Student Spotlight: Brian Kennedy


Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities or positions you might hold here at Heller):

I’m Brian Kennedy, a second-year MPP student concentrating in Assets and Poverty Alleviation. I’ve held a few jobs and positions here at Heller and Brandeis. Most recently, I served as a Teaching Assistant for Professor Shapiro’s Wealth and Poverty course as well as Professor William’s class, Hip Hop History and Culture. Currently, I work as a student research assistant at the Shuster Institute for Investigative Journalism which is housed at Brandeis University. At Shuster, I am researching mass incarceration trends in Massachusetts, using Michelle Alexander’s framework.


What were you doing before you came to Heller?

Before Heller, I taught 7th and 8th grade social studies in Charlotte, North Carolina. My school was a part of an innovation district called Project L.I.F.T. which leveraged private-public partnerships and utilized community engagement to try to increase student achievement. My favorite part of teaching were the conversations my students and I had around justice, equality, and how to achieve it.


Why did you decide to come to Heller?

Leaving the classroom was not an easy decision. I felt that I was making really important progress with my students, but was doing nothing to address larger structural issues that they were facing outside of the classroom. Regardless of how well they did in my class, they were still faced with the obstacles of a broken school system. I decided to attend Heller because I think it’s important that there are a multitude of voices at the decision-making table. I wanted to be able to address the issues my students faced from a systemic perspective. Heller, in particular, attracted me because of its focus on practicing social justice, rather than simply discussing it in academia.


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

I’ve had the opportunity to take multiple classes with Professor Anita Hill: Law and Social Justice as well as Social Justice in the Obama Administration. Not only is Professor Hill an excellent educator, she pushes us to think about the ways we speak, conceptualize, and practice social justice. I think it is this level of critical analysis that has the potential to transform the way we approach social justice work within public policy. The conversations and questions that come up in her course are really the highlight of my experience here at Heller.


Can you say a little about your summer internship?

I completed my summer internship with the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center at the North Carolina Justice Center. At the Budget and Tax Center, I worked on a wide range of projects ranging from labor market analysis to coalition building across the state. One of my major projects was to create a tool to explain the impact of the Supplemental Food Nutrition Program (SNAP) for advocacy organizations and stakeholders in the state. In creating the NC SNAP Chartbook, I utilized every one of my policy analysis tools from econometrics to short and concise writing. My summer allowed me to take the conceptual tools we learned at Heller and really put them into practice.



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