Institute for Economic and Racial Equity

Economic and Racial Equity Concentration

The Concentration

Students at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at both the MPP and PhD level can choose to concentrate in Economic and Racial Equity. Students in the concentration work with IERE staff to deepen their understanding of the systemic drivers of inequities in realms such as housing, employment, wealth, the justice system, and more.


Graduates of the program assume roles as policy analysts, researchers, educators, program planners, and advocates. The MPP and PhD concentrations help students achieve their goals through mentoring and advising, formal courses, colloquia, research responsibilities, and interaction with faculty. We welcome several ERE students with every MPP and PhD cohort who take part in internships and fellowships throughout the year. 

PhD Almuni

Sara Chaganti, PhD'18

Sara Chaganti, PhD '18

Deputy Director of Research in Regional & Community Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Sara Chaganti received her dual Sociology and Social Policy PhD in 2018. During her time at Heller, Sara served a number of roles, from teaching assistant to project manager to research associate, and played a massive part in IERE's research, managing and eventually leading a number of projects in our Work and Opportunity Pathways research portfolio. Upon graduation, Sara continued to work as a Senior Research associate at IERE before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, as a Senior Policy Analyst in 2019. Since 2020, Sara has served as the Deputy Director of Research in Regional & Community Outreach.
Jessica Santos, PhD'15

Jessica Santos, PhD '15

Director, Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research

Jessica Santos received her PhD in Social Policy from the Heller School in 2015. After graduation, Jessica joined the IERE team as a researcher, lecturer, MPP ERE Concentration Chair, and eventually became IERE's Director of Community-Engaged Research. During her time at IERE, Jessica pioneered the Empowerment Economics Framework, an anti-colonial wealth-and power-building framework developed by Native Hawaiian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities that has since been successfully piloted in several other communities of color located across the nation. Jessica left the IERE team in 2021 to become the Director of the Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research at the Institute for Community Health.

MPP Alumni

Danielle Chun, MPP'20

Danielle Chun, MPP'20

Research and Evaluation Project Manager, Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research

Danielle Chun graduated from Heller with an MPP degree in May 2020, concentrating in Economic and Racial Equity. During her time at Heller, she worked with IERE as a Graduate Research Assistant on the Empowerment Economics team, providing support in research, writing, and presentations. In that role, she had the opportunity to co-author a report on HANA Center's Youth Empowerment programs, as well as work on grant proposals and concept papers. Danielle also participated in a funder-practitioner convening held in Seattle, WA, where she presented on Empowerment Economics. Danielle also provided support as a project coordinator as a GRA.  After working as a GRA at IERE during the 2018-19 academic year, Danielle now works as a Research and Evaluation Project Manager at the Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research at the Institute for Community Health.
Annie Leiter, MPP'18

Annie Leiter, MPP'18

Associate, Abt Associates

Annie Leiter graduated from Heller with an MPP in May 2018, concentrating in Child, Youth, and Family Policy. After working as a Graduate Research Assistant at IERE (formerly known as IASP) during the 2016-17 academic year, Leiter now works as an Associate in the Social and Economic Policy division at Abt Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As an analyst, Leiter works on research studies, program evaluations, and technical assistance projects related to education, workforce development, and economic mobility, using qualitative and quantitative analytical methods, compiling information and producing written reports, and coordinating study processes. The GRA role at IASP prepared Leiter well, particularly providing valuable content knowledge about asset building and frameworks such as career pathways, as well as skills for critically reviewing evidence and synthesizing findings.
Leila Quinn, MPP/MBA'20

Leila Quinn, MPP/MBA'20

Manager, Zelus Consulting Group, LLC

Leila Quinn graduated from Heller in February 2020, with dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration degrees. While at IERE, Leila worked on Financial Empowerment, Employment Capital related to financial wellbeing, and Healthcare Career Pathways. Prior to Heller, Leila worked as Policy Director for Boston City Councilor Andrea J. Campbell and did community organizing for several non-profits. Leila holds a BA in environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College. After serving as a GRA at The Institute on Assets and Social Policy, Leila now works as a Manager at Zelus Consulting Group, LLC. She is excited to use both of her degrees to do operational improvement for clients running public benefit programs. She loves being at the intersection of the public and private sectors while improving social welfare programs.
Alexandra Turner, MPP'18

Alexandra Turner, MPP'18

Health Insurance Specialist, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Alexandra Turner is an AmeriCorps alum who concentrated her studies on immigration at Heller, often tailoring her coursework to the intersection of status and its effects on access to services like health care or legal representation. Once she took a course called "Assets and Social Policy" during her first semester, Turner knew that she would continue to explore the assets field. For a year and a half, she worked with the IERE team to promote career advancement for entry-level healthcare workers. Turner currently works as a Health Insurance Specialist at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Children & Adults Health Programs Group.