Tag: Andy Mendez (page 1 of 2)

Career Center Resources

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

On the first floor of the Heller School building, you’ll find a couple of things. This includes the Heller Admissions Office, the Dean’s Office, and the Career Development Center. The Career Center can be an excellent resource in your graduate journey – if you know what resources exist and how to use them. Here is my advice for how to make the most of resources at the Career Center.

Schedule Mock Interviews

At this point in the semester, my cohort members and I are fully in the job and fellowship search process. Many of my classmates are seeking consulting roles and these kinds of jobs have a very particular interview format, which usually involves completing and presenting a mock case. If you’ve never had this kind of interview before, it can be very intimidating and confusing. Scheduling a mock interview with the Career Center is a great way to practice and get comfortable with this format before you do the real thing. I’m currently in the running for the Presidential Management Fellows program and the interview for this focuses heavily on behavioral and situational interviewing. Having a mock interview with career staff helped me practice the STAR method response format. I generally struggle with deciding which experience is most compelling for which question. Career Center staff gave me solid feedback that helped me determine which of my anecdotes were best suited to answer the questions I’d likely be asked. 

Attend Informational Sessions

The Career Center offers several information sessions a month, all with different focuses. The three types of sessions I’ve found most helpful are: talks with Heller alumni, overviews of fellowship programs, and webinars with employers or professionals in the sector I’m interested in. By attending sessions with Heller alumni, I’ve learned a lot about what resources exist on campus for students and how best to maximize my time as a student. Heller alumni also talk about how they positioned themselves for their next opportunity post-graduation. As a graduate student, there are a ton of fellowships that you may qualify for and that provide funding for language study, research, and professional development both in the US and abroad. Attending these situations is a great way to get a sense of which opportunities you may qualify for and to learn how to draft a competitive application. Lastly, employer sessions are a great way to network with professionals in your field of interest and learn about potential internship or full-time roles they might be recruiting for. 

Read the Newsletter

The Career Development Center sends out a weekly email newsletter. This newsletter shares upcoming networking events as well as active job postings. Even if you are not actively job or internship searching, it’s a good idea to briefly glance at the opportunities listed. I like to scan the qualifications sector for postings that look relevant. This gives me a sense of what employers are looking for and has helped me tailor my jobs and extracurriculars to better develop these competencies. The newsletter includes both events happening at Heller and in Greater Boston. The Heller events are normally doing the lunch hour and over Zoom, which is very accessible. The events in Boston are usually in the evenings when most people don’t have classes. Attending these events is a great way to practice your networking skills and interact with your cohort outside of a classroom setting. 

Evaluate Job Offers

Salary negotiation can feel scary even for students with a lot of full-time job experience. This can be even tougher if you are evaluating multiple job offers at once. Sitting down with a Career Advisor can help you think through the best ways to position yourself in the negotiation process and can also help you identify other types of benefits you may be able to negotiate either instead of, or in addition to, salary. 

Overall, the Career Center is not a resource you want to put on the shelf until a few panicked weeks before graduation. The resources at the Career Development Center are designed to support students throughout all stages of their graduate school career.

Social Entrepreneurship at Heller

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Even if you are not in the Social Impact MBA program, Heller students can benefit from participation in social entrepreneurship initiatives both at the Heller School and the wider Brandeis community. Social entrepreneurship events are a great form of experiential learning. They offer the chance to network outside of your cohort and provide a real-world forum for applying course concepts. I’d like to highlight the social entrepreneurship opportunities I’ve enjoyed the most. 

The Heller Social Impact Startup Challenge

This is an annual event in the fall semester planned almost entirely by current students. This three-day event brings together Heller students from all programs to form teams, develop their ideas with the help of mentors, and present their business concepts before a panel of judges – many of whom are Boston-area entrepreneurs. I joined this competition in my first semester, which allowed me to apply the concepts I was learning from Financial Accounting, as well as Leadership & Organizational Development. I was still very new to the Heller community, so this event also gave me the chance to meet new people and form connections. I originally came to Heller just for the MA in Sustainable International Development program but was encouraged by alumni to add the MBA. After completing the Startup Challenge, I knew I had made the right decision. 

SPARK

The SPARK program is run by Brandeis Innovation. In the fall, SPARK accepts applications for its pitch competition, known as SPARKTank. First prize and People’s Choice Award winners in the Heller Startup Challenge receive streamlined entrance into the competition. The SPARK competition differs from the Heller Startup Challenge in that it is open to Brandeis faculty, staff, and students. Judges have innovation as a top criteria. The pitch time is much shorter than the Heller Startup Challenge, so my team really had to challenge ourselves to be focused, specific, and deliberate about how we communicated our idea. Winning teams from SPARK automatically join the SPARK startup incubator. The incubator happens over spring semester. Teams meet weekly for workshops that help them hone in on topics like competitive advantage, customer discovery, and revenue generation. My favorite thing about SPARK was the cohort aspect. Our cohort included teams from the International Business School, a professor in the Asian Studies Department, as well as first and second year Heller MBA students. I learned so much from being able to hear what other teams were working on and what challenges they were working through.

Courses in Social Entrepreneurship

In addition to events, Heller students can also engage in social entrepreneurship through coursework. Students have the option of two courses – Global Social Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation – both taught by the MBA Program Director, Carole Carlson. Professor Carlson has recently authored an entire textbook with case studies on mission-driven ventures. In the spring semester, she teaches the half-semester course on Global Social Entrepreneurship, which highlights examples of social impact businesses around the globe. I really appreciated how the class encouraged us to be skeptical and question if everything that is labeled a social venture is in fact truly mission-driven. The course also emphasizes that just because a social impact is taking place, mission-driven ventures still must have robust revenue models and solid business plans to be viable. In this class, I was introduced to essential business tools for lean startups, including the Business Model Canvas and the theory of change. In this course, students actually form teams, develop a business idea, and present on their business idea as their final project. My team presented on the idea of an eco-grocery store in Bhutan that would reduce waste and create jobs for urban youth. The fall semester course, Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation, dives even deeper into these concepts and presents students with more domestic case studies. Other topics covered include competitive advantage, scaling, and financing social ventures. 

If you are even the slightest bit curious or interested in entrepreneurship, I encourage you to dip your toes in and take advantage of these opportunities!

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!

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!

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!

Andy’s Best Study Spaces, Part 1

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Across Brandeis campus, fall classes have officially begun! With a new semester (and for new students on an unfamiliar campus), an important question comes up – where are the best places to study? In today’s post, I will share my top three recommendations for study spaces on campus.

Best for Group Work

Around the corner from the Heller School building is the Goldfarb library. This library has an open area on the ground floor as well as multiple descending levels. If you’re looking to work with a group, however, the best place to go is the upstairs wing next to the Maker Lab. This space is much more casual and lounge friendly with couches and cushion-y chairs. There is a shelf full of board games if you need a mental break. There are also large group tables where you can hook up your laptop to a projector. The lower level of this space houses the Starbucks so you and your group mates can fuel up before or after your meeting. 

Best for Quietness 

If you’re willing to walk a bit, it’s a great idea to check out the Shapiro Campus Center. Most people go here for the Einstein’s or to buy school swag, but it also has a great study space. On the upper level, there is a small computer lab with MacBooks and desks that fit one-to-two people. This room has huge windows that let in a lot of natural light so you don’t feel like you’re studying in a cave. There tends not to be any talking in this computer lab and it’s high enough in the building that the noise downstairs doesn’t travel up, so it’s the perfect spot if you need a quiet space. It’s out of the way enough that you’re less likely to run into people you know – which can be useful if you’re a person who gets distracted easily.

Best for Spaciousness

If you don’t want to wander too far from the Heller School, the Schneider building has study spaces of its own. The areas my classmates and I have used the most are the breakout rooms next to the main classrooms. These rooms seat a ton of people and include both a whiteboard and a projector. This is great for practicing presentations or writing out accounting problems. These breakout rooms have large tables so if you are studying alone, you have the space to really spread out. In my next post, I’ll talk about the best study spaces off-campus.

Andy’s Second Year Fall Schedule

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

On August 25th, I will officially be starting my second – and final – year of graduate school. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed so quickly! As a dual degree student, my schedule this fall looks a lot different from my single degree peers. 

In the Social Impact MBA, the courses follow a strict sequence. Through this format, the concepts build on each other as we progress through the course load. It also means that we go through the core courses together as a cohort, building a strong sense of camaraderie along the way. In contrast, the design of the MA in Sustainable International Development (SID) program has a bit more flexibility and freedom. While students are required to take courses in required subject matter (Gender, Economics, Ethics, and Environment), students have a selection of courses they can choose from to fulfill these requirements. SID students also have the freedom to choose in what order they take these courses. This greater ability to tailor your schedule also means that you are less likely to be in class with the same students course after course. I’ve found that I need to be a lot more intentional when it comes to building relationships with students in my SID cohort. Another distinction between the MBA and MA-SID course design is the length of courses. MBA courses are almost entirely full semester, meaning students are able to get very deep and granular with the material. In contrast, most SID courses are modules – essentially half-semester courses. This means SID students are able to get exposed to many more topics, but are unable to do the kind of deep-dive that is possible in a semester-length course. Neither approach is necessarily better than the other – it’s all about maximizing the advantages inherent in each program.

This semester, my classes primarily meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9:00-11:50am. Earlier in the week, I will be taking the final two classes of my MBA degree – Human Resources Management and Evaluation for Managers (a module course). When Evaluation for Managers comes to an end mid-way through the semester, I will start Applied Cost-Benefit Analysis for Development Practitioners. I’ll also have a Friday afternoon class and, in the second half of the semester, I’ll have a Wednesday evening course. My Friday courses are Gender and the Environment in the morning followed by Ethics, Rights, and Development in the afternoon from 2:20-5:10pm. My Wednesday evening course will be an Introduction to GIS and will take place from 6:30-9:20pm – I may need to become a coffee drinker to make it through! 

The biggest difference between this fall semester and my first fall semester is that I will also be interning with the Social Innovation Forum! Since MBA students complete their capstone projects in the summer between their first and second years, students have the option of completing a part-time internship in their second fall. Although it’s not required, an internship is a great experiential learning and networking opportunity. Students who complete a fall internship receive both academic credit AND a stipend. The time commitment for the internship is about 10 hours a week and many, at the moment, are done partly or entirely remotely. My internship with the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) will involve research support for the organization’s new national leadership initiative. I’m looking forward to learning more about SIF’s approach to social change and networking building among nonprofit practitioners. Overall, I’m really satisfied with my fall course schedule and am excited for this next leg of my graduate school journey to begin. 

The Graduate Housing Search

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

Moving to a new area can be daunting, but also very exciting! In two weeks, I’ll be moving to a new apartment for my second year of study. All the packing, cleaning, and decluttering has had me thinking back to my original experience moving to the Waltham area last year.

I began very casually looking for housing as early as late January 2021. In that month, I added myself to the Facebook Housing groups, signed up for the graduate housing email listserv, and began doing some very basic research on the neighborhoods in the area, such as Somerville, Cambridge, and Newton. I began responding to apartment listings in earnest in April. At the time, I was in a bit of an untraditional situation. I was technically based in Chicago, where I was doing access to justice work with a legal aid office as part of the AmeriCorps program. In early 2021, my office was still fully remote, so I moved back temporarily to Morocco, where I had completed Peace Corps two years earlier. This move allowed me to save up much more money toward grad school but, at the same time, it meant I could not visit any of the Waltham area listings in person and had to rely on photos and video tours. To give myself an advantage, I reasoned that I would aim to do a summer sublet in the area. This would give me time to get used to Waltham before school started and would allow me to be on the ground to scope out other places for the fall should I not end up liking my summer accommodation.

One of the most stressful things about the housing search is how limited the housing is in the Greater Boston area. Many people will be familiar with the housing crisis that had been affecting large coastal cities in the US even prior to the pandemic. Given Greater Boston’s 118 academic institutions, every year students flock to this area for degree programs and internships. Simply put, the demand is greater than the supply. Starting early allowed me to get a sense of the type of housing available and what areas made the most sense for my budget and commute. In particular, I made sure to note how far each apartment was from grocery stores, supermarkets, and public transportation. The Branda and MBTA apps were really helpful for learning the bus routes. By the time I was looking in earnest in April, I knew roughly what I was looking for. 

To stay organized, I created a very basic spreadsheet. On this sheet, I kept track of the contact person (usually one of the current tenants, but sometimes also the landlord or broker), the associated costs (including monthly rent, security deposit, broker fee, application fee), move-in dates, number of roommates, address, and distance from campus. 

It was really easy to find roommates who were also graduate students at either the Heller School, the International Business School, or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences because they are also all looking for housing in the same area close to Brandeis. For me, this has been a great way to connect with people outside of my program. 

My biggest piece of advice is this – although housing is limited, you should not feel pressured to take the first thing you find. If you start early enough, you will end up having a few different options to choose between. This will make sure you find accommodation that is really right for you, rather than having to commit to something unsuitable out of desperation. With a little preparation, you can find a great new place to call home.

Get Involved! The Value of Student Working Groups

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

A university is not only defined by its ranking, degree programs, or faculty members. It is also defined by the quality and vibrancy of its campus community. When I was in undergrad, I worked 31 hours a week in the EdTech department. While I absolutely loved this experience, working this many hours as a full-time student meant that I did not have as much of a chance to become involved in the many student organizations on campus. Coming to Heller for graduate school gave me a second chance to get involved in the campus community. 

To understand the landscape of graduate student working groups, I attended a variety of info sessions, as well as the Fall Student Groups Fair held in the Zinner forum. At this fair, e-board (Executive Board) members from active student groups set up a table and talked with attendees about their working group’s mission, activities, and plans for the semester. All the groups had such good energy and were involved in really interesting initiatives. I left the fair wishing there were enough hours in the day to be a part of every group! 

During the lunchtime hour sometime later, I attended a follow-up info session with the Brandeis University Africa Forum (BUAF) which was led by two MBA/SID second year students, one of whom had been my TA for the summer Quantitative Fundamentals course. BUAF is a working group of African students and other members of Heller’s community who are interested in African history and the continent’s socio-economic development. Their mission is to coordinate cultural, professional, and social events to provide learning experiences, expand partnerships, and foster a sense of community on campus. I was immediately energized by the BUAF mission. A few weeks later, I was elected as Secretary and my tenure on BUAF’s e-board began! 

Although I’m a dual MBA/SID student, I have only been taking one SID class a semester. This means I have not had nearly as much interaction with members of my SID cohort as I have had with students in the MBA program, who I am in the majority of classes with. Being a part of BUAF has allowed me to connect and build relationships with not only other SID students, but with graduate students from other programs who I might otherwise not have had any interactions with. BUAF allowed me to learn from other professionals who’d worked and studied on the continent. By organizing a dialogue series in collaboration with my fellow e-board members Peter Masue, Shiko Rugene, Martin Alexis and Nush Laywhyee, BUAF was able to create space for dynamic, social impact-oriented conversations about current events and their impact on the continent. So far, our Africa Speaks sessions have covered such topics as the political and economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on Africa and the military conflicts in Sudan and Burkina Faso. 

By far, the most rewarding aspect of my time with BUAF has been being able to experience the richness of multiple communities, including the larger graduate population at Brandeis, my fellow Heller students, and especially the black, African, and diasporic presence on campus. As a school with Jewish roots, the African community and student body may not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you think of Brandeis. However, the work of BUAF is helping people recognize and appreciate that this community is here. It’s active and warm and vibrant and deeply engaged in the work of creating a space outside of classes where students can connect, support each other, and have fun together!

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