I am an MIT student now! (Kind of)

Calah McQuarters, MBA/MPP '24

April 02, 2024

Calah McQuartersI am an MIT student now! Well, not really, but I do have an MIT student ID and student email. How? I cross-registered to take a course at MIT during the spring semester! 

One great thing about Heller is that they are a part of a consortium of schools that allows its students to take courses for credit at other universities in the Greater Boston area. Students are allowed to take one cross-registered course per semester and it is a great way to explore career or personal interests through courses that may not be offered at Heller. This is exactly what landed me in MIT’s Department of Urban Planning and Studies (DUSP) for the spring semester. 

So how does one go about being a cross-registered student? First, I looked at the schools in Heller’s cross-registration consortium. There are seven schools total, not including Heller and each has their own specialty. For example, Bentley University is strong in business. So students looking for additional business courses outside of Heller or the Brandeis International Business School might want to explore Bentley. MIT’s Department of Planning and Urban Studies is a great place for people interested in learning how to tackle problems related to urban planning (me!). Now, you might be wondering, Calah, why didn’t you just go to MIT if that’s what you were interested in? Well urban studies isn’t the only thing I’m interested in. I wouldn’t even say it’s the main thing I’m interested in. However, I knew that the information I would learn in the course I selected would be an amazing addition to all I have learned thus far at Heller and what I will do after graduation! Back to the process. Second, I looked through the DUSP course offerings until I found the specific course I felt would equip me with the knowledge I needed and wanted. Third, I reached out to the professor of the DUSP course. Cold emails like cold calls can seem intimidating. I found myself questioning how to express my desire to be a student in the course without telling this stranger my whole life story. But to my delight, the professor emailed back the same day and said yes! Fourth, I reached out to the Brandeis registrar’s office. They sent over a form I needed to fill out with various signatures from Heller administration, the course, instructor, etc. Fifth, I submitted the form after securing the necessary signatures and boom! I was an MIT student (kinda). 

When you’re in graduate school, it is very easy to stay in the bubble of whatever university you attend. Between classes, work, and extracurricular activities, I found myself at Heller almost everyday and there many weeks I didn’t travel outside of Waltham. This isn’t abnormal, but I knew I needed to shake things up a bit! There are so many colleges and universities in the New England area. There have to be close to a hundred in the Greater Boston area alone! When I started school at Heller, I was excited to learn from people coming from all different walks of life, but I also knew I wanted to broaden my horizons and connect with other graduate students in other universities just down the road. While I didn’t know how I would do that at the start of my academic journey, becoming a cross-registered student provided the perfect opportunity. My MIT classmates are not unlike those I have at Heller, but it has been amazing to learn from them and hear about their own experiences and perspectives on graduate life, all that’s going on in the world, and even thesis writing! 

I am very grateful to Heller for introducing me to my Engaging Communities: Models and Methods for Designers and Planners course, professor, and peers and I know this will be a highlight in my Heller experience.