Category: Student Life (page 3 of 16)

MBA Extracurriculars: The Board Fellows Program

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

As of right now, less than two months remain in my tenure as a Heller MBA Board Fellow and the 2023 cohort is actively being recruited from among the ranks of first-year MBAs. In the Board Fellow program, MBA students are matched with nonprofit organizations and sit on their Board of Directors as a non-voting member for 12 months. I had the great fortune of getting matched with Bikes Not Bombs, a youth development organization that uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. I entered this program to get a better understanding of nonprofit governance, to connect with a local organization that does programming in my professional area of interest, to expand my professional network, and to increase my leadership skills. Here are my tips for maximizing this opportunity!

Join a Committee

Both corporate and nonprofit boards organize themselves into relevant subcommittees. Common ones include Finance, Executive, Governance, and Fundraising. At Bikes Not Bombs, I knew early on that I wanted to join the Governance committee. This committee has been focused on board member recruitment, engagement, and succession planning. Prior to coming to Brandeis, I had been involved in the recruitment, onboarding, support, and offboarding of AmeriCorps volunteers and was curious what recruitment looked like for a nonprofit board. Joining a subcommittee helped me get a firsthand insight into this process, while also allowing me to connect with a smaller subgroup of board members who I met with on a monthly basis (as opposed to the other board members, which I saw at our bi-monthly full board meetings). 

Volunteer or Help Plan Events 

Many nonprofits have annual flagship events that they are known for. These events are usually focused on fundraising and sharing the progress the organization has made that year. Bikes Not Bombs hosts two big fundraisers – the Building Momentum Breakfast and the Bike-A-Thon. For this year’s Bike-A-Thon, I volunteered to help run registration for teams biking in the event. Volunteering was a great way for me to meet key staff in the organization and hear from veteran participants their reflections on what this event means for them and the surrounding Jamaica Plain community. 

Have One-on-Ones with Board Members

Each person on the board (unless they are retired) is an active professional. At least 4 people on Bikes Not Bombs board were alumni of Heller’s MBA program! Meeting one-on-one for a virtual coffee chat was a great way to get to know them better, learn more about their career trajectory, and hear about what motivated them to get involved on the board. One of my favorite one-on-ones was when I had the opportunity to talk to Bikes Not Bomb’s capacity building consultant. From this conversation, I learned a lot about what it takes to improve board governance. 

As you can see, there are many ways to get involved beyond just attending board meetings. Many of my peers in the Board Fellows program have also taken on special projects related to committee work and many of them have found internships through their connections on the board. Nonprofit boards really appreciate the perspective of younger professionals and many boards are looking to fill certain skill gaps which Heller MBA students come equipped with. I’ve really enjoyed my Board Fellow experience thus far and I look forward to finishing strong!

Meet My Cohort: Brian Stanley

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

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

 What did you do before coming to Heller?

Brian Stanley, MPP’23

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

Why did you choose Heller?

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

What is your favorite class at Heller? 

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

What was your most challenging class at Heller?

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

What are your plans after Heller? 

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

Any advice you would like to give prospective students? 

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

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

Letter to My Future Self: Calah McQuarters

Calah McQuarters, MBA'23 headshot

Calah McQuarters, MBA’23

Dear Future Calah,

Stop, breathe in, and take a moment to fully live in this amazing moment. You did it! You endured, persevered, conquered, learned, fell down and got back up. Now you’re at the finish line a little wiser, a lot stronger, and at least half ready for whatever this new season will bring. I am very proud of you. 

You made it graduation, so you passed all your classes (hopefully with all A’s). But hopefully that’s not all you’ve done. I hope you really learned from your classes and professors and maintained the skills you gained along your MBA journey. I hope you developed real relationships with your peers that will last for the long haul. After all, your cohort is truly a group of world changers. I hope you took advantage of every guest speaker, working group meeting, and free food opportunity you had capacity for. And most of all, I hope you took time to leave Heller just a little bit better for the dreamers coming after you. 

Calah McQuarters, M.B.A., we did not see this coming when we were young, dreaming up our life. But that’s what happens when you accept the plan for you that’s so much bigger than just you. However, this degree and title means nothing if you haven’t grown internally as much as you have added to your resume externally. So here are some personal ways I hope you’ve grown. I hope you learned to have patience and grace for yourself and those around you. I hope you let go of the perfectionist inside you and learned to live in the beauty of imperfection that is this world. Knowing us, we’re still working on that one. I hope you have learned to be okay with the unknown and to find excitement in discovering more about you and your unconventional path. 

Now, all this growth and accomplishment hasn’t come without hard work, but I know you have put in the work! You have probably read more pages of material in the past 16 months than you had in the 23 years before starting the program. You have also likely learned the hard way how to manage your time between classes, work, extracurriculars, and moments of self care. Hopefully, you didn’t bite off more than you could chew, but again, knowing us, you probably did, more than once. Lastly, you have no doubt used your voice and your action to be the change you want others to experience as future Heller students. 

So what’s next? Are you staying in the Boston area or going off to start a new adventure elsewhere? Are you starting your career in consulting or going back to nonprofit work? Whatever you do and wherever you go, I hope you hold on to the learner in you. I hope you don’t let the questions and unknowns overwhelm your excitement and curiosity. I hope you take time to celebrate this noteworthy moment in your life and I hope you remember, this is just the beginning! “Don’t be afraid of work that has no end.” That’s your motto, so let’s get to work!

Love.

Current Calah

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation): Brielle Ruscitti

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

Dear Future Brielle,

You’re graduating from Heller with two degrees in two years, congratulations! How does it feel? Did you get to experience all you wanted during your time at Heller? I hope you found a balance between the two degrees and have been able to fine tune your passions. I’m happy to see you figured out the practicum and a master’s final project, all the worrying and planning paid off. I hope you were able to participate in meaningful service in your community and find research you were passionate about. I hope you enjoy graduation and a renewed sense of accomplishment, maybe take some time off and celebrate! I hope that you still enjoy going out to try new restaurant recommendations.

I have so many questions I hope you can answer. Where are you headed next? Are you going to be living abroad, or staying in Boston? Are you starting a new job? If yes, are you going to be working for a non-profit, an NGO or maybe a research institute? If not, are you considering more education? Well, I hope that more school is not plan A, but maybe something in the future. I hope you’ve found a job that fits you, your skills and passions, and that you’re excited to start. Maybe you even have a bit of time off between graduation and starting your career.

Outside of your career, what are your next life steps? I hope you’ve been able to travel while still in school and that if you’re headed into a career, it will lend to a similar life style.  Whatever next step you’ve chosen, I know that you’ve made the right choice. Also, I really hope you’re still planning to get a dog or a cat, if you haven’t already, in the near future- hint, a graduation gift to yourself!

I hope during this time that you think back to your undergraduate graduation and know how much uncertainty and doubt you have overcome to get to this moment and that everything has worked out exactly as it should. I hope you took time to learn new skills, try different classes, maybe test out a new hobby and took time to just be present. I hope you take time to appreciate all the support and love you have received during this time and thank your family and friends. Once again, congratulations and I hope you know you’ve made Brielle of 2022 proud.

Love,

Past Brielle

Andy’s Advice to Maximizing your Time at Professional Conferences

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

One huge benefit of Heller’s location in Waltham, MA is its proximity to Boston. Graduate school is not only about coursework, but about professional development and networking building. Boston is home to local chapters of many nationally recognized professional associations, including Reaching Out MBA, the National Black MBA Association, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, and the National Association of Asian American Professionals. 

Thanks to the generous support of the Graduate Student Association and Heller’s Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion,  seven other Social Impact MBA candidates and alumni and I had the opportunity to attend the 44th annual National Black MBA Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The schedules at these conferences are typically jam-packed with many workshops, expos, and receptions that run concurrently. As a result, it can be hard to know what to prioritize if you don’t go in with a game plan. Here’s what I learned about how to maximize your time at conferences. 

Research Employers Beforehand

The National Black MBA Conference held a two day Career Expo from 9 to 5 on Thursday and Friday with 200+ employers. We realized pretty quickly that it was physically impossible to try and talk to representatives at all 200 companies, especially since there were workshops and receptions happening throughout the day that we were also very interested in attending. Instead, we needed to approach this strategically. I used my time in the airport and on the plane to review the list of exhibiting employers and narrow it down to the top 20 that I was interested in, with the intention of talking to 10 employers each day of the expo. In reality, I ended up speaking with around 13 employers in total. Conversations with companies where there was clearly no alignment took less than 5 minutes. In contrast, my conversations with companies that were a good fit took around 20 minutes, which meant, in an hour, I had only talked to three.  In hindsight, I should have reviewed the employer list a lot sooner, and that way I could have printed more tailored resumes to hand to each employer. 

Scout out the Space

Each day of the expo, I began by doing one big round of the space to identify who was present and where the employers I was interested in were located. This is actually how I realized that there was a rotation, and not every employer was present every day, but rather, were there for a specific timeblock. I ended up missing two employers of interest because I didn’t realize this sooner. 

Leverage Technology

One thing that helped a lot was having LinkedIn downloaded as an app on my phone. In the app version, I was able to pull up a QR code that employers could scan and immediately add me to their networks. The second day of the expo, I realized it was better for me to scan the employer’s code, that way I could screenshot their profiles and have an easy list of people to follow up with post-conference. If you’re not big on LinkedIn, or if you forgot to bring physical copies of your resume, you could also consider downloading the HiHello app. This app allows you to create multiple profiles that you can send to others via QR code. Having multiple profiles allows you to tailor information to specific audiences. For example, maybe you have a graduate student profile that uses your school email and a job search profile that uses your personal email. I’ve had friends who had a separate profile for themselves as business owners. On HiHello, you can include a link to the social media of your choice and to a virtual company of your resume. 

Final Thoughts

When attending conferences, it’s important to remember that you can’t see or do it all. Researching the schedule, employers, and (if possible) attendees will help you identify the best places to focus your time and energy. The Heller Career Development Center newsletter, student working groups, and alumni are some of the best sources for identifying conferences that are a good fit for your academic and professional interests. Happy networking!

Meet My Cohort: Hannah Wilcove

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

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

What did you do before coming to Heller?

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

Hannah Wilcove, MPP’23

Why did you choose Heller? 

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

What is your favorite class at Heller?

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

What is your most challenging class at Heller?

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

What are your plans after Heller? 

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

Any advice you would like to give to prospective students? 

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

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

Hello Heller! Brielle Ruscitti’s Acceptance Story

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID'24 Headshot

Brielle Ruscitti, MS GHPM/MA SID’24

Throughout my undergraduate career, I planned to go to medical school. I studied biology, shadowed doctors, participated in research but when it came time to study for the MCAT, I hit a wall. Through my undergrad, I realized that becoming a physician wasn’t the path for me and that my passions lay other places. I had developed a passion for fostering social change, worked with global health non-profits and had completed international development research projects. I had my own version of a quarter life crisis and scrapped my medical school plans.  After some thinking, graduate school was my new plan, and I was specifically looking at social impact MBA programs, which indirectly lead me to Brandeis. I knew I wanted to be on the East Coast and through the classic Google search, I stumbled upon Brandeis, starting reading about Heller and, not too long after, started my application.

At the time, I had recently graduated and was working as a third grade teacher, trying to make plans for the next year. I remember trying to plan ahead when I would make the move to Boston, if I were to be accepted, but was concerned I was planning for something that wasn’t guaranteed. I’m sure you can imagine that I was counting the days to when my admissions letter was going to be released, and I quite literally did: I estimated that it would come on Valentine’s Day, a Monday, and with the two hour time change, my letter should come by three pm… I told myself that was the best case scenario.  Three o’clock passed and I hadn’t received an email. After repeatedly checking my inbox, I headed out to my afternoon duty to help with student pick up and other end of the day activities.  At this point, I assumed that I would hear later and casually checked my email heading back to my classroom. That’s when I saw it: “There has been an update to your portal” and my admissions decision had been released.  Since running isn’t allowed in the hallways, I walked as fast as I could to my computer to check my portal and anxiously checked my letter and read that I had been admitted. I told my co-teacher first, because she was right there.  All I said was “Oh! I got in!” She laughed, shook her head and congratulated me. I laughed and quickly called my partner to share the news and messaged a few other family members.

My immediate feeling after reading my letter was relief. I felt like I knew what I would be doing, where I would be going, and that I could start planning for my future. My partner and I planned to move to the East Coast together and my acceptance cemented our plan – 30 hour road trip, here we come! After I processed what happened, I realized I could start finalizing plans and getting excited. I was excited for my future, the program and my Brandeis experience.

I had applied to other programs in the area, but knew that the Heller school was my top choice. The dual degree program design and field practicum would give me the opportunity study, gain experience, and fine tune my passion and knowledge before starting my career.  We are now about a month into school, and I know I made the right decision. While it is just the start of my time at Heller, I am excited for all that is to come!

Meet My Cohort: Katherine Gagen

Ronunique Clark, MPP'23 headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

In this blog post, I decided to branch away from my own journey, thoughts, and advice. I’m calling this mini blog series “Meet My Cohort”, where I am inviting  some of my classmates from our Fall 2021 cohort into the admissions blog room to hear about their experience before joining Heller and during their time here at Heller.  To kick off this mini blog series I had the lovely opportunity to interview my classmate Katherine Gagen.

Katherine Gagen is 28 years old from Newton, Massachusetts. She joined Heller in Fall 2021, she is now a 2nd year MPP/MBA student concentrating in Economic and Racial Equity. She started with the MPP curriculum upon arrival. During the Fall 2022 semester, she is currently enrolled in two Social Impact MBA courses and two MPP courses. She will be finished with her degree in December 2023.  She has her bachelors degree in Urban Studies and Hispanics Studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

headshot of Katherine Gagen

Katherine Gagen, MPP/MBA’23

What did you do before coming to Heller?

After graduating from Trinity College, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship where I served as a English Teacher Assistant in Argentina, assisting individuals who wanted to become English teachers; I did that for a year. I then returned back to the States, where were I worked as an Executive Assistant with a surgeon, which was an entire 180, because I had zero math and science in my background. We traveled around the country, researching health care disparities between people in urban and rural areas, going to locations such as Montana, Puerto Rico, and Appalachia. I was interested in hearing about people’s stories, less on the medical side, but more so on how each community knew what they needed to do and how each community had solutions. I learned there wasn’t a one-size fits all solution. This piqued my interest in policy.  I wanted to be in a more policy focused role and interacting with individuals on a policy level. If I stayed to work with her, I would be doing communications or marketing, which led to my job at the American Academy of  Arts and Sciences, where I served as an associate on their American Institutions society and public goods team. We put out 31 recommendations on constitutional democracy . We worked on a big project “Commission on the practice of democratic citizenship” on its final report “Our common purpose reinventing American democracy for the 21st century”. We talked about civil society, people, community trust building, polarization  Another project I worked on was “Making Access to American Justice”. I worked with this organization for two years. Then it made me realize I needed more skills. Even though I did as much as I did, I felt like I could not move up in the organization. Everyone I worked with had a PhD, so I knew I need to get these skills to do what I wanted to do and to make the impact I wanted to make.

Why did you choose Heller? 

I had known about Heller for a really long time. I grew up in Newton, which is 10 minutes away, but always said I did not want to go to school so close to home. Yet as I was learning more about different master’s programs, there were two things that stood out the most to me about Heller.  The first was the dual degree: schools like NYU have a MPA/MBA program, and other schools had numerous options for dual degrees. But Heller’s MPP/MBA dual degree stuck out to me because I knew I wanted to get the skills of the business degree, because I am not self-motivated enough to find these skills on my own, but public policy and social policy is what I am primarily interested in. The option to get both of these degrees, which compliment each other very well, provides a holistic review on how public and private organizations work together and gives you the skills to move between the two. The second thing that drew me to Heller was their commitment to social justice being underlined throughout all of the courses and all of the degrees.

What is your favorite class  at Heller? 

My favorite class was Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice, and Problems with Professor Celeste Lee. During this class, we talked about what social justice philanthropy is and the questions that come along with it.  I personally want to go into the philanthropic sector, so it was really beneficial for me to talk through this philosophical questions about the most pressing issues happening to people today. We also got the chance to give out grants to organizations: we had $15,000 to give away. We spilt the class into two groups, my group focused on civic engagement and we ran a whole grant cycle putting out request for proposals, reviewed applications, conducted interviews and at the end we invited our grantees to come and celebrate with us. The class provided a good insight on what the grant making process looks like in practice using real world dollars, which was really cool!

What is your most challenging class at Heller? 

Accounting. But I will say the although the course itself is hard, Professor Brenda Anderson is so good at teaching accounting. She makes the hard topic easier to digest.

What are your plans after Heller? 

I would love to work in the philanthropic sector or social impact investing sector. There are a few things I am actually interested in: my public policy interest is in democracy building and urban planning (which is my background and what I studied in undergrad). I am really interested in creating more equitable and democratic cities where people can actually come together across divides. Thinking about how cities are planned, for example: highways are blocked off to so many communities, so how can we reimagine that, and think of creative solutions to not marginalize or cities or segregate our cities. On the philanthropic side, I am interested in looking into the power dynamics that exist between donor and grantee, and how to make this process more equitable as well thinking about what can we do to make the grant application cycle more equitable? How can we redistribute wealth and resources that individuals can actually benefit from, instead of the top-down donor approach of “I want to fund this so I will only be giving money to this certain thing”?  Ideally, if there was a way to combine these two interests, that would be really great. I am burnt-out from the non-profit space so I would be very excited to enter this other world.

Any advice you would  like to give to prospective students?  

Know why you want to attend graduate school. Don’t go to graduate school just to go. Have a reason even if that reason isn’t very specific. I know that sounds contradictory, but don’t do it just to get another degree, go to school with a purpose. If you have a purpose for why you want to go to graduate school, it will make your journey much more manageable in the way you navigate the courses you want to take and help benefit your career. If your purpose of going to graduate school is to narrow down your options, then that is okay, but do not do it just because. Also, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and your financial circumstances when applying to graduate school .

Thank you Katherine for stepping into the Heller Admissions Blog Room. Stay tuned for the next post of “Meet My Cohort”!

Best Study Spaces, Part 2

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

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

Common Good Co.

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

Panera Bread

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

Waltham Public Library

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

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

Your Apartment

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

Your First Semester

If you’re headed into your first semester at Heller, it can seem like there’s no end in sight when it comes to the amount of work that needs to get done. And while that’s true, it’s also important to remember that there are some ways you can prepare for this new chapter before you even start your classes. I’ve been there, too— I know how hard it can be to stay organized in graduate school, so I’ve compiled some tips to help you manage your work, stay on top of deadlines, and get through that first semester.

  1. Start strong. Yes, consistency is key, but the stronger you start off in your classwork, the better you’ll be prepared down the line, when assignments, exams, and group projects start to pile up. When I was in graduate school, I liked to start each semester by gathering all of my syllabi together and putting down important dates in my planner so I could see when things were coming up. That helped me to manage my time consistently.
  2. Reach out for help early. At this point in the semester, things haven’t gotten hectic for students or faculty yet, so take advantage of that. Spend the first couple of weeks getting to know your professors (see if they have walk-in office hours: it doesn’t have to be for a specific assignment, it can be to connect with them and to learn about what makes a student successful in their courses) and learning about the abundant amount of resources available to you on campus.
  3. Set a consistent schedule an stick to it. Do you work best first thing in the morning? Right after lunch? Late at night? Set aside a few times a week that you can commit to classwork and readings. Sometimes you’ll need more time, and sometimes less, but that’s okay: if you have less, it’s a good time to get ahead of schedule and prepare for the weeks ahead (i.e., start working on final projects or reviewing notes from classes). If you end up needing more time, it’s easier to find it when you at least have a few reliable times that you can dedicate to your work. You’ll find yourself working more efficiently if you know what your limits are and how long they last.

We hope that this will help you stay organized and set yourself up for success in graduate school. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about how to be more successful in graduate school, let us know!  Good luck; we hope that you enjoy your first semester of grad school!

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