MPP Student Voices

Heller MPP students are researchers, advocates, policy wonks and organizers. We believe this program attracts people who are uniquely dedicated to social change, collaborative, hardworking, and relentlessly driven to make the world a better place. Our students hail from many different backgrounds and professional experiences, but they all come to Heller to take their careers—and their causes—to the next level. On this page we have collected student quotes, blog excerpts and stories, letting our students speak for themselves.
Head shot of Kaytie Dowcett, MPP '15
Kaytie Dowcett ’99, MPP’15, executive director of Waltham Partnership for Youth

Piloting a bilingual kindergarten in Waltham Public Schools

The following is an excerpt from the summer 2017 issue of Heller Magazine. Read the rest here.

Kaytie Dowcett ’99, MPP’15, spent two years spearheading the effort to get Waltham’s Spanish/English dual-immersion kindergarten program off the ground as a member of Waltham’s School Committee. Raised in the “Watch City” herself, Dowcett spent the first part of her career running after-school programs in Boston and teaching in Waltham’s middle schools before earning her master’s in public policy degree at Heller, where she initially learned about the dual-immersion teaching model. After seeing her English language learner (ELL) students struggle to succeed in a standard educational environment, the concept of dual-immersion intrigued her.

“In this country, if you come to elementary school with a language other than English as your dominant language, it’s taught out of you,” says Dowcett. “They teach you English at the expense of your first language. Then you get to middle school and you’re expected to learn a world language, which is rather ironic. There’s some recognition that having a second language is a skill, an asset, but we haven’t been doing it right.”

Waltham, which has a large Spanish-speaking population, has been a linguistically, culturally and racially diverse city for decades. That diversity is often referred to as a strength, says Dowcett, “but we’re still learning how to tap into that strength, rather than just pay lip service to it. We say we value a multilingual community because being bilingual gives you access to more jobs, greater economic opportunity and it makes us better neighbors to one another. So why wait until middle school to teach a second language? We’re saying that our diversity is an asset, so let’s really mean it, let’s operationalize it, let’s bring people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds together and be deliberate about learning from each other.”

Head shot of Erin Robinson, MPP’16
Erin Robinson, MPP’16, legislative fellow in U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s office

Heller on the Hill

Read the rest of the story on Erin’s work in U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s office, including her advice to incoming MPP students!

Right now I’m working on Senator Booker’s education and criminal justice portfolios. So day to day I write a lot of memos—I basically do what I always wanted to do, which is bring research to policymakers. I read reports from think tanks and nonprofits, and I write about what’s happening in the field to inform the positions we take on things.

I’m currently working on a bill with our deputy counsel. He really trusts me to do the work. I was in week three of my fellowship and he asked me to think of additional provisions to add to our bill. It’s amazing to see things that I suggested—such as the importance of trauma-informed practices when providing services to justice-involved individuals—being incorporated into legislation.

I read the new version of our bill yesterday and I know it’s nerdy, but I shed a few tears just seeing my ideas within a piece of legislation in the United States Congress. Who knows how far it will go, but I am just so grateful to even be part of the process.

I’ve been following Cory Booker’s career since he was mayor of Newark, and I’ve always thought highly of him. It turns out he’s just really the person I thought he was. He’s full of integrity. During the annual legislative conference I got to ride in the cab with him briefly and we got to talk for a little bit. He had just given a panel on small businesses and entrepreneurship, and he asked me, “How did you think I did?” I couldn’t believe that Senator Cory Booker was asking me that. But he takes staff input seriously, which I appreciate so much.

Calvin Harris, MPP'10
Calvin Harris, MPP’10, senior manager of public affairs for the Bipartisan Policy Center

Building Bridges Across Party Lines

The following is an excerpt from the summer 2017 issue of Heller Magazine. Read the rest here.

Calvin Harris, MPP’10, is the senior manager of public affairs for the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that combines the best ideas from both political parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans. Harris’ work often involves bringing together people from both major parties in an effort to create actionable policy solutions. “It’s not an easy task, especially in today’s polarized nation. But embracing and engaging differences is the only way real progress can be made,” he says.

“Neither political party has a monopoly on the best ideas. And the only way to get anything meaningful done in Washington is through the constructive collusion of ideas,” he adds. BPC’s various projects reflect this internally by assembling stakeholders with different political ideologies and interests, yet tasked with making detailed consensus recommendations. “Americans embrace bipartisanship because they rightfully believe legislation that appeals to politicians on both sides of the aisle will amount to better and more resilient public policy,” he says.

Samantha Alper, MPP'16, presenting her capstone
Samantha Alper, MPP'16
"My MPP capstone is about expanded access to preschool education for three- and four-year-olds in Massachusetts, which now has the most expensive early care in the country. It's about $13,000 per year, which rivals in-state college tuition."
Nathalie Navarrete, MPP'16
Nathalie Navarrete, MPP'16, District of Columbia Public Schools

Getting a Seat at the Table

"I am so grateful for the support I received while I was a Heller MPP student. The first few months of work at my new job at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) were incredibly challenging, but my ability to eloquently voice my concerns and solutions through policy suggestions and data have allowed me to gain the trust and respect of my school principal, administrators and colleagues. I was also selected to join the DCPS Chancellor's Teachers' Cabinet. I am the only first-year teacher (and one of the few women of color) who gets to sit at a table where decisions for the District are being made. This summer, I will be working at the Center for American Progress as a Leadership for Educational Equity Fellow. All of these opportunities would have not been possible if it wasn't for the education I received at Heller." - Nathalie Navarrete, MPP'16, District of Columbia Public Schools

Head shot of Jared Hite, MPP/MBA'17, policy analyst at the Long-Term Quality Alliance
Jared Hite, MPP/MBA'17, policy analyst at the Long-Term Quality Alliance

What Makes the Heller MPP Experience Different

Jared Hite, MPP/MBA'17, currently a policy analyst with the Long-Term Quality Alliance: "The Heller MPP program provided me with unique exposure to diverse perspectives and new ways to think about social policy. MPP students might share a classroom with MBA students, Sustainable International Development students, or Conflict and Coexistence students - and all of those students expand and strengthen class discussions. Outside of the classroom, the Heller community helps students meet and learn from both national and international experts in advocacy, government, community organizing, research, and other areas."