Master of Science in Global Health Policy and Management


Sam LeeReturned Peace Corps Volunteer [Coverdell Fellow]

Sam Lee, MS GHPM/MA COEX’23 (she/her, they/them), had been in Eswatini just seven months when the growing COVID-19 pandemic caused the U.S. State Department to evacuate her and 7,000 other Peace Corps volunteers serving around the globe. Her time as a community HIV/AIDS mitigation officer in this small southern African country was formative, but all too short. 

Lee returned to a previous job working on mosquito-borne illnesses in her hometown of Dallas, Texas, and evaluated her next steps. She decided to pursue a graduate degree, and the COVID-19 pandemic had sparked an interest in the power of social policy to impact public health. 

At first she considered traditional Master’s of Public Health (MPH) programs, but was drawn to the expansive array of skills she saw in the Heller curriculum. “International relations, responsible negotiation, responsible mediation – those aren’t at the forefront of most MPH programs,” says Lee. “Heller allowed me to expand beyond traditional MPH skills and to find the interdisciplinary mix that I wanted.”

In 2021 she enrolled in one of Heller’s many dual degree programs: the MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence (MA COEX) and the MS in Global Health Policy and Management (MS GHPM)

“I want to bring the paradigm of a community health worker to policy,” she said. “I also really loved the idea of the dual COEX and GHPM degrees. In today’s world, it’s easy to see how disease and conflict feed off of each other. A pandemic can influence geopolitics and catalyze conflict, and the presence of conflict can feed disease.”

She recalls a course on disaster management from her first year in the program that has since ended up being one of her favorites. “I was doing things that I could see myself doing in a few years, analyzing the response to a health crisis and pivoting as needed,” she says. 

In that class, she examined the 2014 Ebola crisis in Liberia. “One of my classmates is Liberian and was able to share his first-hand experience of that crisis. That’s one of the best parts about Heller – the students are from so many different countries, and that component adds so much to the learning environment.” 

Now in her second year of the program, Lee is writing her practicum paper (on global health security, pandemic preparedness and emergency response funding) and applying for post-graduation fellowship opportunities. As she looks ahead to graduation, she’s keeping her options open. “I’m interested in working for the federal government, in global health diplomacy and pandemic preparedness, or possibly a return to foreign service,” she says.

In addition to her classes, Lee is involved in the LGBTQ+ professional student association, a partnered group between Heller and Brandeis International Business School students. Plus, as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, she deeply appreciates having so many classmates who are alumni of domestic and foreign service programs. 

“One of the most important things for me in grad school has been the sense of community,” says Lee. “I don’t want to get sappy, but I’ve made some really great friends here. I’ve loved that about Heller, it’s tight-knit.”