Dual Degrees Rise in Popularity at Heller

December 19, 2019

By Karen Shih

For Roger Perez, MBA/MA SID16, it was an easy decision to pursue dual degrees at Heller.

“Coming out of the Peace Corps, when I was looking for international development and business, Heller was one of the first schools that popped up — not many universities offer that,” he says. “The dual degrees gave me a good mix of quantitative and qualitative skills, and flexibility and adaptability in my career. I was able to hit the ground running.”

Having the tools and knowledge from both degrees is what led Perez to his work for the Nonprofit Finance Fund for several years, where he consulted for a variety of health, environment and arts organizations, before transitioning to his new role as a program officer at the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation.

He’s one of many at Heller who have chosen to maximize their experience by adding a second degree, including 30% of incoming students this fall.


There are 16 dual-degree options at Heller. Some of the most popular include pairing the Social Impact MBA with one of Heller’s four other master’s degrees. While some may apply to Heller as dual-degree students, others choose to apply for a second degree after they arrive. For example, some students add the MBA after participating in a series of social entrepreneurship pitch competitions Heller hosts throughout the school year. These are open to students from all programs, giving them a glimpse into the world of finance and management.

“Students pursue an MBA dual degree so that they can go deep in one area — which could be health care, global development, public policy or others — while also gaining the essential business skills that enable them to be highly successful in their chosen career after graduation,” says MBA Director Carole Carlson.

Also popular is pairing the MA in Sustainable International Development (SID) with the MA in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence (COEX) or the MS in Global Health Policy and Management. The latter option has grown quickly since it was introduced a few years ago.

“The MA SID is an ideal program for a dual degree,” SID Director Joan Dassin ’69 says. “Students gain an overview of the challenges at the frontier of global development and cutting-edge skills in project planning, implementation and evaluation, then add complementary expertise in other fields.”

Surayyo Ilnazarova, MS/MA SID’20, agrees. Though she came from Tajikistan initially to study global health, she realized that adding SID would give her the opportunity to improve health systems more comprehensively.

“Working with health organizations, we always collaborated with other stakeholders. For example, to combat diarrhea, we’d also work with a project on installing water and sanitation equipment,” she says. “When I return home with my knowledge and experience, I’ll be able to think of health as part of a bigger umbrella that’s connected and dependent on other aspects of development.”