The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Evelyn Brand

photo of Evelyn Brand
Health Analyst
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

What I do: Health policy analysis, project management, and technical assistance for a consulting firm, primarily as a government contractor

How I ended up working there: Networking! I also did an informational interview at the beginning of my MPP coursework using E-Visors with a UMass alumna who worked at Mathematica. She suggested classes and concrete skills that would make me an attractive candidate to a company like Mathematica. I took the suggested classes and attained the skills through a fellowship, research assistantship, and coursework. I had no idea then I would end up as a Mathematica employee, but I guess it was really great advice!

The best part of my job: As trite as it may sound, my colleagues and contributing to meaningful work that I believe in. Perks, like working remotely throughout the country and from home, certainly don’t hurt either.

A recent exciting work experience: Providing technical assistance to the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services in administering Section 1115 Substance Use Disorder Demonstrations.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: Amazing mentorship and advisors! I’ll never pass up an opportunity to thank Michael Ash for his guidance– from what classes to take and internships and research assistantships to accept, to connecting me with individuals in my desired field, and even how to advocate for myself during my final interview process. The experiences and knowledge SPP faculty advised me to seek throughout my MPP were instrumental in placing me in and preparing me for my career. Also, the concrete skills I learned in qualitative research methods and policy analysis have practical application in my position.  

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Reverse engineer your education—start with the type of career you’d like to pursue and work backward. Do as many informational interviews as possible with individuals in fields you may be interested in. Once you have a sense of your field of interest, ask more questions. Is a public policy degree a good choice for this field or position? Are there any other degrees that could be equally or more useful? If a public policy degree is a good choice, then ask if there are specific skills to gain or courses to take while completing your degree to be a competitive candidate within the field. Find out if a premium is placed on your GPA and transcript or if work experience is more important. With a destination in mind, you can select a degree program, navigate coursework, and target beneficial experiences to make the most out of your time (and money).

I was still a little hazy when I started my MPP, but I had a general idea of where I was trying to go. I knew I was interested in policy research, not advocacy or politics, in some of the following areas: health policy, family policy, or social policy. With that objective in mind, I able to use my time efficiently, maximize opportunities, and narrow my focus as I progressed. By the end of my degree it was clear I was pursuing a career as a health policy analyst.

Future plans: Working at Mathematica for the foreseeable future, continuing to provide technical assistance and qualitative research for behavioral health policies and programs.