Student Spotlight: Jessica Rittner


Please introduce yourself:

Jessica Rittner, second year MPP/MBA student, CYF concentrator, Co-President of the MPP Student Association (MPPSA), I Bruce Gordon Fellow.

What were you doing before you came to Heller?

Prior to joining the Heller community I worked at Abt Associate, a global leader in social policy, research, and evaluation. As an Analyst in the Public Health and Epidemiology department, I worked on several large evaluations pertaining to food policy; chronic disease prevention among children and the aging population; the integration of mental health and primary care delivery for children with diverse social and emotional needs; and improving maternal, infant, and child health outcomes. I also had the opportunity to manage several multi-million dollar contracts and develop policy recommendations for a variety of U.S. Department of Health and Human Service agencies and Massachusetts state agencies.  

Why did you decide to come to Heller?

I chose to attend Heller because of the school’s commitment to “knowledge advancing social justice.” For me, the phrase emphasizes the importance of marrying clarity of thought with clarity of action. Heller is truly a community of like-minded individuals who strive to be change agents. Our curriculum is structured in a way that enhances student’s collective knowledge on current social policy and management issues, and fosters opportunities to apply our in-class experiences in real-world settings, through summer internships, consulting projects, and community partnerships. I am constantly in awe of my classmate’s dedication to social responsibility and improving equity, and I think that speaks volumes to the type of students that Heller attracts.  

What are some of the classes/activities that you’ve really enjoyed here at Heller?

The course, “Child and Family Policy: U.S. and Cross-Cultural Perspective,” taught by Dr. Marji Erickson Warfield, was one of my favorite courses at Heller. The class was small enough so that the group could fully engage in meaningful dialogues about domestic child and family policies around diverse topics (e.g., immigration, education, disability).  Marji was an excellent facilitator and brought in several engaging speakers: Katie Brandt, a Heller alum and founder of the campaign Love is Out There; Robyn Powell, current Heller PhD student and disability lawyer and policy consultant; and Tom Sannicandro, current Heller PhD student and MA state representative.

As for activities, I have to give a shout out to the MPPSA and its leadership! We are extremely fortunate to have a student-led infrastructure that aims to enhance our in-class experiences in the spirit of Heller’s mission. Our Committees – Community Partnerships, Professional and Career Development, Publications, and Social Events – are doing incredibly work. I am honored to work in that space, but even more grateful for the opportunity to learn from and engage with my peers.

If you have done a summer internship, can you say a little about where you were and what you did?

This past summer I worked as a policy intern at Health Resources in Action (HRiA), a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting individual and community health through prevention, research, and policy. While at HRiA, I assessed state and local pediatric asthma-related wellness policies, tools, and resources to assist school districts in implementing asthma-friendly policies in Massachusetts’ high-risk communities. I also developed newsletters, presentation content, case studies, and an evaluation survey for an annual Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership (MAAP) summit. Lastly, I developed a three-year strategic plan to help the Policy and Practice department identify and attract new development and staffing opportunities, and build existing and future staff and project-specific competencies.

Jessica Levin Rittner
Children, Youth, and Families Concentrator


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