On October 3rd, we announced the hiring of our new Program Manager, Heather Ho. A graduate of Dartmouth College, a recent graduate of the Boston University School of Social Work, and a student at the Boston University School of Public Health, Heather has spent the past few years partnering with various communities in Massachusetts to solve urban challenges. We recently sat down with Heather for a short Q&A to get to know more about her background, past work experiences, and what she hopes to achieve at URBAN.
Can you tell us briefly about your background and upbringing?
Heather: I came to the U.S. from Hong Kong at a young age and grew up in a relatively racially and culturally diverse town in the South Shore of Massachusetts. I was naturally drawn to the idea of fairness and equity in our society and observed from a young age how individuals with different intersecting identities were privileged in certain ways and experienced marginalization in others. I am committed to promoting social justice and effectively doing so on an individual level as well as broadly across society. Initially, I attempted to do so through teaching and a focus on educational equity. I then moved on to engaging in interdisciplinary community-based work in public health and social work. Part of my interest in social change efforts stemmed from first-hand experiences of being perceived as an outsider and not feeling like I fully belonged in certain spaces as a person of color, first-generation immigrant, and college student. This is something that I noticed others experiencing as well. Therefore, one of my greatest passions is fostering true belonging, community, inclusion, access, and equity across different environments and contexts.
What specifically about URBAN made you apply for the position of Program Manager?
Heather: I truly believe in the model of the program—the combination of interdisciplinary training for PhD students in Biogeoscience, Environmental Health, and Biostatistics/Math and partnerships with governments, community-based organizations, and businesses addressing pressing urban environmental challenges and advancing environmental justice. This program revolutionizes the training and development of the STEM workforce. As a clinical social worker, I was trained to provide nonjudgmental support and to accompany those going through challenging experiences. I am excited to apply these skills, along with what I learned as a former BU graduate resident assistant, to this role.
What are 3 things you hope to achieve as a Program Manager?
Heather: I hope to build deeper connections with and mentor trainees, growing the program in a way that takes trainees’ perspectives into account. What they need to thrive at URBAN, in their PhD programs, and beyond—this includes considerations about mental health, wellbeing, and work-life balance. I also hope to take a lead in advancing URBAN’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mission statement and goals. Lastly, I seek to strengthen existing partnerships and to leverage my community-based work to develop new partnerships between URBAN and municipalities facing environmental challenges, particularly in ways that enable trainees to work in collaboration with community members who are most directly impacted by these challenges.
What’s your recommendation for the best places to go in Boston for the weekend?
Heather: I recommend exploring the city’s green spaces — Arnold Arboretum is a beautiful place at all times of the year. Each time I go I find a new favorite area. It’s near the Forest Hills T-stop on the orange line. Fun fact: URBAN is not the first place that both Evan (URBAN’s former Program Manager) and I have worked at before. Apparently, we have both worked for the same local food tour company! The area I covered was Davis Square in Somerville. If you are a tea lover check out MEM teas for an incredible selection of teas. OPA Greek Yeeros is also in Davis Square and has the BEST Greek yogurt I have ever tasted. I recommend it with honey!
Please feel free to contact Heather Ho at firstname.lastname@example.org to get to know more about her or if you have any other questions. We are very excited about this next chapter for URBAN with Heather Ho as our Program Manager!