Finishing Touches at the Katz Lab

The benefit to working at a Brandeis lab, or the burden depending on your personal philosophy, is literally seeing summer coming to a close. As the campus first became awash with upperclass volunteers (e.g., Orientation Leaders and the like), first-years soon followed, and all other returning students arriving over the past few days  show that summer has truly ended. As sad as this is, I look back on my summer experience with a sense of completeness. A large learning goal for my summer internship at the Katz Lab was to learn what it is like to be a research scientist, and by going into work everyday, running experiments, analyzing data, researching relevant literature, and writing up exciting results, I think that I have a better handle of what is entailed in the life of a professional researcher. Additionally I had the great fortune to present our findings at the Brandeis Division of Science Poster Session

 

Undergraduate Researchers at the Brandeis Division of Science Poster Session
Source: www.brandeis.edu/now/2012/august/scifest.html

 

The work that was completed this summer has laid the foundation for a great number of research projects and during the year I will be performing one as my senior thesis in neuroscience. I hope to take the skills and knowledge I’ve gained over this internship and use them to aid in my future research (both in my senior year and beyond). This is not to say, however, that I am well adept at performing at a professional level, and I can’t wait to continue these projects to learn more about the scientific process of creating an experiment and seeing its completion.

 

The Ideal Scientific Process
Source: media.treehugger.com/assets/images/2011/10/Science-Flow-Chart.jpg

 

To any interested students who want to see what research is like: try it! As an undergraduate it is difficult to have a sense of what the “real world” will be like in your 4 years, but luckily at Brandeis you can have a keen sense of what life is like as a researcher. There is no way that you will know unless you find a project to work on. Professors, though intimidating, are still people and a quick email or an in-person introduction may just be your way to get your foot in their door. Also, if you’re looking for outside funding, please don’t put on blinders to those sources which cater to all disciplines; if you can show how beneficial the internship is, then you are equally a strong, competitive candidate. Finally, once you have your position, show initiative and be driven to complete your project as you are going to need all of your ambition to get you through the rough patches that are omnipresent in science. If you do follow through and work hard, you will be well rewarded!

-Kevin Monk, ’13

After NCL

Since finishing my internship at the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C., I’ve had time to reflect on the amazing experience. One of my learning goals was simply to learn about the federal policy process. By attending congressional hearings and regulatory commission meetings, I had the opportunity to learn about this firsthand. In addition, I learned about a nonprofit’s role in federal policy. NCL influences many laws and federal regulations, and works with agencies such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the FDA.  Before working with NCL, I did not realize the prevalence and importance of regulation for food, product safety, and the internet, among others. While groups such as NCL defends the need for most times of regulation that protects consumers, other groups and policy makers express concerns about the cost of implementation of such safety standards.

We attended a hearing at the House, which was broadcast on CSPAN 2

I had great opportunities to connect with NCL staff and network in D.C. I felt the staff was very warm and welcoming toward interns, and I had numerous opportunities to connect with leaders in consumer, labor, and policy fields.

Interns and staff with president of umbrella federation for labor unions, AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka

I also worked on my research and writing skills, and I am especially proud of my blog posts, such as this one, which have been published online on NCL’s website. As I learned about various issues that NCL works on, and the tools they use to progress their cause, my understanding of social justice has been reinforced and enhanced.

After interning at the National Consumers League, I want to learn more about labor issues and food safety. I would love to continue working on these issues at Brandeis and even in my career. In addition, I loved the experience of working with a progressive nonprofit, and that is also something I would like to pursue after graduation.

I would advise a student interested in interning at NCL to take advantage of every opportunity to attend hearings and events. They are extremely enriching, and unique to a D.C. internship. For students interning at a nonprofit, I think it’s important to find an organization or cause that matches your interests and passions. I also would advise anyone to connect with staff and seek out networking opportunities. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity—it truly was amazing.

– Lili Gecker ’13

 

 

 

The Countdown & Completion of My Summer 2012 Internship

I have officially begun the countdown until I leave Israel, and although I will miss it dearly, I look forward to returning back to Brandeis. My most important learning goal this summer was to strengthen my skills in research, specifically clinical research. I was able to do this by contributing to two literature reviews on preventive interventions for dealing with violence and trauma. With the goal of eventually working toward my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, gaining this experience was crucial for my career development, and went much beyond my previous experience. I surpassed my original expectations because instead of doing one literature review, I ended up working on two. I was also given the opportunity to help out with a study on designing an intervention for building resilience for at-risk youth, the latter being one of the populations I eventually want to focus on as a psychologist. This has given me insight into cultures other than America and Israel, which was not exactly one of my original learning goals but nevertheless appreciated.

Photo Credit: Traumaweb.org

I am also learning more about evaluating the work of other psychologists, by observing my mentors here in real-time.

The work I have done at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma this summer will fuel the rest of my time at Brandeis. Specifically, it will put me in “research mode” as preparation for my Honor’s Thesis. It will also inform my academic work as I take courses in the areas I have researched this summer.

There is still a lot left to learn before I am prepared for the next step in my career. I want to gain more experience in research, which I will be able to do with my Honor’s Thesis this year; I also want do get more hands-on work with a clinical population, especially children, adolescents, first responders, and others affected by trauma. Whether working at a medical facility or with children in general, I know that to truly engage myself in this field, I must engage it at all levels, not just research.

For anyone interested in interning at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, I commend you for your decision to volunteer, and think you will have a blast. The Center does, however, get very busy with many projects. I would therefore advise interested students to research the Center’s work first, which can be viewed here. Once there, see if there is any program or type of work (i.e. research) that most interests you. Then contact one of the psychologists, someone in public affairs, or send them an e-mail. (Contact page located here). Keep trying if you do not hear back at first. And before you reach out, also think about one main project you can focus on. Every volunteer is required to contribute sometime to PR, but the rest can be decided by you and the staff members. While at the Center, I would definitely try to check out the various “Units” of the Center. You will learn not only about trauma and resilience, but all the different ways one can contribute through research, programs, therapy, marketing, and more.

Photo Credit: Traumaweb.org

– Rocky Reichman ’13

Finishing up at the Cambridge Public Health Department

It amazes me how quickly the summer can go by! I have thoroughly enjoyed being an intern in the Division of Epidemiology and Data Services at the Cambridge Public Health Department. In the past few weeks, I took some time off from working on the Cambridge neighborhood wellness index to work on two other projects: a health resource map and heart disease and stroke mapping project. These projects utilized the GIS mapping skills I gained in the previous weeks. I had a very productive meeting with staff from the Division of Community Health and Wellness, another division within the Cambridge Public Health Department, to discuss the health resource map. Much of our conversation circled back to the idea that to maintain good health, people need access to more than hospitals and health clinics; the food resources and recreation opportunities available to people are also important.

This internship has both challenged and helped shape my views of social justice in healthcare. By researching the social determinants of illness, I have learned a lot about how where we live shapes our habits and views on health. Although in many cases it is ultimately an individual’s responsibility to make healthy choices (i.e. choosing to snack on fruits and vegetables instead of junk food), the location in which a person has grown up has a huge impact on not only what choices a person makes regarding his or her health, but what options are available. In looking at the health resource map I drafted, I saw that certain areas of Cambridge seemed less accessible to some health services like hospitals and pharmacies. This observation got me thinking: are these areas lacking other resources? How does a lack of access to these services contribute to illness? I think that it is important to address the root of the problem to improve health equity.

Having completed my internship, I want to learn even more about epidemiology and public health research. The projects I worked on reinforced and broadened what I know about the connection between social factors and illness. As a Jerome A. Schiff Undergraduate Research Fellow, I am looking forward to incorporating what I learned this summer about health disparities into my research project on community gardens as primary prevention of childhood obesity. I have a greater appreciation for the ways in which the built environment fosters or discourages healthy living habits. This internship made it clear to me that I want to work in public health, and I am interested in learning more about epidemiology. Although I cannot take Intro to Epidemiology until senior year, I plan on learning as much as I can about epidemiology by reading about it. I think that the best way to learn is through experience, so my advice to anyone interested in a certain subject or field is to try it out! Ask questions, get to know the other people in the office, and give it your best. An internship is a great way to explore your interests and maybe get a better sense of what you want to do after Brandeis. I learned a lot about how social disparities influence health, and I will definitely apply what I learned this summer to my future studies.

– Jennifer Mandelbaum ’14

Centro Presente: Last Blog

This past Saturday was my last day at Centro Presente. These nine weeks went by so fast, I remember my first day like it was yesterday!!!!. As an intern in the Legal department, some of my responsibilities were to organize events to inform the immigrant community about the current issues that affect the community as well as to organize educational training on basic rights for undocumented immigrants. As time passed, I helped with administrative responsibilities such as doing translations of documents and assisting people when they came in into the office to receive assistance. With these responsibilities, I have the opportunity to gain knowledge in Latino immigrant community as well as how to organize events which I did not have any experience before. I learned that it takes a lot of time to prepare an event but it feels great when I see the outcomes at the end.

 

During my time at Centro, I also joined some of the protests that the Worker Rights Organizer from Centro Present, who along with allies of Centro organized pickets outside of restaurants that belong to employers who did not pay their workers what they worked for.  I am very happy that Centro is helping these workers to get the money that they have earned with their hard work.  I am very sad to know that these kinds of things happen in a country like United States where there are so many laws that protect workers. I think it may be because employers take advantages of employees that they may think that do not know their rights, thank god for organization like Centro that are paying attention to these cases and are doing their best to help workers against exploitation

 

 

 

As I finished my internship, I want to learn more about the issues that many immigrants are facing in the United States. I feel that my summer experience was only a glimpse of what the issues that many immigrants are facing in this country. I would like to gain more knowledge and be able to help more those whom I am able to help.

For students interest in an internship with my host organization, I advice them to get ready to learn a lot about the different issues that immigrants face in the United States. Be ready to meet different people as the Latino community is composed of many different people which make the experience even more worth experiencing.

As I return to Brandeis, I plan to join the Brandeis Immigrant Education Initiative, a recently created student-organized to create awareness on Brandeis campus about current immigration issues. I want to share my summer experience with my fellow-Brandeis people and give my ideas so that we can create more awareness and help the immigrant communities to fight for their rights. During this internship, I realized that there are a lot of injustices in this world and a lot has to be done to live in a more just place. I learned about the issues in many different perspective which made me realized that we need to work to get social justice.

– Ivonne Moreno ’13

 

All Good Things Must Come To an End

Prior to this summer I had never been outside of Massachusetts for any substantial period of time. For this reason, one of my goals for this summer was to broaden my horizons and experience some new things outside of my comfort zone. Spending the summer in New York City has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it has opened my eyes to whole new world of possibilities. Before this summer I had been quite content to apply exclusively to law schools close to home in Boston but now I am considering New York schools, as well as schools in Chicago, Washington D.C and even Los Angeles.

Another goal that I had for this summer was to gain some firsthand exposure to how family court operates. By regularly attending court proceedings with my supervisor, I was able to observe how things work in an actual court of law and to pick the brains of the attorney’s with whom I interacted. In fact, my inquisitive nature actually made an impression on a few attorneys and a couple of my conversations led to impromptu lunches, which turned out to be great networking opportunities.

Flickr/Paul Lowry

I also wanted to apply the academic knowledge that I’ve gained at Brandeis to real-life and this internship granted me the opportunity to do just that. A great deal of sociological scholarship is devoted to how individual agents interact with social infrastructures. By interviewing clients and watching the lawyers advocate their wishes in the courtroom, I was able to witness this phenomenon in action. As a sociologist who subscribes to the tenets of conflict theory, I have always had a somewhat cynical outlook on “the system” but this internship has really altered my perspective. In stark contrast to the adversarial atmosphere that I experienced in criminal court, the collaborative and collegial atmosphere that pervaded family court gave me the distinct impression that everyone was genuinely invested in a common goal and that engendered a very pleasant and productive work environment. Seeing how passionate not only the professionals at LFC but the judges and opposing counsel truly were about helping these disadvantaged children was quite refreshing and has given me a less pessimistic view of “the system”.

I am nearing the end of my undergraduate experience and I have been fortunate to have had some amazing internships in both corporate and criminal law but interning at LFC this summer allowed me to foray into an avenue of the law that is of particular interest to me: family law. And while I still do not have a concrete vision of what type of law I ultimately want to pursue, I am certain that the experience I gained this summer will greatly facilitate my decision making process when the time comes to make what will be perhaps, the most important decision of my career.

The advice that I would give to anyone interested in interning at LFC or in the legal in general is to have an idea of what you want to get out of your internship and be assertive about making sure you get the most out of your experience. With that being said, I also think it’s good to keep an open mind and be willing to learn about things that you might otherwise have not experienced. Other than that, I would just say to cherish the opportunity and show your gratitude to Brandeis by representing them to the best of your ability.

– Aaron Bray ’13

The end of my internship at WATCH

My internship experience was incredibly positive. And I think that overall I had different challenges and feelings than a typical intern.  As the Housing Clinic intern, it was pretty much up to me to assist clients desperately in need of affordable, safe, and sanitary housing. This was a daunting, intense, and sometimes discouraging task. I had wonderful guidance and supervision, however it was up to me to meet and speak with clients. I did my best to utilize my resources (two of which are MassResources and MassLegalHelp), research new resources, and serve the clients to the best of my ability. There were clients who came in, however, and families I worked with, that sometimes I knew my work would ultimately not do much good. I served as an encouraging force, a safe person to talk to, and a resource for information that may or may not pan out.  This was a definite challenge to my somewhat idealist and young desire to build upon my personal concepts of social justice in attempts to better the community of Waltham, Massachusetts.

What I’ve learned through this is a lot about the small things. Knowing that I can’t fix all the problems that families come in with: struggling with immigration status, in need of work, all but completely homeless, struggling to feed their children. But I strove to start with the little things. Little things like food stamps, food pantries, soup kitchens, day centers, shelters. Although their living problems seem immense, the most success I found throughout my internship was in these little things, that in reality, provide success and do go a long way.  So although I was challenged daily, mentally and emotionally, and my previously idealist conceptions of social justice were challenged with too immense and real issues, they were affirmed through the small successes I had with all the clients I met with; their thanks, their empowerment and their small success little by little.  I just had to keep in mind, and continue to keep in mind, that since I am only one person, it is the small accomplishments that truly do make a difference.

It definitely helps to have previously volunteered in the clinic when starting this internship. It is an amazing opportunity and provides a great opportunity, however the work is intense and the responsibility plentiful. It helps to at least me familiar with the community resources so you can help each client efficiently and with the most appropriate resources. Another thing I learned was that people won’t always come in for housing problems. WATCH is known as a helpful resource and a place to seek help regardless of your immigration status. A lot of problems that did crop up dealt with immigration and the newly implemented Secure Communities. At WATCH we worked to inform all our members about Secure Communities and their rights when it comes to the police. Check out the two flyers I created for our community members!

– Molly Lortie ’13

Finishing up at FVLC

I’d imagine working permanently at a nonprofit can be tiresome, a thankless job where one finds oneself working 12-hour days for a single client. My supervisor seldom took time off for lunch, others snuck bites of sandwiches in between calls.

It’s definitely a hard job.

Nonetheless, at FVLC I noticed that when things got that rough, it would be the people whom you were surrounded by that got you through.

It would be the California sunshine on your walk to work the next day and the farmer’s market blueberries someone brought in to share with the office.

Perhaps most importantly, it would be the check-in call with that client the next day that really helps- when she says, “thanks”.

Interning at FVLC has taught me an incredible amount about the resiliency of people in the face of trauma. Many of our clients entered our office feeling disempowered, angry, hurt, bitter, and ultimately frustrated. Sometimes the staff felt the same way. The goal was for everyone to leave with the same feeling: you will get through it. This summer, it was my job to take the primary steps in ensuring our clients would make it through whatever rough situation they were experiencing.

Having now completed this experience, I don’t know much about where the future will take me other than that I want to continue in this vein of work. In the fall, I will be interning with Massachusetts Citizens for Children, where I will be facilitating trainings around the Boston area to adults regarding how to protect children from child sexual abuse. I will also be working with the organization as a whole on strategic planning, learning more about the gears that shift and propel the group as a whole. I am excited to continue to immerse myself in this world and, in doing so, potentially carve a place for myself after college.

I would definitely recommend interning at FVLC for anyone with an interest in this field. They provided a warm, caring environment that allowed me to learn in a tremendously productive manner. Here is an informational video that FVLC recently created that explains further what they do and how they aid survivors throughout the legal process.  Someone on staff was always available to lend an ear and an opinion. I would definitely recommend receiving your 40 hour domestic violence training prior to beginning the internship because it enabled me to really make the most of my time there. As mentioned in my first post, they did not waste any time in putting me to work because they trusted that I was already competent, which was very helpful.

Ultimately, I had a wonderful, enriching summer interning with FVLC and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.

Ashley Lynette, ’13

 

GIS Mapping at the Cambridge Public Health Department

The past few weeks of my internship have gone by quickly! It’s hard to believe I’m already at the halfway point. My internship in the Division of Epidemiology and Data Services at the Cambridge Public Health Department has given me the opportunity to begin to understand how social disparities affect community wellness through work on a neighborhood wellness index. By seeing how factors like cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality, obesity rate, green space, and walkability contribute to the health of a neighborhood, this project has reinforced what I have learned about the environment’s role in population health. When this data is overlaid with sociodemographic data, we will get a better sense of how social disparities affect community wellness. I’m proud of how the index is coming along, and I’m looking forward to learning how to map wellness indicators using the GIS program. Mapping the wellness index will take it from being a list of numbers and neighborhood wellness ratings to something more visual and dynamic. Although it has been challenging at times, I have enjoyed the process of starting with a project from scratch and seeing how it has evolved over several weeks.

In addition to the insight I have gained into chronic disease through the mapping project, this internship has given me an opportunity to see how a local public health department operates. Although much of the work I have done has been independent, the process of creating a neighborhood wellness index requires collaboration with colleagues in the Division of Epidemiology and Data Services, other divisions within the Cambridge Public Health Department, and other external partners in Cambridge. The collaborative aspect of public health doesn’t surprise me, given how interdisciplinary health is, but it wasn’t something I thought a lot about before starting this internship. The Division of Epidemiology and Data Services and the School Health program of the Cambridge Public Health Department share an office, so I have been able to see how they work together. The work I have done on this project and what I have learned about the other work of the Division has helped me gain a better understanding of what a public health department does and how public health data is collected, organized, and analyzed.

I have built a number of skills through this internship that I can transfer to academics and future career plans. The quantitative nature of this work will help me in my coursework at Brandeis by improving my data analysis skills. Brandeis social science courses tend to be qualitative, and this work will help me look at social factors in a more measurable way. A basic understanding of GIS software might be useful for courses at Brandeis, in graduate school, or in the workforce. I have also benefited from working in an office environment. Most of my other public health experience has involved hands-on field-based work, so this internship has taught me about working in an office and office etiquette. I’ve really enjoyed the first half of my internship, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the neighborhood wellness index goes in the second half.

 – Jennifer Mandelbaum ’14

Summer Ends and Fall Begins at NARAL!

I’m very excited because as my “summer” internship comes to a close I will continue working with NARAL as a fall intern! Working with this organization has been so incredible, I’m so excited to continue as the election heats up. Next week, Sept. 6th, is the primary followed by the general election on November 7th. Until then, NARAL is in full election mode, which will entail me spending all of my time on different campaigns.

After the election, we immediately jump into legislative mode preparing for the upcoming session, understanding our opponents’ proposed legislation, and beginning to work with allied organizations, local community leaders, and legislators themselves. I’m very excited for all that is upcoming in the next few months.

This summer has been an incredible experience for me. I think it’s really shed a lot of light onto my future career goals. I am certain that I want to be in the non-profit area. I have decided to postpone a graduate degree as most programs prefer candidates to work a few years in the field. This internship has allowed me the opportunity to speak with real role-models currently doing the things I see myself doing, and allow me to understand the paths, their advice, their experience, and their future aspirations.

While so far my experience with NARAL the connections I’ve made, and the things I have learned have been invaluable, I am just extremely excited to continue on and get different experience in the legislative field. I’m excited to transform from an intern whose main job was to focus on electoral politics and campaigning,  to an intern who gets to really delve into the legislative process. Therefore, I’m extremely excited to learn more about the other aspect of NARALs work.

One challenge of this summer was reconciling my ideas of justice with my ideas of politics. In my opinion, politicians think more about winning elections and less about sticking to their moral compasses.  This makes many of these politicians no less of wonderful, compassionate, dedicated and hardworking people with incredible intentions – but it does compromise the representation. Unfortunately, this is nationwide, both on small local scales and larger national scales. This idea that to win elections, games must be played – compromises the integrity of the system. When I’ve witnessed wonderful politicians have to vote against things that they believe in, or vice versa, solely for some political game, it really hurts as a constituent and someone who is working to get them elected. So in that sense, it has deflated my hope for politics as a vehicle for social justice.

Lastly, I want to mention a closing reflection from this summer. I am a young, energetic, enthusiastic and idealist 22 year old woman. Yet everyday something new happens, or I understand something better, or see a connection for the first time and realize how many problems there are in the world. Yet every day, I meet someone new working to fix them. So I guess the reflection is, that as dedicated as I am to this type of work I must remember that I am only one person, and that if I can change one small thing I’ve accomplished a lot. So I’m trying to narrow my scope and realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Check out this blog post I wrote for Naral!

– Becca Miller ’13

Sawadeeka!

Some time in mid July, as I was riding home from work through miles of rice patties catching the evening sun, it hit me that I would not be taking my students home with me. It was at that moment that I made my official and final decision that I would be returning to Sold, by whatever means possible, to continue my program. 

My realization of the success and importance of what I had been doing for these children came one night as I was sewing together their individual patches for an ’emotions quilt’ (each student received an emotions word that they had to express in shapes and colors on a patch of felt). For me, the quilt served as a piece of tangible evidence of the program’s success and the difference it appeared to be making in the way these children process the world in and around them. As I was piecing together patches of the quilt, I began piecing together my plans for the future.

In the short run, I plan to learn a lot more Thai, and take as many relevant art and psychology programs that my schedule will allow. A little while into the future I plan on looking for a masters program in expressive arts, and connecting art with self exploration and social justice. Not everyone is lucky enough to find work that makes them smile as they ride home at the end of the day, and I plan to take this experience and run with it as I try to find a similar and perhaps even more effective and rewarding experience in the future.

In terms of my advice for other students, I would strongly recommend pursuing your passions. If they don’t currently exist in in the ‘world of work’, find a way to make them fit. Carve a path for yourself if there isn’t one cut out in the world already. And from a logistical standpoint, give yourself plenty of time and rest for planning and contacting as many organizations as you can!

My ideas around social justice and developing a sense of the greater world and its needs were strongly influenced by my experience at Sold. The necessity to adjust the western view of the world that I’ve been granted was difficult but essential in relating to the children and forming meaningful connections. While many of the children’s stories were difficult to digest, it was also incredibly important to keep in mind the reality of their situations, and the possibilities and realistic limitations in terms of my abilities to impact their every day lives. The most important lesson I learned is the necessity to make a sustainable impact, not just swoop in, have fun and take off. That’s one of the main reasons that I will be returning to Sold- to forge the skills and thought processes necessary for the children to convert the activities of this summer into helpful, lasting practices to use in the future.

– Zoey Hart ’13

Finishing up the Summer at UFE

It’s hard to believe that the summer is already over! The last half of my summer in Boston was smooth sailing as I got more accustomed to the rhythm of life at UFE. By the end, I felt that I had achieved a healthy balance of challenge and basic understanding of how to get things done. In terms of accomplishing my goals set at the beginning of the summer, I am happy with the results. I set some broad goals, but also quite a few very specific goals having to do with gaining confidence in fundraising and donor relations. The more I observed and worked with members of the Development team, the more I grew to see “practice making perfect”. UFE’s current development team is full of wisdom and years of experience and I was really appreciative of their willingness to share their knowledge, and even take a couple steps back to explain basic procedures that were unfamiliar to me. As the summer progressed, I definitely saw a huge improvement in myself- it became much easier to jump on an assigned task because I spent less time clarifying questions and had the confidence to make decisions that I deemed appropriate.

Another goal of mine was to improve research skills, and I had many opportunities to look into ways that UFE could save on administrative costs- because a goal of any non-profit is to have administrative costs that are as low as possible to keep the majority of money headed towards the mission of the organization. The first research project I did was in my very first month and involved a cost-benefit analysis of what each individual state charges to become a charitable solicitor in that respective state. Some of the costs were extremely high, whereas others charged nothing at all. Having this list enables UFE to take advantage of all of the states that are free, and then look into which states are worth paying the “charitable solicitor fee”. This project required extensive research because there was no one easy place to get all of the information. It was certainly a good place to start though because it introduced me to a lot of issues that I would come to run into later on in the summer. As I did other projects throughout the summer, I had an easier time troubleshooting, making my skills much more efficient by the end of my time at UFE. There are even little tips that I came across which should be of use during the school year- especially within Microsoft Excel. Even though I have used Excel many times in the past, I learned many tricks this summer which will greatly increase speed and efficiency with any sort of data that I am trying to keep track of.

I am also quite happy with the strong connections that I made at UFE. Everyone was so approachable and eager to be of help not just throughout the summer, but even in offering to connect with Brandeis again in the future. Outside of the development office are many programs including popular education- and if I ever find myself in a class related to issues that UFE addresses (which I am sure I will here!) they have offered to come and speak to classes/groups here on campus. They have been a wonderful resource and I wouldn’t hesitate to call them in order to connect again in the future.

Having now completed the internship, I would like to check out other development offices- including Brandeis. With the experience at UFE, I think it would be interesting to compare and see the differences between how a college runs its fundraising mission with how a small non-profit sustains itself. To any student interested in an internship with this organization, I would suggest keeping a positive attitude and showing interest by asking questions. Everyone is more than happy to help, and as long as they can see you’re dedication and care for the organization, they will be glad to help you improve your own skills.

Overall, I have really seen how it is all about the passion. When people can tell that you care about what you are trying to raise money for, it makes others care as well. It puts meaning and emotion behind the difficult task of asking for money, because especially at UFE (though I am sure most other places as well), you can see that fundraisers are in the field because they truly care about the mission and want to see positive social change. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such a close-knit staff because it was helpful in getting a full grasp on the underlying issues of economic inequalities with plague our current system. I am happy to say that I share their vision of, “shaping society into one where prosperity is better shared, where there is genuine equality of opportunity, where the power of concentrated money and corporations neither dominates the economy nor dictates the content of mass culture”. It is an issue that has potential to be fixed once their is a greater overall understanding of the basic roots of the problem. This comes from education and discussions among family and friends because with greater understanding, comes more persistence and desire and to remedy the situation. I have included a couple info graphics that I think do a nice job of summing of the uneven distribution of wealth in picture format- I way that I personally find very helpful in understanding some of these more confusing topics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, while I have walked away from this summer internship with a wealth of knowledge related to fundraising and development, I have also broadened my own personal knowledge from progressive taxes, to facts regarding the 99% vs 1%. It was a pleasure working with such a dedicated staff and I will walk away with so many life lessons beyond anything that can be taught in a classroom. Here’s to a great summer of 2012!

– Gwen Teutsch ’13

SCAMP: Science Camp and Marine Programs (The End)

SCAMPers during bird week getting the opportunity to meet injured birds of prey at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital in York, ME. Here is an injured Peregrine Falcon that was hit by a car and cannot fly properly.

Going into this summer, I had never done anything like this.  I had never been a camp counselor, I had never worked in a team setting for an entire summer, and I had never been responsible for teaching coastal ecology and biodiversity to young students.  It was an experiment.  Much like the science experiments I am used to performing, I didn’t know what my final results or conclusions would be.  But that’s why you attempt the experiment in the first place.

My learning goals for working at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center were as follows:  I wanted to learn more about the ecology, marine biology, and environment of the New England area.  I wanted to be able to use all of the science that I have learned at college and apply it to real life situations outside of the classroom.  I loved the idea of myself promoting the preservation of our environment, as it has always been a cause that is close to my heart.  Finally, I aspired to use my creativity to come up with exciting and interactive activities to inspire the kids to care about marine science!

I am teaching SCAMPers about shark anatomy. This was an interactive game that I developed myself!

I believe that all of my learning goals were accomplished.  As a trained naturalist of coastal ecology, I can lead tours and school programs through the tide pools by myself, which is really rewarding! I know that most people my age could not say the same.  I  promoted and expressed my love for environmental conservation and taught children through my own creative methods.  We were able to bring the animals and outdoors to the children–whether it was in our backyard, at the tide pools, on a whale watch, at the butterfly garden, in the salt marsh, or in a wildlife rehabilitation center.  We taught the children so much about wildlife without ever lecturing to them.  We explored outside, we played games, we created fun and interactive stations, all while learning!  From stations on sharks to the food chain to puppet playhouses, not only did I get to teach the kids something that I am passionate about, I got to teach it entirely my way!  For example, during young scientists, the camp for older kids (9-12) called Young Scientists, I chose to adapt science experiments I performed in high school and even college but made them age appropriate.  We even guided the campers to create a real scientific hypothesis and helped them gather the necessary data to create a real scientific poster.  Considering this was the first summer that this special week of camp existed, I’d say we left our mark on this summer camp program forever as the inaugural session was a great success!

The Young Scientists presented their research posters to parents and Joppa staff. They developed their own experiments and gathered their own data from tide pools in Beverly and Plum Island.

 

I will build on this experience during the rest of my time at Brandeis, specifically with my last year of coordinating a Waltham Group program named LaCE (Language and Cultural Enrichment).  I will use what I learned this summer to create awesome activities for the middle school children I work with, handle the kids with a new sense of patience, discipline the children effectively and appropriately, enhance the training of volunteers, and be able to think like a kid (so they can get the most out of the program).  On the long term, I will use this experience because environmental science is something I am still interested in pursuing, but most importantly, I learned how to work in a team environment.  Working with different people from different backgrounds with varied strengths and weaknesses is a great challenge.  However, after many team building exercises and sufficient time working together, I believe that the summer camp interns formed a great chemistry.  By the end of the summer, we were a true team.  During one of our team exercises, we even had to discuss who we thought would be playing drums, singing vocals, playing bass, or playing guitar, as if we were a real band!

Having completed this internship, I really love the Mass Audubon Society and their efforts to promote environmental conservation!  We already agreed that I would come volunteer for them during school breaks to lead school programs and continue my opportunity to continue educating the public of the local wildlife.

For a student interested in my internship at this organization or in this field, I would advise that they are very patient with children and that they have a strong enthusiasm for both education and wildlife.  Also, be prepared for different types of children!  The campers’ desire to be part of the program and their background knowledge vary but every camper needs to be treated equally.  For the more disciplined and driven campers that really want to learn, it is very rewarding to work with them and make sure they get a lot out of the program.  Similarly, for the kids who may have trouble getting adjusted to camp-life, it is equally as rewarding just to teach them something or make them appreciate camp by the end of the week!

At Joppa Flats, campers are able to explore…right in the back yard! Our education center is located on a salt marsh that is perfect for bird and insect watching!

If you want to see the rest of the pictures from this summer, check out the Facebook page!

-Matthew Eames ’13

 

 

 

Completing My NBC News Internship

I have completed my summer internship at NBC News in Washington, D.C.

As an investigative intern, my responsibilities included researching stories and observing the NBC News investigative unit in the Washington Bureau, as well as, absorbing all aspects of the network news environment. From sitting in the studio for MSNBC broadcasts to standing outside the Supreme Court when the healthcare decision was announced, I tried to take advantage of my time at NBC News by talking to people who worked in the bureau, and experiencing as much as possible in Washington, D.C.  I outlined many of these accomplishments in my Midpoint post.

I am especially proud of a particular research assignment that will hopefully be aired on NBC Nightly News in the next few weeks.  It was a great opportunity to be involved in an important and timely topic.  I was given the task of researching a lead on a story, and after digging into the subject matter, I was convinced there was a possibility for a spot.  I pitched the idea to the Senior Investigative Correspondent for NBC News and her investigative producer, who agreed there was something there.  They pitched the idea to Nightly.  I then compiled a list of prospective interviews, including experts on the subject matter, victims, and the people responsible. I assisted interviewing those people in preliminary phone interviews, helping to decide who might be a good candidate for an on-camera appearance. I also found out about an event that NBC News decided to cover because of its potential for producing strong sound bites in the spot.

Source: http://tvpressfeed.com/2012/01/the-nbc-news-gop-debate-draws-a-crowd-on-january-23/

Being involved in a piece that will hopefully make TV was exciting and a great learning experience which built upon all different aspects of what I had been learning throughout the summer.  I wish my internship had been longer so I could have seen the story through all the stages of its production.  Now that my internship is complete, I feel that I have gained valuable knowledge of in-depth reporting and producing.

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/05/27/nbc-london-olympics-2012-streaming-tv-3d/

I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by continuing to learn as much as possible about politics, economics, and international studies through my liberal arts education.  As an aspiring reporter/producer, a broad liberal arts education is valuable because I need to know about a variety of subject matters, how governments, institutions, and people work, and, overall, to be able to think about and understand the news.

Outside Brandeis, I think the most helpful way to gain an understanding of how this industry works is to be immersed in it, and I hope I have more opportunities to work in a news environment in the future.  I would advise another student interested in an internship at NBC News or another organization in the industry to be proactive and enthusiastic.  If you really want to learn about the field and find it inspiring, most people, many of whom also started out as interns, are happy to teach.

 

– Abigail Kagan ’13

The End of a Meaningful Summer

I had an incredibly meaningful and informative summer thanks to my internship experience, and I already miss all of the colleagues and guests that I worked with during my time at St. Francis House. Because I learned so much from and so enjoyed my work this summer, I am now planning to continue work in the social service arena by applying to graduate schools of social work. At the beginning of the summer I was hoping that my internship experience would help focus my career search, and, sure enough, I was exposed to a career that I wish to pursue in the future. The work I completed in my final weeks solidified this career interest after I interacted with more guests and shadowed social workers.

In addition to gaining exposure to services that St. Francis House offers that I had not observed earlier in the summer, the second half of my internship involved a great deal of interesting meetings and off-site trips. The meetings that I attended with my supervisor included meeting a representative for Spare Change News (part of the Cambridge Homeless Empowerment Project), a professor from Northeastern, a woman who teaches people to make their own shoes, and individuals in the Massachusetts Treatment Center. These experiences taught me a great deal about networking and collaboration in a professional setting. The meetings also expanded my understanding of homelessness and the challenges that people who are homeless face, and my knowledge about the criminal justice system was also deepened by the direct, unique experience of meeting with individuals at the Massachusetts Treatment Center.

I also helped organize a free legal clinic for criminal cases, and setting up appointments for guests taught me a great deal about how the criminal justice system both furthers and prevents what I conceptualize as “justice.” My views of social justice were challenged this summer in that I now see people less as “criminals” and “victims” and more as simply individuals. Working with people who had been incarcerated demonstrated for me how complex criminal actions are, and I began to examine the ways the media and dominant discourse often present issues of criminality.

Meeting with homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals taught me about social justice in a way that built upon my learning at Brandeis but was much fuller due to the face-to-face and “real world” experiences I had interacting with these issues. In the fall I will be taking several courses that discuss social justice issues, issues including poverty, evidence in the criminal justice system, and alternative methods of handling conflict. I think that taking these courses will be a perfect way for me to continue my education on these issues, and I imagine that these courses will be more meaningful after my experiences this summer. If I end up in graduate school for social work, I will also be able to learn much more about these subjects both inside and outside of the classroom, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge on topics of criminal justice, homelessness, poverty, and the distribution of social services.

For anyone interested in a similar internship, I would suggest taking advantage of all that a host organization has to offer. St. Francis House in particular is a large non-profit with a variety of services and programs occurring simultaneously, and it was very helpful to me to learn about and observe the different services offered within the building. I gained a much more complete view of homelessness after spending time on different floors of the building. Meetings, both inside and outside of the building, taught me a great deal about how non-profits are run and how people in different organizations connect to best serve people. Therefore, taking advantage of these meetings and hearing the perspectives of many different people, whether in the lunchroom or outside of the building, is very enlightening. Interacting with guests was the part of my experience that was the most moving and educational for me, and I suggest that future interns take time to get to know the wide variety of people that enter the St. Francis House building. I had an incredible internship experience and look forward to continued work in the social service sector in the future.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

Leaving Kiev: Final Blog Post with the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine

I would not have thought that eight weeks could have gone by so quickly.

I think the experience went above and beyond in fulfilling the learning goals I set at the beginning. Everything, from my tasks in the office to living in Kiev, contributed toward fulfilling those goals. One such goal was to gain professional experience. I was, and still am, interested in working for the U.S. government in some capacity, preferably doing something involving nuclear issues and Eastern Europe, and this internship was excellent. It gave me the opportunity to work for a State Department program and meet U.S. government officials. Through talking with colleagues, I learned how different working for the U.S. government was from working for a Ukrainian government organization, in terms of transparency.

Another of my learning goals was to learn about Eastern Europe. I talked to colleagues at lunch about all sorts of things from Russia’s meddling in the Crimea to the large amount of corruption in the Kiev’s city government. I sampled borsht and vareniki (dumplings) and salo (the national dish, which is pretty much lard), which are cornerstones of Ukrainian cuisine. I had the opportunity to practice speaking Russian, but at work my colleagues spoke very impressive English, so there were no communication problems. Having the opportunity to travel to Moldova offered a unique chance to travel to another former Soviet republic and to learn about Transnistria (Moldova’s eastern territory has declared its independence, but no country recognizes it). This is an excellent Economist article about Transnistria and other similar conflict zones in former Soviet republics.  I ended the summer with a much deeper understanding of Ukrainian culture and politics. I won’t forget the excellent summer I spent there or the kindness of the friends I made. Ukraine in the world today

The summer has helped to further cement my interests in nonproliferation and the former Soviet Union, and I hope to continue to interweave those interests with my studies at Brandeis and future internships and jobs. To someone with similar interests, I would say, be willing to take risks.  If you are really interested in certain issues, find an organization that deals with them and contact the organization. Even if there is not internship program, inquire about a possible internship. There are a lot of other people interested in international relations-related careers, so I think it is important to build up an impressive and unique resume, something to make you stand out.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend the summer in Ukraine. I returned to the US with so many stories and experiences that I will always treasure.

Jennifer Ginsburg, ’14

Last Days at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

My internship at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital ended with a four-hour program named Fun Day on Friday, August 10th 2012. As a Biology and HSSP major, my main academic goal was to apply my knowledge from the classroom to a clinical setting by interacting with patients and various health care professionals. Every morning I walked into the clinic with an open mind and a positive attitude. The first thing I did was check the schedule of appointments for the day. When patients arrived, sometimes I helped the nurses with triaging the patients, such as taking their height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure. Most of time I looked over patients’ family and medical history, calculated their body mass index, and plotted the data on the growth chart to monitor their development. I also examined patients’ dietary and physical activity level with the dietitian in order to conduct nutritional counseling. From observing the clinic staff’s interaction with the patient and participating in medical case discussion following each patient’s visit, I learned that obesity is a complicated illness with many factors. By collecting and analyzing surveys, data, and organizing the program Fun Day 2012, I realized that while it is important to educate the child about the importance of balanced nutrition and portion size, it is more essential to encourage his family members to provide physical and mentor support, and to foster a positive environment at home for healthy eating and weight loss. Additionally I learned that childhood obesity does not only result in medical comorbidities, overweight or obese children are often victims of bullying at school, which may further cause these children to develop emotional eating, low self-confidence, and even depression. This creates a vicious cycle that sustains the childhood obesity epidemic.

Fun Day 2012 – Bike riding with the Bluegrass Cycling Club
Fun Day 2012 – How to pack a budget-friendly, well-balanced lunch for school

My summer at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic has fulfilled my learning goals and exceeded my expectations. I will return to Brandeis with a new perspective on health and illnesses. I will further reflect upon my experience in the HSSP89 Internship Analysis course. In the future, I would like to continue learning about obesity and related illnesses and possibly take courses on nutrition and dietetics. After seeing how I, as merely an undergraduate student, can contribute in making a difference in people’s lifestyles, I became even more enthusiastic and motivated  to pursue a career in healthcare and medical practice. During the entire course of my internship, I felt like I was a piece of a puzzle that fit right in. I can picture myself working in a clinical or hospital setting, shuffling in and out of examination rooms, or sitting at a desk making the ideal treatment plans for my patients.

Group picture with the clinic staff and a volunteer

I would recommend this internship at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital at the University of Kentucky (UK). UK is a large yet structured organization that houses many different departments. There are countless opportunities available. The student would just need to do his research to target the department of interest and actively contact the appropriate offices. For students who are interested in an internship in the healthcare industry, I would advise them to keep an open mind. Every patient is different, and every case is unique. As long as your interest lies there, you will never be bored working in the field of healthcare. – Yan Chu, ’13

Happy Ending of My Summer Internship

My summer internship at Asia Tea Co., Ltd was a wonderful experience. I finished my internship by accompanying the CEO and the production manager on another business trip to Northern provinces. The management philosophy is that in order to truly understand tea production you need to visit  tea hills and factories often.  In only two days, we visited eighteen tea factories across four provinces to negotiate tea prices and buy materials. We only had a break after midnight and went back to work at 7 o’clock in the morning. During the trip, I learned much more about how to negotiate business deals and handle stressful situations. The most memorable moment was when we waited for a ferry to cross the beautiful Hau River at 10 pm to meet a business partner. Besides the ferry drivers, we were the only three people on the ferry. I knew that the CEO wanted me to understand that a good manager really understands all aspects of the business.  The trip was very enlightening and I consider it the capstone of the internship program.

An article about the Ngoc Lap factory, one of the factories that Asia Tea Co., Ltd owns.

Taken at the Ngoc Lap tea factory. The workers are drying out tea leaves, so that they could make raw materials, from which they produce the final tea products.

My summer internship helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to data analysis assignments and market research projects, I am now more confident in my quantitative ability and broad knowledge about the world. However, I realized that I need to expand my industry knowledge base and improve my negotiation skills if I want to become a CEO in the future. Therefore, I look forward to taking some graduate-level business classes at Brandeis and hope to intern at a consulting firm next summer. Experience as a management consultant will improve my analytic and management skills and better my chance of getting into a MBA program. Thanks to the internship, I also understand the importance of the relationship between the government and companies. Since Asia Tea Co., Ltd always strives to contribute to the development of national agriculture, it receives support and subsidies from the government. The subsidies play an important role in shaping the company’s business policies.  I want to learn more about economic policies and their impact on the economy at Brandeis.

My boss is testing the quality of tea materials at the Lien Son-Nghia Lo tea factory in the province of Yen Bai.

 The Vietnamese tea industry is undergoing a new direction in development.

I really enjoyed my internship at Asia Tea Co., Ltd this summer. I hope other Brandeis students could achieve amazing internships during their time at college. For people who have never got an internship before, I have an advice: “Be bold.” We are usually afraid of failure, so that we sometimes do not apply to the top opportunities. However, if we try hard enough, we can succeed. To intern in Vietnam, you certainly need to know some Vietnamese. But you can intern in the tea industry in almost every country, including the United States. In order to get the internship, you must be passionate about agriculture and tea in particular. If you can demonstrate your passion to the interviewers, your chance of getting the internship is much higher. If you have any question regarding my internship or the tea industry in Vietnam, feel free to email me at dt1308@brandeis.edu. I look forward to sharing my experience with other Brandeis students.

– Duc Tran ’13

Wrapping up at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare, Techny, IL

I had a fantastic experience at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Techny Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. It was a big risk to fly across the country and intern at a nonprofit I’d previously never heard of and in a town I’d also never heard of. Luckily, it turned out to be a life changing summer and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

There were things I learned at The Center that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. For instance, working in the office every day helped me learn the day-to-day tasks that needed to be done in the morning and then in the afternoon, when we left. Checking the mail, email, banking account balances, printing articles we needed for the next day, and using the scanner and photocopier are just a few of the many daily tasks we interns learned to do, very quickly. In other words, I know how the office operates and what the employees have to do to keep it running. Since I know how this nonprofit operates, I’ll have a better idea of how others might operate if I decide to go into the world of nonprofit management. Some of the same skills will be required and what I’ll already have experience from this internship which will help me navigate the new job.

During my internship at The Center, I also learned how to communicate effectively with my fellow coworkers, complete my assignments on time under tight deadlines, and compose myself professionally at all times. This experience will help me at Brandeis and beyond, for instance, when I work in the Admissions office and at my (future!) job after graduation. One cannot have enough experience working in a professional setting because it will always come in handy.

After this internship, I want to continue learning about the current healthcare system in the United States and how the newly upheld Affordable Care Act will affect not only other American’s lives, but my life as well. I want to explore how this new law will change America’s health system – for the better or worse – and how people will react to this change. The future is wide open and it’ll be exciting to see where it takes us!

If someone were seeking advice about my internship, I would say the following. Do it if you’re interested in the following topics: local healthcare, global healthcare, healthcare ethics, bioethics, social work in a medical setting, nonprofit management, or patient advocacy. If any of these topics resonated, I would definitely suggest applying for this particular internship. Also, the prospective intern must be willing to work in a small office. Working in the nonprofit world is hard but very rewarding. The current economic climate is not the best right now, hence many nonprofits, especially small ones, are penny pinching, which is stressful; however, the work is very rewarding and I can see how the work I did helped the nonprofit stay in existence, a very special takeaway.

This internship opened up my eyes to how much everyday people suffer these days when a medical catastrophe strikes and they cannot afford health insurance. I’ve talked with these individuals myself. I grew up completely blind to the healthcare costs my parents incurred because luckily we have insurance from my dad’s job. Hearing people’s stories and struggling to help them find a solution was a growth experience and taught me to never take anything for granted – including good health.  If I end up working for a nonprofit, I might get a few raised eyebrows because of the presupposed pay rate, but what I’d be doing at the nonprofit I would be immensely proud of. I would be proud to advertise myself as a nonprofit worker because the one I would work for would align with my own interests, passions and philosophies. I would be making visible change in the community and be very happy doing it.

 

 

Here is a link to a Chicago Health Poverty Law Center. We talked with one of the lawyers who is very well-known in the Chicago area for helping people with lower incomes and their healthcare rights: http://povertylaw.org/index.php?q=advocacy/health/

At the internship, I also learned a lot about free clinics in the Chicago area and how important they are in helping people who have no health insurance. Community Health is the largest free clinic in the Chicago area! http://www.communityhealth.org/

– Emily Breitbart ’13

Halfway Point at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare

A wide variety of speakers have visited The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare because they want to educate the next generation of young people, specifically about what is going on in our healthcare system. All of the speakers deeply respect the Director of my internship, along with the internship’s mission, for they present usually every year and never ask for compensation. This speaks to the quality of the internship program I am in.
One day, a school nurse came and talked with us about healthcare in the elementary school she worked at. I learned that 1 out of 3 students in her school visited her – in one year. Calling parents, filling out paperwork and nurturing 33% of her school’s population is quite a demand. I learned that widespread sickness endures because not enough is being done to help prevent diseases from spreading. Childhood obesity and bullying are on the rise, and the disparity in wealth in her town is obvious.
From speaking with a Nursing Home Administrator, I learned that nursing homes around the country are suffering badly. The recent cuts in healthcare are the main culprit, along with the lack of resources coming from the government. It’s also hard for many nursing home residents to pay the monthly fee nowadays, which make nursing homes hard to afford for them. Meanwhile, in today’s culture, fewer and fewer people want to live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities because they prefer to stay at home or move in with family. This is becoming the trend around the country.
I learned from a community activist that the poor are the ones who are suffering the most when it comes to healthcare cuts, and they suggest what we should be doing is coming together as a community and pitching in to help those in need. Volunteering at local clinics, donating food and clothing to the local shelters and planting trees and flowers around neighborhoods are all things community members should think about doing.


Those were just three experiences I’ve had at my internship. There are many more I could talk about but I think this gives you a good idea of what I’ve been learning about. Healthcare is becoming more and more a community issue.
We’ve also met with Quentin Young of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the Director of The Center for Faith and Community Health Transformation – a woman who wants to incorporate religious and spiritual habits into hospitals, a biology professor who teaches her students about natural medicine and the process of harvesting plants and transforming them into synthetic medicines, and a couple of other directors from other local non profit agencies who also want to work on a grass roots level to help their communities be healthy and stay healthy. It’s been a wonderful experience getting to listen to all of these intelligent, passionate and highly respected people – who all hail from the Chicago area.
Here’s a link to an article from Time Magazine about selling one’s bone marrow.  It’s something we talked about in one of our in-services. Read more to learn more.

This is a link to a very helpful video which breaks down what you should expect from the newly upheld Affordable Care Act.
_____________
How am I progressing on my goals I outlined in my WOW Scholarship Application?
Academically: I have without a doubt learned immense amounts about bioethical issues and how to talk about them with other people. This experience has given me insights I never would have gained otherwise. Through talking with the Director about how she goes about resolving tough medical problems with patients (a word she hates because it implies a power hierarchy) I have learned how she deals with the issues and how she helps people overcome their own problems. In addition, I now have a better idea as to how to help others when they are conflicted.
Professionally: I have also been exposed to a nonprofit work environment which fights for social justice in and around its community. With this experience under my belt, I will be a better candidate for a nonprofit administrator position, if I choose to pursue that path in the future.
Personally: This internship has taught me that I need to identify what my true, honest values are. From this internship, I’ve learned that values shape our opinions. Once I realize my values, I will be able to take the next step and gain insight into possible career paths.

 

 

Of what am I most proud? Why?
I am proud of myself for delving in and learning about the Healthcare scene, on both the local and national levels – because now that I have so much more knowledge about healthcare in today’s world, I am now responsible for keeping up with the issues and standing my ground. Having this knowledge now puts pressure on me to act and fight for what I believe is right.
How am I building skills in this internship?
This internship has in practice made me a better listener and analyst of information. At all times, I have to be able to listen to whomever is speaking (the other interns, the director, a speaker), synthesize what they’re saying, and transform this information into knowledge. My listening and analyzing skills are enhancing because those are the skills I’m utilizing everyday.
I’m also learning how to function in a nonprofit setting – how to communicate professionally, work independently, ask questions, etc. People operate differently in different environments, and now that I’ve had experience working at a nonprofit, I know how this nonprofit operates day to day.
All of these skills will help me in the future, for I will be a better candidate if I choose to apply to jobs in the nonprofit sector, but also, I will be a better candidate for any job having had ample experience listening and analyzing information. Having had the chance to improve my listening and analyzing skills, I will be a better thinker, reader and speaker after this experience.

 

– Emily Breitbart ’13

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Paraguay

My proudest moment of my experience this summer with La Fundación Paraguaya took place during the last few days of my internship. During this time the organization asks each intern to give a final presentation to co-workers and supervisors that requires reflecting on experiences and sharing challenges faced and insights learned. For me, I was excited to present as, in general, I embrace reflecting and the way in which my perspective broadens and deepens with each experience. I’ve found this type of thought so valuable, in fact, that I journaled my thoughts consistently throughout the 9 weeks that I was there. Interestingly, however, it was a story told about me by my supervisor that allowed me to see I had overlooked my proudest accomplishment.

My presentation brought up many ideas that certainly had great value.  For example, I spoke about having gained a better understanding of the workings of a non-profit organization and the challenges faced in social justice work. I spoke about honing my Spanish skills, and absorbing the culture of the people and country of Paraguay. Yet after presenting, I remember my supervisor, Guillermo, asking to share a story with the rest of the group. He said, “I remember one of the first days Brandon was in the office and we went to help a class carry out their business plan at one of the high schools. During these sessions, the students are constantly asking questions, speaking quickly, using specific vocabulary—it was obviously a difficult task for Brandon, but at that time I was with him to help out. When we returned to the office, I expressed to Brandon that, if he were up to it, I’d like him to travel alone to the high schools and work with the students alone. At first, he expressed doubts, saying ‘I don’t know, Guille, I don’t know if I speak well enough—if I will be able to understand their questions well enough and explain some of these concepts.’  At that point, we had decided I would accompany him again. Yet, just a few hours later before the end of the day he approached me and, with a new confidence, said ‘I’d like to go on Friday if you don’t mind.’”

 

One of the “companies” I worked with, here with the student managers.

The reason that I bring up this story is that, while I focused on goals I had outlined in my World of Work application as my accomplishments, which are certainly important, I realized that I had overlooked the decision that made all of these goals attainable, which was finding the courage to be vulnerable and step outside of my comfort zone. In listening to the story, it had become so transparent to me how much this risk of making mistakes and being in a new environment scared me, and hearing it told by my supervisor while knowing I had overcome this obstacle is truly an accomplishment that holds much value to me. The effect of this fundamental decision made my other goals possible; that is, opting to work with the students alone meant that I did not have anyone other than myself to rely on for understanding and answering complex concepts, and therefore helped me fortify my confidence and skill with Spanish. Furthermore, this decision put me one-on-one with students and allowed me to feel as though I was making a tangible, positive difference in their lives. For me, having had great opportunities such as attending Brandeis, was so rewarding as I felt that I was giving back after being given so much.

Speaking with one of the students at a Paraguayan national commerce event called “La Expo”

As I return to Brandeis, I am excited to continue to speak Spanish and have plans to attend “Charlamos” meetings; a club on campus devoted to speaking Spanish and celebrating Hispanic culture. A Brandeis’ student run club called English Language Learning Initiative is another great opportunity to involve myself in volunteer work that will expand my cultural perspective.  Additionally, I believe I enter this academic year with a greater appreciation of other cultures and look to attend the many cultural celebrations that Brandeis hosts each semester. Above all, however, I hope to continue to find the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, as I have come to realize how much one learns about himself through doing so. Lastly, I would like to say thank you so much to Brandeis and the WOW committee for offering such an enriching experience to their students.  Opportunities like this make Brandeis such a special institution.

Brandon Frank ’12

 

Final Post from the State’s Attorney’s Office

 

I cannot believe how quickly this summer flew by. I remember my first day walking into the office unsure of myself, and what would come of the summer. Right away the advocates were extremely friendly and excited to work with me. Ending the summer with them taking me out to lunch showed me just how far I had come since that first day. I learned so much about the role of not only the advocates, but also of everybody else in the office.  I went into the summer hoping to learn more about the criminal justice system and whether or not I wanted to pursue a professional career in law.  Through restitution work and monitoring court proceedings I learned an immense amount about how the criminal justice system worked. I now understand the roles of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victim’s advocates. My supervisor would ask me to watch the court proceedings to see what the sentence was for certain defendants. By taking notes I learned about the court procedure and the sentencing that might follow certain charges. Although, there might have been a slight pattern, I mostly learned that each case is different and could result in a different outcome.

I learned a lot from this internship, but know there is much more to learn about the legal system. I have never taken any classes before on this subject, but plan on taking as many legal courses as I can in my last year at Brandeis. This internship has also solidified my plan to go to law school in a few years. Through immersion of the criminal system, I also discovered that I do not particularly like the criminal system and much prefer civil court.  I was able to observe family court once a week and felt as though that is where I would love to be able to help.  Right after college, I would love to work in a family law practice, and learn more about civil law and really be able to compare that with what I learned this past summer.

 

Home to the Interns

 

I learned a lot about the criminal system as well as myself and I would suggest this experience to any other student who wants to learn more about the victims advocate role within the criminal justice system or the legal system in general.  I was unsure about what I wanted to pursue for my professional career, but this summer taught me a lot about the daily work in this field.  The Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office holds some of the friendliest people and they are always eager for interns.  I learned the most from this internship by always putting myself out there and willing to help in any way that I could.  I also asked the advocates questions about their work and the attorneys in the office were also eager to answer any questions I might have had.  Another amazing aspect to this internship was the accessibility to the courtrooms.  Any student interested in criminal law should pursue an internship at a states attorney’s office because they will learn so much about the criminal process.  As long as questions are asked and initiatives are taken to observe interesting proceedings, than students interested in this type of internship will gain the most out of this experience. (State’s Attorney’s Offices in Vermont)

 

Court House

Every day I discover I learned more and more from this internship.  I learned a great deal about social justice and saw first hand its use within the criminal justice system.  My concept of social justice was certainly challenged through observing the different sentences that criminals would receive.  Defendants did not all go straight to jail or have to pay a large fine. Some defendants left the court with only community service and counseling.  In some cases this felt adequate, but others where it was a repeated offense or one that greatly affected a victim, it felt unfair.  Although the court system challenged social justice in a way, I also discovered that there are many different avenues to fight for social justice. These avenues allow for many different people to make changes at all levels, ranging from personal to global.  When I observed family court, I met a woman who worked at a domestic violence organization and fought for social justice at a more personal level with the victims.  (Domestic Violence Organization). This discovery has inspired me to fight for social justice at this level and work with women who need support of all kinds.  Social justice is certainly something that I want to fight for and I know that whichever professional path I end up taking, it will follow one of social justice.

 

Ending at the Conflict Kitchen

With my internship at the Conflict Kitchen completed, I have been reflecting on all that I learned. The research I completed for the Cuba iteration as well as the upcoming countries required me to integrate my academic knowledge into dialoguing with customers at the take-out window. Through this, I also came to a fuller understanding of the concepts I have learned in my classes at Brandeis. The Conflict Kitchen also held a Cuban Date Night for their final event of the summer, featuring dinner, a showing of the Buena Vista Social Club, and salsa dancing. Working as the on-site coordinator for this event forced me to develop my event-planning skills, further supporting my learning goals for this internship.

The Poster for Conflict Kitchen’s educational event for the Cuba iteration

Coming out of this experience, I certainly want to continue seeking cross-cultural experiences and learning about peacebuilding and the arts. However, this internship did not merely reaffirm my interest but also helped me to discern my specific interests more fully. The concept of the Conflict Kitchen can both use the arts and culture to humanize demonized populations and give voice to minority communities in the United States who have been marginalized due to the demonization of their home culture. After interning with the Conflict Kitchen, l feel that I want to pursue a vocation that utilizes the arts and culture to give voice to minority and marginalized communities.

The recommended adult reading list I developed that is available at the Conflict Kitchen take-out window

I would advise a student working at the Conflict Kitchen to not be afraid to take initiative. My idea to collaborate with the local library and develop reading lists of Cuban literature became the most rewarding part of my internship and the project that taught me the most. To a student doing similar work, I would recommend that every experience or exchange lead to reflection. I found that using arts and culture for peace and rehumanization is fascinating and there are a multitude of large questions to which everyone has a different answer. I learned much more from constantly reflecting on these issues than if I had simply focused on my tasks without looking at the wider picture.

The wider perspective that comes from reflection also helped me to more clearly envision the goal of peacebuilding and the arts and the details necessary for cross-cultural education. In one encounter this summer, I was shocked when someone found the project exploitative.  While I think that the person had made a snap judgment without truly understanding the project, the statement certainly made me reflect. I believe firmly that rehumanization of demonized populations is essential to the establishment of a just society. However, I also feel that this internship taught me that when working to rehumanize cultures and peoples it is essential to be aware of the danger of exploitation of these people and their culture.  I think to avoid this, it is important to constantly be aware of the power dynamics at play, work directly with the community in question, and to focus on the goal of education.

“Sabuthik Acchi” (Everything will be okay)

Dear friends, my trip to India has been most memorable and unforgettable. Upon completion of my experience as a Unite For Sight volunteer at Kalinga Eye Hospital in India, the later half of my internship consists of creating a video film that captures the essence of volunteering at Kalinga Eye Hospital for my organization. I have been meeting with my faculty advisor, professor Laura Lorenz, to discuss how to make a compelling, powerful film to best describe my experience in India. I am currently developing a story board to effectively share my thoughts, and I just wanted to share a few memoirs that refreshed my memory through the raw footages.

As a Unite For Sight volunteer, one of my tasks is to observe cataract surgeries that my organization has sponsored through outreach camps. Inside the operating theatre, there are numerous activities that take place prior to the surgeries. Essentially, the camp patients are screened for free cataract surgeries at these camps and then are brought back to the hospital on the bus (under the sizzling weather and 3-hour long ride). After an hour of settling in, the female paramedics escort the camp patients to wait in line and perform local anesthesia on their eyes. Unlike the paying patients however, the camp’s patients do not receive pre-operative counseling due to the time constraint and therefore, are often very frightened by the surgeries themselves. Although everyone undergoes the cataract surgery and understands the sight-opening results of the sponsored surgeries, very little patients actually understand the details regarding the operation and what kind of processes are being done to their eyes. With little comprehension and almost no prior knowledge or experience with this type of surgery (or the eye hospitals in general), many patients, the majority of which are elderly, tremble in fear and desperately pray to their gods before the surgery.

With many patients to receive cataract surgeries in one day, the paramedics usually direct one or two patients to sit along the wall inside the operating room. Could you picture yourself, an elderly woman who has received very little education and is about to receive the first cataract surgery, sitting right across from the operating table, on which a patient is strapped down? Although one cannot see the details of the surgery from where patients would be sitting, this view seems to usually startle the patients even more, as they begin to frantically pray or completely freeze. Watching the patients and seemingly clueless paramedics and surgeons, I realized that I was experiencing a culture shock that I did not anticipate: compared to the “customer-is-king” mentality of the United States, such is not the norm at the hospitals in India. The situation also heightened the disparity between the paying and nonpaying patients, as the paying patients not only received higher quality operations, but also had gone through preoperative and post-operative counseling. Not knowing how to react, for the remainder of my first operation observation I remained silent. I tried to think about how to communicate to my paramedic friends the idea of why the hospital should try to make the camp patients feel comfortable with not only the surgery, but also with health care and hospitals in general.

One day, I asked a paramedic working in the OR how to say ‘everything will be okay’ in Oriya. After learning how to pronounce the phrase correctly, I held the hands of a trembling elderly patient and told her the words: ‘Sabuthik Acchi.’ However, the outcome was not what I had expected (the warm and fuzzy kind), because the patient was not able to hear me with the anesthesia and cotton swabs in her ears. And even if they heard me, I could not understand what they were saying in response to my encouragement. Learning that this was a job for the paramedics who speak the native language, I gave a powerpoint presentation regarding patient treatment that emphasized patient comfort, satisfaction, and future recommendations to other friends and family. With the help of the senior paramedic, Shanti, the words of my presentation were translated so that all paramedics could understand and discuss their perspectives, and we had lots of fun as I acted out the role of an elderly woman in the OR during the role simulation. And I was tremendously moved when during the next surgery observation, I noticed the loving, caring side of the paramedics when they directed the patients to the operation room.

I am writing about this experience because it has taught me a few things about volunteering overseas: first of all, there are still some things that you can feel past the language barrier, that make volunteering in foreign countries so heartwarming and compelling. I could never forget the smiles that I saw after the surgery and the gentle acknowledgement of the patients when they recognized me as a hospital volunteer. I could never forget the stories they shared with me during the interview, such as their fears of surgery, what they want to see the most when their sights are restored, the hopes upon regaining the control of their own lives, and the financial struggles that they will have to overcome for their spouse and family. But instead of focusing this post on what I did or what I have received out of the volunteering, I want to highlight how humbling it is to be a volunteer who can do very little on her own, but with the help of others and collaboration can achieve a lot for the community. There was nothing significant that I was able to do in the hospital setting where I lacked the technical expertise, the medical knowledge, and the ability to directly communicate with patients. I worked as the active observer. What I had hoped to do, I can only so do with the help of hospital staff and paramedics, and even so after spending a small amount of time with them, I will never know if my efforts were long-lasting. It is rather a privilege that they take the time to understand where I am from and listen to what I have to say, because I am a foreigner unaccustomed to their local traditions and dynamics. And I believe that the most important task of volunteering overseas is to respect the local customs and cultures and let them be the protagonists of their community. I am writing to describe my journey as I have seen, but this is really my take on the story of the Oriya people and how the Kalinga Eye Hospital aspires to provide affordable eye healthcare to the poor and neglected in the rural state of India. I will continue to play the role of a supporter and will share their perspectives and passions with my local people as they did with mine. With this thought in mind, I hope to amplify their humanitarian efforts of Kalinga Eye Hospital and Unite For Sight, and stimulate my peers to consider becoming part of this movement through my story and the resultant video film.

 

If anyone is curious about a video film taken by a previous Unite For Sight volunteer about Kalinga Eye Hospital paramedics, please click here. Also, please click here if you are interested in learning more about volunteering as a Unite For Sight Volunteer at Kalinga Eye Hospital. Thank you for reading!

– Gloria Park ’13

Ending at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab

Ending at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab

It’s hard to believe that my summer internship at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab is over. I learned so much and really enjoyed working at the lab, so time seemed to fly! I feel as though nearly all of the tasks that I completed were relevant to my learning goals, because they gave me the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of psychology research. I wanted to see the daily tasks associated with running and publishing a study, and the variety of things I did offered that to me.  I found this most basic chart of the tasks of research:

Source: ckbooks.com

Even though some tasks were not the most exhilarating, they reflect the reality of the field. Spending hours entering and coding data is simply par for the course. However, if I had to pick a few tasks that taught me the most, I would choose that of running participants through the entire study protocol, and attending weekly lab meetings. I ran approximately 15-20 participants through our study, and I feel that this is where I really came to understand why the study was designed as it was. Rather than simply coding the participants’ answers to our various questionnaires, I understood what their different answers and scores meant. This was especially helpful when working with our eye-tracking data, which could have been hard to understand if I had not worked to calibrate participants and run them through the various video-watching tasks of the study.

 

The summer 2012 LedLab team!

 The weekly lab meetings were an important learning opportunity for me, because they gave me the chance to talk to people working on other studies, and learn about their protocol and findings. It is easy to get “tunnel vision” when you are working on the same study day in and day out, and speaking with others working on different but related research helped to bring my understanding back to the “big picture.” Please check out this link to the most recent lab meeting article: http://spl.stanford.edu/pdfs/2001%20Current%20Directions%20in%20Psychological%20Science%20-%20Emo.%20Reg.%20in%20Adulthood%20Timing%20.pdf.

To build off of what I learned this summer, I plan to explore my own research interests more. Now that I have some background and understanding in the way that research in the field works, it is time to figure out the particular questions that I want to explore through research. I think that Dr. Isaacowitz’s work on emotional development throughout the lifespan is incredibly interesting and important, but I also hope to take on opportunities in other arenas of research. Dr. Isaacowitz also let me know how important independent research experience is for graduate school applications, so now is the time to start thinking about these big questions.

For other students interested in an internship in the field of psychology research, I would advise them to try working in different labs. If you have never worked in a lab before, how can you really know what your research interests are? What you learn in class is really different than what you do in the lab. Just check out this webpage from the American Psychological Association to get sense of how varied the field is! (http://www.apa.org/topics/) Also, even if you find that your personal research questions are different than those of the lab you’re working in, you will gain valuable knowledge and skills that are universal in psychology research! – Leah Igdalsky, ’13

Completing my Internship with UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana…

52 days have come and gone. I have interned with three of the five Unite For Sight partner clinics (North Western, Save the Nation, Crystal) in four regions of Ghana (Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Western). My experiences in the field have only been trumped by the relationships and networks I have developed with my fellow citizens. As a refresher, my overarching learning goal for this summer was to engage my HSSP background and coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. And I accomplished this feat as a member of each clinic’s outreach team. I was able to engage my academic training in the life and social sciences experientially, by curiously conducting visual acuity screenings, inquisitively observing the eye examinations of the physicians and nurses, and happily distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician. I asked hundreds of questions with the intent to better understand the role of public health in the local health infrastructure.

The man who turned a simple dream into an unmistakable reality; one of the most inspiring individuals I have ever met. Introducing the founder and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic: Dr. Baah.

 

I will build off this experience much like I build off every experience, with honest reflection and deep admiration. I am fortunate to have completed an experience like this prior to graduation because I now have the opportunity to further ground my experiential learning inside the classroom. I can take my global health experience and continue to cultivate it, both in theory and in practice. After Brandeis, I will have the foundation needed to transform this experience from a summer internship into an expensive hobby or, better yet, a career.

I realize that learning is a lifelong pursuit. For the time being, I want to continue to further my own understanding of public health and social justice. These two buzzwords are often spoken but rarely defined, so it’s important that I continue to hone in on what each means to me. I’ve also developed a slight interest in philanthropy and fundraising. I just began to get my feet wet while fundraising for the surgeries I would observe abroad, so it would be great to learn more about fundraising and effective ways of doing it. I’ll take on as much as my full plate of classes and extracurricular activities allows me to. However, what will always remain a staple of my life will be my service to others.

The advice I would give to a student interested in either an internship at UFS or an internship in the field of public/global health are one in the same. I can’t state enough how important it is to be flexible, especially when working with members of a different culture. In my internship, and presumably with all other internships, I did not always do what I was most excited to do. However, I was flexible with the clinics and displayed an attitude reminiscent of that of a true team player. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself in which I was able to mix it up and try something new, which will reap huge dividends going forward. Also, be honest with yourself, be open-minded, be bold, and be optimistic. A winning attitude indicates success before any “competition” has even begun.

My ideals of social justice have been thoroughly reinforced. About a week-and-a-half in, I had one day where I was a little grumpy as I boarded the STNSC van for outreach. I kept thinking about how tired I was, how hungry I was, how dirty I was…and then I froze. I stopped thinking about all of my problems and started thinking about why I was in Ghana in the first place. I thought long and hard. And then I realized that I wasn’t in Ghana for me. Granted, I always wanted to put my best self forward, but I realized that I was in Ghana to help distribute quality eye care to the local populations. And when I wrapped my brain around this thought, I felt something change. The sun opened up. The greens grew a couple shades brighter. The potholes in the road ceased to throw me here and there. All the “pain” I was dealing with disappeared. Instantaneously, another day on the job became an epiphany of purpose. For that moment, everything in the world was right.

I say this, not to be dramatic, but to express what I’ve learned. It was a wonderful responsibility and an extraordinary privilege to serve as a change agent on behalf of Brandeis University, and I am forever indebted for this experience.

Thank you so much for the opportunity!

Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic’s Vision/Mission Statement: Social justice at its best!

 

Also, please keep in mind that the fight is not over! Preventable blindness continues to plague the eyes of millions in our world. I am gladly continuing to fundraise with the hope of creating more success stories like the dozens I saw earlier this summer. 100% of my fundraising efforts will provide surgeries for patients living in extreme poverty, and your help would be greatly appreciated by myself, Unite For Sight, and all of the patients who would receive eye care due to your efforts. Please take a look at my fundraising page for more information and, if you can, give what you can:

https://maestropay.com/uniteforsight/volunteers/ref/300103e13c734fc8a2604dbfa271ccb4

Overall an enriching experience!

 

While writing my mid-point blog post, I had just begun my fieldwork on the Hmong people. Now that I have completed my internship, so much has happened that I would love to share. While the Plymouth fieldwork certainly included the challenge of approaching people with questions, talking to Hmong people greatly expanded this challenge. As a result, I became a much more confident researcher and person overall. I learned so much about the Hmong culture and language, and met so many interesting people; each with their own stories and backgrounds.

The most important breakthrough, which my professor was very excited about, was my finding Flats Mentor Farm, where multiple Hmong families farm for themselves and their families as well as  sell produce at local farmer’s markets. After speaking with the woman who manages the farm, she felt as if I would be respectful of the farmers and she gave me permission to come to the farm to speak with the Hmong farmers. This was very interesting because most farmers were first generation Hmong people who came from Laos or Thailand 10-20 years ago. They provided me with valuable information on the differences between home and living in America, and it was interesting to hear their views on living in the US.  They also told me how they felt about their children growing up here, and how it has affected their culture. I made sure to visit the farmer’s markets weekly where they sold food, so that I could continue to build on the relationships.

Flats Mentor Farm logo…They do not allow pictures as they like to keep private.
One of the many farmer’s markets I went to

Besides finding the farm, I also reached out to people through organizations such as the United Hmong of Massachusetts and even through Facebook. I attained a number of interviews this way, most of which were recorded. It was often tricky to balance respect with getting information about the culture, but I felt as if I learned how to do this pretty well. I always made sure that the person felt comfortable and to let them know that if they didn’t want to answer a specific question that was completely fine. In the end, it always seemed like they wanted to share their culture with me, because they realize that people in the US don’t even know much about them. I was even invited to a lunch on the last day of my internship, which was a number of Hmong people meeting, many for the first time, who had found each other on Facebook. I felt included and it was nice to know that they appreciated my interest in their culture, rather than felt offended by my questions or lack of knowledge.

Knowing that I’m going back to Brandeis in only a few weeks, I am excited to share this experience with others and to continue to grow from it. I am planning on taking multiple Linguistics classes, and to build more on my Linguistic knowledge, as up to this point I’ve focused more on Anthropology. At one point during my Hmong fieldwork, researchers were trying to finish up the first project at Dartmouth, and they asked me if I could complete a large amount of acoustic analysis. This came during a very busy week for me and they were very understanding when I explained that I wasn’t sure if I could complete all of what they asked of me. However, during the small amount of free time that I had, I sat down and did it all! My professor was extremely pleased and appreciative, and my work really helped them to finish up in time. I felt as if I was a great help to the project, and while doing the analysis I realized that my technical skills had really improved. I hope to build on this at Brandeis in my Linguistics coursework.

Even though I have completed my internship, I plan to attend the Hmong New Year festival in the fall, as multiple people have invited me. This relationship with the Hmong has become a long-term interest for me, not just something I work on for one summer. I have built connections that will last longer too, many of which are valuable connections not just for myself but my professor, as well. If someone continues this project as an intern at Dartmouth, I would just advise him or her to work hard and really go with any connections they find. I found many of my informants through other people I had already met, but in the beginning especially, I had to do a lot of research to find the organizations or people. It was certainly an internship where I had to discipline myself, but this has only added value to my experience and shown me that I can in fact work through the challenges I face. In terms of the field, it is also one that includes a lot of self-discipline, especially when finding informants to interview. During the first part of the internship, learning and performing acoustic analysis can be tedious but is well worth it when you realize that you added data to a real research project. This has been such an enriching summer, so if you are someone who feels like you can motivate yourself to work hard and are excited to meet people and learn about a new culture, I say go for it! _ Alex Patch ’14

Midpoint Check-In from UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana

The midpoint of my internship with Unite For Sight finds me just shy of four weeks in Ghana. Since beginning my internship twenty-six days ago, I have completed my rotation with Northwestern Eye Centre, completed my first rotation with Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic in Twifo Praso (Central Region), met the supervising ophthalmologist and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic, and observed the STNSC staff perform life-changing cataract and pterygium surgeries. I am now starting my second rotation with Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic in Denu of the Volta Region.

Introducing the outreach team’s best friend: the Sight Mobile!

 

 

Professional & Pink…who knew Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic had such bold style?

 

I am happy to say that I am making great progress with my defined learning goals. My overarching learning goal was to engage my HSSP background and coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I have been blessed with the privilege of working with the most basic level of the local eye clinics: the outreach team. Everyday, I am on the ground with the team of optometrists, ophthalmic nurses, dispensing opticians, and local volunteers locating patients in need of quality eye care. I am constantly taking notes on what I see, reflecting on the ins and outs of the local health infrastructure, and developing strategies to improve the implementation and administration of our global health practices.

At this stage of my stay, I am most proud of my patience. I pride myself on being a very patient person, but I was still concerned with how challenging the language barrier would be, especially in a medical setting. English is the official language of Ghana, but it definitely isn’t the most widely spoken tongue amongst the populations I work with. Still, I realized my proficiency in Twi, the most prominent language amongst my regions, could only get better. So I practiced the phrases that I knew, learned several new ones, tried really hard to perfect the Ghanaian intonations, and leaned on my team too many times to count. A month in, I was able to conduct an entire visual acuity screening in Twi, an accomplishment that only bolstered my confidence going forward!

The academic skills I’m building are quite evident from my work within the internship. However, I feel that I am building life skills more than anything else. I’m starting from scratch and learning to immerse myself within an entirely different culture. I’m learning a new language, learning about new foods, learning new social cues and norms…I’m learning to be humbled. I’m building skills in teamwork, dream work, and the open mind. My skill set will be a testament to how amazingly beautiful the human spirit can be. I’m a cliché: living life to the fullest. And I am so honored to be performing justice work with an amazing group of health professionals for a nation that inspires me to want to be a better person each and every day.

 

To lean more about Dr. Baah, the founder and medical director of Save the Nation’s Sight Clinic, please select the link below:

http://www.uniteforsight.org/volunteer-abroad/ghana/villages-preparation/baah-history 

 

To learn more about the importance of sustainable development in eye care, please select the link below:

http://www.uniteforsight.org/what-we-do/sustainable-development 

Saying Goodbye to SJDS

It seems a bit surreal to be writing this last blog post from here in my kitchen, a place that seems so far removed from all that I experienced during these past two months.  Reflecting on this summer, it was my last week at the SJDS Bilioteca that sums up perfectly how far I came over the course of this internship.  During that last week, a group of us drove up to Ameya – a small, impoverished community outside of Chinandega in northern Nicaragua for a missions trip.  The SJDS library, with the help of the community’s sister church in Colorado, have helped build both a library and a vocational school in Ameya whose resources offer a significant improvement in the types of educational opportunities available to both adults and children of the community.  During this trip, I worked with both the young adults from the vocational school as well as younger children offering various art workshops and activities throughout our four-day stay.

Everyone on our trip had different roles throughout the week and I was responsible for organizing and running all of the activities for the children.  We decorated headbands as a sewing activity for the vocational school, made visual autobiographies, and on the last day used sponge painting to make a mural.  These children so rarely get the opportunity to express themselves artistically, which made my work in providing art projects for them even more rewarding. Additionally, throughout the entire week, I was also acting as a bridge between the community members and the Colorado church members, many of whom did not speak Spanish.  It was my first time really translating and I loved it.  One day, a mother and her daughter wanted to teach the children how to make paper flowers and so while she explained in English I translated into Spanish so that the children would be able to follow her instructions.  Moments such as this or others when individuals, Nicaraguans or Americans, would come up to me asking if I could help translate for them comprised some of my favorite memories from the week.  To have reached the point in my Spanish where I am able to help others communicate with one another and form connections by utilizing my burgeoning language skills proved to be a real stepping-stone.

Returning to Brandeis, I’ll continue taking Spanish classes and getting ready for my spring semester abroad in Bolivia.  While I’m sure that trip will offer a completely new host of challenges and experiences from what I’ve been exposed to this summer, the experience I now have living on my own in a foreign country will I’m sure work to my advantage.  Studying abroad in Bolivia, I plan on exploring even further the issue of social change through my specific interest in the field of education.  Yet, on an even broader scope, I see both of these trips as only the beginning in what I predict will be a long love affair with both the Spanish language and the diverse cultures, countries, and people of both South and Central America.

To any interested students, my advice is be prepared to be both flexible and independent.  An internship at the San Juan del Sur Biblioteca can offer a wonderful experience for growth, and the library is always open to having new volunteers but anticipate a large amount of independence.  Most volunteers come down with at least a rough idea of what they want to do and while the library staff are more than willing to help you achieve that goal it is very clearly your project.  That being said, when dealing with a completely new culture you also have to be willing to be flexible.  Things may not often go as you had originally planned but just remember that often these experiences provide a lesson within themselves and that it’s okay if your plans change along the way.

Working at the library this summer I was able to observe various local, national, and international organizations dedicated to social justice work.  Seeing the various models used by different organizations reinforced my opinion that in order to truly achieve community advancement groups must utilize the resources, people, and ideas that already exist within the community.  Often, even with the best intentions, groups that fail to understand the culture and people with whom they are trying to help end up doing more harm than good.  This summer was valuable in that not only did it offer the opportunity for personal growth but I also was able to observe what other individuals and organizations were working to achieve within Nicaragua.

– Abigail Simon ’14

Completing Internship

As discussed in my most recent blog post, there are many tasks and accomplishments from this summer that have supported my learning goals. My academic goal for the summer was to gain knowledge on how to create social change after participating in a service corps. After reading and updating many of the alumni biographies, I recognize that many alums continue working with organizations that are dedicated to social justice. My career goal was to learn how to utilize certain aspects of the service corp and apply to social entrepreneurship. After scanning an article about social entrepreneurship, I gained a stronger understanding of the complexities of social entrepreneurship. I am more confident in presenting my ideas and realize the importance of detail and organization in any given task. I will use these skills during the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond. I also learned that there are many other jobs that would also fit my interests. I am now more open to learning about other careers geared toward creating social change.

After having completed my internship I want to learn more about working with philanthropists. Since I worked in an organization that focuses on domestic issues, I would like to expand my knowledge on how international organizations work and create change. I want to take on an international experience. My advice to a student interested in an internship at AVODAH would be to understand that one can learn so much from the smallest of tasks. In this industry and field it is important to understand the amount of time, energy, and commitment required to work in the non-profit world.

My concept of social justice has been both reinforced and altered. I’ve always understood the importance of social justice and social change in the world, but never knew the strong connection it has with Jewish values. I’ve learned that in order to be an effective problem solver one needs to truly stand up and push for what they believe in. This is not the end of my involvement with AVODAH, as I will be helping them with recruitment throughout the year. 

 – Danielle Mizrachi ’15

Diving into the Nonprofit World: Midpoint at the Chinese Progressive Association

At this point, I am past the half way mark in my internship at the Chinese Progressive Association and time is going by really fast. In the past few weeks, I’ve become immersed in the issues facing Chinatown residents on a daily basis such as the redistricting that is happening within the community and the changes in immigration and undocumented immigrant policies like the recent Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration policy S.B. 1070 that are relevant to the demographic here in Chinatown. But besides learning about the issues, I believe I’ve grasped the  importance of the Chinese Progressive Association within the context of the Asian American community. In the beginning, I found it harder to connect these struggles with real people and faces, but by actually being within the nonprofit, I see more and more how CPA is necessary for these individuals and how it is an integral part of their lives. People come to CPA for many different reasons–to get help translating something from English to Chinese, to have someone help them file a complaint against an employer or landlord that is treating them unfairly, to socialize, to organize together, etc.

By researching about the Chinatown library that was demolished more than fifty years ago as well as the more recent efforts of the community to create a new library, I’m building a bridge between the past and present in terms of Boston Chinatown’s history. I’m also refining my ability to research and understand the complexities that come with creating a sustainable, public recreation center that I had never truly considered before. Though having a public library is something often taken for granted, in reality there are many aspects to think about before you start constructing anything. You need an area accessible to both pedestrians and cars, funding sources, cooperation and collaboration between politicians and residents, a concrete vision that is agreed upon by all, and several other aspects. In fact, the task is still so daunting that for now a reading room has been created in place of a full scale library; see more information here: http://www.chinatownlantern.org/.

Reading Room in Chinatown (Photo by Kelly Li)

 

 

Simply by seeing all the detailed planning happening around me and sitting in on staff meetings, I have gained not only a better insight into the inner functioning of a nonprofit, specifically CPA, but also the mindset and thought that is behind the actions taken.

Besides changing the way I think, I’ve helped write articles for CPA’s newsletter and helped edit the articles, which ties into my interest in English and writing. This is an experience that I haven’t had before, for which I am grateful. Similarly, seeing how different ethnic cultures interact within CPA, reinforces my interest in International and Global Studies, because I consider IGS a study that involves understanding the range of diverse thinking that occurs between countries.

These skills will definitely be important in the future, on campus and throughout my experiences beyond Brandeis. Learning about the local politics of Boston and how they affect myself and others gives me more insight into the struggles people are facing daily, which is important in this diverse world. Knowing how to plan and analyze data will help when I conduct research and when I am in a leadership position.

I was recently fortunate to participate in a lobby day related to the REAL Bill at the Massachusetts State House, a bill created to give workers who work through temporary employment agencies the right to know who exactly they are working for and the amount they are being paid with greater transparency.  Although my district legislator was not able to meet with me directly, I was glad to pass on the information to one of his aides.

At the Massachusetts State House (Photo by Kelly Li)

I hope to continue learning as much as I can before my internship comes to an end, best of luck to everyone else in the coming weeks!

 

 

MCAD – Midpoint Check In

So far, I’ve done about a dozen presentations in locations that range from neighborhoods in Boston – such as Chelsea, East Boston, Roxbury and Dorchester – to suburban areas including Newton, Waltham and Brookline. I recall how nervous I was for my first presentation back in June, but I have come a long way. The goal of my presentations, which on average last between one or two hours (and sometimes more), is to spread education to help end discrimination.

The first picture is of a presentation that contained between 10-12 people, while the second picture is of an audience with about 80-100 people. I’m have three coworkers and they are all undergraduates in college. They are very helpful and intelligent people. Fortunately, I have them by my side when I present to larger audiences – that way we help each other out and at the same time are able to give better presentations to more people.

 

The Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination is the state’s chief civil rights agency. The Commission works to eliminate discrimination on a variety of bases and areas, and strives to advance the civil rights of the people of the Commonwealth through law enforcement, outreach and training. As an intern, I work closely with not just with staff members and other interns at MCAD, but my specific role is to educate the public about their rights in Massachusetts.

I’ve come to learn that there are many people in the city of Boston as well as the greater Boston area that either confused about or are not too familiar with the housing, employment, and public spaces laws. This is why I’m very grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to not only learn discrimination laws and work alongside lawyers and other legal professionals, but more importantly to share this wealth of knowledge with disfranchised communities in Massachusetts. It brings warmness to my heart when I see people learn what I present to them. I understand how focused they are when I’m asked specific and very detailed questions. Fortunately, I’ve had good audiences so far and everyone has been kind and tentative (with the exception of one person whom I won’t write about today).
Moreover, I have given these S.E.E.D (Spreading Education to End Discrimination) presentations in both English and Spanish and sometimes even in Spanish only. This has helped reach my learning goals because it has fortified by ability to speak proper Spanish, and not simply the Spanish I speak at home with my mother. Also, I gave gained a lot of confidence and I’m no longer timid when it is my turn to speak to an audience. I’m sure I will take this confidence to the classrooms this fall semester. I am excited to continue learning, growing, and gaining more experience in the legal field here at MCAD.

I look forward to learning so much more from the rest of my time at MCAD.

The following two links are MCAD’s website homepage and the other is for individuals.employees.

http://www.mass.gov/mcad/index.html

http://www.mass.gov/mcad/forIndividualsEmployees.html

 

Midpoint at NBC News

I can’t believe my time at NBC News this summer is almost over.  Over the past weeks, I have learned more about this business than would have been possible from a textbook or class lecture.  By taking advantage of all NBC and Washington, DC has to offer, I’ve had a chance to see history unfolding and meet a few of my heroes along the way.

I started this internship with the goal of learning the skills necessary to become an investigative journalist – researching, digging, writing, looking at information from new angles, and ultimately producing a piece.  Those expectations have definitely been met.  I have also had the opportunity to learn about additional aspects of the overall news and broadcasting environment; not only have I achieved my initial goals but I have gotten the inside view of some of the ways a news story is   developed.  What makes a topic meaningful and what is its impact?  I now understand that there is a tremendous amount of thought and diligence that moves a story from idea to completion.

My main tasks include researching for spots produced by the investigative group based in D.C., as well as, looking into possible leads for future investigations.  On any given day, I may be locating contact information for possible interview subjects, and speaking with them to hear their stories, sifting through government and court documents, identifying voting records, searching historical newspaper archives, and exploring other news entities and blogs to see what the next story could be. I incorporate all the different methods of navigating Google and databases like Lexis Nexis, Factiva, Proquest, Pacer, etc., that I’ve learned, and now look at them with an investigative mindset.

I’ve also been able to experience the commercial television broadcast atmosphere.  This has exposed me to the many different aspects of what goes on in network news.  I’ve had a chance to listen in on discussions about which spots will appear on Nightly News through the daily conference call between the Washington, New York, and all the other bureaus, and seen changes in the rundown as news breaks over the course of the day.  I’ve sat in the control room as Nightly aired, which provided an opportunity to observe all the different aspects that go into a smooth broadcast.  Seeing which spots appear on Nightly has honed my news judgment about what stories are important to share, along with the public wants and needs to hear.

Aside from experiencing the production side of Nightly News, I have also seen some MSNBC entities working, which has shown me a different side of news broadcasting.  I was able to sit in on Chris Matthews’ prep for his show, and was in the studio with Rachel Maddow when she visited D.C.  I went to the Capitol with an NBC Politics reporter, and was in the press gallery to watch voting when a particular piece of legislation I had been researching all summer was finally presented on the Senate floor.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend several events where I was able to see and hear from some of the most important figures in American politics, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, and, also most importantly, Ben Affleck!

In the downtime between assisting the investigative team and attending events in D.C., I’ve also been working on my own piece with another intern to be posted on NBCNews.com.  We wrote our own script and are using footage my partner shot from her trip to Israel, we are going to cut the piece ourselves.  This opportunity is an incredible chance to use what I have learned to produce and publish my own piece.

Being in Washington, D.C. during this election season has also given me the opportunity to be part of the excitement that builds in the months preceding a presidential election.  I was outside the Supreme Court building when the health care decision was announced.  It was exciting to be there during the historic moment, surrounded by people who were so passionate about the issue, and seeing the reactions and reporting styles of all different media entities absorbing the news.

Outside the Supreme Court, June 28, 2012   GlobalPost: http://www.globalpost.com/photo/5709810/supreme-court-health-care-decision-reactions-june-28-2012

Another significant moment for me was hearing Bob Woodward speak at the Newsuem during the week of the 40th anniversary of Watergate.  As an aspiring investigative journalist, the development of the Watergate story has been an inspiration.  Hearing Mr. Woodward speak, and even getting to shake his hand, was an incredible experience.  It just added spark to my interest in the field that, as Mr. Woodward said, provides the “first rough draft of history.”

Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as Bob Woodward uncovering the details of the Watergate scandal in the classic film
http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2010/09/all-presidents-men.html

I’m proud of this laundry list of what are just some of my recent experiences, mostly because I took initiative and made them happen myself.  I did not wait around for people to give me work to do, or ideas for events to attend, but actively looked for these opportunities.  I wanted to learn from my internship and feel secure that I have.  By asking questions and absorbing everything I could from NBC’s experienced and knowledgeable professionals, I obtained skills that will be help me succeed in my future academic and professional goals.

 

– Abigail Kagan ’13

Midway and so much still to do!

I am now halfway through my internship at the National Immigration Project. I can’t believe that the summer is flying by so fast, but I am very happy with the vast amount that I am learning.

When I applied for WOW, I wrote that “I hope that working directly with attorneys on research projects and legal issues will help me assess the impact I could have with a legal education.” I think I am well on my way to discovering this about myself. Through the research projects that I have done, I have gained the confidence in my critical thinking and attention to detail skills that I know I would need if I decide to go to law school. I have definitely learned a lot about immigration law and the broad scope of careers that I could have with that degree.

This experience has made me more aware of the immigration issues that this country is grappling with, and I am even more motivated to keep myself informed. During staff meetings in which we discuss immigration law issues and its impact on our clients, I am able to participate a lot more than I was at the beginning of my internship. I have also been discussing law school options with the other intern who is a law student, and one of my supervisors, who is a staff attorney.

I really enjoy working on both the legal and advocacy sides of the NIPNLG. During my internship, I have been involved in many projects, but I am especially proud of creating an alert for the National Immigration Project’s website that raises awareness about the current action in Congress about the Violence Against Women Act. It is important for us to encourage our members and the general public to speak out against legislation that could impact them and those around them.

In another meaningful research project, I assisted in the writing of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Chaidez v. United States. The NIPNLG writes these briefs in order to help immigrants win their cases by providing supporting legal arguments.  For the brief, I compiled a list of resources used by my supervisor to strengthen his supporting legal brief. I am proud of it because I spent a lot of time learning new legal research skills.

I also went to a rally for immigrant rights last week in the Massachusetts State House. As you can see below, it’s very convenient to get there and you could practically throw a rock at it from where the NIPNLG office is located!

The MA State House

Boxes Beyond Boxes

“It’s constitutional!”

A loud cheer erupted from the break room at Partners in Health.  Employees were laughing, hugging, shouting – excitedly calling friends and family.

“It passed! I know – I couldn’t believe it either. Hold on, I’m getting another call…”

The controversial passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was celebrated at PIH.

In the kind of excitement and noise one would expect from a win at a football game, a hundred or so PIH employees celebrated the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; affectionately Obamacare. As an organization that promotes health equity for all, focusing both in the United States and around the world, the idea that access to healthcare would become easier and more accessible for many in the States was a big win.

 

  ———————————————————————————————————————

In preparation for my WOW internship, I had set out a few learning goals for myself during my summer with Partners in Health. I had hoped that I might gain stronger insight on how non-governmental organizations with an international focus operate from far away. Partners in Health operates in twelve countries around the world in addition to hosting several programs in Roxbury, Boston. How was it that they could manage, evaluate, and amend so many programs that were so distant?

Boxes.

The response to PIH’s overwhelming number of programs in such demanding capacity is boxes. The entrance to the PIH office on Comm Ave is always a bit of a fortress as the receptionist’s desk is barricaded by mountains beyond mountains of boxes. In these cardboard boxes are everything that PIH clinics need; EKG machines, clothes, alcohol wipes, ultrasound machines. These boxes, shipped in from around the US, find brief refuge in our Boston office, before being sent off to the site where it is needed. Some of these materials are donated, others are purchased – in either case, the materials are always of high quality and are safely kept away under layers and layers of bubble wrap. There are uses for all materials that line PIH’s hallways, something that I am made aware of as I climb over these piles to get to my work area.

So, why the boxes?

Partners in Health, an NGO that prides itself on transparency and efficiency, is able to host all of its programs by keeping their overhead costs unprecedentedly low. With a whopping 94% of all revenue being rerouted to health-related programs, 6% remain to being distributed for administration and fundraising efforts. That 6% supports the entire Boston office in terms of salary of employees, the office and its ability to run smoothly, as well as PIH’s campaigns online and in person.

 

 

Ratio of PIH’s expenditures by direct programming, administrative costs, and fundraising efforts.

 Having low overhead costs mean that PIH is strapped for space and funding. So in lieu of a warehouse or separate floor to store all of our materials, PIH chooses to store its materials around the office – making sure that the best medical supplies get to the its programs. Low overhead also means a lot of improvisation; mismatched chairs surround the tables in board meetings, clunky computer monitors donated from Harvard sit in rows. It’s all part of keeping the NGO honest and making sure that majority of donations get to the right place – where health infrastructure is in the most disrepair.

 

 

PIH’s income, largely based in fundraising and grant writing, charted against PIH’s expenditures.

 ———————————————————————————————————————

I think one of the interns I work with said it best when asked to describe what exactly the culture of Partners in Health is;

“We’re a bunch of serious development nerds, doing what we love.”

The best thing about any work or internship experience is when you find that the people in the office are just as academically obsessed with the same things you are. That’s what I am finding at Partners in Health. Every individual, both in and out of the office, is so committed, so dedicated to the fight for global health equity that many employees are here from early, early in the morning to very late into the night, simply because they feel so devoted to the work that they do. Volunteers dedicate weekends and evenings towards working on projects, many from home during their spare time. And the more time I spend at Partners in Health the more I feel myself growing, both in my knowledge of development work as well as my commitment to it.

 

One of Partners in Health’s recent campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS treatment.

The rewards employees and volunteers reap from working at PIH is in the knowledge that we are each taking small steps towards global health equity. And in the face of big changes, like the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we cheer with the excitement that the notion that healthcare is a human right is being recognized on a global scale.

My big question of how an NGO like PIH functions so efficiently in so many countries lies in these answers; low overhead, investment of most donations into programs for health infrastructure, and gathering dedicated employees who find engrained in their hearts the need for the prioritization of healthcare for all. In channeling this passion into sustainable programs for the poor, small steps on the path for global health equity are taken.

“Equity is the only acceptable goal… And that’s when I feel most alive, when I’m helping people.”

– Paul Farmer

 http://www.pih.org/news/entry/reflections-from-nepal/

http://www.pih.org/news/entry/revolutionary-cancer-care-in-rwanda/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/opinion/14kidder.html

– Sarah Van Buren ’13

Midway but still learning

 

The Musée de Montmartre and its climbing vines

My first month in the Musée de Montmartre is not what I expected it to be. Not that something which doesn’t meet your expectations is a bad thing. People assume that if something doesn’t fulfill or exceed your projected assumptions or fantasies, then it’s a disappointment, a failure, something that you regret pursuing in the end. But what this first month in the Musée has taught me is that although pipe dreams are what might have launched you into your adventures into the wild, blue yonder, it is what you make of your own reality that is a thousand times more fulfilling.

 

I’m sure people are wondering what these silly pipe dreams of mine were before they were given a sharp blow in the head by reality and stomped unceremoniously into the blackening cracks between the ancient cobblestones of Montmartre. I’m almost embarrassed to admit them—they seem so silly now. I imagined myself floating around the musée with a done up bun and a clipboard, gently caressing the edges of a print by the timeless Toulouse-Lautrec with white gloves. I wanted to be in the halls of the musée and arrange the paintings and prints on the walls according to my own vision. I also wanted to drink absinthe in a smoky room and make my acquaintance with Green Fairy but that would have been during my time outside of the musée.

 

But no. I realized that curating a museum requires an infinite amount of patience, an immutable will that can’t be daunted by an amount of work the size of Montmartre itself, and a particularly acute interest in the era you are working on. I have been translating dozens of documents from French into English and, more nerve rackingly, from English into French. I have been consulting editors and publishing companies for the upcoming catalogue of our exposition “Autour du Chat Noir: Arts et Plaisirs à Montmartre 1880-1910” and it’s been an high-speed volley of phone calls, emails, and running around for confirmations. I’m creating an exhaustive list of all museums who would be interested in the exhibition in Paris and the United States and their curators for invitations to the opening gala. Lastly, and most exhaustingly, I have been waist-deep in the affairs of a certain Gustave Charpentier, a musician and composer of 19th century France who was a seminal figure of the cabarets and dance halls of Montmartre during that era. His family’s donation of his papers and personal affairs is extremely interesting and as disorganized. I’ve been painfully organizing every single piece of the donation into a digital format.

 

And yet, everything about this internship is making me feel as if I’m making a difference and that might be what I’m most proud of. This work is absolutely necessary for the smooth running of the museum and the good of the archives. I had said that one of my goals for this summer had been to improve on my study skills and be more concentrated on one task at a time; I’ve certainly had a lot of practice in this certain area during my time here. I feel myself changing, being more focused on the task at hand and being more precise with my time. They sound rather mundane, but they’re invaluable skills.

 

I might have mislead the reader in the beginning, implying that I have had some sort of epiphany-like discovery of self, that my realization that my world is what I make of it was a chapter that I have already written. But I see it more as a change in philosophy, a hazy projection of my coming time at the museum and a hope for the future. I won’t be so pretentious as to call it a prediction, but I think that this new germ in me will grow into something significant and beautiful, nourished by French wine and a little time amongst hardworking lovers of art.

And maybe a tiny tourist train

National Consumers League Midpoint

           It’s hard to believe I’m already more than halfway done with my time as a public policy intern at the National Consumers League. Through my work at NCL, I am learning a lot about the process to change regulations on the federal level. One way I experience this is through events I have the opportunity to attend. For example, I watched the executive director of NCL testify at the Consumer Product Safety Commission on issues such as the safety of table saws, an issue for which she has been a leading advocate.

testifying before CPSC

           I also attended a hearing where the NCL Executive Director testified before the Aviation Consumer Protection Committee at the Department of Transportation. She argued that airlines violate privacy by collecting personal information on passengers, and consumers consistently suffer due to increasing fees when they have to change the time of their flights or for seat assignments.  After my supervisor testified, we had the opportunity to meet committee member Lisa Madigan, who is my Attorney General from Illinois. Watching experts testify before commissions such as these allowed me to learn about the process through which new regulations are passed, and the power of advocacy groups.

Interns and staff with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

          One of the things I am most proud of is blogs I have written for the National Consumers League’s blog. So far I have written three: one on gender equity bargaining and legislation that limits equality in the labor force; one on student loan relief for college students; and one about the marketing of food to children and its health impacts. The blogs can be read online here. Through my work on these blogs, I had an opportunity to work both on research skills, as well as writing skills. I was able to connect a lot of dots based on articles from news sources, legislation, presentations from many of the events and hearings I attended, and work that organizations like NCL and partner groups do. In the future, I will be able to use these blog postings to show one of the ways in which I contributed to NCL this summer, and as writing samples for futures job opportunities.

            One of my goals was to learn more about issues I am passionate about, including labor and food policy. I have had several opportunities to do so through events, hearings, and research. I attended the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, where leaders in food safety and policy from both the United States and Europe met to discuss and compare current policies for addressing food safety. It became clear that despite the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, which shifts an focus from responding to contamination to  preventing it, the U.S. is still significantly behind Europe in terms of inspection, safety procedures, and clear labeling standards.

            An issue that relates to both food and labor safety that I have had the opportunity to work on is the USDA’s proposed change in poultry inspection, which would privatize inspection—so that instead of government inspectors, companies can hire their own inspectors. Studies have shown that defects are more likely missed when inspectors are company employees, most likely because the company wants to produce more, whether or not the product is safe. In addition, the proposal increases line speed to 175 birds per minute, which breaks down to 3 birds per second. It is nearly impossible to safely inspect at this line speed. Poultry workers have little control because they are only 30% union organized, which means weak contracts and poor security—especially considering many workers may be recent, or undocumented immigrants. This new policy will also not require inspectors to be trained. I learned a lot about this issue through meetings with leaders in labor and food policy, and had the opportunity to take action by handing out fliers at the Folk Festival on the National Mall. I talked to many people about the issue, and encouraged them to make calls to their Senators or Representative in Congress. I think this issue connects with almost everyone because it impacts the safety of our food.

Talking to a family about poultry inspection at the Folk Festival

– Lili Gecker ’13

Shaping young minds; young minds shaping me

I’m halfway through my internship experience already, and I can’t believe it! The youth I’ve been working with are just fantastic, and we’ve been growing closer and closer. There is a total of fifteen youth in the Youth Building Communities program and three interns/counselors. They were split up into three groups of five to one counselor and got to choose a name their crew would be referred to for the duration of the summer. The youth that were assigned to my group choose to be called “team goat.” What “goat” stands for is Greatest Of All Time, I couldn’t help but laugh and be impressed by their creativity. Needless to say, I am very proud to be the sixth member of team goat!

 

This is where all the fun happens!

Every Thursday we take a field trip around Boston, and last week we took a trip to Roller World in Saugus. I hadn’t been skating since I was about sixteen; so almost as young as they are. A few of them stayed with me while I practiced and showed me some pointers. Then, it was time to hit the rink! We skated for over two hours while they whipped around the rink dancing, laughing, and sometimes poking fun at my less than superior skating skills. They called me over to eat because a small group had been saving a seat for me. I always enjoy these times the most because they ask me about my life and try to figure out who this girl is that comes in everyday all the way from Waltham. They seem to be unafraid of the world, excited about whatever it is to come, and they never seem as if they’re worried about tomorrow, because right now is all that matters to them. Sometimes I sit back and wish that adults were more like these twelve year old children, seeing the world through their eyes is a privilege I definitely appreciate.

YBC (youth building communities) also takes part in a community service initiative every Tuesday. This past Tuesday we were working with members of the Emerald

Necklace Conservatory. The kids helped weed the bushes, mulch the floor, and pick up around the park. We split them into two different groups, and got to work. We played a name game with the members before starting the project of the day, which served as a way for everyone to learn everyone’s name. The youth warmed up to the members rather quickly and started gravitating to them while they were working. I was really happy that we got to participate in such a positive program, and give back to the community at the same time.

Tuesdays are also our pool days were the youth are permitted to swim for an hour and a half. During this time, whoever doesn’t want to swim can lounge around or play UNO, the card game. At RTH Uno is a very serious game, none of the youth take it lightly. We actually play elimination rounds and the last person in the game isn’t permitted to play the next round. We do this until we get to a “championship round.” I made it to this round and ended up winning the title of “Uno Champion of RTH.” My title has since been challenged but I’m holding the lead. The youth are exceptionally good at this game, so I don’t know hold long it may last.

– Alyssa Green ’15

Little over with Massachusetts Survivors Outreach!

It is crazy to think that I am over half way with my summer internship. This summer has been a whirlwind of fun, stress and accomplishment. Starting a Non-Profit Organization from the ground up is definitely an experience of its own. The time and effort collecting paper work took over a month to complete but the end result was so satisfying. I can finally say “I helped and created and Non-Profit Organization in Massachusetts.” We are still applying for the 501c3 so that M.A.S.O can be recognized all throughout the United Sates. In order for that to happen, however, we need funding. In my last post, I discussed the fundraisers that we had inline during the summer to help us achieve our full Non-Profit status. “Psychics, Reiki, Massage OH MY!: An Evening of Fun and Healing for a Cause” was a complete success. We raised over $2,000 which pushes us so much closer to our goal.

Flier for Cagney’s Event

The next fundraiser is this Saturday, which I am in charge of. MASO will be hosting a Dance party in Quincy and all proceeds will go towards our Non-Profit status. I have worked late nights to get all of the details finalized in order for this event to be ready. The event will be held at Cagney’s Restaurant in Quincy. The bar has recently been completely renovated and they have a free function room available for charity events. Now that it is only a few days away, I can only sit back and wait for it to finally arrive. I am nervous but I know that I tied all of the loose ends and the night is going to be a great success.

As of recently, I have been put in charge of the hiring process for the fall and spring. My boss told me that I have complete control of the whole process, which even includes hiring the prospective interns. I have only been apart of a this process once before at Brandeis University but, even then, I did not have this much control. I have been reading over countless resumes/cover letters and have finally been able to finalize interview slots for 20 candidates. From that 20, I can only select 9. This has been a very important process for me because it has been the first time ever that I have been put into an area that I have not been fully comfortable and confident in, but have been doing a great job. I guess I can give myself a pat on the back for that.

Volley 4 Victims Filer

The summer is almost over and I have only about a month left with my internship. We have many other fundraisers planned like, Volley 4 Victims, but we have also been making headway with our cause. We have been compiling information on the economic strain within the family court system. I am not allowed to farther discuss the information that we have compiled but overall, the information is crucial and will help victims of domestic violence throughout the United States. This summer has completely flown by. I can’t believe there is only a month left until I am back at Brandeis!

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Leaving South Africa

The summer is coming to an end, and I find myself back at home in the US after having completed an amazing experience interning at the art therapy center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Having completed my internship, I now realize the immense growth that has come along with it. I arrived in South Africa alone, without knowing anyone, and I left with friends, new ideas, and a new culture. The time I spent there seems completely unreal. I alone was in charge of organizing and executing the Holiday Programme. I prepared all the logistics in advance and during the program made sure everything ran smoothly. I then wrote a report that I presented to my supervisor, the director of the organization, which will be sent to all the funders who supported this program. Throughout the duration of it, I was also privileged to see great facilitators at work with a group of mixed adolescents from all over the city.  Some were HIV+, others were orphans, and the rest were living in a condemned building. Seeing these children and the energy they bring, makes you question how and why so many of them have been abused.

Sketch of Mural
Mural painted with the adolescents on the third week of the Holiday Programme

My goals were to learn about art therapy and the ways it can be applied. By watching different counselors and observing several ranges of age groups, I did just that. I also wanted to figure out if this could be a potential career choice and I now realize how much more I connect to art therapy as opposed to art education. Working with these specific children going through such difficult circumstances makes me realize how much work still needs to be done to improve their lives. Two months of work, is not nearly enough to transform their whole living environment, which is what I most want to do for these groups. It made it difficult to come back, knowing that the work with these groups is only beginning, and I still want to be a part of it. As I look to my course schedule, I will have to factor in more psychology courses in order to be better prepared to enter into an art therapy masters program. I want to learn more about art therapy, in order to be as skilled as the facilitators with whom I worked, and come back to Lefika with a degree and be able to lead my own groups.

To a student interested in an internship at Lefika, I have several suggestions. Before coming, be sure to research more about art therapy and the different approaches to it. Almost all of the past interns have come with a masters degree in art therapy, which means that the directors are used to being able to hand over entire projects to interns and have them manage them. This was one of the hardest aspects for me because of the immense responsibility with little supervision. Another suggestion is to try to organize your trip around one of training workshops the center runs and the Holiday Programme. The workshop gave me an introduction to how art therapy is done at Lefika, which prepared me for working with the actual groups; and the Holiday Programme has groups running from 8 AM to 3 PM every day versus regular school sessions of only a few hours of therapy groups each week.

Traveling through Johannesburg is in itself another mission- there is no safe or reliable public transportation and distances in the city are quite far from each other. I managed to get around by making good friends who would pick me up, an amazing host family who really welcomed me, and occasionally calling taxis. You can rent a car, but driving is on the other side of the road and some areas are dangerous to even pass through.

All in all, however, my time spent interning at Lefika La Phodiso and living in Johannesburg were completely unbelievable and unforgettable! I learned so much and am so thankful to have been given such an amazing opportunity! If you have any more questions feel free to ask!!

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim in the United States

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim the United States. I put the other as an afterthought because it seems like they are very two different things really.

I think that this is one issue that I am grappling with regardless of what I have been accomplishing at this internship. This dilemma has been reinforced particularly today as the Executive Director of AIC, was featured in today’s Washington Post Style section!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/moderate-american-muslim-tries-to-navigate-a-deeply-divided-community/2012/07/10/gJQAq4htbW_story.html

It really is astounding to come to terms with not only the diversity of Muslim-American viewpoints but really how much needs to be done in the community. I am deeply interested in interacting with the Diaspora in the US and reflecting on the openness of the civil society of the US, that has allowed us to be able to accomplish some of the goals that I have worked on.  I am thinking about how these programs could be translated to Muslim-majority countries, like my homeland Pakistan… so in effect I am a Muslim in the US because I am not American, and the work I do is informed by this identity, unlike Muslims who are born American and/or identify as both…

It is 4.5 weeks already at my internship – time flies! It has been crazy, ups and downs, days of ecstatic change, and accomplishments and then days when you feel like nothing can be done or accomplished. In the past 4.5 weeks I have co-curated a show, which has drawn with its related programming over 150 people to the Cultural Center and been reviewed in WGBH Arts and Artscope Magazine!

The artists’ talk was mind opening, and is definitely the type of programming that I am excited to maintain and grow in the traveling arts exhibit initiative.


Which leads me to the next part of my internship responsibilities: planning the art exhibit. I have realized it takes a VERY long time, more than I expected, for long-term initiatives to even hit the ground. The big (and first) component of this initiative was the creation of a viable concept paper and executive summary that could then be converted into a Letter of Interest to send to fundraising targets. I went in thinking this paper would take a week to write; it took about 3 weeks, because so much had to be changed and approved, people had to be contacted, and prospecting done, and research conducted. For example, I want to counter stereotypes of Muslims in the US through art – so we had to find PEW or other research that shows that stereotypes of Muslims exist in the US. Very specific. Also, since a concept paper is a distillation of a larger mission and strategy, it is hard to translate it into 3 pages – we started with a great idea, but we didn’t have a clear mission or strategic focus on how it tied into our greater organizational goals. Being able to navigate and work on this project has been equally fulfilling and I am excited that it is moving forward.

One of my very specific goals was to work at the intersection of culture and civil society, and see how economics and art work in tandem. I believe that by curating shows, and organizing initiatives for this cultural center and organization, and participating in funding prospecting is definitely in the intersection.  I am learning how the different systems work together to make a project successful. While art can be theoretical, it has to be translated to the funders into something practical and pragmatic for it to be able to go forward.

I have also created marketing plan, and am helping with long term initiatives for the arts programming in our space – working on creating a 2012 – 2013 arts and culture calender – which will allow us to be able to identify themes, apply for funding, create and market to target audiences, and also see what Muslim-Americans in the US want us to represent. The skills I am building through developing business plans, marketing plans, marketing materials, fundraising, and working with groups of people who have different strong ideas, being able to navigate a competitive and innovative sphere, and being successful makes me feel so much more positive about myself and my abilities!

I also proposed a series with AIC on programming highlight Minorities in the Muslim world – sexual, religious and ethnic, and to my great delight, they were very enthusiastic about it. So I will also start devoting some time to doing some initial concept planning and prospecting for that! We also have our Muslim holy month starting on July 20th – until the 19th of August and we will have four open to the community iftars (breaking the fast at 8pm) – one in partnership with American Jewish Committee, one South Asian, one Bosnian and one Interfaith, so it promises to be a very exciting and engaging next 4.5 weeks.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13