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.