Tag: Sami Rovins (page 1 of 3)

Wondering What Courses to Take? Sami Has Suggestions!

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

When I first took a look at Heller’s course list, I felt overwhelmed by so many fascinating options. Choosing which classes to take is definitely no easy task at Heller, but to make it *slightly* easier for you, I’ve created a list of some of my favorite courses. I definitely recommend taking a look at these classes (or other classes taught by these professors) when it’s time to create your own course schedules.

  1. “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding” with Professor Nanako Tamaru was a truly enlightening course about the role of women in peacemaking processes. I especially enjoyed the structure of this class and appreciated Professor Tamaru’s ability to spark a fascinating discussion among classmates. I also loved our final project: An opportunity to write an op-ed that will ultimately be published on Professor Tamaru’s “Women, Peace, and Security” blog. You can find the blog and other examples of final projects for the course here.
  2. Professor Lawrence Bailis’s course on “Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing” is another favorite of mine. Each week, Professor Bailis would invite a guest speaker to tell the class about their experience and answer questions. Hearing from actual activists about their real world experiences in advocacy and organizing presenting such an insightful perspective. The variety of issues our guest speakers represented was enormous. We heard from participants in the Egyptian revolution, gun rights activists, American politicians, and leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  3. During my two years at Heller, I’ve taken three different classes with Professor Raj Sampath, and I really recommend checking out some of his courses. Each class has only one assignment: A 10-ish page paper on a subject of your choosing related to sustainable international development. I love the freedom of being able to choose my own research topic! Professor Sampath’s classes are very discussion-based, and we would often break out into smaller groups to talk about that week’s topic. The course introduced me to many social theorists and philosophers who helped inform my work as a peace-builder and conflict resolver.
  4. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I began Professor Lee Panas’s course on STATA software. I initially felt intimidated by data management and statistics, but Professor Panas has an amazing way of making his students feel comfortable and supported. STATA is a complicated and nuanced software and I wanted to add it as another tool in my tool belt. I also recommend this course because knowledge of STATA can be hugely helpful as you enter the job market. I now feel much more comfortable managing and analyzing data because of Professor Panas’s course.

There are many, many fantastic courses to choose from at Heller, and these are just four of them. I highly recommend considering these classes, but if that’s not a possibility, I certainly recommend connecting with these professors during your time here at Heller. Happy class registration!

Life After Heller: Sami’s Job Hunting!

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Heller’s 2021 graduation ceremony was such a blast to participate in, and I can’t believe it was just a few weeks ago! Now that final projects and papers are all turned in, it’s time for me to begin the job hunt. Searching for a new job can be very exciting, but it can also be totally terrifying. Here are a few tips and resources that I’ve found helpful to make your search for a job less overwhelming and much less scary.

Perhaps the hardest step in finding a new job is knowing where to start. Luckily, there’s a number of sites that list jobs relevant to many Heller students’ interests. I love the website Idealist.com because they have opportunities both within the United States and internationally. Their site makes it easy to search by location, job type, or subject matter. ReliefWeb and GlobalJobs.org are two other excellent sites for job hunting in our fields. These sites also list opportunities abroad as well as domestic positions.

The Career Development Center at Heller is an amazing resource that you should absolutely take advantage of during your time in grad school. From helping you write a cover letter, to providing interview tips, to posting available jobs and internships, Heller’s Career Center staff are available to answer all sorts of questions you may have. Every year, the Career Development Center also hosts treks to New York City and Washington, D.C. These treks are excellent opportunities to connect with individuals working at the organizations you may want to work with after graduation. I attended the NYC Career Trek during my first year at Heller, and was thrilled to meet with Program Directors at the National Institute for Reproductive Health.

Making connections is one of the most important aspects of landing the job that you want. Be sure to network among your Heller peers and maintain connections with your professors. This is another reason why the Career Treks are so meaningful. They provide a valuable opportunity to personally connect with the people you actually aim to work with in the future. Heller professors and staff also have a lot of connections, so it’s important to network with them as well. Of course, networking can feel awkward at times. But you can leave an enormous impression on someone by simply conveying your passion, knowledge, and ability!

Most importantly, keep a positive outlook! The job hunt can sometimes feel exhausting. But your hard work writing cover letters and resumes will certainly pay off. Don’t let yourself feel discouraged! You made it to Heller, and you’ve done all the hard work of graduate school. You’ve come this far, and you deserve to feel excited about taking the next step towards your career.

Facing Your Fears at Heller

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Over the last two years at the Heller School, I found myself face to face with one of my biggest fears: public speaking. I’ve given many presentations during my time at Heller, but I’ve always been a ball of nerves in the days leading up to each one. Yet I’ve challenged myself to tackle my fear of public speaking, and I have also found useful ways to cope with the anxiety. As I approach my final presentation, the presentation when I present my thesis, I can’t help but think of how proud I feel to engage in public speaking despite my discomfort with it.

Whenever I give a presentation, I always make sure to do my “power pose” right beforehand. This helps me to feel more assertive and strong. It might even seem silly, but from my experience, striking a “power pose” can help improve confidence. It’s a small act, but it makes a difference for me when I am delivering a presentation. In fact, many social psychologists describe the benefits of striking a powerful stance, and emphasize that it can be a helpful “life hack”.

I’m also preparing to present my thesis with lots (and lots and lots) of practice. It may also sound simple, but it is very true that “practice makes perfect”. It is important to feel comfortable with the material I’m presenting and feel comfortable and confident in the way I want to convey my findings and analysis. This, of course, helps cut down on my anxiety, as I grow more and more comfortable telling my story. Practicing my presentation with a friend also provides me with useful and helpful feedback. It is so helpful to do a test run (or two) before the big day! That way, you have some time to iron out any wrinkles that might pop up in your practice presentations.

It is also so important to remember that Heller is an environment in which your thoughts, ideas, and experiences are welcome. Your professors and classmates you are presenting to are eager to hear from you. They are listening with interest, openness, and curiosity. You will simply not find a hostile audience at the Heller School. Instead, you’ll be met with an audience who want you to succeed.

These are the practices I am keeping in mind as I approach my final presentation at Heller. Relatively simple acts, like striking a “power pose”, can make a world of difference. A healthy amount of practice is always my best route. And lastly, I am keeping in mind how receptive, curious, and interested my Heller audience will be to hear about my thesis.

Letter to My Past Self with Sami Rovins

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

As my time here at Heller comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what kind of advice I’d give to the version of myself who first came to Brandeis in 2019. I’d have quite a lot to tell her about classes, projects, friends, and new experiences, so I decided to write a letter to my former self.

Dear 2019 Sami,

Congratulations! You just began your time at the Heller School. You’re about to have a very meaningful experience. This experience will also be challenging, rewarding, stress-inducing, and so inspiring. Sometimes, the experience you’re about to begin will be difficult and overwhelming, but please remember to hang in there! Difficult experiences are often the most rewarding, and they will lead you to feel such immense pride in yourself and in the work that you’re going to accomplish. Remember never to give up, and that it is ok to be exhausted because it means you’re working your hardest!

Remember, Sami, that everyone here is in the same boat as you. Sometimes it’ll be tempting to think that everybody except you knows exactly what they’re doing. But don’t be fooled! All of your fellow classmates are learning and growing alongside you. You’ll receive so much support from them, too, and you’ll be able to happily support them back. As a group, you and your fellow Heller students will evolve and expand, personally, professionally, and academically. Remember that they don’t know more, or less than you do. Instead, you are all offering your very own unique contributions to your cohort’s experiences.

Please keep in mind how important it is to take care of yourself and make ample time for self-care. Rely on the emotional support offered by your friends at Heller. Meet with classmates outside of the classroom and give them space to tell you all about their perspectives. If cultural differences feel out of your comfort zone, allow yourself to handle the discomfort and learn from it. Your classmates are the best resource you’ll find here at Brandeis!

Lastly, 2019 Sami, never lose sight of your goals and ambitions. They’ll change, of course, during your time at the Heller School. Your perspectives will broaden, and your ideas will grow, and your capacity to learn will evolve. You’re about to have one of the most amazing experiences of your life! So get ready, you’re about to transform in all sorts of ways you can’t even imagine yet.

Yours truly,

2021 Sami

Sami’s Top Five Moments at Heller

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

As my time at Heller gradually comes to a close, I can’t help but to reflect on my best experiences over the last two years. Coming to grad school for the first time, you’ll have quite a lot to look forward to! And to give you a sneak peak, I’ve listed my top five Heller moments of success, learning, and friendship (in no particular order).

  1. Completing my Master’s Thesis. For nearly a year, I’ve been working on my thesis for my COEX capstone, our last project before we graduate. The final paper ended up being over forty pages long (!), but it took a great deal of re-working, tweaking, and editing to get there. I loved the experience of working with my advisor, Dr. Quintiliani, all of the academic support I received from professors and Brandeis’s research librarians, and of course the emotional support and cheerleading I was given from my friends in COEX.

2. Getting to know the area. I have enjoyed getting to know Waltham, Boston, and the surrounding area so much! After moving to Waltham, I had such a good time getting familiar with Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. As a big museum nerd, I was very happy to visit places like the MFA and the Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum. Only twenty minutes from Waltham are places like the deCordova sculpture park and Walden Pond. The greater Boston area is such a wonderful place to be a student.

3. Getting out of my comfort zone. At Heller, I’ve been pushed far outside my comfort zone many times. I’ve found this to be an enormous opportunity to not only learn about a subject, but also to learn more about myself. I’ve engaged in sensitive and sometimes uncomfortable conversations that I quickly realized were helping me to grow as a student and as an individual. Having fellow students’ varied perspectives has brought so much value and meaning to my time here at Heller.

4. The cultural exchange. Students come to the Heller School from all around the world. I’ve learned so much from people whose languages, cultures, backgrounds, and religions were different than mine. Thanks to the COEX program, I now have a best friend from Egypt, and as a result I often find Arabic words sneaking into my vocabulary and my appreciation for Middle Eastern food expanding.

5. Specific projects. I feel very proud of the work I’ve completed as a Heller student. There are a few projects that particularly stand out. In Professor Tamaru’s “Women, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding”, I enjoyed writing an op-ed on revolutionary Indian women that was later published on Professor Tamaru’s blog. I was also so excited to write a paper regarding various women’s influences on Malcolm X for Professor Sampath’s “Democracy and Development” course. In Professor Madison’s “Intersectionality and Bioethics” class, I had so much fun engaging in a group debate concerning the pharmaceutical industry.

My experience at the Heller School has been rewarding, challenging, and eye-opening. I’ve found my experiences here to be so valuable and have contributed so much to my growth as a student, a professional, and an individual!

Navigating Challenges in Graduate School with Sami Rovins

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Life can be interrupted when you least expect it. So what happens when grad school gets interrupted? Life events don’t pause, and life doesn’t seem to care that you’re a busy grad student. Whether you’re dealing with an illness or injury, the loss of a family member, or even a bad breakup, how can you make grad school manageable while dealing with other difficult life events?

I have recent personal experience with this. I had an accident which resulted in my tailbone breaking (ouch!). Winter in Waltham can be tough sometimes, and I fell after slipping on a patch of ice on one particularly chilly evening. In a split second, I was in a great deal of pain and discomfort. Shortly after, my graduate student fears began to creep in when I realized school would now be even more difficult.

I had to spend most of my time laying down, making it almost impossible to get any of my work finished. I could hardly sit through a 3-hour class or even a 1-hour meeting for a group project. I felt worried that maybe this injury would delay my upcoming graduation from Heller.

So, what would I recommend doing when life rudely interrupts your plans? In my case, I felt it was important to be as proactive as possible. I quickly contacted Sandy Jones, the Executive Director of Heller’s Global Programs. She is an incredible resource here at Heller, and she is eager to offer support to students. She was able to contact all of my professors to let them know I may need extra time completing assignments over the coming weeks. It is so important to have someone to advocate for you when you truly need it!

At Heller, I feel very lucky to have professors, staff, and fellow students who are understanding and patient when something inconvenient arises. Of course, I do still have that typical “grad student guilt” when I put myself and my health above my responsibilities as a student. Luckily, my friends and classmates remind me that self-care is a priority, and my professors have been so understanding when I can’t attend class or submit an assignment on time.

Life happens! And you never really know when an illness, injury, or personal tragedy might strike. It’s been comforting to know that at Heller, you’ll find a community of helpful and understanding people to help you through. Don’t feel shy to share with your classmates either! No one at Heller is here to make negative judgments about you, your choices, or your needs. It’s great to know that Heller is a tight-knit community of people who will be there for you when you need it most.

How Sami Rovins Manages Self Care (And How You Can Too!)

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

As a grad student, relaxation can sometimes seem impossible. I’ve found that learning how to relax and unwind is a skill that requires practice! And it’s such an important skill to have. Being able to unplug from school is crucial to maintaining your sanity and a sense of self. I find myself getting “lost” in my Heller-related responsibilities sometimes, but learning to relax and unwind after a long day of classes and assignments has been so valuable. Sometimes, I find myself feeling guilty when I “clock out” and turn my focus away from grad school. But it is so important to remember that taking care of your mental health and engaging in quality self-care will help to improve not only your mindset, but also, ultimately, your work at Heller.

Meditation is easier said than done, but in my experience meditation has been such a valuable tool for self-care. At first, I felt intimidated, but gradually I came to learn that meditation simply requires practice. One helpful meditation tool is an app called Headspace. This app provides meditations ranging in time from as short as one minute to much longer guided meditations. Taking time daily to center yourself and focus on your thoughts can improve your mood, which will help to improve your performance as a grad student.

I also recommend connecting with your classmates outside of Heller. Making connections that revolve around more than classes is so rewarding! Try to find other students with shared interests that don’t involve just your career aspirations and academic goals. A great way to meet people is through the Graduate Student Association. You’ll also be able to meet graduate students from other schools at Brandeis this way. Building relationships is another rewarding way of maintaining your sense of self during times when you might feel lost in a mountain of schoolwork.

Don’t forget to treat yourself! There are plenty of places to eat in Waltham that are perfect for a delicious bite to clear your mind. I love to stop by Kung Fu Tea on Moody Street to indulge in a bubble tea or mango slushee. Or you can hop across the street and grab brunch at another favorite of mine, a restaurant called In a Pickle. A bit farther from campus is another gem, a tiny Mexican spot called Taqueria El Amigo. Taking yourself out for a meal, or enjoying it with a friend, can be truly rejuvenating!

There are many ways to refresh yourself and clear your mind while studying here at Heller. My recommendation is to continually practice this skill. Relaxation and self-care are so crucial to being a good student, a good employee, and a good friend. Make sure to take care of yourself by unplugging and shifting your focus, because it’s too easy to get lost in school-related worries and stress!

A Week in the Life with Sami Rovins

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

The new Spring semester started just a few weeks ago, and I’ve got a packed schedule! I’m taking five classes during Module 1, a mix of required MS-GHPM courses and electives from different programs across Heller. It’s my last semester here at Heller, so I wanted to take a big mix of classes before I go.

My Monday morning started with Professor Nandakumar’s class, “International Health Financing”. It was great to start the week with a class taught by a professor with so much experience in the field! Professor Nandakumar also offered us some great advice: He implored us not to focus too much on our grades, but to focus instead on simply learning.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had the first session of an elective course I’ve been very excited about! The class is called “Policy Advocacy, Protest, and Community Organizing”. Professor Bailis made a great first impression — he was excited and friendly and eager to hear from his students about our backgrounds and interests. I’m looking forward to future class sessions because I want to learn how to be a more effective advocate for issues such as reproductive health and racial justice.

Wednesday mornings are for “Monitoring and Evaluation” with Professor Godoy. Having taken another M+E class last year as a COEX student, it’s interesting to see the ways in which this class is similar or different. I like the structure of the class: lots of breakout rooms and an ongoing group project. Group projects are great especially now, when everything is online, because they provide an opportunity to get to know classmates.

On Friday, I’ll have two more classes I’m looking forward to. In the morning I’ll take “Current Issues in Health Care Management” with Professor Gaumer. I’m excited to get more into the details of how to address and remedy problems that can take place in health care facilities. Later, in the afternoon on Friday, I’ll be taking Professor Sampath’s course, “Culture, Power, and Development”, another elective. Having taken Professor Sampath’s class in the Fall semester, I already know I can expect to get happily lost in readings about social theory.

Every student at Heller has their own schedule, and this is just a peek into mine. My days will also be filled up with meeting fellow students for group projects via Zoom, working remotely as a Graduate Assistant for Heller Admissions, and of course, I’ll be keeping busy with readings, assignments, and projects. Last but not least, I’ll also be working on finishing up my Capstone paper for my COEX degree. It’s so crazy to think that in just a few months, I’ll have finished all of it!

The Final Stretch: Sami’s Last Semester

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

After a year and a half at Heller, I’m finally approaching my last semester as a grad student. It can feel sometimes like I have one foot in Heller and one foot out the door. I’m still focused on my assignments and school projects, while also thinking about potential jobs and what my next moves might be. Do I want to move back home to Philadelphia, or try living someplace new? What kind of work environment do I see myself thriving in? What are the next steps I should take to reach my goals?

This is an exciting place to be in my life, but it is also challenging. It can be hard to stay focused and motivated when I’m so close to being finished with my degrees. I keep myself on track in a number of ways. First, I stay as organized as possible so nothing slips through the cracks. I do this with the help of my Google calendar, a journal, and many, many sticky notes. For me, it’s much harder to forget a task if it’s written down on a list!
To keep focused, I also make sure to find the time for self-care and socially distanced time with friends. In the COVID era, it’s so easy to feel isolated, which shifts my focus away from my school work. Seeing friends and engaging in self-care is just as important to maintaining motivation as keeping organized and on schedule. Spending time chatting in a friend’s backyard leaves me feeling refreshed and provides me with a much-needed breath of fresh air. This picks my spirits up, and allows me to renew my motivation so I can get back to work.
I also make time to think about potential future jobs, moving away from Waltham, and starting a new stage of my life. I find that it’s important to set aside this time, otherwise thinking about these topics seeps into the time I need to spend on writing my Capstone paper, for instance. Setting aside time to think about the future, rather than trying to suppress these thoughts, allows me more time to concentrate on the work that still needs to get done.
I know that my last semester at Heller will be difficult for many reasons. The classes will be challenging, I’ll be worrying about future plans, and I’m sure I’ll feel nostalgic looking back on my previous semesters. But I feel prepared knowing that I have the skills and resources to take care of myself and to stay on track.

Writing Your Best Statement of Purpose with Sami Rovins

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Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

One of the questions I get asked most as an Admissions Graduate Assistant is, “how can I write the best statement of purpose possible?” It’s a tricky question of course, because everyone’s statement of purpose will be different. But there are a few tricks and pieces of advice I can give to help you create your best statement of purpose possible.

Do your best to make sure that you are truly being reflected in what you write. This is your opportunity to showcase who you are! What do you, as an individual, bring to Heller? What can you add to our classrooms and to our community? What will your experiences, interests, and aspirations lead you to do and accomplish at Heller? Try to convey your passion and excitement for the degree you are pursuing. What specifically draws you to apply for this degree? How have your past experiences shaped you and led you to where you are now?

In my statement of purpose, as an example, I wrote about my experience working at Doctors Without Borders headquarters in NYC right after graduating college. This was an essential experience for me and to this day it contributes to my understanding of what I study here at Heller. My experience in this job was influential in both personal and professional ways. I think that writing about experiences that have shaped you in multiple ways is a great way to start your statement of purpose.

I also wrote about my professional and academic interests which I planned to pursue. I described my desire to learn more about women’s reproductive health, particularly in a South Asian context. Although I had not yet studied this topic, including it in my statement of purpose was a way of clearly outlining my goals and plans for my time at Heller. What interests you, even if you’re not already knowledgeable about it?

I also recommend writing about what drew you to apply to be a grad student at Heller specifically. You definitely don’t need to praise Heller, but I encourage you to tell us why you think you’d fit in well here, and what you can contribute to our community. Have you read about any particular courses at Heller that peaked your interest? Or any faculty whose interests mirror your own?

The greatest bit of advice I can give (at the risk of sounding corny) is to be yourself when writing your statement of purpose. This is your opportunity to show us who you are, not who you think we want you to be. We want to read about your interests and aspirations, your goals and plans. Tell us who you really are!

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