Reflecting on a Summer with the Research Alliance

I still cannot believe how quickly my time with the Research Alliance went by this summer! A couple of weeks ago, I completed my project at the Research Alliance and said goodbye to the team of researchers I had the pleasure of working with throughout the summer. During my last days, I distributed the school evaluation reports I had been working on all summer to principals participating in the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), an initiative that aims to tackle the achievement gap and increase the number of Black and Latino young men who graduate high school prepared to succeed in college and careers by using new, creative solutions. After looking through the data from the first year of ESI surveys, I became amazed and inspired by the information provided by students that would be relayed to principals in order for them to improve their school climate and policies. Students’ opinions and perceptions would be heard in a constructive manner – the reports gave them a unified voice and carry an undeniable influence in the shaping of the school climate in the upcoming school year. I truly felt as though I was a messenger between students, policy makers, researchers and principals by conveying the data results and as though I participated in a wave of positive change and improvement throughout New York City’s ESI schools.

In the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond, I hope to leverage the inspiration I felt from working with the Research Alliance to pursue an academic and career path closely linked to education. This internship certainly reinforced my interest in education policy and research, however I hope to supplement this experience with one that is more clinically oriented to include interaction with students. In the future, I hope to combine my interest in policy, research and face-to-face interaction with students by pursuing a career path in educational psychology – helping to uncover which environments are most conducive to learning and figuring out ways schools can better inspire a love of learning and academic success in their students.

I would undoubtedly recommend interning with the Research Alliance to any student interested in education policy and research. The organization is certainly unique as it conducts rigorous research in the field of education on various topics ranging from high school achievement to contexts that support effective teaching with findings that are often featured in the news. (Read about Research Alliance in the News here.) Furthermore, the organization collaborates with policy makers in the Department of Education while being a part of NYU’s Steinhardt School – making it an academic center that successfully connects theory and practice.

Working on the ESI reports has made me a more skillful and effective problem solver as I came up with solutions to challenges that often arise when working with fresh, new data. The tasks and responsibilities given to me contributed to a fundamental social justice mission of education equity and the warm and welcoming environment makes it all the more enjoyable. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with the group of researchers there, to have been welcomed with open arms and to have been entrusted with such a valuable project. Working with the Research Alliance team and collaborating with NYC’s Department of Education, even for a short time over the summer, was truly a rewarding experience. This experience reinforced my philosophies of social justice and my commitment to pursuing a career that contributes to the greater societal good of children’s well-being and prosperity. Fueled with inspiration from working with the Research Alliance this summer, never before has contributing to efforts that seek to tackle the achievement gap been more of a priority.


My Last Week at Stepping Stones

My last week at Stepping Stones was quite interesting. We organized a summer camp for a group of college students from the US. They had the opportunity to teach five English lessons to migrant children in west Shanghai, take the children on a field trip, learn Shanghai opera and calligraphy, and interact with local youths. One of my responsibilities was to organize a field trip. We chose to go to the Shanghai Auto Museum. The museum offered guided tours, but we also wanted to design extra activities that could bond the migrant children with the American students. I designed a scavenger hunt. We divided the children into fourteen groups of four. Each group was led by one American student. Each group was given a worksheet. They needed to find the corresponding cars in the museum using the clues from the worksheet. I wrote the rules of the activity a week before and had them approved by my colleagues and the museum. I announced the rules before the activity started, stressing that safety was the priority. The activity was very successful. Every child was involved, and some of them were very excited. I saw groups of students running up and down the museum to find the cars. At the end of the activity, we gave prizes to the winning teams. Other children got souvenirs from the museum. I prepared some extra questions for the scavenger hunt, so Stepping Stones could use them in their future trips to the Auto Museum. From the written feedback, I know that the American students loved the activity as well. However, a few of them complained that the activity was a bit disorganized. To avoid this problem, I could have gathered the American students before the activity and given them tips on how to organize the children effectively.

Besides the field trip, I was also involved in the youth meeting and the opera class. I acted as the translator. While translating, I also learned that, despite the difference of educational background, Chinese and American young people have many in common. For instance, their topics of discussion ranged from online shopping to the urban development. They are interested in food as well as fairy tales.

The end of the summer camp also marked the end of my ten-week internship at Stepping Stones. In these ten weeks, I coordinated a summer program, helped to edit a documentary for the organization, wrote lesson plans for volunteers, helped a professor to conduct her research, met lots of people, and explored my area of interest. These projects have improved my working skills. I learned how to coordinate a program, how to use Premiere Pro to make a decent video, and how to interview a person effectively. By observation, I also learned how to write a newsletter and an annual report for an NGO. All of these skills may come in handy in my future career.

Interning with Stepping Stones offered me the opportunity to see an NGO from an insider’s perspective. It is fascinating to see how a small organization helps thousands of disadvantaged children with their English studies. It is also excited to see that many of the children’s English grades have improved significantly after they participated in Stepping Stones’ programs. This internship has reinforced my belief in social justice. Children, no matter where they are born, should have equal access to education. If the government cannot reach that goal, the civil society, including corporations and nonprofit organizations, should play a major role. Since I enjoy working with Stepping Stones so much, I am considering working in the NGO or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) sector in the future. The director of Stepping Stones forwarded us an invitation from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai to attend a CSR seminar organized by them in July (this summer). The keynote speakers included the CSR managers from Citi China, WalMart Global Sourcing, and Abbott China. I learned how multinational corporates operate their CSR programs in China and what their achievements are. Since I learned about CSR in my year abroad, I had the opportunity to apply the theories in real world and take in the seminar critically.

My suggestion for those who are also interested in working with NGOs is that they should not come to an NGO with nothing but a determination to “help others”. They should research about the field that the NGO works in beforehand. That is why Stepping Stones require all volunteers and interns to attend a mandatory 4-hour orientation. In this orientation, we learned about the general situation of migrant children in China as well as teaching techniques. In addition, it is likely that the people who work for NGOs gain more than the beneficiaries do. Therefore, one should be modest when working with the beneficiaries. After all, it is a great field to work in. The fulfillment that one gets from working with NGOs and other charity programs is priceless.

Now I am back in Brandeis. I miss every bit of my time in Shanghai. I will stay in touch with Stepping Stones and the lovely people I met there. This internship is definitely one of the highlights of my college life.

Things I Learned at The Energy Foundation

I still cannot believe that it is already the end of my internship at the Energy Foundation, and that the new semester at Brandeis is in front of me. I still remember when I entered the door of my office, I had a lot of uncertainty about what this experience would be like. I expected to know about how NGOs work in China, learn more analytical skills, and improve my writing through research, and those wishes all got fulfilled in the projects I joined! I also learned many unexpected things, such as how environmental theories can possibly be used to meet the strict government requirements, and how sustainability is closely connected with other subjects such as urban planning and transportation. I am very impressed by the passion of my colleagues and I got to know their stories, some of them even left some privileged institutions or high-earning jobs to join this organization to make a real difference in the environment of China.

Besides general office duties, I mainly joined three projects throughout this summer. In the beginning, I did not jump into a project immediately, instead, to get familiar to our organization and the City Group, I read a lot of documentation in our library, and helped with office duties such as creating charts, translating, and writing summaries. After a few days, I was desperate to join a real project. After one staff meeting, another intern and I stayed and asked the program director whether there was any projects that we can join. He was a bit shocked and then smiled (I guess he was shocked because most interns just do what is assigned rather than ask to join.) He replied, “yes, we have 60 projects going on around China and we definitely need people to help.” What I learned here is that I need to communicate what I want to do, because it could turn out to be a perfect match.

Then I started my first project, the Jinan Urban Planning Project. Our goal was to apply dense street in the new city area and to provide the Jinan government technology and policy support. One challenging task I got was to summarize two, 250-page MIT research papers down to only 5 pages, focusing on methods and policy. I struggled to choose the most important and related context from tons of seemingly related materials. But after I made it, I could read papers and get their theses much  faster.

After the Jinan Project, I joined the Beijing Low-carbon Transportation Project. We collaborated with Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design on a research project aiming to build a low carbon strategy and integrate it into Beijing’s upcoming comprehensive plan. My duties included doing research on literature reviews, analyzing international low carbon transportation development principles and strategies, and drafting out a case study summary report. This project included both teamwork cooperation and independent research, my time management improved to accommodate to this multi-tasked project. I also had a chance to work with government and see how governors and scientists negotiate and make decisions together.

The last project I did was assisting in statistical analysis to build a model explaining how residents’ social-economic, demographic characteristics, and communities’ spatial structures could influence residents’ travel behavior hence resulting in different patterns of carbon emissions in Beijing. I also completed the preliminary statistics processing and analysis. This project focused on data analyzing; we used mainly LEAP, STAT, Excel to find what were the most essential variables that shaped residents’ behavior. I also used a cross-list skill, the statistics software STATA, that I learned from my economics class.

Working in the Energy Foundation was like a test my knowledge learned in Brandeis and how it could be applied in real work. So far the most important skills I learned at Brandeis to help me this summer were reading and writing, conducting research independently, teamwork, discussion, sustainable cities factors, Excel and STATA learned from financial accounting and econometrics classes, among others. This internship focused me more around the sustainability field so I can better choose classes and experiences when I get back to Brandeis.

For students who are also in working in the environmental field or any NGOs, here are my suggestions:

1)   Be close to your professors and start looking for your ideal internships as early as possible.

2)   Try different NGOs in different fields, and different sizes. It might be easier for you to figure out in which environment you shine more.

3)   Connect with your colleagues, ask them for advice for your future and listen to their stories.

4)   Last but not least, do your work, learn fast, and love what you do.

Love is Labor

As I complete my internship at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice, I find myself more aware of how I want to pursue social change. I always thought I would want to be a community organizer, and IWJ gave me a chance to experience labor organizing from a non-profit perspective.  Throughout the summer, I participated in meetings and actions on issues of economic justice. I helped plan and outreach actions for Not One More Deportation—a week of actions calling for an end to the deportation of undocumented immigrants; a highlight included a rally at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Burlington, VT where I heard passionate pleas from family members of immigrants currently under detention. I also participated in meetings and actions for Raise Up Massachusetts—a campaign to raise the minimum wage and establish an earned sick time standard for all workers in MA. I planned and participated in two rallies at Walmarts in Salem and Lynn. I also frequented pickets and rallies for various other issues, including Le Meridien workers fighting for a fair process to decide upon unionization.

At all of these actions, I was also a primary photographer; my photographs were used for social media and news articles.   I also redesigned the website for Mass. IWJ and helped set up a Facebook presence. In addition, I worked on setting up Labor in the Pulpit—a program Mass. IWJ does every fall where low-wage workers share their personal struggles with congregation. I had to outreach and set up dates for numerous congregations; we are planning to tie in Labor in the Pulpit with the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign as the program coincides with the petition collection period for the campaign.

Honestly, I found myself often frustrated at the internship for a variety of reasons. However, I am extremely grateful because it has focused my ideas of how I want to pursue social justice. I worked every day through frameworks of class and race—important frameworks that validate and resonate with marginalized communities and which are oftentimes lacking in some social movements such as environmentalism.  I am also grateful because I have realized I do not want to be a community organizer in a non-profit environment because it is often filled with bureaucratic work and their style of organizing oftentimes (but not always) is closed-doors in terms of decision-making. I missed the more grassroots, horizontal-style of organizing that I have previously done; I missed the love and community I felt working with friends. In the end, organizing requires love–love for the work and love in the community to sustain engagement because it is grueling and endless; I know now that I thrive in a team environment. In addition, I grew tired of the traditional form of organizing that primarily involved gathering numbers to participate in rallies, pickets, and marches. I want to explore other types of organizing that deal with participatory forms of art and reinventing public spaces as ways of engaging and empowering communities because traditional forms of protests have become somewhat “part of the social script”—that is, not deviating enough from the usual to inspire and move the jaded.

I was able to network and create relationships between my peers in the climate movement and organizers and activists I met in the labor movement. Many of them are interested in intersectional work and I hope to create more concrete collaboration between the two movements. This fall, I am studying abroad in Nepal. When I return to campus in the spring, I plan to get involved with the Brandeis Labor Coalition and see in what ways I can connect BLC with my current work under the Divestment Campaign. I will take my experiences and development of what I believe is a more nuanced understanding of creating social change to facilitate intersectional work; I am extremely excited in pursuing relationships and collaboration on-campus between activist groups, cultural groups, and art/performance groups and individuals to see in what ways we can come together to address social justice issues on-campus—I know there have been countless attempts in the past to unite activist groups but I hope I will be able to push the Brandeis community towards a more actively engaged role on-campus in putting social justice into action.

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

– Andrew Nguyen ’14

Goodbye, Fringe! Until Next Year!

It is 3 a.m. on Monday, August 26th. I am still in my party clothes, wide awake from the whirlwind that was the festival. Tonight we said goodbye to the festival with a blow-out closing night party. Champagne was poured, awards were given, teary goodbyes were said and a great night was had by all. As I sat at the FringeTERN table observing the participants congratulate themselves, I couldn’t help but be proud of the work we did to make this festival possible. It is not so often that interns are given as much responsibility as we were but, from making sure the schedule was airtight to ensuring every participant got their last paycheck, I truly do believe our contributions were vital to the success of the festival. It truly feels like without us, the show (quite literally) could not have gone on.

I am saddened that this internship is over. I have learned so much and have met so many interesting and intelligent people with whom I hope to remain in contact. I leave this festival with a better understanding of myself: with the understanding that a career in the theatre is what I want and the confidence that it is possible to pursue one’s passions while still being able to support oneself financially. I also walk away with a much better understanding of the inner-workings of a festival. Every single aspect and every single person involved is a vital and invaluable part of the festival. If one component fails, the entire festival will fail. Theatre is the most collaborative art form, and this festival is theatre at its finest; it is thousands of people coming together to collaborate and realize a common vision. These past few weeks, I’ve seen that vision become a reality and I am floored by the impact and effect it has had.

In my theatre classes, I learn about the problems of commercialized theatre. As many know, Broadway tickets are expensive. Because they are expensive, the majority of people who can afford to see these shows are upper-middle class, middle-aged men and women. And because a particular group of people are the primary ticket holders, the Broadway community continues to produce works that appeal to that audience. Though there is a lot of talent and heart put into commercialized theatre, this focus sometimes leads to a stifling of creativity and diversity in the arts and can cause what Peter Brook (a noted theatre theorist) refers to as ‘deadly theatre.’

Deadly theatre is a theatre of commerce, where the number one driving force of a production is to make money, rather than to create, innovate, educate, or enlighten – as theatre is intended to do. The New York International Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in North America that allows new artists with new and passionate voices to showcase their work in a non-commercial way. More than walking away with an understanding of myself or my future career, I am walking away with a greater understanding of the importance of private and public support for the arts. I want to continue to learn more about and contribute to the non-profit theatre world, because when money isn’t the driving factor – when passion, creativity and heart are – that is when the greatest art, as well as the greatest change, can be realized. I am grateful to have spent a summer immersed in the non-profit art world observing, first-hand, the importance of enlightening, educational and thought-provoking works of theatre. To see just how important FringeNYC is, watch Mayor Bloomberg give FringeNYC the Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture.

And if I could give one piece of advice to a student interested in pursuing an internship or career in theatre – whether it be the non- or for-profit theatre world – it would be to go for it. In this world, there are a lot of people who will scoff at you, or judge you, or warn you that you won’t be able to support yourself – but I implore you to ignore them. It is true, there is not a lot of money to be had in the theatre world – whether it is commercialized or subsidized – but there is a lot of heart, and passion, and change. My mother has always said that if you follow your heart, everything else will fall into place and I now believe she is right.

As this is my last post, I’d like to thank the WOW community for making this internship possible. I have learned so much not only about myself and my field, but about all the amazing work my fellow WOW recipients have been up to this summer. It was an incredible summer, and here’s to another great year with the Brandeis community!

Valuable Experience in a Competitive City

This summer, through my internship, I gained a whole new perspective on the Media and Entertainment industry, as well as most industries that employ digital technologies to operate their businesses. Through the many assignments such as competitor research, research memos, and weekly industry reports I learned two major things: 1. Structure – how to present (and market) these documents in a way that is easy to read and attract attention, and 2. Key Points – I learned the main information to consider when analyzing companies, technologies, and events in this industry. I believe this will serve me greatly in the future, especially when I am looking for employment and getting ready for an interview. I will know exactly the things to research and prepare before the interview, and this way, I will know how to best position myself and the skills that I would bring to the company, in a way that will convince them that I would be a valuable addition to the team.

Furthermore, this internship endowed me with a rather rare opportunity to learn the inside happenings of the media and entertainment industry: to learn the leaders of the industry, their plans and upcoming projects, and finally, the direction this industry is taking.

As the CEO told me at the end of the internship, we now know more than 99.9% of the people about the present state of the M&E industry. Thus, now that I know the important players, the relevant journals and magazines, as well as most of the technical terms and acronyms, I plan to keep myself updated about the progress of the industry throughout the next year, and use it as a unique leverage to apply and negotiate future jobs in the technology industry. I have learned that the knowledge and skills I gained this summer are very valuable, and rather rare for a college student, thus I definitely plan to take advantage of it.

To anyone interested to work with IRIS.TV, or in the automated video programming, and data analysis industry, I would recommend to keep your mind open and be ready to learn on the spot as much as possible. Unfortunately, they don’t teach any of this information in school, because it emerges and changes so quickly, so don’t be afraid to feel like a “baby” when you enter this industry, because you probably won’t understand much at first. However, use the main tools you learned in college, such as being able to learn, gather and process information, and think critically, and in time you will begin to be more fluent in this industry. The effort will be worth it, as it is a fascinating industry, one that will undoubtedly grow and influence our lifestyle on a large scale. Good luck!

Finally, living in LA for the summer has been an experience in itself. I highly recommend it. This city will keep you busy every day, even if you don’t have anything to do. It has a very competitive vibe to it, even finding a parking spot becomes a competition. It’s a great, big hub to meet important people and make valuable connections, thus I greatly recommend it to anyone looking to challenge themselves personally and professionally.

Stuck at Home, My Mind Still Swirling


Sitting under a tall oak tree in my back yard, sipping a Diet Coke while typing this blog post, Varanasi, India already seems like years ago. I’m finding it difficult to be at the intersection of three different worlds: the past couple months in India, now being home in suburban Connecticut with my family, and my junior year at Brandeis which is approaching in two short weeks.  I am already struggling with maintaining an immediate sense of what I have experienced in India since the culture shock of being home is beginning to wear off.  Thankfully, I am still in the middle of some projects for the Dove Foundation, which keeps me tied to the people I’ve met and places I’ve been.  Here is a draft of a video I am now in the process of editing for Project Aarambh, a program that provides HIV/AIDS and reproductive health education to the low-caste community of bicycle rickshaw pullers in India.

In addition to being a WOW fellow, I am also a Brandeis-India Initiative fellow.  The Brandeis-India Initiative selects students to develop projects that build ties between Brandeis and India. It’s still a fairly new fellowship at Brandeis, so I encourage 2013 WOW fellows to apply for next year. For my project, I plan to screen the video I am making for The Dove Foundation’s Project Aarambh.  I will invite an audience of students, faculty, and other members of the Brandeis community to increase awareness of the challenges rickshaw pullers face.  I hope this event encourages donors to give, and other Brandeis students to intern for the Dove Foundation.  I also hope to continue developing my video editing and graphic design skills in future internships, independent projects, and school assignments.

I don’t know when my next trip to India will be, however, my internship has given me an idea to connect different non-profits with a similar mission throughout the world.   I think it would be a great idea to partner the Dove Foundation with another youth-led public health organization in the U.S…somewhat like an ambassadorship, either in-person or via Internet tools/social media. This will create a cross-cultural network and support system for similar NGOs to give each other advice, collaborate on various programs, and spread their message to a different audience.   It’s a very abstract vision right now, but I’m thinking of ways to actualize it during my remaining time at Brandeis.

While I am still new to working for the non-profit field, my first piece of advice for any students interested in an internship in this area would be to communicate.  Make sure both you and your employer are clear on what the expectations are for your internship.  I was not commuting to an office for my internship, so emails and phone calls were essentially how I would get things done with my supervisors.  Also, be considerate.  If you are interning for a youth-led non-profit, most staff members have other preoccupations in addition to working for the non-profit such as other internships, jobs, studying for Masters and PhDs, etc. Do not overcrowd their inboxes with emails or their phones with text messages at ungodly hours.  If what you are doing is important to your employer he/she will get back to you at the right time. Mostly, have fun—It makes work enjoyable, and if you have a sense of humor, you might even make friends with your co-workers.  Some of the best memories I have from my internship are going shopping with my boss for Indian clothes, and driving to a water park with one of my co-workers on a sweltering Saturday.

As this is my last blog post, it’s been a pleasure and honor being part of the WOW 2013 community.  It was very interesting to read this blog and compare the various experiences each fellow had. I look forward to seeing the WOWs back on campus and hearing all the incredible stories you have to tell about your internships.




Aliza Gans ’15



Let the Festivities Begin!

Things are really picking up here at FringeNYC; the festival has begun! About a month ago, we packed up FringeNYC’s year round midtown office and made the move down to FringeCENTRAL on the Lower East Side. We unpacked, cleaned, organized, cleaned and reshaped an old, dirty, unused Japanese karaoke bar (did I mention cleaned?) into the new FringeCENTRAL. Since we opened to the public, participants, volunteers and prospective audience members have been flocking to our 2nd Avenue location to see what’s on and where they can help.

A short while ago, each FringeTERN was delegated a project or task for once we got down to FringeCENTRAL. Some are working with the FringeJR shows (shows that are geared toward younger audiences), some are organizing FringeTEASERS (little teasers of fringe shows hosted at FringeCENTRAL to provide prospective audience members with a taste of some of the shows) and I, as well as one other FringeTERN, have been assigned to coordinate the volunteers. On any given year, FringeNYC gets about 2,000 volunteers that come in once the festival starts. One of the main tasks of volunteers is distributing will-call tickets, but volunteers can be doing anything from directing audience traffic to helping out at FringeCENTRAL. FringeNYC’s volunteer policy is “Work a Shift, See a Show at FringeNYC” (for free.) Since we’ve opened to the public, I have mostly been working as a concierge/volunteer coordinator to help audience members find shows they would like to see or to train prospective volunteers, input their information in our system and schedule their shifts.

When I started my internship with FringeNYC, I had no idea what the summer had in store. All I knew was that there is nothing in this world about which I am more passionate than theatre and I wanted to have an immersive experience in the theatre world. Theatre is one of the most collaborative art forms. You know the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it takes the city of New York to mount a Broadway show. In the theatre, artists, creators, visionaries and benefactors come together to realize a production. And because there are so many great minds working together to realize a common vision, I have always found it difficult to find my place within the world of theatre. Did I want to be an actress? A director? A producer? A playwright? A stage manager? A designer? All of the above? None of the above? When I applied for an internship with FringeNYC, it was my hope and my goal that working with so many different theatre artists would help me find a singular pathway within the theatre to follow; that it would help me find a career path.

However, having spent so much time working for the festival and encountering inspiring people who have made a career out of a life in the theatre, I now understand that there is no “right” track or trajectory. The people I’ve met here at the fringe come from all different walks of life. In the fringe this year we have investment bankers, basketball players, and everything in between. All have made their way to the fringe because they have a story to share. They are storytellers and – because of that – they are theatremakers. I am so in awe of and inspired by the people I’ve met here. They truly are pieces of a whole and make this collaborative and expansive art form what it is.

You ask me to address the concrete skills I have built as a result of this internship and to address how they will be transferable to my future career. However, I have found that even though I may have gotten better at creating an Excel spreadsheet or using Volgistics (the volunteer coordinating website), what I have gained from this internship is a lot less tangible. I have gained a better sense of self – a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses, of my likes and dislikes – as well as a better appreciation for this ever-growing, ever-evolving art that is theatre. I haven’t necessarily progressed in my goals; I haven’t found a singular career path or focus in the theatre. I haven’t decided what I want to be when I ‘grow up’, but furthermore, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to. It is those who walk blindly into the woods that emerge with the greatest stories to tell.

– Sophie Greenspan ’15





Thanks for the Memories, FIMRC!

I had an amazing internship experience at Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children Global Headquarters. Summer went by so quickly! Looking back to my first day at FIMRC, I got lost finding the office and was anxious about not knowing anyone. In two and a half months I’ve grown into a more self-assured worker, and made friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.

I remember feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of my internship when I received my first assignment: compile 16 months worth of numerical data for FIMRC’s sites in seven countries. At Brandeis I’m used to getting detailed guidelines for projects and assignments, but this task was so open-ended that I didn’t even know where to start. This project challenged me to make decisions and be a self-sufficient problem solver, effectively fulfilling my learning goal of becoming more independent in the workplace.

Admittedly, I did not initially see the connection between crunching numbers and FIMRC’s mission of improving pediatric health around the globe. When I first learned about FIMRC, I imagined people digging wells in exotic locations, giving health education lessons, and delivering medical supplies. Working at headquarters exposed me to the extensive coordination and planning that is required to make things happen on site — it’s a lot of work! I have a new-found admiration for the administrative work that nonprofits do.

Now that I understand the operations side of a nonprofit organization, I want to learn more about what happens in the field. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in a foreign country. Reading reports from the field, working with photos from FIMRC’s sites (check out FIMRC’s Flickr page — it’s amazing) and talking to staff members in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic made my itch to go abroad much stronger. I’m excited to study Community Health and Social Policy in South Africa next Spring as my first real exposure to working in healthcare in a another country.

My fondest memories of FIMRC include the wonderful people I worked with. My supervisor and the other staff members were an incredibly passionate and tight-knit bunch who were eager to help the interns reach our goals. I would encourage future interns to interact with other interns and staff members as much as possible, especially because everyone is so helpful. Also, be sure to take advantage of FIMRC headquarters’ awesome location in center city Philadelphia. Eating lunch and sharing with my intern friends in Rittenhouse Square was one of my favorite memories!

After my internship I am much more aware of the health problems that plague the people in nine communities across the world. Learning that over 20% of kids in Peru suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, among other statistics, was shocking and heartbreaking. To me, social justice means seeing as many kids as possible obtain the healthcare they desperately deserve, and FIMRC showed me how a nonprofit organization achieves this goal. FIMRC is a small organization with a big impact, that is effectively “doing” social justice. To me, Margaret Mead’s quote sums up FIMRC perfectly: “Never doubt that a small group of passionate, driven citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” With persistence and passion, real change will happen, a lesson I know I will remember at Brandeis and beyond.

-Erica Granor ’15

Saying Goodbye to AJWS

It’s hard to believe that my time at AJWS has already come to a close. I am sad to be leaving such an incredible organization with inspiring and dedicated people, but I am excited about the insights I have gained this summer.  I feel that I have come closer to meeting my learning goals than I ever could have imagined. In part, this is because working at the organization was a very well rounded learning experience. What I am taking away from this summer at AJWS is more than just the ability to complete tasks, or improved research and database skills. I learned something extremely valuable about the culture of an effective organization.

At the beginning of the summer, my main goal was to learn about the operations of a nonprofit; the diverse roles played by individuals and teams and the strategy behind methods of social change. While no individual task or accomplishment could teach me this, I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with two different teams: Donor Engagement and Major Gifts..  This gave me insight into what the two divisions needed on a basic level to do their work. My research provided background information on where to host events, who to contact, which organizations to potentially partner with, and what kinds of events other organizations are hosting.  In completing these assignments, I learned about the strategy behind event planning and fundraising, as well as the kinds of information needed to make these decisions.

Another one of my learning goals was to be able to talk about AJWS’s work in a persuasive way. My work in Development and Alumni Relations at Brandeis (through Phonathon) has provided me with the opportunity to discuss my college experience with diverse alumni, and to hear their stories as well. Part of what excited me about working in development at AJWS was that I could learn the vocabulary to discuss the organization’s work in a similarly persuasive way. A few of my tasks and accomplishments helped me to do this. First, I read through countless publications to organize issue packets for donors. This familiarized me with the language used to talk about different issues and the work being done in various countries. I also worked to draft a publication on disaster relief, which allowed to employ some of the language I’d learned, using the style guide and AJWS branding to guide my writing. I also wrote blurbs about the Study Tour program for the AJWS website, which provided me a similar opportunity. All of these experiences gave me the tools to sound credible and educated about AJWS’s mission and work, which culminated in the opportunity to make thank you calls to donors! This was nerve wracking and exciting, and I felt confident that I met my goal.

I am excited to build on this experience back at Brandeis. My work at Phonathon is a different kind of development, but listening to people at AJWS talk about their relationships with donors, fundraising strategies and experiences will stay with me and lead a better understanding and purpose in my work.  Additionally, this new outlook will stay with me in my job search this coming year. I know that I will definitely be in touch with AJWS in some capacity- I have truly fallen in love with their mission and work, and would be honored to volunteer, travel, or work for them again in my future. The advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AJWS is to take advantage of the connections available to them. It is so important to make the most of every day working there. The staff is well educated, diverse, and passionate about any number of different things, and they are so willing to impart wisdom onto young people. I am truly thankful for the meetings I’ve had with people I didn’t even work with, because it provided me with important perspective on career choices, educational choices, and even life choices. Another piece of advice that certainly goes for AJWS, but is also relevant for other nonprofits is to try to go above and beyond. It might be hard as an intern, but I found that it was stimulating and exciting for me to do more than was asked of me. It was not necessary for me to draft a publication this summer, but I really wanted to try it out. Whenever I felt that my work was going slowly or dragging on, I asked for more. These are easy ways to get the most out of your time at an organization and really enjoy the experience.

As I mentioned in my mid-way blog post, my work in Development at AJWS has ignited my interest in communications. My next step is to look into the ways that social justice and nonprofit work intertwine with the communications field. I understand development as a certain type of communication, with a very specific purpose. I am excited about the prospect of learning about new kinds of communication that can raise awareness about important issues, raise money, and frame discussions to be productive. In my job search, I will certainly be looking into firms and organizations for positions that combine these interests. My summer in development has provided me a window into what it means to communicate effectively, and I’d love to develop that even further.

Above all, my time at AJWS has educated me even more about why my ideals of social justice hold true. I deeply believe in equality, human rights, and a moral obligation to help those less fortunate. AJWS voices these concerns with a grounding in Jewish texts, but also with common sense. The culture of the organization has reinforced my idea of making change from the ground up, respecting communities and the knowledge they have about their circumstances, and using that as a catalyst for change. Because of my experiences at AJWS, I am a better listener, a more efficient worker, a more dedicated citizen, and most importantly, a more passionate and inspired change agent. If nothing else, that will stay with me.

Wrapping up AVODAH

It is hard to believe that my summer at AVODAH has come to a close, but I know I have learned more than I ever expected. I definitely improved my organizational skills through being responsible for updating and maintaining national databases and listservs, and also through creating new resources for the upcoming year. I have become more technologically savvy and creative. AVODAH is an organization that strives to stay up to date with technology, and as I was responsible for creating resources like monthly e-newsletters and google sites, I learned a great deal about how to navigate these technologies.

I also completed a research project on National Boards to learn about successful tactics being used by peer organizations that could be beneficial to AVODAH. I interviewed representatives (including Executive Directors, Presidents and Board Members) from seven organizations and then, combined with my own research, collaborated with my supervisor to compile a project report for AVODAH’s Governance and Nominating Committee.  The project allowed me to practice and improve my communication skills, and gave me the opportunity to learn about other organizations and techniques. For example, the Executive Vice President of American Jewish World Service taught me a great deal about generative thinking, which is explained in this article.

During the rest of my time at Brandeis and beyond, I will continue to utilize and build upon the skills I learned at AVODAH. Directly after my internship was finished, I spent the week volunteering as a staff member at a teen leadership camp, and I found myself applying much of the knowledge I gained at AVODAH to my role at camp. Now that my internship is complete, I am motivated to continue taking on experiences that allow me to learn by doing. I would advise any student interested in an internship at AVODAH or in a similar field to do what was most beneficial for me: jump in with both feet, keep an open mind and seize every learning opportunity possible. Connecting with internship colleagues and supervisors is also one of the best actions to take.

This internship definitely reinforced my ideas about Social Justice. When I began my internship with the Director for Alumni and Community Engagement at AVODAH, the importance of keeping the Alumni Network thriving was not totally evident to me. Over the course of my internship, largely because of the many thought-provoking conversations I had with my supervisor, I came to realize why the Alumni Network is so important. AVODAH lives and breathes social justice. Their mission is to strengthen the Jewish’s community’s fight against domestic poverty, and to do this by “engaging participants in service and community building that inspire them to become lifelong leaders for social change.” In order to ensure that the latter part of the mission statement–inspiring participants to become lifelong leaders for social change–occurs, AVODAH needs to offer more than just a year-long program. This is why it is so important to facilitate the alumni community: to engage in a lifelong quest for social justice, alumni need assistance securing jobs in the social justice world, opportunities for networking within the social justice community and trainings that offer further skill-building opportunities. AVODAH’s mission could not be fulfilled with only the yearlong program. Working in the Alumni Department really showed me what a social-justice oriented organization looks like.

Overall, my AVODAH internship was a great experience! I am thankful for the intelligent and inspiring people I got to meet and work with, and look forward to using my new knowledge in the future. To learn more about AVODAH, check out their website and blog!

– Sophie Brickman ’16

Goodbye, Miami. Hello, Social Justice!

My main goal for this summer was to gain some insight and basic understanding of the non-profit field. Fortunately I was assigned various tasks that allowed me to do so – even though the internship was originally for community organizing, I ended up doing lots of administrative tasks as well. My main accomplishment was working on a brand new website, which came a very long way from the original version. (!) Though this would be the perfect example of the kind of administrative work that all interns fear – since, to some, it’s not the most exciting stuff – the process included a lot of behind-the-scenes information which allowed me to explore how non-profits operate. For example, I was the liaison between my organization and the website company, communicating between the two different-minded groups of people. I updated the content for the website which included both formatting and researching the issues we stand for. I was also responsible for contacting and following-up with clergy to request quotes from them which then got included in the website. In addition, as we were trying to figure out how to manage donations through the website, I learned some new things about online-fundraising. If IWJ were a big, well-funded and established organization, the work I was doing might have  been delegated to the logistics, communications and development departments, respectively. However, since my organization had a one paid staff member, I, as the intern, had insight into all these different parts of running a non-profit.

Upon returning to Brandeis, I’m hoping to do a couple things to continue my professional development that started this summer. First of all, I’d like to organize and partake in a social justice or political campaign at Brandeis. Now that I have a clearer understanding of strategizing and organizing people, I think I could be a valuable member of a campaign-team. University campuses are actually the most fitting place to start social justice campaigns because students are still enthusiastic about social change (unfortunately real adults are often jaded…) so people are happy to get involved, and the size of most college campuses is small enough to raise awareness among the whole school. And if the school administration decides to change something due to a student-led campaign, other campuses as well as the media and local groups of people could notice. A small community brings change and then other communities follow- this is how change happens on a societal and ultimately global, level. In addition, I’d also like to find a semester-long internship for the spring to work in a more established non-profit.  I’ll have to do my research yet to find the perfect fit.

If someone would approach me and ask about my specific internship, the most important advice I would give them is to be very flexible (or, only take the internship if you’re flexible or want to learn how to adapt.) I would also tell them to push their supervisor even if she’s busy, because she has a lot to offer and to teach. In addition, I’d tell them to have as many one-on-ones as they can. Talking to clergy, workers, and people in the field is the best experience one could have.

In terms of the non-profit field, the advice I would give to someone is similar to the advice I got during my training: 1, You’re going to see things that make you want to cry and you will ask yourself if there’s even a purpose to all this social justice talk when the majority of the country clearly doesn’t care. Don’t give up. Carry one. Don’t let these moments ruin your experience, or your ideologies!
And 2, Remember, that every small, administrative thing you do, every cold-call you make, and every door you knock on, is ultimately furthering the greater cause you’re fighting for. Just because you’re not protesting in front of McDonalds or negotiating a worker’s contract with a CEO does not mean your work is not valuable.

With all the positive and hopeful advice that I described in the former paragraph, I will say that this summer gave me a reality-check, even though most of my ideologies and values have been there since long as I can remember. My values have been reinforced and even furthered throughout the summer. If I had any doubt before that injustice is structural, the remnants of those doubts are definitely gone now. But while most of the injustice that I saw growing up was on TV and in the newspaper, seeing it first-hand transformed my attitude towards social justice. It became much more of a lifestyle and outlook on life rather than a potential carrier. I recognized that I constantly have to be aware of what I buy, where I travel, what I eat, who I work for, because everything I do affects other people. In fact, meeting people who don’t work in non-profit and still do social justice related work proved to me that there’s many ways of being a social justice advocate. Some of the most efficient ways to change the world are to work as lawyer for a big firm and donate your free time to people who really need it, or to become a clergy member and convince your congregants to donate to causes that are important. I’m not what my path or place in this is yet. However I do know that this past summer I’ve developed a much deeper connection to social justice, and I’m eternally grateful to WOW for that.

– Viki Bedo ’15

Saying Farewell to NCL & Washington, D.C


I can’t believe how fast time has gone by since I first started my internship! It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences interning at the National Consumers League (NCL) in Washington, D.C. I have gained so many memories with the fellow interns and the NCL staff, have grown so much as a consumer and consumer advocate, and have acquired more knowledge about important consumer issues than I had every imagined.

The specific tasks assigned to me allowed me to gain experience and knowledge in areas I was unfamiliar with. Extensive research opportunities on fraud and scams have allowed me to realize how essential non-profit organizations were in protecting consumers and informing them of issues that affect them. The research work I have done on various issues associated with public policy has been incredibly useful to me as a consumer as well. After researching and writing a blog about billing aggregators, who might place unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills on behalf of third-party companies, I always carefully review my phone bills and make sure there are no suspicious and unauthorized charges. I highly believe that every student should have the opportunity to intern at an organization like the NCL because the work that I have done has helped me to not only learn about billing aggregators, but also assist consumers to make good decisions and carefully review their phone bills.

Through national conferences, meetings, roundtable discussions, and Congressional hearings, non-profits are always actively working to protect consumers. By attending these events, I have gained new interests in particular consumer issues. By attending Women and Families on Attaining Perfection: What do women pay for the perfect body? hosted by the National Research Center for Women and Families, I learned that the yogurt company I have been purchasing from for years has been investigated and charged for deceptive marketing. I realized how serious this problem is and how many consumers, like me, have become victims of deceptive marketing or unproven claims. Even though I have completed my internship at the NCL, I hope to learn more about deceptive marketing in the future at Brandeis and other work opportunities.

I am most positive that the knowledge and experience I have gained at the NCL will be very useful when continuing my education and leadership commitments at Brandeis. Compiling data and researching different issues will allow me to gather information for research papers better. I have been trained to distinguish the most important details for a short term and long term research project. Furthermore, the networking and event planning experiences will allow me to act effectively as the middleman between academic departments and the students in the fall as the undergraduate departmental representative (UDR). Serving as the UDR will definitely take a lot of organization, concentration and teamwork to complete duties and responsibilities. The team projects I have completed at the NCL will help me to work together with other UDRs and assist each other to organize and coordinate great events and provide departmental information to students.

For any students interested in advocacy work, I would highly recommend interning at the NCL. The staff members are very caring and willing to help interns meet and go beyond their learning goals. They are very accommodating to what you would like to work on and are great about recommending various DC events that might be of interest to you. Although you have one head supervisor, you also have the opportunity to help other staff members at their events and conferences. I have noticed that individuals who work in a non-profit are very passionate about the work they do. They want to make a difference in the world. Every professional I have talked to at different events was willing to talk to me for probably hours about their work. You don’t necessarily have to be passionate about certain issues when finding an internship at a non-profit, but I am most confident that by the end of your internship, you will be passionate about at least one particular issue.

Through my internship with the NCL, my ideals of social justice have been reinforced. The strike for fair wages I mentioned in my earlier blog has definitely reminded me that fighting for social justice is fighting for human rights – the rights of low-wage workers and of those who need support. By writing articles for NCL’s on obamacare and credit card fraud against charities, I realized how there are many miscarriages of justice. People sometimes take advantage of those who are less educated, less wealthy, and less supported. I’ve learned that to become a more effective problem solver and citizen, I need to act and make a difference. I need to inform those who are unaware of their rights, which is one of the prime reasons I am in plans of creating my own consumer rights blog. During my upcoming study abroad in The Hague in the spring, I also hope to learn how to legally protect consumers who have been scammed.

– Heather Yoon ’15

Reflecting on A Summer Well-Spent

Getting up to the office everyday was no small feat!

Heading into the summer, I knew that this internship would be critical for me for so many reasons — since this would be my final year at Brandeis, I knew that this could very well be my last opportunity to get my feet wet before diving right into the legal field after graduation.  Fortunately, now that the experience has come to an end, I can safely say that my time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office was a tremendous and rewarding experience that I will never forget.

I remember my first day at the office ten short weeks ago- how I needed to write myself a note in the morning so I remembered how to get into the building and up to the 6th floor (navigating the building isn’t as easy as it sounds!)  It took some time, as it always does, but with every passing week, I found myself growing more and more accustomed to my surroundings, and to my everyday tasks at the office.  After a while, I no longer needed assistance from my supervisor before beginning a new project like redacting personal information of witnesses, plaintiffs or defendants from documents for trial, or sifting through witness testimony and highlighting important points for the Assistant U.S. Attorney to use during summation.  That wasn’t the case during the first week when I needed the assistance of my Paralegal Specialist advisor to show me how to use the scanning machine or create exhibit lists — and for someone who doesn’t like asking for help, that really took me out of my comfort zone.  Nevertheless, by the end of my internship, I was the one answering others’ questions, and not asking them myself, which was fine by me.

When the summer began, and even as far back as when I applied for this internship last winter, I identified my primary learning goal as preparation for entry-level employment following graduation.  As I reflect back on my summer internship, I am happy to report that I have met my goal — I have developed tangible skills which will be applicable in every future job or academic setting that I find myself in.  I have improved my ability to synthesize information, read analytically, highlight the important points in a vast collection of documents, and of course, perform research, which will be pretty much all I do if and when I pursue a law degree.

Besides this, I have made some excellent contacts at my internship, including my co-interns, supervisors and others who I interacted with on a daily basis (including this fellow below).

On the 10th floor every afternoon, I would take time to visit a mother hawk and her newborn babies (who may be difficult to see in this picture!)

I’d like to think that every experience you have in life is defined by who you meet, and as Dan Gilbert concludes in my favorite book, Stumbling on Happiness, the best way to predict how you will feel in a given future situation is to listen to others who have been there before.  Over the course of the past ten weeks, I have gotten some priceless guidance from the aforementioned people (not hawks) about my impending job search, from how to tackle interviews to how to address potential employers in an email.

But above all else, what I got out of my summer internship was positive reinforcement from people who have been working in this field for decades that I was in the right place.  And really, that is all I could have ever asked for- confirmation of what I already suspected: I am right for this, and this is right for me.

To those out there who are interested in interning in the legal field or with the Department of Justice, I would strongly recommend that you DO something at your internship.  Do not just sit around idly watching jury trials (although once in a while those are great to observe).  There is always something you can be doing, and if there isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask for an assignment.  Everything you do will be a learning experience- you just have to do them first.

– Ricky Rosen ’14

Exciting news!  The Athletes and Stress Study has officially received approval from the Brandeis institutional review board! Or course, we received this approval two days after my summer internship ended… but on the bright side I have been offered to continue working with this lab next summer so I will be able to be involved with the data collection and analysis of the project after all! I will be studying abroad in Paris throughout this coming academic year, but as this is a long-term study there will still be plenty to do next summer. It will be exciting to see the data collected and progress made by my return.

Some timing did work out in my favor: on my last day in lab my supervisor approved the survey I developed for measuring critical body talk! This survey will be the backbone of my independent focus, and it will be administered as part of the larger study. I will begin analyzing its results next summer.

Although I originally thought we would begin running the study this summer, it turned out to be fortunate to enter this lab in the formative stage of the project. I was able to incorporate my research interest into the larger work, and I had time to explore how self-criticism may be related to other important areas like body esteem, perceived stress, the physical stress response, competitiveness, activity level, and body objectification. Furthermore, if all goes well, I may be able to integrate my work this summer into a future senior thesis. That remains yet to be determined, but it would be a productive way to utilize any findings that the critical body talk survey yields.

This summer gave me firsthand experience of what it could be like to be a psychological researcher. I learned that health psychology is an ever-growing field, and it seems to be on the cusp of exciting new research with important implications for mental and physical well being. The WOW program is an excellent way for students to gain insight into the future careers they may want to pursue. My WOW experience leaned in a slightly different direction: I got a glimpse of what it would be like to be in graduate school for psychology. Since this would be the next step in my progress to a career in this field, I’m so grateful to have experienced what this next step could be like! From what I observed working with a team of graduate students to set up this study, and talking with them about their past experiences and present research involvements,  I think I would really enjoy psych grad school! Working in a lab like this is a great opportunity to balance collaborative work with a team and independent work on personal projects. In my experience this summer, I saw a group of passionate and interested researchers all doing important work on their own, and then coming together to combine their interests and expertise to create a larger, multifaceted, and cohesive project. I like the idea of working with such a team in my future research because by working together you can cover one research area from many different angles, and you can discover interactions you may have never thought of on your own.

If another Brandeis undergrad was interested in doing work with this particular lab, I would say it is important to be able to work on your own, stay on top of things, and to not be shy to ask for help. I had to create my own work schedule between lab meetings. I knew the end goal of my work and sometimes I had to figure out how to fill in the middle. Through reaching out to the others on the team, I found guidance and support. It is important to join a lab that interests you. It is also helpful to come into the lab being informed and interested in the project, and having your own related but individual interests. When I spoke up about my interests and how I wanted to be involved, the team was happy to incorporate me, and they helped me narrow and define what I want to research.

The critical reading, organization, and self-initiative skills I fostered this summer will serve me well in all my future academic work. Through working with this team, I made relationships with bright minds in the psychology field. These individuals are doing research on such interesting areas, and I look forward to seeing how their work continues in the future! I’m happy to have experienced being part of this community at Brandeis, and I feel inspired to continue my work in psychology research.


Completion of Social Justice Work!


I am happy to report that during this internship I have completed one major directory project as well as a few smaller projects for CBHI that I can attach my name to. It is exciting to send off a major document, created by me, that will be used to better CBHI and the UMass Training Program services. A goal of mine was to produce high quality work that would make a difference in people’s lives and I can proudly say that I have accomplished this! Another goal I had for this summer was to network. Over the past 9 weeks I have collaborated with people who have backgrounds and experience in psychology, the juvenile courts system, the legislative branch, the executive branch, legal work as a judge, legal work as an attorney, and a student at Harvard Law. Meeting all of these working professionals and learning their opinions and past experiences has been an invaluable resource for me. I have learned the many different ways that people can work towards achieving their desired careers.

Click here to see some monthly CARD (Children Awaiting Resolution and Disposition) reports that I helped create.

Here are the Newsletter Archives. The Summer 2013 edition that I helped write and edit will soon be included on this list.

This internship has inspired me to try to gain exposure to more internship opportunities. CBHI gave me a glimpse into the behind the scenes business and government aspects of public health. It would be very helpful if I could find a future internship where I can work more on the front end of the public health field. This would allow me to better understand all levels of the system so I can make a more informed decision about what type of work I would be interested in doing. This internship has also convinced me that I would like to take Professor Altman’s class “American Health Care”. Having a more in depth understanding of the health care system direct from one of the nation’s leading experts would be extremely informative. A colleague of mine also talked to me about many ways to volunteer in the community. One particular volunteer project she introduced me to is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). This sounds like an interesting way to get involved with children in the court system which is another strong interest of mine.

I strongly advise all students to complete an internship. Internships support students to develop their interests and gain real world experience, but they are also really good for networking. As an intern at CBHI it is very important to ask a lot of questions. CBHI is a very small organization at the cross-section of many larger organizations, so at first it can be difficult to grasp exactly what it is that CBHI does. By asking questions interns can learn more, develop relationships with co-workers, and show their interest. As for any internship, interns should always be eager to ask for additional work to do. By keeping an open line of communication with your supervisor on how you are progressing on given tasks,  your supervisor can learn your strengths and assign additional tasks. Students who intern in the field of public health should know that this is a huge field with many job applications. If you do not love the work at your particular internship, there is a strong chance that another position exists with the type of work you are interested in. Above all, don’t forget to network!

CBHI exists so that kids with behavioral/mental health issues receive proper mental health evaluations and treatment plans. This mission for social justice is something that people generally agree is necessary. This internship has taught me that the execution of social justice is much more complicated than the general agreement that these kids deserve the right services. Every stakeholder involved in providing children with better behavioral/mental health services has a different opinion on how this mission should be carried out. The stakeholders involved in this particular example of social justice are the court plaintiffs, court defendants, clinical managers, clinicians, CBHI workers, the government, caregivers, and most importantly the children. With so many different perspectives to balance, it can be challenging to meet the needs of all the parties involved. This can make social justice action frustrating; however, this internship has taught me that change does come slowly. I have learned the value of gaining input from those being impacted. CBHI does a lot of outreach work and progress reports to evaluate how they can provide even better services. These types of projects that CBHI completes has taught me that in order to be a better worker it is important to gain input from others and ask for help when needed.

ElizbethChaflin ’15

Finishing Up at the MCAD

Time flew by, and now my internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is coming to a close. At the beginning of the summer, one of my personal goals was to educate people about their civil rights so that they could be their own advocates. I soon realized, as cliché as it may sound, that I was the one learning from these presentations. Over the course of the summer, I gave presentations to hundreds of people, and these individual interactions—listening to people’s stories and feeling their gratitude—truly made me realize the difficulty but importance of this work.

One particular presentation stands out in my mind. At this presentation at a halfway house, I found it very hard to focus; the women had not been informed that I would be coming, the childcare volunteers cancelled last minute, and two of the women did not speak any English. I almost wanted to call it a day, seeing as I had to keep pausing and trying to engage the audience and ignore the distractions.  Then I noticed during one of the brief moments of calm two women suddenly paid close attention, one exclaiming that she never knew that she had these rights, while the other nodded vigorously in agreement. They then mentioned that they had to inform the other women who could not attend the presentation.
While I may not have discovered through this internship what it is exactly I want to do career-wise, moments like these offered clarity as to what sort of feelings I want to have and elicit at a job. I think that if I focus less on what field I want to go into, or what particular job I think I might like, and concentrate instead on what issues I am passionate about, and how I can have the most impact on an individual level, I will be better able to determine what I want to study, where I want to work, and what type of job I want to have.

Now that I have a taste of what civil rights advocacy on the enforcement side of the law is like, I am interested in experiencing what goes on in order to pass a policy or a law. Now I can better comprehend the necessity of education and advocacy even after a law or policy is passed, which will prepare me if I want to advocate for changes in policies.

For anybody interested in working at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, I would recommend doing as many presentations as you can with another intern—it is very useful to have another perspective, and you will be less nervous with somebody else there to help. After one summer working at a government law enforcement agency, I am hardly an expert, but if somebody is interested in this field, I think it is important to have as many personal interactions as possible to remind you why you are doing all of the other (perhaps less exciting) work.

In psychology, there is a term called co-morbidity—when two conditions occur simultaneously. That is, when you have one condition, it is likely that you have another particular one. In my short time at the MCAD, I learned something that perhaps I already knew, albeit subconsciously. The people who stood to benefit the most from the information I provided were the very ones who had many other pressing issues (e.g., poor health, poverty, domestic violence, etc.). At times, this was a bit discouraging, because I felt like the information I wanted to spread would not help somebody with his or her other issues.
I realized, sadly, that it is not possible to help every single person with every single issue, but if there were nobody doing this type of education and outreach, it would add to that list of struggles that people face daily. Simply letting people know that there are organizations and people out there to help them can be important, and educating one person can lead to a whole family, and eventually a whole community being educated. Achieving social justice in its many forms—equal opportunity being one of them—is not something that can occur overnight. While this is not a novel idea by any means, this internship brought it to the forefront of my mind, and has only made me determined to work harder in every capacity to try to achieve social justice.

Goodbye for now, DC!

From past experience, I have found that evaluating a summer internship after it ends can be as valuable as the work experience itself. Interning serves as a window into a potential career path, hones existing skills, and develops new talents. Often, however, it is only afterwards that one can fully assess the organization and the personal impact of the experience. As my time interning at the Coalition on Human Needs has now ended, I look back on my two months there quite positively. Not only was I given responsibility and able to play an active role in the small office, but my time at CHN also helped me grapple with potential career options.
I arrived in D.C. this summer with a number of goals: to write as much as possible; to see and understand the unique relationships among various policy issues; to absorb all possible information from both office interaction and city exploration; and to establish some meaningful relationships. I am confident that each of these goals has been met throughout my eight weeks at CHN. While the subject content of CHN’s weekly “Sequester Impact Report” is not drastically distinct week to week, finding and reading articles and subsequently writing summaries of them detailing the impact of the sequester gave me an opportunity to polish my writing. I also wrote an article for CHN’s newsletter, the Human Needs Report, on student loans, which was published on August 7 ( Throughout the summer I was given small projects that required both research and writing. For example, CHN’s website includes write-ups explaining each policy issue they work on. Some of these updates, unfortunately, are not up-to-date. I was able to update the health care reform section
At CHN’s bi-weekly coalition meetings, the overlap among policy issues is clear. Single issue-based member organizations are equally invested in issues other than their own, for issues in Congress bleed into one other. A representative’s vote on one piece of legislation may indicate his or her move on another seemingly unrelated issue. Focusing on my own independent reading – the New York Times, the Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly – has also been an invaluable way in which I have come to understand the interconnectedness of issues. I also made the most of my short time in the city by having conversations with CHN staff members, asking questions, and attending events outside of the office. For example, I attended a panel discussion on filibuster reform at the National Press Club. The panel of speakers – including Norm Ornstein – shared their opinions about whether Harry Reid should amend the Senate filibuster rule in response to Republicans’ blockage of President Obama’s seven executive nominees. Filibuster reform is not exactly a sexy issue for the general public, so most people are unaware of its implications. The panelists agreed that without filibuster reform, and therefore with important executive positions left unfilled, the Republicans will gain more power and gridlock will continue to plague the federal government.
But my internship has also exceeded my original expectations. Not only did I meet the goals I initially outlined, but I have also begun to define my future career path in more concrete terms. While interning at CHN, I realized I could see myself working in the nonprofit political advocacy world in Washington once I graduate. However, as I was immersed in this nonprofit world, I was also able to picture myself following the academic route, which is a wildly different environment, but could be a valuable path to take before entering the DC world.
Overall, I look back on my summer interning at CHN optimistically. And, I am confident that as I continue to reflect independently on my experience throughout the year it will become even more meaningful to me.

Zoe Richman

Wrapping Up an Amazing and Productive Summer!

It’s hard to believe this internship is coming to an end. I have learned so much since I started. I remember the first video we had to watch for orientation: Food Mythbusters’ “Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?” At the time, I thought I knew much more than I actually did, and that I was better at community organizing than I actually was. I have become much more skilled in time management, especially when coordinating with many other people’s schedules. My Google calendar has been invaluable and I have definitely become addicted to mapping out my day. That is especially helpful for my time management of classes and professor’s office hours this upcoming semester.

Along with more effective time management skills, I have also learned to be a much more independent learner. I’m better at knowing when to ask questions, and when to use trial and error to figure out the best method.

I’m very excited to bring my new found organizing skills back to Brandeis with me. I feel so much more prepared to successfully lead Poverty Action Coalition throughout the next semester, which will be packed with activities and events. I’ll also be a Half the Sky ambassador at Brandeis, which will mean a lot more organization on my part. I can’t wait to use engage in conversations and activities revolving around issues I’m passionate about, especially now that I can speak knowledgeably on many more issues than I could before the summer started.

Now that I have completed my internship, I would love to get involved with different aspects of campaign organization. So much more goes into running campaigns than I realized. I would really like to work a bit with the communications department or development within an organization, to learn a bit more about a different kind of membership outreach. I would also like to recruit a much larger crowd to join Brandeis’ Poverty Action Coalition and network with other groups to help do that.

One of the most important aspects of community organizing is to always connect and ask questions when you’re speaking with people. This goes for everyone – people you spoke with two days ago, to family, friends, and especially those who you’ve never talked to before. Sometimes it feels very unnatural, but the trick is to remember that this is what you do everyday – you connect with your friends and family, and conversation peaks curiosity. Organizing works the same way, and sometimes it really helps to take a step back and remember the person you’re talking to is a unique individual, with unique things happening in his or her life, and in all likelihood would love to talk to you about them.

Additionally, in community organizing as with any field, connection is vital not only to organize, but to network! This is important not only for job-hunting, but also for getting ahead with whatever campaign or project you’re working on. You never know when someone may have a connection that can help you with what you’re working on, including the members who fund and support your organization – they are often times your most essential and most willing resources and volunteers.

Before I started this internship, I definitely put a lot more emphasis on individual actions when it came to social justice-related grassroots organizing. I now see that grassroots organizing is a lot more structural than I realized. When it comes to social justice actions, connecting with other people is key. When you are speaking to another individual who feels the same way that you do about a particular issue, it is important to connect on that issue, and to talk about its importance. This is why I’m so excited to lead a viewing of the new Food Mythbusters short video being released in September – I can’t wait to connect with others about their concerns with issues involving big agriculture.


The End of a Great Summer at The Walker School

I just completed my summer internship at The Walker School, and it could not have been a more fulfilling and rewarding experience. At the beginning of the summer, I outlined three different internship goals that I hoped to work on, and I feel as if I have made significant progress on all of them. My first internship goal was to have Walker help me succeed in school. During my summer at Walker, I have worked with children who have a variety of emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders, and as such, I have begun to learn and understand the difficulties and struggles associated with them. Although I still have a lot more learning to do, I can utilize my basic knowledge of these disorders to help me do well in school when I take related classes, such as “Disorders of Childhood.”

My second goal was to have Walker assist me in the progress of becoming a social worker for children or adolescents. I feel as if I have made serious progress in the completion of this goal; at the end of my internship, Walker offered me the position of Child Care Worker in their Intensive Residential Treatment Program. This job brings me that much closer to becoming a social worker for children or adolescents, as I will continue to receive valuable experience in this field.

Finally, my third summer goal was to become more comfortable in unpredictable situations. I have also made serious strides in the completion of this goal. Every day at Walker, I was required to adapt to the ever-changing environment and reactions of each individual child. Even the the same child can have drastically different actions depending on the day. As a result, I became much more comfortable in an unpredictable environment, as I needed to respond to the changes in children’s behavior and needs.

I will undoubtedly be able to build off my experience at Walker during the rest of my time at Brandeis and even once I graduate. The Walker School provided me with the knowledge that will help me to do well in my classes at Brandeis. Furthermore, Walker also provided me with the skills necessary to work in the demanding mental health field. My time at Walker has begun to prepare me to become a social worker because it has given me the tools required to work toward that goal.

Even though I have completed my internship, there is still so much more I need to learn. I believe that I will never truly be done learning — every child I will ever work with will always respond differently to certain situations and I can always learn new ways to help that child to the best of my ability. Additionally, although my internship at Walker has ended, there are still many more experiences I want to take on. I can’t wait to begin working at Walker as a Child Care Worker, as my extended time there can only help me grow and assist other children as much as I can.

If people are interested in an internship at either The Walker School or in the mental health field, I would strongly suggest having a serious passion for that field. Working at Walker or in the mental health field can be very difficult as well as emotionally and physically demanding. However, if it is possible to push through the difficult times, the reward you get when you help a child who is struggling outweighs everything else.

If you would like to learn more about The Walker School, please visit this link to watch a short video describing the organization. You can also click here to read about the different programs and services offered through Walker. It’s a tremendous place and I strongly encourage you to read about it.

-Avi Cohen ’15

Threefold self-awareness: young, “white” and female.

After weeks of investigation, logistics and preparation of the methodological proposal for the study and having it approved, I finally got to the fieldwork stage – by far my favorite and what I’ve been looking forward to for so long! The goal of the study is to locate those communities that have lost their homes during hurricanes and tropical storms during the last 35 years, who have been relocated “temporarily” by the State into a refuge until their houses are rebuilt, and who have been completely neglected by the government, literally forgotten of, and still live as refugees after 5, 15 or 30 years of “waiting.”

Untitled2Most of these communities are today poverty-stricken and socially marginalized: not only have they been betrayed by our government, but have also been particular targets of the injustices of a dysfunctional and corrupt political/capitalist system. Under what conditions do they live in? What have been their mechanisms of resilience? I selected 6 different communities across the country as the investigation’s study cases, each one of them affected by a different hurricane or storm.

Up until that moment, I had spent weeks engaged solely on academic research: investigating public policies, looking up precedents, focusing on civil rights and what kinds of violations the State was committing against this population. Certainly a very important task, but a potentially inconsequential one unless you can apply it for practical uses and ground it on everyday reality.  Visiting these communities reminded me what it is that I really like: working with people.

I had to organize and conduct focus groups within these communities as well as in depth interviews with community leaders. A beautiful and enriching experience indeed. But it did not come without its obstacles. I was taken back to my sociology and anthropology courses, and to my politics research methods class. As a researcher, you must necessarily take into account the effects that your presence can have within the population you’re investigating, right? I’ll explain.

My country is overwhelmingly mulato (the genetic mix between white European colonizers and African slaves that emerged as a result of the colonial period) and has a very small black and white minority. And though I had no say over the color of skin I was born with, it inevitably (and unfortunately) plays a role in determining the social relationships around me.

As an international student studying in the USA, I am a Latina woman – a person of “color” – and as such I am subject to the prejudices it entails, like being discriminated for supposedly being a “Mexican-speaking immigrant,” though I’ve never planned to live in the USA, I am not from Mexico but rather from the Dominican Republic, and speak a language that whose actual name is Spanish.

Interestingly, this exact same color of skin is subject to the opposite kind of discrimination in my country. In the DR, I am a blanquita, a “little white girl” and often called rubia, “blonde,” regardless of my dark brown hair: I am part of a racial minority that is subsequently assigned with a deep set of stigmas and automatic socioeconomic stereotypes. But in addition, I also happen to be a woman, and I happen to be young. What does all of it matter? One might ask. The answer is, A LOT. Untitled

Even before I can say a word, my physical appearance has already spoken. The combination of these three characteristics (being white, woman and young) in a country that is culturally incredibly sexist, where racial prejudices are deeply rooted into the collective psyche and age hierarchy is very latent, proved to be a very interesting thing to deal with. As a social researcher, I was forced to be extremely self-aware of attributes outside of my control and try to counterbalance them in the best way I could. I would be frequently dismissed or distrusted – for being a young, white and female – until I could prove I didn’t necessarily fit into the common prejudices against these age, race and gender stereotypes. It was a challenge, but one that I am grateful for. Once the initial barrier was broken and they saw me for what I am beyond my physical attributes – simply another human being – the conversations and interactions were truly enriching.

In all, visiting these communities was extraordinary. Their faith, patience and overall resilience and determination to not give up in the face of adversity and injustice is simply admirable and inspiring. It is because of communities like them that keep demanding their rights that my country still has hope. And I believe they are not recognized for this as they deserve.


The massive worldwide industry of humanitarian NGO’s is more often than not afflicted with the “white-savior industrial complex,” as a 2012 article by Teju Cole so accurately describes it. As noble or well-intended their motivation might be, the world of humanitarian “aid” is focused exactly around that, aiding. Not empowerment or resilience building, but around the white-privileged rhetoric of “saving” and “helping” others, often invalidating or not even recognizing their political and social agency. NGO’s go into the field knowing what is “best” for the communities they are “helping” and telling them how they should go about living their own lives. Rarely these programs take a pause and simply listen. Truly listen. Ask what it is they want, what it is they believe they need and how they think they can achieve it.

And due to this paternalistic and immobilizing aid-culture, people are not used to being asked what they want either – many are shocked or skeptic, with all due reason. I’ve known since I was a little girl that I want to be a humanitarian worker. But one that hopefully contributes to shattering this paternalistic cycle and helps offer an alternative, more respectful and human way of doing it. 

Midway through Interning at The Osborne Association

Interning at The Osborne Association has been an amazing experience. I can’t believe that I’m now halfway done. Everyone has opened their offices to me and helped me out so much in my short time here, which has enabled me to learn much more than I ever thought I would. Before I started my internship my goal was just to understand the financial structure of a sec. 501.C.3 organization, but I soon realized that a non-profit organization is much more than the donations and grants it needs in order to run.

After attending the Social Impact Exchange’s Symposium on Scaling Social Impact, I realized that the quality of an organization is measured by their overall impact. While listening to the speakers at the Symposium, one of the main ideas that stuck with me is that an organization must stay true to its mission and follow through on the internal commitments they have made instead of trying to adapt to grants that are available or to try to appease foundations and donors by becoming other than what they intended. It is very easy to get sidetracked by other demands, temptations and opportunities available. I’m lucky to be interning at an organization that maintains a strong inner compass and  illustrates how to secure funding and create partnerships that stay true to its own mission.

By working in the Development Department in Osborne’s Bronx office, I have seen how Osborne has been able to maintain funding from the New York’s Department of Criminal Justice Services for successful programs such as the Green Career Center, which helps individuals who are formerly incarcerated receive the tools they to secure living wage jobs, and the Court Advocacy Services, which helps keep people from having to be incarcerated through appropriate and effective alternative rehabilitation and mental health programs. I also learned a lot about social impact bonds, which have allowed The Osborne Association to run vital programs on Riker’s Island in order to reduce recidivism by an estimated ten percent.

While working in Development has shown me the importance of finding the proper funding, my work in Osborne’s Brooklyn office has shown me the importance of developing the proper partnerships. I helped create the questionnaire and chose the different tele-visiting programs out of many across the nation that the National Institute of Corrections will interview in order to report on the use of tele-visiting for families and children to visit their incarcerated loved ones.

I have seen the incredible impact that The Osborne Association has had over its 80 year existence because of the programs  it has been able to run so successfully. I personally answered letters and phone calls from people who requested help on issues ranging from keeping people from ever going prison to helping people who have been incarcerated for decades get their life together and change for the better. I continue to learn about new programs, even outside of the New York area, that I can refer people to who call and write to Osborne for help. I hope to keep growing and learning all that I can about how to make and sustain the powerful impact an organization like Osborne has.


Research Summaries from a Summer in Bhopal, India

In the following post, I try to summarize the research findings that I’ve come across during my time in Bhopal, India (and share some photos, too).  I’m currently working on a website where I will be posting this as well.  I am also considering doing a photo exhibition at Brandeis to raise awareness on the Bhopal gas tragedy that happened in 1984. Bhopal is a beautiful city, it’s unfortunate that people living here have to breathe clouds of toxic gases and drink contaminated water.
I’m also working on a short video about what social justice means to the staff, doctors and volunteers at the clinic in the face of industrial disasters.  I’ll definitely try to upload that in my next post!
Research Topics & Findings

Social Justice and Industrial Accidents

There are many different ways that large multinational corporations affect local communities in developing countries- environmentally, physically and psychologically (Labunska et al, 1999; Mitchell, 1996). Yet it is only when this global industrialization results in a catastrophic event where people’s lives and health are at risk that the world’s media and legal systems pay attention. However, such attention is often short-lived and lacks any depth of study to monitor the lasting effects on people and communities. Such is often the story with industrial accidents in the developing world- countries with lower safety measures and a greater economic need to win over a large profitable contract are both more likely to harbor an industrial accident (Mitchell, 1996) and less likely to be able to appropriately manage and deal with one. At Sambhavna Trust in Bhopal, I am looking at issues of social justice and health promotion in the context of developing countries affected by industrial accidents, and in particular, the legacy of the industrial accident in Bhopal. I am looking for a definition of social justice that looks to the future, one that aims for a just reaction and response to industrial accidents. The industrial accident in Bhopal, India and its repercussions has been termed ‘the world’s worst industrial disaster’ (Hanna et al, 2005, p.6) and provides a great starting point to explore such a definition of social justice.


Five past midnight in Bhopal

At five past midnight on 3rd December 1984 a pesticide plant in Bhopal owned by the American company Union Carbide leaked 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) into the surrounding environment (Broughton, 2005; Hanna et al, 2005; Mitchell, 1996). MIC is highly toxic and can be fatal. Short term effects on people’s health include burning in the respiratory tract and eyes, blepharospasm, breathlessness, stomach pains and vomiting. These acute symptoms can lead to death by choking, reflexogenic circulatory collapse and pulmonary pedema, as well as damaging the kidneys, liver and reproductive organs (Sriramachari, 2004). Through the night of 3rd December 1984 thousands of people died- the official number remains unknown; the Government of India declares the death toll to be at least 3800 (Broughton, 2005), while other estimations by independent organizations, NGOs and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) vary between 10,000 and 30,000 (ICJB, 2010; Eckerman, 2005). A further 100,000- 150,000 people are estimated to have permanent injuries as a result of the MIC exposure and the stillbirth rate in those affected increased by up to 300% (Eckerman, 2005). The overwhelming majority of those affected were living in bastis (local term for temporary, substandard accommodation communes) surrounding the factory, where birth records were rare and number of inhabitants unknown. Mass cremations and burials began the day after the accident. There are varying reports on the specific causes of the gas leak though it is clear that poor maintenance of the plant since it ceased production months earlier, led to the magnitude of the problem; several key safety systems were switched off under Union Carbide Corporation’s instruction, including the MIC tank refrigeration system, in order to save money (Eckerman, 2005; ICJB, 2010; Hanna et al, 2005).


Ongoing Effects

The deserted Union Carbide factory still stands, unvisited except for the occasional journalist or trespassing children since the accident. The site of the disaster was never cleared or cleaned of its toxic waste. The factory continues to omit toxic, poisonous gases from the many abandoned sheds, storerooms and solar evaporation ponds holding up to 27 tons of MIC and other gases (ICJB, 2010; Hanna et al, 2005). These chemicals have leaked into the soil, contamination the groundwater source for approximately 25,000 Bhopalis who live nearby (Bhopal Medical Appeal, 2010; ICJB, 2010). A Greenpeace study found chloroform, lead, mercury and a series of other chemicals in the breast milk of mothers living in proximity to the factory (Labunska et al, 1999). The factory and the chemicals within continue to cause death, breathing difficulties, damaged eyesight, reproductive complications, growth stunting, accelerated cancers and a range of other ailments and malformations for survivors and their children (Hanna et al, 2005).


Union Carbide’s response

Since December 1984 Union Carbide has consistently refused to identify the chemical agents that caused the accident for legal liability reasons- making effective treatment for survivors difficult (Bhopal Medical Appeal, 2010). In addition, the corporation has still not confirmed what was in the toxic cloud in December 1984 (Dhara & Dhara, 2002). There is a chance that the cloud also contained HCN (hydrogen cyanide- a more deadly gas formed when MIC reached 200 degrees Celsius) so patients were originally administered with sodium thiosulfate- a known therapy for cyanide poisoning but not for MIC exposure. Despite patients responding well to the sodium thiosulfate, Union Carbide withdrew an initial statement recommending its use when they realized the extra legal implications of cyanide poisoning (Mangla, 1989; Varma, 1989; Anderson, 1989; Dhara and Dhara, 2002). This is one of the many claimed ways Union Carbide attempted to manipulate, disguise and withhold scientific data to the disadvantage of victims (Broughton, 2005). To date no comprehensive scientific research has been funded or carried out into effective treatment for those affected by the accident in Bhopal (ICJB, 2010).

The American chairman of Union Carbide in 1984, Warren Anderson was arrested for culpable homicide just days after the disaster but paid USD 2000 in bail then fled India and has yet to return. Warren Anderson, along with other Union Carbide workers from the American contingent, continues to escape criminal charges. Major questions regarding safety, negligence, causes and clean up remain unanswered by those responsible.

The Indian Government declared itself the sole representative and legal spokesperson for the Bhopal ‘victims’ in an Act passed in 1985 (Broughton, 2005; Hanna et al, 2005). Union Carbide successfully brought the case to Indian courts, and after a five year legal battle made an out-of-court settlement payment to the government of USD 470 million (Broughton, 2005). Compensation channels were rife with corruption and incorrect data. Survivors facing chronic illnesses due to the gas leak received a maximum of USD 500 as compensation, if they were granted anything at all, which in most cases was not enough to cover the medical costs alone (Sarangi, 1995; ICJB, 2010). Outstanding criminal charges against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson regarding cleanup of the factory have ben brought to New York but never come to fruition. In February 2001, Dow Chemicals merged with Union Carbide forming the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world. Dow Chemicals (the name retained) claims not to accept any responsibility for a factory it never owned (despite paying liabilities for previous Union Carbide cases based in Texas, America) (ICJB, 2010).


Sambhavna Trust

Lying in the heart of the community of those affected by the Bhopal disaster of 1984 is the Sambhavna Trust. Just 200 meters from the abandoned union carbide factory, the Sambhavna (meaning ‘possibility’) Trust Clinic is the only facility providing free treatment to both gas and water affected persons. Since its establishment in 1996, it has provided free Western medicine, Ayurvedic and Allopathic treatments to those affected by the industrial disaster. Sambhavna also does community health outreach programs for those unable to travel to the clinic and records health data on patients to assist research studies.

Sambhavna is internationally funded by private donors and is locally managed. The clinic is also a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) and provides a key hub for people to obtain information and resources regarding the ongoing legal claims and their rights.


Social Justice in Bhopal

Talking to the victims of the disaster as well as the staff members, volunteers and doctors at Sambhavna, I am beginning to form a clear definition of what social justice means for the twenty five year long Union Carbide case in Bhopal and the health and wellbeing of those affected.



Anderson, N. (1989) Long term effects of methyl isocyanate, in Lancet, Vol.2, Issue 8662, p. 1259

Bhopal Medical Appeal, (2010) Online Updates and historical information. Accessed July 2013 from:

Broughton, E. (2005) The Bhopal Disaster and its Aftermath: A Review, in Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source, 4:6, accessed July 2013 from:

Dhara, V.R & Dhara, R. (2002) The Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal: A review of health effects, in Archives of Environmental Health, p. 391-404.

Eckerman, I. (2005) The Bhopal gas leak: Analyses of causes and consequences by three different models, in Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industry, Vol 18, p. 213-217

Hanna, B; Morehouse, M & Sarangi, S. (2005) The Bhopal Reader, New York, The Apex Press

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), (2010), Online updates and historical information. Accessed July 2010 from


– Alina Pokhrel ’15

One tick, two tick, three tick…Lyme!

Hi all,

I must say it’s been quite a busy summer. Almost all my time has been divided between fieldwork, reading journal articles and writing research proposals. I still find it amazing that I have actually met or indirectly know a majority of the scientists that wrote these articles.  The articles have been very helpful in getting a background in tick based research and different lab methods I could use for analyzing the ticks after I have finished collecting them in early August.

I must apologize though; I realized I never explained how we actually collect ticks during my last post. It is actually a pretty simple method; once all of the equipment is made it take only five steps to collect ticks. First, you take the flannel flag (A) and drag it behind you as you walk through the forest for 30 seconds. This time equates for approximately 15 meters. Once this is completed, you hold onto the upper corner of the flag to avoid getting any ticks on you. While holding the flag, you scan both sides and count all of the ticks on the flag; this is critical since it is more important to get a tick count than actually collecting the ticks. For the third step, you take the very fine tip tweezers (B), be careful not to poke yourself…it hurts, and you take each tick off and place it into a humidified vial (C). Next you record the total number of ticks collected during that sweep on an index card. After you have completed this process 25 times, you put a fine mesh (D) to allow airflow into the vials while being stored in a refrigerator.  It’s really incredible, using this technique over the last two months Professor Olson and I have collected over 1,100 ticks!


While I have had to deal with countless mosquito bites and fortunately only one tick bite, the real challenge has been learning how to apply the knowledge from my readings to writing memos. Through this summer I have had to write a memo to the Town of Weston describing the general concept behind the research. While this memo was easy to write, I really had to work on making a comprehensive research proposal/memo for the Town of Dover’s Lyme Disease Committee. Professor Olson and I have been working to create another long-term project that utilizes deer exclosures to analyze the effects of the absence of deer in an area. While this project started with an exclosure that was maybe 30 square meters, over the last few weeks it has expanded to potentially have several 5 acres exclosures. It has been both fascinating and rewarding seeing how this project has expanded and changed over the last few weeks.

Through this experience I have refined my ability to justify research while gaining support for it. This will be invaluable in the future since I will need to prepare many research proposals.


I hope everyone’s summer is going well,

– Adam Krebs ’14

Interning at The Osborne Association

One of the largest problems that has plagued the United States for decades is the extraordinarily high rate of incarceration. The Osborne Association, an 80-year old criminal justice non-profit located in New York State, works to address this issue with an abundance of innovative programming that effectively reduces America’s reliance on incarceration and aids those formerly incarcerated to be productive citizens and family members. Although I have worked with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people since I was in elementary school, my internship at Osborne has exposed me to completely new ideas and approaches and has been very engaging. As a result of the discussions I had with my supervisors before my internship began, they have focused on ensuring that I would learn about how the organization is able to run smoothly and be so influential by working in Osborne’s Development and the Children and Youth Services departments.

Luckily for me, I was able to begin my internship with Osborne’s major fundraising event, which is called Lighting the Way. Lighting the Way displays Osborne’s incredible dedication and achievements with speeches and videos showing the power that people can have when they care about helping others and making their communities better places to live. In additional, about a week before Lighting the Way, I was surprised to find out that one of the members of The Osborne Association’s Board of Directors is related to a strong supporter of the WOW grants. This added to my feeling of connectedness to Osborne and their mission. Lighting the Way became the foundation of my internship because it showed the immeasurable impact that The Osborne Association’s innovative programs and crucial services have on New York and even across the United States.

For my internship I work in Osborne’s Bronx office on Mondays and Tuesdays and in their Brooklyn office on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In the Bronx office I have been focusing on development and fundraising. I am working closely with the Communications Director and the grants writing staff to better the website, attend critical meetings, and catalog the wide ranging publications that are vital for expanding various programs and services. So far, I have examined because The Osborne Association is one of the S&I 100.  I participated in a phone meeting about Sesame Street’s new initiative highlighting the issue of parental incarceration to discuss the initiative ( and Liz Gaynes, Osborne’s Executive Director, being selected as one of only eleven White House Champions of Change for Children of Incarcerted Parents (, and I went through the majority of the publications that have been in circulation for the past two years. I have been really lucky in my timing because these are all major developments that impact incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and children across the nation.

In the Brooklyn office I have been focusing on training to answer Osborne’s Family Resource Center hotline and answer mail from incarcerated people across New York state.  I also conduct research for a training manual that Osborne has been contracted to prepare by the National Institute of Corrections for “televisiting”, a program that is sweeping the nation.  The phone calls and mail have made me very sympathetic to the pain that families, especially children, go through because of the stigma and shame that is associated with incarcerated family members. This has pushed me to do what I can in order to ensure that the growth of televisiting will not be used to replace in person visits to jails and prisons but rather as a helpful supplement to keep those incarcerated connected to their loved ones. People are not aware of the devastating trend in jails across the America to get rid of visitation and only allow virtual visits, which will only lead to more issues for families impacted by incarceration and especially for their children. There are over 2.1 million people behind bars in the United States and 1 in every 28 children has a parent behind bars. This number is much higher for African American and Latino children. It is necessary to provide these children and their families with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, including access to their parents who they love.

Osborne Association

A Summer in the Beltway Half Way Done

As my fourth week interning at the Coalition on Human Needs comes to an end, I am pleased to report that my summer in Washington, D.C. has been informative both inside and outside of the office.
While I am proud to see each week’s Sequester Impact Report that I have written posted on the CHN website, what I am most enthusiastic about is the active role I have played in the office. Each week, my supervisor, Danica, and I meet to touch base on the status of my assignments. We also discuss potential projects and ideas. Last week, Danica and I spoke about the possibility of creating a CHN Blog. In order to attract writers for the blog and to underline – and not undermine – the central mission of the coalition, however, we must creatively pinpoint a precise theme and purpose for the blog. Danica and I brainstormed possibilities and ultimately agreed that the blog should serve as a tool for individuals not involved directly in human needs advocacy to help the efforts of CHN. In order for the blog to appeal to this crowd, an informal writing style for the blog entries may be best. However, this more casual approach deviates from the standard formal writing style of the text that CHN publishes and disseminates. We plan to begin working on the blog once Debbie Weinstein, the Executive Director of CHN, approves the proposal Danica is now working on. I am eager to begin the CHN Blog project, but I am excited also about the process through which we defined the potential blog’s purpose. Rather than Danica’s telling me what the blog would entail, she involved me in the decision process.
It is through brainstorming and interaction that I have learned the most during my time at CHN. While I understood the fundamental objectives and basic infrastructure of CHN when I began my internship in June, it was not until I spoke with staff members directly that I fully recognized the fluidity of the office’s day-to-day nature. While each staff member has a distinct title, collaboration is essential in their work. After speaking separately with both Richelle Friedman, the Director of Public Policy, and Angie Evans, the Director of Outreach and Field Activity (, the overlap in the staff members’ responsibilities became more visible to me.
While a considerable amount of my learning has stemmed from direct interaction with the CHN staff, another portion has been independent. When I compile articles for the weekly Sequester Impact Reports (, I am able to do a lot of reading. Of course, I read the articles relating to sequestration cuts, but I also read articles tangentially related to the cuts and on the current hot policy issues. Not only have I learned more about the policy issues (immigration, food and nutrition, minimum wage), but I have been able to see the unique overlap of these issues that makes the collaboration of the coalition’s member organizations so natural.
I am also doing a lot of writing, which was one of my main priorities when outlining my goals for the summer. I believe that the most important way to improve one’s writing is to write, for practice makes writing more succinct and natural. My long term project is to write an article about student loans for the Human Needs Report, CHN’s newsletter, which will be published on July 22. Because my work involves interaction with staff members and writing, I am honing my communicative and writing skills considerably.
It is difficult to monitor my growth quantitatively, but I do know for sure that I am learning. I feel that the world of non-profit advocacy has become clearer for me. In addition, I am coming to see both the basic and complex connections among policy issues.

– Zoe Richman ’15

Update on my Summer at Responsible Wealth: Communication Edition

The Great Gatsby Curve: Part or an info-graphic produced by the White House showing how greater economic inequality leads to less generational mobility, or in different rhetorical terms, less ability to achieve the American Dream
A great graphic I came across in my search for something to tweet: The Great Gatsby Curve. It is part of an info-graphic produced by the White House showing how greater economic inequality correlates with less generational mobility, or in different rhetorical terms, less ability to achieve the American Dream.

So, how does Twitter work? That is one of the biggest logistical questions I have been trying to answer up until the midpoint of my summer internship at the Responsible Wealth project of United for a Fair Economy. You would think that being from this generation of twenty somethings, I would already have a firm grasp of the Social Media platform and how to best utilize it to communicate a specific message.  To be honest, I had not used it until this summer. Now look at me. I am actually in charge of manning the Responsible Wealth Twitter and Facebook pages. Aside from just learning how to  utilize this mode of communication, I am gaining an important skill: the ability to communicate a message (in this case the message of Responsible Wealth) in a relevant, concise, and intriguing manner that keeps my audience (that’s you!) in mind. I have started asking myself: What does my audience already know? What topics that our organization addresses would they be interested to learn more about? How can I present it in a way that will grab their attention, and, most importantly, get them to ACT?, etc. One of the best examples I can give of a source of information that I shared via social media that I knew would be

What I am most proud of: increasing the reach of our social media pages. Facebook created this handy graph for me to show you  this increase visually. I took over the Facebook page when the "reach" line starts increasing, around July 1st.
What I am most proud of: increasing the reach of our social media pages. Facebook created this handy graph for me to show you this increase visually. I took over the Facebook page when the “reach” line starts increasing, around July 1st.

interesting, attention grabbing, and informative is the site. If you have any interest in learning (interactively) about economic inequality in this country and how we can fix it, I highly recommend this site. This ability to communicate your message and to get more people strongly engaged in your work is a highly transferable skill, as any company or organization has a message or information that they want to share with their base – and usually in a way that will get them to respond. The increase in our organization’s social media outreach is probably what I am most proud of at my internship right now. This is partially because it is an accomplishment I can see numerically (e.g. number of followers) and also because it means that people are interested in the information I am sharing I am sharing on behalf of the organization.

Additionally, in my constant search for articles and information to share I am gaining a wealth of information about various aspects of inequality, including racial, gender, and economic inequality, and how to address them, which are core learning goals I set for this internship. I can measure how I am progressing in this goal through how much I find myself able to discuss these topics with others at my internship who have more experience in them, as well as with my friends who come from various different academic and experiential backgrounds. I have found that I am better able to take the concepts from what I have learned academically at Brandeis to apply them to these real world issues. Most importantly, I now have a better understanding of how to combine academics with experience to work to fix problems that I see in the real world.  This involves my other learning goal of understanding “how to use the knowledge I have gained from my majors in International and Global studies (IGS) and Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) as well as my minor in Economics to work for social justice, locally and globally.”

Social Media isn’t the only type of communication that I have gained experience in this summer. I have also been calling members of Responsible Wealth to update their contact information and find out more about their interests and how they could best participate in Responsible Wealth. This can sometimes be more intimidating than anonymously posting things online, but this more personal form of communication is also an important transferable skill to any job.  Engaging people directly is an essential part of building support for your organization.

The Budget for All rally outside the MA State House
The Budget for All rally outside the MA State House

One final thing I would like to add to this post is that I had the opportunity to attend the Budget for All rally and hearing at the Massachusetts State House on July 10th, where many supporters of the budget resolution – which passed in all 91 MA towns where it was on the ballot – spoke in favor of the resolution’s proposal to redistribute the federal budget by putting less emphasis on the military and more on social issues like education. These supporters included several elected officials and a member of United for a Fair Economy, Steve Schnapp. It was a 4-hour long hearing, during which I took in a lot of information and learned more about how to get issues you care passionately about to be discussed and changed at the state and federal level. And that is the key: to have measurable success in directing more funding toward social issues we need to be heard clearly and repeatedly by policy makers in both Boston and Washington D.C.

Graphic Credit: Vandivier, David. Jan 11, 2013. What is the Great Gatsby Curve? The White House Blog.


Saying Goodbye to the Women’s Center for Wellness

Although it seems as though my first day as an intern was just yesterday, in reality I have already completed 9 weeks at Women’s Center for Wellness! It is truly unreal to think about how quickly my time here flew by. On my first day, I was very shy and somewhat overwhelmed by the new environment. In fact, it seemed as though everyone was speaking another language – there were so many medical terms and abbreviations flying around that I had to wonder how I would ever understand what was going on around me.  Well, as it turned out, my wonderful mentors soon helped me learn all about breast health, anatomy, and the systems in place that ensure women get the best care possible. To me, this was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship; I am glad that I was able to learn so much about women’s health in such a short time. For example, I learned how to read the radiologist’s reports and decipher the corresponding BI-RADS codes to gain valuable insight into a patient’s case. I also feel as though I’ve learned how to quickly make a connection with a patient, so that they have a pleasant experience getting their mammogram. Because so many patients dread going in to see a doctor, I think learning how to provide the best personal experience possible will serve me well in my future as a medical professional.

This experience has taught me so much, and I hope to use my new knowledge to educate people about the misconceptions surrounding breast health, anatomy, and mammograms. It turns out that there is a lot of misinformation or questionable information surrounding these topics. With my first-hand experience, perhaps I can take an active role in Brandeis’s student activities by joining a club that can help me spread awareness.

Now that I have learned so much in this field, I would really like to continue working in women’s health. Although my time at Women’s Center for Wellness taught me a lot, I’m sure I have much more to learn. For example, I would love to learn more about how radiologists spot worrisome inconsistencies on patient’s mammograms, especially when the area of interest may be no more than a pinprick in size. It constantly amazes me that they can save someone’s life simply by looking very closely at an image. I am also eager to begin researching a related topic that has piqued my interest. I was recently informed that in 2009 the United States Preventative Task Force issued a statement claiming women should begin getting their yearly mammograms at age 50, not 40. There has been much disagreement and criticism surrounding this statement, and it has caused a decline in women under 50 getting mammograms. Unfortunately, Connecticut has the second highest rate of breast cancer in the country, so this relatively new statement may be hurting women who are walking around with undiagnosed breast cancer. This fall, I plan on performing in-depth research on this issue, and I’m sure I will learn even more about breast health in the process.

If I were to give a student seeking an internship at this organization any advice, I would tell them to be open to and actively seek out new perspectives and opportunities. I think my experience was enhanced by the fact that I tried to get to know as many people in my organization as possible, regardless of occupation. I quickly found that every position, no matter how far out of my range of interests it seemed at first, helped me develop a better idea of how a medical organization functions, what problems it encounters, and what solutions are sought. This is information that can help anyone in the medical field be a better, more valuable worker regardless of the area of specialization. Furthermore, anyone working in this field must always remember that the focus is on the patient, and therefore it is important to be as kind, compassionate, and smiling as possible. I believe that this advice can really be applied to any facility in the industry. No matter how you happen to be feeling that day, someone is relying on you to make their experience pleasant! A positive attitude is truly a great asset in this field, and I think I did a good job of conveying my positive attitude as an intern. While I am sad to be leaving the Women’s Center so soon, I feel proud to have met so many amazing people and am glad that I have had a lasting impact on them, as well!

End of Internship

This has been a whirlwind of a summer, and I can’t believe it’s come to an end.  Working at PCDC has challenged me to think about my life, my goals, and social justice in new ways, some of which has been useful and some of which has been frustrating for me.  The useful aspects have been gaining a broader understanding of what early intervention is and what services are available to the disadvantaged population I’m hoping to working with in the future.  I also have spoken with many people at the agency about what graduate degrees I should earn in order to get where I want to be in my career; something I had been struggling with greatly before this summer.  It has additionally been useful to have been researching the federal regulations relating to early childhood education and care and investigating how PCDC has complied with these regulations as I now have a better sense of why daycares do things certain ways.  Lastly, I’ve gotten a lot of experience working in PROMIS, the database that is used in many similar agencies.

There have also been some very frustrating challenges, such as trying to understand my contributions to social justice.  I had always felt that I needed to be working directly with children in order to make a difference, but working with my supervisor and talking to the director of the program has convinced me otherwise.  While I still aim to work directly with children as that’s what I find most fulfilling, I am working through whether I should focus more on policy since I could make more of a widespread difference that way.

I think these conflicting ideas will challenge me throughout my life, and I can’t imagine a better place to grapple with the issues surrounding social justice than Brandeis.  When I get back in the fall I will certainly be seeking out opportunities to contend with the conflicting concept of how best to apply myself to bettering children’s lives.   I would like to continue my research in relation to the available services and find or create a niche that is both enjoyable and fulfilling for me.

I am not sure how to advise other students interested in this field, as I am still grappling with a lot of it myself.  I suggest that you really deeply investigate what it is you are looking for and pursue a job that fulfills your requirements while at the same time understanding that it will more likely than not take several steps to get there.  I myself had thought I wanted something specific and, while I was on the right track, have certainly changed my mind and clarified many things.  If you are pursuing an internship or job specifically at Community Action, I suggest that you contact my supervisor directly, and you are welcome to email me to get her specific information.

It has been a summer full of highs and lows, but overall I am very glad I had the opportunity to work in this agency and would do it again if I had the chance.  I am eternally grateful for the respect and trust bestowed upon me, as it gave me a really gracious entrance into the professional office world.

Avital Sokolow Silverman ’14


Taking Little Big Steps Forward (and Sideways and Diagonally)

“Teachah! Teachah! Teachah!” The mob of children shouted as they ran towards our car, arms outstretched and faces beaming. It’s a sight that I’ve grown used to in the past few weeks, but one that never fails to stir up the wild flutter in my stomach and chest. The car slows down and the children press their faces up to the window, still chanting and peering in, impatiently waiting for me to get out. Just like every other morning, I’m amazed by how something so routine could still be so exciting and new as I step out of the car and return the embraces from the dozens of tiny, dusty hands that cover me.

In the past few weeks, we’ve established a regular morning routine: set up the chairs, take attendance, stretch, pray, review the alphabet, and then review all our other basics—colors, shapes, opposites, the five senses, days of the week, and body parts. Afterwards, we separate into groups and dive into the lesson plan that I’d labored over and meticulously thought out the day before for the next three hours until school is out. Despite the overwhelming amount of brainpower and physical labor required every day to prepare for the next, I’ve felt nothing but pure ecstasy (maybe except for the occasional back pains and hand cramps). As cliché as it sounds, all my work so far has felt like a labor of love. The physical strain from writing the alphabet 35 times and hand-making dozens of worksheets pales in comparison to seeing the vibrant smiles on my kids’ faces as they learn more every day. At this point of the internship, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on things; I’ve divided my class into four groups based on their writing, reading, and math abilities and we are making good progress in establishing our learning foundations.

Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.
Group 1 doing a shape and alphabet exercise in their workbooks.


I absolutely love everything about this internship, but it’s definitely not what I had expected. The mountains of hypothetical and academic preparation I did before coming to Namibia seemed all but to fly out the window as I had to hit the ground running as soon as I got settled. Coming to Tui Ni Duse four days a week for a month has made this internship feel like my actual job—and it feels great! I find myself thinking about Tui Ni Duse 24/7—even in my dreams! Constantly, I’m thinking about what I can do with the kids or how I can teach something in a different way so they can understand better. I even wake up in the middle of the night from dreaming about teaching the kids because of a sudden teacher’s epiphany! I know that a lot of it is from adrenaline because I can sleep as little as three hours to make more time for prep work and not feel tired the next day, but I also feel that the challenges of handling a large class alone has pushed me to improve my time management and multi-tasking skills as well as become more pro-active, responsible, and creative. Although I am not strictly following the plan I had laid out for myself before this trip, the literature I read and my anthropological training has definitely come in handy.

Going over our alphabet!
Going over our alphabet!
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity
Group 3 working on an alphabet activity

I am currently planning a parents’ day event when the parents can come and see what their children are capable of doing. I got the idea after visiting the home of a student who decided he didn’t want to come to school anymore. When I met his mother, I took out his notebook to show her the things he had been working on in school and what a good student he was. As she pored over the pages with amazement and pride, I realized that she had never seen any of her son’s schoolwork! Hopefully, this parents’ day will give parents something to be proud of, boost parent support of sending children to school, and shine a light on the benefits of education.

– Brontte Hwang ’14

Concluding Thoughts

As my internship comes to a close, I really cannot believe that it is over. This was by far one of the best internship experiences that I have had. This summer gave me the opportunity to take all my past academic and work experiences and blend them into the career that worked for me.

Toward the middle to end of my internship I really learned about the art of blogging with Word Press. I scanned the internet for up and coming innovations in the sustainability world and wrote about them for LAGI’s blog. This was a really wonderful opportunity for me to see the new amazing inventions coming from engineers, artists, and architects and I loved being all the more educated about this business. My blogs have since been published to the internet and can be found here.

My dedication to LAGI’s Twitter and Facebook accounts had an overall large impact and increase in LAGI’s social media reach. During the first week of my internship LAGI had around 450 Twitter followers—they currently now have 668 followers (that’s over 215 followers added!) and the Facebook likes went from about 1,100 to 1,219 (over 115 added!). As someone who didn’t even have a Twitter account about a year ago, I cannot believe how much I adapted to the platform—it  has become very intuitive—and I also learned so much more about the importance and impact of social media from my experience at LAGI.

During the denouement of my internship, me and my supervisor discussed the future of LAGI in the form of a 3-year plan. We brainstormed what LAGI would need to satisfy to bring its major projects for the near future into fruition. I couldn’t believe how much LAGI had to juggle in the coming 3 years: my supervisor already knew the locations of LAGI’s future sustainability competitions, and my supervisor is already flying to Copenhagen for LAGI’s 2014 competition in the fall. They also had a handful of local projects going on, including ongoing collaborations with both national and Pittsburgh-based artists to revitalize low income urban towns. It was a privilege for me to see the planning and components that go into the progression of an organization—and it taught me how important it is to be organized and to stay on top of the game at all times in order to not only manifest one’s own goals, but to maintain positive professional relationships with business partners (this last component can make or break a project–in most cases).

Image courtesy of LAGI at

If I were to pick a major lesson that this summer’s internship taught me, it would be to never sacrifice your dreams just because you, or others around you, may think it’s not feasible to pursue your chosen field. This could be from the job’s societal stereotype/prestige, the starting salary it yields, and so on. My supervisor told me that most people start non-profits because they love the work they do—money is not the initial motivation to begin non-profit work. And to be honest, the supervisor that I had this summer was the happiest and most motivated supervisor that I have ever worked for. It is hard sometimes to defy the wants of others in order to pursue your own dream, but I really believe that if one is willing to put in some extra effort or time, the sense of satisfaction that it gives is worth it in the end.

I really did not want to leave my internship, it so resonated with my career interests and I knew that I wanted to pursue this field in my present and future. That’s why I was thrilled when my supervisor offered that I could help her with the planning of a major project happening next summer throughout the year, meaning that I could still be connected to this world of work even though I would be in a different state. This really makes me grateful for the internet—I can’t imagine correspondence without it!

I am so happy that this will be the field I pursue–both academically (through Brandeis’ IGS and Environmental Studies programs) and work-related through my internships and employment opportunities. It makes me very excited as I anticipate a very rewarding future ahead!

I want to thank my supervisors, Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry, for offering their guidance, wisdom, and this wonderful internship experience.

I also want to thank the Hiatt Career Center, and the WOW Program, for giving me consistent assistance if I had questions, for providing me the funding to pursue this opportunity, and for adding the enriching component of an online blog so I could organize my insights and see the fruition of my peers’.

Thank you very much! I wish everyone a wonderful, and productive, remainder to their internship experiences!

sustainable landscapes


–Karrah Beck ’15

Advocating for Consumers’ Rights in D.C.


6902b65b-c868-451b-a632-a193ded88049_zpsc3544296It has already been seven weeks since I first began my internship with the National Consumers League (NCL). It amazes me how much I have grown as a consumer and consumer advocate during this short period of time. During my first week, I was excited, nervous, and intrigued simply by meeting professionals who have made differences by advocating for consumers in major issues throughout the nation. I was proud to be working for the League in which Eleanor Roosevelt had been Vice President and for the organization that protected women’s rights in the famous Muller v. Oregon case. Now, I am also impressed by the extensive research and advocacy work I have taken part in throughout my internship. Every research project assigned to me has been a new and exciting learning experience. The research has not only allowed me to educate the average consumer about issues but also educate myself. I have definitely become a much more informed consumer, who is able to advise other consumers on issues including radio fraud, airline fee gouging, youth magazine traveling sales, billing aggregators, prepaid card use, and credit card fraud against charities. The NCL has given me the great opportunity to contribute to the fight against these practices that hurt consumers directly and indirectly.

Since my first week at the NCL, I have achieved my initial learning goals to learn how a non-profit functions and how NCL protects consumers’ rights. I have also learned how to execute an effective and meaningful research project. My research project on radio fraud has significantly allowed me to understand how to analyze an issue and carefully make conclusions. The radio fraud research project was intended to analyze whether certain radio advertisements were misleading, potentially misleading, or legitimate. While listening to the radio advertisements, it was important for me to carefully note what the companies were exactly advertising and what services they were clearly offering. Afterwards, I went on their official websites and compared the programs they offered online with what they were saying on the radio advertisements. I also read through the numerous pages of complaints reported to the Better Business Bureau and reviews that evaluated consumers’ experiences with the company. Although some radio advertisements may seem legitimate to the average consumer, some of them may be misleading. An advertisement that offers a free cruise may claim to be selective and completely free of any charges, but some consumers have reported that they were billed for extra programs they never signed up for or authorized. Consumers also had to pay additional hidden fees on board and attend long presentations, all of which were not explained in the advertisement. After carefully investigating into several radio advertisements, I wrote detailed reports that included my evaluation of the advertisement supported by consumer complaints. I expect that the reports will be useful during roundtable discussions and advocacy work related to radio fraud in the near future. After researching about radio fraud, I have become very cautious about misleading radio advertisements and compelled to warn consumers about potential scams. 

One of the most memorable experiences I have had so far at NCL is striking against wage theft and companies’ use of pre-paid cards as the default payment method at the Ronald Reagan Building. Fellow interns and I supported low wage workers as they voiced their anger against prepaid cards that are associated with high fees for ATM withdrawals, PIN transactions, balance confirmations, customer service, and inactivity.  Before participating in the strike, I had done initial research about prepaid cards. Directly hearing workers’ calls for fair wages and respect was an incredible and influential encounter. I witnessed low-wage workers explaining that pre-paid cards only drive them further into poverty. In the second strike, one woman explained how she was illegally paid less than the minimum wage and had to pay additional pre-paid card fees, but was expected to support herself and her children. While I realized that I must learn how to further advocate for their rights, I also felt proud of my work at the moment. The employees that I shared brief conversations with showed their appreciation for our support with warm smiles. Following the strikes, we released a press release praising New York’s Attorney General for launching an investigation into retail practices. We hope other states will follow and protect the rights of low-wage workers.


The unique experiences at NCL, such as meeting the former Surgeon General at the NCL’s Script Your Future Campaign event, combined with the short-term and long-term research work will help me to effectively advocate for consumers’ rights on campus. By utilizing the step-by-step process of organizing and promoting events and campaigns, I hope to organize campus events that will be engaging, inspiring, and informative. I will use the knowledge I have acquired at the NCL through research and first-hand experiences to effectively communicate with students, professors, and outside resources as I serve as the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Politics, Legal Studies, and East Asian Studies this Fall semester. Before I head back to school, I look forward to learning and impacting more throughout the last few weeks with the NCL team.

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL's Script Your Future Event
Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin speaking at NCL’s Script Your Future Event