10 Heller Students Selected for Prestigious Fellowship Programs

May 18, 2022

This spring, 10 Heller students were selected for competitive, funded fellowship programs, including the Harvard Kennedy School Rappaport Fellowship, the Boren Awards and the Segal Citizen Leadership Program. These programs will help students accomplish a variety of academic, professional and career goals. 

“The Heller Career Development Center is very excited about our student winners of these competitive and prestigious National and Institutional Fellowships,” says Benny Belvin, the assistant dean of Heller’s Career Development Center. “Heller students have traditionally viewed fellowships as opportunities to hone key career skills and to have an impact on pivotal issues such as policy, health, education, international development, language and culture, equity, and environment.”

Learn more about each program and the 10 Heller fellows below.

Harvard Kennedy School Rappaport Public Policy Fellowship

The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School selected 20 graduate student fellows from 13 graduate schools in Greater Boston for its 2022 fellowship cohort. The fellows will spend the summer working in state and local agencies in Boston, helping public officials address key problems and learning how public policy is created and implemented. Two Heller School students were chosen from a field of almost 160 applicants.

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Samantha Berlus, MPP’23

As a Rappaport Fellow, Samantha will be working with The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)—the agency that administers both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) on behalf of Massachusetts. She hopes to learn and get a more in-depth understanding of how TANF and SNAP function within the Greater Boston area, as well as how it specifically affects Black families who are recipients of either or both programs.

Armando Vizcardo, MPP'23

Armando Vizcardo, MPP’23

This summer, Armando will be working in the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer and Receiver General’s Office of Economic Empowerment assisting their Baby Bonds Task Force which seeks to provide recommendations on creating a Baby Bonds program in Massachusetts, as well as supporting various financial security and childcare research tasks. He will also be supporting OEE’s team with research and administrative tasks on other projects related to college savings and empowerment economics. Armando is excited to learn more about state-level programs and policies that support Massachusetts residents, while continuing his research interests in asset-building and child and family policy.

Boren Awards

The Boren Awards provide up to $30,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an important international and language component to their education through specialized area study and increased language proficiency. Boren Scholars and Fellows support study and research in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, immersing themselves in world regions underrepresented in study abroad programs, including Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Four Heller master’s students were selected for Boren Awards.

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Phillip Aitken, MA COEX’22

Beginning in July, Phillip will study Portuguese in the West African island nation of Cabo Verde for nine months. In addition to his language studies, Phillip looks forward to learning more about the challenges and resilience mechanisms to mitigate climate change in a country on the frontlines of this global threat.

Ruya Yasemin Akar Headshot

Ruya Akar, MA SID/COEX’22

Ruya will be studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan, for eight months as a Boren Fellow. Ruya looks forward to learning about new cultures, meeting new people, and exploring Jordan while studying there.

Gabriella Lanzi headshot

Gabriella Lanzi, MA SID/COEX’22

Gabriella intends to study Modern Standard Arabic and Darija (Moroccan Arabic) in Rabat, Morocco. She hopes to strengthen her proficiency in Arabic which she hopes to use in the international development field with a focus on youth development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

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Whitney Wehrle, MA SID/COEX’22

As a Boren Fellow, Whitney plans to continue her Armenian language studies—a journey she began in-country as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2018. She will also incorporate her academic interests through internships with organizations focused on youth-fomented change in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

Eli J. & Phyllis N. Segal Citizen Leadership Program

The Segal Program honors and extends the work of the late Eli Segal ’64, his wife Phyllis, and their commitment to developing new generations of leaders. Through the Segal Program, fellows engage in a lifetime of citizen service and leadership training. Each year the Segal Program welcomes a cohort of 10 new fellows from the Heller School MPP program, Brandeis University undergraduates, as well as alumni from national service organizations such as AmeriCorps and CityYear. Four Heller students joined the Segal Program in 2022.

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Catherine Gooding, MPP’23

Originally from West Virginia, Catherine is a proud Appalachian and is interested in grassroots economic development solutions that uplift rural communities. As a Segal Fellow, Catherine is excited to learn more about rural community development practices and will spend summer 2022 in a Segal Internship with the Center for Coalfield Justice in western Pennsylvania.

Vianny Rodriguez headshot

Vianny Rodriguez, MPP’23

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Vianny is interested in finding ways to build community empowerment, as well as improving civic engagement and social capital in marginalized communities. Vianny is excited to better understand the tools that can be built to foster civic engagement, tackling community issues for improved life outcomes and sustainable development. Her Segal Fellow Summer Internship with the ACLU of MA will focus on voting rights.

Shania Thomas headshot

Shania Thomas ’21, MPP’23

Brandeis undergraduate alumna Shania values true diversity of experience, identity and background, and has a passion for uplifting the voices and perspectives of those around her. This summer, Shania is excited to work toward creating human-centered policies that positively impact unmet health-related social needs in the aging population. She will be working with Altarum, a nonprofit that helps federal and state health agencies and foundations improve health equity and outcomes through better systems of care.

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Hannah Wilcove, MPP’23

Political organizer Hannah is interested in reproductive justice, sexual violence prevention, and paid family and medical leave. Hannah is excited to be an advocate for gender parity and a fairer political system this summer and as a lifelong Segal Fellow. Her Segal Summer Internship is with Mass NOW.