Student Spotlight: Erica Brien

Erica Brien
Erica Brien, first-year MPP/MBA student concentrating in poverty alleviation, co-chair of the MPP Student Association Community Partnerships Committee

Prior to coming to Heller, I worked as a Protected Areas Management Adviser in Peace Corps Honduras and as the Manager of Recruitment and Community Partnerships at Big Sister Boston. In Peace Corps Honduras, I worked with community leaders and families on numerous income generation projects. Although much was accomplished through the efforts of local leaders, I also had the opportunity to observe the implications of US economic policy on a global level and the additional obstacles it creates for those battling poverty internationally. After two years, I returned to the United States to apply what I learned within a more familiar context.

At Big Sister Boston (BSB), I used my leadership to address pervasive inequities by focusing on youth development and the advancement of girls and women. As BSB Manager of Recruitment, I led a team to establish partnerships that increased monetary and programmatic resources. Through the cross-sector community partnerships I established, I had the opportunity to collaborate with city leaders and local residents, deepening my understanding of policy issues in Boston.

Through these experiences, I have grown to understand that systemic change is both possible and necessary. Although BSB programs yield significant outcomes for girls in many areas including educational achievement, I grew to understand that social challenges can be more permanently addressed by challenging the dominant systems in which they are rooted. In this way, more effective public policies are necessary, and I came to Heller to build the skills and knowledge needed to advance justice through policy.

The first semester as an MPP student at Heller can be an exciting one, and I enjoyed many of the core classes. Having the opportunity to learn from social justice advocates like Professor Anita Hill, however, is exceptional. Professor Hill’s Gender Equity Policies and Litigation module offered me a unique theoretical lens by focusing on current U.S. antidiscrimination law while simultaneously providing analytical tools to critique the structure and development of future policy.

I also have enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with students within the MPP Student Association as well as a number of student working groups: the LGBTQIA Working Group; the Work, Wealth and Inequality Working Group; and the Gender Working Group.


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