Heather Viola ’14
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My Story

As a passionate high schooler who didn’t quite have a sense of which interests to pursue and where and how to direct them, Heather chose Northeastern.

“After researching Northeastern’s many major offerings, as well as the experiential components of their academic programming, I knew that Northeastern would support my path of self discovery.”

My Path
Heather Viola
Why Human Services and International Affairs?

Heather found the combined degree in human services and international affairs after spending her freshman spring break volunteering on a community development project in Otavalo, Ecuador. That first experience working to foster development within a community kindled her passion for human services and international humanitarian work. After researching how best to pursue these interests in her coursework, she discovered the combined major. Heather wanted her education and work to have social impact on a global scale and was pleased to find the program that best allowed her to achieve this goal.

Transformative Coursework

Heather picked up new knowledge and skills in the classroom — in classes such as “Strategic Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management” and “Research Methods in Human Services” — that she went on to apply and transform in new contexts outside of the classroom.

“My human services experience has enhanced my academic development and experiential learning by demonstrating how one is not complete without the other. Everything that I learned in the classroom had direct implications for my work and experiences outside of the classroom. It deepened my understanding of complex social issues such as domestic violence, addiction, and homelessness through rigorous coursework and lessons in the classroom, and these issues are ones that I went on to work and volunteer in while living in Boston.”

Long-term Commitment

In her first-year service-learning class, Heather worked at the Boston Rescue Mission downtown, which provides social and housing support for the homeless and substance-addicted populations of Boston. She continued to volunteer there for the next four years.

Civic Engagement in Boston

Heather’s “Human Services Professions course inspired her to create her own co-op with Transition House, a domestic violence program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She worked for the shelter answering hotline calls, making referrals for clients to other programs, and supporting the management of the emergency shelter facility. Even after her co-op ended, she continued to volunteer there throughout her undergraduate years.

Independent Research on Children’s Music in Terezin

Heather won the 2013 Gideon Klein Award, a scholarship that supports students in creating an original work, preparing a performance, or doing research. A vocalist herself, Heather pursued research on children’s music in Terezin. She performed and presented this project at Northeastern’s annual Holocaust Commemoration.

“My research has brought me to places that I had never dreamed were even conceivable. Given my interest in both music and social services, I decided to center my studies around the experience of the Terezin concentration camp, as seen through the eyes (and ears) of a child. Music played a significant role in the lives of many who endured this camp, particularly in the lives of the children. Through my research, I am examining the musical experience of Terezin, while focusing on the children – children’s folksongs, children’s choirs, children’s operas, children’s lullabyes, and so on.”

To learn more about Heather’s research and the Gideon Klein Award, read about it here.

Building Blocks to Success

A final and extremely poignant example of how human services has enhanced both Heather’s academic development and experiential learning is through the Dialogue for Civilizations: Zambia program. For over a month, she worked with an NGO in Lusaka to provide social services to street youth that had been orphaned by HIV/AIDs.  She researched and implemented a capacity building project that fostered collaboration and sustainability within the organization. This experience taught her the realities of humanitarian work and inspired her career interests in public health. It shaped her view of public health as one of the foundations of development, an idea around which Heather now wants to build her career.

What Now?

In the Fall 2016, Heather worked with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

“It is one of the world’s largest donor organizations funding national public health programs all over the world and is based out of Geneva, Switzerland. I am now in the process of applying to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in public health with an interdisciplinary focus on human rights, key populations, and development. I hope to continue my career in international development and humanitarian aid by working as a technical adviser for an international development organization in the future.”

This was Heather's Northeastern Pathway... Where will yours lead?

In the Fall of 2017, Heather started a Master of Public Health specializing in Global Health and Population at Harvard.  She is currently a Health Systems Tracking Project Research Assistant within the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Here she will analyze and produce a descriptive research deliverable on the South African Health System via an application of the World Bank’s Flagship “Control Knobs” Framework for health systems analysis.