Tag: Why Choose Heller?

Get Involved! The Value of Student Working Groups

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID'23

Andy Mendez, MBA/SID’23

A university is not only defined by its ranking, degree programs, or faculty members. It is also defined by the quality and vibrancy of its campus community. When I was in undergrad, I worked 31 hours a week in the EdTech department. While I absolutely loved this experience, working this many hours as a full-time student meant that I did not have as much of a chance to become involved in the many student organizations on campus. Coming to Heller for graduate school gave me a second chance to get involved in the campus community. 

To understand the landscape of graduate student working groups, I attended a variety of info sessions, as well as the Fall Student Groups Fair held in the Zinner forum. At this fair, e-board (Executive Board) members from active student groups set up a table and talked with attendees about their working group’s mission, activities, and plans for the semester. All the groups had such good energy and were involved in really interesting initiatives. I left the fair wishing there were enough hours in the day to be a part of every group! 

During the lunchtime hour sometime later, I attended a follow-up info session with the Brandeis University Africa Forum (BUAF) which was led by two MBA/SID second year students, one of whom had been my TA for the summer Quantitative Fundamentals course. BUAF is a working group of African students and other members of Heller’s community who are interested in African history and the continent’s socio-economic development. Their mission is to coordinate cultural, professional, and social events to provide learning experiences, expand partnerships, and foster a sense of community on campus. I was immediately energized by the BUAF mission. A few weeks later, I was elected as Secretary and my tenure on BUAF’s e-board began! 

Although I’m a dual MBA/SID student, I have only been taking one SID class a semester. This means I have not had nearly as much interaction with members of my SID cohort as I have had with students in the MBA program, who I am in the majority of classes with. Being a part of BUAF has allowed me to connect and build relationships with not only other SID students, but with graduate students from other programs who I might otherwise not have had any interactions with. BUAF allowed me to learn from other professionals who’d worked and studied on the continent. By organizing a dialogue series in collaboration with my fellow e-board members Peter Masue, Shiko Rugene, Martin Alexis and Nush Laywhyee, BUAF was able to create space for dynamic, social impact-oriented conversations about current events and their impact on the continent. So far, our Africa Speaks sessions have covered such topics as the political and economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on Africa and the military conflicts in Sudan and Burkina Faso. 

By far, the most rewarding aspect of my time with BUAF has been being able to experience the richness of multiple communities, including the larger graduate population at Brandeis, my fellow Heller students, and especially the black, African, and diasporic presence on campus. As a school with Jewish roots, the African community and student body may not be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you think of Brandeis. However, the work of BUAF is helping people recognize and appreciate that this community is here. It’s active and warm and vibrant and deeply engaged in the work of creating a space outside of classes where students can connect, support each other, and have fun together!

Heller Town Halls

One of the things that I, as a staff member, really appreciate about Heller is the Town Halls that we hold each semester. It’s actually something I hadn’t experienced before in my own graduate program or in other schools that I’ve worked at, so I’ve come to see it as a hallmark of Heller that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of what we’re trying to do here.  In short, Heller Town Halls are opportunities for the leadership at Heller to update students on the work or projects that are being done, and to give students the opportunity to comment or ask questions– and even to make demands– of the school’s leadership. Since we had a Town Hall earlier this week, I thought I’d report back on this semester’s town Hall.

The event kicked off, as it usually does, with a welcome from the office of the Dean, which includes representatives from career development; admissions; equity, inclusion, and diversity; academic and student services; communications; alumni relations; research; and many more. After each of the representatives from these offices had a chance to introduce themselves and provide updates on what their offices have been doing, the meeting was turned over to Maria Madison, who leads our Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Office.

Dr. Madison shared the results of the most recent climate survey, which typically happen every year but have been delayed due to COVID. Climate surveys are really important at Heller, since they’re one of the ways that we measure Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity progress, through looking at demographic, vulnerabilities (like health, safety, wellness, employment, housing, food security), belonging and inclusion (including perceived discrimination, and satisfaction with Heller and willingness to recommend to others. These four measures let the staff and faculty know whether we have been making progress in our commitment to social justice. Since Dr. Madison let us know that the numbers were preliminary, I don’t want to go into too much detail, it looks like in spite of the pandemic, overall, student satisfaction and willingness to recommend to others has improved. Dr. Madison also talked about important next steps for contextualizing and embedding anti-racism, anti-bullying and anti-discrimination into pedagogy, research, and policy work across Heller.

After some quick updates from Ravi Lakshmikanthan, Assistant Dean, Academic, and Student Services and Ron Etlinger, our Chief Administrative Officer, our current Heller Student Association chairs, Zari Havercome and Hannah Lougheed (who of course is also one of our talented GAs who writes for this blog!) shared the results of the elections for the new chairs of HSA and gave some end-of-the-year updates.

With all of that out of the way, the floor was open for questions from students, faculty, and staff and cupcakes were brought out to celebrate Heller being ranked in the top ten for social policy once again!

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