The Heller Identity

One of Heller’s key strengths is its unique identity and spirit among other schools of social policy. Heller's character, values and messages are listed below with examples of stories and activities that exemplify what the Heller Identity looks like in action. For a more condensed version, download the Heller Identity guide.

Cover of Heller Identity Guide

Heller's Character


We look at policy from a variety of angles and know that progress is often found at the intersection of various fields and ideas. We are also aware of the effect that our identities have on how we interact with the world.

Responsive to Human Needs

The research we generate and the knowledge we create empowers the vulnerable and marginalized. Our collective work is united by a commitment to social justice.

Respect for Social Issues and Organizations

We acknowledge the complexity of social issues and recognize the need for social organizations to have prepared, effective leadership in order to succeed.


We challenge assumptions associated with the status quo and create an environment for others to do the same.

Pragmatic Idealists

We provide the practical training and skills that are required to solve seemingly intractable problems.


To determine solutions, we must have a deep understanding of the foundational knowledge of our respective fields. Our research is grounded in practice, and our practice is supported by research. 

Heller's Values

Scientific Rigor

We do not take information at face value. Our research incorporates thorough quantitative and qualitative testing and analysis. The results of our work are not just theoretical, but applied. 


We aspire to find solutions that ensure enduring structural changes, but not at the expense of the natural environment or the well-being of future generations. We work at the grassroots level with local partners who are best positioned to sustain and amplify the impact of our work. 

New Ideas

We build on foundational knowledge with bold thinking. Heller fosters an entrepreneurial spirit.


We strive for diversity in all its forms and recognize that the inclusion of different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences makes for a better learning environment, both socially and in the classroom. Together, we form a support network and offer professional connections for fellow Heller students, alumni, faculty and staff. 


We do not impose our ideas on the communities we work with and for. We take local knowledge into account and are connected to the groups and individuals who are the focus of our work. 

Our Messages

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

We prepare students to design, implement, and evaluate social policies

  • Jeanne Mansfield, MPP/MBA'15, uses her summer internship to promote equitable access to healthy foods at Boston Public Market. Video of Jeanne at Boston Public Market
  • Gustavo Payan, MA SID'05, talks about his role with EDC (Education Development Center, Inc.), which designs, implements, and evaluates programs to improve education, health, and economic opportunity worldwide. Video of Gustavo at the EDC. 

Global Perspective and International Impact

Research empowers others to make evidence-based change

Goals Ambitious and Necessary