Adam Jones, MPP'22

Adam Jones, MPP'22
Adam Jones, MPP'22

As director of a group home for adults with mental illnesses in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Adam Jones ’15, MPP’22, saw firsthand how critical it was to have stable housing and community support.

“That’s what led me to Heller,” says Jones. “My job primed me to think about what is important for someone living on the margins: stable housing, positive relationships. How do you build community for people?”

Five years after graduating, he’s returned to Brandeis with a new career focus. As an undergraduate, Jones was a member of the POSSE program and studied neuroscience. He worked in the Rosbash Lab, and his first job out of college was in a research lab at Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Though I realized that wasn’t exactly where my passions laid, it was great to get research experience. It primed me for academia and thinking about how to hone in and go deep into something,” he says.

Jones decided to leave the research world for a more hands-on role, taking a job as a counselor in a group home for people with mental illnesses, one of many contractors for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. He worked with its residents on rehabilitation, daily living, chores and individual goals. After a year, he became the director of another group home in the system, which housed seven residents.

“My job was to keep folks happy and healthy, in an environment that was supportive and flexible, and that catered to the complex needs of people who have mental illnesses at the intersection of poverty and housing insecurity,” he says. “The ultimate goal was for folks to move beyond a group home setting that was more independent with less staff support. We always let the person be in the driver’s seat of their recovery.”

His work was fulfilling, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones hadn’t thought seriously about graduate school.

“But the pandemic had a way of slowing things down, and I found myself engaging with more literature around housing and general public policy, listening to a ton of podcasts about policy, like ‘The Weeds’ on Vox and ‘The Black Guy Who Tips,’” he says. As a Brandeis alum, he was drawn to the Heller School for its focus on social policy, and he quickly applied. 

Now, as an MPP student, Jones plans to focus on housing and homelessness, to understand the attitudes and policies that led to today’s homelessness crisis. In addition, he plans to explore housing’s role in the racial wealth gap.

“I want to leave Heller as a more informed and well-rounded consumer and implementer of policy, to understand what’s most effective for people and what communities need,” he says. “We must create, inform and petition for policy that works for most marginalized folks with the least voice in public discourse.”