you prefer to spend breaks? Regardless of if you recharge through adventure and exploration. family time and familiarity, or quiet rest and relaxation, I wish you the best on your next break. Here is to hoping that this break reinvigorates us graduate students to put our best foot forward for our final push to the finish line!
Dear Accepted Students,
Congratulations ono your acceptance to Heller! This is a very exciting time 🙂 I know when I got my acceptance letter, I was really ecstatic and could not wait to start picking out my classes, exploring campus and making new friends. I know this can also feel a bit overwhelming with the amount you have to prepare, but it’s also important to congratulate yourself on this important achievement. You did it!
Here’s some tips I would give as you start preparing to contemplate your decision to come to Heller:
First of all, congratulate yourself by celebrating this important achievement! All that hard wok of writing essays, seeking out recommenders and paying for transcripts has paid off, and you deserve to treat yourself. Whether that be by going out to a nice dinner, having a small party with your friends or just by watching the new season of Bridgerton, make sure to take time to celebrate your accomplishment.
2. Talk to a current student
When deciding which graduate school to pick, the amount of information to go through can be extremely daunting. However, one great way to get that information and an insider’s point of view is to talk to a current student. You can do this by reaching out to your existing networks, or even scheduling a time to talk with one of Heller Admissions’ fabulous graduate assistants here! Make sure to come with some questions prepared and think about what is most important to you in a graduate program.
3. Figure out which classes excite you the most
One thing that really helped me decide that Heller was the school for me was by looking at the classes that were going to be offered for the Fall. I get to investigate the required classes as well as the electives I was really excited to take (like Contemporary Issues in Gender and Public Policy and Global Social Entrepreneurship). This is a great way to make sure you can focus on your interests while in grad school, while also getting to explore new ones.
4. Budget, budget, budget!
While grad school can be great, it’s also really expensive. Something that helped me in my decision was by taking a look at Heller’s cost of living and figuring out how it would work into my budget. I looked at how much loans I would have to take out and if I would need to work or not. While I know this isn’t always the most fun thing to do, it’s really essential when making that graduate school decision.
5. Come visit us!
As of Fall 2021, Heller is officially in person and on campus! Although we aren’t offering in person events for this spring, if you’re in the area, feel free to swing by and get a look at the Heller school and the larger Brandeis campus. It’s great to get a chance to walk around campus and get a feel for what it is like.
That’s it for all my tips for accepted students. Congratulations again on being accepted and good luck in making your decision. Heller is a great place to be, and I hope to see you around here really soon!
One of the things that I, as a staff member, really appreciate about Heller is the Town Halls that we hold each semester. It’s actually something I hadn’t experienced before in my own graduate program or in other schools that I’ve worked at, so I’ve come to see it as a hallmark of Heller that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of what we’re trying to do here. In short, Heller Town Halls are opportunities for the leadership at Heller to update students on the work or projects that are being done, and to give students the opportunity to comment or ask questions– and even to make demands– of the school’s leadership. Since we had a Town Hall earlier this week, I thought I’d report back on this semester’s town Hall.
The event kicked off, as it usually does, with a welcome from the office of the Dean, which includes representatives from career development; admissions; equity, inclusion, and diversity; academic and student services; communications; alumni relations; research; and many more. After each of the representatives from these offices had a chance to introduce themselves and provide updates on what their offices have been doing, the meeting was turned over to Maria Madison, who leads our Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Office.
Dr. Madison shared the results of the most recent climate survey, which typically happen every year but have been delayed due to COVID. Climate surveys are really important at Heller, since they’re one of the ways that we measure Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity progress, through looking at demographic, vulnerabilities (like health, safety, wellness, employment, housing, food security), belonging and inclusion (including perceived discrimination, and satisfaction with Heller and willingness to recommend to others. These four measures let the staff and faculty know whether we have been making progress in our commitment to social justice. Since Dr. Madison let us know that the numbers were preliminary, I don’t want to go into too much detail, it looks like in spite of the pandemic, overall, student satisfaction and willingness to recommend to others has improved. Dr. Madison also talked about important next steps for contextualizing and embedding anti-racism, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination into pedagogy, research, and policy work across Heller.
After some quick updates from Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean, Academic, and Student Services and Ron Etlinger, our Chief Administrative Officer, our current Heller Student Association chairs, Zari Havercome and Hannah Lougheed (who of course is also one of our talented GAs who writes for this blog!) shared the results of the elections for the new chairs of HSA and gave some end-of-the-year updates.
With all of that out of the way, the floor was open for questions from students, faculty, and staff and cupcakes were brought out to celebrate Heller being ranked in the top ten for social policy once again!
Nearly five years ago, I took a huge leap of faith and gathered all my belongings to move 3,000 miles away from everything I knew in hopes to purse higher education. Fast forward: I am now nearing the completion of my first year as a first generation Master of Public Policy student. WOO!
In retrospect, I attempted to begin my journey without any expectations because when I began undergrad I had so many expectations for what I thought my college experience would entail, but everything does not always go according to plan. I wanted to come into my graduate student journey with a clean slate and a open heart and mind. I did not want to assume that any of my classmates would be similar to me, or that my professors would either be helpful or not, or if I would even be able to utilize all the resources provided to me. I came into this program wanting to be a sponge, soaking up all information and knowledge in relation to my interest and my future career goals. This program however has exceed anything expectations that I could have possibly created.
One thing I’ve appreciated the most about my time here at Heller is that the classroom is extremely collaborative, open, and vulnerable space for students to voice their interests, opinions, and concerns on important policy issues. In undergrad, I rarely felt comfortable working in groups or voicing my opinions because I felt others would not understand my views or value them. I appreciated the push from my fellow peers and my professors at Heller, who encouraged me to share my experiences and thoughts. To my surprise, in most cases, others would have similar experiences, shared interests and thoughts. My professors deemed my insight as important and provided extensive feedback on how to tailor my skills. Being a first generation graduate student, it meant the world to me to enter a space without feeling as if you do not belong there. Reassurance is key for connecting with first generation students because we can easily feel imposter syndrome. The feeling of knowing that you earned your spot like every one else and that your insight matters is the best feeling when navigating higher education.
What I have learned on my journey thus far is that time management is everything. This is something most first generation students struggle with because we do not have the luxury of just being able to attend school; at times we have to cater to needs of family members or work jobs that will assist us in paying for our education and survival. This can be overwhelming for many individuals, but what I have learned from this is that it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to say that you do not understand, and it is okay to say that it is not feasible for you at the moment and to ask for an extension. No one in this program wants to see you fail because of things outside of your control. Being able to speak up about your needs is important and you never know who might be able to support you or point you in the right direction.
School is far from easy and I never expected graduate school to be so. I knew I was in for a challenge, I just did not know what it was going to be exactly. I am proud of how far I have come and I am looking forward to what is to come next. To all my first generation graduate students: do not forget that you deserve to be where you are no matter where you come from. Continue to always show up in spaces as your greater self and even though some days maybe harder then others, just remember where you started and where you will be when you are done. Take care of yourselves– we got this!