Page 1




NEUROSCIENCE FOR PEACE Mari Fitzduff combines brain chemistry and conflict mediation to develop effective strategies for peacebuilding

Heller Magazine | 5

Heller Magazine Published by the Heller School Office of Communications The Heller School for Social Policy and Management Brandeis University P.O. Box 549110, MS 035 Waltham, MA 02454-9110

Interim Dean Marty Wyngaarden Krauss, PhD’81 Board of Overseers Chair Constance Kane, PhD’85 Alumni Association Board President Chrisann Newransky, MA SID’05 Heller Office of Communications Bethany Romano, Editor Max Pearlstein ’01 Alexandra Rubington Jack White

6 | Heller Magazine

Office of Communications © Brandeis University 2016 G134

Heller CONTENTS 02

















LANDSCAPES OF THE MIND #7 This painting by abstract expressionist Lawrence Kupferman (1909-82) is part of a 1960s series titled “Landscapes of the Mind,” inspired by advances in the biology and psychology of the human mind. It is one of two works donated to the Heller School by Susan Gershenfeld and Professor Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld. The artist, Lawrence Kupferman, was among the Boston-area artists hired by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and was a leader in the Provincetown, Mass., art movement in the 1940s and 1950s. This is not the family’s first connection to Brandeis — the Kniznick Gallery at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center featured a retrospective of the work of Ruth Cobb, Lawrence Kupferman’s wife, from February to April 2003.

Heller Magazine | 1


Dear Friends, For anyone who walks the halls of Heller — or takes a stroll through this magazine — it will be readily apparent that we are a community committed to excellence. It was such a thrill to see that excellence recognized in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings. Heller continues to appear in the top 10 graduate schools of social policy, and also jumped up eight spots among graduate schools of public affairs to sit at number 45. These rankings, which are the result of peer assessment, confirm what we already know: The credibility and value of a Heller degree grows greater every day. As an alumna myself, I know firsthand that this growing value is largely attributable to Heller’s powerful network of colleagues and friends. Time and time again, I’ve heard stories (and lived a few myself ) of Heller’s power to bring people together in far-flung countries and across decades, disciplines and degrees. Alumni help connect each other to new and exciting job opportunities, research partnerships and, of course, friendships. The connections made at Heller — among people and ideas — are innovative and unique. Take the stories in this issue of the magazine as an example. Neuroscience and nonviolence are as unlikely academic bedfellows as any, yet Mari Fitzduff’s work to connect these fields powerfully reframes conflict negotiation. For Tom Shapiro, the racial wealth gap and the student debt crisis not only share common root causes, they could also share a powerful policy solution. And for students Phoenicia Lewis and Wafaa

2 | Heller Magazine

Arbash, Heller is the place where a U.S. Army veteran and a Syrian expatriate could meet, study international development and conflict, meditate on their profound experiences in war and become dear friends. Every time we welcome a new class of students to orientation, we recognize that they’ve made an investment in themselves and in the Heller School. In return, we invest in them — and it’s for a lifetime. We are so grateful to all of you who donate to Heller with a contribution to our annual fundraising appeal. To all of you, thank you for your continued support of the Heller School and of each other. It is not lost on us that beyond these four walls, many of you keep Heller-forged connections alive where our staff cannot. To those of you who have lost touch with the school, we invite you to circle back and drop us a line. We will always be here to applaud your accomplishments, connect you with colleagues and students, and invite you to support and engage with the critical policy issues and social justice spirit that brought you to Heller in the first place. Sincerely,

Marty Wyngaarden Krauss, PhD’81



The Brandeis Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Ronald D. Liebowitz as the ninth president of Brandeis University in December 2015. Liebowitz, the former president of Middlebury College, in Middlebury, Vt., will take office on July 1, 2016.

should go and how to bring Brandeis into the future.” Of the many searches he has participated in over the years, Altman says this one was “by far the best – well-organized, very focused and very thorough.” Liebowitz is a political geographer who specializes in Russian economic and political geography. A native of New York City, he earned a BA in economics and geography from Bucknell University and a PhD in geography from Columbia University. Liebowitz will succeed Lisa M. Lynch, the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy and former dean of the Heller School, who has served as Brandeis’ interim president since July 2015. At the end of June 2016, she will return to her previous role, serving as provost and chief academic officer at the university. “I am extremely pleased that Ron has been selected to lead Brandeis,” says Lynch. “He has deep experience in recruiting and supporting exceptional faculty, which is so fundamental to the distinctive educational experience we offer our undergraduate and graduate students, and to our extraordinary scholarly and artistic contributions.”

Liebowitz, 58, enjoyed a 31-year career on the Middlebury faculty as a professor of geography, including seven years as provost. He served as the school’s president for 11 years, from 2004 until June 2015. Under his leadership, Middlebury made enormous strides in academics, programming and standing, as well as financial gains, including the successful completion of a $500 million capital campaign, which surpassed its goal. He oversaw critical strategic investments in Middlebury’s academic enterprise. During Liebowitz’s presidency, the college added 120 endowed student scholarships and 16 endowed faculty positions, and enriched its liberal arts curriculum by spearheading a number of rigorous project-based initiatives for undergraduates. Brandeis Board of Trustees Chair Perry Traquina ’78 calls Liebowitz “a proven visionary and leader.” Stuart Altman, Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy and a member of the search committee that selected Liebowitz, says, “Ron has shown tremendous leadership ability at Middlebury. He has been studying higher education for a number of years and has very strong ideas about where it


Heller has a long history of providing executive education for physicians, and the school has been offering a dual MD-MBA program with Tufts University School of Medicine for two decades. Several years ago, the founder of that program, Jon Chilingerian, saw an opportunity to train and educate experienced physicians in the new science of medicine and management. Now 36 physicians from across the U.S. are making their mark in management as the inaugural group of doctors earning their Executive MBA through the Heller School. The 16-month program, which targets high-level physician leaders, combines online learning with on-site sessions and welcomed this first class to campus in January. Student Mark Edney, MD, says the time together was “without hyperbole, transformative. Our group of physicians bonded immediately. Within a couple of days,

Heller Magazine | 3


4 | Heller Magazine

it became clear that we were privileged to be members of a unique, diverse, creative and incredibly insightful team of professionals who were embarking on an amazing journey together.”

effective clinician leader. I believe that this new EMBA program will quickly evolve as one of the many signature programs of the Heller School, showcasing, in yet one more way, our deep expertise in health care.”

This journey is guided by Chilingerian, the program’s director, who taught the physicians about leadership and organizations during the January session. His team includes a large number of other Heller faculty members, including former Dean Stuart Altman, who taught the doctors about health policy; Brenda Anderson, who addressed financial literacy skills; Christine Bishop, who covered health economics; and Anita Tucker, who reviewed operations management.

“Each of my interactions with these 36 physicians was thought-provoking, energizing and fun,” Chilingerian says. “Although teaching runs to the heart of what we do as professors, a deeper satisfaction can occur when we are truly and honestly learning from our students in the classroom. As I listened to the conversations and when I read the post-class discussions posted in forums, I experienced one of my deepest and most profound learning moments as a professor.”

“Teaching these physicians while they are in residence and online is without a doubt one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had in my career,” Anderson says. “Each participant is passionately engaged and committed to acquiring the management skills necessary to be an

Another student, KMarie Reid, MD, credits Chilingerian, Altman, Anderson, Bishop, Tucker and the other EMBA faculty for designing a program that’s “rich with value” for doctors. “The program is specifically targeted at physicians, which lends itself to a unique atmosphere

of learning,” she says. “It has opened my inexperienced eyes to business perspectives pertaining to leadership, accounting, economics and operations management. It’s created opportunities for my personal growth, and allowed for profound insights into the true meaning of leadership.” HELLER FORWARD WELCOMES SPRING WITH COMMUNITY DAY BY NICOLE MCCAULEY, MBA’16

The Heller School held Community Day on Jan. 12, 2016, just a day before the start of the spring semester. A group of 15 Heller students planned and coordinated Community Day, volunteering their time over winter break to provide students with an informative, interactive and beneficial experience. Working under the “Heller Forward” name, the students came together with the goal of furthering the discussion at Heller about diversity and the concepts of power and privilege experienced both inside and outside the classroom.  Community Day was a time for Heller students, faculty and staff to participate in a learning and growing experience. Through an anonymous participant survey conducted prior to the day’s activities, 58 percent of students reported already having some knowledge about diversity, inclusion, power and privilege, although 13 percent said they did not. One student expressed a hope to leave Community Day “with more confidence in my ability to discuss these topics with my peers and professors.”

Students began the day with an icebreaker activity that involved all 90 attendees. Then students split into small groups, and Community Day planners facilitated discussions on what power and privilege look like, the ways in which they affect us, and how we can fight against these oppressive systems. In the afternoon, Heller PhD student Awo Osei-Anto spoke to students about her own experiences with power and privilege in both the classroom and the workplace. At the end of the day, students had the choice of participating in one of two workshops. The first was an ally training, facilitated by the local Boston grass-roots organization White People Challenging Racism (WPCR). The second option was a panel discussion led by Heller students, many from international backgrounds, to hear about their experiences with power and privilege in the U.S. and in other countries.  A second anonymous participant survey was conducted at the end of Community Day, which revealed that 60 percent of participants “learned a lot about issues of diversity, inclusion, power and privilege,” while 92 percent believed the ideas learned in Community Day should be better incorporated into the Heller curriculum. As one student remarked, “I hope that there are more workshops and days that have these issues as a focus.” Students continue to work together to turn Heller Forward into a community-building organization that bridges the gaps between degree programs, students, faculty and staff. Their goal is to ensure that Heller continues to strive for inclusivity and equality in all aspects of its mission.

Heller Magazine | 5

6 | Heller Magazine

NEUROSCIENCE FOR PEACE Mari Fitzduff combines brain chemistry and conflict mediation to develop effective strategies for peacebuilding


Heller Magazine | 7

The amygdala is often in contest with the prefrontal cortex, and it often wins. Our rationality is quite fragile. People cannot listen when they’re afraid.

Professor Mari Fitzduff’s pathbreaking career in international conflict resolution literally began with a knock at the front door. It was 1983, and Fitzduff lived with her husband and two young sons in the rural countryside of Northern Ireland. Their hometown, colloquially known as the “killing fields,” had the second-highest murder rate in Northern Ireland, surpassed only by Belfast.

Britain. I realized this group of soldiers had likely joined the British army because they couldn’t get jobs at home, and they were about to confront a group of young Catholics who had joined an illegal army probably because they couldn’t get jobs in Northern Ireland, where the social and political forces were stacked against them as a minority. I had two young sons at the time, and it just struck me that this was crazy. Here was one group of young men who had very little power or status, even though they were in the army, and another group of young men with very little power or status, and they were about to kill each other to solve the problem of injustice in Ireland. “Surely, I thought, there must be a better way to solve conflicts.” THE ARCHITECTURE OF PEACE

Typically, when people think about peace they define it in the negative. Peace is the absence of war, of conflict, of struggle and of violence. We think of peace as a calm, passive place. As it turns out, peace is hard work. It’s a carefully built structure balanced on a living foundation of politics, trust and strategy.

She opened the door, her two children scampering at her feet, to find a group of young, heavily armed British soldiers. They questioned Fitzduff, asking if anyone was in her house that shouldn’t be. After a while, she realized they were looking for the IRA (Irish Republican Army). A few hours earlier, she had seen members of the British paramilitary group conducting practice drills in the field behind her house. From their accents, she could tell “they were working-class lads, from areas of high unemployment throughout

8 | Heller Magazine

“Our field has suffered tremendously from the idea that peacebuilding is done by people who are simply hopeful and good,” Fitzduff says. “I have always based my work on the idea that hope is not a strategy. Goodwill is not a strategy. It requires as much solid strategy to successfully create peace as it does to go into war. Unfortunately, most of the resources go to war.” And building peace, like any other feat of social engineering, benefits immensely from scientific research. Neuroscience, actually.

Neuroscience and peacebuilding may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but Fitzduff, who is a professor and founder of Heller’s Master’s Program in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence, makes a powerful case for it. After decades of work in Northern Ireland and in conflict zones all over the world, she found certain universal patterns became clear to her. “I’ve had so many questions come to me over the years. Why do conflicts erupt so easily? Why are some individuals more open to people who are different from them than others? Why do facts matter so little in conflicts? I’ve worked as a mediator for 20 years in many situations around the world, with both failures and successes. So I’ve begun to gather, instinctively, the things I need to have around when I’m doing a tough mediation. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized a lot of what I was doing accorded with findings from neuroscience. Given the opportunity to match them up, it’s clear that there’s a lot we can learn from that field.” THE LIZARD BRAIN

The first lesson Fitzduff talks about is anatomical. In evolutionary terms, it’s helpful to know that some parts of our brains are significantly older and stronger than others. The prefrontal cortex, the newest part of our brain, controls rational thought and inhibitions. It’s also easily overpowered by the amygdala, a structure in our evolutionarily ancient “lizard brain” that controls fear and emotional memory. “The prefrontal cortex, which takes care of thinking, is a much newer part of our head,” notes Fitzduff. “Your amygdala makes you notice differences in the people around you. It keeps you alert and aware. And the emotions of your amygdala are often predominant in

Heller Magazine | 9

10 | Heller Magazine

Humans seem to be destined to connect and cooperate with others, but only with some people, and this of course creates problems. Oxytocin reduces our fear of betrayal from others in our group, but it also can increase ethnocentric behavior. your daily life, so imagine what they’re like in situations of conflict. The amygdala is often in contest with the prefrontal cortex, and it often wins. Our rationality is quite fragile. People cannot listen when they’re afraid.” This means that successfully mediating opposing groups in a conflict requires an environment that calms the amygdala and creates space for the prefrontal cortex to operate. Fitzduff can corroborate this with her own experience, where she’s learned that hospitality and comfort are crucial to success. “Can we make it easy for people to forget about the cares of their daily lives? To share information about their families? Can we make it easy for them to find corners to sit down together? Are there enough coffee and tea breaks?” she says. “What happens outside the mediation room in the corridors, at the dinner table, in the evenings when people are walking, is almost more important than what happens in the negotiations.” These are the tactics that good mediators find themselves using, and now we know that neuroscience backs them up. In addition to the hierarchical anatomy of our brains, Fitzduff has also researched the chemicals that emerge when people feel comfortable together. OPENNESS TO DIFFERENCE

Of the myriad chemicals that trigger and control our feelings and behaviors, perhaps none is so well-known as oxytocin, the neurotransmitter most commonly associated with group relationships, attachment and love. “Oxytocin both binds us and blinds us,” says Fitzduff. “It creates a sense of belonging and connectedness. Humans

seem to be destined to connect and cooperate with others, but only with some people, and this of course creates problems. Oxytocin reduces our fear of betrayal from others in our group, but it also can increase ethnocentric behavior.” Fitzduff cites experiments that have shown that oxytocin, when sprayed into people’s noses, improves teamwork and group problem solving. Short of directly dosing negotiators during mediation, Fitzduff says, “Those of us in the field supply oxytocin in our own way. For example, while working with female politicians in Israel and Palestine, time for shopping and using the hamamm [a traditional bathhouse] together can be a bonding social experience. For many men, watching or playing sport together as a group can increase their oxytocin levels toward each other.” In addition to oxytocin-driven attachments, we are all differently predisposed to be more or less open to difference. Neuroscientists using fMRI imaging have demonstrated a personality-trait continuum ranging from more closed, conservative individuals to those who are more open, excitement-seeking and likely to respond positively to people whom they perceive as different from themselves. Neuroscience has helped us understand our predispositions and chemical influences, but Fitzduff also acknowledges the role that environmental and cultural circumstances play. “Conservatism is the norm in many societies, which makes sense because that’s how societies survive — by continuing to do what they’ve done,” says Fitzduff. “Many of us may be more liberal because we can be, in today’s more-secure societies. It’s easier to be liberal when bombs aren’t going off around you. And of course it’s much easier

Heller Magazine | 11

not to hate if the odds in society are not stacked against you and the group to which you belong.” WHEN FACTS ARE USELESS

Attachments and group identity are key human traits for peacebuilders to understand, as they are primary components of any conflict. It is exceptionally important to people to feel a sense of belonging, and the emotions associated with belonging often trump rational thought and logic. Facts count much less than feelings. Fitzduff recalls an example from her days as chief executive at the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland. “There was a particular group of Protestants in Northern Ireland who believed that they were the lost tribe of Israel and God had given them Northern Ireland 1,000 years ago to kill Catholics, and that their victory was written in the Bible. I could not persuade them otherwise. But when you look behind that story, and know they had only come to Northern Ireland as settlers 300 years ago, you can see they felt they were in danger of being thrown out, and they wanted some reason to belong, to be there with their families and their community. Once you understand that, you have a much different strategy for dealing with it rather than just focusing on the facts in the history books and showing them they’re wrong.” In Fitzduff’s experience, hardly any individuals have changed their minds about supporting violence because they were presented with a logical, rational argument. Despite this, most existing conflict-resolution programs focus on the use of argument and public debate. Empathy, rather than logic, is a better strategy. And the science agrees. CAN YOU HEAR ME?

Empathy is a crucial component of the peacebuilding process, but also a huge hurdle to clear in conflict situations where mutual hatred and violence may go back decades, even generations. The neurological mechanism that facilitates empathy has been termed “mirror neurons.” When you’re listening to someone talk, your mirror neurons activate, helping you infer that person’s mental and emotional state. “Mirror neurons assess what the person in front of you is thinking and how they’re feeling,” says Fitzduff.

12 | Heller Magazine

“However, evidence suggests that our mirror neurons only work well when we’re assessing a member of our own group. It’s much harder to empathize with groups we perceive as ‘other.’” What happens to mirror neurons when you put individuals from traditional enemy groups together? Experiments have shown that a person who is open and part of the powerful majority will be able to empathize fairly easily with the powerless minority. Their mirror neurons light up right away. But if you’re in a disempowered group and you’re listening to a person from the power majority, your mirror neurons don’t light up when they hear someone from that majority talking about their feelings of distress or fear. You cannot empathize with them — at first. Before you can empathize you must be allowed to talk about your own experience, and the powerful person must acknowledge and demonstrate that he or she is listening. Only then can the disempowered person hear and empathize with the powerful person. This has a lot of implications for putting people together to empathize and hear each other’s stories. In Northern Ireland, Fitzduff recalls how this played out in peace talks between Catholics, who were in the minority, and Protestants, who were the powerful majority. “When we asked Catholics to listen to Protestants talk about how the conflict had disrupted their lives, the Catholics couldn’t hear the Protestants until they first had been heard. Once they had been able to speak and the Protestants confirmed that they were listening, it was much easier for the Catholics to have some empathy for the Protestants. This is an exceptionally useful thing for us to know in many of the situations we deal with, not just in Northern Ireland but also in many other situations around the world involving majority-minority relations. We can shape our work according to research like this.” PEACEBUILDING AS A PROFESSION

“Peace is nearly always nuanced, and war is nearly always simple,” says Fitzduff. She acknowledges the inherent appeal of simplicity, which often runs counter to the complicated and typically messy field of peacebuilding.

Nevertheless, since that fateful knock on the door in 1983, she has seen her profession grow by leaps and bounds. She recalls the first university-level course she taught in Ireland, which was on the burgeoning practice of mediation. At the first session, she discovered that nearly half of her students had signed up in error, thinking the class was on meditation — they had never heard of the practice of mediation! When Fitzduff began her work as first chief executive of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland in 1990, tasked with improving relations between the warring groups, she had a multimillion-dollar budget — but very little in the way of proven strategies about how to spend it. “I found one colleague in London whom I used to talk to; that was it. Now I joke with my students that I wish I’d had a master’s program like the one I’ve set up for them.” When Fitzduff began the coexistence and conflict program at Brandeis in 2004, there were only 10 such graduate programs in the whole world. Now there are more than 150. “The program at Heller now has students from more than 60 different countries, many of them from some of the worst conflict situations in the world, all wanting to study and learn how best to stop and manage the violent conflicts that have blighted their lives and those of their countries.” Although she’s enjoyed a distinguished and storied career, Fitzduff considers her recent foray into neuroscience a new chapter, not an indulgent epilogue. Next up she hopes to glean lessons from neuroscience to help understand the dynamics of political support. Specifically, Fitzduff intends to examine not leadership, which has been endlessly researched across multiple disciplines, but “followership.”

In May 1998, shortly before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast, Irish rock band U2 held a concert to promote a yes vote on the referendum for the political agreement. “But there was a problem,” says Fitzduff. “The support for the referendum was on a knife-edge. The two leading opposing politicians, David Trimble and John Hume, were still reluctant to shake hands with each other in public. So when the two leaders came onto the stage at the end of the show, U2 singer Bono took both of

This time, a new set of questions drives her investigation. “Why do people want to follow demagogic leaders such as Hitler? ISIS? Or Trump? Why do people follow strong leaders, or simple, strong ideologies? Unless we understand that attraction, we cannot deal with those groups,” she says. “Can we create societies that are less likely to support the leaders and ideologies that appear simple and strong, even if wrong? How do we create societies where people tolerate complexity and appreciate the need for our presidents and politicians to be thoughtful and inclusive?”

their hands, raised them into the air, and talked about them as the ‘two men who had taken a leap of faith out of the past and into the future.’ The next day, you had this amazing, emotional photograph on the front page of the papers that helped make people feel that peace was possible. We knew even then that it’s how you make people feel at the collective level that’s important. You often need to move their feelings forward first, and let the rational strategies follow.”

Heller Magazine | 13


AND (SOCIAL) JUSTICE FOR ALL 14 | Heller Magazine


Sometimes it seems impossible to find encouraging stories in the news. For every article published about economic inequality in the U.S., on its heels you’ll find others that examine persistent racism, wage stagnation or the stunning number of children living under the federal poverty line. (It’s about 16 million, if you’re wondering.) Connecting the dots, one quickly sees that these issues all live under the umbrella of social justice, a term that has been planted like a seed in the zeitgeist, a term that people often use when looking for answers. It’s an ethos that drives those who want to see change in their world, like Toni Schwarzenbach Burke, MPP’09, a former Heller Segal Fellow who’s making a (big) difference from the ground up, holding the reins at City Year San José/Silicon Valley. CITY YEAR

City Year is a program launched under the aegis of AmeriCorps, and its simple but challenging mission is to bridge the gap between what students in high-poverty, underserved schools need to succeed and what they have. In San José, more than 2,600 students drop out of high school every year, and those students are then eight times more likely to end up behind bars and three times more likely to fall into joblessness. “Education has always been important to me,” says Burke, City Year San José/Silicon Valley’s vice president and executive director, who went through a public school system that offered mentors, teachers and coaches to

help students thrive. “Growing up, I saw how the system could and should work for students.” As she became exposed to the wider world, Burke saw disparities emerge at the intersection of the system and varying cultures and economic strata. “I realized that somebody like me, whom the system worked for, should do something to try to make the system better for all students.” For its part of that mission, City Year San José/Silicon Valley sends more than 130 AmeriCorps peer mentors into regional schools to help students stay on task, find their way academically and make the educational system work for them. Burke sees the organization’s mission as critical to the effort to give students a new perspective, both on the educational system and on themselves. “The challenge of students having been told, often, they don’t have potential, that they aren’t worthy — or having them see a system that continues to fail them — it’s ongoing. And then you’ve got the effects of poverty, which make it even worse,” says Burke. She credits the makeup of the AmeriCorps volunteers — who often come from similar backgrounds as the students they mentor — with much of City Year’s success. “Our AmeriCorps members are the secret sauce. They can say to these students, ‘Hey, I actually graduated from this high school, and I was the first in my family to go to college. If I can do this, so can you.’”

Heller Magazine | 15


City Year wasn’t Burke’s first step in addressing social justice issues. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she joined Heller’s master’s in public policy (MPP) inaugural class, where she was an immediate standout. “There was never any doubt that Toni would be a tremendous success,” says Michael Doonan, PhD’02, MPP program director and associate professor, who has run the MPP program since 2008. “Her boundless energy and determination portended great success by sheer force of will, and I think the MPP program helped hone her analytical, administrative and theoretical skills to maximize her ability to enable and inspire the next generation to public service.” For Burke, Heller’s motto of “knowledge advancing social justice” is axiomatic — it contains a meaningful truth, something that represents a way of life. “All of the content and programming, all of the debates and dialogues we had, they were rooted in a philosophy that there had to be greater social justice for all,” Burke says. “We knew we had to be working toward creating a more equitable and just society. We weren’t engaging in these debates for our own development or advancement but because we had to do something for the broader good.” She credits Doonan, along with Susan P. Curnan, Anita

16 | Heller Magazine

Hill and Andy Hahn, PhD’78, specifically, with embodying the Heller spirit of gaining understanding through examination of an issue’s context and using steadfast, strategic planning to move issues forward. And, as is Heller’s motto, it’s more than just a philosophical approach. “The level of discipline and rigor I learned at Heller has kept me and my organization sustainable and excellent in the work we’ve done,” Burke says, noting that City Year San José/Silicon Valley has grown from managing on a $1.7 million budget to a $6.3 million budget during her tenure, and has expanded its footprint considerably, now working with 13 schools, eight more than when Burke became executive director. “It’s required an intensive strategy and relentless discipline, which I would have never gotten without the Heller School.” Something else Burke wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else is the vast network she cultivated as part of the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program at Heller’s Center for Youth and Communities, which focuses on grooming future leaders for a life in public service. “The program breaks down traditional silos to ensure the needs of our communities are being heard and the solutions to those problems are coming from the people in the community to effect policy change at the highest levels,” says Tam Emerson, director of the Segal Fellowship

program. “Our Fellows, and Toni especially, are a great representation of this work.” “There is no way of getting things done in a community or with organizations or policymakers if I don’t have relationships with them,” says Burke, “and the impact and investment the Segal network has continued to make on me has been instrumental.” She regularly encounters other Segal Fellows, more or less everywhere she goes. “I’ve seen the power of networked leadership in real time. I go to an event, and the person onstage is a Segal founder or knew Eli Segal or is talking about him. It happens over and over again.” LARGE- AND SMALL-SCALE SUCCESS

As a former policy fellow in Atlanta who helped advance the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Burke knows as well as anyone that all the programs and networks and good intentions in the world don’t mean much if they don’t lead to change. And Burke comes equipped with some seriously good results: Through City Year in San José/Silicon Valley, more than 7,000 students are reached daily, and 95 percent of her students make significant gains in math and literacy, while getting 90-plus days of classroom time added to their school year. They also are benefiting from 120,000 hours of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programming each year.

Burke points to a student and an AmeriCorps member who inspire her. Eric was a fourth-grader reading at a firstgrade level and problematic in the classroom when Burke first met him. “Kayla saw potential in him,” Burke says of Eric’s AmeriCorps mentor, who got Eric enrolled in City Year’s Extended Learning Time program, through which they worked together on Eric’s science, writing and math, areas he gravitated to. He not only went on to love science, he won both the school science fair and the district science fair. Now he’s a fifth-grader, thriving and learning at grade level. “When I saw Eric a few weeks ago, he was wearing a Carnegie Mellon T-shirt,” Burke recalls. “Eric has no idea where Carnegie Mellon is, so I asked him about it, and he said, ‘I’m going to go to Carnegie Mellon because that’s where Kayla went. And then I’m going to go to UCSF Medical Center to be a doctor, because Ms. Kayla is there now.’” With that kind of clarity, it’s easy to see that striving toward social equity for all can pay huge dividends.

Heller Magazine | 17



As our nation moves through the presidential election cycle, a common narrative on domestic economic issues has started to form. Red and Blue candidates alike have developed policy proposals to address the key financial issues that affect millions of households in the U.S., chief among them the twin crises of income inequality and student debt.

At the root of both of these distressing issues is a third, albeit decidedly less talked-about phenomenon: the racial wealth gap, which has become a research cornerstone of Heller’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP). In addition to monitoring the size of the racial wealth gap and the rate at which it has grown over time, IASP director and Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy Thomas Shapiro and his team developed the Racial Wealth Audit™, a tool to model the effects of public policy on the divide. In a recent report titled “Less Debt, More Equity: Lowering Student Debt While Closing the Black-White Wealth Gap,” IASP partnered with Dēmos to uncover the intricate ways that student debt policy, income inequality and the racial wealth gap influence one another. Primarily, they evaluated the idea of universal student debt relief to alleviate debt burden in the U.S. Among the results of the analysis is a surprising finding:

Instituting a universal student-debt forgiveness program would actually make the racial wealth gap worse. How can this be true, and what does it mean for policymakers? HOW DID POLICY CREATE THE GAP?

Unfortunately, stories of policies that backfire on ameliorating the racial wealth gap are commonplace in U.S. history, and over time they have significantly broadened this disparity. According to IASP, the average white family in the U.S. now owns $13 for every $1 owned by the typical black family, and $10 for every $1 owned by the typical Latino family. Even among young households ages 25-40, who ordinarily are just beginning to build wealth, whites have 10 times the resources of blacks. “Racial wealth inequality in the U.S. is deeply rooted in a legacy of historic injustices that excluded communities of color from building wealth via homeownership, banking and educational attainment,” says Shapiro. Even today, many policies inadvertently carry on this tradition of exclusion to asset building for households of color. IASP senior research associate Laura Sullivan, PhD’13, says, “Our current housing policy has created enormous racial wealth disparities, especially when combined with our school funding policy. For most households, home equity is their number-one asset, and local community resources like schools directly impact the value of home equity. Public schools are largely funded through local property taxes, which are derived from property value. When you combine this with policies that allow ongoing racial residential segregation, it means that communities of color often end up with lower-resourced schools and lower-value homes.” This self-perpetuating cycle impacts the educational opportunities and future earnings potential for the children who live in low-resource neighborhoods, and it also impacts their parents’ home equity.

Heller Magazine | 19


Policies like these, while not explicitly discriminatory, contribute substantially to the racial wealth gap. And many other policies either currently in effect or in the proposal stage could unintentionally perpetuate or exacerbate wealth disparities. Enter the Racial Wealth Audit. The Racial Wealth Audit (RWA) allows researchers to view policy discussions through a racial equity lens, particularly for new proposals or policies that are under development. For each analysis, the RWA utilizes a baseline of representative data for wealth and wealth accumulation for different groups in the U.S. The IASP team then incorporates conservative assumptions about policy-driven changes in wealth to predict the policy’s effect on the racial wealth gap. With the RWA, Shapiro and his team are able to test the impact of a given policy (real or hypothetical) on household wealth by race and age group. Shapiro says, “We want to help develop a ‘double bottom line’ so that policies can achieve expanded wealth and asset building among households broadly, but also help reduce racial wealth inequities.” In their student debt analysis, the team discovered that 54 percent of young black households ages 25-40 hold student debt. “Holding student debt is more common than not among black households starting their adult lives,” says Sullivan. “It creates a major obstacle to long-term economic security.” Among low-income households, the disparities are particularly notable: Young blacks are three times more likely to hold student debt than young whites. In the RWA analysis, Shapiro and his team discovered that broad-based student debt relief without regard to household income could actually increase the racial wealth gap among young households. White student debtors are more likely to have family support in paying off debt and to earn graduate degrees, which offer greater earnings potential. These factors increase white students’ overall

20 | Heller Magazine

The benefits of universal debt relief would disproportionately accrue to white debt holders, widening the divide. capacity to repay student loans. Thus, the benefits of universal debt relief would disproportionately accrue to white debt holders, widening the divide. Shapiro and his team estimate that a universal student debt relief policy for young households would expand the divide between median black and white wealth by an additional 9 percent. By contrast, the IASP report continues, “Eliminating student debt only among those making $50,000 or below reduces the black-white wealth disparity by nearly 37 percent among low-wealth households, and a policy that eliminates debt only among those making $25,000 or less reduces the black-white wealth gap by over 50 percent.” According to the IASP team, progressive student debt and higher-education financing policies that steer investments toward low- and moderate-income students will expand educational opportunities and reduce debt burdens where needed most. A TOOL FOR STRATEGIC PHILANTHROPY

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has supported the work of IASP for several years, recently taking an active interest in the RWA as a way to vet its policy recommendations. In January 2016, the foundation released a report that is accompanied by RWA analyses of “myRA” retirement accounts and children’s savings accounts. Both programs are designed to increase the asset holdings of low-resource households. Beadsie Woo, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Community and Economic Opportunity, says, “We’re very interested in the RWA because the racial wealth gap is such an important and under-attended issue. We’re delighted that IASP has created this incredible method to estimate the impact of any given policy on the racial wealth gap. I think it’s a great tool, and I’m hoping that lots of other organizations and policymakers will turn to it as they’re thinking about the policies they want to advance.”


At the heart of the RWA analysis of student debt is a conversation about equity versus equality, which ultimately falls on the side of equity: It’s critical for social policies to provide the conditions for all people to thrive. “In the United States we like to think that there’s equality of opportunity,” says Sullivan, “but the racial wealth gap, which has been established by policy, means that there isn’t equality of opportunity. Wealth is about more than just getting by today; it’s about being able to weather hard times, invest in the future and achieve mobility.” Shapiro also understands that the issue of student loans has substantial political momentum in the ongoing 2016 presidential race. “Many presidential candidates already have views on what to do about student debt, but none of them are thinking about the impact on the racial wealth gap,” he says. “Most of their proposals will make the gap worse: They might reduce absolute levels of student debt, but they wouldn’t have the double bottom line of at least maintaining a neutral racial wealth gap, let alone closing it.” College degrees are increasingly required to gain access to well-paying jobs. However, the skyrocketing cost of tuition and debt — worsened by state funding cuts during the Great Recession — have made getting a degree an ever-riskier gamble for future financial security. For many moderate- and low-income students, earning a college degree represents both an opportunity and a hurdle. “The Racial Wealth Audit allows us to interrogate and disprove many popular ideas about why racial disparities exist in our society,” says Shapiro. “Often the truth is that disparities exist because of poorly constructed policies. This tool allows us to be forward-thinking. It ignites a different, more proactive way of creating and implementing policy. It’s important to correct mistakes, but it’s absolutely crucial that we stop making them in the first place.”

Heller Magazine | 21


BY MAX PEARLSTEIN ’01 22 | Heller Magazine

Heller alumna Barbara Ferrer, PhD’94, has played important roles in both health and education in Massachusetts, and now she has the opportunity to make an impact on the national and international level as chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. I talked with her at the foundation’s offices in Battle Creek, Mich. Let’s start off with the basics: Tell me about the Kellogg Foundation.


and with our operation units. I’m usually on the road about two weeks each month visiting our community partners because we’re not an operating foundation — what we offer is access to critical information, a network of people committed to improving the lives of children, and resources to move forward collective actions that build racial equity and create more equitable opportunities for all children.

BARBARA FERRER: The Kellogg Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. We’re focused on improving the lives of all children by working in partnership with our grantees across the world. In particular, we center our efforts on six places: Michigan, New Mexico, Mississippi and New Orleans are our domestic sites; Haiti, and Chiapas and the Yucatán in Mexico are our international sites. We also have a large national portfolio in the United States, so you see our partnerships showing up in just about every state.

We’re working in collaboration with people in our communities. As a foundation, we have a deep belief in the inherent capacity of people to know what is best and to make the changes they need to guarantee that children have access to essential resources and opportunities. We apply a racial equity lens in our work to ensure that all children can thrive; in particular, we support efforts that promote racial equity and racial healing so that children of color and their families have what is needed for their optimal development. Our grantees take various actions to improve outcomes for children, including changing policies, service delivery systems and practices. We support efforts to replace narratives based on perceptions and stereotypes so that everyone can share and understand the authentic stories of the people who live, work and play in our communities. You’re the foundation’s first chief strategy officer. What do you do?

I’m just coming back from spending a week in the highlands of Chiapas, where we visited with organizations working together with indigenous communities who are often heavily discriminated against and lack opportunities to chart their own future. We’ve been very intentional about supporting those efforts that allow community members to form working councils to debate the path and vision forward for their communities, with a particular focus on making sure children can thrive. I’m so proud of the opportunities that I’ve had to learn from others and to help other people learn from each other. That’s at the heart and soul of this work. We’re about transformative change. Tell me about your Heller experience and how it led you down this career path.



BF: I support all our programming efforts, both here in the U.S. and internationally. I am based in Battle Creek, where I work with talented colleagues to ensure that our grant making is well integrated across programming teams

BF: I was part of a small group of students that was supported with funds from the Pew Foundation. We came to Heller to study a broad range of health issues as part of a program that allowed us to work closely with some of our colleagues at Boston University. We greatly benefited from both the rigorous academic opportunities offered at

Heller Magazine | 23

There’s definitely synergy between the Kellogg Foundation and the Heller School. —BARBARA FERRER

Heller and at BU, and a climate, particularly at Heller, that asked three fundamental questions: How would we be of service to others? How would we understand, contribute to and work with an evidenced-based knowledge base? And as we charted our own personal growth, how would we stay attuned to the fact that at Heller we were part of a community that supported one another in our collective growth? I think that was unique to the Heller School and certainly unique to my experience in education. I know I ended up with a tremendous skill set, but I also was challenged not to oversimplify the complexity of the world that we live in when developing relationships with others who are working to improve the well-being of all people through health policy. I had an exceptional group of professors that I learned from, and I had an equally outstanding group of Heller colleagues at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy where I worked part time who really helped me along my journey.

a city that had a mayor who was passionate about issues related to racial equity and racial justice. I was able to grow personally while having the opportunity to work on issues I care deeply about. In all of my work experiences, I’ve had the honor to be part of efforts committed to creating opportunities so that every individual reaches his or her full potential. I’ve worked in places where everybody believed in that, and that continues today at the Kellogg Foundation. HM:

BF: I feel that I’m part of a team that strives to make an impact, and I think the best we all can do is to work as hard as we can and remain focused on the fact that our tasks may be complicated and difficult. At the end of the day, our contributions are that we’re building relationships with others so that together we can carry important work forward. HM:


After you left Heller, you stayed in the Boston area.

Yes, I stayed in Boston for a long time. I worked both in public health and in education. I started my career right out of Heller at the state department of public health, where I was directing the chronic disease unit for a couple of years and then the maternal and child health unit. After that, I was the deputy commissioner for Boston’s public health department and later became the health commissioner. In between being a deputy commissioner and commissioner at the health department, I was a principal at one of the Boston district’s high schools, the Parkway Academy for Technology and Health. BF:

I feel that I’ve had a blessed life because in all of the work I’ve done, I’ve been surrounded by remarkable colleagues. One colleague in particular, the late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, stands out. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss and a better friend, and feel privileged to have lived in

24 | Heller Magazine

Do you feel that you’re making an impact?

What’s the best part of this job?

BF: I love the opportunities I have to learn from others both within the foundation and especially externally. There are people across this world whose lives are phenomenally complicated, and yet they are leading tremendous change. They’re optimistic, they’re hopeful, and they’re teaching all of us what it means to be part of a community and to work with communities to make the kinds of improvements that have a lasting impact on the lives of children.

There’s definitely synergy between the Kellogg Foundation and the Heller School. Those of us who went to Heller chose to attend because we felt an affinity for the values that are espoused in that educational setting. I think Heller did a really good job preparing a person like me to be of added value out in the world — to really live your values in a way that makes a difference. That requires not just heart and soul but also a commitment to constantly learn from others.

Heller Magazine | 25



When our master’s program asked me to interview Wafaa, I assumed it would be easy to tell her story. As her friend and classmate, I was eager to hear a more thorough version of her life than she shares in classes. Talking about Syria, Wafaa’s home country, has become natural in the Heller School’s Conflict Resolution and Coexistence Program. As we’ve moved through the courses, Wafaa and I have had many difficult conversations about conflict, mostly at the macro-level. Outside of class, we often decompress from the stress that these conversations cause. For those of us who have experienced it firsthand, even academic discussions about conflict are difficult.

Although Syria is possibly the most complex and commonly discussed conflict occurring at this time, for Wafaa it is much more than academic discourse. Unlike most of us, when Wafaa watches the destruction of her country in the media, she does not see words on pages or images on the news; she sees childhood memories. She dreams about her family. It is the only place she’s been able to touch them since she left home two and a half years ago, never imagining the war zone it would become. As a U.S. Army veteran, I approach conflict with a sense of urgency. The first time I sat down to interview Wafaa, I couldn’t help but remember my 2009 deployment to Taji, Iraq. I saw faces, many of them Iraqi, and I remembered sounds. I remembered certain smells, which triggered memories, many of which were largely forgotten or suppressed. As I listened to Wafaa, I wondered about which faces, sounds and memories arise when she watches the news or talks about Syria daily in class. She and I both have experience in war, but our paths could not be more different. We both get anxious at the sound of fireworks, but if I can anticipate them they are actually soothing to me. They always elicit fear for her. We have both had many sleepless nights. I’ve stayed awake worrying that I contributed to others’ pain, while Wafaa tosses and turns thinking about her family. I am from a family with

roots in military service, so joining felt natural. While I ran to war, Wafaa ran from it. What follows are a few pieces of our individual experiences with war. Mine is the story of a young black female officer just out of college, serving as a platoon leader in Iraq. Wafaa’s is the story of a young Syrian woman who left her home and family to pursue her studies in the U.S. at the onset of the crisis in Syria. WAFAA, SEPTEMBER 2013, UTAH, USA

I left Syria on June 4, 2013, at 7 a.m. It was my first time traveling abroad. I was only supposed to stay in the U.S. for two months before returning to Syria. I checked the news every minute, even at night. I would wake up in the middle of the night to call my family and make sure they were still alive. When I watched the news, I would look closely at the pictures to see if my house was one of the buildings that was bombed or destroyed. Leaving my home, family and friends was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I left everything I knew — my happiness, love and safety. My heart was at home in Syria. It was so hard to focus on my schoolwork at Utah State University. Part of me felt helpless, guilty and worried, while the other part was busy fulfilling my dream to study abroad. After three months in the U.S. the situation in my hometown became increasingly dangerous. Bombs exploded day and night in the town where my family and friends live. PHOENICIA, NOVEMBER 2008, CAMP SHELBY, MISSISSIPPI, USA

Six months after graduating from Temple University, I left for the Officer Basic Course. As a brand-new U.S. Army officer with my country at war in two war zones, I knew deployment was inevitable. I was anxious about the possibility of not returning home, but I made comments to fellow soldiers, like, “Training and not deploying is like practicing for the big game and never playing.” I felt that war was part of my job, that it was what I had committed to do. I wanted to prove to myself that I could successfully accomplish the thing with the least possibility for success: Going to war seemed impossible.


I had never heard a bomb until that morning. I was sleeping when a very strong noise shook my house and woke me up. At first I thought maybe I was still sleeping, that it was just a dream. I got out of bed and could hear an incredible amount of noise in my street. Some people were yelling, others were wondering what was going on. I realized something bad was happening, and then I remembered that my mom and sister weren’t home. I tried to call them but there was no response. I didn’t know what to do. I went out into the street to talk to my neighbors, but nobody was sure what the noise was. Some guessed that a jar of gas exploded, others suggested it might be a bomb. Finally, my mom and sister came home and I felt only relief. I used to watch conflicts happening around the world on television, and I always told myself that it was very far from Syria. We lived in a safe and stable country. Now I know that this can happen anywhere, at any time. That bomb changed the way I wake up every day. Instead of waking up to Fairoz songs and my mom’s voice calling me to coffee, my alarm became the sound of bombs inside my head. Every night when I go to sleep I don’t know what might happen during the night. It’s frightening to feel that your life and the lives of the people around you could end any minute. Now I tell myself I’m far away from Syria and there is no bombing here, just to make it through my day. PHOENICIA, 2006, FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY, USA

As an ROTC cadet, I learned how to “call for fire.” It involved a grid with numbers and mathematical calculations. My instructor told us we needed to “walk a round onto a target.” I sat in the classroom (in uniform) trying to figure out what I was being asked to learn, but I struggled to grasp the concept. A few months later, at a training exercise in Fort Knox, Ky., those instructions came alive. As a 5-foot-2-inch, 120-pound woman, I always felt I had to prove I deserved to be there. I had to prove I deserved to wear the uniform, to be called “ma’am,” to lead soldiers, to contribute. When I was challenged to pick up a 95-pound M107 round and carry it over to the howitzer crew, I carried it because I love challenges. I watched the crew load the weapon with amazing efficiency. Within

Heller Magazine | 27

seconds they signaled to the crew chief and then all turned away from the machinery as the round was fired. Even with bright orange earplugs protecting my hearing, the sound tickled my eardrums and the power of the machinery shook the foundation I stood on. The explosion did not leave my mind that night as I slept. In the most vivid dream I’ve ever had, I saw a round tearing through the sky and heading toward me. I decided that night that I did not want to work in artillery. That training round impacted the way I view the complexity of war. My dream may have been just a dream, but it was where I first imagined and felt the consequences of what I was being prepared to do. I felt the pain and uncertainty of those living in a war zone. These feelings stayed with me when I deployed to Iraq in 2009 as a military intelligence officer.


I can’t wait to see my family again. Seeing how much my nieces and nephews have grown makes me miss them like crazy. I want so badly to watch them grow up. But I can’t go home right now because of my visa. Nobody chooses to be a refugee. Destroyed cities, the deaths of thousands and millions of displaced people are some of the results of the Syrian conflict. Refugees lose their homes, jobs, hope and all of their possessions in exchange for their lives. Syria has more than 10 million displaced people — half of the Syrian

28 | Heller Magazine

population. There are around 4.2 million refugees in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and, more recently, Europe. There are also some 7.6 million internally displaced people still in Syria. Internally displaced people live with much of their extended family in the same house and sometimes in the same room. They struggle to meet their basic needs due to the skyrocketing costs of food and standard goods. Fifty percent of Syrian refugee children are out of school and have been traumatized by war. Around 4,000 schools are closed due to damage or because in-country refugees are living in the school buildings. PHOENICIA, 2009, HOSSEINIA, IRAQ 

I remember camels walking through endless sands in the deserts of Kuwait. I remember the first sunset I saw in Baghdad; it reflected off a small man-made lake behind the tarmac where I stood waiting for it to be dark enough for the Chinook helicopter to arrive and take us into Taji. As a military intelligence officer, my combat zone was mostly behind a desk. But there are parts of 2009 I remember in feelings. My first mission outside the base felt like permission to leave my desk. I was eager to go and experience the feelings the infantry guys felt every day. I listened intently to the situation brief, which seemed mundane to the Stryker crew I was riding with. When we loaded into their Stryker and the door closed, the lack of windows made me uneasy. When our movement stopped, I listened as they passed word along to one another. “Ready LT?” the squad leader asked me as the door opened, exposing us to the outside world. I rubbed my finger along the trigger well and began to graze my thumb against the safety. As the ramp hit the ground, my eyes scanned the view outside. I saw a man sitting on a tan plastic chair under a tree by the side of the road. Before I could process what he was doing, or how confusing it was to see him sitting in jeans and a T-shirt, doing nothing in the middle of the day, three young girls holding hands walked into view. They pretended not to look at us as they scurried past our more than 8-foot-long olive green vehicle. The oldest of the three, no more than 11, walked between the other two and silently pulled them along.

I remember camels walking through endless sands in the deserts of Kuwait. I remember the first sunset I saw in Baghdad. —PHOENICIA


I want everyone to understand that refugees are human beings, and that they have the right to live their lives the way they want. They deserve a better place, away from the daily sounds of bombs. No one is guaranteed a life free from terrible things. It breaks my heart to see that most countries are not welcoming to refugees and treat them poorly. Let’s imagine that these people are your family. Is this how a person treats family? European countries are now experiencing the effects of the conflict in Syria, as refugees pour across their borders. Many generalizations have arisen about the refugees, and in these generalizations, humanity is lost. It is my hope that Syrians will rebuild Syria again, with an inclusive community. Let’s engage our hearts and work together to save our humanity, to write a great history and to make tomorrow better for everyone. PHOENICIA, 2015, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA

I did not want to write Wafaa’s story, as she is the best narrator of her experience. She is a graduate student because she worked hard to be here, and she appreciates and hopes to use her education, to use her voice to make lives better. There are many articles written about Syrians as victims or refugees, but to me she is none of the things the articles call Syrians. I can relate. The characterizations of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans as heroes, perpetrators or broken victims in no way describe me. Having experienced conflict, we both recognize that as we work to address our personal trauma, in our work we will interact with communities that have also experienced trauma. Decision makers should consider how policies affect the populations for whom they are creating policies.

Often trauma is not one of the considerations. Policies should support inclusive societies, not spurn further conflicts of identity or conflicts that demand equality. As development professionals, we believe in the Preamble of the United Nations, which places importance on the promotion of “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” Policymakers, particularly those from member states of the U.N., should weave this into the essence of their policies. These policies should, as the Preamble continues, “practice [inclusion] and [ensure communities] live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.” WAFAA, 2015, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, USA

We wrote our stories not to detail our personal lives. Rather, our hope was that through sharing our experiences we would give people a glimpse of the humanity that exists in conflict zones. We wanted to expose the human cost of war. We believe that by changing ourselves, we can contribute to peace on a larger scale. Regarding climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that we don’t have a Plan B to correct the harm we’ve caused the Earth. Phoenicia and I also do not have a Plan B for our future: Successfully contributing to creating sustainable peace is our only option. Phoenicia and Wafaa also told their story on NPR’s “Here and Now” on April 12, 2016. You can listen to their interview at hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/04/12.

Heller Magazine | 29



Gretchen Alther, MA SID’04, has joined the East-West Center in Honolulu as a leadership education specialist, having previously served as a fellow and consultant. She directs the center’s flagship residential leadership course for young professionals, the Asia Pacific Leadership Program. She also designs and delivers programs and retreats for women around the world, focusing on the variety of women’s personal and professional leadership experiences. (Alther.gretchen@gmail.com) Brenda J. Bond, PhD’06, became chair of Suffolk University’s Institute for Public Service and program director of the MPA program in the Sawyer Business School. Bond has been a faculty member at Suffolk University since 2007 and took on this new leadership role in July 2015. Additionally, in October 2015, Bond and colleague Erika Gebo, associate professor of sociology at Suffolk and co-PI, were awarded a three-year, $286,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice to conduct a study of organizational change in two Massachusetts cities. They will work with these communities and the Relational Coordination Research Collaborative, including Heller faculty member Jody Hoffer Gittell, to conduct and study the use of an organizational change intervention in communities working to reduce youth and gang violence. (bbond@suffolk.edu) Elle L. Chang, MA SID’15, recently started a job at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a program analyst in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, working on the tribal side. Her work focuses on EPA’s efforts to protect human health and the environment of federally recognized tribes by supporting implementation of federal

30 | Heller Magazine

environmental laws consistent with the federal trust responsibility, the government-to-government relationship, and EPA’s 1984 Indian Policy. Though she misses her worldly Heller family, she lives in Washington, D.C., where many SID alumni can be found doing great work. (changellel@gmail.com) Crystal Germond, MBA’15, relocated to Austin, Texas, with her husband a week after presenting her Team Consulting Project at Heller so she could join a mission-driven education-technology startup called PenPal Schools. As head of marketing, she serves on the leadership team and drives marketing and engagement strategy to grow their global community. The organization is helping students around the world learn together.  (crystalgermond@gmail.com) Kat Johnston, MPP’11, was promoted and is now the educator effectiveness coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Working at the department over the last four years, Johnston has led statewide efforts to engage teachers in policy decisions and implementation (living her Capstone dream!), including the establishment of the first state-level Teacher Advisory Cabinet. (katsjohnston@gmail.com) Rienzzie Kern, MA SID’00, just completed 15 years at Heifer International. Kern is now senior director of evaluation, research and learning, with the responsibility for investing in evaluative research using state-of-the-art methods with scientific rigor. He has also established a number of academic partnerships for collaboration on research and evaluation. (Rienzzie.Kern@heifer.org)

Parisa Kharazi, MS’13, has been working for over two years as a senior health informatics analyst at Jhpiego, a global maternal and child health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. Kharazi has been leading Jhpiego’s efforts in launching a new centralized reporting system tracking public health indicators across the organization’s 40 countries. To build on her innovative health care technology skills, she recently completed a Certificate in the Business of Health Care at the Carey Business School and was a teaching assistant at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. (parisakharazi@gmail.com) Marianne McPherson, MA’07, PhD’09, began a new position as director of the 100 Million Healthier Lives Implementation at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass., in November 2015. The vision of 100 Million Healthier Lives is to fundamentally transform the way the world thinks and acts to improve health, well-being and equity to get to breakthrough results — 100 million people living healthier lives by 2020. She invites you to join their network of some 700 members in more than 10 countries at www.100mlives. org. (mmcpherson@ihi.org) Ed Newman, PhD’68, after leaving Heller, joined President Johnson’s poverty program, the Federal Budget Bureau, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration as President Nixon’s Commissioner. He then ran a research and training center and served as a professor of social policy at Temple University.  This will be the fifth year he will teach a mini-course in sociopolitical advocacy at Sapir Academic College in Israel. He enjoys encouraging his students, many former members of the Israel Defense Forces, to mobilize interests to reduce social problems and

advocate for progressive policies. (newmanec@aol.com) Darlene O’Connor, PhD’87, is currently vice president for strategic planning at JEN Associates Inc., a premier health data analytics firm. She is also the author of a play, “Talking With Dolores,” which explores issues of aging and suicide. The play is available on DVD in English and Spanish (“Hablando Con Dolores”) from CHD, a mental health service provider in Springfield, Mass. (dee.oconnor@jen.com) Heath Prince, MA’10, PhD’13; Yara Halasa, MS’06, MA’12, PhD candidate; along with colleague Amna Khan, visited Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco for a study funded by the United Nations Research Institution

for Social Development. The study aims to explore if any new social policies emerged from the Arab Spring to address youth unemployment in five countries. During their visits, they met with intellectuals, policymakers, ministers, academics and activists, and also had the pleasure of meeting another Heller alumnus, Shymaa Allam, MA SID’14, who is currently working with the World Bank in Cairo. (yarahalasa@yahoo.com) Malini Sekhar, MA SID’06, celebrated her one-year anniversary as the director of communications/entrepreneur-inresidence at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services IDEA Lab. The IDEA Lab is one of the first

innovation spaces and programs in the federal government and has been touted by the president as a model for the future. The HHS IDEA Lab focuses on empowering innovation within and outside to transform the department to better fulfill its mission and rise to the challenges of our current times. It stands at the crossroads of health, technology and innovation. Fellow Heller alumna Elizabeth Robboy Kittrie, MMHS’94, has also worked in the lab. (malini.sekhar@gmail.com) Debra Rahmin Silberstein, MA’05, PhD’09, joined Burns & Levinson as a partner in the private client group. Prior to joining Burns & Levinson, Silberstein, who specializes in trusts and estates, tax-related matters and elder law, was in private practice for more than 25 years. She is an active member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, currently serving on the Probate Law Section Council, and is a well-known member of her local bar, the Lawrence Bar Association, as well as the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys. She regularly writes and publishes on estate planning and tax policy matters. (debra@debrasilberstein.com) Laura Stahl, MBA’08, started a new job as director of operations for PERTS (Project for Education Research That Scales), an applied research center at Stanford University, in December 2015. PERTS partners with schools, colleges and other organizations to improve student motivation and achievement at a large scale. (stahl_l@hotmail.com) Laurie Stillman, MMHS’82, who has managed award-winning public health

programs since receiving her degree, has become an independent public health consultant, with clients in the Greater Boston area and across New England. She is the lead author of a recent publication for Health Resources in Action, a national public health institute, titled “Embracing Equity in Community Health Planning.” (lrstillman@verizon.net) Sara Wall, MPP’10, is now the social impact manager for Vitus Group, a national affordable housing developer. She is leading the implementation of their Active Design Verified initiative, with the Partnership for a Healthier America and the Center for Active Design, to change the social and environmental conditions impacting health. (Sara.Wall@vitusgroup.com) Elizabeth Walsh, MA SID’09, relocated to Washington, D.C., in October 2015, and is now working as director of communications and marketing at InsideNGO. (eawalsh@brandeis.edu) Amandine Weinrob, MA COEX’12, moved to the Bay Area at the beginning of fall 2014 to start a new job at Equal Access International, a social behavior change organization that works to provide information and education through different forms of media (specifically radio) and outreach activities in communities around the world. For the past year and a half, she managed the Pakistan portfolio and is now dedicating her skills to the Africa team, where she specifically works in the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad) as well as in Nigeria on topics such as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). (amandineweinrob@gmail.com)

Heller Magazine | 31



Mohit Holmesheoran, MA SID’14, and Celeste Gregory, MA SID’10, attended the Humanitarian Response Department (HRD) meeting at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Headquarters in Baltimore in December 2015. HRD staff support emergency program planning, rapid response and capacity strengthening of CRS staff and partners worldwide. Holmesheoran is technical advisor to MEAL in Emergencies at CRS. He recently supported ongoing earthquake response efforts in Nepal and is preparing for the ICT4D Conference scheduled for May 2016 in Nairobi. Gregory is technical advisor to Emergency Response. From September to December 2015, she supported CRS Guinea’s response to the Ebola outbreak and will soon travel to Ethiopia to support drought response efforts.  (Celeste.Gregory@crs.org, mohit.holmesheoran@crs.org) Francis X. Holt, MA’06, PhD’11, presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Chicago in November 2015. (fxholt@gmail.com) Michael H. Levine, PhD’85, spoke at the LearnLaunch Across Boundaries Conference in a discussion titled “Too Much Screen Time or Not Enough.” The conference took place in January 2016 and was co-sponsored by Harvard Business School, Harvard Graduate School of Education and LearnLaunch Institute for the purpose of promoting dialogue about digital learning. This year, the conference examined the question “Are We Digitizing Past Practice or Moving Toward Personalized Learning?” Levine is also the co-author of a new book on the future of literacy learning titled “Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens,” published by Wiley/Jossey

32 | Heller Magazine

Bass. tapclickread.org (Michael.Levine@sesame.org) James M. Lurie, MMHS’82, PhD’86, coauthored and published a report in Norwegian, with the English translation, “Child Protection Services Practice With Child Welfare Assessments in Central Norway.” Authors include Jim Lurie, Inge Kvaran, Torill Tjelflaat and Hanne E. Sørlie. Rapport 4/2015 from Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (jim.lurie@ntnu.no) Amir H. Mahdavi, MA COEX’14, started on his second master’s degree, in Middle East studies, at Harvard University in fall 2015. Because of the Iran nuclear deal, his favorite research topic was recently implemented, so he continued discussions regarding the issue by publishing one brief paper for the Crown Center for Middle East Studies and an op-ed for The Washington Post. In addition, one of his papers has been accepted to be presented in the Middle East symposium at the University of Michigan and at Boston University’s School of Global Studies’ conference. (mahdavi@g.harvard.edu) Amelia Márquez de Pérez, PhD’96, published “Recent Evaluation Research: From the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Lessons Learned From Panama’s Case.” The research report analyzes the performance of Panama in the process of achieving the Millennium Development Goals approved by the Assembly of the United Nations

from 2000-2015, at a minimum, to help the population to have access to the development process. Based on statistical information, reports and interviews of principal actors from 2000-15, the report offers information on the strengths, weaknesses and lessons learned from this long-term experience, with the aim of making recommendations to the country’s policy actors in order to improve Panama’s performance in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years (2016-2030). (amperez@cwpanama.net) Abeer Musleh, MA’09, PhD’15, had a publication in the Revista de Estudios Internacionales Mediterráneos (REIM) (Issue 19, December 2015) devoted to “Democratic Mobilizations in the Arab World: Social and Political Activism of Young People.” The paper is titled “Roles of Organizations in Socialization of Youth Leaders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) After Oslo.” View online at http:// dx.doi.org/10.15366/reim2015.19.006. (abmusleh@gmail.com) Deborah Kaplan Polivy, MSW’72, PhD’78, has written a book tentatively titled “The Donor Lifecycle Map: A Model for Fundraising Success,” which will be published summer 2016 by Charity Channel Press. Her first book, “Donor Cultivation and the Donor Lifecycle Map: A New Framework for Fundraising,” was published by Wiley in 2014. This new book will primarily consist of cases that resulted from using the Donor Lifecycle Map “in the field.” (DEBPOL@aol.com) Betsy K. Schwartz, MMHS’88, developed “Down the Canal – The Game of Birth,” which is now available for purchase. The game’s focus is on exploring the two very distinct models of care in birth: the midwifery model and the

medical model. The game encourages learners to educate themselves about all tests and procedures, and to make informed choices about their care. With a national cesarean section rate of close to 33 percent, there is a maternity care crisis. This game seeks to draw attention to that issue. (betsydoula@gmail.com) Joseph M. Wronka, PhD’92, represented the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) before the 30th session of the Human Rights Council. There, he submitted four policy statements, including: 1) supporting the most recent U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Peasants, making note of the fact that some constitutions, like that of Pakistan, reserve seats for peasants in their legislatures; 2) supporting the latest U.N. Report on the Global Problem of Illegal Drug Abuse, which calls in part for culturally sensitive approaches to dealing with drug addiction, harm reduction approaches and supervised injection rooms; 3) questioning the report of the U.S. before the Human Rights Council because it did not appear to address what could be considered welfare for corporate entities; and 4) urging continual support for the Universal Periodic Review process of the U.N. system, urging that supra-national organizations, like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization receive the

same scrutiny as nation-states. Wronka also moderated a panel on the Right to Self-Determination sponsored by the World Muslim Congress and the Kashmiri Institute. That panel dealt primarily with the situations in the western Sahara, Kashmir and India, and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank, and the state of Indigenous Peoples in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Additionally, he presented at the 38th Annual Fulbright Alumni Conference, Global Pathways to Peace in Atlanta in November 2015. The title of his presentation was “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a Tool for Peace and Conflict Resolution.” He also presented at the 6th Annual Human Rights Education Conference in Middleburg, Holland, in December 2015 on Translating Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms for Today’s World, with a talk titled “Implementing the Spirit of Crazy Horse: As a Fulbrighter in Pakistan and a Multi-Pronged Approach for the Helping and Health Professions, the Problem of World Drug Abuse.” (josephwronka@gmail.com) Yasmin Zaidi, MA’08, PhD’12, is the founding director of the Center of Gender and Policy Studies (CGaPS). The center produced the first “Status of Women Report” and is currently preparing a second one, titled “Status of Women’s Economic Participation and Empowerment in the Humanitarian and Development Context in Pakistan,” in collaboration with the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW). CGaPS has provided technical support to the NCSW for a national survey on women’s social and economic wellbeing that will generate data on the prevalence and frequency of violence against women and its nexus with economic empowerment. The policy-focused, mixed methods research approach learned at

Heller is being put to good use. Visit CGaPS at www.cgaps.org.pk for more information. (yzaidi55@yahoo.com) AWARDS/HONORS/BOARDS/ GRANTS

Ruth J. Abram, MSW’71, social activist, historian and founding president of Manhattan’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, was one of 10 recipients of the J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize. The award — $175,000 over a three-year period — recognizes Abram’s leadership and dedication to social innovation, specifically with respect to BEHOLD! New Lebanon [New York], the nation’s first living museum of contemporary rural American life. (rjabram@gmail.com) Diane M. Disney, PhD’89, was elected to the Patient and Family-Centered Care Advisory Council at the Penn State Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. She also serves as a scientific advisor for Project ACHIEVE, a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute-funded project headquartered at the University of Kentucky to study transitional care (hospital to home) nationally. (dzd5@psu.edu) Bulat Idrisov, MS’14, was awarded a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Visiting Scientists and Technical Exchange Program (INVEST) Drug Abuse Research Fellowship to train with Dr. Jeffrey Samet ’77, MA’77, at Boston Medical Center. Prior to NIDA INVEST, Idrisov was a resident physician at Bashkir State Medical University in

Heller Magazine | 33


Russia and started analyses on food insecurity and HIV risk behaviors while at Heller. He will now continue this important research over the next 12 months as a NIDA INVEST fellow, analyzing food insecurity and HIV transmission, progression and access to care in the Russia cohort, while honing his skills as an addiction researcher at Boston University Medical Center. (bidrisov@gmail.com) Vincent Mor, PhD’79, was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in October 2015.  The National Academy of Medicine is a component of the National Academies of Science. Members are elected by the incumbent membership on the basis of professional achievement and of demonstrated interest, concern and involvement with problems and critical issues that affect the health of the public. (vincent_mor@brown.edu) Tao S. Moran, MMHS’95, shared an article titled “Drama Therapy Brings Out Star of HIR Parsha Play,” which was published in the Jewish Link,

regarding her son Ethan MoranSchifman’s bar mitzvah. Ethan, who has autism spectrum disorder, was called as a bar mitzvah on Jan. 16 to receive an aliyah. He worked very hard using Gateways Jewish Special Education materials to memorize the blessing before and after the torah reading. It was a pleasure for his parents to have Ethan participate in this rite of passage and to include so many of his

34 | Heller Magazine


schoolmates. Ethan also starred in his very own parsha play and played Pharoah to his brother, Aaron. The article describes Ethan’s love for acting and being in plays: http://jewishlinkbwc.com/index.php?option=com_co ntent&view=article&id=7505:dra ma-therapy-brings-out-star-of-hirparsha-plays&catid=151:communitynews&Itemid=584  (taomo2@yahoo.com) Mushtaq Shaikh, MA SID’12, was honored by the chairman of the Gujarat Minority Finance and Development Corporation Board and the State of Gujarat, India, for outstanding contribution in the field of grass-roots development and social welfare work. The award ceremony was organized by Ummeed Charitable Trust, a local social development organization working in Godhra, Gujarat. He was also empaneled by the Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as a “Certified Financial Literacy Resource Person” to

spread financial literacy for promoting the financial inclusion of the excluded and marginalized groups in India. (mushtaq@brandeis.edu) BIRTHS/MARRIAGES

Dorothy Hiersteiner, MPP’11, and Jason Gray, MPP’11, got married on Oct. 3, 2015, in Canton, Mass. Hiersteiner is the project coordinator for the National Core Indicators at the Human Services Research Institute. In this position, Hiersteiner works to help states improve public services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Gray is the senior education advisory and member services associate at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.  (dhierst@gmail.com, jason.b.gray@gmail.com)



JAFFAR ALIZADEH, MA SID’17 Heller Alumni Lounge. I was passing by on a winter day and saw this. I told myself: “Heaven could be like this.”

Heller Magazine | 35



PHOENICIA LEWIS, MA SID/COEX’16 An-Najah collection. The University of An-Najah in Nablus, the West Bank, has a collection of Palestinian artifacts. During a research trip with a small COEX research team, we were able to visit organizations and academics on both sides of the conflict. As a coexistence practitioner, it is critical to participate in listening and learning, particularly in asymmetric conflicts. The collections at An-Najah display many pieces of Palestinian history lost and not displayed on the other side of the wall.

36 | Heller Magazine


TEYEI PAM, MA SID’17 The Fading Bridge. This photo is from the annual New York Trek, in which a group of students travels to the city to visit organizations and to explore possible internships. I took the picture from a moving car, which explains the blurriness that, to me, is the best part of the picture.





Heller opens the door for a lot of opportunity, including depth

Heller student Alex Curtiss enjoys the view from the top during

of learning, engagement, dialogue focused on social issues,

a recent ski trip in Waterville Valley, N.H., sponsored by the

and experiential learning from experts in various fields. Equally

Graduate Student Association.

important is the opportunity to connect and build relationships with colleagues whose backgrounds and professional experiences are impressive and whose stories are inspiring.

Heller Magazine | 37


Nonprofit Org U.S. Postage Paid Permit #15731 Boston, MA

P.O. Box 549110, MS 035 Waltham, MA 02454- 9110

Student debt is the biggest millstone around Millennials, period, and an even larger and heavier one around the necks of black Millennials. TOM SHAPIRO in The Atlantic on “Why so many

minority millennials can’t get ahead”


Post on unpaid family leave policy 4 | Heller Magazine


about her new book, “Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees and America at Its Best”

In any health crisis or epidemic, there’s a struggle between public health initiatives to tamp down the epidemic, and people’s individual needs and rights.… It took a long time, but the public health interests seem to be winning out. PETER KREINER in BuzzFeed on prescription drug monitoring

Profile for Brandeis University

Heller Magazine, Summer 2016  

A magazine of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

Heller Magazine, Summer 2016  

A magazine of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

Profile for brandeis