Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Empowering Youth to Achieve Goals

By Anne Lizette Sta. Maria

It was a game and a goal that started it all for Kerin Miller ’20, MPP/MBA’23. Soccer sparked her interest in child welfare and youth services; she saw sports as a unifier for young people of all backgrounds to play, practice, and build confidence, all within a safe environment. 

Miller would continue to play soccer throughout her undergraduate experience at Brandeis, and that confidence that she developed would carry over into her graduate years at Heller. 

A Core Course 

With the MPP program, Miller completed a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families. She considers Marji Erickson Warfield, PhD’91’s core course on child and family policy to be foundational to her learning. 

“That class really highlighted the importance of language,” she said. “What I define as a family may not be what you define as a family. Policies have to define who their beneficiaries are, so every word is there for a reason. Throughout the MPP and in my career now, I really pay attention to language, keeping in mind equity frameworks.” 

An Instrumental Professor

Warfield would also become Miller’s capstone advisor, for a project that looked at access to early childhood education in Indiana (a state with rural and urban disparities and interesting political dynamics). Miller greatly appreciates Warfield’s efforts to foster critical thinking: “Whenever I thought something was a final copy, Marji pushed me to strengthen my argument.”

Keeping the Youth Focus Intact 

Miller held robust internships during her time at Heller, notably for a Massachusetts state senator who also worked to serve children, families, and persons with disabilities, and for the youth unit of MassHealth. That summer, she gained valuable experience in working with policy and keeping the youth focus intact amid multiple moving parts. 

Money and Policy

Along the way, Miller noticed a limitation to her skillsets. “People don’t often acknowledge that policy and money are intrinsically linked. I was hearing the terms ‘cost-effectiveness’ and ‘return on investment’ frequently in the MPP, and I didn’t feel like I fully understood how to incorporate the management and money aspect into the policy work that I was doing.” With that, she decided to add on an additional degree: Heller’s Social Impact MBA

Through her MBA classes, Miller was able to gain informal consulting experience in strategic management and operations. She also completed her Team Consulting Project with Jobs for the Future. 

Benefits of a Dual Degree

Miller’s MPP and MBA dual degree taught her that she enjoys working directly with policymakers and problem solving to help people get closer to their goals. 

Today, Miller works as a Business Analyst for the Public Consulting Group, where she gets to do just that. She synthesizes her Heller experience in one statement: “The MPP got me in the door. The MBA has helped me succeed.”