Category: Academics (page 1 of 8)

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!

 

Social Entrepreneurship at Heller

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Even if you are not in the Social Impact MBA program, Heller students can benefit from participation in social entrepreneurship initiatives both at the Heller School and the wider Brandeis community. Social entrepreneurship events are a great form of experiential learning. They offer the chance to network outside of your cohort and provide a real-world forum for applying course concepts. I’d like to highlight the social entrepreneurship opportunities I’ve enjoyed the most. 

The Heller Social Impact Startup Challenge

This is an annual event in the fall semester planned almost entirely by current students. This three-day event brings together Heller students from all programs to form teams, develop their ideas with the help of mentors, and present their business concepts before a panel of judges – many of whom are Boston-area entrepreneurs. I joined this competition in my first semester, which allowed me to apply the concepts I was learning from Financial Accounting, as well as Leadership & Organizational Development. I was still very new to the Heller community, so this event also gave me the chance to meet new people and form connections. I originally came to Heller just for the MA in Sustainable International Development program but was encouraged by alumni to add the MBA. After completing the Startup Challenge, I knew I had made the right decision. 

SPARK

The SPARK program is run by Brandeis Innovation. In the fall, SPARK accepts applications for its pitch competition, known as SPARKTank. First prize and People’s Choice Award winners in the Heller Startup Challenge receive streamlined entrance into the competition. The SPARK competition differs from the Heller Startup Challenge in that it is open to Brandeis faculty, staff, and students. Judges have innovation as a top criteria. The pitch time is much shorter than the Heller Startup Challenge, so my team really had to challenge ourselves to be focused, specific, and deliberate about how we communicated our idea. Winning teams from SPARK automatically join the SPARK startup incubator. The incubator happens over spring semester. Teams meet weekly for workshops that help them hone in on topics like competitive advantage, customer discovery, and revenue generation. My favorite thing about SPARK was the cohort aspect. Our cohort included teams from the International Business School, a professor in the Asian Studies Department, as well as first and second year Heller MBA students. I learned so much from being able to hear what other teams were working on and what challenges they were working through.

Courses in Social Entrepreneurship

In addition to events, Heller students can also engage in social entrepreneurship through coursework. Students have the option of two courses – Global Social Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation – both taught by the MBA Program Director, Carole Carlson. Professor Carlson has recently authored an entire textbook with case studies on mission-driven ventures. In the spring semester, she teaches the half-semester course on Global Social Entrepreneurship, which highlights examples of social impact businesses around the globe. I really appreciated how the class encouraged us to be skeptical and question if everything that is labeled a social venture is in fact truly mission-driven. The course also emphasizes that just because a social impact is taking place, mission-driven ventures still must have robust revenue models and solid business plans to be viable. In this class, I was introduced to essential business tools for lean startups, including the Business Model Canvas and the theory of change. In this course, students actually form teams, develop a business idea, and present on their business idea as their final project. My team presented on the idea of an eco-grocery store in Bhutan that would reduce waste and create jobs for urban youth. The fall semester course, Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation, dives even deeper into these concepts and presents students with more domestic case studies. Other topics covered include competitive advantage, scaling, and financing social ventures. 

If you are even the slightest bit curious or interested in entrepreneurship, I encourage you to dip your toes in and take advantage of these opportunities!

The Summer Internship Part One

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

We are about halfway through the semester and while spooky season is fun, the spookiest part is starting my search for a summer internship. As a student in the dual degree (Sustainable International Development and Global Health Policy and Management), students must complete a summer practicum, which essentially is an internship. Students in this program are responsible for findings their own summer employment. In this and future posts, I will take you through how I am beginning my search and how the application process goes throughout the semester. I hope that for future readers this makes the process easier to understand and maybe gives you a place to start your own plan and internship search.

Step One: Look into the resources available and get familiar with them. Heller has an incredible resource in its staff which help students not only search for their practicum but also help develop your application materials such as your resume and cover letter.  I been using resources such as Handshake and LinkedIn which can help you begin to get an idea of types of internships, deadlines, and different companies and organizations to work with.

Step Two: Gather and update your application materials. I started this week by dusting my cover letter and updating it to use for an internship application and made sure my resume was up to date. This makes the application process much easier as your materials are ready to go, and I can easily add position specific information to my cover letter and resume to make sure my application is submitted on time. I also made sure to reach out to previous or current professors to see if they can write letters of recommendation. This is especially important because you want to make sure they have ample time for what they need to write.

Step Three: Begin the search. This is the most daunting part: there are so many to look through on a number of different websites and platforms, the whole thing becomes overwhelming almost instantly. So far I’m using a couple different strategies to make the searching less overwhelming. I started by checking both Handshake and LinkedIn for a set amount of time and used a specific set of filters or search terms to find positions that I would be interested in. I make sure to save the positions I am interested in so I can set time aside later to apply. I have also signed up for some newsletters, both from Heller and other organizations, that post internship openings. I read those carefully and look into the organization hiring to ensure I want to apply. This process has just started and I am sure I will have feedback for myself.

My search and applications have just begun, so stay tuned to read as my process continues.

Meet My Cohort: Brian Stanley

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Are you guys still with me in this mini blog series of Meet My Cohort? I hope you are! Huge thank you to Hannah Wilcove for stepping into the admissions blog room. Next up in this series is truly one of my favorite cohort mates in this program. Super honored to be able to sit down and chat with Brian Stanley. Brian is 25 years old, from Clifton Park, New York, and in 2019 he graduated from Boston University (hey fellow Terrier) with a bachelors in Political Science and minor in Sociology. He is currently a 2nd year Master of Public Policy candidate concentrating in Environmental Justice.

 What did you do before coming to Heller?

Brian Stanley, MPP’23

Before Heller I was working at the AIDS Action Committee, which was a branch of Fenway Health. I was working as a high-need, low-income HIV case manager for Essex County, basically everything above Boston. I had a case load of about 50 people and I was the only arm of Fenway there, so I was living in Salem for two years: I started this job in 2019 and left in 2021 before starting this program. In addition to this, I was also working in food service at the time, largely because being a case manager doing social service work with a bachelors degree isn’t the greatest pay, and living in Salem, you wouldn’t be able to live off just that. Aside from the difficulty in having to work two jobs, they were both fulfilling opportunities  and both of these experiences informed my route today. It was different crowds of people administratively, professionally, and socially.

Why did you choose Heller?

I applied to a lot of programs and this was one of the few policy programs I applied to.  I felt between the faculty and Heller’s messaging that even if the experience was not going to be what I expected it to be, that there  would be people here with the same interests in environmental, social justice and equity.  Prioritizing these interests in different ways, so even if the program wasn’t what I expected it to be I knew the connections and network I would build will still be a solid motivation to continue on in the program. Like the other programs I was applying for I did not think their messaging was on point enough, their diversity statements and program directors did not have that same inclusive language, and I mean it could all be a front, but I think people who would be attractive to these certain elements in a program are the people I would vibe with. I also looked at Heller’s institutes which demonstrated their values and that someone here wasn’t just doing the talk but also walking the walk.  I felt like that was another green flag, once again even if the program wasn’t what I expected, I knew there were faculty, staff, and students doing the work is what I can vibe with.

What is your favorite class at Heller? 

I hate to be a repeat to Hannah, but my favorite class was Policy Approaches to Gender Based Violence taught by Kaitie Chakoian. The course was really phenomenal: it broke down real complex human concepts around violence,  recovery, and healing in ways that were both accessible and still human. I feel some of the other courses here have difficulty translating what it means to be worthy of justice, integrity, and human value to something we can understand. Then we end up in language of federalism when we could be in the language of human terms, but Kaitie really broke down concepts well, she was engaging, and she provide extensive feedback on assignments, which I think highlighted her excellence and commitment to excellence. Super phenomenal and probably my favorite.

What was your most challenging class at Heller?

Thinking about this I break into two categories. I think for me, first, it would be Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice, and Problems taught by Celeste Reid Lee and Sheryl Seller class directly out of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy. It was intellectually challenging because I did not know anything from this field: I did not understand how philanthropy can relate to social justice, or even if philanthropy could relate to social justice. I thought the speakers were phenomenal but I did find the course to be challenging because of the materials. However, the instructors from the Sillerman Center were amazing in the way they coordinated the course, feedback on material, and really broke down a lot of the concepts. For me, another layer of challenging is a course I am taking right now, which is Environmental and Climate Justice taught by Prakash Kashwan. It is actually a undergraduate class I am taking. The reason why this class is challenging is because its a undergraduate course, and the instructor is working to engage meaningfully with everyone, who are all from different academic levels, and the assignment structures are very different. It’s a lot of reading response, with week to week assignments, which in some ways it becomes  regurgitating information instead of synthesizing it so its a completely different flow. He is integrating some elements of graduate courses such as take home exam options to synthesize material and the way he teaches information is wonderful and his linkages of decolonization, capitalism, and climate change is astounding. He himself is great but the structure of the course is what I find challenging.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I think I’m going to work on deciding between a career in research versus a career in something on the ground. I do not have anything concrete yet I have been applying though! These are all opportunities to say the least, eventually I may want to pursue a PhD,  but I have to really nail down what is worth doing with the limit time that I do have. So for me that is trying to figure out where do my moral and ethics align, because I know ultimately they align with community, justice, and equity, but I have to figure out my role in that conversation. It reminds me of the quote  from Audre Lorde, “the masters tools will never dismantles the master’s house” and so like how do you embody that with a masters degree in public policy, right? I have no idea, but I am really excited to find out what that looks like and surrounding myself with people who are dealing with these questions.

Any advice you would like to give prospective students? 

It is very critical to give yourself to give yourself as many options as you can because things that you decide are worth doing are worth doing and no matter what decision you’re making, you will think something else may be worth it differently. I think committing yourself to principle of what you want  to do and what you want to be are fundamental to succeeding anywhere. So giving yourself the most options, applying to every program, speaking to faculty, and dealing with research is what I would say is the best choice. The worst thing you could do is do one thing and feel trapped. That’s how you lose drive in a program or drive in future decision. Give yourself space to fail, there is literally no one at this school or in this program that has been committed to something 100% percent and all the time. When it comes down to it, you need to be more committed to what those principles are, even if its just making more money in the future, you need to decide if its worth it. That’s my two cents.

Thank you Brian, for stepping into the admission blog room, it is always a pleasure to have a conversation with you! What a fulfilling way to now lead us into a brief intermission of my mini blog series “Meet My Cohort”, but don’t worry I will be back with some more of my classmates and their stories.

Meet My Cohort: Hannah Wilcove

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Who’s ready for the next blog in my “Meet My Cohort” mini blog series? I am, so I hope you all are too. Last week we kicked off the series with Katherine Gagen, our future philanthropist in policy, and this week I am introducing you all to Hannah Wilcove! Hannah is 25 years old from Rockville, Maryland, and she graduated from University of Maryland- Baltimore County, where she majored in Women’s and Gender studies with a minor in Sociology. She is currently a 2nd year MPP student concentrating in Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

What did you do before coming to Heller?

I graduated from undergrad in 2019, and later that year, I joined a state senate race in Virginia because their state senate races are always in the off year. I then stayed on political campaigns throughout the 2020 election cycle.

Hannah Wilcove, MPP’23

Why did you choose Heller? 

To speak about grad school more broadly, I realized that working on political campaigns and getting people elected was great and all, but I really wanted to focus more on what candidates did after we elected them. Once candidates get into office, what legislation and policies do they pass? I began looking at programs in public affairs and public administration and I quickly realized that the MPP had what I really wanted to focus in on was that aspect of public policy. Even though there are a lot of great public policy schools in the D.C. area, I chose Heller because first, I wanted to get out of the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area, since I have spent my entire life there.  Second, which is the bigger reason, is that I was very picky in the schools I was applying for, and I wanted schools that really focused on the human aspect and I loved Heller’s commitment to advancing social justice. I did not want to go to a school where all I did was learn economics and statistics and still teach a philosophy of policy that is still pretty white-male dominated, led, and influenced. I wanted a place where I be able to talk about gender, race, sexuality and talk about all kinds of different people that policy affects.

What is your favorite class at Heller?

Anyone who has spent more then two seconds with me knows the answer to this. My favorite class here at Heller is Policy Approaches to Gender Based Violence, taught by Kaitie Chakoian. She is able to create an environment where people feel safe and comfortable to discuss these extremely difficult topics. She is just incredible at moderating a classroom and facilitating a learning environment, which sounds like a bunch of buzzwords and academic jargon, but it really does matter when you are talking about difficult, personal, and traumatic topics like gender based violence. Having someone who knows how to teach and lead with empathy is really important.

What is your most challenging class at Heller?

I think for this, I want to say it was Policy Analysis, taught by Michael Doonan, because, one, the field of policy analysis is so broad that there were a lot of different elements to cover. In addition to that,  this class had the biggest variety of assignments.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I am still figuring this out! I am really open to a lot of different options. I know I want to go back into the work force and that I do not want to pursue a PhD because I really want to be out in the field. Something I been looking into is more lobbying and advocacy work, because that is an avenue that will allow me to lean into the areas I am incredible passionate about and voice my support for specific policies without having to tone it down, which you might have to in other roles or organizations. That is not to say I am not willing to do government work, but I think that being an advocate is something that really plays to my strengths and being able to do that professionally with the knowledge that I gained from this program would be a good fit for me.

Any advice you would like to give to prospective students? 

I will say this to any graduate student, yes, classes are important, but also remember that you are still human. It is not healthy to just focus on the schoolwork side of things, you also need to and deserve to live, make new friends and spend time with them, making sure that you are eating and sleeping, and really prioritizing your mental health.  You are going to hear a lot of people paying lip service to that, but figuring out what actions you can take to really preserve your mental health and find joy while navigating graduate school is going to make the process a lot better. Another thing I would like to mention is something that is great about Heller: this is not the kind of competitive environment that you might find in other schools or programs. I know when my sister was going through her law school process, she was warned how competitive it was but that is not the case here at Heller.  It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors.

Can we get a little commotion for the last quote: “It’s not that we don’t encourage each other to do our best and to be our best, but the people you meet here are incredibly supportive and are your collaborators, not your competitors”? What a strong way to close out a student interview! Thank you so much Hannah for stepping into the admissions blog room! Stay tuned for the next student feature in “Meet My Cohort” .

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.

Best Study Spaces, Part 2

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

In my last post, I shared my recommendations for study spaces at Heller and on the wider Brandeis campus. However, these are not your only options. If you’re in the mood to venture off-campus, here are the top four places I recommend.

Common Good Co.

Common Good Co. (not to be confused with Café on the Common or Common Café) is situated on Moody Street, an easy stroll to the Indian Market, Global Thrift Store, or the Dollar General. Common Good Co. is a café that doubles as a coworking space. It has a very casual and open atmosphere and students are welcome to sit at one of the tables or study on the couch. A few Heller students work here, so it’s very easy to run into someone you know. In addition to a selection of coffees and teas, Common Good Co. has a few baked goods and Cuban sandwiches. This is not the right place to go if you need to work in silence, but if you’re working with a group or looking to chill with other students, Common Good Co. is the place to go. 

Panera Bread

If you’re anything like me, you’ll understand how hard it is to study on an empty stomach. Panera offers a range of soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as indoor (tables or booths) and outdoor seating. The Panera closes at 10pm so it’s a great place to study and fuel up after an evening class. This Panera is located in the Main Street Marketplace, a shopping plaza that includes a salon, an urgent care clinic, and a vitamins and supplements shop. From this plaza, you have easy access to the rest of main street, including the Walgreens and the gas station. 

Waltham Public Library

The Waltham Public Library is conveniently located on Main Street, within easy walking distance from the Hannaford grocery market, the UPS store, and many restaurants. 

Many people do not think of the library as a very tech-savvy place, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Your library account gets you free access to an eBooks and audiobooks database, movie and music streaming, and online e-learning classes. The library is also a great place to print, copy and scan class documents. If you need a break from academic reading, you can sign up for the library’s newsletter, which will send you tailored recommendations for novels in your favorite genre. In terms of study space, you (and up to three other people) can freely pop into one of the library’s four study rooms for two hours at a time. If you’re studying with a group, you can reserve a larger meeting room. These larger rooms can fit up to 15 people and can be reserved for as little as 30 minutes and as long as 12 hours. International students can also access adult ESL classes and conversation groups at one of the library’s partner organizations or online via their YouTube channel. 

Your Apartment

Sometimes, the best (and most productive) study experience can happen right in your living space. Depending on the layout of your apartment, you may be able to do work in your living room, at your kitchen table, on your balcony, or in your bedroom. Your own apartment is a great option because you have control over the space and the noise-level and you can be intentional about removing distractions. Studying at home also means you don’t have to worry about opening and closing times, or spending money, or changing out of your pajamas! Taking time to arrange your room and apartment’s common areas can lead to better study habits and overall well-being. In my next post, I’ll share tips and tricks on how to liven up your space. 

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!

Andy’s Best Study Spaces, Part 1

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Across Brandeis campus, fall classes have officially begun! With a new semester (and for new students on an unfamiliar campus), an important question comes up – where are the best places to study? In today’s post, I will share my top three recommendations for study spaces on campus.

Best for Group Work

Around the corner from the Heller School building is the Goldfarb library. This library has an open area on the ground floor as well as multiple descending levels. If you’re looking to work with a group, however, the best place to go is the upstairs wing next to the Maker Lab. This space is much more casual and lounge friendly with couches and cushion-y chairs. There is a shelf full of board games if you need a mental break. There are also large group tables where you can hook up your laptop to a projector. The lower level of this space houses the Starbucks so you and your group mates can fuel up before or after your meeting. 

Best for Quietness 

If you’re willing to walk a bit, it’s a great idea to check out the Shapiro Campus Center. Most people go here for the Einstein’s or to buy school swag, but it also has a great study space. On the upper level, there is a small computer lab with MacBooks and desks that fit one-to-two people. This room has huge windows that let in a lot of natural light so you don’t feel like you’re studying in a cave. There tends not to be any talking in this computer lab and it’s high enough in the building that the noise downstairs doesn’t travel up, so it’s the perfect spot if you need a quiet space. It’s out of the way enough that you’re less likely to run into people you know – which can be useful if you’re a person who gets distracted easily.

Best for Spaciousness

If you don’t want to wander too far from the Heller School, the Schneider building has study spaces of its own. The areas my classmates and I have used the most are the breakout rooms next to the main classrooms. These rooms seat a ton of people and include both a whiteboard and a projector. This is great for practicing presentations or writing out accounting problems. These breakout rooms have large tables so if you are studying alone, you have the space to really spread out. In my next post, I’ll talk about the best study spaces off-campus.

Andy’s Second Year Fall Schedule

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

On August 25th, I will officially be starting my second – and final – year of graduate school. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed so quickly! As a dual degree student, my schedule this fall looks a lot different from my single degree peers. 

In the Social Impact MBA, the courses follow a strict sequence. Through this format, the concepts build on each other as we progress through the course load. It also means that we go through the core courses together as a cohort, building a strong sense of camaraderie along the way. In contrast, the design of the MA in Sustainable International Development (SID) program has a bit more flexibility and freedom. While students are required to take courses in required subject matter (Gender, Economics, Ethics, and Environment), students have a selection of courses they can choose from to fulfill these requirements. SID students also have the freedom to choose in what order they take these courses. This greater ability to tailor your schedule also means that you are less likely to be in class with the same students course after course. I’ve found that I need to be a lot more intentional when it comes to building relationships with students in my SID cohort. Another distinction between the MBA and MA-SID course design is the length of courses. MBA courses are almost entirely full semester, meaning students are able to get very deep and granular with the material. In contrast, most SID courses are modules – essentially half-semester courses. This means SID students are able to get exposed to many more topics, but are unable to do the kind of deep-dive that is possible in a semester-length course. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other – it’s all about maximizing the advantages inherent in each program.

This semester, my classes primarily meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00-11:50am. Earlier in the week, I will be taking the final two classes of my MBA degree – Human Resources Management and Evaluation for Managers (a module course). When Evaluation for Managers comes to an end mid-way through the semester, I will start Applied Cost-Benefit Analysis for Development Practitioners. I’ll also have a Friday afternoon class and, in the second half of the semester, I’ll have a Wednesday evening course. My Friday courses are Gender and the Environment in the morning followed by Ethics, Rights, and Development in the afternoon from 2:20-5:10pm. My Wednesday evening course will be an Introduction to GIS and will take place from 6:30-9:20pm – I may need to become a coffee drinker to make it through! 

The biggest difference between this fall semester and my first fall semester is that I will also be interning with the Social Innovation Forum! Since MBA students complete their capstone projects in the summer between their first and second years, students have the option of completing a part-time internship in their second fall. Although it’s not required, an internship is a great experiential learning and networking opportunity. Students who complete a fall internship receive both academic credit AND a stipend. The time commitment for the internship is about 10 hours a week and many, at the moment, are done partly or entirely remotely. My internship with the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) will involve research support for the organization’s new national leadership initiative. I’m looking forward to learning more about SIF’s approach to social change and networking building among nonprofit practitioners. Overall, I’m really satisfied with my fall course schedule and am excited for this next leg of my graduate school journey to begin. 

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