Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Harnessing Diverse Perspectives for Equitable Solutions

By Anne Lizette Sta. Maria

Like many, Pierrce Holmes MPP’22, was drawn to Heller’s intentional social justice focus. 

“The way I saw it, people at Heller think about a lot of the issues that I like to think about,” he says. “They approach these problems from different angles, and they bring with them their own unique perspectives and experiences. That felt like the best way to push my thinking forward.” 

After a visit to the Brandeis campus and a pleasant conversation with Professor Mike Doonan, PhD’02, Holmes set off on his journey to a Heller degree. 

Professors Who Care 

Holmes appreciated how his MPP classes were structured in a way that invited conversation. Particularly, he commends Senior Research Associate Robert Dunigan, PhD’04, and his class on drug policy. He felt that Dunigan designed this class thoughtfully, facilitating discussions and compelling students to engage with the material. “Also, I like making fun of Robert. And you can tell him I said that. You can put that anywhere,” Holmes joked. 

He also took the program’s core diversity, equity, and inclusion course with Professor Alexandra Piñeros-Shields, PhD’07. According to Holmes, Piñeros-Shields disrupted traditional teacher-student power dynamics to foster a more collaborative learning environment. “She also used to tell us about all the [public policy issues] that she was fighting for. Knowing how much she was fighting for things with her own time and effort, while also teaching the class — I feel like that had a pretty significant impact on me.” 

A Focus on Equity 

At Heller, Holmes worked with Interim Dean Maria Madison in the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. While curating student support services, he actively practiced his ability to listen to students and ensure that their voices were being heard. The opportunity allowed him to apply his passion for racial equity and cement his learnings from class.  

From Fellow to Full-Time 

In 2021, Holmes completed a Segal Fellowship, a Heller-based program for the next generation of citizen leaders. He was the inaugural fellow at the Center to Advance Racial Equity and Policy at the RAND Corporation. 

“It gave me a sense of how policy work and research work can take place. That gave me the taste that I needed. I knew I wanted to work at an organization like that. And now, I’m not just working at an organization like that, but I’m working at that organization.” Today, Holmes is a Policy Analyst at RAND. 

Because of his exposure to diverse perspectives at Heller, Holmes feels prepared to make his research work as equitable and as ethical as possible. 

He would like to give additional shoutouts to Professor Raj Sampath, his MPP cohort, and his home city of Springfield, Massachusetts. “[Springfield] is in my DNA. That’s what I do everything for,” he signs off.