Alumni Spotlight: Pem Brown


Please introduce yourself (name, year, concentration, activities you participated in at Heller, what you are doing now):

Pem Brown, 2011, poverty alleviation (plus joint M.A. in women’s and gender studies). Now I work at M+R helping national non-profits run digital fundraising and advocacy programs.

What were you doing before you came to Heller?

I spent three years working at NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, a reproductive rights non-profit in Boston, doing fundraising and communications. I also spent time volunteering for various progressive political campaigns around the state.

Why did you decide to come to Heller?

I was really drawn to the social justice orientation of the school and program, plus I was really excited for the joint women’s and gender studies degree.

What are some of the classes/activities that really enjoyed at Heller?

I took an amazing interdisciplinary course during my first year through the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies called Gender and Poverty in the United States. My final semester, I took a course called Legitimizing (In)equality: Attitudes, Beliefs, and Social Policy, which focused on how issues of poverty have been framed in political and media discourse in the United States. I also helped plan the annual DC spring break trips, which were a lot of fun.

Can you say a little about where you were and what you did for your summer internship?

I knew after Heller, I wanted to stay in Boston, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend my summer internship somewhere else working on national policy. I lived in DC and interned at the National Partnership for Women and Family. I got to focus on work/family policy, which was what I had been studying at Heller.

How do you use the skills you learned at Heller in your profession?

So much of what I do at M+R is to help boil down complicated political and policy issues to get people to take action, whether that be donating or contacting their elected officials. While writing for the digital space is quite different than the long research papers that are staples of most of Heller’s courses, the program’s emphasis on clear and concise writing continues to serve me well. Also, having an understanding of statistical significance is helpful for analyzing the email and web tests we run for our clients.


Introduction to the Women’s and Gender Studies Concentration/Dual Degree

This month the MPPSA blog will focus on our Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program. The Heller School currently offers two options for Public Policy students who are interested in studying, evaluating, and critiquing policy initiatives that intersect with gender and sexuality. The first option is a Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) concentration, which is similar to the other concentrations within the MPP program.

The other option is a dual Masters in Public Policy and Master of Arts in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) dual degree, in which students take courses both within and out of Heller. This option allows students to gain an interdisciplinary approach to policy implementation, as well as an intersectional framework for understanding the role that race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, socioeconomic status, ability, and nationality place in shaping public policy.

Students who choose the WGS concentration and the WGSS dual degree have a wide range of interests, including, but not limited to:

  • Income and Wealth Inequality
  • Food Justice
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Reproductive Justice
  • The Implementation of Title IX
  • Sexual Assault on College Campuses
  • LGBTQ Rights
  • Trans Youth
  • Health Policy

Professor Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson is the Concentration Chair for the WGS concentration and is a Senior Scientist and Senior Lecturer at the Heller School.

Classes offered this semester that may count toward the WGS concentration and/or the WGSS dual degree are:

  • The American Gay Rights Movement: Social Justice and Social Policy – Susan Curnan
  • Black Feminist Thought – Professor Johnson
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Research Seminar – Professor Bernadette, Brooten

Students within the WGS concentration and the WGSS dual degree also have the opportunity to take courses in the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies. The Consortium is based at MIT and brings together students, scholars, and teachers from nine academic institutions in the Greater Boston area in order to advance interdisciplinary gender studies scholarship.

The Consortium typically offers two to three courses each semester. This semester the following courses were offered:

  • Feminist Inquiry
  • Feminism and Islam
  • Changing Life: Genes, Ecologies, and Texts

The Consortium also offers talks, discussions, conferences, and film series throughout the year.

We hope you enjoy learning more about the Women’s and Gender Studies concentration and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies dual degree through our blog content this month!

Brie McLemore

MPP/M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies ’17