Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Our Commitment to Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Female students wearing glasses in class

As an MPP program focused on social policy, we not only prepare students to address social injustice in their future careers, we also strive to walk the talk in our program’s curriculum, activities, policies and culture. Like the broader Heller School community, we are committed to building belongingness and affirmation for every MPP student and we aspire to build a program centered on  equity, inclusion and divertsity (EID).

These aspirations are central to our unique program and school culture. Although some of the initiatives described below remain a work in progress, we have adopted a philosophy of continuous improvement that we believe facilitates progress, community and excellence.

Representation in the Curriculum and the Classroom

In concrete terms, our commitment to EID takes many forms. With each new cohort, we set the stage for constructive dialogue and thoughtful analysis of racial justice issues by assigning a summer reading book for incoming students. For the last several years, the book has been The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. This group reading is central to new student orientation, which includes a book talk led by Heller MPP alumni of color.

Every MPP student also completes a required course on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in Social Policy. The course examines how researchers and policymakers define “vulnerable” or “disadvantaged” population groups, the causes and consequences of inequalities, and the potential of social movements and policy initiatives to promote inclusion and social justice. The MPP program also offers electives in immigrant integration, criminal justice disparities, equity in education policy, the American gay rights movement, and policy advocacy.

In addition to these specialized courses, we believe it is critical to embed social justice themes and diverse perspectives throughout the MPP program. Our faculty strive to incorporate readings and texts by scholars of diverse backgrounds as well as welcoming leaders and policymakers from underrepresented communities as guest speakers. As part of our ongoing faculty training, we implemented a faculty “buddy system” in which instructors workshop one another’s course syllabi to incorporate diverse perspectives.

Our faculty understand that teaching is both a responsibility and a craft. We aspire to build a classroom environment where all can learn and contribute, while also digging into critical conversations about power, equity and the policy structures that perpetuate injustice. To that end, the MPP program prioritizes training and skill-building opportunities for faculty to develop discussion, facilitation and instructional techniques that allow for an equitable learning experience for all students.

The Student Experience

We believe that student representation is absolutely critical. As a program and a school, we strive to recruit and admit diverse cohorts of students that reflect our broader community and we prioritize the use of DEI scholarships and financial aid to make this possible. This includes providing several full scholarships for MPP students who demonstrate commitment to the advancement of diversity and inclusion.

The MPP program also hosts regular luncheons for MPP students of color, hosted by an faculty member of color who is also a Heller alumnus. These lunches, in addition to other cross-Heller and cross-Brandeis affinity groups, provide space to discuss common concerns and find support when needed.  

Many of our students are interested in issues of social justice and inequity in a variety of contexts. Recent capstone presentations explored policy solutions related to LGBTQIA+ health disparities, substance use disorder treatment for incarcerated individuals, reforming state tax credits for immigrant families, and improving paid family leave policy. 

The MPP program also connects with a range of local and national organizations, providing opportunities for students to gain experience and apply their learning through internships. Recent internship placements have included AIDS United (Washington, D.C.), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Beijing), the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Urban Institute (Washington, D.C.), and the Astraea Foundation (New York).