Tag: Daniella Levine (page 1 of 2)

Congratulating… The Heller Class of 2022!

This Sunday, the class of 2022 will be participating in the first in-person graduation that Brandeis has held in three years (the classes of 2020 and 2021 can join a Re-Commencement ceremony). This is an incredibly exciting time for all of us here at Heller, but for those of us in Heller Admissions, it also means saying good-bye to some our wonderful graduate assistants, including Hannah Lougheed and Daniella Levine. To celebrate their accomplishments, I’d like to take a moment to curate a “best-of” for both of them; below, please find some of my favorite blog posts by these two talented students.

Daniella Levine

Hannah Lougheed

Feel free to read the rest of Daniella’s and Hannah’s blog posts, and enjoy the coverage of last year’s commencement, where you can listen to student speakers from each of our graduate programs. Congratulations, Heller class of 2022!

Reflecting on my Letter to my Future Self: Daniella Levine

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

I sat by my window in my third floor apartment in Cambridge and looked out on to the street, at the rain ricocheting off the trees. I tried to verbalize Why Heller after a semester of online learning and the weight of a dreary day.  Now, as I sit inside the Heller building on a sun-filled spring morning, I am again lost for words, yet for a completely different reason. There are days when I am unsure of what I’ve learned or frustrated that I have to leave bed, but over the last week, amidst finals and presenting my capstone, I have felt nothing but nostalgia and pride. For better or worse, I have faced a multitude of roadblocks over the last two years. Some of which were felt by the collective community and others more personal. Yet, nothing has deterred me from my studies and my time at Heller. At first, I resented the pandemic for forcing me to choose a local school as opposed to leaving the Boston area. I now (job permitting), intend to stay in the Boston area for work, as Heller has provided me a community here that I’m not ready to say goodbye to yet (of course, unless you are a DC hiring manager, and then I am eager to leave this all behind!).

I am actually shocked to re-read what I wrote in early February 2021 and realize that I was so articulate about my field of study and what I hoped to accomplish. I did not know what I was doing a semester in, and while I am much more equipped now, I still do not have all the answers  (as I aptly surmised). But that is something I’ve come to understand over the last two years, there will always be a new theory, a proposed law, a unprecedented leaked SCOTUS decision that will alter the socio-political landscape. Well, hopefully not the last one… Regardless, Heller taught me to conceptualize the historical foundation in order to adapt to new contemporary issues that arise.

My commitment to gender policy has only intensified and I sometimes get dizzy thinking about the breadth and complexities of the issues. During my time at Heller, I have researched workplace policy, Paid Family and Medical Leave, pay transparency laws, gender-based violence policy, the Violence Against Women’s Act, queer anthropology, carceral feminism, and HIV-prevention policies. Within each of those categories, I have employed an intersectional approach— dissecting the impact of socio-economic standing, race, ethnicity, age, citizen status, gender,  and historical implications. I see myself as something of a gender generalist.

To answer some of the questions from my past self— Heller did in fact provide me a deeper and more theoretical/academic comprehension of contemporary issues to ground the work. I also feel more confident about my critical thinking skills.  While I did not engage too frequently with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office at Heller, I was a member of the Racial Equity Working Group (REWG) and helped to push diversity and inclusion on campus and hold the administration accountable, and I feel very proud of REWGs’s reach. Past self, I did take classes from renowned lecturers like Laurence Simon, Lisa Lynch, Jess Santos, Kaitie Chakoian, Brian Horton, Mary Brolin, Sarah Soroui, Maria Madison and so many more. And I was even able to fit in the Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing course with Larry Bailis.

My time at Heller has been invaluable and I feel so blessed to have spent the last two years learning at such a vibrant, passionate, socially-conscience, and diverse institution.

I am honored to be a Heller student and come May 22, 2022, I look forward to my next role as Heller Alumna.

Daniella’s Top Ten Reasons to Choose Heller

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

It was just announced that the Heller School for Social Policy and Management has once again been ranked as one The US and News Report’s Top Ten Social Policy Programs in the country. As such, it only seems fitting that I do my own calculations.  Here are my top ten rankings and how they play out in my day-to-day schedule as a graduate student at Heller (numbers in no hierarchical order)

  1. The Research Institutes: Heller has ten research institutes on campus that are each at the forefront of their fields. Many of the researchers teach at Heller, and many more present their work frequently on campus and in classes. I feel embedded in social change.
  2. The Professors: The staff and faculty are some of the most caring, intellectual, and encouraging educators I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside. They are so well-versed in their academic fields and promote  open debate, dialogue, and discussion in every class. Going to school in the midst of a global pandemic and publicized racial reckoning can be daunting, and not one class went by where a professor didn’t check in on our wellbeing, providing space for us to process collectively, as one community.
  3.  The Courses: The wide array of course subjects allows each student to find classes in their interest area. Every course  investigates each topic through an intersectional lens, employing a holistic educational system. Each student sets their research topics for each class, which allows students to study their concentration in every class and through an intersectional approach.
  4. The Atmosphere and Commitment to Social Justice: Heller’s commitment to social justice manifests in the students who attend. Staff and students alike constantly push for the university to improve and meet its mission.
  5. The Friends: I would be nowhere without my cohort– check out my earlier blog about my peers and the make up of people who attend Heller.
  6. The Only MPP Program That Requires a DEI Course: That title says it all. Based on student feedback, Heller decided to integrate a DEI course into the core curriculum for the MPP program. And starting in Fall 2022, every students enrolled at Heller will be required to take a DEI course.  I am proud of the students before me for advocating for this class and impressed with the administration for listening – but that’s on brand, have you read points #3-#5?!
  7. The Concentrations: Heller offers students many concentration to help inform and structure their academic journey. There is also the opportunity to create your own concentration if not one encompasses a student’s needs. Most of the concentrations are linked to a research institute, solidifying their institutional reach.
  8. The Leadership: The shared field experience of Dean Weil, our newly appointed interim dean, Dr. Maria Madison, and many of our distinguished lecturers enhances the caliber of our curriculum.
  9. The Aid: Heller’s commitment to support every student’s education can be felt in all of the numbers above. However, this is reinforced in its generous aid packages to students. Education needs to be more accessible and Heller is working towards making higher education a reality for everyone.
  10.  The Alumni Network: Being associated with Heller is like wearing a badge of honor. People are proud to be a member of the Heller network; alumni hire alumni, staff help current students, Heller advocates for justice. Being a Heller graduate student is one of the highest accomplishments of my life and I look forward to being an ambassador for Heller as I enter the professional world.

What Advice Would You Give To Your First Semester Self?

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

As my time at Heller is slowly drawing to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on what I’ve learned over the last year and half. At some moments, it’s hard to conceptualize who I was before this program. I was curious how my peers were processing as well, so I presented them with a simple question, what advice do you want to give your first semester self? Here is what some of them had to say:

“When it comes to exploring new policy areas, follow the fun! I know that a lot of us come in with an idea of what we’re going to do, but try to embrace the new and potentially unfamiliar places that your research and curiosity take you!” Adam Jones, MPP ’22

“I would urge first semester me to look outside of the program-specific classes to find other options that may be intriguing! Talk to second years to find out classes they really enjoyed and do not be afraid to look outside of MPP/Heller classes.” Hannah Orbach-Mandel, MPP ’22

“Trust yourself and the process; you got in for a reason and deserve to be here.” Sierra Dana,  MPP ’22

“I would say ‘get to know your classmates/cohort’ because I’ve learned as much from them as I have from my professors and they have been a great support system. ” Sasha Himeno-Price, MPP ’22

“This is pretty generic, but I wish I had stayed true to my interests and goals for the program, and committed to seeking out resources across Heller to explore those further. I found it easy to get sucked into weekly assignments and feel like I have not made the most of the larger landscape of people, research, sources, etc. that the school has to offer!” Lydia Slocum, MPP ’22

“I would tell myself that it is okay to not know your specific policy interest yet and that the program helps you figure all of that out – which you will.” Louisa Duggan, MPP ’22

“My advice to first semester self would be to prioritize rest, the work will always be there – Rose Farrell MPP, ’22

“Do not be afraid to ask questions and engage with your professors.” – Kerin Miller, MPP/MBA 22

Finally, I would like to add my own personal anecdote, some words I wish I followed as a first semester student: I came to Heller for gender policy, as you my have read in my previous posts, and when I first started, I was so intimidated by my peers who all had particular interests within their policy areas — and here I thought I was already ahead of the game because I wanted to study gender policy! Do not ever let imposter syndrome get the best of you and do not let yourself feel small alongside your peers. The impact you will each make is tremendous.

Why Study Public Policy?

Daniella Levine, MPP ’22

As I sit here, almost at the halfway point of my last semester at Heller, I cannot help but reflect on my experience. Instead of a sappy and sentimental post that I can feel bubbling to the top, I want to focus on the structure of the Heller MPP program and why this remains the right choice for me from an academic prospective.

To do so, I decided to go back to my statement of purpose. I wanted to see what I asked of Heller three years ago when I submitted my initial application and hold both Heller and myself accountable. Did we both accomplish what we set out to do?

“I have come to understand how little untrained professionals understand of the complexities of community work, which is the reason I am applying to your MPP program.”

After five years in a direct service role, I was ready to go back to school to enhance my skills. I had reached the limit of what I could do without further instruction and guidance, and knew that the best way for me to attain those skills was through a higher education degree. The work is multilayered and I wanted to garner the expertise to avoid burnout and frustration.

“What I am seeking is not just to mend the wounds caused by imbalance and injustice, but rather to learn how to identify, combat, and work to prevent these systemic injustices from taking root.” 

It took me a few years to confirm that an MPP was the right educational track. I played with the idea of an MSW or an MBA – but in the end, I knew the work I wanted to do was deeply  rooted in the policy realm.  I kept coming back to the old proverb: If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life. We need to address the systemic issues at play to ensure this man is fed everyday. A public policy degree provides the infrastructure for how to assimilate successfully into a policy-specific role in order to impart change.

“The ability to combine the MPP with a concentration in gender policy allows me to develop the skill-base necessary to impact a niche field. […] I want to explore the intersection of assimilation, gender, and the cultural socialization on gender normativity. I can study gender through a sociological or historical lens, but both paths feel too passive and retroactive.”

Heller’s academic structure encourages students to specialize in a specific area of policy. The program is constructed in such a way that each student receives an interdisciplinary education. I would not understand the intricacies of social policy without the integration of gender and race into the conversation. Heller not only promotes those conversations, but uplifts diversity as one of the school’s core tenants.

“Heller’s field experience opportunities and small class sizes are ideal as I have always been a tactile learner. Your program is the perfect mixture of purposeful work combined with the quantitative training necessary to make a difference locally and beyond.”

The class load, requirements, and design match my learning style and challenge me to be the best student I can be. Although I was initially afraid of the quantitative materials, I have found the work to be digestible and accessible. Each class is carefully thought out to ensure that each student graduate with the essential tools to excel in the public policy field.

“Heller offers me the chance to explore public policy in a community I have called home for the last five years with my desired educational track.”

Whether you are a transplant to Boston or a life-long New Englander, Heller is strategically located in a unique political arena. From local issues to national recognition, the Greater Boston area offers a plethora of avenues to explore the complexities of policy up close. With renowned research institutes and access to practitioners at the top of their field, you cannot beat the exposure Heller offers.

Professor Spotlight: Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Too often in academia,  you get stuck learning from a tenured professor who is out of touch with students (Netflix plug – The Chair). I attended a liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree, which allotted me the flexibility on the courses I took, choosing based on interest and professor ratings. So when entering into a more structured degree program, I was nervous about my ability to connect both with the required material and the professors.

I am about to finish my third semester at Heller, with a total of seven required courses under my belt and I have only good things to say about my time so far (taking into account that I completed six of those courses online due to the pandemic). Each professor adapted and modified their courses to support and uplift students while we were completely virtual, and have found ways to engage students who join class virtually during our current hybrid semester.

But I would be remiss if I told you I didn’t have favorites. Marji Erickson Warfield and Lisa Lynch have taken two subjects that many might cower away from and made the material accessible, entertaining and informative. In a degree that attracts policy-driven individuals, more tactical courses like research methods and economic theory can be daunting at the onset. I am in awe of the intellect and integrity both professors hold. Dr. Marji Erickson Warfield is a Senior Scientist and Lecturer at Heller. Her work is designed to understand and evaluate ways to promote the well-being of children, youth and young adults with disabilities and the adaptation of their families.  Dr. Lisa Lynch is the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at Heller. She is a Brandeis powerhouse and focuses her research on labor markets, unemployment, and organizational Innovation.

Both Marji and Lisa found ways to enliven subjects that might come off as dry and teach in such a way that makes the material not only understandable but demonstrate how it’s applicable to my professional goals. On top of their in-class work, they are wholly available to students outside of the classroom, through office hour appointments, events on campus and personalized emails with news or opportunities that match your specific policy interests. I have never felt like blank face in a sea of students; they go out of their way to chat in the halls and contribute to student-led initiatives. I am grateful to both professors for their inclusive teaching, and to Heller for prioritizing the hiring of such great faculty.

Pushing through Writer’s Block on your Statement of Purpose

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

When I wrote my statement of purpose for my Heller application, I was at first ambivalent and nervous. In general, I procrastinate – and to be fair, I usually use the time productively, to clean my room, or work on another assignment/project. But when I check my list and notice the only thing left is the one thing I have been avoiding, I know it’s time to hunker down and get to business. So when the time came to write my statement of purpose, the kitchen was already sparkling and my holiday gift shopping complete. When I sat down and started to write, I realized that while the grammar and structure would need work, the passion and drive were easy to document. The words began to flow because they reflected exactly why I was applying to graduate school. I had spent years in the field honing in on a particular interest area and when given the chance to verbalize why I wanted to obtain a public policy degree, the words were already there.

We are drawn to this work for a reason and we choose to take time out of the workforce to better equip ourselves to make a difference. Do not discredit your rationale, your drive, and your commitment to social justice – that is what has brought you to this page and can carry you through the application process.

Here are some tips and tricks if you’re feeling stuck:

  1. It’s okay to take breaks while writing. Walk around, get a snack, close the computer and come back to it the next day. Go at a pace that works for you and do not let frustration or pressure limit you.
  2. Have someone read over your application and personal statement. Regardless of your writing comprehension, a second pair of eyes always helps. Additionally, push your reader for constructive criticism – no piece is perfect and there must be at least one thing that could use revision.
  3. Do not try to write towards an assumed perspective – this is your chance to express yourself and your unique view … that’s exactly what we want to see!
  4. You are allowed to recycle your statement of purpose. While we hope you choose to apply to Heller, we know that we may not be the only school on your list. Do not hesitate to use portions of other statements while constructing your essay. But make sure to include why Heller is the right fit for you. Your reasons for applying to schools may be similar – but why us specifically? Show you’ve done your homework and share what makes Heller stand out for you.

Need a break or snack between classes? Daniella has you covered!

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Due to the pandemic, I began my time at Heller in the virtual classroom. Now that we are back in person, I am excited to take advantage all that school has to offer, and that includes finding the best spots for food and otherwise! I have lived in the greater Boston area for five years, and beyond a few scattered visits to Brandeis in the past to see friends or go on a campus tour, I have not spent a considerable amount of time in Waltham. I am eager to add new eateries and locations to my repertoire. Instead of starting from scratch, I crowdsourced with my colleagues to learn more about Brandeis/Waltham and hear about places that are special to them. I compiled a list for myself and now want to share their recommendations with you. Whether you are new to Waltham or have lived here for years, it’s always nice to have some suggestions to look back on. I hope this will help you as much as it’s helped me during my first few months at Heller!

Favorite place to pick up a quick bite between classes:

“I love the sandwiches at South Street Market. Their bread is fresh and the people working there are always so kind” – Amelia MPP ’22

“I like getting lunch at Tree Top Thai. Their Thai food is always super yummy and enough for leftovers too plus they write your name in beautiful handwriting on the to-go bags” – Hannah MPP ’22

The Prime Deli. Period, end of story” – Sierra MPP ’22

Leo’s Place Diner! Great food and lovely owners. It always feels like home” – Louisa MPP ’22

Molti on Moody for delicious sandwiches!!” – Lydia MPP ’22

Cafe on the Common has great coffee and wifi and it’s not too far from campus. It’s a good place study for a few hours if you need a change of scenery!” – Paulina MPP ’22

“I love grabbing groceries at the Waltham Indian Market, they have everything you can imagine and need!!” – Mariela MPP ’22

Favorite place on campus: 

“Brandeis has some great views of Boston. I love to take a moment outside to appreciate the scenery between classes. I highly recommend the outdoor area of the science center and the lawn in front of the skyline for the best views” – Kerin MPP/MBA ’22

“The balcony of the Shapiro Science Center has one of the most beautiful views on campus, especially when the weather is warm and the trees are green!” – Adam MPP ’22

If you find yourself in Waltham, for a visit, a campus tour, or school, please leave a comment of what you did or where you ate so we can keep growing the list. I’ll add that in addition to the places mentioned above, I love Taqueria Mexico. The food is delicious and affordable. What keeps me coming back is the staff, who are so friendly and accommodating.

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.”

When It All Starts to Make Sense

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

*This may be true of other graduate school programs, but as I am enrolled at Heller, I write under the assumption that this is special to the Heller curriculum.*

People who go back to school must have an affinity for learning. Or at least those who choose to go back to school for a higher degree in social sciences. To take time off from income-earning to invest in education is not a lightly made decision.  And yes, in many cases the degree is beneficial and necessary to excel in the workforce. Yet, it is not guaranteed that higher education equates to higher pay. So that loops us back to – people who go back to school must have an affinity for learning.

For me, the return to school full-time brought some fear and anxiety, but overall I felt comfort and joy. Previously, when I would engage in study groups or one-off lectures, I always left feeling inspired with a yearning for more. I missed being intellectually challenged. I missed the debate and dialogue that sometimes only an academic event evokes. So my return almost felt imminent.

In undergrad, my academic path felt scattered. I enrolled in a slew of courses that seemed interesting that also fulfilled my core curriculum. However, there did not seem to be a congruent theme each year, let alone every semester that linked all of my areas of study.  So when I started to experience deja vu in my Heller courses, I was at first shocked. My course readings seemed to blend together. The lectures started to feel familiar.  I began to recognize components of my studies in my everyday life.  The work I was doing in my applied regression class helped clarify my readings in research methods. The theories discussed in my policy analysis class underpinned the teachings in my contemporary issues in gender policy course. Instead of accepting this fluidity at face value, I questioned and doubted it. It did not seem possible that I could actually identify core concepts in different classes let alone find ways to coherently employ them through interdisciplinary action. And then when I realized this was not a fluke or some construed imposter syndrome, it all started to click.

The Heller MPP program‘s curriculum design fosters accessible education, which promotes applicable learning. Each course structure enables the student to build upon the course material not just within the designated class, but throughout their time at Heller. No class, concept, or curriculum exists in a chasm. This cohesion reinforces each new idea and on a personal note, helps me to feel more confident in my skills, aptitude, and intellect. I am proud of my academic growth and I am indebted to Heller for pushing me to see beyond the class schedule binary.

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