Tag: Community (page 1 of 3)

Event Recap: Gender Working Group Open Mic Night

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

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

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

The Heller Student Association

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing out the First Semester of Grad School

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

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

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

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

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

A Self-Care Weekend Away

Hannah Plumb headshot

Hannah Plumb, MA SID’22

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

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

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

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

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

Boston in the Fall

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Trivia time! Name this song:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Thanks

My mom called me last night absolutely frantic. Even though I told her last week that my fiancé and I would be coming to visit, I guess it took a while for it to sink in that she’d have to plan what we’d eat for Thanksgiving. Here’s the catch: both my fiancé and I are pescatarians (meaning we don’t eat any meat except for fish and seafood), so no turkey, no ham, and nothing with bacon. I spent the next thirty minutes reassuring her that it really didn’t matter to either of us what we ate and that we were just happy to have the time to spend with her and a much-needed break from work.

Especially in comparison to last year’s Thanksgiving, where I almost didn’t visit her because I was afraid of inadvertently affecting her, it strikes me that the idea of having a day set aside to celebrate with your family and friends and to share what we’re grateful for is really pretty special. As unsavory as I find the history and the food surrounding the holiday, the sentiment is a good one. So with that, here are some things I’m grateful for this year:

Our new blog writers. This time last year, we had three graduate student assistants writing for the blog, and now we have almost double that. One of our very first blog writers, Doug Nevins, is still with us (although he’s graduating this semester!), but we’ve had some great student workers contribute to the blog over the past year, and I love getting to read their individual stories and learn about their experiences at Heller. Especially now, when the office is still running on a hybrid schedule, I feel like I’ve gotten to know our graduate assistants really well through this blog. Which reminds me…

Being back on campus (at least part-time). Oh no, is that cheesy? Even if it is, it’s true and I have to give credit where credit is due. I had only been at Heller for seven months when the pandemic forced us to move to work from home, and it would have been so easy for me to feel isolated and disconnected if not for my amazing co-workers. Even now, when we’re still working on a hybrid schedule, we still take the time to check in with each other. And for the two days a week I am on campus, it’s such a pleasure to get to see other staff members and faculty I hadn’t seen in more than a year. I also find the view of the changing autumn leaves through the windows of the Zinner forum incredibly beautiful, and am happy to be back on campus to enjoy the foliage.

The re-release of Taylor Swift’s Red album. One of the things that I love about Brandeis is that there are a variety of small walking trails that will lead you to a great view of the fall leaves, or an unexpected piece of art hidden in the woods, or an outlook where you can see Boston in the distance. While I’m walking around during my lunch hour, I usually like listening to podcasts, but lately, I’ve really been enjoying listening to Taylor Swift’s re-release of her album Red. I know that may be a little bit basic, but it really invokes some powerful nostalgia in me and just seems like the perfect “fall” album.

For this post, I’m opening up the comments: I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for!

Housing in Waltham: Sharing a Space with Others

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

One of my biggest stressors when planning to move to Waltham (just outside of Boston) was finding housing. I think most felt this similar roller-coaster ride of emotions:

Emotion 1,  excitement: “Wow! Living in Boston will be just like in the movies. I want a nice 1 bedroom studio near the water, I’m sure my $800 a month will go a long way!”

Emotion 2, inquisitive: “Look at all these options… wait, when I enter my budget I can’t seem to find my dream apartment, what is going on?!”

Emotion 3, rational: “Ahh, okay I guess I will just have to opt for a nice big shared house with a roommate or two.”

Emotion 4, confused: “Wow, that’s not going to work either. Okay, smaller house with a few more roommates it is.”

Emotion 5, accepting: “Okay, looks like a small townhouse with 4 roommates will have to work!”

Emotion 6, nervous: “But what will living with 4 other people be like, how will I find them, how will they find me?”

I bring you to today. Real talk: I was not excited about having to live with 4 other people (who I did not know) in a small place when moving here; and, for many, their situation is like mine in which they are working on a tight budget and need to make every penny count. But let me tell you, IT WILL BE OKAY!

In fact, if you’re looking to build community, living with others is great. In my mind, I worried that I would have super messy, loud, rude roommates who made every moment home unbearable. But, my experience has not looked like that. Instead, I now live with 4 other Brandeis students who are wonderful. My roommates include another Heller graduate student (in the MBA/SID program), a PhD student in History, a graduate student in Business Analytics, and a graduate student in Finance. If I had opted to spend (A LOT) more money to live by myself, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy casual dinner conversations while I make my usual dinner of broccoli and potatoes. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the yummy smells that come with foods from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I wouldn’t have had others to commiserate with after a long day of classes.

If you are like me and feeling a bit apprehensive about finding housing in this area as a graduate student, let me tell you: odds are you will encounter some pretty smart, talented, kind and caring individuals in your pursuits because Brandeis seems to pull those types of people in.  There are also plenty of resources provided to graduate students to help you on your housing search. So, don’t worry and just trust and enjoy the process. Hey, you may even make some awesome new friends because of it!

Getting Involved through Extracurriculars

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Believe it or not, I had planned not to join any extracurricular actives in my first semester here at Heller.  I felt that I was somewhat overly involved in my undergraduate career and I wanted to go with the flow of school before I began to commit my time to other activities. Yet as the semester got underway, I felt I didn’t have many connections outside of my cohort and I wanted to get to know more students across Heller.  I opened my email one day and saw that the Heller Student Association (HSA) was looking to fill some positions. From my experience in my undergraduate program, I didn’t really want to join a student association as I felt they were never really for the students and there were always problems, so I wasn’t eager to apply.

But after reading the previous executive-boards’ (also called E-board) bios and the HSA mission statement, Heller’s HSA seemed like a team that wanted to serve the students of Heller wholeheartedly without any gimmicks. It seemed like a good fit so I took my chance and applied for the Administrative Coordinator position, note-taking for meetings and events while also serving on the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Senate as a Heller representative. I did not know what to expect joining HSA, I just hoped that everyone was open-minded, driven to meet the needs of Heller students, and friendly. To my surprise, the HSA team embodied all these qualities and many more. Even though it is only the beginning of our journey together as the HSA 2021-2022 E-board, so far we have been able to host a successful first Town Hall/ Meet the Board and also a Halloween Event where we provided games, arts and crafts, music, and good conversation amongst the students. In addition to our events, we have also begun petitions in support of Heller student parking and to re-open our favorite coffee shop in Heller, Starbucks.

At the moment, I don’t think I will be joining any other E-boards, but I hope to be able to make a lasting impact for the students at Heller with my team. Joining extracurricular activities in graduate school can be difficult when juggling academics, work-life balance, and home, but even if you do not join organizations’ executive boards, it is always good to remain connected with what organizations on campus are doing to enhance your graduate school experience.

Boundaries Help Me Have It All

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling a lot more fatigued than I expected. With the Jewish holidays coinciding with the start of school (read: two days off from class each week for the month of September), I did not really feel like I got into a rhythm until a month and a half into the semester. But even so, the workload was nothing new: last year, I decided to continue to work throughout my first year at Heller, I maintained about 15-20 hours a week of work for the organization I worked for prior to my return to school, as well as 4-6 hours a week with Heller admissions. Between that work, school assignments, and class time, I still found hours in the day to spend outside with my dog or even fit in a nap. So why does this semester feel different?

Being in person has afforded me many positive experiences. I focus better in a classroom. I enjoy the small talk class breaks and walks to and from Heller that being on campus provides. Yet, all of that on time is something I have not had to engage with in a year and a half. A luxury of starting school during a pandemic was there were much fewer social expectations and distractions to get in the way of work. I was able to do 20-25 hours of work a week because I did not have plans on weeknights. I could finish school assignments in a timely fashion because I did not have any scheduling conflicts.  I did not spend most of my days out and active but instead had to only be presentable for one three hour class a day.

I am delighted to be back in person and by the opportunities to engage socially, both with my peers and my friends in the Boston area. But I needed to find the right balance.  I spend some nights prepping for class the next day, where others, I am happy to grab a meal with friends. Graduate school is about compromise.  It is about doing what makes you feel more comfortable at any given moment. Trying to fit it all in is not ideal. The overload can be exhaustive and destructive.  There are times where I award myself a night off because I am at capacity for the day and need to listen to my body and my mind. There are other days where I  know pushing myself to finish a reading or paper is the best choice. The pandemic helped me feel comfortable setting boundaries and now I am finding ways to employ that skill in my everyday life and I cannot be my best self without the word “no.”

Back to school (Unlike ever Before) with Doug Nevins

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

Ever since Heller moved to remote classes in spring 2020, I’ve been looking forward to the semester when we return to in-person classes. At first, we hoped to return in the fall, then spring, but as the gravity of the pandemic situation became clearer Heller students settled into the rhythms of online learning, growing used to unexpected benefits like being able to engage in class discussions (or digressions) using Zoom chats, and sleeping until 8:45 for a 9 AM class.

Still, many Heller students, myself included, continued to hope for a return to in-person classes prior to our own graduations. In my case, I’m happy to be able to spend my final semester at Heller back on campus. I type this blog post sitting at the admissions front desk, a spot where I spent many hours during my first months at Heller, but had not revisited for over a year until just a few weeks ago. As today is a holiday, the building is largely empty, but on class days I enjoy striking up impromptu conversations with students and staff passing by the desk, and stepping outside to say hello to friends and take a welcome break from mask-wearing. Lunch time events, such as activity fairs and community-building sessions, have begun to take place again, and though we have not yet returned to the days when event organizers enticed students to attend events by providing free pizza and other snacks, Heller has hosted a couple “coffee with the Dean” hours complete with free Dunkin Donuts.

Being back in a classroom feels very different. There are aspects of the Zoom experience that I miss, but overall I find that conversations flow more easily, time passes more quickly, and it is easier to meet classmates in person, even with our faces obscured by masks, than as tiles on a screen. As a course assistant for an MBA class, I assist the professor in managing dual-mode instruction (in which some students join an in-person class over Zoom). It has been an interesting and fun challenge to troubleshoot classroom technology, and I’ve felt privileged to be included in meetings about dual instruction and to contribute feedback on successes and challenges. I have found that graduate school includes many unexpected learning experiences in addition to those indicated on course syllabi – experiencing the ins and outs of hybrid pedagogy firsthand is one such lesson.

Is being back on campus perfect? Does Heller feel the same? I don’t think it possibly could. The world, and all of us, have changed as well. But I feel grateful to be at Heller, a community that has stuck together and made the best of things throughout the pandemic period. Although some days I grumble to myself a bit that I have to get up around 7 AM and navigate traffic before 9 AM classes, as soon as I see a familiar, half-covered face on campus, or have an impromptu chat with a new acquaintance, I’m reminded how great it is to be back!

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