Master of Public Policy (MPP)

Branden Miles, MPP’23

Branden MilesRecipient of the Heller Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship

Branden Miles, MPP’23, grew up in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, attending school in Brookline through the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) bussing program.

He says as a young man attending school in a wealthy, predominantly white community, he learned a lot about the politics of how someone’s place of birth can impact their future.

“Going back and forth between the two places, I learned a lot about what it means to be from different zip codes,” he says. “I think that was really what awoke me to social justice work and thinking about inequality."

He attended Hamilton College, where he studied world politics and became more interested in questions of power, where people get their resources and how resources are managed. Studying abroad in South Africa, he learned more about the application of institutional inequities and what it meant to be a post-aparthied society but not a post-racial one.

Graduating during the Trump presidency caused Miles to reflect more about the myth of post-racial America that took root during the Obama presidency. He began focusing more on policy and research, working with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity based at Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Miles intended to return to Boston to focus on working on domestic issues closer to home when COVID-19 hit. Inspired by the Atlantic Fellows and leading voices in the Black Lives Matter movement, he decided to pursue a graduate education that would help him become more involved in closing the racial wealth gap.

Miles said Heller’s social justice focus is what stood out to him. Although he applied to other programs and listened to other recruiters, he says he appreciates how knowledgeable the faculty and researchers at Heller were when it came to issues related to his concentration in racial and economic equity.

“I don’t think [the other programs] understood the depth of challenges in the way that Heller does,” he says.

Miles, who is a recipient of the Heller Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship, says he is eager to continue learning from others in the program as well as share his experiences.

“Heller is a unique space in that there is a richness of experience both in the faculty and staff but also amongst my cohort,” he says. “I think there’s a lot of varied experience that I can really learn from and that there’s a lot of different positions and different experiences that we have a lot of chances as students to investigate.”