Author: hplumb (page 1 of 2)

An Open Letter to Accepted Students

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Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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:

1. Celebrate

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!

How to Entertain Yourself While in Quarantine

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

We’re now two years into the pandemic, even though almost feels like it’s been a lifetime for me. While the mask mandates have started to come down and it definitely is starting to feel a bit more like normal life again, unfortunately, people are still getting sick with Covid sometimes. And yes, I was one of those people; I got sick with Covid three weeks ago. Thankfully, it was a mild case, and I mostly felt okay for the majority of the time. Honestly, what I feel like I learned the most was how to entertain myself (the extrovert) while being completely by myself. I got sick right around when most of my midterms were, sadly, but when I finished those, I just found myself very bored. So, here are my best tips for entertaining yourself during quarantine:

  1. Watch some mindless reality tv

We all see the popular reality tv shows on Netflix (Too Hot to Handle, Love is Blind, etc), but have you ever sat down and actually taken the time to delve into them? While I had Covid, I found that I wanted to watch something I could get into, but that also was a little mindless. Silly reality tv shows? The perfect solution to this craving I had. Once you get over how ridiculous they are sometimes, they honestly can be really entertaining and make you laugh a lot, even when you’re not feeling so good.

2. Try out a new hobby

At the beginning of the semester, I got really into the show Euphoria. I think one of the coolest parts of this show is the costume and makeup design. To set the record straight, I am not a makeup person whatsoever, but I couldn’t help but admire all of the cool designs all of the makeup artists had come up with on that show. So, in my peak Covid boredom, I got my old makeup palettes out and tried to recreate some of their looks on my face. Did it work? Definitely not. Was it really fun? Absolutely!

3. Make a call to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while

One of the great things about grad school is getting the chance to meet so many amazing people. However, with how busy I am, I definitely don’t have as much time to talk to my friends at home. So, during quarantine, it was the perfect time for me to make a call to some of my friends back home and catch up. It was great to hear from them and also made me feel better when I was getting lonely in quarantine.

4. Read a book for pleasure

Graduate school has a lot of reading; some of which I really enjoy. However, school reading often takes up so much of your time that it’s hard to take time away to read for pleasure. So, during quarantine I took the time to finish up reading Anita Hill’s Book Our Thirty Year Journey to End Gender-Based Violence. Shameless plug- read it! It’s amazing and such an important discussion of the epidemic that is sexual violence in American society. Also, I started reading Eat, Pray, Love, which is a very different book, but one I enjoyed nonetheless.

5. Color your worries away!

Finally, I got out my adult coloring book that a friend had given me when I was feeling a little stressed, and started coloring away! It honestly is a great thing to focus on, especially when you’re feeling down, stressed or anxious. I could not recommend it enough!

There you go! There are Hannah’s tips for keeping yourself entertained during quarantine. Hopefully you won’t need them, but just in case, here they are 🙂

Recap of a Stint in Virtual Learning

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

When I was looking into graduate schools back in 2020, one thing that was really important to me was having in person classes. Obviously, when the pandemic first hit, most graduate schools had all their classes online. That was why I decided to wait and apply for Fall 2021, when I knew it would be more likely that I could experience everything in person. Thankfully, the Fall 2021 semester was all in person and I got my wish.

However, in December 2021, the Omicron variant hit, and uncertainty about classes being online was in the air again. So many people I knew were getting infected, and I got more and more concerned we’d be moving online permanently. I constantly was checking my inbox over the break, looking for updates about if in person classes would begin. Finally, I saw the email– I quickly skimmed and found the information I was looking for. “Classes will begin online for the first two weeks of the Spring 2022 semester.” My heart sank a little bit; even though I knew it was the right decision with the new variant, that didn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed.

Now being back in person after those two weeks, it seems a good a time as any to look back on those two weeks of online classes. A few good things about being online were that I seemed to have so much more time. Since I wasn’t as worried about getting to campus, my time was my own, and I had a lot more of it. Also, being at home meant that I could take some time during the day to cook, get my laundry done etc, which I don’t get to do as much during a normal week. However, there were also negatives too. Because I also was working remotely, I was essentially staring at my computer for 12 hours a day every day. As someone who loves being outdoors and being social, this was a little bit tough for me. Plus, being online I have a much harder time concentrating, and find that I get distracted much easier.

While there were definitely some benefits to being virtual, I must say I’m very happy to be back in person. However, I have to give credit to the professors that made being online much more engaging that I anticipated. One professor that really stood out for me with her skills in teaching online classes was Professor Kaitie Chakoian.  Professor Chakoian teaches Policy Approaches to Gender-Based Violence, which is my favorite class of the semester so far. When we were online, she did such an great job at letting us be part of the discussion and coming up with exercises to really make sure everyone was able to participate. In addition, these discussions got us thinking on a deeper level about what rape culture really is and what constitutes it. Also, she made sure to give us frequent breaks as needed, and give us time to get into break out rooms to have further discussion about the topics of class. This was so helpful, as it gave us time to really absorb the material and ask any questions we might have. Professor Chakoian did an amazing job, and if we had to be online permanently, I would take her class in a heartbeat.

Looking at a New Year Ahead

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Hello Admissions blog reader! I’m a little late to the game, but a happy new year to all! The start of the New Year is always one of my favorite times; everyone seems so happy and excited for all the new things to come. Even though this year looked a little different because of the covid spike, it still was a great New Year and New Year’s Eve to be had. Even though covid running rampant meant that I couldn’t spend New Years Eve with my significant other, I was thankful because it gave me the opportunity to spend the night with my sister. We watched the ball drop, ate lots of cookies and blasted our favorite songs on repeat.

Once the New Year officially began, I began reflecting on 2021 for a bit and thinking what I wanted to bring with me to make 2022 great. 2021 was a year of firsts for me: my first time getting into graduate school, my first time travelling to Massachusetts (and moving here!), and my first time learning about topics like data analysis, survey design, project management and more. I want 2022 to be as great (if not even more so) as 2021 was for me. I think part of doing that is bringing the same sentiments with me from the last year. I want to go into 2022 with a positive mindset and achievable resolutions.

My two resolutions for this year are to practice more self care and to read more. While these may sound simple, I think they’re really important to my mental health, especially while in grad school. While in grad school, it’s easy to get so caught up in your assignments that you don’t take time for yourself. This year, I want to make more time for self-care. For me, that specifically means taking time to cook, bake, work out, and just relax for a while. In regards to my second resolution, I love reading but it’s not something I always make time for either. I think reading is such a great way to explore new worlds and cultures without even leaving your home! This year, I also want to make more time for pleasure reading. I’ve already started off by reading Red, White and Royal Blue, a very fun romance book everyone should check out (Editor’s note: I also recently read this book and co-sign it as a fun read)!

Whether you make resolutions or not, I wish to everyone a happy and prosperous 2022.

Event Recap: Gender Working Group Open Mic Night

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

One of the great things about being at Heller is that there are lots of clubs you can join that match your interests! There are clubs like the Brandeis University Africa Forum, the Heller Student Association, Net Impact, the Racial Equity Working Group and more. One group that I became involved in since the beginning of the semester is the Gender Working Group. The Gender Working Group is a club that fights for gender equality on campus and tries to raise awareness of different gender issues around Heller.

About a month ago, the Gender Working Group held our first “Open Mic Night”, which I attended. The Open Mic Night was a great opportunity for people to perform (pieces related to gender or not) and also acted as a fundraiser for a local organization called REACH. REACH is a Waltham domestic violence organization that helps survivors find housing and different resources to get back on their feet. They also have programs related to the prevention of domestic violence within the Waltham community as well.

The Open Mic Night was held in Heller, on a Friday night about a week before classes ended. With it being so close to finals, we were really worried about how many people would show up. However, we still managed to get around 20-30 attendees, which was amazing! It was a truly wonderful event, raising awareness about domestic violence and gender issues. There were about 8 performances total. There were a few singers that sang songs about women empowerment, a few poems, a speech, and an amateur film. It was pretty amazing seeing the passion in each performer’s voice and how comfortable and confident they all seemed. As soon as the next performance started, I felt like I couldn’t look away.

There were also some yummy snacks available at the event, and as an incentive to donate to REACH, there was also body painting (face paint but on your arm to make it covid safe) available! I had a wonderful time at the Open Mic Night; it was really amazing getting to see how talented all of my classmates are. And also, seeing how much of a community Heller is that so many people showed up. We also ended up raising over $350 for REACH, which was pretty amazing. I left the night smiling and happy, and reminded of even through the stress of finals, why I am here at Heller.

Tips: How to find a Graduate Assistantship

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Graduate school is an amazing time to learn new skills, take thought provoking classes and meet fascinating people both on campus and off. I was so excited to get to Heller and get to experience all this, but amongst the excitement, one worry kept popping up in my brain: money. While a wonderful experience, graduate school is definitely also a financial investment, and I was really concerned about earning money while I was in school.

One great way to offset the financial costs of graduate school is to get a graduate assistantship! What exactly is a graduate assistantship (GA)? It is an on-campus job specifically set aside for graduate students, and that generally pays a bit more than the undergraduate jobs. There are GAs in almost every department you can think of: admissions, the career center, the gender and sexuality center and more! GAs also help you to gain some experience in an area you’re interested in, such as research, programming, fundraising etc.

Here are some tips to securing a graduate assistant position!

  • Identify a department you are interested in working with

When thinking about graduate assistantships, it helps to have a specific department in mind you want to work with. I would suggest the summer before you enter school looking up the different departments at Brandeis and figuring out where your passions lie. Once you’ve figured out where you want to work, go ahead and reach out to the department heads on the Brandeis website and see if anything is available! 

 

  • Search for interesting positions on Workday

Workday is the Brandeis jobs website (which you’ll have access to once you enroll) and lists all the available student jobs on campus. Look around the postings and see which ones appeal to you.

 

  • Apply to multiple positions on Workday

You can also apply to the GAs on Workday. It’s a very easy process, but make sure to always include a cover letter that mentions the job you want! Even if it does not require it, it helps you stand out. 

 

  • Prep for your interview

Once you get an interview request, make sure to prep ahead of time by looking at the work the department does that you’re curious about. Also, look at the responsibilities and determine where your experience shows you can do these tasks and what you want to learn more about.

With any luck, after you interview, you’ll hear back from the department! If you don’t get an offer on the first one, try not to get too discouraged — there’s a lot of jobs you can keep applying to. I hope these tips helped and good luck on the job search!

End of Semester Wrap-Up: Favorite Classes

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

After what feels like a whirlwind, we are finally at the end of the semester. It honestly feels weird to already be almost done because it felt like the semester went by so quickly. It was full of hard work, some stress, lots of learning and lots of great times with my friends and classmates. Some specific highlights I can recall are orientation, my first class of the year, a visit to Salem, and a Friendsgiving celebration. While looking back on the semester, I always like to reflect on the classes I took, and which ones were my favorite. This is what I would like to share in this blog post; specifically my favorite classes of the semester.

The very first class I took after arriving at Heller was actually a MPP class called Contemporary Issues in Gender and Public Policy. Even though this class was outside my degree, it ended up being one of my absolute favorites. Fighting for gender equality and gender justice are my passions, and what I want to focus my career around. I loved learning in this class all of the policies that either elevate gender equality or cause unforeseen problems that continue to disadvantage women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The professor also did an amazing job of addressing gender issues from an intersectional lens, and seeing how the impacts were different based on issues like race, class, gender identity etc. We also got the opportunity to have some speakers that are gender policy professionals and hear about their experience working in the field. It was amazing to hear about all the great work that they were doing and to hear exactly what kind of jobs you can do in this field. Lastly, our discussions in class were amazing. We all brought our different perspectives, and I left class every day feeling like I truly understood gender policy on a deeper level. Especially if you’re interested in gender issues, take this class!

One of my other favorite classes was Introduction to Geographic Information Systems. Especially in the environmental world, this software is a really important skill to have. While it seemed daunting at first, the professor really teaches the class in a very understandable and comprehensive way. He gives you a lot of confidence in your abilities to use the software and create a map that displays issues you’re interested in. It’s a great hard skill to have, and taking this class made me confident I can bring this software to my career. It also makes you think about the utility of maps in a different way; they’re applicable not only to the environment, but also health, policy issues and more! Also, even though it was a night class, we have had snacks every class, which definitely acts as a pretty great incentive to keep you more alert haha.

While I had lots of great classes this semester and learned a lot, these two were definitely my favorite out of the whole bunch. I come to the end of this semester feeling calm and content. While it was hard at times, I feel like I learned so many valuable skills and concepts that have made me more confident in my career. I also got the chance to participate in so many great events and make lots of wonderful friends. All in all? A great end to the year. 

A Self-Care Weekend Away

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

It’s now officially December and we’re getting close to the end of my first semester at Heller. It has been such a whirlwind, and honestly, I can’t believe that I’m so close to the end. It simultaneously feels like it’s been a really long time, and also no time at all. However, the deeper into the semester you get, the easier it can be to feel some major burnout. I personally am working two jobs and have been taking 5 classes each module, which is a lot mentally and emotionally. So, it’s important not to forget to take care of yourself and give yourself some time away from school.

When I’m experiencing burnout, I like to have a change of scenery to clear my head. The great thing about living in a place like New England is there are so many beautiful and fun-filled places to visit that are only a short drive or train ride away. Luckily, my friends had already planned a trip up to Vermont to celebrate one of our birthdays. It ended up being at the perfect time because that was right when I was feeling some peak burnout and definitely needing some self-care time. We rented a mountain cabin up in Vermont, specifically on Okemo Mountain. It is gorgeous in New England in the fall, and Vermont was especially beautiful. All the trees were covered in deep red, yellow, and orange leaves.

We drove up to the mountains on Friday and got to the house around midday. As soon as we got out of the car, I felt like I was at peace. Being in nature, seeing the beauty of the trees and the mountains around me, and feeling the mountain air… it all made me feel relaxed. For me specifically, I really feel like being in nature is essential for me to reset after being stressed out. There’s something about being in the mountains during autumn that just feels right. 

And it was a fun-filled weekend! We got the opportunity to go hiking in the nearby mountains and see the beautiful lake. We also made some delicious meals like tortellini soup and pork tacos. We also got the opportunity to play some board games, like Uno and codenames. Also, one of the main highlights of the cabin is that it had a gaming console from the 80s that let you play older games like Pacman, Donkey Kong and Frogger on it. Needless to say, I got very into Frogger very easily, and now am a world-class champ (just kidding, haha).

All in all, it was a great, relaxing weekend getting to celebrate one of the first friends I made at Heller. I came back feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and incredibly thankful. Graduate school is an amazing experience, but it can easily feel overwhelming and stressful sometimes. Taking some time to take care of yourself is essential. Make sure to take some time to relax and get a change of scenery even amidst all the projects and events going on. I personally would recommend doing it in the mountains, but that part is up to you.

Succeeding in a Class out of my Comfort Zone

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

When I made the decision to come to Brandeis, one of the things I loved about Heller was the variety of classes available. There’s quantitative classes, qualitative classes, policy classes, and theoretical classes on ethics and more! One thing I promised myself when I started here was that I would make an effort to take some classes outside of my comfort zone. My background being in communications, I wanted to get some more experience with the research and data side of things.

With that in mind, I signed up for Professor Godoy’s Survey Design class in module 1. I was really worried about this class and doing well, but I decided to sign up for it anyways to learn a new skill. It was an online class, which was definitely something I had to get used to. I had to employ specific strategies to make sure I continued paying attention throughout the entire class, such as taking breaks to walk around, eat something and drink something.

In this class, you learn about how to create an ideal survey for a project. You learn about different biases that can occur both when selecting survey participants and interviewing them. You also learn about measurement errors when creating your hypothesis and designing your equation.  All of these were things I did not have experience in, so I was coming into the class completely blind.

However, now having finished the class, I can say I’m really glad that I took it. I really enjoyed the experience of getting to design my very own survey with a group and getting to apply all that I learned and put it into practice. While it was challenging, I was still able to succeed. Whenever I was confused, I made sure to ask the professor or the TA to clear up my confusion. Being able to see all the concepts at work in real life really helped to depend my understanding and it made the class less challenging in my opinion. I also feel that by the end of the class, I really gained a deeper understanding of what makes a good survey and of more mathematical terms in general.

In conclusion, take that class you’re nervous about! It can expand your skillset and even unleash a greater passion for the subject than you thought was possible.

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation)

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

Hey Future Hannah,

You just graduated Heller with a Master’s of Arts in Sustainable International Development. You’re now officially: Hannah, M.A. How does it feel? I hope you are feeling incredibly proud of yourself, and taking time to acknowledge your achievements. Despite your worries and stress, you managed to finish it all! Even those quantitative classes, the economics classes and your Master’s thesis you were so worried about; you did it! Take a deep breath, and do something to celebrate! If you’re anything like current Hannah, you’ll probably go out for a celebratory ice cream.

My current question is what’s next for you? Are you taking some time off to travel (hopefully in a covid safe world)? Are you going straight into your career? Decided to do another graduate degree (take a breather girl!)? Whatever it may be, I do hope you give yourself a little time in between graduation and your next steps. If you decided to go the career path, I am so curious which route you ended up going down. With an NGO? A nonprofit? I know current Hannah is wanting to graduate a gender professional– did that dream become a reality? Whatever you decide to do, I know it will be great regardless.

I know that you’ve already done the hard part, but just a few thoughts from your past self. I hope you challenged yourself in grad school- took lots of classes in new subjects and tried new things. I hope you gave yourself grace when you were juggling so many things, and maybe could not put as much focus on projects as you’d like. I hope you always made time for self-care and hanging out with friends. And, I hope you made the most of your time here at Heller. Because believe it or not, it’s now over and you’re onto the next great thing.

Best,

Hannah

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