About Heller

Conversations with the Dean

Throughout the school year, Dean David Weil invites prominent public figures, policymakers and advocates in social justice fields to Heller for wide-ranging conversations about their work, providing students, alumni, faculty and staff with a unique opportunity to learn about their careers and areas of expertise. The popular events are filmed and recapped: 

Politics, Policy and the Path Forward: An Election 2020 Conversation with the Dean

A post-election panel discussion about the road ahead for progressive social policies and socio-political movements.

Two weeks after Election Day, Dean Weil hosted a panel conversation among Professor Archon Fung of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Heller Professor Robert Kuttner, cofounder of the American Prospect; Chris Lu, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia Miller Center and former U.S. deputy secretary of labor during the Obama administration; and Carmen Rojas, president and CEO of the Marguerite Casey Foundation and founder of The Workers Lab. 

“The Act of Democracy:” An Election 2020 Conversation with the Dean

A discussion of democratic participation, voter access and civic engagement prior to the 2020 election

October 27, 2020

election 2020 conversations with the dean: politics and policy, the path forward

One week before Election Day, Dean Weil moderated a panel conversation among Anita Hill, university professor at Brandeis; Daniel Kryder, Louis Stulberg Chair in Law and Politics at Brandeis; and Fernando Torres-Gil, MSW’72, PhD’76, professor of social welfare and public policy at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA.

Carmen Rojas: Improving the Lives of Workers Across the U.S.

CEO and Co-Founder, The Workers Lab

Sept. 19, 2019

David Weil and Carmen Rojas

Carmen Rojas came to Heller for the first Conversation with the Dean of Heller’s 60th anniversary school year. She and Dean David Weil discussed ways to improve the lives of U.S. workers, and she offered a critique of traditional philanthropy, described the innovative methods of the Workers Lab and shared her own background and journey.    

Tom Perez: Progressive Policy in the Trump Era

Democratic National Committee Chair and former U.S. Secretary of Labor 

April 1, 2019

Dean Weil and Tom Perez engaged in a wide-ranging dialogue on Perez’ life and career, his thoughts on progressive politics and his strategy for advancing Democratic candidates in 2020. “When we put hope on the ballot, we do well. When we allow others to put fear on the ballot, we don’t do so well,” he said of Democrats' election strategy, adding, “Never make a decision when paralyzed by fear, because it will cloud your judgement.”

Chuck Rosenberg: Impeachment, Treason and the Mueller Investigation

Former senior FBI official, U.S. Attorney and DEA administrator

Jan. 23, 2019

Chuck Rosenberg with Dean Weil

Dean David Weil and Chuck Rosenberg discussed his long career in federal law, including firsthand experience working for special counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI Director James Comey and Bill Barr, the nominee for U.S. Attorney General. “Having worked for him, I can tell you unreservedly, I’ve never seen a human being work harder than Bob Mueller," said Rosenberg, who urged the audience to be patient with the Russia investigation.

Sen. Tom Harkin: A Long Fight for Labor and Disability Rights

Democratic U.S. Senator from Iowa (1984-2014)

Nov. 7, 2018

Sen. Tom Harkin with Dean Weil

On November 7, one day after the 2018 midterm elections, Heller welcomed retired U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA 1984-2014) for two talks that covered his decades-long advocacy for labor and disability rights.

Harkin’s visit began with the “Conversations with the Dean” event hosted by Dean David Weil in Zinner Forum. The senator, who spent a total of 40 years in Congress (10 in the House of Representatives, then 30 in the Senate), described his path from small town Iowa to Capitol Hill. 

In the evening, Sen. Harkin returned to Heller as the featured speaker at the Lurie Institute’s annual Distinguished Lecture in Disability Policy. As the lead proponent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Harkin is well known for his long-time policy advocacy for the disability community. 

Jenny Yang: Changing Workplace Culture Around Sexual Harassment

Former Chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Jan. 24, 2018

Dean Weil with Jenny Yang

Just days removed from finishing her term as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Jenny Yang came to the Heller School to discuss what it was like to serve through the first year of an administration that didn’t appoint her, the importance of changing workplace culture around sexual harassment in light of the #MeToo movement and the new challenges of protecting workers' fractured work environments.

Chris Lu: Key Obama Administration Official Encourages Public Service

Former Deputy Secretary of Labor and Cabinet Secretary

Nov. 29, 2017

Dean Weil with Chris Lu

Heller welcomed former Deputy Secretary of Labor and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, who worked with Dean Weil at the Department of Labor during the final three years of the Obama administration. They discussed the value of public service. "Public service isn’t where you work or what you wear to work. It’s a mindset about trying to solve the problems of today and trying to help people you don’t even know. As long as you adopt that mindset, you can do good, no matter where you work," said Lu. 

Anthony Williams: What it Takes to Run the Nation's Capital

Mayor of Washington, D.C. (1999-2007)

Oct. 16, 2017

Dean Weil and Anthony Williams in front of an audience

Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony "Tony" Williams, joined the Heller community in Zinner Forum for the first installment of "Conversations with the Dean." Williams currently serves as chief executive officer and executive director of a D.C.-based nonprofit organization called the Federal City Council. Weil and Williams spoke at length about the latter's career as a public servant in the nation's capital, where he first served as the District's chief financial officer, and later as a two-term mayor.