Category: Student Life (page 1 of 10)

Event Recap: Gender Working Group Open Mic Night

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

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

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

Tips: How to find a Graduate Assistantship

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

Here are some tips to securing a graduate assistant position!

  • Identify a department you are interested in working with

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

 

  • Search for interesting positions on Workday

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

 

  • Apply to multiple positions on Workday

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

 

  • Prep for your interview

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

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

The Heller Student Association

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

When I decided that Heller was the right place for me, I also decided right then and there to make sure I took advantage of the opportunities to get involved on campus and with my peers.  For some, it looks like joining a hiking club, proactively sitting in a public space to engage in conversations with others, or to be intentional with being active in a WhatsApp group chat. Whatever involvement flavor you feel most comfortable with, there is an opportunity here at Heller for you to get involved.

I have always been drawn to governing boards – be it in student council in high-school, an honors club in undergrad, or – currently – as a co-chair for the Heller Student Association. It has always been important for me to feel that my voice was heard when I spoke up, and I have learned that governing bodies such as the HSA really do work well to amplify the voices of those they serve. Upon completing our first “Town Hall” it served as a good reflection point for me (hence me blogging about it today).

The mission and vision of the Heller Student Association (also referred to as ‘HSA’) is:

“to take a holistic approach on understanding and empowerment in all of our educations through a focus on cross-collaboration between students, working groups, professors and staff at Heller. The mission of the HSA is to participate meaningfully in decisions affecting student’s time at Heller. We will amplify the voices of the student body by bringing your input to the faculty, administration, career services, staff, steering committees and program directors whom we meet with regularly.”

So how is this relevant for you,  dear blog reader? Well, if you are currently a student at Heller, know you always have access to a group that will work to amplify your voice – so long as it aligns with the aforementioned mission and vision of the organization. And, if you are a student considering Heller, know that the voices of you and your peers are taken seriously when/if you join this family. The faculty and staff at Heller have a great working relationship with the Heller Student Association and value our presence. As a Co-Chair, me and my fearless Co (shoutout to Zari) have the opportunity to listen and offer input on the students’ behalf at meetings that do not typically hold a student presence. We are not there just to check the “is a student present?” box. No, we are instead actively engaged in conversations that effect students.

All of this to say, if you’re wondering what it looks like to be in concert with the faculty and administration as a student, the Heller Student Association is a great example of that. Also, Heller has a wide variety of student groups that go far beyond being an advocacy/governing body. So, if your comfort for involvement includes joining an organization, consider the Heller Student Association!

Professor Spotlight: Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Too often in academia,  you get stuck learning from a tenured professor who is out of touch with students (Netflix plug – The Chair). I attended a liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree, which allotted me the flexibility on the courses I took, choosing based on interest and professor ratings. So when entering into a more structured degree program, I was nervous about my ability to connect both with the required material and the professors.

I am about to finish my third semester at Heller, with a total of seven required courses under my belt and I have only good things to say about my time so far (taking into account that I completed six of those courses online due to the pandemic). Each professor adapted and modified their courses to support and uplift students while we were completely virtual, and have found ways to engage students who join class virtually during our current hybrid semester.

But I would be remiss if I told you I didn’t have favorites. Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch have taken two subjects that many might cower away from and made the material accessible, entertaining and informative. In a degree that attracts policy-driven individuals, more tactical courses like research methods and economic theory can be daunting at the onset. I am in awe of the intellect and integrity both professors hold. Dr. Marji Erickson Warfield is a Senior Scientist and Lecturer at Heller. Her work is designed to understand and evaluate ways to promote the well-being of children, youth and young adults with disabilities and the adaptation of their families.  Dr. Lisa Lynch is the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Heller. She is a Brandeis powerhouse and focuses her research on labor markets, unemployment, and organizational Innovation.

Both Marji and Lisa found ways to enliven subjects that might come off as dry and teach in such a way that makes the material not only understandable but demonstrate how it’s applicable to my professional goals. On top of their in-class work, they are wholly available to students outside of the classroom, through office hour appointments, events on campus and personalized emails with news or opportunities that match your specific policy interests. I have never felt like blank face in a sea of students; they go out of their way to chat in the halls and contribute to student-led initiatives. I am grateful to both professors for their inclusive teaching, and to Heller for prioritizing the hiring of such great faculty.

End of Semester Wrap-Up: Favorite Classes

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

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

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

Closing out the First Semester of Grad School

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Finally! I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my first fall semester of the MPP program. As I near the end of the semester, I have had time to reflect on the challenges, accomplishments, and personal goals I want to set for myself next semester.

When entering the program, I had no idea what to expect initially. Being one of the few in my cohort who began the program straight out of undergrad, I had to work around the preconceived notions and tactics I have built being a student. How would the professors be supportive? How will my cohort be supportive? What resources are offered on campus if I am having a hard time or struggling? At my previous school, grades mattered the most— if you did not receive anything over a C+, you were frowned upon by peers and professors. My professors at Heller were very supportive, responsive, and understanding. At the beginning of the semester, they all instituted that we should not focus just on our grades, but we should focus on how we connect with the material and find ourselves when writing and discussing these issues with our peers, teaching assistants, and professors. This made me more comfortable with meeting with professors outside of the classroom because I felt confident enough to ask questions and express my concerns. Additionally, although I see myself as a social butterfly, I entered Heller in a cocoon. I did not know how to really engage with my peers or start conversations that were not always school-related, but my cohort made it very easy. They all wanted to get to know each other, not just on a surface-based level, and being able to grab a seat in Zinner Forum and have a conversation with a few of my peers has made my days lighter.

After overcoming these small challenges, I can say I am very proud of myself for how far I have come in an academic space. Even though I still have a small fear of bringing my own opinions up in class discussions, I noticed I am not afraid to share more on issues that may directly or indirectly affect me. I also find myself really taking my time with the assignments I turn in, asking follow-up questions prompts, deadlines, or anything else that comes my way. During my time in undergrad, I became very self-conscious about my writing skills, but after this semester, I am more confident in working with my peers on peer reviews, making numerous drafts to get that final one, and really putting my best foot forward when writing on issues that I am passionate about.

Graduate school is still not easy, but this first semester has been very eye-opening and has allowed me substantial room to grow. My goal for next semester is to be able to lead more discussions in my classroom and also fight the urge to procrastinate when a project or assignment presents itself. I want to be able to really connect my personal experiences and passions to the research presented to me and flesh out more ways to combat the issues in a social justice manner. I am super excited to be kicking off my second semester and can not wait to see what it entails.

Farewell to Heller Admissions

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

I am writing this blog post during my final shift in the Admissions office before I graduate (fingers crossed!) from the Heller School. It is hard to believe that my two and a half years at Heller (and several more than that at Brandeis) are coming to an end. I’ve been feeling nostalgic today as I sent my last email from the Heller Admissions account, carried my last stack of prospective student brochures to the mail center, and right now, as I write my last blog post.

It truly has been a pleasure working with applicants to Heller. I’ve enjoyed every interview, every phone call, ever student panel I’ve moderated, and every admitted student event I’ve helped out with either in person or on Zoom. It really is inspiring how committed Heller applicants are to the values of social justice and social change which constitute the mission of this institution, and it’s always exciting to meet an applicant who connects with that mission. I’ve really enjoyed playing a small role in the application process for so many great Heller students.

If you, prospective students reading this, ultimately enroll at Heller, I hope that you experience the sense of warmth and community that I have felt in my time on campus. I hope that you have the chance to say hello to graduate assistants here at the admissions desk, and, if you enjoyed speaking with us during the application process, considering applying to be a graduate assistant yourself!

I hope that you enjoy some evenings spent with friends in the Zinner forum or an empty classroom, completing a big assignment as the building grows quiet, snacking on junk food from the C Store or takeout from Prime Deli or Tree Top Thai. As stressed out as some of those big assignments have made me, what I remember most is the sense of comradery I’ve shared with classmates as we gather together to work hard to meet a deadline – whether on campus or on Zoom.

I hope that you take advantage, at Heller, or wherever you attend grad school, of the many resources available to you, and meet as many people as possible. I wouldn’t say I have many regrets from my time at Heller, but I particularly do not regret the times that I’ve said yes to an opportunity, or volunteered, even if I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time. The only thing I would do differently is to reach out even sooner to people – faculty, peers, alums – whose experiences and expertise are of interest to me. I hope that you are able to have the on-campus graduate school experience, in order to meet as many people, and enjoy as many spontaneous conversations and chance encounters, as possible.

Because we are in New England, it is already dark here at 4:42, as I finish writing this blog post. I’ve watched the sunlight fade through the tall windows in the Zinner forum, directly in front of me, but the building is still illuminated, and a few conversations are still audible even as most people have gone home for the day. My walk to my car tonight will feel bittersweet, but I only have so much time for sentimentality as I still have several assignments to complete! I have a feeling that when those have been turned in, and I’m able to chill at home with a holiday movie and relax, that’s when the nostalgia will really hit me!

A Self-Care Weekend Away

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

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

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

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

Boston in the Fall

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Trivia time! Name this song:

And I’ve never licked a spark plug,
And I’ve never sniffed a stink bug,
And I’ve never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball,
And I’ve never bathed in yogurt
And I don’t look good in leggings
And we’ve never been to Boston in the fall!

If you guessed “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything!” from Veggie Tales you’d be correct! Next logical question: why am I quoting Veggie Tales in a blog post made for Heller Admissions? Answer: BOSTON IN THE FALL!!

If you’re considering going to Heller, but feel some apprehension because you recharge in nature (like me) and feel there will be less nature to enjoy – fear no more. Boston in the fall is beautiful, not only within the city, but also in the surrounding areas – like Waltham. One of my favorite weekend activities is finding a new place to hike; be it with a friend or alone, after having been in brick buildings all week for work or classes, surrounding myself with living, breathing flora is – quite literally – a breath of fresh air. At Brandeis, there is a hiking club with folks who get together almost every weekend to explore the surrounding woodlands if you prefer to hike in groups. If you prefer solo hikes, there is a great app that I use that informs me on all aspects of a trail (call AllTrails). By using this app, I can see how heavily trafficked specific hikes are, their difficulty level, length, and proximity to me. I specifically really like to see the traffic levels because I tend to trend towards mid to heavily trafficked areas when hiking alone for safety.

Now, you may be thinking, “okay Hannah, we get it, there are hiking trails. I have trails where I live, so what’s the big deal?”. First of all, cut down the sass. Secondly, Boston is unique in the fact that if you were to drive 10 minutes in one direction you would be in a woodland that has little to no noise pollution, then drive 10 minutes in a different direction and you’re in the heart of a bustling city. So if you’re looking for the cliché “best of both worlds” this could be a nice fit.

Now, you may be thinking, “but Hannah, I don’t prefer to hike up mountains in my spare time – nor do I want to be attacked by a turkey in the forest”. To which I would reply – fair, but many of the trails in this area are pretty easy to stroll leisurely through. As far as the turkey goes,  that’s out of my hands… may the odds be ever in your favor. Some nice trails near/in Waltham (that do not all require a car to access) include Cat Rock Park Loop, Weston Reservoir Loop, Charles River Walkway, and my new favorite, Storer Conservation Land, just to name a few.

So, if you’ve never been to Boston in the fall, consider checking it out! It has beautiful foliage, lovely hikes, and fun and mostly harmless wildlife.

Things to think about when choosing a graduate program (that might not be immediately obvious)

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As I near the end of my time at Heller, I’ve reflected a bit on the criteria I had when I was applying to and choosing graduate programs, and on how my impressions of Heller have played out during my time here. I wanted to share a few criteria that I considered and discuss in a bit more detail how these factored into my search.

Faculty background

I was drawn to the fact that many Heller faculty serve as researchers in various centers and institutes here on campus, while many also have experience working in federal or state agencies related to health, labor, education, and other social policy areas. Knowing that core courses would be taught by faculty with backgrounds specific to social policy, and with policy-relevant work and research experience regardless of their formal academic training, was a big priority for me, and made Heller a compelling option. My primary interests are education and workforce development, and I’ve gotten to work with faculty who have served in the Department of Labor and managed national job training non-profit organizations. Heller has enabled me to delve deeply into topics of interest in both required classes and electives.

Geography and professional connections

My sense is that many policy schools excel at connecting students to jobs in Washington, DC, as well as in the area where they are located. This motivated me to consider Heller, since I am from the Boston area and interested in opportunities here, as well as DC, where there are of course more jobs in the federal government and in national-level policy organizations. That said, Heller places students around the country and abroad, which I viewed as an additional advantage to attending graduate school here – I’ve made connections with peers and with faculty who themselves have connections in many different locations.

Peer interests

In addition to faculty at Heller tending to have direct professional and research experience in social policy fields, the fact that my peers are passionate about social justice and social policy has been a big advantage of attending Heller as well. While Heller is not homogenous, there is definitely a sense of shared values and a commitment to social change. This was a powerful motivator in my decision to attend Heller, and the experience that students have in non-profit, government, and social impact settings has really enriched class discussions.

Flexibility and options

While I entered Heller in the MPP program, I was interested in adding a dual MBA, and knew that doing so would only add about 6 months to my time in graduate school due to the accelerated schedule of the MBA program. Knowing that there were options like this available also informed my decision to attend Heller. In general, the culture here is to help students figure out how to accomplish what it is they want to do. I am glad that my impressions of this culture when I decided on Heller have been proven correct by my 2.5 years here!

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