Category: Admissions (page 1 of 7)

The Dual Degree Experience

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

In the world of Heller, you will find a multitude of students with a wide mixing of degrees; Sustainable International Development (SID) and Coexistence and Conflict Resolution (COEX);  MBA and Global Health Policy and Management (MS); Public Policy and Social Impact MBA; the list goes on. So, why do students chose to spend even more time studying to pursue a dual degree? I cannot speak for all of my classmates and their rationale behind their choices, but I can speak for myself and my experience within the dual SID/MS universe and I will venture to do so today!

Full transparency – my experience is likely a little different as a result of doing my first entire year online. However, the content of courses remains largely the same, whether it’s held online or in person.

First, let’s breakdown how the SID and MS degree are dissimilar:

The SID degree is largely qualitative (hence it being a Masters of Arts), but should one desire to take more quantitative courses, there are a variety of options for electives that lean more quantitative. Elective-wise — the SID also has more space for building out specific interests within the program providing more flexibility. Requirements include gender and environmental courses, but allow you space to select from a bundle of options.

The MS degree, on the other hand, is much more quantitative in nature  (hence it being a Masters of Science). The MS program is only 9 months (if taken as a stand-alone program), so it has more requirements and less space for electives. However, it is meant to be a highly focused program, so although you have less flexibility on electives, you cover lots of important ground through the required courses.

Now, let’s compare the similarities between the SID and MS degrees:

Both the SID and MS program attract individuals who want to really make an impact on the world. Be it through strengthening a health system, environmental advocacy, quality hospital administration, or development practitioners streamlining processes for quality, you can be sure that your classmates are as driven for change as you. Additionally, these programs both create tight-knit communities that will likely remain connected well after graduation.

Lastly, I want to touch on how these programs complement each other:

As can likely be deduced from my previous observations of the differences each degree holds, coupling a Master of Arts with a Master of Science has created a really well-rounded look at the issues facing today. By marrying both qualitative and quantitative studies, I feel I am not only ready to look at a complex problem to think critically and creatively about a solution, but that I can also implement useful data tools to back my thoughts with evidence. Also, I am excited to further explore the intersection of health and development in the future, and these degrees will certainly prepare me well to do so.

It boils down to this: each degree— even as a stand-alone degree— will provide you with a wonderfully rich program. If you, like me, want to explore various avenues then consider adding a dual degree, as it will only enhance your learning and make you more marketable when you are searching for your next career!

If you want to speak with me more specifically about my experience with this dual degree program please do not hesitate to reach out anytime!

Matching Heller Classes to Skills

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As my own job search begins to get underway in earnest, I have been thinking more about my own skills and those that I have developed at Heller specifically. I’m also thinking about the skills demanded by employers, and the degree to which Heller coursework aligns with these. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way in which skills I’ve gained or strengthened at Heller translate to the requirements included in job listings, and I thought I would share a few examples to help make the utility of specific Heller courses seem a bit more concrete.

Skill/experience: experience with statistics and statistical packages such as STATA, SPSS, R, etc.

Countless job listings include some version of the above preferred qualification. In Heller’s statistics courses like “Data, Models and Decisions,” students learn how to construct regression models and run various statistical tests using STATA, one of the more commonly used stats software packages. Additional courses such as “Working with National Datasets” and “Evaluating Survey Data Using Stata” expand upon fundamental skills and introduce students to other software platforms such as SPSS.

Skill/experience: experience conducting qualitative research including surveys, focus groups, interviews

Many research-oriented jobs, as well as jobs in consulting, program management, or international development, will require some amount of qualitative data collection and analysis. Core courses in Heller degree programs, such as “Research Methods and Evaluation” in the MPP program, introduce best practices in qualitative research and enable students to practice designing study proposals. Many classes include experiential components in which students have the option to interview external stakeholders. One example is the Team Consulting Project, the MBA capstone project in which students typically conduct research to inform recommendations to a real world client organization.

Skill/experience: experience managing a budget and performing financial analysis

One of my primary motivations to add a dual MBA to my MPP course of study was wanting to take accounting and corporate finance courses. Even non-MBAs, however, will have the chance to take coursework in economics, cost-benefit analysis, and program management. In addition, students who choose to participate in the Heller Student Association or a Heller working group can gain experience managing an organizational budget. Many students will develop these skills in internships, as well. Not to mention having a crash course in personal finance during grad school!

Skill/experience: teamwork, leadership, project management

While these are skills that can be learned in many types of settings, even as someone who worked for years in very collaborative office environments, I found that my efficacy and communication abilities working in groups improved during graduate school. All degree programs will include at least some group projects, and these are a great way to strengthen teamwork, listening, and interpersonal skills. While these may be difficult to capture on a resume, the Heller degree itself conveys that you have experience working in a close-knit, collaborative environment.

As I prepare to re-enter the working world, I feel grateful for the varied practical skills I have learned at Heller. Visiting the Career Center here is a great way to figure out how to effectively communicate my strengths in resumes and cover letters. While learning for its own sake is important, and highly valued here, it’s great to know that Heller is preparing students to work in settings where we can take on challenging, real world issues.

You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

To be honest, this actually isn’t a question that I get from prospective students too often, but at graduate fairs, students often mention that although they have the desire to reach out to admissions contacts, they aren’t sure how, or feel awkward or nervous about contacting admissions personnel directly. Which I totally get! When you’re writing a message to someone in an admissions office, you should think of your email as serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, you’re trying to get an answer to a question you have, either about the program or the application process. That should be what the content of the email is focused on. But secondly, you’re also trying to make a good first impression on the people who will be involved in your application process. This doesn’t mean that you should re-iterate the highlights of your application to demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program, but it does mean that throughout your email, you should be making an effort to show that you’re interested in the program, you’ve done your research, and you’re a clear communicator. Let’s take a look at a (fictional) email from a prospective student and then talk about what the student could have done better:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu, AdmissionsContact2@college.edu, ProgramManager1@college.edu, DeanOfCollege1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: questions

Message:

hey ProgramManager3,

,my name is Fictional Student and i want to ask some questions about the mpp porgram ur school. i graduated 1st in my class in fictionalprogram at fictionalschool with a GPA of 3.76. since then, i worked at fictionalcompany for 4 yrs as a fictionaljobtitle, where i had fictionalresponsibilities. then i got a job at fictionalcompany2, where i works as a fictionaljobtitle2, which has the additional responsibilities of managing people. i also volunteer as a volunteerposition, and in my spare time i like to read and play music. but now i’m interested in advancing my education threw youre mpp program  bc i want to make a difference in the world. can u tell me when the deadline to apply to the program is??

thanks, Fictional Student”

You can probably tell that this email probably wouldn’t make the best first impression, but what could FictionalStudent have done better? First, they could have looked up the person in the admissions office that handles the program that they’re interested in and emailed that person (and only that person!). Sometimes students email multiple people in the hopes of getting an answer to their question, but it actually can backfire and create confusion among staff, even resulting in students not getting a reply because everyone on the email assumes that someone else will take care of the student’s question. Next problem? The tone is very informal, especially the text-speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to write in an overly formal way, but you should aim to write as a slightly more polished version of yourself, the same tone that you would use if you were emailing your boss or someone you have a job interview with. In addition to the too-casual tone, FictionalStudent also didn’t remember to proofread their email; a single typo isn’t going to ruin your chances of getting accepted to the program, but an email riddled with spelling and grammar errors definitely isn’t going to make the best impression.

Those are the more obvious errors, but I’d also add two more that may not be so obvious. First, the student is including information about themselves that isn’t relevant to their question and will most likely be repeated in their application. Think of it this way: your application is your opportunity to share more about yourself with the admissions committee, but when you’re emailing someone in admissions, that’s your opportunity for the school to share more about itself with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include any information about yourself (in fact, there are a lot of instances where you’ll need to include information about your background and interests), but try to keep the content of your message focused on the question you have and include only the information that’s relevant. Secondly, the student asked a question that can be very easily found on the website. I’m not saying that you have to make sure you scour a school’s webpage before you email someone in admissions, but things like deadlines and application requirements are almost always on a school’s website. Sending an email asking for something that’s featured prominently gives the impression that you haven’t taken the time or the effort to do your research. Let’s end with a corrected email that’s sure to make a good first impression:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: Questions about Submitting Test Scores

Message:

Dear AdmissionsContact,

I hope you’re doing well! I’m Fictional Student and I’m currently applying to the MPP program at your school. While reviewing admissions website, I saw that the GRE requirement is waived for students applying to the MPP program for the Fall 2022 semester. I have already taken the GRE, and I’m considering whether or not to submit test scores as a part of my application. Would you be able to tell me how the GRE is used when evaluating a students application, or what the average scores are for successful applicants? Any guidance you could provide would be very appreciated.

Thank you, Fictional Student”

Back to school (Unlike ever Before) with Doug Nevins

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

Ever since Heller moved to remote classes in spring 2020, I’ve been looking forward to the semester when we return to in-person classes. At first, we hoped to return in the fall, then spring, but as the gravity of the pandemic situation became clearer Heller students settled into the rhythms of online learning, growing used to unexpected benefits like being able to engage in class discussions (or digressions) using Zoom chats, and sleeping until 8:45 for a 9 AM class.

Still, many Heller students, myself included, continued to hope for a return to in-person classes prior to our own graduations. In my case, I’m happy to be able to spend my final semester at Heller back on campus. I type this blog post sitting at the admissions front desk, a spot where I spent many hours during my first months at Heller, but had not revisited for over a year until just a few weeks ago. As today is a holiday, the building is largely empty, but on class days I enjoy striking up impromptu conversations with students and staff passing by the desk, and stepping outside to say hello to friends and take a welcome break from mask-wearing. Lunch time events, such as activity fairs and community-building sessions, have begun to take place again, and though we have not yet returned to the days when event organizers enticed students to attend events by providing free pizza and other snacks, Heller has hosted a couple “coffee with the Dean” hours complete with free Dunkin Donuts.

Being back in a classroom feels very different. There are aspects of the Zoom experience that I miss, but overall I find that conversations flow more easily, time passes more quickly, and it is easier to meet classmates in person, even with our faces obscured by masks, than as tiles on a screen. As a course assistant for an MBA class, I assist the professor in managing dual-mode instruction (in which some students join an in-person class over Zoom). It has been an interesting and fun challenge to troubleshoot classroom technology, and I’ve felt privileged to be included in meetings about dual instruction and to contribute feedback on successes and challenges. I have found that graduate school includes many unexpected learning experiences in addition to those indicated on course syllabi – experiencing the ins and outs of hybrid pedagogy firsthand is one such lesson.

Is being back on campus perfect? Does Heller feel the same? I don’t think it possibly could. The world, and all of us, have changed as well. But I feel grateful to be at Heller, a community that has stuck together and made the best of things throughout the pandemic period. Although some days I grumble to myself a bit that I have to get up around 7 AM and navigate traffic before 9 AM classes, as soon as I see a familiar, half-covered face on campus, or have an impromptu chat with a new acquaintance, I’m reminded how great it is to be back!

Hello Heller! Ronunique Clark’s Acceptance Story

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

During my fall semester of senior year at Boston University, I was remote learning while also drowning myself in LSAT prep books and study groups, as I had the dream of becoming a lawyer. After months of connecting to law schools, LSAT study groups/courses, and gathering my application materials, I was in the middle of writing my personal statement for law school that I realized I did not want to be a lawyer anymore. It was now the end of November: I opted out of taking the January 2021 LSAT and was back to the drawing board of what I wanted to do after graduation. The most important part of the next journey is I knew I wanted to work in the government sector, but I did not want to enforce laws. I wanted to create, implement, and assist in helping communities gain adequate access to government resources. After consistently asking myself “What are you going to do?” I came across the Master of Public Policy at the Heller School of Social Policy.

I was familiar with Brandeis University, as a Posse scholar hailing from the Bay Area, and I knew if Brandeis was a Posse partner school, then this university prided itself on working to making the next leaders in our generation. After reading more about the Master of Public Policy program, it embodied every element I wanted to gain knowledge on. I appreciated Heller’s dedication to social justice and encouraging their students to think beyond the current social structures, providing them with the tools to addressing systematic inequities while developing equitable solutions. From there, I knew I wanted to apply for this program.

After attending my admission interview with Andrea, who is now a 2nd year MPP student, she made me feel much more confident in my application. Andrea was sweet, informative, and she answered the questions that I had to the fullest extent. After logging off my zoom call my anxiety was through the roof— I wanted to know in the next 24 hours if I was admitted into the program or not. Almost 2 weeks went by before I received the decision letter. I had just walked into my dorm room from taking graduation photos when I felt my Apple watch buzz that there was an update made to my application. Without a second thought, I yanked my phone out of my pocket, nearly dropping it in my rush to the status page. And there it was: “Congratulations we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted in the Master of Public Policy program at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management with a scholarship.” I screamed my very first graduate school acceptance letter and with the scholarship offer, it was the best thing yet. I screenshotted the status page and texted it to my mother: just like any other proud parent, she posted about it before I even got the chance to decide. Yet we knew the decision that was going to be made. The scholarship money was a plus, but being accepted into the Heller School of Social Policy and Management told me that it was the beginning of my new official journey of fighting for the social causes I believed in.

It now has been 3 weeks since I started at Heller, and I know it was the right decision. My cohort, the professors, and the team at Heller admissions have been so helpful and enlightening. I am so excited to see how these next two years will become I hope to gain the most knowledge and skills from this program. 

Hello Heller! Hannah Plumb’s Acceptance Story

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

I distinctly remember when I got my acceptance letter from Heller. I was at a friend’s house, watching Bridgerton and unwinding from an exceptionally long work week. I heard my phone ding from an email notification and I excitedly pulled up the email. I held my breath while pulling up the page and waited for the response to appear…accepted!!

I yelled in excitement and my friend and I paused the show to get hype about it. We had a drink and some chocolate chip cookies to celebrate— might not seem like much, but I was incredibly excited. The journey to graduate school had been a bit of a tumultuous one for me .

After finishing my undergraduate degree in Communications, I was incredibly burnt out from school and unlike most of my friends, decided I wanted to work for a while before going back to school. I enrolled in the Peace Corps and was planning on spending the next two years of my life learning about Indonesian culture and the development world— COVID had other plans, however.

When I got evacuated from Peace Corps, I had no idea what to do. The plan I’d had for my life was suddenly in pieces. I took a random job at a COVID testing site to get back on my feet, and started reevaluating my next steps. I knew that I wanted to stay in the realm of nonprofit work and that I wanted to have an international focus. I started applying for jobs in these areas but was having little luck since several of them required Master’s degrees or more experience (and we were in the pandemic— the job market wasn’t great).

From there, I decided to look at the Heller school, and immediately it intrigued me. I loved the focus on social justice, the diversity of the student body, the interdisciplinary skills it focused on, and the practicality of the program. It was different than most of the other programs I’d looked at, and best of all, it had an incredible financial aid package too. That made it so much more affordable!

After talking to another Peace Corps volunteer who had gone to Heller, my decision was set. If they accepted me, that’s where I would be going. And lucky for me, they did, so here I am at Heller now 🙂

How to Choose the Right Program: Attending a Virtual Prospective Student Event

About a year ago, I wrote a few posts about how to find the right graduate program for you in How to Choose the Right Graduate Program: Narrowing Your Search and How to Choose the Right Program: Doing Your Research. In the Doing Your Research post, I referenced that one of the best ways to do your research is to attend prospective student events for the programs you’re interested in. At Heller, we’re currently adding Virtual Events for Prospective Students, so I want to share some quick do’s and don’ts for attending a virtual event for prospective students that will ensure that you get the most out of the session and make the best first impression possible.

✓ DO be camera ready. I get it, it’s tempting to keep your camera off and take the meeting from bed, in your pajamas. But this is your chance to make a first impression, and it’s hard to connect with a blackened Zoom box. There’s no need for a suit and tie, but aim for business casual. If the room behind you is visible, make sure it’s in a reasonably presentable state, or better yet, use a Zoom background if your camera has the capability. A good rule of thumb is to prepare the way you would if this were a virtual meeting with your supervisor.

X DON’T use Zoom as a chance to zone out. Treat this event the way you would an in-person event: that means keeping your phone in your pocket (or across the room, if you’re like me and have a difficult time resisting the siren call of Instagram). It can be really tempting to use a Zoom meeting as an opportunity to multi-task; after all, what’s the harm of checking your email when you’re already on the computer, right? But it means you’ll be less focused and engaged, which is detrimental to you and can come across as rude to the person speaking.

✓ DO research who will be presenting. No, you don’t have to know the high school that the program director went to, or Insta-stalk the current students on the panel, but as much as possible, you should try to familiarize yourself with who is presenting and prepare appropriate questions. For faculty or program directors: “Do any of your current research projects employ students?” “What type of student is successful in this program?” “Do your classes rely more on independent work or collaboration?” For current students: “What surprised you about this program?” “How available are faculty members?” “What’s been your favorite class and why?” For alumni: “What skills did you gain in the program that have proved most useful?” “How helpful was the Career Development Center in finding employment?” You can even write these on post-it notes to stick to your computer so you won’t forget!

X DON’T be afraid to engage. That goes beyond asking questions, although that’s certainly one way to show that you’re engaged and interested. Leaving your camera on, nodding and smiling when someone makes a point you agree with, and using Zoom’s reactions and chat function to respond to others’ questions and points are all other good ways to interact with the presenters and show that you’re interested. Another good tip is to look into your camera instead of the screen; it may seem counter-intuitive, but to others, that will make it appear that you’re establishing eye contact.

✓ DO follow up. Writing a note to the host of the event afterward is a great way to set yourself apart and an opportunity to ask any further follow-up questions. Even if you don’t have any more questions, even thanking them for hosting the event and telling them something you appreciated establishes that you’re paying attention and have a legitimate interest in the program.

The Fall 2022 Application is OPEN!

We’re excited to announce that the Heller application for Fall 2022 entry is now open! Today, I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions from students and included a list of resources

FAQS

What is required for the application?

The application is designed to be accessible and is comprised of the following elements:

  • The Heller online application, including biographic information, education history, and work history
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (two for Social Impact MBA applicants)
  • PhD and SID/WGS joint program only: Writing Sample
  • International students only: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test results, unless you qualify for an English Proficiency Waiver
  • The MPP, MBA, and PhD programs have extended their test-optional policy through the Fall 2022 admission cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic

You can view a full list of requirements for each program on our “How to Apply” page. 

What are the deadlines for the application?

You can find deadlines for each program on our “Application Deadlines” page.

How can I start an application?

I would recommend starting by reviewing the “How to Apply” page for your program of interest before beginning an application.

What are you looking for in an application?

The best way to find out what each program is looking for is by connecting with one of our admissions representatives, but you can also read our blog series, “Which Program is Right for Me?”

Resource List

 

My Newest Skill (Perfected During the Pandemic Lockdown)

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

One of my favorite feelings is sitting in a coffee shop mid-afternoon with a caramel latte and a french macaron or two. As someone who is easily distracted* I like that the coffee shop brings with it social pressure to sit still and be quiet, which forces me to get my work completed. The smell alone motivates me to work a bit harder. I had always tried to save my overpriced coffeehouse pastries to use as a tool for motivation and oft had to establish beforehand that I did not get the pastry/macaron until I completed at least a certain portion of my assignment; sometimes that method worked, other times my treats were gone moments after opening my computer…

Upon hearing that Brandeis would be moved fully online for 2020, I realized my infrequent coffee shop visits would likely be halted. As a result, I decided to treat myself with some of the money I would be saving by not renting an apartment that year and bought a Nespresso machine and milk frother so I could create my own lattes. The only thing missing from my coffee shop routine were the macarons. So, I ordered the supplies and set out to perfect the art of the macaron.

Each week I averaged at least 2 full batches of french macarons ranging in flavors from raspberry, lemon, and maple, to lavender and honey. After about 4 weeks I had tweaked the recipe to work just right for my oven. Dozens of batches and many months later, I can confidently say I have come close to perfecting the french macaron. So, today I am happy to share with you my tried and true french macaron shell recipe. The fillings are so varied, so I will let you google search a filling that fits your fancy.

100 grams: Almond Flour (I prefer the Blue Diamond brand and double sift it before use)

100 grams: White Sugar (sifted once before use)

100 grams: Egg Whites (I get these prepared the day before and let them sit out on the counter overnight to get “stale”)

130 grams: Powdered Sugar

Now, the actual combination of these ingredients is a bit difficult, so I will direct you to a blog I have enjoyed for detailed instructions on how to do so: Pies and Tacos

If you decide to try french macarons please let me know how they turn out! Also, if you have any tips or tricks to share with me please also let me know! It was such a fun new skill to learn.

*In middle school, my 8th-grade science teacher, Mr. Anthony, referred to me as “goldfish” because I was so easily distracted.  He relocated my desk to the front of the classroom so that the edge of my desk touched the chalkboard so I could not distract nor be distracted during his lectures. Luckily he was one of my favorite teachers and his teasing was all in good fun.

Transitioning Back to Life as a Student with Sami

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Making the decision to attend grad school is a huge, life-altering choice. How do you know if you’re ready? And how can you get prepared to do your very best, especially if you’ve been out of academia for a while? To help you think further about and ultimately answer these questions, I’ll tell you about my decision to apply to the Heller School and my experience taking a break from my career in order to jump back into student life.

After working in the non-profit fundraising field for 5 years, I began to realize that I wanted to expand my career options by evolving my knowledge of conflict resolution, international development, and global health. I also wanted to focus my work specifically on sexual and reproductive health, as well as women’s empowerment in South Asia. After speaking with representatives from Heller Admissions and hearing about the different degree programs offered, I decided to apply because it was clear that I could tailor my degree to fit my specific interests and career goals. Because of its nature of flexibility and individualization, I knew Heller would be the right fit for me.

Jumping back into the life of a student after years in the professional world was a big adjustment for me. Working 9-5 each week day can feel quite different from student life. As a student, the lines between “clocking in” and “clocking out” are often blurred. As an NGO employee, I was able to leave the office at 5pm and, for the most part, leave my work at my desk until returning the next morning. For a student (especially as a student attending school entirely from home), finding the time to “clock out” was more difficult. While this was an adjustment for me at first, I eventually eased into the role of a grad student, meanwhile finding ways of structuring my days so that I could dedicate most of my time to school while simultaneously reserving time for myself, having fun with friends, and self-care.

It can be difficult to know when the right time is for you to apply to grad school. In my case, I felt that my career trajectory had hit a wall, and I was ready to gain the skills and knowledge I would need to expand and grow my career options. You may also feel ready to learn new skills and find innovative ways of thinking about conflict, international development, public policy, or global health, and Heller is a meaningful environment to do exactly that!

« Older posts

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)