PhD Careers

Marianne McPherson, PhD'09

Director of Implementation, 100 Million Healthier Lives

McPherson is a key leader of a small team charged with keeping the massive movement on track. She does a bit of everything, from coordinating resources for members, to developing the website and a measurement platform and providing leadership to the wide network of participants. “I really enjoy helping to connect the dots across a variety of issues. I love being able to support the diverse collection of members who together are transforming health and wellbeing with a core focus on equity.”

Read more about McPherson's work. 

Anne Douglass, PhD'09

Associate Professor and Executive Director, the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Boston

“I went into Heller to pursue what I was most passionate about and learned things I knew nothing about before, like organizational theory with Jody Hoffer Gittell. The immersion in organizational science research and theories of leadership have proved to be most influential in shaping my ideas and bringing them to fruition.”

Read more about Douglass' work. 

Joseph Wronka, PhD'92

Representative to the United Nations, People’s Decade for Human Rights Education

As a representative to the United Nations in Geneva for the International Association of Schools of Social Work for roughly a decade and professor of social work at Springfield College for 25 years, Wronka has spent his career advocating for underrepresented populations and researching and advancing human rights policy around the world. Wronka was initially inspired by his father to develop a humanistic way of thinking and acting in his life and was encouraged by Heller Professor David Gil to undertake the task of reading and comparing federal and state constitutions to the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights which then motivated his dissertation topic.

Read more about Wronka's work.

La Verne Reid, PhD'99

Professor, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at North Carolina Central University

In addition to teaching and mentoring students, Reid partners with North Carolina state health agencies to design training programs to increase the cultural competency of healthcare providers working with HIV patients.

"I talk about my experience at the Heller School a lot with my students because we are very interested in health inequities. Heller exposed me to the language that policymakers use, and it's totally different from that of health inequality. I learned to speak that language and examine those differences. After receiving my PhD from Heller I worked with the North Carolina legislature, helping them understand how using data could inform their decision-making. Heller gave me access to that world. I learned the way policy is decided upon, and I understand that now. Heller opens doors."

Read more about Reid's work.

Steven Huberman, PhD'79

Founding Dean, Graduate School of Social Work at Touro College

"When Dr. Bernard Lander, the founder of Touro College, approached me to establish the graduate school twelve years ago, I initially said no. There were, and are, many outstanding schools of social work in New York and Boston. How could we compete with those, and from scratch too?"

Read more about Huberman's work. 

Carol Hardy-Fanta, PhD'91

Former Director, Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the McCormack Graduate School at UMass Boston

“My dissertation experience was wonderful. Most people encouraged me not to write a book as my dissertation so that I could finish the degree quickly, but my advisor, Deborah Stone, said, ‘If you want to write a book, write a book.’ She was very supportive, and she eventually connected me with an editor who published my first book in 1993. As the first person in my family to graduate college, I appreciated the fact that my professor encouraged someone like me to write a book, even though it was hard. It meant a lot to me. And writing Contested Transformation was even harder, but I felt like it was a book that just had to be written.”

Read more about Hardy-Fanta's work.

Michael Levine, PhD'85

Founder and Director, Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop

Levine directs the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an independent research and innovation organization based at the Sesame Workshop. Founded in 2007, the Cooney Center concentrates on three core initiatives: digital games and learning, engaging families in learning together and promoting improved literacy by age 10. 

"I began my career working for a U.S. Senator and the mayor of New York City while I was studying for my PhD at the Heller School and then continued to work in the public sector on children’s and youth issues. Having the analytical tools and know-how to devise new policies for Universal Pre-K, for homeless children, to prevent dropouts and to reform professional development practices was enormously beneficial."

Read more about Levine's work.

Freada Kapor Klein, PhD'84

Partner, Kapor Capital; Co-founder, Project Include

For decades, venture capitalist Kapor Klein has worked to reduce bias, harassment and discrimination in work environments through both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. “I wouldn’t be doing this work for this many decades if I weren’t fundamentally an optimist. I have been and remain an advocate for social and racial justice, and therefore I am an optimist.”

Read more about Kapor Klein's work. 

Mary Grant, PhD'00

President, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate

Grant was named president of the museum in September 2017. She was formerly the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and previously ran the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams for 12 years before taking over at UNC-Asheville in January 2015. 

Read more about Grant's work. 

Fernando Torres-Gil, PhD'76

Director, UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging

Torres-Gil's research spans important topics of health and long-term care, disability, entitlement reform, and the politics of aging. He is the principal investigator for the Ford Foundation-funded Latinos and Economic Security project and a member of the board of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Read an example of his work in Time magazine. 

Joyce Lane, PhD'03

Co-founder and first President, Black Occupational Therapy Caucus

Lane was recognized as one of the American Occupational Therapy Association's “100 Influential People.” She is a longstanding educator and collaborator on issues that highlight the need for social justice. She has studied the impact of policy decisions on professional development and has incorporated policy development in her work with mental health organizations in Illinois. 

Read more about Lane's work.