Author: daniellalevine

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation): Daniella Levine

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Dear Future Daniella,

This is not where you assumed you would be six years ago when you first thought about obtaining an MPP. Graduate school was your ticket out of Boston. You wanted a new city, a new community, a new start. And due to consequences, both in and out of your control, that did not happen. You initially applied to Heller, because it would be silly not to – a top-ranked program, small cohort size, a concentration in gender policy – Heller checked all the boxes but one. After working in Boston for four years, attending college in Worcester and growing up in Providence, I yearned for the chance to expand and grow and for whatever reason, I was determined that wasn’t possible to do in New England.

Oh, how wrong I was. I am waiting on your confirmation, but I am pretty certain I would not be as content or satisfied anywhere else. Heller’s commitment to social justice is one I have never experienced in any other institutional setting. My peers are not focused on being the best alone, we work collaboratively and with care. My professors want their students to succeed outside of the traditional classroom expectations and provides the support and tools necessary to thrive in the world of policy. The structure of Heller’s curriculum allows me to explore the nuance of women, gender and sexuality policy within a social policy framework. Intersectionality is aptly examined in every class because we cannot study policy without the acknowledgement of interconnectivity.

I came to Heller to explore the intersection of assimilation, gender and the cultural socialization on gender normativity.  Especially in the way race, workplace ecosystems and gender coalesce. I am hopeful that my work at Heller will qualify me for a position at a national think tank or research institution focused on gender disparities. Through my previous experiences, I gained a baseline understanding of the work being done to combat sexism, along with a grasp on the development side of non-profit work. I hope that Heller equipped me with a deeper and more theoretical/academic comprehension of contemporary issues to ground the work. I have no doubt that Heller helped me hone in on my critical thinking skills in my personal and professional lives. How much did you utilize the resources of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office at Heller? Were you able to learn from  faculty and practitioners like Laurence Simon and Sarah Soroui? Could you fit the Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing course in your last semester?

Heller, situated in Massachusetts, seems to be the right place for me. So where will I go next? Has my time at Heller grounded me in the Boston area? Will I move to DC? Do I find a niche within the gender and sexuality field? Do I veer in another direction? I started my time at Heller hesitant, and while I may leave with more questions than answers, I will never be questioning if Heller was the right choice. I am eager to see how I’ve grown.

Hello Heller!: Daniella Levine’s Acceptance Story

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

After a week of working remotely (in what my organization called at the time a “work from home test-run”), I was in the midst of a post-work debrief with some of my colleague friends when the email notification popped up on my phone.

I’d been getting bombarded by Brandeis and other academic institutions for weeks at this point with reasons why I should consider their school and the special opportunities they had to offer. Yet, I was confused – wasn’t I the one who should be wooing them – sharing my value add? Suffice to say, when another email came in from Brandeis, at 5:20 on a Friday afternoon no less, I was skeptical that it would be a significant update. But when I opened the email and saw that it carried news, I suddenly could not hear what the four boxes on my screen were saying. Logging into my account without trying to signal any emotional change in my face for fear that someone on my call would ask what was happening, I tried to keep my face stoic and unchanged.

Ultimately, however, my face betrayed me as my expression quickly transformed to reveal what the letter said: I was accepted. Interrupting my friends (which is common for me and my stream of conscious style) to relay the news caused the whole screen to erupt in celebration. Good news was hard to come by those first couple weeks (months) of the pandemic, and being able to share my excitement in real-time with the women who had spent the last four years inspiring and uplifting me was such a gift. Then came the screenshots and texts to family and friends alike, all eagerly awaiting any news.

Heller’s commitment to social justice and equity drew me in and is what has sustained me over the last year. They not only practice what they preach, they actively work to do and be better and I am so lucky to be a part of the change, surrounded by driven and like-minded peers, faculty, and professors.

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