Student Life

Our Students

Students in Washington, D.C. for the annual Employer Trek and Alumni Reception
SID students work on team building activities
Dean Weil (center) hosts "Coffee with the Dean" monthly throughout the semester
COEX students enjoy fun in the snow after Capstone presentations

What makes a Heller student a Heller student? A commitment to social justice and an earnest desire to create change throughout the world. When you come to Heller, your classmate could be a development professional from Egypt who’s been in the field for 20 years—or a recent grad from Texas who volunteered with AmeriCorps for two years after college. Learning in this diverse environment challenges every student to consider new points of view, and offers the unique opportunity to learn not only from our experienced faculty, but students who are nonprofit leaders, grassroots activists, policy analysts and more. 

Learn more about the types of students who enroll at Heller and get to know a few of our current students: 

Isaac Cudjoe, MA COEX’19

Co-founder, (Re)turn movement and documentary

“Heller’s a unique environment. I lit a match and it started a fire. I don’t think I could have found that anywhere else. Coalition-building of any sort starts with the individual and the people you surround yourself with, so I’m excited to see where this goes.”

John Valinch, MBA/MPP'19

While working at UNITE HERE, a hospitality labor union, Valinch realized that he wanted to influence policies to benefit workers more broadly, particularly in job fields or geographic areas without the capacity to organize, as well as build up his management skills. The Heller School, with its social justice focus and dual MBA and MPP degrees, was a natural fit.  

“I’ve been blessed to not only find influence and insight from my own personal experiences, but also learn to understand and work on the institutional and interconnected roots of those problems, finding strength, love, and resilience in community as we build new futures together,” Valinch says.

Sita Leota

Sita Leota, MA SID'20

Fulbright Scholar

“In my work at the Samoa Audit Office, I was key liaison between our office and Parliament to provide advice to politicians and to guide them into the types of questions they could ask of government entities relating to their performance. My motivation in pursuing the SID program was to extend on that work to help Samoan people debate critically on issues involving the Samoan government and issues that involve the Pacific. There's a lot of government and public information that's available, but most people are not aware of that. I want to help Samoan citizens to be engaged in issues, do their research and hold the government accountable.”

Joanna Taylor, PhD student

Assets and inequalities concentration

“My whole professional background was working with youth who were fantastic people but who were really struggling in an academic setting for various reasons. We had a lot of kids who were in foster care, who’d been through the juvenile justice system or were in various forms of probation. I chose Heller because I was interested in an interdisciplinary approach. I wanted to think about the issues I was interested in in a broader context, and I've had that opportunity—to think about how education and discipline connect with health, mental health, housing, poverty and equity issues.” 

Students share what they love about the Heller School in their native languages. More than 60 languages are spoken at Heller! 
Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/MA SID'20, shares how her Peace Corps experience in Swaziland brought to Heller to pursue both the Social Impact MBA and the MA in Sustainable International Development.