About the Heller School

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

skip to content

Dean Search

We are pleased to announce that David Weil, a scholar and former administrator for the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, has been named the next dean of the Heller School

Below is the dean position description, followed by information on the search process.

Position and Candidate Specification


Dean, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

About the Heller School

Brandeis is an innovative interdisciplinary community of scholars and students united by their commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and their work on behalf of social justice. Four major academic units comprise the University:  Arts and Sciences, the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, the International Business School, and the Rabb School of Continuing Studies. In 1985, Brandeis was elected to membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), which represents the 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada. Brandeis has been ranked among the top 35 national universities by U.S. News & World Report every year since the rankings’ inception. 

When the Heller School was founded in 1959, it offered a small, pioneering doctoral program whose graduates would use social science and the most advanced research methods towards building a more equitable nation. Heller’s academic scope has since expanded to include six master’s degrees and numerous dual and joint degrees in both domestic and international policy, with a common focus on addressing pressing social issues. Heller is also connected to undergraduate education, through its Health: Science, Society and Policy joint program with Arts and Sciences. The academic programs are closely connected to Heller’s 10 renowned research centers and institutes, which are focused on social issues including assets and inequality; children, youth and family; health; behavioral health; disability policy; and global development. Today, Heller is ranked in the top 10 schools of social policy and is a leading research institution uniquely shaped by the social justice mission it shares with Brandeis. 

Located nine miles west of Boston in the suburb of Waltham, Brandeis University is positioned on 235 acres comprising more than 100 academic and residential buildings. 

Key Heller School facts 

  • Students (Fall 2015) - 533
  • Countries represented - 65
  • International students - 34%
  • Percentage of U.S. students who are students of color – 30%
  • Heller offers seven degree programs, plus numerous joint and dual degrees.
  • Heller is home to 10 research centers and institutes.
  • Tagline:  Knowledge advancing social justice


There are more than 3,700 Heller alumni, with 81% living in the United States and 19% living abroad. Heller alumni hold positions in social policy and management all over the world, making a significant difference in their communities. 

Financial and operational highlights

The Heller School has an overall budget of $33 million of which approximately $18 million is the research budget. Research grants come from a broad range of public agencies, private foundations, and other sources. The Heller endowment is valued at $65 million.

In the 2015 fiscal year, Brandeis University’s overall operating budget reflected revenues of $330 million and expenses of $328 million. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the University’s total assets were $1.4 billion, liabilities were $339 million and net assets stood at $1.1 billion.

Position Summary

Reporting to the Provost of Brandeis University, the Heller School Dean will provide inspiring leadership, strong managerial vision and capacity to lead a top tier institution. He or she will share the Heller School’s commitment to drive positive social change through research, education and public engagement that inform policies and programs designed to address inequities in wellbeing and promote social inclusion in a sustainable way. 

Key relationships

Reports to: Brandeis Provost

Direct reports:

  • Dean’s Staff (Admissions, Associate Deans for Faculty and Research, Career Development, Communications, Course Planning, Finance and Administration, International Partnerships, Student Services ,Development and Diversity and Inclusion [new position to be filled])
  • Research Institute/Center Directors
  • Academic Program Directors

Other key relationships:

  • Heller Faculty, Research Staff, Administrative Staff, Students
  • Board of Overseers
  • Brandeis University
  • Heller School Alumni and Alumni Board
  • Donors
  • Social Policy Thought Leaders
  • Governmental leaders and lawmakers
  • Other academic institutions

Key responsibilities

  • Promote and enhance the Heller School’s niche as one of the nation’s leading social policy research institutions with a unique social justice mission.
  • Lead the Heller School’s ability to innovate in the areas of research, scholarship and educational programming.
  • Advance efficient, transparent and cooperative operational systems and processes that match the excellence of the Heller School’s research and programmatic strengths, uniting the school and community around a shared identity, vision, culture and set of objectives.
  • Ensure the cohesion of the Heller School’s curriculum and programs with a clear grounding in its core social justice mission.
  • Grow financial support for the Heller School through proactive external engagement, including donor cultivation, fundraising, and alumni involvement.
  • Sustain and deepen the societal impact of leading research centers and institutes.
  • Build on innovation in executive education and specialty programs.
  • Provide the necessary support for a highly diverse global community of students providing an exchange of ideas and the mutual recognition and respect of different perspectives and experiences.
  • Provide the necessary support to increase and support diversity and inclusion among students, administrative staff, research staff and faculty.

Desired outcomes

  • A clearly articulated integration of the Heller School’s research and academic mission that reflects today’s global social policy agenda.
  • Balancing the Heller School’s domestic and international academic programs, and fostering collaboration among the school’s various programs. 
  • Creating and implementing a forward looking strategic plan that builds on the Heller School’s strengths: articulating a contemporary vision for the school, allowing for continued programmatic innovation, and creating new opportunities for its graduates to meet the demands of a changing global environment.
  • Improving campus climate with further and focused attention on issues of racial and ethnic disparities and inclusion.
  • Increasing the endowment to support strategic agenda.
  • Advancing organizational processes, structures and internal communication mechanisms that provide organizational clarity, transparency, career paths, and which encourage a spirit of unity, cohesion, fairness and accountability.
  • Integrating the Heller School more deeply with the rest of Brandeis University and bridging relationships with external constituents and partners including the Board of Overseers and alumni.
  • Developing linkages with peer academic institutions for the enhancement of the faculty and student learning experience at Heller.

Candidate Profile

The Heller Dean provides influential and critical leadership at Brandeis University. The ideal candidate will bring a strong track record in the field of social policy and research, understand the international landscape, bring experience managing an operationally complex institution, think creatively about the issues facing institutions of higher education, be an innovative risk taker, understand and appreciate both teaching and research, have experience within the field of donor cultivation, and will have a passion for the Heller School’s mission. 

Ideal experience

  • Is a top academic researcher in their field of study as demonstrated by an exceptionally strong record of publications, research grants and research team management, as well as high quality teaching and service.
  • Is a public thought leader or intellectual with a national/international reputation related to the Heller School’s areas of scholarship and research, with a clear understanding of both social and public policy.
  • Has substantial organizational management experience within a complex, research-driven organization.
  • Understands administrative systems, the development of appropriately supportive infrastructure, and has led organizational, evidence-based change.
  • Skilled at donor cultivation and fundraising.
  • Understands the challenges of operating within a soft money-driven environment.
  • Demonstrates an appreciation for both quantitative and qualitative research.
  • Experienced at driving programmatic innovation, leading to increased revenues.
  • Understands the cultural context, politics, business and future opportunities and threats facing higher education.
  • Has a graduate degree in a field related to the Heller School’s mission.

Critical leadership capabilities

Collaborating and Influencing

  • Within a complex environment that is highly diverse: racially, socioeconomically, and functionally, but unified around a core mission:
    • Demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion and the ability to connect the many layers of diversity both culturally and programmatically
    • Build trust and cooperation through transparent leadership, shared governance, and the creation of both internal and external partnerships
  • Create greater synergy within the Heller School: programmatically, between domestic and international programs; between faculty, staff and students; and externally with the Brandeis campus

Organizational Management

  • Manage, focus, unite and empower team members, creating leaders who can efficiently execute through the layers of the Heller School and across functions.
  • Identify changes or processes that need adjustment, challenge assumptions and norms, identify issues, give feedback, and support and enable team development.

Cultural Agility

  • Ability to engage across cultures of all kinds – including internal cultures (e.g., functions).
  • Create collaboration in a culturally diverse environment, being a leader who facilitates conflict transformation and promotes coexistence values.

The search process

The search committee, whose members are listed below, included Heller faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the Board of Overseers. We worked with the search firm Spencer Stuart to develop a diverse pool of candidates with experience in advancing social justice and inclusiveness, along with the requirements of academic and professional excellence.

In October 2016, the search committee held a first round of 75-minute interviews with 11 candidates, using a systematic protocol of questions. Of those 11 candidates, two were people of color and four were women. After further vetting from the search firm, four finalists were selected and invited to campus. Of those four, one was a person of color and one was a woman. One candidate withdrew from the process to accept a leadership position at another organization. The remaining three finalists each attended a two-day campus visit to meet various Heller and Brandeis stakeholder groups and to deliver a formal job talk.

Search committee members

  • Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Director of the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy
  • Betsy Brainerd, Susan and Barton Winokur Professor in Economics and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Joan Dassin, Professor of International Education and Development and Director of the MA Program in Sustainable International Development
  • Norma DeMattos, MPP and MBA Program Manager
  • Michael Donnan, Associate Professor and MPP Program Director
  • Robert Dunigan, Senior Research Associate at the Schneider Institute for Health Policy
  • Sarah Emond, Institute for Clinical and Economic Review Chief Operating Officer (Alumna)
  • Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Professor
  • Constance Horgan, Professor and Director of the Institute for Behavioral Health
  • Constance Kane, Chair of the Heller Board of Overseers
  • Carolina Leff, Masters student representative
  • Elisabeth Okrant, PhD student representative
  • Tom Shapiro, Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy and Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy 

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

Copyright 2017 • Brandeis University • All rights are reserved