Tag: Andrea Tyree

Balancing the School-Work Lifestyle with Andrea Tyree

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

You’ve been accepted to graduate school, congratulations! You’re feeling both accomplished and relieved that you’ve passed that first hurdle. But the next hurdle is far more intimidating: how are you going to pay for it? This question forces many of us, myself included, to balance a job (or two) with the demands of graduate school. Is it possible to work and still succeed in graduate school? Yes, absolutely. Can it drive you slightly mad? Yes… absolutely.

If you’re attending Heller, you were probably offered a partial or full merit-based scholarship; most Heller students receive a merit scholarship, and many receive up to 100%. This financial aid is incredible—and one of the many reasons to attend Heller—but it can’t cover all the costs of grad school. So what do you do?

Many students will take out loans to cover the rest of the costs. Other students will utilize savings or generational wealth. Yet for some of us, like myself, these aren’t feasible options. As you will learn when you come to Heller and take courses like Assets and Social Policy, many of us don’t have the privilege (and I use that word purposefully) of those options. Supplemental scholarships may cover the remaining tuition, but this can still leave students unable to manage the cost of living. The solution: maintain a job while in grad school.

For example, I’m a first-year MPP student and I do pretty well in all of my classes. I also currently work two part-time jobs. Would I recommend this lifestyle to anyone? Absolutely not. Do I have much of a choice in it? Not really. I need this income to pay my rent and maintain a meager savings. Managing two part-time jobs or one full-time job during grad school can be overwhelming. So for those of you that will join me in these trenches this Fall, here’s my advice:


  1. Get organized.

Get a planner, start using a calendar, and write every assignment and due date down. I truly cannot recommend this enough. It’s saved me numerous times from missing deadlines or forgetting readings, and has generally helped me use my time wisely.

  1. Find your crew and work as a team.

You won’t be the only student in your program feeling stretched too thin. Find the people in your class who also feel overwhelmed by the workload and create a study group. You could share notes, review papers, or divide up readings. This will help you put your best foot forward in class.

  1. Know that there are generations of Heller students fighting for you.

You’re not the first student to balance this lifestyle, and you won’t be the last. Know that many of us here are fighting to make your experience easier. We’re advocating for flexible deadlines, reduced required readings, and pathways for support for students like you. We may not accomplish everything before you get here, but we see you, and we’re here for you.

  1. Know when to take a step back.

You may think, “Hey, I have the same 24 hours in the day as Beyoncé, I can manage this!” Do not fall into this trap. You do not have a personal chef, chauffeur, trainer, and assistant(s) like Beyoncé. Your 24 hours are not the same. I say this to remind you to give yourself a break when life feels overwhelming! Remember that you don’t have to do this all on your own, and your professors will understand if you need extensions or support. Balancing school and work isn’t easy, but it can be done. But when it all feels like it’s too much, give yourself the space to take a step back and let something go.

How Social Justice Oriented is Heller? Andrea Shares Her Thoughts

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Disclaimer: This blog post reflects my personal views and experience in Heller’s MPP program. I cannot guarantee that it reflects the experience of all students of color throughout all Heller programs.

As a Graduate Assistant in the Admissions Office and a current student in the Masters of Public Policy program, I have the pleasure of interviewing many prospective MPP students. What’s interesting is that you all want to know one thing: Is Heller really the social justice school it claims to be? As a Black student and active rabble-rouser in the MPP program, I know the answer to this question very well: Yes.

First, let me be real with you, Heller is not perfect. There is a serious lack of diversity among staff and faculty that has been acknowledged by Heller leadership and is being addressed. The diversity within the MPP program is also lacking. However, this has increased every year during the past 3-5 years, which gives me hope. Both of these issues can easily lead to students only learning from a white, liberal perspective. To counteract this in the short-term, professors are transforming their syllabi to reflect a greater diversity of perspectives. It’s apparent by the way Heller addresses its shortcomings that, through all of its faults, this school still holds true to its motto of “Knowledge Advancing Social Justice.”

I’ve been blown away by the awareness of those whom I have encountered on staff and faculty regarding racial and economic disparities within America. (Note: The MPP program mainly uses a national lens. I cannot speak for the SID, COEX, or GHPM programs, but I would hope that they are just as aware.) Yet as good-intentioned and—for lack of a better term—woke as Heller staff and faculty are, intentions do not always reflect impact. For all of their awareness, they can still be blind to how these disparities affect their students.

The Fall 2020 semester was mentally and emotionally exhausting for many of us at Heller. I saw that this was particularly apparent among the students of color within my first-year cohort. Not only were our families and communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also had to continually watch people who looked like us be killed by the police with little to no retribution. Moreover, we had to discuss these topics and other forms of oppression during class as if we weren’t personally affected by them. It was exhausting.

Our professors’ intent was to shed light on the drastic disparities experienced by people of color in America. Yet their impact was an endless stream of emotionally draining conversations, that, while important to have, are not easy for those with lived experiences to walk away from. It’s not easy for us to turn off these topics in our head and focus on normal coursework. Heller needed to understand this.

The students of color throughout Heller’s MPP program came together that semester to write a letter to Heller leadership requesting more support from faculty and staff, such as: providing more spaces for us to heal together, in-class acknowledgment of our lived experiences, safe pathways for students to vocalize their needs, and more. To our surprise, Heller leadership responded immediately and worked with us to implement the changes we requested. We felt seen and heard by those in positions of power. There is still much work to be done, but that experience was confirmation that we had chosen the right school, a school whose commitment to advancing social justice stands firm, even if it has to reevaluate its own system to do so.

How to Get Ready for Grad School in Less Than an Hour a Day: A Guide by Andrea Tyree

 

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Preparing for graduate school can feel overwhelming. After the high of acceptance passes, you’re hit with some tough questions Where will I live? How will I pay for it all? Am I ready for class discussions?

Personally, that last question hit me hard. I worried that I wouldn’t be as politically savvy or knowledgeable as my classmates. Now half a year in, I can assure my past self—and you—that you are fine. Chances are, if you’ve made it into one of Heller’s graduate programs, you know enough about the issues within your field to get by. But if you’re like me and want to be as prepared as possible, do it in the least stressful way: listen to podcasts.

Okay, I know at least 25% of you just rolled your eyes cause it’s 2021 and podcasts are done to death. I know, I know, I know… But that’s also what makes them so great! No matter what you’re interested in, there’s a podcast for it. Need to up your financial game? There’s a podcast for that. Want to better understand race relations? There’s a podcast for that. Want to watch The Office while you’re driving? There’s a podcast for that (and it’s fantastic).

So if you’re looking to prep for grad school by catching up on current events, history, politics, breakthroughs in medicine or science, or anything else, try listening to a podcast in your spare time! With the help of some of my classmates, I’ve put together a starter list of useful podcasts for incoming and current students:


  1. Up First by NPR

I recommend this for anyone who feels like they don’t have enough time in their day. This 10-15 minute NPR podcast is a great listen while you’re getting ready in the morning. It reviews some of the top (usually national) news stories that will help you feel prepared for that 9:00 am class.

  1. Today, Explained by Vox AND/OR The Daily by The New York Times AND/OR Pod Save America by Crooked Media

If you want a deeper dive into current issues (or hear about more than 3 topics), then any of these podcasts are great alternatives. The episodes run a bit longer (~30 min to 1 hour), but if you want to hear a thorough breakdown of the news, these are three podcasts I recommend.

  1. Worldly by Vox AND/OR Global News Podcast by BBC

Tired of hearing only about American politics? Want to stay on top of what’s going on in the rest of the world? Check out one of these podcasts! Worldly deep dives into the issues by placing them in the context of history and politics, while Global News provides daily updates on various issues.

  1. Justice in America by The Appeal

If you’re interested in criminal justice, then this is the podcast for you. It covers a wide range of topics within the criminal justice system and examines each piece’s impact on impoverished communities and communities of color.

  1. Code Switch by NPR

Truly one of the best podcasts out there. It explains how race affects everything, provides a platform for the most marginalized and underrepresented to speak their truth, and puts it all into a digestible format. If you’ve been wondering how to be a better ally to people of color or understand how their struggles affect all of us, then this podcast is for you.

  1. Adulting by WNYC Studios

Okay this isn’t a serious podcast about politics, social issues, or current events, but I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning one of the most hilarious podcasts out there (imo). If you need a good laugh, want to feel seen as a struggling grad student/adult, or just need a distraction from the state of the world, this podcast is for you. Plus, if you’re not a Michelle Buteau stan, what are you doing?

Andrea’s 2021 Resolutions

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Lately, I haven’t even attempted to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve had too many years of making grand commitments on January 1st, and by April I can’t even remember what I was supposed to do. I find starting a New Year’s resolution in March to be much more effective. Don’t ask me why. Something about March makes me want to change my life…

But for the sake of grad school (and this blog), this year I will try again! If I learned anything from my first semester, it’s that graduate school can take over your life. It’s easy to let hobbies, self-care, and even old friends fall by the wayside when you’re diving head first into academia. And if you’re one of the many graduate students who also has a job or a child (or both!), then there’s really not much time for anything else.

I’m making these resolutions with us in mind. It’s easy to let the world pass us by while trying to simultaneously get a degree and keep our lives together. Yet we have to remember (and honestly, I’m just talking to myself here) to dedicate time to activities that make us happy, relax us, and overall keep us sane. Who has time for that mid-semester mental breakdown anyway?! Here are my resolutions that (hopefully) will help prevent that:


  1. Spend at least 1 hour every day away from the screens

What a sad goal to start with. But committing at least one consecutive hour away from the screens every day is necessary for grad students (especially for those of us in Zoom university). Although we have to stare at our computers for most of the day, we don’t have to spend every study break watching Netflix, Youtube, or scrolling through social media. It’s fun and oh so mind-numbing, but our eyes need a break. I plan to spend this hour relaxing, listening to music, cooking, spending time with my partner, or doing one of the following resolutions!

  1. Call a friend, family member, or therapist every week

Now I’m not saying speak to the same person every week (unless you see your therapist every week… like me), but talking with someone who’s world does not revolve around endless assignments will help pull you out of whatever funk or anxiety grad school may have put you in. Plus your mother/father/old best friend from high school or college wants to hear from you. Trust me. (Note: this can also be checked off by speaking to a neighbor or coworker—about something other than work—for an extended period of time.)

  1. Go outside every day. Even if it’s freezing. Even if it’s just for 3 minutes. Do it!

That fresh air is necessary! Taking ten deep breaths in fresh air can relieve stress that you didn’t even know you were holding onto. Spending time outside last semester brought me pure joy. But I didn’t do it as often as I could have. This semester, I have a feeling I’m going to need that joy.

  1. Do something that makes me smile or laugh every day.

Sometimes we have to consciously bring joy into our lives. It’s easy forget about it with the responsibilities of work and school. This year I want joy to be a priority in my life. For me, most of the previous resolutions would bring my joy every day. For you it may be different and that’s okay! But trust, a good laugh a day keeps the anxiety monster away.


I hope these resolutions can help you too! Whether you’re a first-year, second-year, or newly admitted student, I think all of us could benefit from starting these habits. Happy New Year!

My First Semester: A Look Back with Andrea Tyree

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

With finals season officially at a close, it feels as though I’ve just awoken from an enlightening, yet hectic, dream. My first thought was: “Wow, my apartment is a mess.” But after a thorough spring cleaning (in the middle of a literal snowstorm), I was able to genuinely reflect on my first semester at Heller and remember some key lessons learned.

Like most students, I was worried about starting graduate school in the midst of a pandemic. Because classes were completely online, I chose not to move to the Waltham area and instead, remained in West Virginia for the semester (and if you’ve ever looked at the rent in the greater Waltham area, you’d get why). Yet I worried how connected I would be to everyone.

I also worried about the workload. The idea of taking four classes didn’t seem too overwhelming, but I had been out of school for about three years—just enough time to forget what it felt like to write a 10- to 20-page paper. Other graduate students warned me that I’d need the extra hours available during the week to keep up with the workload. Was I up to the challenge?

Three and half months later I can confidently say (pending final grades) that I was, thanks to some incredible support from my classmates and professors!

Whether you find a place right in the center of Waltham or 500 miles away, you’ll find that your classmates are there for you. My MPP cohort is spread out from one coast to the other and yet we communicate nearly every day. I mean, being in a classroom is nice, but have you ever shared real-time reactions and memes with your 20-40 classmates about what’s happening in class? It can truly turn some of the slowest guest speaker lecture days into one of your favorite classes.

Pro tip: Download Slack before graduate school and use the Newly Admitted Heller Facebook page to build your cohort’s Slack channel! You’ll thank me later, trust me.

On a serious note, being able to communicate with my classmates outside of monitored spaces was a godsend when I was lost in a lecture or missed a class. The kind of people who attend Heller are the kind who are willing to go above and beyond to help their classmates. We’re truly all in this together (cue HSM earworm) and I’m constantly amazed by the things that I learn from my classmates.

The workload wasn’t the easiest adjustment, yet it didn’t take long to find a study routine that worked for me. Remember: If it works for you, stick with, don’t compare it to others. Imposter syndrome is real and will have you feeling like you’re not doing enough real quick. Don’t let it get you!

But if you feel like you’re struggling more than you should, be honest with yourself and others. Talk to your classmates to check if you’re doing too much. Are you skimming most of the five 30-page reading assignments, or are you deep reading all of them? Are you finding 50 sources for a 10 page paper or a reasonable 20? We’ve all been there! I definitely have…but being honest and speaking about it with my classmates and professors prevented endless future headaches. Heller professors want to build you up, not break you down. Don’t be afraid to meet with a professor one-on-one to talk about where you’re at. I promise they (at least MPP professors) won’t bite.

Looking back, this semester wasn’t too bad (though I may be wearing some rose-colored glasses). But I know I couldn’t have gotten through it without my cohort. To the applicants and newly-admitted students, find the people who will have your back during this experience. Trust me, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

Heller Reading List: Andrea Tyree Shares Her Favorite Readings

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Recently, an old friend visited my apartment and, as I was showing him around, he noticed something peculiar. I have a stack of books on my desk, some I’ve read in preparation for coming to Heller and some for specific classes. Most of my class readings are online (invest in blue-light blocking glasses, folks) but there have been a couple I’ve purchased or borrowed (thanks Mom!) outright to really annotate. This particular stack included How to Be Antiracist, The New Jim Crow, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, and Hillbilly Elegy.

Noticing this stack, my friend stopped and laughed out loud: “One of these things does not belong.” He wondered why in the world Hillbilly Elegy was included in a stack of social justice literature? Why would professors at Heller, a quite progressive institution, have us read such a biased and inaccurate portrayal of the Appalachian region? (P.S. The new Netflix film is worse.)

“Because,” I beamed with pride, “we tore it apart in my Assets and Social Policy class.” I picked up the book and showed him the countless tabs I had placed throughout the book where I found faults in the author’s storyline and argument.

Now I know I’ve already written about my Assets and Social Policy course, but this course has some of the most enlightening and engaging readings. From learning about the cultural wealth and capital that communities of color have built as a result of systemic oppression (“Whose Culture Has Capital?”) to examining the role of gender-based violence on women’s assets and wealth (“The Role of Sexual Violence in Creating and Maintaining Economic Insecurity Among Asset-Poor Women of Color”), I’ve gained knowledge in this course that I’ll carry with me throughout my life.

Yet my favorite lesson focused on rural poverty—a form of poverty not often acknowledged in social and racial justice conversations—centering on an analysis of Hillbilly Elegy. I warned my classmates ahead of time, “Y’all, as a native West Virginia, I have to represent the thousands of us who cannot stand this book. I’m about to go in on J.D. Vance (the author).”

And go in I did.

Our professor, Jess, created space for a thoughtful and critical conversation on the narrative of poverty within this book. We analyzed how the author placed the responsibility of poverty on Appalachian communities, identifying it as a character flaw rather than the result of generations of systemic oppression, resource drain, and lack of external investment in these communities. We addressed our personal and societal biases against rural, impoverished America and discussed ways to invest in it.

It was one of the first classes where I truly felt seen and heard. I’m grateful that my peers were able to analyze and critique a novel that feeds into the negative narrative about rural America and, specifically, Appalachia. And I’m proud of how I stood strong for my community. It’s moments like those that remind me of why I chose Heller and excite me for what’s to come.

A Letter to My Future Self (to read upon graduation): Andrea Tyree

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Dear Future Andrea,

Well, it looks like we did it! We are finally graduating with a Master’s in Public Policy from The Heller School. Congratulations!

I’m not surprised. Well, I’m a little surprised. Let’s be honest, neither of us thought we’d make it through Econometrics or Economic Theory unscathed. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about our final capstone. But we made it, and I’m sure you’ve learned some incredible lessons along the way. I’m only two months in at this point, but I’ve already uncovered some surprising insights on police brutality and other forms of oppression through my research. I’ve also learned that it is both useful and encouraged to speak up to leadership when you and others believe that something isn’t right. I hope that you have expanded upon these lessons and they have led you to opportunities that I can only imagine.

I wish you were here now to answer some of my questions. Do we ever return to courses in person? How does the political climate affect our emotional and mental health? How does it affect the direction of our classes? Has the struggle of attending graduate school during one of the most politically and socially tumultuous times brought our cohort closer together? What future opportunities should I keep my eye out for? Where does my path lie after graduate school?

That last question is truly the most important. Where is this degree taking me? Will I continue my research by entering a PhD program, in hopes of one day becoming an expert on police reform? Or will I return to the world of nonprofits and grassroots organizing, taking what I’ve learned to help turn the needs of a community into policy? What if I took that one step further and worked as a lobbyist helping to create the policy that will impact communities? Or maybe I’ll spend some time in a local government department, gaining tangible experience in the sector of policy implementation? It’s possible that I could end up on any of these paths.

I have a feeling I know which one you ended up choosing, but I’m dying to know if I’m right! Sigh. You would probably tell me to relax and enjoy the ride. Smell the roses. Take in the scenery. All that junk.

Alright, I hear you. I’ll work on enjoying every last moment of this experience. At the same time, I’ll focus on taking every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the issues I’m most passionate about. The beautiful thing about an MPP degree is the ability to apply every lesson to your particular field, to truly build your expertise. I’ll continue to do that while you celebrate. And one day soon, I’ll catch up to you.

Enjoy your graduation, future Andrea. I’m sure you’ve earned it.

Changing the World 101: Assets and Social Policy

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

It’s a cliché, but choosing only one course at Heller to write about is tough. As someone who feared statistics, Applied Regression Analysis gets an honorable mention in my book. (Seriously, to all other prospective MPP’s who managed to avoid statistics in your life, your stats professor, Steve, has got you covered!) Yet I think it’s more important to take this moment to write a love letter to my favorite class, Assets and Social Policy.

When I tell you I love Jessica Santos’s Assets course, I mean I looooove it. For me, it’s a perfect example of why I came to Heller. Assets and Social Policy teaches you how to examine the policies, practices, and norms that contribute to persistent poverty, concentrated wealth, and structural racial inequality in the US. Doesn’t that sounds exciting?!

Yes? No?

Wait, let me break down some of what we’ve learned before you decide.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the income gap between men and women as well as between white and non-white Americans. But have you examined the wealth gap? Check out these stats:

  • White single women earn 72 cents to the white male’s dollar.
  • White single women only own 32 cents to the while male’s dollar.
  • The median income for White Americans is $60K; the median wealth is $110K.
  • The median income for Black Americans is $35K; the median wealth is $7K.

Are you getting an idea for the stark contrast in wealth? Wealth is the total extent of an individual’s assets and resources (e.g. savings, real estate, stocks, etc.). But intangible assets (e.g. networks, knowledge, aspirational capital, etc.) can contribute to wealth as well. If we truly want to tackle poverty, we have to address the wealth gap in this country.

And that’s just the beginning (literally day 1). In this course, you’ll examine how assets affect a person or community’s social and economic course, what institutional conditions limit or expand opportunities for wealth accumulation, how policies can perpetuate disadvantages, and so much more. You’ll even compare urban and rural poverty and gain some new perspectives!

Getting excited now?

One month in, you’ll apply what you’ve learned in class to your own life by writing your Asset Story. If nothing else, this assignment is a great excuse to sit down with family members, learn about family history, and even discover something new about your ancestors! As a mixed, Black woman who was raised by two parents with sufficient income, I knew I carried quite a bit of privilege. Yet, in researching my Assets Story, I learned that tangible and intangible assets have equipped my family with privilege for generations. I never considered my Black grandparents as having privilege, but their assets (e.g. property passed down to them) freed up income that allowed them to better support their family. In addition, had my father not had neighbors who were college professors, he may have never formed the aspirations to establish the first Black law firm in Charleston, West Virginia.

I’d recommend this course to any student at Heller, as I believe it applies to all fields and can even be studied in an international context. This class and professor, Jess, have challenged me in the best ways. I haven’t finished the course yet but if I could take an Assets and Social Policy Part 2, I would in a heartbeat.

Hello Heller!: Andrea Tyree’s Acceptance Story

A young woman leans against a tree, smiling.

Andrea Tyree, MPP’22

Fun fact: I accidentally ignored my Heller acceptance letter for an entire week. Ironically, this came after weeks of obsessively checking my email in hopes of seeing “The Heller School” in my inbox and months of gushing over the school to anyone who would listen. But you know what they say: a watched pot never boils. Needless to say, when I finally saw that name in my inbox with the subject “Application Update,” my stomach leaped into my chest.

So many thoughts raced through my head before I opened the email. My journey to Heller had been a long one. After obtaining a B.A. in Political Science from Howard University, I went directly into the Peace Corps, serving as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in East Timor. I entered the Peace Corps with hopes of finding direction in the human rights field. Yet my time in the tiny Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste showed me the immense impact of community development when led by the community itself. Though I cared about a number of human rights crises around the world, nothing struck my heart quite like my own community’s crisis: racial discrimination and police brutality against Black Americans.

After my time in the Peace Corps, I was determined to follow my passion and make a difference for my community. I came back to my home, West Virginia, and worked for an anti-poverty nonprofit, learning the powers of organizing and policymaking. I knew I wanted to continue my education in order to make a more substantial impact for racial justice and, luckily, I had a mentor who guided me toward a Master’s in Public Policy. When searching for the right school, my priority was to find a school that emphasized the impact of policy on communities. The Heller School quickly rose to the top of my list.

Yet it wasn’t until I visited the Heller School that I fell completely in love. A normal campus visit usually involves one (short) meeting and maybe a class visit. However, my morning at Heller involved a campus tour, three separate meetings with assistant and associate deans, coffee with a current MPP student, sitting in on a COEX class and viewing second-year MPP student summer internship presentations. On top of all of that, I was encouraged to organize calls with professors skilled in my area of research. Prestigious professors, like Anita Hill, took time out of their day to speak with a prospective student to brainstorm research ideas! By the time the application deadline came around, I had already begun praying for an acceptance letter.

Back to the infamous email: I took a deep breath, attempted to embrace the mantra of “everything happens for a reason,” convinced myself that I would be O.K. with any decision, closed my eyes and clicked.

“There has been an update to your application.”

…that’s it?

“Well, that’s anti-climactic,” I thought.

The suspense was definitely lost but my patience was rewarded as I went through the admissions portal to find my prayers had been answered. I was accepted… with a scholarship!! I’ll spare you the cheesy details of my reaction (spoiler: it involved jumping on my bed and blasting “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen) because it’s the reactions of my father and mentor that I remember most. The joy pouring from my dad as he gave me a bear hug and the tears from my mentor on the phone solidified the feeling that this was it. I had applied to other prestigious schools in the Boston area, but I knew firsthand that no school would share my values, and value me as a student, like Heller. After only a month as an MPP student, I still believe this to be true.

Protected by Akismet
Blog with WordPress

Welcome Guest | Login (Brandeis Members Only)