June 30, 2020

Dear Heller Community,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing as well as possible, despite the difficult circumstances of this historic year. I know you have been eager to learn about our plans for the fall, and I write to you with an important update about our path forward. This is likely the first of many detailed messages you will receive from Heller as we continue to refine and implement our plans for the fall. Please note that a summary of this plan, including FAQs, is available on Heller’s COVID-19/Fall 2020 website.

Today Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz issued the COVID-19 Task Force report, Plans for Fall 2020 at Brandeis. This report, and the Heller School’s specific plans, are the product of several months of careful and dedicated work conducted by over 100 members of university administration, faculty, staff and students.

We are guided, as always, by our values and our motto: Knowledge Advancing Social Justice. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this means prioritizing the health and safety of our community along with equitable and high-quality instruction, and evaluating our options using data wherever possible. Please note that this plan is subject to change, should the evolving public health situation require it.

We understand that you will likely have many questions as you consider your own path forward. Please know that our team is ready to help you navigate the upcoming semester in any way we can. With that, here are our plans for Fall 2020 at the Heller School:

The Heller School will offer both online and hybrid instruction for the fall 2020 semester, with a focus on educational excellence and engagement. Hybrid courses will provide opportunities for both in-person and remote sessions, which may vary by course and over the duration of the semester. Our faculty are actively redesigning their courses and adopting best practices for online instruction, informed by our experience during the spring and summer.

We know that Heller’s collaborative culture is a big draw for many students, and we are committed to recreating that experience online and through socially distanced in-person activities as much as possible. To protect the health of our students, staff, and faculty, we are making a decision that ensures an equitable, high-quality educational experience for all. This includes a school-wide effort to enhance our academic mentoring and student support systems. Each academic program will provide additional information throughout the summer on our unique blend of synchronous, asynchronous, and small group methods to achieve our high standards of academic programming.

We will also offer an extended suite of online “wrap-around services,” including career advising, professional development opportunities, student services, mental health counseling and extracurricular opportunities. A Heller degree is about so much more than the classroom experience, and we’re committed to providing this same level of care and attention regardless of the distance.

Our goal is to not simply translate your Heller degree to an online format, but to create something altogether new and exciting. We are committed to maintaining our signature sense of Heller community and building flexibility into this new model wherever possible.

We will still offer limited in-person enrichment activities for students who are, or plan to be, local to Waltham. The Heller building is a wonderful space on a beautiful campus, situated close to the Charles River and other beautiful outdoor spaces we can use for safe in-person gatherings. We will focus on gatherings linked to community building, support, and opportunities to safely engage in informal settings. We will aim to make all in-person activities as inclusive as possible of students who are off campus.

All in-person activities at the Heller School will be subject to strict health and safety guidelines issued by the University, including mandatory face coverings, high-frequency testing, physical distancing and attention to reduced room capacity. Such activities may include in-person advising, small group meetings with classmates, or utilizing the Heller common areas to study or even ‘attend’ a virtual class.

There will be no increase in tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year. Tuition will remain at the same level as the 2019-20 academic year. Our talented faculty intend to provide you with the same high-quality Heller graduate school experience, using a high-touch online model and extensive ancillary services. For more information on Brandeis University’s decision regarding tuition, please visit the Plans for Fall 2020 at Brandeis website.

Incoming international students (who are not already in the U.S.) should defer their admission to Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. The decision to delay our international students’ arrival is a difficult one, but we feel that this is the path that promotes the most equitable experience for all. Sadly, international student visas are currently impossible to obtain. In addition, Heller’s uniquely diverse international student body (representing over 60 countries) makes scheduling real-time virtual instruction impractical. Furthermore, a plurality of our international students come from communities where reliable, high-speed internet is difficult to come by. Lastly, attending Heller online would affect international students’ eligibility for U.S. work authorization (OPT) following their degree completion, an important opportunity that we feel should be available to all of our international students.

Incoming international students will be permitted (and encouraged) to take one online course in the fall, free of charge. Credits earned from this course may be applied towards a Heller degree after enrolling in person. A list of eligible courses and information on the registration process will be forthcoming. We will also extend the  Heller “Summer” Institute, our online portal that provides opportunities for incoming students to meet one another, engage with our faculty, and brush up on foundational skills to prepare you for grad school.  You will receive more information on this continued programming soon. We hope that these opportunities will encourage deferred students to remain engaged with our community and provide their unique perspective to the classroom.

Decisions about Spring 2021 will be forthcoming as the semester progresses. My sincere hope is that we will all see each other in person for the spring semester. We will continue to monitor the public health situation and evaluate our ability to conduct in-person instruction for the spring. That said, I am energized by the talent and enthusiasm of our faculty, who have embraced the opportunity to innovate and reimagine their courses for the online space. These unprecedented times have pushed us all to consider new possibilities and foster new opportunities.

Health policy and economic inequality are two of our key strengths in teaching, research, and engagement, and it’s no coincidence that Heller researchers, faculty and alumni are combating the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of contexts. We are entrepreneurs, medical professionals and local and global public health leaders. We are researching and advocating for critical policy changes needed during this public health crisis and economic recession.

We face a convergence of public health, racial justice, economic, and democratic governance challenges. These unprecedented times call upon us all at Heller. Although these last few months have been difficult, I take comfort in knowing that our community is capable, dedicated and active in finding solutions and creating positive change for our school, university, and society. Our incoming students are important members of the Heller community, and we plan on engaging you actively in these discussions and efforts.

On a personal note, I want to thank you all for your patience as we strive to make these critical decisions and overcome such unprecedented circumstances. I know that many of you are also managing difficult circumstances in your own lives, and we understand that you likely have many questions about what the future will hold. Our team of incredible admissions and academic program staff will be reaching out to help you navigate the upcoming semester.

I look forward to welcoming you to Heller this fall!


David Weil

Dean and Professor