Category: Academics (page 2 of 8)

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. 

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!

 

 

Daniella’s Got a New Job!

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

As I’m writing this, it is my last day with Heller Admissions. I graduated with my Master of Public Policy degree on May 22, 2022 and have been lucky to continue working for admissions while I job search. Well, search no further! As of August 1, I will be starting as a Research Associate for the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. According to the job posting: “The Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies is an academic research center that conducts rigorous policy relevant research about Jewish life and the Jewish community.” Heller has prepared me for this role in numerous ways; today, I thought it might be helpful for prospective students and applicants to see how Heller classes correspond to actual job skills.

Here are some of the Primary Responsibilities, Skills, and Experience listed in the job posting and how Heller helped me prepare for this job:

Participate in all phases of complex research projects including design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of results AND Assist with survey writing, programming, testing, and administration

In my first semester at Heller, I took a research methods course that walked us through best practices for data accrual. All of our assignments pushed us to create and evaluate survey tools and proposals.

For quantitative researchers: Expertise in statistical software packages (e.g., SPSS, SAS, Stata, R). Familiarity with Stata statistical software and its syntax language is strongly preferred; For quantitative researchers: Demonstrated research experience in survey design, administration, and analysis; Summarize study results through charts, graphs, and presentations; AND Experience with cleaning, validating, and manipulating data

Before two semesters of Applied Regression Analysis and Applied Econometrics, I would have never told you I was interested in pursuing a career in research. It is a vast world of numbers and syntax; a world that pre-Heller me wouldn’t have touched with a ten-foot pole.  However, through these courses I’ve found immense fascination manipulating and cleaning data for my own benefit. To see the data align and measure the statistical impact of various social determinants has underscored the work I’ve done over the last two years in graduate school. It’s brought meaning and evidence to the cause I hope to champion and the work that needs to be done. Is STATA my best friend? Not yet, but I’m excited to grow these skills more in my new role and appreciate the courses that provided me with a solid foundation in quantitative research.

Assist in proposal development AND Experience as a task and project supervisor and/or manager

The semester-long capstone project both empowers and challenges students to create and facilitate their own research. From the proposal, to the report, to the presentation, we were solely in charge of the management and success of our capstone.

Conduct literature searches and reviews; Strong and effective written and verbal communication skills; AND Assist in the writing and editing of reports, journal articles, and presentations for both academic and lay audiences

The assignments for the MPP program are structured to imitate tasks you may be asked to complete in a policy-centered job. As such, each paper, blog post, literature review, project proposal, and analysis report I wrote over the last two years are all relevant to this new job. Each one helped me curate a succinct style and confident voice.

Demonstrated ability to work as part of a team, foster consensus, and collaborate with individuals and organizations with a range of interests and perspectives

Every class either requires or encourages group participation; something I was dreading about graduate school. However, again I was proven wrong. In college, a group project meant uneven work dispersal, varying commitment levels, and subsequent late nights. Group facilitation at Heller fostered collaboration. It showed me how to play to people’s strengths, learn from my peers, and identify my place on a team. It proved that group work is not only beneficial, but essential to successful work environments.

For qualitative researchers: Schedule and conduct telephone and in-person interviews, focus groups, and site visits AND Demonstrated research experience conducting interviews, focus groups and/or participant observation

And finally, a quick shout out to Heller Admissions. Over the last year and a half, I have been lucky to work on my interpersonal skills, through conducting interviews and responding to inquiries on all things Heller. This job has taught me how to conduct a tactful and appropriate interview,  liaise with our community, and engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue.

I am most thankful for my experience at Heller and look forward to continue to grow the foundations set in place by my graduate school experience in my career to come.

Ariel Wexler’s Favorite Class: Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Ariel and her project partner holding a large check for $1,000

The Heller Social Impact Startup Challenge  on Nov. 7, 2021. (Anna Miller Multimedia for the Heller School)

Before joining The Heller School, I was a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in the agriculture sector in Guatemala. I decided to pursue dual degrees in Sustainable International Development and Social Impact MBA because I was passionate about the ways in which business could be utilized as a force for good in the international development sector.  Due to my desire to merge and complement my two degrees, during Fall 2021, I enrolled in Carole Carlson (Senior Lecturer and Director of Heller MBA program)’s esteemed Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation course.  The course explores how entrepreneurship has become a driving force in the social enterprise sector and provides tools for how to develop and evaluate new business ventures.  Furthermore, this course teaches applied social enterprise business plan development tools. 

Throughout the 12 weeks, I learned a breadth of knowledge in the skills, attitude, and strategy needed to fully implement and become a successful entrepreneur in a social impact sphere. An inspiring part of the course included weekly Q&A sessions with passionate social entrepreneurs from across the globe.  Through case studies and discussions with seasoned entrepreneurs in the field, we are able to analyze and evaluate what it takes to make it in this sector.  

A highlight of this course is forming a team to develop a social venture business plan and present the final pitch to classmates and a panel of judges. It was through this experience that I formed a team with four other inspiring peers surrounding a student’s business concept called The Farmer Foodie, a carbon-negative farm-to-table restaurant. Our team met weekly to refine our ideas and develop our business model. Key topics discussed throughout the course included but were not limited to entrepreneurial leadership, ideation, team building, developing ecosystems, innovation, scaling, managing growth, financing, operations, marketing, measuring social returns, global social entrepreneurship, and designing and delivering an effective business pitch.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation was my favorite course that I had the privilege of taking at Heller. Carole Carlson’s passion and depth as a thought leader in social entrepreneurship make it a worthwhile experience. Check out Professor Carlson’s newly published first edition of her Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation textbook here.  Additionally, my friend and cohort member Alison Elliott has pivoted The Farmer Foodie business to Everything Cheeze, a cashew parmesan alternative offering that has just launched. Check out their website and social media handles to see how Ali’s business progresses. Participating in this course inspired many of us to go on to pitch at The Heller Startup Challenge, Brandeis Innovation’s SparkTank, and even MassChallenge.

A Letter to My Past Self on Her First Day at Heller: Ariel Wexler

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Ariel Wexler, MBA/SID22

Dear Past Ariel,

I imagine right now you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about what the next 2 years at The Heller School will hold. Right now, it’s a few months into the pandemic, and there’s so much uncertainty in the world. I know now that you will spend the first year of your studies telecommuting from Los Angeles in your childhood bedroom. Despite waking up at 6 AM for your Leadership and Organizational Behavior class, you are quite comfortable taking long walks to the beach, dipping your head in the water as you count your blessings and begin the journey that is graduate school.  You’re just a few months out of the Peace Corps, having been evacuated from Guatemala in your last month of service. The borders of Guatemala have been closed off to foreigners since March and it is unsure when the pandemic will subside…if ever. I know as you begin your studies you are worried about achieving academic success in a rigorous business curriculum and how you will adjust and reintegrate into US culture with your peers.

Thanks to your hard work and dedication, you will successfully graduate in May 2022 with two masters degrees. Although the workload and courses were indeed challenging, you end up excelling in your studies and enjoying the process. When you started your program, you were interested in the possibility of integrating your interests in the intersection of international economic development and social enterprise as part of your experiential Team Consulting project capstone. You came out as a leader in your studies, and even planned a field research and discovery trip with your connections to the specialty coffee company Chica Bean for 9 students consulting with them over the summer of 2021. Even though the field trip occurs in your third semester of your studies, it will be in Guatemala that you meet members of your cohort for the first time in person. You have heard this countless times from friends and family: graduate school is about the network, and you will be elated to know that you make great solid connections with students from all over the world.  It makes the transition to being a student and to the US so much easier. Your second year residence in Waltham ends up being with a group of Peace Corps and Americorps alumni.

You will participate in the Heller Start-Up challenge your second year and win second place for a seaweed venture idea and go on to win first place in the Spark competition in February. Throughout this experience you will learn a great deal about entrepreneurship and be introduced to the business ecosystem of Boston. My advice to you would be to take a deep breath and enjoy every moment of the experience, and continue to invest deeply in education and people. Your hard-working and organized nature will continue to help you throughout your education. In addition to learning valuable skills you will progress in developing your confidence and better understanding your assets as a young professional. Continue to navigate the world with integrity and passion.

Good luck!

Future Ariel

Graduation Day with Ariel Wexler

It was 97 degrees in late May and a heat advisory warning was in effect for the greater Boston area. Having completing dual degrees in a MA in Sustainable International Development and Social Impact MBA, I was about to graduate from The Heller School. Professors, staff, friends, family, and colleagues were all seated together in a large tent on the great lawn where we withstood the heat to listen to inspiring words and cheer on the names of the graduating students. Although it may seem ironic that the one day of extreme temperatures coincided with graduation, considering our studies were achieved during already unprecedented times, it seemed quite fitting.

We had commenced our studies shortly before or during the pandemic and became accustomed to remote and hybrid learning.  While sitting and listening to my peers’ speeches, I was humbled and reminded of the different paths that we each took to lead to the present moment, the completion of our graduate studies at The Heller School. I felt the immense privilege to have been granted the opportunity to study higher education, a right that not everyone can access due to factors such as financial, political, and religious barriers.

When I reflect on the past two years, I have made many incredible friendships with students from all over the world that came to study at this esteemed university. Although it feels surreal that I am graduating, I feel gratitude and accomplishment. From a young age, I struggled with comparing myself to my peers and never having the self-confidence to think that I could achieve success in my career. It was not until completing my undergraduate degree in 2015 that I decided that achieving a Master’s degree would be a future goal. Growing up, my educational journey was difficult, and I had to work twice as hard or more than my peers. Despite being a hard worker and achieving many academic accomplishments, I was not immune to imposter syndrome.

During my 2-year Peace Corps service in Guatemala, I began to feel more confident in my skills and ability to engage deeply with stakeholders and design and manage projects to scale. I had successfully co-designed and formed 3 women’s beekeeping groups, and it was through this experience that I became interested in social enterprise.  I knew that pursuing a Master’s degree would provide me with the skills I desired as a leader. l became passionate about how entrepreneurship could be used as a tool to bring about economic development in rural global communities.  The Heller School aligned with my interests and provided me with the opportunity to complement and develop my skills in social impact management and international development.

Once the ceremony finished, I quickly walked to the shade under a beautiful tree nearby to take photographs.  Happy that my family made the journey to New England from Los Angeles to celebrate with me, I was overjoyed to be surrounded by the people that had supported me these past two years. Following graduation, my parents and I toured New England, traveling to Rhode Island and Maine. I am so grateful and lucky to have graduated from The Heller School, although my studies have come to an end I know the relationships that I have formed will remain. Now onto the next phase…

Reflecting on my Letter to my Future Self: Daniella Levine

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

I sat by my window in my third floor apartment in Cambridge and looked out on to the street, at the rain ricocheting off the trees. I tried to verbalize Why Heller after a semester of online learning and the weight of a dreary day.  Now, as I sit inside the Heller building on a sun-filled spring morning, I am again lost for words, yet for a completely different reason. There are days when I am unsure of what I’ve learned or frustrated that I have to leave bed, but over the last week, amidst finals and presenting my capstone, I have felt nothing but nostalgia and pride. For better or worse, I have faced a multitude of roadblocks over the last two years. Some of which were felt by the collective community and others more personal. Yet, nothing has deterred me from my studies and my time at Heller. At first, I resented the pandemic for forcing me to choose a local school as opposed to leaving the Boston area. I now (job permitting), intend to stay in the Boston area for work, as Heller has provided me a community here that I’m not ready to say goodbye to yet (of course, unless you are a DC hiring manager, and then I am eager to leave this all behind!).

I am actually shocked to re-read what I wrote in early February 2021 and realize that I was so articulate about my field of study and what I hoped to accomplish. I did not know what I was doing a semester in, and while I am much more equipped now, I still do not have all the answers  (as I aptly surmised). But that is something I’ve come to understand over the last two years, there will always be a new theory, a proposed law, a unprecedented leaked SCOTUS decision that will alter the socio-political landscape. Well, hopefully not the last one… Regardless, Heller taught me to conceptualize the historical foundation in order to adapt to new contemporary issues that arise.

My commitment to gender policy has only intensified and I sometimes get dizzy thinking about the breadth and complexities of the issues. During my time at Heller, I have researched workplace policy, Paid Family and Medical Leave, pay transparency laws, gender-based violence policy, the Violence Against Women’s Act, queer anthropology, carceral feminism, and HIV-prevention policies. Within each of those categories, I have employed an intersectional approach— dissecting the impact of socio-economic standing, race, ethnicity, age, citizen status, gender,  and historical implications. I see myself as something of a gender generalist.

To answer some of the questions from my past self— Heller did in fact provide me a deeper and more theoretical/academic comprehension of contemporary issues to ground the work. I also feel more confident about my critical thinking skills.  While I did not engage too frequently with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office at Heller, I was a member of the Racial Equity Working Group (REWG) and helped to push diversity and inclusion on campus and hold the administration accountable, and I feel very proud of REWGs’s reach. Past self, I did take classes from renowned lecturers like Laurence Simon, Lisa Lynch, Jess Santos, Kaitie Chakoian, Brian Horton, Mary Brolin, Sarah Soroui, Maria Madison and so many more. And I was even able to fit in the Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing course with Larry Bailis.

My time at Heller has been invaluable and I feel so blessed to have spent the last two years learning at such a vibrant, passionate, socially-conscience, and diverse institution.

I am honored to be a Heller student and come May 22, 2022, I look forward to my next role as Heller Alumna.

Five Fast Facts about Interim Dean, Maria Madison

Last week, it was announced that on July 1st, Dean David Weil will step down as dean of the Heller School. Though I’m very sad to see Dean Weil step down, I was so excited to learn that Dr. Maria Madison will serve as our interim dean. Dr. Madison is currently the associate dean for equity, inclusion and diversity and director of the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE), and I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with her throughout the PhD admissions process. So, to celebrate this announcement, I thought I’d share five facts you probably don’t know about Dr. Madison.

  1. She’s a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Heller is known for attracting RPCVs (Heller is ranked the 3rd most popular graduate school for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers), and Dr. Madison is no exception! Dr. Madison was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zaire for two years, focusing on international development.
  2. She’s the co-Founder and President of a nonprofit. The Robbins House, Inc is a historic home and nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness of African-American history in Concord, Massachusetts that focuses on the long civil rights movement in America. The house commemorates the legacy of a previously enslaved Revolutionary War veteran and his descendants, including a “fugitive slave” from New Jersey and his daughter who legally challenged the nation’s first Civil Rights Act of 1866. The house is an interpretive center for thousands of annual global visitors.
  3. She was the first to hold her current position at Heller. The creation of the Associate Dean of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity position was largely advocated for by Heller students, many of whom participated in Ford Hall 2015, a 12-day student sit-in. In this role, she developed and implemented a targeted, evidence-based approach to improving DEI for all members of the Heller community.
  4. Her background is in global public health research. Dr. Madison has a B.S. in Mental Health, an M.S. Urban and Environmental Policy and Civil Engineering (both from Tufts University) and a Sc.D. Population and International Health from Harvard School of Public Health; after getting her Sc.D,  she spent 17 years managing clinical research studies in the private and public sectors.
  5. She has a legacy of social engagement towards social justice. Dr. Madison’s father was a particularly strong role model for her: in order to provide his children with the best possible public education, he sued through the ACLU to move their family to the all-white city of St. Joseph, Michigan. Her parents brought her to NAACP meetings where she was introduced to “community activism through meetings and projects promoting opportunities for social and fiscal capital—investing in resource-constrained communities.”

There you have it, five facts that you probably didn’t know about Heller’s (soon-to-be) Interim Dean, Dr. Madison!

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