Author: amandamiller (page 1 of 9)

Hello Heller! Shiko Rugene’s Acceptance Story

Headshot of Shiko Rugene, Social Impact MBA'22

Shiko Rugene, Social Impact MBA’22

I received my acceptance letter on July 20th, 2020. As I sit here and try to rack my brain to remember the feelings I had when I received the decision letter, it feels almost impossible. I know I’m speaking to the choir when I say how out of this world 2020 was. In June, we were at the height of the pandemic, still sanitizing our groceries with Clorox wipes and trying to wrap our brains around this new way of life. I was spending all my time in my studio apartment in Berkeley, California, having recently lost my job due to the pandemic like many others. Around that same time, in May, the whole world witnessed such horrific police brutality, leading many of us to the streets in response. With the world on lockdown, everything seemed to be falling apart, but we finally had a moment to reckon with and question many of the injustices around us.

I applied to Heller because I wanted to be part of an institution where social justice was front and center. A place where I could be with peers who were driven and persistent about challenging systems and influencing change. The Social Impact MBA program felt ideal to me for two reasons: 1) I wanted to learn what it would look like to influence business to be more accountable to our society and 2) more practically, I knew I needed the hard skills that would position me to take on the management and leadership positions I sought after.

With Heller operating remotely and so much uncertainty looming, my decision to join felt a lot more challenging than I hoped when I applied. When I thought about graduate school, I imagined being in community with other students, with faculty and professors. I imagined study sessions with classmates, being in a large lecture hall and the buzz of being in a place like Zinner forum where students share ideas and meals together. I knew that I wanted to be at Heller, but I was afraid that learning remotely just wasn’t going to fulfill me. I had to make a decision soon. 

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I knew that I had a strong network of peers who I could lean on to help me with my decision. Many were completing their degrees remotely at the time and had first hand experience. Though they spoke of the flexibility afforded to them by Heller, they also spoke of the challenges of not being amongst other students and with community. With that in mind, I chose to defer and start my degree in 2021, a decision that I’m so glad I chose.

How to Choose a PhD Program

With a little over a month to go before the PhD application deadline (get your apps in before December 15th, folks!), some students are still finalizing which programs they want to apply to. I know I’ve written many blog posts about how to choose a graduate program, but to be honest, applying to a PhD program is unique in some ways. With that in mind, I thought I’d focus on a few things that you should be thinking about as you select which PhD programs to apply to, and ultimately, how to choose which graduate program to ultimately attend.

    1. How you align with faculty.  It’s certainly not uncommon to have research interests that don’t align perfectly with the work actively being done at Heller: if everyone was looking at how the same issue affects the same population using the same methodology, we’d all be doing the same research. It’s not uncommon for our students to have interests that don’t neatly fit into one of our concentrations (for example, students interested in Education Policy bridge both Children, Youth, and Families and Economic and Racial Equity), but still find plenty of faculty members to support their research interests. As part of your research into PhD programs, I would recommend browsing faculty in your program of interest and asking yourself, “Who would I want as my advisor? Who would I want to serve on my dissertation committee?” This, by the way, can be broader than just your specific issue: faculty who have worked with the population that you’re interested, or are using similar research methods, might still be a good fit for you, even if they’re investigating how a different policy problem affects that population. You can find PhD faculty as well as their areas of interest here.
    2. What network you want to build. As you move through the program, you’ll be building a professional network, not just with Heller faculty, but also with your cohort and within your concentration. This is a network that can assist you not only while you’re in the program, but after you leave the program as well. So, when trying to choose a program, I would ask yourself what kinds of people that you want to be helping you through this journey and beyond. Are students doing research in areas you’re interested? Are they working, or have they worked, at places that you’d be interested in working at after graduation? Does the community seem collaborative and supportive?
    3. The funding package. Make sure you read the fine print: At Heller, All full-time PhD students receive a funding package that includes all tuition and fees, the individual health insurance premium, and an annual stipend of $21,000 for the first four years of the program. One thing I would note, however, is that unlike many PhD programs, this funding package and stipend is not dependent on working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Many of our PhD students, however, are interested in working as a research or teaching assistant (and I would say that most PhD students do work in one of those roles at some point during their program), but in those cases, students are paid directly, just like with any other job. Many other graduate programs may either a) not cover fees, which can be in the thousands of dollars,  b) require you to work for a certain number of hours, which can inhibit your ability to work on other projects or manage your schoolwork, c) aren’t renewable/only for a year/is contingent on benchmarks that are unreasonable.

It’s easy to get caught up in a school’s prestigious name, a high ranking, or a too-good-to-be-true scholarship package. But a PhD program is a big commitment: you’ll likely be spending more time in your PhD program than you did in your undergraduate degree, so you want to make sure that it’s the right fit for you. Looking at these three things is a good start when it comes time to make this decision!

 

Health at Heller

It’s no secret that Heller is a top school for students interested in health policy or healthcare management. We’re proud to be ranked in the the top ten of U.S. News and World’s Report of graduate schools for health policy and management, placing at #8 on their list for 2023 (to paraphrase Beyoncé, “Top ten and we ain’t number ten”). There are so many wonderful faculty and students working on health policy, healthcare management, and healthcare systems at Heller that it might be a little overwhelming to figure out where you might fit in. Today, I’ve compiled a list of the programs and concentrations that focus on health at Heller so that you can find the right one for you!

Master of Public Policy: The MPP degree at Heller has not one, but two concentrations that focus on health & healthcare. The Health Policy concentration prepares students to address persistent problems in access, cost and quality. Areas of focus include health care delivery system reform, improvements in the social determinants of health and enacting improvements through state and national health care reform. Students in the Behavioral Health Policy concentration focus on the intersection of health, behavior, and systems of care, working to improve these systems in order to promote healthier lifestyles and assist individuals to engage in behaviors which lead to better health.

Social Impact MBA: The Healthcare Management concentration in our Social Impact MBA program prepares students to make an impact in today’s complex, ever-changing U.S. healthcare landscape. Whether you’re interested in addressing racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic healthcare disparities or developing strategies for cost reduction, with a concentration in Healthcare Management from Heller, you can contribute your expertise and insight as a manager, researcher, policy analyst or advisor working for a government agency, nonprofit or consultancy.

Master of Science in Global Health Policy and Management: Heller’s 9-month MS in Global Health Policy and Management program offers two concentrations: the Health Systems concentration and a STEM-designated concentration in Health Economics and Analytics. Regardless of the concentration, students graduate with a holistic understanding of health system design and function, so they’re prepared to design systems that will improve health outcomes for people around the world. 

PhD in Social Policy: The PhD program at Heller also has two concentrations that focus on health policy and health systems. The Health concentration in Heller’s PhD program prepares graduates for challenging careers developing research and policy that influence the quality, accessibility, financing and delivery of healthcare in the United States and globally. The Behavioral Health concentration prepares graduates for research and policy careers that focus on the intersection and linkage of health, behavior, and systems of care, targeting alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues.

Students in these programs benefit from access to the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy and Research, which conduct more than two-thirds of the outside-funded research at the Heller School and are the largest research institutes within Brandeis University, examining a variety of issues in the U.S. healthcare system, including access, quality, healthcare, delivery and utilization, and cost.

What Are the Application Requirements?

Working in admissions, you start to develop answers to common questions. “What’s the cut-off GPA?” “Is my background a good fit for this program?” “Is the GRE required?” But the most common question, the one I get the most, is “What are the application requirements?”

Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to spend this blog post laying out the different programs’ application requirements and what you should be preparing when you’re getting ready to apply. Maybe even some tips and tricks for how to strengthen those application requirements, or how to stay organized when you’re applying. But you’d be wrong! You can always find application requirements on our website, but today, I’m going to flip the script and ask you to think about what your application requirements are.

Huh?

Okay, here’s what I mean. When I was applying to graduate school, I applied to eleven programs (for those of you out there wondering, that’s way too many). Looking back, I’m still not sure why I put myself through that, but I think most of it came down to two things: first, I was terrified that no school would accept me, and I didn’t really have a plan for what I would do if I didn’t go to graduate school at that time, and second, I had no real idea what I was looking for. Yes, I knew I wanted a master’s in English Literature, yes, there were some areas that I was interested in living, but other than that, I really had no clue.

I share all of this as a cautionary tale: don’t be like me! Before you start applying to graduate schools, take a minute to think about what your requirements are. If you’re not sure, here are some things that it might be helpful to consider:

  • Do I have the opportunity to teach or work as a research assistant? If you intend to go into academia or research, this should be a really important question for you. Participating in research and teaching while in graduate school is a great way to start an academic career and build experience. Notice, however, that I also said “opportunity”: at Heller, although many of our students do work as research assistants and teaching assistants, it’s not considered part of your funding and thus, you’re not obligated to do it. If you know you don’t intend to stay in academia or teaching, I would recommend being cautious of schools that do require it: your time might be better spent in an internship or part-time job building skills that translate more directly to your future career.
  • Are there clubs, organizations, or leadership activities that interest and excite me? I won’t lie to you, this is probably a bigger factor in undergraduate programs, but you still shouldn’t discount it when you’re applying to graduate school. Especially if you’ll be coming from out-of-state or don’t have a support group already in the area, joining extracurriculars is a good way to network and make new friends outside of your program. Leadership experience (even if it’s for a club or organization) can also be helpful once you’ve graduated to put on your resume or as an example to draw upon during interviews. Heller and Brandeis clubs and working groups include Black Graduate Student Association, Brandeis Graduate Outdoors Club, Brandeis University Africa Forum, Disability Working Group, Gender Working Group, Graduate Student Association, Heller Myanmar/Burma Advocacy Group, Heller Startup Challenge, Heller Student Association, Impact Investing and ESG Working Group, Net Impact (Heller Chapter), Open Air Journal and the Racial Equity Working Group.
  • What kinds of access will I have to professors and other outside resources? This question is going to be different for every person. Some students do best in close-knit environments where they get a lot of individualized attention, while others are happy to keep their head down and never go to office hours. Personally, I think that Heller’s faculty to student ratio provides for a really close community and there are a lot of benefits to that (the faculty and research staff to student ratio is roughly 1:6!), but some students might be happier in larger programs where the faculty/student ratio is higher.

These may not be important factors for you. You may care more about working with a specific professor, with not having to write a thesis at the end of your program, living in a certain area or in a big city, taking classes online, a great campus gym… the list goes on and on. But whatever your priorities are, make sure that you’re not only focusing on what schools might let you in: think carefully about what you want the next years to look like.

What is the Quantitative and Analytical Statement?

First of all, let me start by saying that if you’re a master’s program applicant reading this post and panicking, thinking, “What the heck is a Quantitative and Analytical Statement?”, worry not. This post is just for the PhD applicants out there.

If you’ve applied to the the PhD program before and are reapplying again this year, you might have noticed that there’s a new portion to our application, the Quantitative and Analytical Statement. Today, I’m going to walk you through why we’ve added this component, what information you should include, and how you can use the statement to your advantage on our application.

Why did we add this component? If you applied for the Fall 2021 or Fall 2022 entry term, it’s likely that you noticed that we’ve made the GRE optional for the last two years due to COVID-19. Students had the choice to submit GRE scores if they had already taken them, but if you weren’t able to sit for the test, you weren’t required to report them. For some students, not being able to take the GRE greatly helped their application, but for others, not taking it had a disadvantage: students who had been out of school for years and not working in an academic or research setting had no way to demonstrate that they had the requisite quantitative skills to make them successful in a research based program. Similarly, faculty members reviewing the application were left in the dark as to some students’ current quantitative ability: for example, would it be better to take an applicant who had great grades in their quantitative classes more than fifteen years ago, or an applicant with average grades three years ago? Who would be better equipped to take our required quantitative courses? And thus… the Quantitative and Analytical Statement was born

What information should I include? Although many of our students and faculty do perform a great deal of qualitative research, many of our courses teach students the skills to conduct quantitative and mixed methods research. In your first semester, for example, you’ll take both Introduction to Stata Programming and Data Management (which covers creating simple datasets and accessing existing ones, modifying and managing data, and performing simple statistical analysis), Research Methods (which is designed to prepare students in the Heller PhD program to be able to understand and interpret empirical research and to design their own studies), and Applied Regression Analysis (which teaches students about assumptions underlying the regression model, how to test for violations, and corrections that can be made when violations are found).  So in your Quantitative and Analytical Statement, you have the chance to demonstrate that you have the background to succeed in those classes. So how do you do this? I’d like to think our website lays it out pretty succinctly, so I’ll quote here: “In the Quantitative and Analytical Statement, applicants should detail why they believe they would be successful in a research-based program; i.e., quantitative classes you have taken, research experience you hold, peer-reviewed research papers you have authored or collaborated on, statistical software you are familiar with and the projects you have utilized statistical software for, etc. Experience with qualitative data analysis and software may be noted but should not be the focus of the statement.” In short, in the absence of your GRE scores, your Quantitative and Analytical statement is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed in our program that might not otherwise be demonstrated or highlighted in your application.

How can I use this to my advantage? Glad you asked. First, it works to your advantage because now you have a choice. If you have the ability to sit for GREs, you can now choose whether you want to submit them after you see your scores. If you have high GRE scores, particularly in the Quantitative section, I would really encourage you to submit your GRE scores. If, however, for whatever reason (you’re not able to take the test, you’re not a good test taker), you don’t get the scores you had hoped for in the Quantitative section, this QAS gives you the opportunity to highlight the parts of your application that would make you a good candidate. We already review your application holistically, but the QAS lets you lay out the case for your success. Let’s talk about an example: if you know that you don’t have strong  GRE scores but still believe that you could succeed in the program, your QAS could talk about the high grades in the quantitative classes like statistics or economics you took in your master’s program. You could talk about your five years of work experience in a research lab, and the research projects using and analyzing national data sets that you’ve worked on while at that position. You could talk about how you used Stata in your previous position, or your experience interning for a politician that required you to summarize the methodology of findings from previous studies and synthesizing and communicating the results of data analysis .  And just like that, your application would demonstrate that you are perfectly capable of succeeding in a quantitative research program.

I hope that helps answer some of your questions about this requirement, and we look forward to reviewing your application.!

The Fall 2023 Application is Open!

We’re excited to announce that the Heller application for Fall 2023 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 2023 admission cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PhD applicants who do not submit GRE scores must submit a quantitative statement. You can find more information on the quantitative statement on the PhD Application Requirements web page under “Standardized Test Scores”.

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

Your First Semester

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

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

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

Flash Forward: What are Heller graduates doing right now?

Every three months, a magazine appears in my mailbox. It’s not one I subscribed to, and most of the time, I have no idea what to expect in terms of the articles inside. But it’s one that I look forward to reading: The Brandeis magazine.

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably heard about the Heller magazine (shout out to Heller’s amazing communications team!), but you might not realize that Brandeis puts out a magazine every quarter too. And unlike what I’m sure of the majority of recipients do (leaf through a few pages, read an article or two that catches their eye, reads the class news for their class), I can proudly say that I read each Brandeis magazine cover to cover. My favorite part, however, might not be what you’d expect. Even though I myself never attended Brandeis, and even though the articles for Brandeis magazine are always fascinated, I love the class news section.

I love it because I get a glimpse of what some of our Heller graduates are up to. You see, once students enroll, we hand them off to their program directors, professors, advisors, and program managers. Sure, a current student or even an alumni might occasionally stop by to chat with us, but for the most part, once a student is enrolled, we fall off the radar. Reading through the class news lets me know what became of the shy prospective SID student I talked to at a graduate school fair, or the PhD applicant whose statement of purpose blew me away.

Today, I thought it might be helpful to share some updates from Heller’s graduates: not so that you can catch up with them, as I do, but so you can get a sense of where you might be post-Heller.

Medani Bhandari, SID’04, is a professor and advisor to the chancellor at Gandaki University (Nepal), professor at Sumy State University (Ukraine), and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Akamai University (Hawaii, USA).

Jill Baren, MBA’19, is the 14th president (and first woman president) of Lake Forest College.

Devan Quinn, MPP’17, is director of policy at the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation.

Jeanette Takamura, PhD’85, is a professor and dean emerita of the Columbia School of Social Work, where she served as the School’s first female dean. Dr. Takamura served as the assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1997 to 2001.

Javaid Iqbal Sofi, MA SID/MS GHPM’21, is a fellow at the Harvard Public Health Review.

Leandre Waldo, MBA’02, is the chief of staff for the president of Saint Michael’s College.

Emmanuel Obasuyi, MS GHPM’15, is building a mobile-first electronic health record system for healthcare providers in emerging markets, which is being piloted in Nigeria.

Michael Ames, PhD’15, is president and CEO of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Alliance, a human-service organization. He’s also the president of the Massachusetts Association of Approved Special Education Schools’ board.

Jessica Sanon, MBA’18, founded sySTEMic Flow, a nonprofit which works to break down barriers for BIPOC women who study or work in STEM fields.

Amanda Kiessel, SID’03, is the co-creator of Good Market, a marketplace commons that makes it easier to connect with social enterprises, civic organizations, and businesses working to create a better world.

How to Prepare for Your First Semester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Bring to Orientation

Can you believe it’s already August? It may be hard to believe, but orientation is just around the corner; in less than three weeks, we’ll be welcoming Heller’s incoming class to campus. If you’re one of those incoming students, this post is for you. Heller does a good job of providing for our students during orientation: students will receive a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch both days, a water bottle, and a small tote bag, but take it from me, there are still a few things that you should bring.

1. A face mask. As of right now, Brandeis is still requiring masks at indoor gatherings of over twenty people, and orientation definitely fits that category. We’ll have face masks to hand out to students as they arrive, but if you want to wear your own mask, you should definitely bring it!

2. A portable charger/phone cable. Orientation can be long and you might be on your phone a lot, taking pictures, jotting down notes, or exchanging phone numbers or email addresses. Trust me, having a portable battery will make you the most popular person in the room.

3. Granola bars/small snacks. Heller will be providing breakfast and lunch both days of orientation, and plans to give all incoming students a free water bottle, but as I said above, orientation sessions can be long, and having a small snack on hand may be something you’ll want!

4. A sweater or light jacket. Orientation sessions take place all over the Heller building, and you’ll often find that temperatures of different rooms can really vary! Even though it should still be pretty warm outside, I recommend bringing something light to layer over your clothes if you end up in one of the chillier rooms!

5. Comfortable shoes. I know that we all want to make a first impression, but if there was ever a day to leave your high-heeled shoes at home, orientation is that day! You’ll likely do a fair bit of walking around as you move from room to room, going up and down stairs, and rushing around as you try to find the room you’re supposed to be in, and you’ll want to do it in comfortable shoes.

There you have it! Make sure you have these on you as you head out the door and you’ll be set up for a successful orientation!

 

 

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