Tag: Choosing the Right Graduate Program (page 1 of 2)

Financing Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

The feeling you get when you receive your offer into the graduate school of your choice is undeniable one of the best feelings ever! You may have been working on your application for months, recommenders may have bailed out on you, the personal statement began to look like a blur after too many rewrites but you finished it, submitted it, and got it. The next order of business is always “so how will I pay for this?” This can be answered in many ways, but for now I will just offer my own two cents.

For me, I was lucky enough to leave my undergraduate institution with minimal student debt because I was granted a full scholarship. However, unlike undergrad, I knew that it would be difficult to secure sufficient funding in grad school. When I started my grad school application process, I would search the websites to determine how schools would disburse financial aid. Heller usually offers at least a 50% merit scholarship to most students applying to their programs, though some programs may offer more. This was a green flag for me when applying because it showed that Heller did not want students to necessarily worry about the financial part, but to come in and be able to learn without the additional stress.

A few things I learned when seeking funding for grad school: First, I learned when searching for funding, you need to be specific in your wording. I would recommend searching for “scholarships for public policy students” or “scholarships for graduate students”, which would narrow the information down to my particular request, avoiding disappointment from “this is only for undergraduate students only”.

Second, I live by the saying “closed mouths do not get fed” and from this, I took the initiative to reach out to my mentors, former supervisors, or programs that I worked/volunteer for. This can be helpful because most jobs or programs have funding to support individual’s academic efforts; sometimes these can be free without any additional requirements or you have to fill out an application and work out a system to receiving the funds. If you do not advocate for yourself and work ethic then who will?

Lastly,  working and going to school can be difficult. I found that full-time or part-time work-study jobs to be beneficial. Note that most schools do not offer work study for graduate students, especially international students. Yet, even if it is not work study some on campus jobs are able to hire students directly to their payroll if the department allows for it.  I advocate for on campus or work study employment because they work the best with students’ academic schedules, they also are able to provide support and resources, and you may be able to score a job that fits your academic interests.

Seeking funding for graduate school can be rough but it does not have to be. Always reach out to the school of your choice and see what resources they provided to graduate students; if you do not ask, then you will never know and it can be too late. This information is sometimes public but not always, so it is important to really advocate for yourself and needs at all times when you’re applying, during your time in the program, and even after.

Applying to Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Applying to graduate school as a first generation graduate student is not always as easy as it may seem.  When I started my senior year at Boston University, I was on the pathway to become a law student. I spent all summer and most of fall prepping for the LSAT, deciding what schools I wanted to apply to, endless amount of GroupMe messages… it was all super draining.  Yet when it came time to write my personal statement I could not find the words to say why I wanted to be an attorney. Was it because I wanted to help my community? Was it because I will be financially stable? What was it? I spent the last  two years prepping for my journey into law school and now I can’t even say why I want to be there. I think I was turned off by the law school process. I did not understand the purpose of the LSAT when all the 1L and 2L says the LSAT has barely anything to do with your classes. I did not understand why I would choose to sit in a class discussing outdated laws. I did not understand the process for the bar exam. It all just seemed like a rigged system to me and I no longer wanted any part.

Once I officially decided that law school was not for me, I was right back to the drawing board. Well, what am I supposed to do now? I was set to graduate from BU in less than 5 months and I just shut the door on what I thought was my dream career. I remember speaking with a old supervisor of mine about my concerns: I told her I knew I wanted to help people but I wanted to make a everlasting impact, I wanted to be within the community making the changes they want to see, and that I was thinking of applying for a MPP or MPA degree. She told me it sounded like a great idea and if she could had gotten her MPP or MPA instead of law school she would have 1000% done it. She said to me, “I did not want to study law I wanted to learn the legal and government system to make it better.” From that statement alone I began thinking some more about my personal goals and the field I saw myself in. Once that became clear, I began my search for masters programs.  I had few goals for this new journey: find a master’s program that did not require the GRE (hey, what can I say I was burnt out from standardized testing), only apply for 5 schools, and secure a scholarship offer.

One thing I forgot about once I narrowed down my choices and began my application process was that in undergrad I had way more assistance. I had more time to polish my personal statement, I had more time to search for schools, I had more time to submit scholarship applications, and on top of that, I was chosen as a Posse Scholar, and they pretty much do all the work for you– all I did was show up to an interview and a few meetings. I was on a time crunch submitting grad school apps, finding recommenders, and submitting scholarship essays. Not only did I have to deal with being on a time crunch, I had to deal with the most hated question of college students, “What are you doing after you graduate?” I would answer, “Grad school” only to receive responses such as, “Why would you want to go to grad school right after undergrad?”, “What do you plan to do with a second degree?”, questions I honestly did not have the answer to and probably still don’t have the answer to.  However, my mentor, my posse, my friends, and my family where all very supportive of my decision to get my masters. They always wanted me to do what made me happy and I can not thank them enough for the support. Friends offered to read my statement of purposes, people always asked for updates and when acceptances letters came in I was showered with words of wisdom and encouragement. Most of my family never went to college and sometimes its hard for them to understand the challenges I have to face, but they never doubted my ability to finish strong. One piece of advice I want to give a first generation graduate student is that breaking generational curses starts with you and even when the road looks foggy, trust the light is always at the end.

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

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Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

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

Faculty background

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

Geography and professional connections

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

Peer interests

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

Flexibility and options

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

Matching Heller Classes to Skills

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Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skill/experience: teamwork, leadership, project management

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

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

Is the MA in Sustainable International Development Program Right for Me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is closed, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. For the past few months, I’ve been doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Today, we wrap up this series with…

MA in Sustainable International Development

What is it? Heller’s Sustainable International Development (SID) program offers a practical, skills-based curriculum that prepares students to promote responsible development in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions. The SID program has a unique and flexible program structure, with four different tracks including an Accelerated Track (where students can complete the degree in as little as 9 months), a Two-Year Practicum Track, Two-Year Advanced Study Track, and a Two-Year Concentration Track, so you can customize your program to meet your needs. Whichever track you choose, the program is designed to help students address inequities and injustice, reduce environmental destruction, and promote income generation through entrepreneurship and access to credit. Students will develop their knowledge of the root causes of poverty, gain scientific literacy on climate change, build skills for collecting and analyzing data, and improve their organizational, program, and project management skills.

Who’s it for? Our typical SID student has at least two to three years of work experience – that can be translated into real work, Peace Corps experience, volunteering and internship experience while an undergrad, etc. Our SID students all have different goals: some come into the program with a clear focus and reason who  want to excel in their passion or a field they already have experience in, while others come to explore what path of development they want to work in. There are so many branches of development work and our program really showcases that and allows students to find their niche. Our students are passionate, justice-seekers, hands-on, dedicated, not afraid to get dirty and highly motivated to change the world around them.

What kinds of classes will I take? In your first two semesters, you’ll take core courses like Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Development; Ethics, Rights and Development;  and Political Ecology and Development, while also choosing electives that match your area of interest, like Gender and the Environment. If you opt for the Advanced Study or Concentration Tracks, you’ll then get to choose from electives like Social Movements for Emancipatory DevelopmentEconomics of Education or Religion and Development. In the Practicum Track (which includes a six month practicum) or Concentration Track (which includes a three month practicum), students receive academic credit for their practicum assignment with organizations such as a UN agency, an international NGO, or a research think tank. Past practicum organizations have included Save the Children, Oxfam, World Bank, or UN agencies.

Where will it take me? SID students gain the knowledge, skills and tools at Heller to get great jobs where they bring innovative ideas and creative practice to the development sector. Furthermore, they learn about human rights, gender equity, inclusive societies and environmental sustainability—the values that we believe should guide development work, whether it’s in a large multilateral organization or a small local nonprofit organization. Examples of positions held by recent graduates (those who have graduated within five years) include Co-founder and CEO for WorkAround, Associate Reporting Officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Communications and Engagement Director for Sustainable Business & Innovation at Nike.  Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago hold positions like Venezuela’s Ambassador to Argentina under President Guaidó, a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, and an International Trade Advisor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How is Heller’s program different? Mainly, our vast array of faculty members with many different specializations and experience within development. It’s a high-touch program and students have very close proximity and access to our faculty, administrators, and researchers. Much of what they learn is actually outside of the classroom, working on group projects, competitions, research with faculty, field trips, etc. Not to mention the six-month practicum that the SID program requires for the Two-Year Practicum Track program. The Heller SID student community is uniquely diverse both in individual backgrounds as well as in academic interests; in a typical year, about 60% of our students come from outside the U.S., representing between 20 and 30 different countries (mostly from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia). Many of our U.S. students have worked internationally or served in the Peace Corps or military, while others have built careers focused on issues of domestic conflict.

Is the MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence Program Right for Me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is closed, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Next up?

MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence

What is it? Heller’s Conflict Resolution and Coexistence (COEX) program offers a practical, skills-based curriculum that prepares students to become responsible peace-building practitioners throughout the world. The COEX program has a unique structure, including a half-year field practicum, numerous dual degree opportunities, and the ability to concentrate in humanitarian aid or development. The 56-credit curriculum includes one academic year in residence (32 credits) followed by six months of combined fieldwork (12 credits) and a final paper, leading either to an internship report, a master’s paper, or master’s thesis (12 credits). If students wish, they can then go on to complete a concentration in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Management. Whether you add the optional concentration semester or not, the program is designed to help students learn to foster inter-communal and international cooperation in the face of tension and conflict. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing a range of fields, including social psychology, international politics, sociology, law, anthropology, and cultural studies.

Who’s it for? Our typical COEX student has at least two to three years of work experience who want to gain the tools and skills to solve problems and facilitate discussions. They want to engage in difficult conversations and synthesize different perspectives so they can manage conflict, resolve it and seek productive pathways forward.  Our program attracts people who are driven by peacebuilding and want to do that while incorporating cultural contexts and empowering local communities. Our students come to Heller with an array of skills and experiences, from military veterans and humanitarian aid professionals to Peace Corps members and grassroots organizers.

What kinds of classes will I take? In your first two semesters, you’ll take core courses like Responsible Negotiation, Responsible Mediation, and Strategies for Coexistence Interventions, while also choosing electives that match your area of interest, like Disaster Management and Risk ReductionWomen, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding, and Kingian Nonviolence and Reconciliation.  The following summer, you’ll have the opportunity to engage in a  3-month, full-time practicum that can be a traditional internship, the implementation of a conflict resolution project in the field, or research leading to a thesis. In the case of a traditional internship, students receive academic credit for their three-month practicum assignment with organizations such as a UN agency, an international NGO, or a research think tank. Past practicum organizations have included Search For Common Ground, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Carter Center, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and the International Organization on Migration. In their final semester, students write their final reports and have the opportunity to present their findings at a capstone event.

Where will it take me? COEX students learn how to analyze conflict, structure and evaluate interventions, engage people and partners, and develop regional or national specializes that prepare them to find amazing jobs in the conflict resolution field. Our alumni find work in governments, intergovernmental organizations, and international and local non-governmental organizations dealing with coexistence issues. Examples of positions held by recent graduates (those who have graduated within five years) include Co-founder and CEO for WorkAround, Public Health Advisor for the CDC, and Policy Analyst for the New York City Department of Corrections.  Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago hold positions like First Secretary for the Embassy of Afghanistan in London, Developmental Evaluator for Social Impact, and the Regional Program Manager for Africa and the Middle East for KARAMA.

How is Heller’s program different? The COEX program at Heller is unique because it is rare for a conflict resolution program to have courses in both mediation and negotiation, but we offer both to provide a holistic approach to engage in a meaningful and productive dialogue. The teaching model is heavily discussion-based, incorporating structured debates and simulation exercises as well as facilitated discussions that occur organically in class. The Heller COEX student community is uniquely diverse both in individual backgrounds as well as in academic interests; in a typical year, about 60% of our students come from outside the U.S., representing between 20 and 30 different countries (mostly from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia). Many of our U.S. students have worked internationally or served in the Peace Corps or military, while others have built careers focused on issues of domestic conflict.

Is the MS in Global Health Policy and Management Program right for me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is closed, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Next up?

MS in Global Health Policy and Management Program

What is it? Heller’s MS in Global Health Policy and Management program helps students to gain a holistic understanding of health systems, so our graduates can have an impact that transcends individual patient outcomes. Students gain skills and insights that align closely with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the WHO mandate for Universal Health Coverage — which means they learn how to make structural improvements to health care systems that benefit entire populations.  The core MS curriculum is divided into three main components: first, students learn the financing and payment systems involved in health systems strengthening; second, they develop the analytical skills that form the heart of any health system, and use them to develop policy briefs; third, they learn how to implement those policies in real-life situations. Students can also choose between two concentrations: the Health Systems Concentration and the Health Economics and Analytics Concentration (a STEM designated program), but no matter which track you choose, you’ll be able to complete your program in 9 months.

Who’s it for? Our typical MS-GHPM student has at least two to three years of experience in a health system, whether that means they’ve been working in a health clinic, an emergency room, or a private practice, and are driven to pursue a career where they will have a greater impact. They know which community they want to work with to make the most impact, and they’re drawn to the idea of creating social change on the macro level of the health care system. If you’re motivated to improve patient outcomes on a grander scale, and you want to learn how to implement a social change within a health care system, the MS-GHPM program might be right for you.

What kinds of classes will I take? Regardless of your concentration, you’ll take core courses like International Health Systems and Development, Introduction to Microeconomics in Global Health, and Intersectionality and Bioethics. In your second semester, you’ll be  able to choose to take diverse electives to broaden your knowledge or a cluster of electives within a thematic area to achieve greater depth (e.g. health policy, management, development, etc.). Some examples of elective classes include Healthcare Marketing, Management of Health Care Organizations, or Healthcare Technology. After these two semesters, you’ll be eligible to graduate with your MS in Global Health Policy and Management.

Where will it take me? MS students gain the tools and knowledge at Heller to get great jobs where they make positive, effective social change for improved global health. Furthermore, they learn how to evaluate health systems, how to conduct cost-effectiveness analyses and how to act as ethical, inclusive leaders among a variety of health care stakeholders. After graduation, MS students go on to work in a variety of positions (including government, nonprofit, the private sector, and academia). Examples of positions held by recent graduates (those who have graduated within five years) include Clinical Specialist for Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Technical Specialist for IntraHealth International, and Senior Health Financing Advisor for Palladium. Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago hold positions like Faculty for Global Health Service Partnership, Clinical Services Lead for USAID Bangladesh’s Office of Health, Population, Nutrition and Education, and Immunization Technical Consultant for Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center.

How is Heller’s program different? Heller is a top ten school of social policy as well as top ten for Health Policy and Management. We emphasize giving students the tools they need to make a lasting impact, like defining policy solutions for market failures and conducting a health system assessments. We put health policy at the core of our required courses. We go deep on topics like health systems strengthening and implementation analytics that are often covered only through electives in comparable programs. Our student body is incredibly diverse. With more than half of GHPM students hailing from outside the U.S., you’ll gain a 360-degree view of the world’s health care systems and forge connections with health professionals from every corner of the world — enriching both your graduate experience and your professional network. And, crucially, we give you the skills you need in only nine months, so you can get back to the field as soon as possible.

FAQs for Prospective Students, from Sami

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

As a Graduate Assistant with Heller Admissions, I hear from so many prospective students interested in studying at Heller. Often, they have similar questions to ask me about the admissions process and the Heller experience. I’ve narrowed it down to the top three questions I’m most commonly asked to help you to streamline the process of completing your application, to improve your application to Heller, and to make important decisions about your plans to study in grad school.

  1. Based on my professional/academic background, should I apply to Heller? Yes! One of the things I like most about Heller’s admissions process is that it is truly holistic. Instead of looking at just GRE scores, or reference letters, or grades, the Heller Admissions department takes everything into consideration. If you’re worried about a lack of professional experience, for example, or less-than-ideal grades during a semester of undergrad, keep in mind that we take into account the whole package that an applicant has to offer. We know you can’t simply be boiled down into grades or test scores, and we want to see who you are, and how you intend to change the world after your time at Heller.
  2. What should I write about in my statement of purpose? What you write about is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that we want to get to know you in a meaningful way through your statement of purpose. Tell us what inspires you to apply to graduate school, and what a degree from the Heller School will ultimately help you accomplish. Convey to us who you are as an individual, a student, and as someone who wants to make their mark on the world through positive social change. Tell us what you are passionate about, why you’re passionate about it, and what you intend to do about it.
  3. What is life like for a Heller student? Life as a Heller student is both challenging and rewarding. At times, your work load will certainly be intense. But all of us are 100% capable of getting our work done, and getting it done well – That’s why we’re all here! I simply can’t even describe how rewarding it is to turn in an assignment that felt completely impossible at first glance. Life as a Heller student is also about the community you’ll find here. The friendship and support you’ll gain from your classmates will be your most valuable tool as a graduate student. There will be challenging moments during your Heller experience, but there will be far more rewarding moments filled with accomplishments and a strong sense of community.

As we get closer to the 2022 application launch date (early September!), I hope these are helpful to all of our prospective students, and remember: you can always contact us with any of your questions!

Is the PhD in Social Policy right for me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is drawing to a close, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. Next up?

PhD in Social Policy

What is it? The Heller PhD curriculum trains students to ask critical questions about social policies and their outcomes and to conduct rigorous, creative research in search of solutions to persistent social problems. The PhD program consists of a small set of core requirements, allowing students to design learning plans that support a broad array of research interests. Students in our program major in one of our four concentrations: Health; Behavioral Health; Economic and Racial Equity; or Children, Youth, and Families. In each of these, faculty resources and research centers of the Heller School are used to enrich the academic environment and also provide opportunities for students to work on research, outside practical training, and broaden their career network.

Who’s it for? Our typical PhD student has between 5-10 years of work experience, although we do sometimes admit students with less experience if they have strong academics. They’re driven to make systemic changes in policy rather than work with individuals, and they’re interested in conducting the research necessary for making informed policy decisions. If you’re the sort of person that likes doing a deep dive into social issues and wants to contribute to the body of knowledge advancing social issues, the PhD in Social Policy program might be right for you.

What kinds of classes will I take? You’ll take 60 credits over the course of two years before moving onto the dissertation stage of your degree. Courses in the Heller PhD program fall largely into three ‘buckets’: theory, methods, and your concentration area. In addition, you’ll be able to take electives like Immigrant Integration in the US: Policy, Practice and PeopleFoundations in Social Theory: From the Early Twentieth Century to Critical Race Theory, and Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in Social Policy. From there, you’ll move onto your comprehensive exam and the dissertation stage of your degree, where you’ll select a four-person dissertation committee tailored to the needs of your specific dissertation topic. The committee members serve as mentors and guides through the dissertation process and always include a scholar from outside the Heller community (this could be a professor within Brandeis, someone you’ve worked with at another university, or someone working on research in your field).

Where will it take me? After graduation, about a third of our students go into academia, another third go onto work in research institutes and the last third go into roles within the government or non-profit organizations. However, regardless of what sector they’re operating in, most of our recent graduates are taking on roles related to research: recent graduates (graduating within five years) have job titles like Deputy Director of Regional & Community Outreach, Director of Research of the Institute for Health Equity, or Director for Behavioral Health and Opioid Stewardship. Students who have graduated ten or more years ago have titles like Associate Professor/Executive Director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation;  President of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate; and Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

How is Heller’s program different? Heller is a top 10 school of social policy, home to 10 renowned research centers and institutes that cover social policy areas ranging from disability policy to asset inequality. Heller PhD students concentrate in one of four policy areas (Health; Behavioral Health; Economic and Racial Equity; or Children, Youth, and Families), each of which is linked to a Heller research institute. The PhD cohorts within Heller are usually under fifteen students per year, allowing for increased interaction with faculty and facilitating tight-knit cohorts. Heller also provides funding for full-time PhD students for their first four years, including a stipend; at Heller, PhD funding is not contingent on working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Many of our students do work as TAs or RAs, but your funding package is to reward you for the work you’ve already done, so any money you make as a TA or RA would go straight into your pocket.

Is the Master of Public Policy program right for me?

Now that the admissions cycle for Fall 2021 is drawing to a close, we’re beginning to gear up for the Fall 2022 entry cycle, which means we’re doing a pivot over here on the blog: while we’ve been focusing on the needs of our admitted students for the last few months, now I’ll be shifting my focus to those of you who are just embarking on your journey to find the right program. Over the next few months, I’ll be doing a spotlight on our six programs to help you figure out if one of Heller’s programs is right for you. The second program I’ll be breaking down…

Master of Public Policy

What is it? Heller’s MPP degree has a more comprehensive focus on social policy than any other program, providing students with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective informed by economics, political science and sociology. Our curriculum lives at the intersection of research and policy that makes a difference — particularly in supporting vulnerable, marginalized populations. With a public policy degree from Heller, you’ll be prepared to analyze and create solutions to pressing social problems.

Who’s it for? Our typical MPP student has between 2-5 years of work experience, although we do sometimes admit students with less experience if they have strong academics. Our students are passionate about social justice, and either have work experience in a social justice area or have volunteered in something similar. They’re driven to make systemic changes in policy rather than work with individuals. If you’re the kind of person who gets really excited to talk about things like SNAP benefits and the political feasibility of a progressive approach to economic assistance, the MPP might be the right program for you.

What kinds of classes will I take? You’ll take 64 credits over the course of two years, with an internship over the summer between your first and second year (Heller even provides matching funding for internships!).  You’ll take required courses like Historical and Contemporary Developments in Social Welfare; Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in Social Policy; and Economic Theory and Social Policy, as well as electives like Balance Wheel of the Social Machinery? Context and Contention in K-12 Education; LGBT Justice: A History of Pride, Prejudice, and Policy in the United States; and Labor Income, Labor Power, and Labor Markets.

Where will it take me? After graduation, about half of our students continue in non-profit roles, about a third continue in academia or government roles, and about 10% continue in for-profit roles. Recent graduates are currently working as Program Managers for the Stonewall Community Foundation, Program Associates for the Health Policy Commission, Campaign Managers for Early Childhood Policy, Center for American Progress, and Research and Policy Associates for the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability. Alumni who have been out of school for ten or more years have titles like Director of Communications for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Town Administrator of Maynard, Massachusetts, and Vice President and Executive Director for the City Year Program in San José/Silicon Valley.

How is Heller’s program different? The Heller MPP has a more comprehensive focus on social policy than any other program, providing students with a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective informed by economics, political science and sociology. Heller MPP students concentrate in one of six policy areas (Behavioral Health Policy; Health Policy; Child, Youth and Family Policy; Economic and Racial Equity; Women, Gender and Sexuality; and General Social Policy), each of which is linked to a Heller research institute. The Heller MPP encourages and helps fund internships and fellowships between the first and second year of the program. In addition, many students have opportunities to work on projects in one of Heller’s research institutes.

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