Author: amandamiller (page 1 of 6)

You Ask, I Answer: What’s the Minimum GPA?

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here and You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

This is definitely one of the top two questions that I and my other colleagues in Heller Admissions get (the other one would be “What’s the minimum GRE or GMAT score?”). As I explained in an earlier post, What Does “Holistic Review Process” Mean, Anyway?, this is a hold-out from a mostly-bygone time, when colleges would use “cut scores” (in which colleges wouldn’t consider applications from students with lower than a certain SAT score or GPA) to make the first “cuts” during application reading season. This practice is certainly less widespread now, but still the question persists; I think because students want some sense of certainty about whether or not they have a chance of getting in.

Unfortunately… it really does depend.

But, in the interest of transparency, I’m here today to share with you a little about what we look at when we’re looking at your transcripts, because contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about your GPA.

Challenging yourself. Let’s say two students apply with the exact same cumulative GPA from the exact same college, and majored in the exact same thing. If we were only looking at GPAs, we would hold these students in equal regard, but that’s not always the case. We also look at the courses the students took to determine how we should consider those grades. If Student A was using their electives to take classes like Astronomy, the Global History of Capitalism, and Supply Chain Analytics, and Student B was using their electives to take Tree Climbing, South Park and Contemporary Social Issues, and The Art of Walking (all real classes offered at schools across the US, by the way!), well, we’re probably going to give Student A an edge. That’s not to say that you can’t take a course that’s a little off-beat or pursue a niche subject that you’re genuinely interested in, but we want to see that, for the most part, you used your time in college (or your first graduate school degree, if that’s the case) to challenge and better yourself.

Relevancy of coursework. Don’t get me wrong, students at Heller come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of the most common include public health, sociology, education, international relations, history, law, economics, social work, anthropology and psychology, but we have students that majored in English, biology, art history, journalism, chemistry, studio arts… the list goes on and on. But with that being said, we want to make sure students are set up to succeed in our programs. For example, if a student were applying to our PhD program, we’d want to see high grades in courses like economics, statistics, research methods, or some other class along those lines; if they received an A in all their other classes, but low scores in those, it might be a cause for concern. Especially in our more quantitative programs, we’ll want to make sure that students have the relevant backgrounds that they need to succeed at Heller, although that can come in many different forms, of which coursework is just one.

Trends or growth. You probably heard this when you were applying to college, but application readers do look at trends in your grades. A difficult first semester in college isn’t likely to tank your chances of getting into graduate school, nor is a tough semester with extenuating circumstances explained in your statement of purpose. What may be more concerning, however, is a student that starts off strong whose grades gradually go down, which might suggest that they struggled with more advanced course material.

If, after reading this, you take a look at your transcript, and you find that there are some yellow flags in your transcript, all is not lost! As I explained in my earlier blog post about holistic admissions, there are opportunities to course correct. It’s probably too late to get a new job to put on your resume, but you can decide who your recommenders are going to be, what to highlight on your resume, and what to write in your statement of purpose. Addressing these issues in your statement of purpose, or demonstrating that you have those skills in other ways, are easy ways to provide context to those grades.

New Years Resolutions and Your Statement of Purpose

It’s almost that time again: that time of year when, against all evidence to the contrary, we promise ourselves that this time it’ll be different. That this year will be the year we a) start working out more, b) give up a bad habit, c) keep our kitchen cabinets organized, d) stop buying stuff we don’t need or e) all of the above. If you’re anything like me, you spend all of December making promises to yourself, all of January being good, and then all of February wondering how it all went wrong.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with your statement of purpose, so here it is: as someone who would really like to be better at New Year’s resolutions, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about goals, and how to set a good goal, and a lot of what makes a good goal also makes a good statement of purpose. You’ve probably heard that you should be setting S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, relevant, and time-bound), but have you ever thought about writing a S.M.A.R.T. Statement of Purpose? For example, instead of writing, “Gaining a master’s degree from Heller will help me to achieve my goals” why not get more specific by telling us how it will help you, or what those goals are? Or, instead of saying, “Ever since I was young, I have wanted to help people” why don’t you make that more measurable by saying how you want to help people, or which people/populations?

When you look through your statement of purpose, I encourage you to circle the places when you lean into generalities and apply a “S.M.A.R.T. check”; ask yourself in these places, can I be more specific? Can I make this more measurable? Can I show why I believe this is attainable or relevant? Can I allude to the time frame of this (i.e., when do you hope to achieve a certain milestone)? By asking yourself those questions, you transform your statement of purpose from a wishy-washy statement of your hopes and dreams, to an action plan that your reader can get behind. We know that you want to change the world– that’s why you’re applying to Heller! Your job for your Statement of Purpose is to tell us how… remember, be S.M.A.R.T. about it!

Giving Thanks

My mom called me last night absolutely frantic. Even though I told her last week that my fiancé and I would be coming to visit, I guess it took a while for it to sink in that she’d have to plan what we’d eat for Thanksgiving. Here’s the catch: both my fiancé and I are pescatarians (meaning we don’t eat any meat except for fish and seafood), so no turkey, no ham, and nothing with bacon. I spent the next thirty minutes reassuring her that it really didn’t matter to either of us what we ate and that we were just happy to have the time to spend with her and a much-needed break from work.

Especially in comparison to last year’s Thanksgiving, where I almost didn’t visit her because I was afraid of inadvertently affecting her, it strikes me that the idea of having a day set aside to celebrate with your family and friends and to share what we’re grateful for is really pretty special. As unsavory as I find the history and the food surrounding the holiday, the sentiment is a good one. So with that, here are some things I’m grateful for this year:

Our new blog writers. This time last year, we had three graduate student assistants writing for the blog, and now we have almost double that. One of our very first blog writers, Doug Nevins, is still with us (although he’s graduating this semester!), but we’ve had some great student workers contribute to the blog over the past year, and I love getting to read their individual stories and learn about their experiences at Heller. Especially now, when the office is still running on a hybrid schedule, I feel like I’ve gotten to know our graduate assistants really well through this blog. Which reminds me…

Being back on campus (at least part-time). Oh no, is that cheesy? Even if it is, it’s true and I have to give credit where credit is due. I had only been at Heller for seven months when the pandemic forced us to move to work from home, and it would have been so easy for me to feel isolated and disconnected if not for my amazing co-workers. Even now, when we’re still working on a hybrid schedule, we still take the time to check in with each other. And for the two days a week I am on campus, it’s such a pleasure to get to see other staff members and faculty I hadn’t seen in more than a year. I also find the view of the changing autumn leaves through the windows of the Zinner forum incredibly beautiful, and am happy to be back on campus to enjoy the foliage.

The re-release of Taylor Swift’s Red album. One of the things that I love about Brandeis is that there are a variety of small walking trails that will lead you to a great view of the fall leaves, or an unexpected piece of art hidden in the woods, or an outlook where you can see Boston in the distance. While I’m walking around during my lunch hour, I usually like listening to podcasts, but lately, I’ve really been enjoying listening to Taylor Swift’s re-release of her album Red. I know that may be a little bit basic, but it really invokes some powerful nostalgia in me and just seems like the perfect “fall” album.

For this post, I’m opening up the comments: I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for!

Hello Heller! Andy Mendez’ Acceptance Story

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

When I read over my acceptance letter on a snowy day in January 2020 in an apartment on Chicago’s northwest side, I thought about what it had taken for that letter to land in my inbox. I thought about how I had borrowed books from the Peace Corps library in Morocco and studied for the exam every day of Ramadan. I thought about how I raced against a snowstorm and the clock to make it seven hours north to the capital to take the GRE at the AMIDEAST center in Rabat. While I was serving in the Peace Corps, I had 8 to 10 schools on my list at any given time. When the time came to actually commit, I thought about where I could really see myself and that was Heller. I withdrew the only other application I had submitted, put all my eggs in the Heller basket and it had worked out!

The problem was I had committed to a second term of service with AmeriCorps VISTA in Chicago that would run from February 2020 to February 2021. To attend Heller, I’d have to end my service 6 months early. I had just transferred from a position as a VISTA Member to a position as a VISTA Leader supporting a full 45+ member cohort of volunteers working on sustainable, anti-poverty solutions.

Maybe you can understand why it was hard for me to type out my deferral letter. If I had accepted, I knew I would be leaving a lot unfinished in my role at AmeriCorps and I would be forfeiting another $6K Education Award. With my pre-COVID-19 naiveté, I thought an extra year would allow me to gain more work experience, build my Chi-town network, and still leave a few months to volunteer abroad. A week after my deferral request was accepted, my office went remote, my campus tour was canceled, toilet paper was flying off the shelves, and the reality of our new normal started setting in. In that week, I realized my decision to defer had much bigger implications. It meant avoiding an uncertain year of virtual school. It meant committing to a year of national service that would look very different than what I had anticipated. It meant that the third-largest city in the country had been reduced to the four walls of my bedroom.

When I received my updated Admissions decision a year later, the COVID-19 situation was still unclear, but my resolve to attend graduate school was firm. The pandemic had clarified a lot of things for me, including my desire to be at a mission-driven institution and to be in an environment where I could build my quantitative skills and technical expertise. I knew that, despite the uncertainty, I was ready to become a part of the Heller community. I knew that I didn’t want to delay the start of this journey any longer.

5 Ways to Manage Anxiety during the Admissions Process… And One Way to Prevent It

In case you’ve missed it: it’s officially fall. On my drive here, I was treated to the sight of beautiful gold and red leaves along the banks of the Charles River, I’m wearing one of my favorite sweaters today, and the applications to Heller’s program are beginning to come in. That’s right: it’s admissions season again! Now, don’t panic: you still have plenty of time (the deadline for the PhD application is December 15th, and the first round deadline for most of our master’s programs isn’t until January 15th), but this is certainly the time when most students are starting to narrow down their lists of schools to apply to and begin the application process. I’ve written before in my post The Art of Waiting about the anxiety that comes after you’ve submitted the application, but as a recent conversation with my younger cousin (who is starting the undergraduate application process now) reminded me, the application process itself can also be a major source of anxiety for a lot of students. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to manage your anxiety during this process and give you one tip to prevent it.

1. Channel your nervous energy. Have you been catching yourself refreshing your email for hours on end? Chewing your nails down to the quick? Tapping your foot so long it wears a hole in your carpet? While some people shut down when they’re anxious, other people find themselves absolutely bursting with energy. Find a way to redirect this energy, like taking a long walk while listening to a podcast or doing a quick work-out in your living room to let off some steam. You can also put that energy to a productive use by writing a thank you email to your recommenders or by engaging in some volunteer work (which will look great on any future graduate school or job applications).

2. Indulge in smart self-care. Self care doesn’t always look like giving yourself permission to eat that entire gallon of ice cream (although sometimes it certainly can!). Take this time to indulge in self-care that actually makes you feel good and energized afterwards, like taking a bath, meditating, calling a loved one, getting coffee or dinner with a close friend, treating yourself to a healthy new recipe (whether you make it yourself or order take-out), or taking yourself out on a movie or museum date.

3. Put things in perspective. Imagine the absolute worst-case scenario: you’re rejected from every single school you’ve applied to. What then? I don’t mean to downplay the feelings of rejection and sadness that receiving a denial can induce, but at the end of the day, it truly isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t even mean you won’t ever go to grad school. Sometimes when you think the universe is saying “No”, it’s really only saying “Not yet”. You can spend the next year making sure you’re prepared for the next round of applications, and you’ll have a head-start on everyone applying for the first time.

4. Take break from social media. There’s nothing worse than taking a break from relentlessly refreshing your email only to go onto Instagram and be immediately confronted with someone else’s post about their acceptance. Especially if a lot of people in your immediate circle are going through the same process as you, consider taking a break, or at least setting limitations for yourself when it comes to social media. By the way, this goes double for sites like GradCafe, CollegeConfidential, or Reddit discussion boards. Remember: everyone’s situation is unique, and trying to “hack” the application process by following the tips that worked for a stranger on the internet is unlikely to actually pay off.

5. Put an embargo on app-talk. With the holidays coming up, the chances of the Thanksgiving table conversation turning to graduate schools and applications is at an all time high, and your great-aunt is probably just dying to tell you about how her friend’s sister’s son-in-law got into every single graduate school with a full ride. Get out ahead of it by giving a quick update, setting a boundary, and moving the conversation along (“There are a couple of schools I’m excited to hear back from, but I don’t want to talk about graduate school when I have all this delicious food in front of me. Aunt Betsy, tell me more about how your vacation was?”). The same tip goes for your friends, if they’re in the same boat as you. Set aside ten minutes at the top of the gathering to compare notes, and then change the subject.

BONUS: Give yourself enough time. There’s nothing more anxiety producing than feeling like you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do. Make a plan early to organize your time, and stick to it. If you break down what you need to do into simple, manageable steps and give yourself a workable timeline to complete it, things will feel a lot less overwhelming.

You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

To be honest, this actually isn’t a question that I get from prospective students too often, but at graduate fairs, students often mention that although they have the desire to reach out to admissions contacts, they aren’t sure how, or feel awkward or nervous about contacting admissions personnel directly. Which I totally get! When you’re writing a message to someone in an admissions office, you should think of your email as serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, you’re trying to get an answer to a question you have, either about the program or the application process. That should be what the content of the email is focused on. But secondly, you’re also trying to make a good first impression on the people who will be involved in your application process. This doesn’t mean that you should re-iterate the highlights of your application to demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program, but it does mean that throughout your email, you should be making an effort to show that you’re interested in the program, you’ve done your research, and you’re a clear communicator. Let’s take a look at a (fictional) email from a prospective student and then talk about what the student could have done better:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu, AdmissionsContact2@college.edu, ProgramManager1@college.edu, DeanOfCollege1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: questions

Message:

hey ProgramManager3,

,my name is Fictional Student and i want to ask some questions about the mpp porgram ur school. i graduated 1st in my class in fictionalprogram at fictionalschool with a GPA of 3.76. since then, i worked at fictionalcompany for 4 yrs as a fictionaljobtitle, where i had fictionalresponsibilities. then i got a job at fictionalcompany2, where i works as a fictionaljobtitle2, which has the additional responsibilities of managing people. i also volunteer as a volunteerposition, and in my spare time i like to read and play music. but now i’m interested in advancing my education threw youre mpp program  bc i want to make a difference in the world. can u tell me when the deadline to apply to the program is??

thanks, Fictional Student”

You can probably tell that this email probably wouldn’t make the best first impression, but what could FictionalStudent have done better? First, they could have looked up the person in the admissions office that handles the program that they’re interested in and emailed that person (and only that person!). Sometimes students email multiple people in the hopes of getting an answer to their question, but it actually can backfire and create confusion among staff, even resulting in students not getting a reply because everyone on the email assumes that someone else will take care of the student’s question. Next problem? The tone is very informal, especially the text-speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to write in an overly formal way, but you should aim to write as a slightly more polished version of yourself, the same tone that you would use if you were emailing your boss or someone you have a job interview with. In addition to the too-casual tone, FictionalStudent also didn’t remember to proofread their email; a single typo isn’t going to ruin your chances of getting accepted to the program, but an email riddled with spelling and grammar errors definitely isn’t going to make the best impression.

Those are the more obvious errors, but I’d also add two more that may not be so obvious. First, the student is including information about themselves that isn’t relevant to their question and will most likely be repeated in their application. Think of it this way: your application is your opportunity to share more about yourself with the admissions committee, but when you’re emailing someone in admissions, that’s your opportunity for the school to share more about itself with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include any information about yourself (in fact, there are a lot of instances where you’ll need to include information about your background and interests), but try to keep the content of your message focused on the question you have and include only the information that’s relevant. Secondly, the student asked a question that can be very easily found on the website. I’m not saying that you have to make sure you scour a school’s webpage before you email someone in admissions, but things like deadlines and application requirements are almost always on a school’s website. Sending an email asking for something that’s featured prominently gives the impression that you haven’t taken the time or the effort to do your research. Let’s end with a corrected email that’s sure to make a good first impression:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: Questions about Submitting Test Scores

Message:

Dear AdmissionsContact,

I hope you’re doing well! I’m Fictional Student and I’m currently applying to the MPP program at your school. While reviewing admissions website, I saw that the GRE requirement is waived for students applying to the MPP program for the Fall 2022 semester. I have already taken the GRE, and I’m considering whether or not to submit test scores as a part of my application. Would you be able to tell me how the GRE is used when evaluating a students application, or what the average scores are for successful applicants? Any guidance you could provide would be very appreciated.

Thank you, Fictional Student”

How to Choose the Right Program: Attending a Virtual Prospective Student Event

About a year ago, I wrote a few posts about how to find the right graduate program for you in How to Choose the Right Graduate Program: Narrowing Your Search and How to Choose the Right Program: Doing Your Research. In the Doing Your Research post, I referenced that one of the best ways to do your research is to attend prospective student events for the programs you’re interested in. At Heller, we’re currently adding Virtual Events for Prospective Students, so I want to share some quick do’s and don’ts for attending a virtual event for prospective students that will ensure that you get the most out of the session and make the best first impression possible.

✓ DO be camera ready. I get it, it’s tempting to keep your camera off and take the meeting from bed, in your pajamas. But this is your chance to make a first impression, and it’s hard to connect with a blackened Zoom box. There’s no need for a suit and tie, but aim for business casual. If the room behind you is visible, make sure it’s in a reasonably presentable state, or better yet, use a Zoom background if your camera has the capability. A good rule of thumb is to prepare the way you would if this were a virtual meeting with your supervisor.

X DON’T use Zoom as a chance to zone out. Treat this event the way you would an in-person event: that means keeping your phone in your pocket (or across the room, if you’re like me and have a difficult time resisting the siren call of Instagram). It can be really tempting to use a Zoom meeting as an opportunity to multi-task; after all, what’s the harm of checking your email when you’re already on the computer, right? But it means you’ll be less focused and engaged, which is detrimental to you and can come across as rude to the person speaking.

✓ DO research who will be presenting. No, you don’t have to know the high school that the program director went to, or Insta-stalk the current students on the panel, but as much as possible, you should try to familiarize yourself with who is presenting and prepare appropriate questions. For faculty or program directors: “Do any of your current research projects employ students?” “What type of student is successful in this program?” “Do your classes rely more on independent work or collaboration?” For current students: “What surprised you about this program?” “How available are faculty members?” “What’s been your favorite class and why?” For alumni: “What skills did you gain in the program that have proved most useful?” “How helpful was the Career Development Center in finding employment?” You can even write these on post-it notes to stick to your computer so you won’t forget!

X DON’T be afraid to engage. That goes beyond asking questions, although that’s certainly one way to show that you’re engaged and interested. Leaving your camera on, nodding and smiling when someone makes a point you agree with, and using Zoom’s reactions and chat function to respond to others’ questions and points are all other good ways to interact with the presenters and show that you’re interested. Another good tip is to look into your camera instead of the screen; it may seem counter-intuitive, but to others, that will make it appear that you’re establishing eye contact.

✓ DO follow up. Writing a note to the host of the event afterward is a great way to set yourself apart and an opportunity to ask any further follow-up questions. Even if you don’t have any more questions, even thanking them for hosting the event and telling them something you appreciated establishes that you’re paying attention and have a legitimate interest in the program.

The Fall 2022 Application is OPEN!

We’re excited to announce that the Heller application for Fall 2022 entry is now open! Today, I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions from students and included a list of resources

FAQS

What is required for the application?

The application is designed to be accessible and is comprised of the following elements:

  • The Heller online application, including biographic information, education history, and work history
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (two for Social Impact MBA applicants)
  • PhD and SID/WGS joint program only: Writing Sample
  • International students only: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test results, unless you qualify for an English Proficiency Waiver
  • The MPP, MBA, and PhD programs have extended their test-optional policy through the Fall 2022 admission cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic

You can view a full list of requirements for each program on our “How to Apply” page. 

What are the deadlines for the application?

You can find deadlines for each program on our “Application Deadlines” page.

How can I start an application?

I would recommend starting by reviewing the “How to Apply” page for your program of interest before beginning an application.

What are you looking for in an application?

The best way to find out what each program is looking for is by connecting with one of our admissions representatives, but you can also read our blog series, “Which Program is Right for Me?”

Resource List

 

Is the MA in Sustainable International Development Program Right for Me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is closed, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Today, we wrap up this series with…

MA in Sustainable International Development

What is it? Heller’s Sustainable International Development (SID) program offers a practical, skills-based curriculum that prepares students to promote responsible development in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions. The SID program has a unique and flexible program structure, with four different tracks including an Accelerated Track (where students can complete the degree in as little as 9 months), a Two-Year Practicum Track, Two-Year Advanced Study Track, and a Two-Year Concentration Track, so you can customize your program to meet your needs. Whichever track you choose, the program is designed to help students address inequities and injustice, reduce environmental destruction, and promote income generation through entrepreneurship and access to credit. Students will develop their knowledge of the root causes of poverty, gain scientific literacy on climate change, build skills for collecting and analyzing data, and improve their organizational, program, and project management skills.

Who’s it for? Our typical SID student has at least two to three years of work experience – that can be translated into real work, Peace Corps experience, volunteering and internship experience while an undergrad, etc. Our SID students all have different goals: some come into the program with a clear focus and reason who  want to excel in their passion or a field they already have experience in, while others come to explore what path of development they want to work in. There are so many branches of development work and our program really showcases that and allows students to find their niche. Our students are passionate, justice-seekers, hands-on, dedicated, not afraid to get dirty and highly motivated to change the world around them.

What kinds of classes will I take? In your first two semesters, you’ll take core courses like Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Development; Ethics, Rights and Development;  and Political Ecology and Development, while also choosing electives that match your area of interest, like Gender and the Environment. If you opt for the Advanced Study or Concentration Tracks, you’ll then get to choose from electives like Social Movements for Emancipatory DevelopmentEconomics of Education or Religion and Development. In the Practicum Track (which includes a six month practicum) or Concentration Track (which includes a three month practicum), students receive academic credit for their practicum assignment with organizations such as a UN agency, an international NGO, or a research think tank. Past practicum organizations have included Save the Children, Oxfam, World Bank, or UN agencies.

Where will it take me? SID students gain the knowledge, skills and tools at Heller to get great jobs where they bring innovative ideas and creative practice to the development sector. Furthermore, they learn about human rights, gender equity, inclusive societies and environmental sustainability—the values that we believe should guide development work, whether it’s in a large multilateral organization or a small local nonprofit organization. Examples of positions held by recent graduates (those who have graduated within five years) include Co-founder and CEO for WorkAround, Associate Reporting Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Communications and Engagement Director for Sustainable Business & Innovation at Nike.  Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago hold positions like Venezuela’s Ambassador to Argentina under President Guaidó, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and an International Trade Advisor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How is Heller’s program different? Mainly, our vast array of faculty members with many different specializations and experience within development. It’s a high-touch program and students have very close proximity and access to our faculty, administrators, and researchers. Much of what they learn is actually outside of the classroom, working on group projects, competitions, research with faculty, field trips, etc. Not to mention the six-month practicum that the SID program requires for the Two-Year Practicum Track program. The Heller SID student community is uniquely diverse both in individual backgrounds as well as in academic interests; in a typical year, about 60% of our students come from outside the U.S., representing between 20 and 30 different countries (mostly from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia). Many of our U.S. students have worked internationally or served in the Peace Corps or military, while others have built careers focused on issues of domestic conflict.

Is the MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence Program Right for Me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is closed, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Next up?

MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence

What is it? Heller’s Conflict Resolution and Coexistence (COEX) program offers a practical, skills-based curriculum that prepares students to become responsible peace-building practitioners throughout the world. The COEX program has a unique structure, including a half-year field practicum, numerous dual degree opportunities, and the ability to concentrate in humanitarian aid or development. The 56-credit curriculum includes one academic year in residence (32 credits) followed by six months of combined fieldwork (12 credits) and a final paper, leading either to an internship report, a master’s paper, or master’s thesis (12 credits). If students wish, they can then go on to complete a concentration in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Management. Whether you add the optional concentration semester or not, the program is designed to help students learn to foster inter-communal and international cooperation in the face of tension and conflict. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing a range of fields, including social psychology, international politics, sociology, law, anthropology, and cultural studies.

Who’s it for? Our typical COEX student has at least two to three years of work experience who want to gain the tools and skills to solve problems and facilitate discussions. They want to engage in difficult conversations and synthesize different perspectives so they can manage conflict, resolve it and seek productive pathways forward.  Our program attracts people who are driven by peacebuilding and want to do that while incorporating cultural contexts and empowering local communities. Our students come to Heller with an array of skills and experiences, from military veterans and humanitarian aid professionals to Peace Corps members and grassroots organizers.

What kinds of classes will I take? In your first two semesters, you’ll take core courses like Responsible Negotiation, Responsible Mediation, and Strategies for Coexistence Interventions, while also choosing electives that match your area of interest, like Disaster Management and Risk ReductionWomen, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding, and Kingian Nonviolence and Reconciliation.  The following summer, you’ll have the opportunity to engage in a  3-month, full-time practicum that can be a traditional internship, the implementation of a conflict resolution project in the field, or research leading to a thesis. In the case of a traditional internship, students receive academic credit for their three-month practicum assignment with organizations such as a UN agency, an international NGO, or a research think tank. Past practicum organizations have included Search For Common Ground, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Carter Center, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and the International Organization on Migration. In their final semester, students write their final reports and have the opportunity to present their findings at a capstone event.

Where will it take me? COEX students learn how to analyze conflict, structure and evaluate interventions, engage people and partners, and develop regional or national specializes that prepare them to find amazing jobs in the conflict resolution field. Our alumni find work in governments, intergovernmental organizations, and international and local non-governmental organizations dealing with coexistence issues. Examples of positions held by recent graduates (those who have graduated within five years) include Co-founder and CEO for WorkAround, Public Health Advisor for the CDC, and Policy Analyst for the New York City Department of Corrections.  Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago hold positions like First Secretary for the Embassy of Afghanistan in London, Developmental Evaluator for Social Impact, and the Regional Program Manager for Africa and the Middle East for KARAMA.

How is Heller’s program different? The COEX program at Heller is unique because it is rare for a conflict resolution program to have courses in both mediation and negotiation, but we offer both to provide a holistic approach to engage in a meaningful and productive dialogue. The teaching model is heavily discussion-based, incorporating structured debates and simulation exercises as well as facilitated discussions that occur organically in class. The Heller COEX student community is uniquely diverse both in individual backgrounds as well as in academic interests; in a typical year, about 60% of our students come from outside the U.S., representing between 20 and 30 different countries (mostly from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia). Many of our U.S. students have worked internationally or served in the Peace Corps or military, while others have built careers focused on issues of domestic conflict.

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