Ate Logo Timor

My summer in Timor has come to an end.  I am happy to say that during my time at the Bairo Pite Clinic I did meet most of my learning goals.  I’ve talked in my previous posts about the DTS program and how rewarding it has been to see how a program is implemented almost from the very beginning.  I’m ecstatic to say that the program is up and running and is already reaping the rewards of all the hard work staff at the clinic have put into it.

The other facet of my internship at the BPC that helped me meet my learning goals, which I haven’t spoken about yet, is the clinical side of my experience.  Though I’ve always been interested in medicine and health care in general, I’ve never been certain about whether or not I want to actually practice medicine.  One of my hopes for this summer was that my time at the clinic would inform my future career choice and I am happy to say that it has done just that.   This summer I observed a number of fantastic doctors as well as medical students at work.  It’s admirable how dedicated they all are to trying to deliver the best care they can despite all the obvious obstacles they have to overcome on a day to day basis.  I learned a lot about the compassion and patience needed in order to be a good physician which I’m sure is a constant no matter what setting you’re in (developed vs developing country for example).  However, I also learned a lot about practicing medicine in a developing country where every step of obtaining health care is more challenging than it would be here in the United States. For example, the difficulty begins with accessing care in the first place, to obtaining a diagnosis, to actually having the resources to treat a condition once it has been diagnosed, to then completing treatment obtained.  I’ve seen and experienced myself how frustrating it is to have to fight for your patient to get an x-ray or a CT scan and to fail or to not be able to help a patient who is in such terrible condition because he/she did not have adequate access to care to begin with.  There were instances where it didn’t matter how much we wanted to help, we simply could not.  In the end you just do the best you can, which is what I saw the physicians and med students do at the clinic.

After this experience, I am more determined than ever to do the best I can in my studies in order to achieve my career goals and also to help PP1 grow and develop as a club.  After this internship I feel I want to gain more experience both in clinical medicine in the U.S and in other developing countries.  Perhaps I’ll look for an internship at a hospital or clinic and apply for health-related programs abroad for my upcoming gap year.  For anyone who may go to Timor to work in health care I would advise they pay close attention to the national health system there and why it is exactly that Timor is struggling with such low health outcomes in many different areas of health.  I think anyone in this field should at least consider an experience abroad that will help broaden your perspective of health care and help learn what makes one system more efficient than another.

All in all, my concept of social justice as it pertains to health care equity has been strongly reinforced.  We know health disparities are present within the U.S and other developed nations but they are less striking (though not less important) compared to global health disparities   I think that the most important thing to keep in mind in order to address this issue is that no life is more important than another.  As long as you believe that some people deserve better care than others, health disparities will continue to prevail.

This, is a short documentary filmed during my time at the clinic.  It does not adequately represent all of the work done at the clinic or go too much into the struggles within the Timorese health system as a whole but it does give an idea of some of the cases the BPC encounters.

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Receiving my farewell Tai from Dr. Dan
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One last picture of the clinic

Expectations and Anticipation: Goals for My Internship at AVODAH

Hi everyone!

I hope your summers have been treating you well! Recently I have begun to work at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, interning in for the director of Alumni and Community Engagement. Before I get too far into my experience this summer, it is best I outline my thoughts and goals going into this new workplace.

First of all, this is my first internship lasting over a month, and I am most looking forward to having the time and opportunity to become better acquainted with my work environment, including all of the people I will meet of the duration of the internship. I likewise hope to learn a lot about non-profit management, office culture, and work ethic from my co-workers and mentors.

Even further than that, I would venture to say, I am determined to also better understand the work of the organization as a whole. AVODAH has two programs running currently: the Service Corps and the Fellowship. The Service Corps is a post-college gap year program in which young Jewish adults engage in serious antipoverty work in four US cities. While working for separate organizations, the Corps members live together and learn about the Jewish ethical motivations for pursuing social justice. The Fellowship has brought in crowd of Jewish adults based in New York who are already working for antipoverty organizations and gives them the opportunity to get to know one another and similarly learn about social justice through a Jewish lens. I anticipate having the opportunity to meet some of these incredible AVODAH participants (which you’ll hear more about below). Through my department and daily tasks, I am interested in learning about the paths alumni take following completion of the program, and how much they bring their work into their adult lives and Jewish experiences. So far, I have done a lot of data organization to better reach our alumni.

The first exciting event to take place since I have started was the launch and success of the 48-hour flash-fundraising online #BeGenerous campaign. The idea was to ask alumni to be actively involved in funding alumni programming. In just that short period of time, the goal of reaching $10,000 was met, to our elation. Now we’re up to the “Thank You” notes for everyone’s tremendous efforts!

During my first week I had two very unique experiences that had me jump right into the work at hand. The first of which was an assignment to create a logic model for alumni programming, which will be included in a grant application in the near future. In the process of creating the chart, I had to outline the purposes and goals of the alumni network, as well as project statistics of what could be considered successful outcomes with respect to the goals. After only one full work day I had a pretty good idea of scope and aims of the program; namely to encourage alumni to get to know one another and bring the larger Jewish community into the world of antipoverty work and community organizing from a Jewish lens.

The second of these instances was on my third day, when I had the opportunity to go to an evening program for the Service Corps and Fellows, discussing faith-based community organizing. My supervisor and a representative of the Micah Institute facilitated a conversation regarding their own experiences in the Jewish and Christian communities, respectively, and addressed the questions of the audience. After the panel, I joined the smaller group discussions, focused how each of the participants planned on bring social justice and antipoverty work into the Jewish community. The diversity in Jewish background added much nuance to each of our answers, and I was honored to have the opportunity to get to know the corps members and fellows who were in my group. This was also valuable to my understanding of what the outgoing participants would like to see from AVODAH after completion of the program, and how we can better equip them to be leaders and teachers in the Jewish community who move their peers and constituents to work to alleviate the causes and effects of poverty in the US.

My supervisor claims that the most pressing question in the world of community organizing is “what keeps you up at night?” This, she believes, is the ultimate way to tap into the motivations and energies of a social justice activist. I’ll be honest and say that at this point, unlike many of the AVODAH participants, I don’t know enough about the causes and effects of poverty in the US for that to be what currently “keeps me up at night.” I would like for that to change, as I am learning more about the facts on the ground and the work that can be done to improve the situation in the United States.

I look forward to sharing more with you later this summer! Enjoy, and keep your eye out for my next post!

 

– Hannah Kober ’16

 

 

ioby Recap

After finishing my internship I feel a distinct sense of accomplishment in more ways than I imagined. As I have written in previous blogs, I have learned so much that I can take back to the class room. At Brandeis I have created an IIM around Urban Studies. Over the course of my internship I conducted over 40 interviews of community leaders that have used ioby to help create the change they want in their own neighborhoods. These interviews have given me insight into what needs community members have from their community. It also has shown me many different ways that people go about ensuring that their neighborhoods are healthy and vibrant. I have saved all of the research that I have done and may use it for a project some time this year.

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While I did expect to have an enriching academic experience, I also got to meet and work with talented and passionate people. It was really awesome working directly underneath the co-founders of the organization because I not only learned how the organization functions in the present but I also learned about how the organization has changed and grown. These relationships will definitely help me as I enter into the workforce.

I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone that is interested. While it was not a very established program like other internship opportunities, It did allow me to get real hands on experience. As a senior this internship has given me a better idea of what working a 9-5. It has also helped me narrow down what I want to be getting from a job that I might take after this school year. I think that it was really helpful to have personal interaction with the leaders of the organization. If anyone is looking into working for ioby I would recommend investing in relationships with the co-founders. They were not only hardworking but also very willing to talk about their experience. We discussed topics ranging from grad school to the process of starting a non-profit.

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I am so grateful that I have had this important opportunity. It has not only taught me so much but also made me feel productive throughout the summer. I hope to find a job next year that will be as rewarding as working for ioby this summer.

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Josh Berman ’15

Bridging my experience at Project Healthcare with my career path

 

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Project Healthcare volunteers bid farewell to Bellevue Hospital Center

As a project healthcare (PHC) volunteer, about 90 percent of my time was spent in the Emergency Department (ED), which consists of the Adult Emergency Services, the Pediatric Emergency Services, Psychiatric Emergency Services, Urgent Care, and the Emergency Ward or the Trauma ICU. In the ED, my responsibilities included, but were not limited to, doing EKGs, making stretchers, transporting patients, and being a patient advocate, which included making phone calls on behalf of patients and monitoring length of patient stay. I also had the incredible opportunity to observe surgeries in the OR and shadow doctors with various specialties. With the endless opportunities to learn and an unparallel experience for someone who wants to go into the medical field, I not only reached the goals I set for myself at the inception of PHC, but also surpass those goals and grow in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

In shadowing doctors ranging from neurologists, gynecologists, surgeons, internists, and many more, I achieved my career goal of learning the ins and outs of daily hospital operations and the day-to-day life of being a doctor. In observing procedures including lumbar punctures, sutures, a craniotomy, etc, I achieved my academic goal of paralleling my experience with courses I’ve taken or will take at Brandeis. Learning about the anatomy of the human body or the physiological ways in which parts of the body function is one thing, but actually witnessing doctors using this knowledge to save lives is something completely different.

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I and other PHC interns in front of the historic Bellevue Hospital gates

When I set my final goal, my personal goal, at the beginning of the program, I couldn’t have predicted how far I’d transcend that goal by simply being in the ED and interacting with patients. My personal goal was to improve my day-to-day interactions with people regardless of their mental health or medical status. With Bellevue’s diverse patient population ranging from homeless people and prisoners to people from all socio-economic backgrounds, I learned to become effective in communicating mainly by being attentive and learning how to listen without being dismissive of people’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. In retrospect, when I think about how, towards the end of PHC, I could simply walk into the ED and deduce from a look on a patient’s face, what his or her pain and/or comfort level was and help them get a nurse’s attention, I now know that I helped to make patients’ experience in the ED more pleasant.

My next steps, after PHC, are to continue to build on the skills I’ve developed and continue to stay on the path to becoming a physician. At Brandeis University, I will continue to take classes that will not only fulfill the pre-med requirements I need to complete before applying to medical school, but also give me more of an in-depth explanation and a comprehensive understanding of some of the procedures I was fortunate to observe over the summer. The human body is fascinating machinery and I still have a lot to learn about how that machine operates. I will also look for and take advantages of opportunities to gain more clinical experience in a hospital setting. To anyone who is interested in interning with Project Healthcare or anyone who wants to pursue a career in medicine, my advice is to seize every opportunity to learn, and remember that no question is a stupid question. Physicians aren’t the only people you can learn from; talk to nurses, physician assistants, patient care technicians, and anyone who is willing to teach you. You will get out of your internship almost as much as you put into it, so work hard, even when no one is looking, and take advantage of opportunities to network and gain advice from people in your field of interest.

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One of my final moments with other PHC interns at Bellevue Hospital.

See you later BR Guest

Having completed my internship and having time to reflect, I can see I have met all goals originally set at the beginning of this experience. As previously discussed in my blogs, the educational, workplace, and personal goals I set I have achieved. I learned how to apply my psychology and business knowledge to the world of Human Resources, was able to experience HR in full capacity, and lastly was able to learn about the restaurant industry from the corporate perspective. Moreover, I have learned and experienced more than I could even imagine. For example, through completing the internship project, I was able to learn all about my specific field as well as others in corporate and the restaurant industry in general. For the project, we had to create a new restaurant concept and create a PowerPoint (presented in front of the CEO), explaining all the steps it would take to open the restaurant. To get all the information, the other interns and I had to meet with many different directors and employees to learn every step in creating a restaurant. After completion, I truly understand the ins and outs of the restaurant industry and hospitality.

Interns restaurant pitch
Interns restaurant pitch
Mock Menu
Mock Menu
Timeline to opening day
Timeline to opening day

After learning so much already, I am hungry for more. I want to continue to learn about Human Resources and see what the field is like outside of the restaurant group. The restaurant industry is fast paced which includes a lot of turnover, so I am curious what Human Resources looks like from a different industry. Also, within BR Guest itself, I would want to experience a day-in-the-life of a Director of Operations (this is the person who directly oversees the restaurant). I loved the industry I was in and would love to explore more within the company.

For any student who is interested in an internship at BR Guest, I would advise them to DEFINITELY apply! My experience was amazing with this company and I hope to work with them again in the future. I would advise applicants to put yourself out there and to be passionate, open-minded, and eager to learn. For those students intrigued with the restaurant hospitality industry I would let them know that being personable is a must. You are meeting with people every day and must be comfortable with public speaking. You must be flexible due to the fast paced environment, something can come up at any second. The industry is a challenge but it is manageable.

I am so thankful for WOW letting me complete this experience because it helped me understand more about what I want to do in the future as well as more about myself. This is an experience I will never forget!

Reflections on UFE

I finished my internship at United for a Fair Economy last week. I was working on my projects up until the last minutes (literally!) and on my last day I wrote a list of my projects and any next steps to be taken on each one.

In the final analysis, I ended up doing more than I expected to this summer, and learning a lot. In the last couple of weeks, I launched my donor survey (first via email blast to a certain segment, then another to another segment, and then made postcards to send to donors whose email addresses we did not have on file).

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I analyzed the results that had come in already, was able to determine a portrait of the average UFE donor (of those who had responded to the survey — of course there is response bias) and shared the conclusions with the UFE staff. I discussed what these results tell us about how we’re doing in terms of responsiveness to donors and what UFE can do to keep it up and improve in the future.

I got the Spanish versions of my blog post and brochure edited, approved and finalized. I also created a card to put into regular mail appeals requesting that people make bequests to UFE.

Finally, I had a meeting with Suzanna (my supervisor) to discuss the summer. I came to the conclusion that this has probably been my best internship yet. I felt supported, respected, and like I was learning almost the entire time. The staff was wonderful, friendly, and clearly passionate about their work. They even held a goodbye celebration for me, with ice cream and a card and gift (a baking cookbook because I told them that I love to bake!)

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I learned a ton about development, about inequality, about how people work towards social justice every day, and about how non-profits function. These are absolutely important lessons that I will carry with me in my future studies and career. I plan to go into the non-profit sector, and this experience has both solidified that choice and given me a lot of the tools and knowledge necessary to do so.

I wrote a review of this internship on the Brandeis Internship Exchange, and when asked to give advice to other students considering this internship, I wrote:

“This was probably my best internship yet (and that’s saying a lot). It’s not all fun and exciting all the time (what job/internship is?) but if you’re willing to do some boring database stuff for part of the time, it will be rewarding. It’s a great group of people and it was clear that they care about their interns’ growth and well-being. Try to learn quickly and work independently, but don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Talk to all the staff members and learn about what they do – it’s really interesting stuff! My biggest piece of advice is to be ambitious and choose at least one project that you DON’T completely know how to do, then learn how to do it (ask Suzanna for resources or find your own). This is the best way to learn a new skill or technique, and they will be understanding and supportive during the process.”

Thanks, UFE, for making my summer great!

It’s Not Good-bye, It’s See You Later

Well, my last assignment for AFJ is finished. My office is packed. My good-byes have been said. It’s really strange to think that I won’t be researching foundations in areas where we are expanding our Bolder Advocacy Initiative anymore. I find it bizarre that I am done with critiquing how our organization can promote a particular fundraising platform on social media. As proud as I am of my participation in our Justice First! and intern luncheon, it’s a little sad that I won’t be at our gala in New York in December that I’ve evaluated spaces for. But the good news is that even though my internship with Alliance for Justice is over, I can continuing developing my skills in development at other organizations. I want to continue learning more about grant writing and foundations and their relationship with nonprofits. Fortunately, one of my supervisors pointed me into the direction of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Their resource center can be found here: http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/?navItemNumber=502. I intend on using this organization to improve my skills and understanding of fundraising as a profession. My internship at Alliance for Justice has really inspired me to search for more development internships this year so I can continue building my development resume.

After working in development for three months, the advice that I would give to someone who was interested in this field is to take advantage of the fact that you live and work at a non-profit. Brandeis University is a non-profit organization and thus has lots of opportunities for people interested in fundraising. All of my friends who have worked at Phonathon have had a wonderful experience and a better understanding of what individual fundraising entails. I am really excited to examine how Brandeis uses development in its mission in my final year here. As for advice specific to this internship, I would highly recommend getting to know the people in the office. I guess this probably applies to any internship, but you never know what kind of journey someone has had to their current position until you talk to them and those conversations can be so informative and helpful. Just taking someone out to coffee can provide more reassurance and resources than a hundred Google searches.

I think that when most people think about social justice and the courts, they tend to think of public defenders, or victim’s rights advocates, or other people who are using the law to directly empower people, usually in criminal law. My summer at AFJ has taught me that in addition to those issues, we must focus on making sure the very institution of the courts are fair at all. This focus on systematic change has altered my opinion on how to approach social justice writ large and the importance of legal institutions. I am really excited to continue my work at AFJ by promoting their upcoming documentary on forced arbitration. People don’t generally consider what they are signing themselves up for when they click yes on a terms and conditions agreement, but chances are they are agreeing to a mandatory arbitration agreement. These clauses deny people access to the civil court system when they are wronged and create horrible externalities for consumers and employees. If you want to learn more about mandatory arbitration clauses, you should check out AFJ’s work on them: http://www.afj.org/our-work/issues/eliminating-forced-arbitration. I’m intending on bringing a film screening of the documentary to campus, so you should also definitely come to that if you’re as outraged as I am that these things exist.

Just in closing, I want to give a shout out to Hiatt’s World of Work program for giving us this amazing opportunity. Taking on an unpaid internship for the summer is such a privilege and that fact that Brandeis facilitates this demonstrates how committed it is to its students.

The end of my FDD internship

My summer internship at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies proved to be an extraordinary experience for me both intellectually and professionally. I was afforded the ability to write and conduct research on a daily basis,  greatly sharpening my researching skills. Moreover, I received continuous constructive feedback on all my work from my supervisor, which helped me to identify flaws in my writing and gaps in my political analysis. Finally, I was tasked to work on a range of issues, including many subjects in which I had not had previous experience. Researching unfamiliar topics was both challenging and enlightening, as it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to rely on the skills I had acquired over the summer as an analyst. As such, I can point to two published reports as tangible examples of the work I have produced over the course of the summer semester.
The experiences that I had and the skills that I developed over the course of the summer will undoubtedly be critical for me as I return to the academic environment at Brandeis. I expect that I will be able to make a seamless transition back to college work because of all of the writing and research that I had to do during my summer internship. In particular, I believe that my journalism project this upcoming semester will benefit tremendously because I feel that I have developed new theories and analytical resources as a result of my work at FDD that I will be able to apply to my independent study.
Now that I have had numerous internship opportunities at think tanks and academic research centers, I would like to have an opportunity to work inside the government and see how foreign policy is articulated and implemented within the national security industry. Interning at think tanks has given me a valuable outside perspective and I think that would be a valuable asset within the policymaking apparatus. I also look forward to future opportunities to publish my work, especially in academic journals and prominent foreign policy magazines. One could certainly say that, having had the chance to publish this summer, I have caught the publishing bug. I would also like to learn more about the inter-agency policy making process, which is something I feel somewhat ignorant about at this point in my professional career.
Interning at a foreign policy think tank such as FDD is a valuable experience and I would highly recommend such an opportunity to aspiring political analysts and policy wonks. That being said, I think that those going into the field should be aware that the work varies from day to day and may not always be as exciting as one would hope. Moreover, interns must be versatile and flexible in responding to the demands of their supervisors. Most importantly, I would exhort future interns to reach out to senior fellows and professional analysts, not just for professional advice but also for constructive feedback and criticism on their work. The most valuable experiences that I had over the summer came when I submitted my work to my supervisor and received feedback that helped to shape and focus my research and writing.

Midpoint Blog Post

Since I began at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office with Victim Services department, I have learned an extensive amount of information about the criminal justice system from the many different types of case that come into our office. I have the opportunity to meet with many victims and their families. It has been an eye opening experience to see the emotions of the victims. With victim services, the advocates are there to help the victims in every step they need during court, searching mental health treatments, and being the liaison with the assistant district attorney.

In court, especially with sensitives case such as homicides, domestic violence, and sexual assault, the victim is very vulnerable and it’s victim services job to provide the support. The advocates assist the victims with emotional support when a victim must testify, reliving relive the incident during a court proceeding. While seeing many court cases proceed, you realize that there is still a backlog in cases because most of them are from previous years. In San Francisco, this just demonstrates the increase of violence that has been occurring in the county.
There are many Latinos in the community and most of them do not speak English. I am always glad to assist them because it is very difficult for them to understand the criminal justice system. Many of them come in with information that is in English that is vital to their case, needing an explanation of the forms that are given to them. Some of them are undocumented immigrants who are terrified to speak about their incident because of the constant terror of being deported. Some of them who have been a victim of a violent crime have the option of applying for a U-visa but have to demonstrate that they were cooperative with law enforcement and during court.
I am most proud that I can answer many questions that our clients come in with and that I have been able to assist them. For example, I do intake interviews with victims without supervision, assist in filling out the California Victims of Violent Crimes application.  It is great that the advocates trust me to be able to explain the program and services to our clients as well as to help them with information they need because of the language barrier. It is great knowing that the clients appreciate us assisting them with basic services such as reading letter and  explaining the process of the application and the case.
I am building skills that I can take to further my interest in the legal system. I have learned from the advocates and assistant district attorneys the importance of communication within the justice system. Without having communication with one another in a work environment it is very challenging to have a resolution. For example, someone from the advocate team would talk with the victim to be their support, but the assistant district attorney would give the same person different information. This would confuse the victim and frustrate the common goal of providing assistance. I will be able to use this in academic life because while focusing in my classes I need to communicate with my professors and peers to be able to succeed. If I don’t then I will not be able to get the best grades that I can achieve. I will need their assistance to make sure that I fully comprehend the material. In my future career, I would like to communicate with my co-workers to share a common objective for all of us to thrive. Within the justice system, it is key to have communicated because it creates conflict and there is no resolution for those who have been affected. The main goal is for the victim to feel safe and supportive. The justice system is there to help the victim find a closure that will help them move forward.

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Ending Discrimination

This summer, I set out to learn more about Massachusetts law and talk to people at MCAD to get first hand experience. My internship had me working closely with the Director of Housing and Testing as well as housing investigators and employment attorneys. Whether I was drafting complaints and letters or performing tests to find evidence of discrimination, I got a chance to learn (sometimes through trial and error) about how a government organization runs. I learned a great deal about the law through drafting legal documents which enhanced my attention to detail and writing skills. I also learned how different federal, state, and municipal organizations work together to uphold the laws.

To students looking to intern at MCAD, my advice would be to learn as much as you can. Ask attorneys questions, go to brown bag lunches and read cases. It was definitely the best part of interning. Not only is MCAD a government organization, but it also deals with legal documents, huge databases, and other closely knit organizations such as the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development). I now have a greater understanding of what Massachusetts Discrimination law is, how it works, and how it is carried out. This information is also useful in understanding how law in general works. I learned about the different steps taken at the organization once a complaint is filed, such as investigation, finding, mediation, and possible hearing. The work that interns do is fun and challenging, but the best part is definitely learning and getting to know the employees and interns around you.

 

Interning at MCAD has reinforced my ideas about social justice. Especially when I was on intake, I got a chance to interact with people having a hard time because of the discrimination they faced in everyday life. It doesn’t seem right that someone should have to come to an organization and take time out of their lives to make sure they can feel safe at work or be able to find a place to life. If anything, working at MCAD has made me realize that more should be done to enforce the ideals that the Massachusetts law promotes. Even though I was a small part of the work at MCAD, I felt that I could change people’s lives by writing them a good complaint and helping them through what is at times a very difficult process. Having completed my internship at, I would like to get more experience in litigation and civil rights law to learn what more the law has to offer in order to help people who are treated unfairly.

Until next summer, when I plan on interning somewhere that I can be involved in civil rights, I plan on taking classes to learn more about the law and the history of discrimination in the United States. Additionally, I hope to join an innocence project during the school year. Working at MCAD has definitely made me want to become more involved.

 

Farewell Blog

My internship finally came to an end. My main goal for this summer was to figure out whether I want to be in industry or academia. During the summer, I worked hard to figure this out by getting myself involved in data analysis, proposals, and business meetings. Since I only have one more year at Brandeis, I plan to build on this experience as much as I can. I now know that I plan to pursue my career in industry. I plan to use my network to explore the industry and figure out what I’m truly passionate about.

 

This internship taught me something I already knew, but never really paused to think about: Don’t waste your 20s making money, but find your passion and spend the rest of your life doing your passion. Now, I want to learn more about my passion. What is it about industry and science that I love? Where do I learn the most? What exactly keeps me up late at night and is this the reason I wake up 5 in the morning to get a head start? I want to spend the rest of my Brandeis experience figuring this out. I owe it to myself and owe it to myself to gain additional experience in what I’m passionate about.

 

For anyone interested in finding a career in industry with science, I have an advice for you: Dive head first and give it all you have. You won’t know if it’s for you unless you do. You have nothing to lose (e.g. no kids, no mortgage, no house, etc) so why not take the risk? If you’re interested in Innerscope Research, I have the same advice: Give it all you have. It is not the ONLY firm to work for that has uses science in industry however, it is a good one to give a try.

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Alicia Park, ’15

 

Last Week at the McAllister Lab

Another summer done at the McAllister Lab! My experience at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School was absolutely amazing, and this summer was the best out of all of my previous summers there. This summer, I practiced and learned many wet-lab techniques. Additionally, I  participated in multiple journal clubs where members of my lab met to discuss the results of other scientists that do work that is similar to ours. In these journal clubs, we analyzed their results with our lens, and I learned to start questioning the integrity of others’ results alongside my other lab members. I used to accept the data presented by peer-reviewed articles with a sort of blind faith, but I’ve been slowly learning how to question what I read because not all reviewers catch the holes in someone’s research.

2014 Summer Students of the McAllister Lab, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

After working alone all summer without a direct in-lab mentor, I can say that I am now very comfortable with the idea of planning my own experiments and days at work. With all the results that have been generated from the past and this current summer, I have been creating figures that will be used in our upcoming paper. Some of these figures include growth kinetics charts, incidence graphs, microscopy panels, and concentration graphs. I have also learned how to use CellProfiler, a cell image analysis software that was developed at the Broad Institute. It has been particularly helpful in analyzing the microscopy I have done all summer, and the best part is that I can use it to analyze my results at home even though I’m finished with my experiments now. Dr. McAllister and I have had multiple meetings together about how the paper will be laid out, and we are currently maintaining correspondence about its progress. I also am excited to say that some of my results from the summer were novel, so we are now trying to determine where the data will fit inside the paper. I presented my research to the rest of Brigham and Women’s Division of Hematology last Friday and I am relieved that the presentation went well.

Going forward, I plan to take all the skills that I learned from the McAllister Lab with me as I pursue other research endeavors. I have had the privilege of developing an in-depth understanding of research academia through this internship, and I believe that this understanding will be particularly useful in the fall semester when I start as an undergraduate research assistant at one of Brandeis’ neuroscience labs. I think for next summer, it would be interesting to try to find an internship in the field of industry, perhaps at a biotechnology company to see what it’s like to be on the for-profit side of biology instead of the non-profit side. For anyone who is interested in pursuing an internship in research academia, I would first suggest finding a special program for students that put them in mentored research environments. Many colleges and hospitals around the country have these summer research internships, and it is during these summers that students can form long-lasting career networks. After being in a research environment for a whole summer, there is a high possibility of returning for another summer if correspondence is maintained. For researching specifically under the Harvard Medical School umbrella of summer programs, this is a great resource. The program I was originally in (for the first two summers) was the CURE Program of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

Overall, I had a wonderful summer. On our last day, Dr. McAllister participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with me and some of our other summer students. We all went out with a “splash” and it was a fun experience! Here is the link to our video: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: McAllister Lab

McAllister Lab and Mullaly Lab at the going-away party of our administrative assistant

Irene Wong, ’17

 

Summer’s End at McLean Hospital

As September approaches, my summer work at the Behavioral Health Partial Program at McLean Hospital is coming to a close. I have accomplished a lot this summer and was involved in some incredible projects. As I reflect on my learning goals, I realize that I managed to fulfill all of them. My main goal was to form a greater understanding of research in the realm of clinical psychology and within a treatment setting. Throughout the summer I was involved in many research projects where I learned how to research a topic, form a research idea, organize data, and write up results in a publishable research paper.  For my main project, I was able to research the predictors of suicidality in patients with psychosis. This project is ongoing, but I have completed the introduction and am currently working on the methods for this paper. This project has provided me with immense insight into the research process. However, I am not only grateful to be involved in this project, but I am also grateful to have worked at the BHP where the research is focused on treatment outcome in a naturalistic setting. Last week, I had a chance to observe group therapy, where group leaders teach patients skills in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). I had the task of completing fidelity scales, or scales I created based on group protocols. After selecting a specific set of therapy groups, we created fidelity scales from the important aspects of the protocols. Then, I sat in on these groups and marked when the group leader spoke about an important topic necessary for the patients’ understanding of the specific skill. Having a measure of treatment fidelity ensures that the patient is provided with the intended treatment. These scales can also be used for research purposes, allowing the BHP to confirm that the patient is really being taught CBT and DBT skills. Sitting in on therapy provided me with a greater understanding of how CBT and DBT are extremely important for the rehabilitation of those batting a range of mental illnesses. Watching patients’ engagement and listening to their stories and ideas made me realize how important this treatment is to their overall well-being, and I am extremely lucky that I was given the chance to witness patients’ learning and healing.  Therefore, besides my research projects, I was really able to understand the therapy provided to the patients at the BHP, which helped to broaden my clinical knowledge.

The entrance to McLean. http://asylumnotes.wordpress.com/tourism/mclean/
The entrance to McLean. http://asylumnotes.wordpress.com/tourism/mclean/

I will use all of my research knowledge I have acquired at the BHP as I begin my thesis project as a senior at Brandeis. This knowledge will not only help during the rest of my time at Brandeis, but as I continue in a clinical and research career. During this internship, I have recognized that my passion lies within the clinical field of psychology. I am eager to learn more about different types of therapies and treatments for mental illnesses, and I am excited to learn more about clinical research in the future.

As a student with a passion for clinical psychology, I encourage other students interested in this field to explore and learn as much as possible about different illnesses, treatments, and research. I highly recommend pursuing an internship, since it allows students to narrow their interests. An internship will help confirm whether or not clinical psychology is the right career path. It may also provide insight into whether or not the student is interested in conducting research, providing treatment, or both. I would highly suggest looking into an internship at McLean Hospital. Not only is it the #1 psychiatric hospital in the nation with the best treatment programs and incredible research, but it is also a place to meet and connect with so many people with a strong passion for clinical psychology. I have learned so much from working with the clinicians and researchers at McLean, and they have inspired me to keep working towards the career I want- a career in clinical psychology.

Lauryn Gardner, ’15

Not goodbye, but see you later LFC!

I cannot believe that my time at Lawyers for Children has flown by so quickly. As each week passed, I truly believe that I became more and more integrated in this incredible organization and felt so comfortable there. While I feel like I accomplished many things throughout my summer, my proudest accomplishment is the new children’s “give-and-go” library that I started for the office. At the beginning of my internship, my supervisor told me that one of her dreams was to create a literacy project within the organization, and more specifically, to help young mothers bring literacy home to their own children. While sometimes it may be hard to get teenagers to begin reading, it is always important to stress literacy with children from an early age. Oftentimes our clients did not have the specialized knowledge or tools to support fully their children’s burgeoning literacy skills, so it was incredibly important to my supervisor and myself that we help our clients help their families. Reading has always been a passion of mine, and I was more than happy to take on this task. Over the course of the summer, I was able to gain support for this project from my family, friends, and community members–and ultimately we collected over 2000 books. It was wonderful to me to not only have so much support from everyone, but also for me to get involved in a project that I felt so strongly about. Additionally, I was able to create a partnership for LFC with an amazing organization on Long Island called The Book Fairies. The “fairies” collect gently used and new books, organize them into age group/genre, and donate them back to those in need across the greater New York area. Now the clients at LFC will have access to wonderful books for a long time!

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I feel that I can use my experience this summer to not only further foster relationships with my coworkers and peers, but also use the incredible amount of knowledge that I have gained in my endeavors both as I enter my senior year at Brandeis and in my future. I am so fortunate to had been placed with an amazing supervisor who was always more than willing to teach me new skills or answer any question I may have had. As I move forward on the social work path, I want to learn more about one-on-one personal interactions, and possibly have the opportunity to interview clients on my own one day. I have greatly valued all of the interviews I sat in on, but I would love to get involved too! Additionally, this summer has taught me so much about social justice and the foster care system of New York City. I have learned how important it is for every individual, including children, to have a voice and have their wishes heard. Being a part of an advocacy group such as Lawyers for Children has shown me how vital these organizations are to the betterment and happiness of so many children.

For students interested in a social work internship or working at LFC (yay!) I would suggest finding a passion and sticking to it. I believe it is really important in social work to get involved in a specific task; whether that be a specific client base, a project you want to work on, or both! I loved being involved in the foster care system but also homing in on literacy. I think it is very important in this field of work so that you keep busy but also keep interested in the work you are doing.

Final Words with ABC

This summer has certainly been an experimental test of my strength in the humanitarian aid world of work. Thanks to the WOW I have successfully been able to have an internship opportunity that expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to the bureaucracy and intensity of social work and humanitarian aid in NYC. My goals were thoroughly accomplished through the wide range of tasks I was set to do at ABC. 

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Everything from my tasks of referring children for early intervention education programs to doing child therapy with the kids helped me reach my learning goals for this internship. I would say that every task I had, even if it sounded as simple as getting a medical record for a child, taught me the hardships of working in and with public assistance groups. I learned what those dependent on public assistant programs have to go through in order to receive the services “our government provides to those in need.” It is no simple task to get a child in school, receive services for children with learning disorders, or get one’s monthly food stamp to buy food for their family. Learning how policies created on a city wide level effect those they are supposed to be helping was the most interesting aspect of my internship for me. I want to build off this experience at Brandeis by taking classes that teach me more about policy creation, implementing policies on a ground level, and discussing with professors the corruption that exists in US government. Beyond Brandeis I will hopefully continue to have my eyes opened to the world of policy making and humanitarian aid projects that help people in my community. It is amazing how much attention is often focused on international humanitarian aid efforts when there are thousands of people within 5 miles of my home in New York who need just as much aid and care, who are suffering from starvation and whose children have witnessed trauma and violence before the age of five and need counseling. 

For anyone interested in social work I would say ABC is the best place to intern. Social work is a balance, you must maintain self care and be effective in the office. As one of my co-workers said: if you don’t feel well yourself, you can’t help anyone else. 

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My ideas around social justice have most definitely been challenged. I have seen how difficult social justice is to accomplish in a world where organizations are run by money and public assistant groups make it difficult for anyone to accomplish anything quickly with the piles of paperwork required for even the most simplest of requests. I have learned that having connections in the world of social justice workers is vital because it helps get paperwork through the system faster and speed along the process of helping those receive aid who need it. I have also learned that although there are many people out there working for social justice, it is an exhaustive and draining task to bring about justice in today’s world. Although I already knew this, seeing how it effects people is quite depressing. Accomplishing social justice is still what I am going to work for in my future and this internship definitely helped brace me for the reality of working towards this goal. Dedication and passion are the two most vital attributes needed to accomplish social work. 

– Alex Hall ’15

Looking Back: Around the World with AJWS

Sadly, my summer with American Jewish World Service has come to an end, but as I think back on my time with the organization, I cannot believe how much I have gained from this internship. Over the summer, I completed numerous large projects, including developing several lesson plans to teach and inspire American lay leaders to advocate for the developing world. One of the greatest lessons I learned at my internship is how to work collaboratively with people more experienced than I am. At first, I really struggled to speak up during meetings because I felt that what I had to say could not possibly be important. However, after much encouragement from my supervisor, I found my voice at team meetings. I realized that I was able to bring a new and unique opinion to the team, as I came in to meetings with a fresh pair of eyes. I gained self-confidence and made a better impression among my colleagues when I started speaking up. This is a skill I will bring back to Brandeis with me. This semester I am taking two classes with which I have no experience, and I know there will be people in those classes with more things to say than I have. Nonetheless, I will feel confident to speak up and share my opinions because I know that what I have to say is (usually) worthwhile.

This internship has opened up a lot of doors to new ideas for me. Now that I have completed the internship, I would like to learn more about the issues facing the developing world, and how they come about. I would also like to learn other ways people can get involved in helping out with these big issues without devoting their whole lives to solving them. I would strongly recommend interning at a nonprofit social justice organization, and especially AJWS. I would tell students planning to intern at a social justice nonprofit to be prepared for some feelings of helplessness – you will learn that there are so many issues that need fixing and there is no way that you can come in and fix them all. Just remember that you are there to help in whatever way you can – and that is enough! Also, be enthusiastic about any task you are given. Most organizations will need some very mundane things to be taken care of, like file-sorting or shredding or making copies. Hopefully this won’t be a big part of your internship, but it is important to take on these jobs with as much enthusiasm as the more interesting tasks. These are all important things that help the organization to run smoothly, and your taking them on means that more social justice can be achieved in the world. Also, your employers will notice if you have a positive attitude.

To students interning at AJWS specifically, I would recommend making time to get to know as many people in the organization as possible. I set up hour-long slots to meet with several of my colleagues, including department managers and vice presidents who were all more than happy to take time from their busy schedules to meet with me. I learned so much from these amazing individuals and forged strong relationships with some of them too.
AJWS has challenged by assumptions about social justice by showing me the importance of a human rights-based approach to development. Before the internship, I assumed that the biggest task facing the developing world was access to resources such as water, arable land and food. AJWS showed me that this kind of resource-based approach is not effective. In order to assist the developing world, we must focus on human rights, because no matter how many resources a country has, it is not helpful unless women and marginalized communities have access to those resources and are not being abused or persecuted. AJWS’s work to end violence against women, child marriage, and persecution of LGBTQ people has shown me what it really means to be a change-maker and reinforced my own passion to work for real change.

– Jessi Puterman ’15

Completion of my NYCSCC Internship

The last day of my New York City Seminar and Conference Center (NYCSCC) internship is a bittersweet day for me. I am happy that I have learned so much at this internship but sad that I will not be working with my coworkers every day.

This summer, I have finished a Financial Analysis project from the very beginning to the very end. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was compiling data on an Excel spreadsheet. Since all of the data was in Excel, I have honed my Excel skills in the 10 weeks at this internship. I have encountered many roadblocks while doing the Financial Analysis project but the support of fellow interns and coworkers has led me to overcome these challenges. At the end of the internship, I presented the Financial Analysis project in a PowerPoint presentation to NYCSCC employees. Although I was nervous when presenting the project, another feeling overcame that: the feeling of accomplishment.

After this internship experience, I will take the analytical skills I honed and apply them to my Brandeis classes. During my junior and senior years at Brandeis, I will be taking Business and Economics classes and will need to use these skills in the class projects and papers.

Following this internship, I want to complete more internships that allow me to focus on developing my skills. While completing the Financial Analysis project, I realized that I am a process-oriented person and enjoy completing tasks from start to finish.

For those of you looking to intern at NYCSCC, I suggest that you attend the Winter NYC CIC fair because NYCSCC is usually at the fair. Before applying to the internship, you should look into the NYCSCC website to get an overview of what NYCSCC is. NYCSCC has internships in both marketing and finance. Having talked to the Marketing intern throughout my internship, I know there is so much you can learn in either area at this small business hospitality company. If you want to get an idea of what the benefits of interning at a small business are, you can check out my small company blog post.

For students interested in the small business hospitality field, make sure that you are a people person. In this field, employees are always dealing with clients and making sure that they are getting the best services possible. Therefore, you should be ready to do the same at this internship.

Interning at NYCSCC has been an enjoyable and memorable learning experience. I have built close connections with NYCSCC employees, and I will keep in touch with them even after the internship.

Me and my fellow interns at NYCSCC

 

Final Days and Coming Home: An Acknowledgment of Privilege

My final days at ETE Camp and in Hinche were filled with last lessons, performances and emotional see-you-laters. After a full month of teaching and playing for hours a day, it was easy to become closely connected with the children. Despite the difficulty in language we learned about each others personalities, interests, temperaments and experiences. Many of the children adjusted so well to the language differences that they developed their own form of communication to interact with me and the other volunteers such as grabbing our arm and pointing to the vacant seat next to them at meal times or using the few English words they knew and the few Creole words they knew we knew to form a completed thought.

During the last week of camp, we spent class time and activity time gearing up for our three big closing activities: The parade around Hinche, The Alumni Show and the Closing Ceremony. The parade was an amazing experience and consisted of all the ETE campers, volunteers and alumni marching through the city singing the songs we had learned at the top of our lungs. The city dwellers were exposed to a small piece of what these people and kids wearing matching t-shirts had been up to for the last month. The lyrics of the songs consisted of a mixture of English and Creole and were both original melodies created by different volunteers as well as lyrics adapted to the melodies of songs such as “I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Survivor”. The ETE Camp versions of these songs were “Mwen Konnen Kapab- I Know I Can”, “I Believe I Can Fly” and “I Am A Scholar.”. These songs as well as presentations of all that the students learned this year were all a part of the Closing Ceremony (as seen in the links above). The family members of many of the scholars came to watch them display their English, Leadership and Math skills through skits, songs and mini-lessons. This was truly a moving event that brought the feeling of a “proud mama” to my heart in seeing how much these students had developed their skills and how brave they were to stand on stage and perform the way they did. The students also came up individually to receive their ETE Camp graduation certificates, a moment that brought tears to our eyes. It was the perfect ending to an amazing month of seeing the accomplishments of 60 young leaders and scholars.

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Students receiving certificates from myself and the other volunteers during the Closing Ceremony.
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The 2014 ETE Campers proudly holding their certificates during the Closing Ceremony.

 

Coming home meant being shoved face first into the recognition of my comparative wealth and place of privilege. Even as a family who immigrated from Brazil with almost no money and spent most of our time in Brazil and the US financially struggling, I have to acknowledge that this is no longer where we stand due to the privileges and blessings living in the US has afforded us.

What this means is getting picked up at the airport in a relatively new, full functioning luxury SUV after communicating with my parents through our overly priced iPhones. The engine wasn’t roaring loudly and I did not fear that the car would breakdown. Their is A/C and heat in the car for a comfortable ride regardless of the weather outside (which happened to be about 65 degrees, a temperature that I consider cold after a month in 95 degree weather). Inside it I feel safe. The roads are not bumpy, they are smoothly paved. Dust and dirt are not flying into my face, hair and clothing. I do not feel nauseous from the ride home.

At home, I am greeted by a new, brand name watch and a Pandora charm titled, “The Journey of Life” to celebrate my return home. My dad shows me his new toy, a Bluetooth speaker for his phone that not even he fully understands how to use. I use the bathroom and I do not need to use a bucket of water to make the toilet flush. I take a shower and I do not fear that a cockroach will come out of the drain. I do not fear that the shower will stop because the rain water supply has been exhausted. I open my mouth and let the water in, I do not fear that it will make me sick. I do not fear that the lights will go out in the middle of my shower. The water is warm, I control the temperature I want to shower in instead of the steady stream of cold water I had showered under for the last month. 

I eat fresh homemade food left for me on the stove containing all the essential nutrients for my body. A colorful arrangement of vegetables, protein and grain. I brush my teeth. I do not need to find filtered water to do this but instead brush my teeth with faucet water for the first time in a month. I go to bed. It is a full size bed that I can sprawl out on either side of. It is warm, clean and incredibly comfortable and high enough that no unwelcome guests will crawl on me at night. I do not spray myself with bug-spray before bed since all the windows of the house have screens. There are no mosquitoes inside the house and if there were, they would be a slight nuisance but I would not fear that they are carrying illnesses such as Malaria or Chikungunya. 

Tomorrow I will unpack and do my laundry. I will not need to hand wash my clothes with limited water. I will not need to wait for sunshine to hang them up to dry. I will not be without clothes until they are done as I have I several clean options to change into while I wait for the machine to finish what is in many places, still the job of human hands.

In the fall I will return to my senior year at one of the best universities in the US and complete my nearly fully scholarship funded education. I do not fear that my school will get shut down or run out of vital resources. I will use fast pace and readily available internet and phone to make both my social and professional life much easier. I trust that my degree will add to my ability to grow socioeconomically and help to secure an even better life for myself and my family. My classroom is not too hot nor too cold. There are no illness carrying mosquitoes or flies to swat off as I learn or sleep or eat. The electricity and water does not frequently shut down. It is an excessively funded institution and a safe place to study and live. 

To say my life is “better” is a judgment call I neither agree with nor have any interest in making. To say my life is easier in many ways than what I experienced and witnessed for the last month would be accurate. To say that I am at a place of privilege over others that I do not deserve is the pure and troubling reality. I got to personally know and fall in love with over sixty beautiful, intelligent, loving and happy children who are at a systematic disadvantage from my own, despite my being an immigrant and a woman of color in the US. Logically, there is no reason why I should have these privileges and they should not. I am not a better person. I am not more intelligent, more beautiful, more loving, more in touch with God, more deserving of blessings, or more worthy. Essentially I am who they are and they are who I am. This privilege however is provided by one main, crucial factor; I am a beneficiary of the same system that has and continues to keep these and millions of other people in poverty and without many things we (probably anyone with access to this blog post) often take for granted. This acknowledgement doesn’t change the lives of anyone suffering from this system but it does remind us of who and where we are, not for the purposes of containing guilt but of realizing what each of our lives cost others. The course of action beyond that is an individual but crucial decision. 

This was my first but will not be my last trip to Hinche, Haiti and among volunteering, there are many ways to get involved with ETE Camp, simply because we can and because every child deserves the best chances to succeed in this world that they can get.

Wrapping up at the Department of Public Health

I can hardly fathom that I have, in fact, completed my internship with the Department of Public Health’s SAPSS Unit! This internship has been an incredible learning opportunity for me, with chances to grow intellectually, learn more about my selected career field (and state government in general), as well as challenge myself and my previously help assumptions about social justice work at large.

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My tasks throughout the summer were varied and stimulating. My main job was being the primary point person for a Governor’s Council committee, The Higher Education Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Working Group, as I’ve mentioned in past blog posts. This was the task that most encompassed my main learning goal for the summer: I got to truly see how my two passions, social justice and gender studies, combined through the work of the dedicated professionals on this committee. As a staff-person for the group (charged with organizing meetings, taking minutes, and a few research projects), I got a behind-the-scenes look at how sexual violence activism takes place among campus leaders. This is a project I’ve been very involved in at Brandeis throughout the past few years as a student, and it was inspiring, as an activist myself, to see how passionate these professionals also were about this issue.

The DPH Building, at 250 Washington St., in Boston!
The DPH Building, at 250 Washington St., in Boston!

Working at the DPH also taught me a lot about the inner workings of state government: that is, all the details of their privacy policies, various leadership positions and management. If I had to give advice to another student looking to intern at the Department of Public Health, I would tell them not to be discouraged if things move slowly! For example, for my research project (collecting and analyzing data from rape crisis centers about their prevention work), it took much longer than expected to actually receive the information I was tasked with organizing and reporting. According to my supervisors, however, this is all part of the job.

This sometimes slow-moving aspect of my internship also challenged my previously held ideas about social justice. Before interning with the DPH, my vision of social justice consisted purely of on-the-ground activists, who only could “affect change” in communities by face-to-face interactions with survivors, perpetrators, and the Big Guys in charge. I envisioned the student leaders, the hotline workers, and the protestors; I took on many of these roles myself, thinking this was the only way to make a noticeable difference in my community. The Department of Public Health taught me that social justice could also take on a much different form. Through this internship with the SAPSS unit, I learned that activism can (and does) exist even within bureaucratic systems like state government, and it can happen behind a desk… even behind an excel graph.

Through my internship this summer, I had the chance to learn so much about my desired career path, my academic and extracurricular passions, and myself. I would strongly recommend an internship with the SAPSS unit at the Department of Public Health to any other student who is interested in sexual violence prevention work, state government, and is willing to take on both leadership and research-based responsibilities. In my remaining year at Brandeis, I have no doubt that my experience with the Department of Public Health will inform my career choices (as I begin to make them!) as well as my academic understanding of research. I hope to build further on these research skills I’ve learned at my internship this summer, both in a scholastic and professional capacity. I am very grateful to my devoted, enthusiastic supervisors at the DPH, as well as the generosity of Hiatt’s World of Work grant for making this opportunity so truly great!

Life in Development – Second blog post

An office is a very artificial environment. It is a space that one shares with people that you may or may not have things in common with for nine hours a day, seven days a week, fifty weeks a year. That is an incredible amount of time. I have had the privilege to spend those hours at Alliance for Justice with people who truly care about social justice issues and whom I have been so fortunate to get to know. In the beginning of the summer, I made a goal to learn how to network. While I may not have formally asked someone to be my mentor yet, I have learned a lot about my colleagues and their career paths and I’m really happy with that development.
This entire summer has been one of growing but professionally, I think the thing I am most proud of so far is the improvement in my writing abilities. When I was looking for internships for the summer, I would often be asked for a writing sample. Because most of my writing is academic in nature I would end up sending in papers about really obscure topics. Now, part of my job is to proofread my supervisor’s work and I have even been permitted to contribute to some grant reports we have given. I have a better understanding of grant writing and really what it means to have professional writing experience. This will certainly allow me to transition to looking for a full time job in the spring.
One of my other big goals was to learn how to take criticism better and then to apply it effectively. I have found my supervisor’s strategy of giving me comments on my assignments instead of having very formal evaluations to be very effective. My writing and research has improved and I have gradually been entrusted with more responsibility. A few weeks ago I was even able to produce my own writing for a report to a foundation. I was able to staff one of the biggest events we did this summer, our Justice First Luncheon at the National Press Club. The luncheon was a fantastic learning experience because I was able to see how a large scale event is planned. As I did the minutia of confirmation calls, stuffing name tags, and depositing checks I was able to develop my organizational and scheduling skills. I will gladly bring these back to campus in the fall while I am planning the Brandeis Debate Team’s tournament.
Throughout the process of the luncheon, I was able to further my academic goal of figuring out how nonprofits apply the theory of social justice to practice. For example, we specifically sought out union made goods and vendors that had a good reputation for workers rights. On a more macro level of examining social justice, I’ve been impressed with how many women are in leadership positions at AFJ. As a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, I learn about how women are constantly underrepresented in business, government, science, etc. This is clearly a social justice problem because if those voices aren’t heard then that is a whole half of the population that is not getting a say in the political process. Even though we have a long way to go before women are truly free from prejudice and discrimination, it gives me a lot of hope in to see such an important organization with women at the helm. If you want to see more ways that AFJ tries to advance the cause of women’s rights, you should check out our documentary about how many states are currently trying to loosen protections on a woman’s right to choose. It is called Roe at Risk.
I am having a truly amazing experience here at AFJ, and we are actually looking for a fall development intern. If you want to find out more information, check out our idealist listing.

Half-Time at World Vision

Since my last update, we had a Sao Joao (St.John) celebration. We ordered food for the festivities and had a coordinated square dance. It was organized by the department I am primarily interning with, and everyone participated, including management. A raffle was drawn, where one of the custodians won a ticket to that Sunday’s World Cup game, she was extremely delighted. Another major employee event was a conference call with all the regional offices, where the Director gave a report on the point at which the organization is, and all the changes that are taking place, so that everyone could understand the current strengths and weaknesses of the organization. It was interesting being part of that presentation and listening to the comments from people in other regions of the country.

I was then assigned to work with the organization’s Sponsorship department for a day to work on translations. There I translated letters from sponsors to the children who are part of World Vision Brazils ADPs (Area Development Program), ´A distinct geographical area where World Vision partners with local stakeholders to improve the well-being of children through multiple sector projects aimed at root causes of issues that negatively impact children.´. I also translated the Annual Progress Reports, mapping a child’s progress, in health, education, and extracurricular activities of the child to the sponsor. My work there exceeded a day, and I now help there every week for about 12 hours.

 

The numbers on the map show the locations of World Vision´s Area Development Projects in Brazil.
The numbers on the map show the locations of World Vision´s Area Development Programs (ADPs) in Brazil.

 

Doing this has had a profound impact on me, seeing the children’s photos and reading the progress which proves their fight for a better future, took my mind back to growing up in developing countries, Mozambique, Malawi and Swaziland. In these countries, I saw poverty everywhere. In rural areas, and in the urban areas where street children surrounded the city. Poverty was so prominent that people even became numb to its reality. As I read the  letters and reports that I translated, it was like getting to know the children and their circumstances. I found that things most take for granted, such as the act of sending a birthday card to a child is something so special to them. What has also impacted me is the dedication of the sponsors, who are everyday people. They have inspired me to realize that anyone can take part in being a positive change in this world, and we can all change lives in major ways. Working for an organization such as World Vision, which hopes to eradicate child poverty, has shown me the innocence that accompanies those in impoverished conditions. People don’t choose to be extremely poor, and children lack the opportunity to remove themselves from the poverty cycle.

In the department of Pessoas & Cultura, I usually perform day to day tasks such as filing and sorting through employee data that is submitted to the office.

During my internship, I have been seeing what my supervisors tasks are, which are ongoing because she deals with not only the planned systematic employee needs but also all the issues that occur on a day to day basis. For my internship, I had hoped to learn how human resources works in a new and different environment, and to immerse myself in a new cultural reality. With about 60 employees here, it has been great to learn from my colleagues about the organization, and having the opportunity to interact with newly appointed employees. I write weekly notes, which help me analyze my experiences and what I have learned.

At this point, I am mostly proud of being able to be integrated into the organization and of the relationships that I have had the pleasure of forming with employees and other interns. Forming relationships with people especially of different cultures is at the core of what I would like to do in whatever my future career may be, therefore, building on these interpersonal skills is very important to me. Nothing can substitute these experiences because I know I will be able to utilize what I have learned not only professionally, but personally.

The Logo for an Area Development Project in Brazil. ´Novo Sertão ´ which means New Sertão´  Sertão is a place in the North East of Brazil, but when translated it means Backyard or Outback.
The Logo for one of World Vision´s Area Development Program locations in Brazil. ´Novo Sertão ´ which means New Sertão
Sertão is a place in the North East of Brazil, but when translated it means Backyard or Outback.

– Linda Phiri ’16

 

Farewell to Washington DC and NCL

The past eight weeks have gone by in a blur. Amidst a flurry of projects and public events, my internship was nothing short of an incredible experience. In the waning weeks of my time at NCL, I made visits to the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center as well as a NGO conference regarding consumer internet security and privacy. The visits and conferences greatly enhanced my understanding of the challenges and issues that ordinary people face on a daily basis in the field of internet privacy and the confidentiality of their personal information. In addition to the conferences, I also contributed to and edited a consumer Bill of Rights with regard to data security in the public arena. The project that my fellow interns and I completed has significantly improved my written skills as I learned to compose carefully-worded amendments for the Bill. The frequently-assigned research projects and reports have also helped me gain a deeper insight as to how public policy affects the general consumer population.

This internship has given me a very solid groundwork on policy research and analysis. I seek to integrate the skills I have developed and honed in the classroom when I return to Brandeis. I want to continue to build on those skills in the classroom. The research skills that I have developed will be extremely useful for writing papers in my courses because the majority of my classes will be writing and research-intensive. I believe that the research skills that I have acquired from this internship will also serve me very well in my professional endeavors as I seek to become an international lawyer in the future, a profession which requires well-developed writing skills.

 

Me at an NGO conference regarding the National Security Agency's practices of espionage on citizens.
Me at an NGO conference regarding the National Security Agency’s practices of espionage on citizens.

Working at the National Consumers League has given me a first taste of researching domestic policy and how it affects the general consumer population. I want to expand the scope of the research that I do to include international policy and law. Moving forward, I would like to gain experience in foreign policy analysis and research. In addition, I would like to work at an international organization so I can gain experience in the inner workings of international governance and law making. I believe that additional experience in the areas of international policy and governance would be extremely beneficial for my future career.

In my personal view, the National Consumers League’s work atmosphere is balanced and not too uptight . For those who are interested in working for the League, one piece of advice that I can give (which I learned from my supervisor on my first day) is to always ask all your questions before you start a project. This makes your work go much smoother and faster, and also makes the director’s life easier. In addition, making connections with your fellow colleagues is also very important. From my experience, the League’s staff are all extremely approachable and easy to talk to. Those interested in working at the League should take the opportunity to get to know all the staff. The field of consumer advocacy and public policy advocacy and analysis is a very stimulating field of work for those interested in policy analysis. Students who are interested in doing policy research and reaching out to policy makers will find working in this field  to be very fulfilling. It may seem to be difficult at times due to the fact that you’re trying to influence the upper echelon of the federal government, but I have also learned that advocacy groups are actually quite influential when it comes to affecting public policy; they reflect the public sentiment, which policy makers definitely take into account.

Me at the Panel on Industry Self-Regulation with regard to protecting consumers' sensitive personal data.
Me at the Panel on Industry Self-Regulation with regard to protecting consumers’ sensitive personal data.

After working at the League, I believe that my fundamental philosophy with regard to social justice has been dramatically reinforced. Through the research projects and papers that I completed, I have had the opportunity to examine the nuances of a plethora of policy fields including technology, health, and child labor policy. The work that I have done has shown me just how much ordinary consumers need advocacy groups. The research that the League and other consumer advocacy organizations do is critical in helping to create a more informed society. In addition, through the various projects that I completed, I have learned much about how to effectively advocate through writing. After learning from the League, I believe that I can become a more effective citizen by informing others about the effects of policy and its implications. I believe that pushing for collective action amongst the citizenry to influence government policy can be extremely influential. To be a more effective citizen of society, I need to let others know about the important issues that affect them. The time that I have spent at NCL has taught me much about the issues that pertain to ordinary citizens, and I plan to take the new knowledge and expertise that I have gained to make my friends, family, and community more knowledgeable about issues that affect their daily lives and well-being.

First Post from New Orleans!

At work in the Law Library
At work in the Law Library

I’ve been in New Orleans for about a week. I could say I love it, but it’s more complicated than that. This new world I’ve stumbled into inspires me. The love inspires me, the hate inspires me, and the fact there is so much I don’t just know, inspires the hell out of me. Everything down here is extreme. Things are very different, but to just label them “different” excuses the northeast from the problems of racism and sexism it still experiences as well. That’s why I say things down here are “extreme”.

My first day on the job, I saw a Senator greet two male interns with a handshake, and overlook the outstretched offer of a woman’s hand. I’ve heard the cheers of the Senate after a conservative bill has passed. There’s nothing that seems to break up the Old Boys’ Club that is: Louisiana Government. This week in a committee hearing, I sat behind the mighty Warden Cain of Angola Penitentiary, as he influenced others with his presence. All of this reassures my decision to come work for the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (LCADP).

View of Baton Rouge from the top of the State House
View of Baton Rouge from the top of the State House

The work I’ve been doing at the State House involves interviewing Legislators on how they feel about the death penalty in general and in the context of a few bills that have been brought to the floor. Earlier in the session a bill was written that would bring back the electric chair. My organization worked really hard to put major pressure on that bill, and since it has turned into a “secrecy bill,” saying that the records containing the names of the compounding pharmacies that provide the lethal drug will be sealed and secret to the public. I went with Sidney as she testified against the bill in a committee hearing. We will find out next week what happens, but it’s not looking too promising.

LCADP is housed in downtown New Orleans in a building dubbed “The Justice Center”. It is called such because of its incredible inhabitants. Along with LCADP, the Capital Appeals Project, the Louisiana Capital Appeals Center and the Promise of Justice Initiative are located in this quirky building of hard working, passionate individuals. I’ve never felt more like I belong somewhere than I do here.

My orientation to The Justice Center was with the other interns in the building. They are all law students working for the other organizations, but we were all placed together for a one-day training. We learned about the building; how to lock up, turn off the alarm, navigate the maze that is this building, etc. The session also included learning all about capital defense, which was so interesting to me. This kind of law is very intense and fascinating. It’s definitely some of the most challenging work lawyers do, described by the staff as literally being made up by their own sweat, blood and tears. So learning about the litigation was important because although I won’t be doing that type of work this summer, I’ll be working very closely with lawyers and the other interns, as well as the fact that I might want to do this exact work in the future. The last thing we went over was the need for all of what we do to be extremely confidential. They were very clear that we are quite seriously dealing with life or death situations, and nothing can leave the office. That was comforting… After the collective introduction I met with my boss and went over some more information specific to LCADP.

LCADP is finishing up with the House and Senate sessions, so we will shift our focus from lobbying to community organizing. One task we have is to expand our vision to include helping victim’s family members. I have been put in charge of reaching out to victim’s rights organizations, support groups and District Attorneys offices to foster relationships with these communities. I am looking forward to traveling around the state to meet people in charge of these groups, and start working together to make things safer, more comfortable, and hopefully more just for all involved in this difficult process.

“Process” is a word that comes up often. Everything we go through is a huge process. Litigation takes so much time with capital cases, which is one reason it is much more expensive to even attempt to carry out the death penalty than it is to keep a man in jail his entire life. The journey that brought me here is one that I’ll always be more than thankful for. When Sister Helen Prejean came to Brandeis, I feel in love. I heard her stories and listened to her messages, but what really got me was not something that can be pinned down. It isn’t anything I heard or saw, but instead everything I felt. Sister Helen spoke directly to my soul and there was no snuffing the fire she lit in my heart. I knew I needed to be in an environment where this passion could be fanned and explored. I knew Sister Helen was the person to help take me there. So we met and we spoke, we laughed and we connected. Through the next month, we formed a friendship, and she set me up with an interview with subsequently, my current boss, Sidney.  Things fell into place because our hearts were in sync, and our passion, unyielding.

It’s only been a week, but I know I’ve found a place that I can feel inspired, fulfilled, and challenged. I thrive in dysfunctional places, and I’ve definitely found one here. But for all the difficulties Louisiana faces, there is magic to it; it’s powerful and unique and so full of life. I know I’ll get frustrated with the politics and the social norms I’m not accustomed to, but that’s the whole reason I’m here. I will and have already met amazing people from Louisiana. It has certainly moved into a special place in my heart. In addition to falling in love with the city and the people, I will also learn how to work with certain people I don’t see eye to eye with, and I will learn how to grow and help others grow. I will make sure to be humble, and learn a whole lot more than I ever expect to teach.

Good news: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/06/new-low-in-preference-for-the-death-penalty/

 

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity: What It Looks Like When You’re In It For The Long Haul

The Truth about “Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.”

People have always been fascinated by individuals with mental illness. Legal movies have especially glamorized mentally ill criminals who plead not guilty by reason of insanity. They are portrayed to do the crime and not do the time. But in real life, it appears that NGI clients are doing anything but “getting away with it.”

The truth is, NGI clients have it bad. But before I get into the details, here’s a brief summary of how it works. When someone is brought to criminal court, they have the option to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This means that if the court finds them not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI), it opens a mental health case. Subsequently, NGI clients are committed to a hospital for psychiatric treatment. This commitment is indefinite.

Let me clarify what “indefinite” means; the patient stays in the hospital for an undefined amount of time, meaning that for the foreseeable future they are given a sentence without an expiration date. The point of this type of commitment is the treatment for the defendant’s illness, as opposed to punishment for a crime.

The minute this happens, the legal rights of the mentally ill shrink to a mere opportunity to petition the court for release every 6 months. In reality, this petition rarely works for the advantage of the NGI patient. One of my mentors informed me that in the Public Defender Service for the past 30 years there have been 2-3 NGI patients that won through petitioning. So the chances of an NGI patient being released because of one of these hearings are minute.

 

The “Other” Death Row

Committing people who are not dangerous for a week or a month seems unjust.  So then what do you call it when people are committed for what is practically a life sentence without even knowing it? During my training at the Public Defender Service , my supervisor Carolyn Slenska, Investigations coordinator at the Mental Health Division, informed me that the average stay for an NGI client is 30 years. Throughout my internship, I have read about and even met NGI clients who have been committed for 30 years and counting.

Last week, there was a film showing on NGI patients in the D.C. Superior Court. In the documentary, “Voices from Within,” Joy Haynes follows the commitments of four NGI patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. She and her crew gave cameras to patients at St. E’s who volunteered to participate in a video diary project. They trained them and asked them to record their stories. The documentary presented the real lives of 4 mental health patients who collectively spent 160 years in commitment after being found NGI.

Click on the image for the "Voices from Within" documentary trailer For more information, visit the project's FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SEHVFW
Click on the image for the “Voices from Within” documentary trailer
For more information, visit the project’s FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SEHVFW

When you sit down and watch the documentary, you forget that you’re following the lives of patients who are supposed to be dangers to themselves or others. You see four high functioning, coherent, cooperative, funny, and relatable human beings. You see men that don’t belong in the hospital. So why are they there? And until when do they have to stay?

Lew, one of the NGI patients, said, “I’m sitting on death row, I just don’t know it.” Tragically, after 47 years of commitment, Lew passed away at 71 years of age. In fact, three of the four men featured in the 2010 documentary have since passed while still in commitment.

 Lew also shared a disturbing conversation he had with one of the staff members at the hospital. He states that a staff member told him, “You just stay crazy, you’re putting my kid through school.” All four men featured in the film wanted their freedom. The commitment in the psychiatric hospital is supposed to be about treatment. But after these men get better, after they no longer pose a danger to themselves or other, why are they still there?

 

Which Side Are You On?

Source: http://www.jemeksolicitors.co.uk/

The other day I noticed there is a quotation framed on the walls of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW). It reads: “Take my will and my life. Guide me in my recovery. Show me how to live.” (Note: Coincidentally, I recently visited PIW and after certain renovations, the plaque is off their walls!)

Then I read the quotation in the back of our business cards: “The mission of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia is to provide and promote quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty…and thereby protect society’s interest in the fair administration of justice.”

It then became so clear that the mental health system has not escaped the grasp of the adversarial system. There is a clear application of the adversarial process in mental health cases – as in any type of case. On one side, we have the Public Defender Service who tries to get its clients out of the hospital, and on the other side, we have the hospitals that detain and commit people as psychiatric patients. One fights against the loss of individuals’ liberties and the other fights because they know what’s good for the patient. It’s the ultimate battle of lawyers vs. doctors.

An Impossible Burden — Michael Jones v. United States (1983)

Attorneys around the office often bring up this monumental court case, Michael Jones v. US According to this Jones v. US, a patient “has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is no longer mentally ill or dangerous.” (Source: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/463/354). The significance of this case, however, lies in the decision that the length of the commitment to a psychiatric hospital is not related to the length of time that the defendant would have spent if he were convicted.

Here’s an example: John Doe steals bubblegum from a candy store and the court finds him not guilty be reason of insanity. He gets an indefinite sentence at a psychiatric ward. In an alternate reality, Mr. Doe would have been found guilty for the misdemeanor. Let’s say Mr. Doe is a repeat offender and gets jail time for 2 years. Regardless of the fact that his criminal conviction would have yielded a 2 year sentence, the psychiatric commitment can “until such time as he has regained his sanity or is no longer a danger to himself or society.” (Jones v. US, 1983). This decision makes sense — the whole process sounds fair enough on paper. Well, in reality the burden that is placed on the patients is immense and nearly impossible to meet.

I see the process as having 3 stages. First, an NGI patient has to be examined by his or her treatment team. If the treatment team recommends the patient’s release, we move onto the second stage. On the second stage, the clinical board reviews the patient’s case and makes a determination. If the clinical review is for the release, we move to the last stage. On the third stage, the clinical review board submits the petition to the court asking for the patient’s release.

The three stages of NGI commitment and release ( This is a graphic that I created, this is not a publication of the Public Defender Service)
The three stages of NGI commitment and release ( This is a graphic that I created, this is not a publication of the Public Defender Service)

Here’s where things get complicated: NGI patients have committed crimes. This means that the government is involved in their case. On the third stage, the government can agree or disagree with the hospital’s recommendation to release the NGI patient. If they agree, then it’s up to the court to decide whether the patient can be released or not. If they disagree, it’s still up to the court, but it’s practically impossible to win release. In other words, the government’s agreement is integral for a real chance at NGI patients’ release.

A Necessary Battle

It would be easy to see the situation as a black and white, good vs. bad, where what we do at PDS is good and what the doctors do is bad. But that’s simply not the case. In the real life of mental health cases, lawyers vs. doctors is a necessary “battle.” PDS has developed strong relationships with the majority of psychiatric and medical doctors in D.C. mental health hospitals and psychiatric wards. The adversarial process is set so that each side fights for the client’s best interest. The attorneys at PDS are assigned to represent the clients. Many patients want to be free, many of them want to get out no matter what. So the attorneys do the best they can to advocate for the clients’ decisions. On the other side of the system, if the patients are in risk or hurting themselves or others, someone has to fight to keep them in the hospital until they get better. So medical staff members do the best they can for the clients’ well being.

Source: http://www.practicelink.com

In conclusion, when an individual with a mental illness is in court, the judge or jury should be deciding between the two best alternatives for the client – that’s what the adversarial system is supposed to accomplish anyway. Sometimes the court deems it necessary to detain a patient until their mental illness is not a danger. Other times, there is no danger and the court honors the patients’ choices and freedom.

Even so, it seems that NGI patients are giving up their entire lives just waiting to “get better.” There also seems to be no standard for what “better” looks like — it’s a very subjective evaluation with very little accountability attached to the evaluators. In NGI cases, the necessity of a vigorous advocate is evident. After a month at the Mental Health Division of PDS, I have come to appreciate the attorneys’ ability to advocate for exactly what a client asks for, without the insertion of their personal beliefs, the doctors’ recommendations, or a subjective bias. In order for the system to work, I guess each player must do what he or she does best – lawyers fight to get clients out, and doctors fight to keep them in – in the hope that the adversarial process is saving more lives than it condemns.

 

-Gina Gkoulgkountina, ‘15

Mid-Point Post from New Orleans

I have now been in New Orleans for over a month. Working at the Louisiana Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (LCADP) has certainly opened my eyes to things I could only imagine. My time here has been full of long hours, incredibly interesting material, good experiences, and inspiring coworkers and clients. My role has changed drastically since the beginning of the summer. This is partly due to the staff with whom I’ve been working, and how interested I am in the law.

I am the only intern for LCAPD, and the only undergraduate intern in the office. The rest of the interns, who are all law students, work for a non-profit law office dealing with capital cases, called Capital Appeals Project (CAP). We all work together in the law library, and I’ve been able to learn a lot from them about the appeals project. I have enjoyed this tremendously, and am incredibly grateful that I’m getting even more out of this internship by working so closely with other offices. This has really fulfilled my personal learning goal.  Each day I am learning something new just by talking with the other interns.

Another goal I had this summer was to learn if community organizing is something I want to do in the future. So far, I’ve been able to get a glimpse at that life. Although it’s something that I respect greatly, and enjoy, I think I’ve found that it may not be for me. Lately, I have been reaching out to murder victims’ family’s rights organizations and grief councilors. Our organization’s hope is to form a relationship with these community members so we can better help grieving families. This was challenging because our stance on the death penalty initially sets us up to not seem sympathetic to victims and their families. However, after I was able to introduce myself, I explained that we are against the death penalty partially because of the extreme cost. If all the money used in the appeals process could be redistributed, then the families who need financial assistance could have some relief. This was very affective, and those we met with agreed with us, for the most part. I am thoroughly enjoying meeting with councilors and organizers. It’s a long road, however, because by meeting with them, I’m realizing that their issues with the system are just as grand and challenging. This makes it harder for me to stay focused, and makes me feel a little unsure of things because in order to work together we need to communicate openly and often. I feel like a lot of these relationships are shaky and difficult, because there seems to be only so much people are willing to do for others because they have so much work to do themselves.

My academic goals are expanding and shifting to fit my internship. I have been working on an important project involving a calendar that was created last summer called the “Respect of Life Calendar.” It was marketed to Catholics who wanted to get more involved in Pro-Life issues. The goal is to expand the idea of “pro-life” to include environmental justice, criminal justice, and human dignity issues. My job is to take this framework and expand on it to make something practical that can be used regularly. I have been researching and writing content for a hand out and phone app for Catholic high schools in Louisiana, and bulletins and inserts for Catholic churches. The focus on Catholics in Louisiana is due to the fact that if the death penalty is voted down in this state it will be because of them. The Catholic Church is opposed to the death penalty, and there is a very large Catholic population in Louisiana. If we can help inspire the Catholic community to speak up, we might be able to make some lasting change.

One thing that I’ll take away from this summer is how proud I feel. I am proud of the work we are doing. I am proud that we are dedicating our time to a job that most people don’t want to do. Working directly for people who have been described as the “worst of the worst” is something I’ll never regret, or ever think is not 100% worth my time. I’m not better than anyone I’m meeting. I am a person, and I’m excited to be doing what I’m doing.

Because of the intensity of this work, I am learning how to conduct myself in a serious, respectful and supportive way. I am learning how to hold back at times when I shouldn’t reveal everything I know, and I am learning how to form bonds and connections with community members and inmates. I am also learning how to manage my time. In this field, there is always something next. There is always more to do, and it has been challenging for me to stop working at the end of the day, and not get overwhelmed. It is hard for me to compartmentalize and leave work at the office, so that is something I’ve been working toward. I’m not there yet, at all, but this internship has helped me to identify what I need to start focusing on in order to make sure I don’t burn out.

Overall, I’ve learned a lot about how to present myself in certain situations, and how to find information through research and outreach. In addition, working with law students has really taught me how to fully commit to something. I have not worked as hard as they do (and as hard as I am this summer) in all my schooling. I am excited to see what I can learn when I apply myself as much as I am now.

 

For more on the Capital Appeals Project:

http://www.thejusticecenter.org/cap.php

 

One of the great community groups I had contact with this summer:

http://silenceisviolence.org/

The Law Clerks and me in the library, aka: our office
The Law Clerks and me in the library, aka: our office.
Louis Armstrong memorial at Algiers Point, New Orleans.
Louis Armstrong memorial at Algiers Point, New Orleans.

Midpoint check in at PlayRock

I spent the first few weeks of my internship finding participants for the theater project. I looked for individuals who were either North Korean refugees or high school dropouts. It has been three weeks since the project has officially started with those participants.  (Learn more about the North Korean refugees and contact them in the US).

During the first week, I was very frustrated when I saw the participants and could not even sleep very well at night because I was thinking about them. It was heartbreaking to see those teenagers, who are desperately in need of help and guidance but could not get themselves anywhere. It was especially frustrating for me since I grew up in an environment where I could access every resource I needed.

I was eager to help them from the very beginning and I tried to do so in my own way. Unfortunately, this did not bring satisfying results and furthermore, this was the reason why my first few days with them were disappointing. I tried my best and did everything I could that seemed beneficial for the participants. Regardless of my effort, the participants did not welcome or appreciate my work. At that time I felt as if all the things I did to help them were rejected and I could not understand their self-destructive behavior. I could not figure out why everything was not working as well as I had imagined, so I started to blame myself, thinking that my actions were the direct cause of those behaviors. However, as time went on, they opened their minds to me and I got to know and understand them better.

Now I know that I was impatient to judge those behaviors as due to my actions. More importantly, now I realize that neither their behavior, which is a result of their upbringing and past traumatic experiences, can be changed in a day, like a miracle, nor can I be their savior. I also learned that it is absolutely important to connect with the participants, but at the same time I should not be emotionally attached to them. I learned that not only might that lead to me making biased judgments, but also it is not good for my mental health. I also learned is that the participants do not need my pity. Every one of them has their own story, which I will not mention for their privacy, and after listening to their story it is easy to pity them. However, pitying implies that I perceive the participants as if they are inferior and this kind of perception will change the dynamic of my relationship with the participants.

During my internship this summer, I wanted to learn how to engage with underprivileged people and I believe I achieved it through trial and error. The way in which I engage them which is different, but also similar to how I would interact with my family or friends. Moreover, by working with underprivileged people, I learned how to communicate with and understand people from different backgrounds; now I am more understanding and I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. However, as I mentioned before, not everything I did was successful. I have to admit that I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning and I still make them now. However, by keeping track of my actions and the results of my actions, and by having a designated time to reflect on them with my supervisor who taught me what I did correctly and incorrectly, I found ways to do better the next time. I believe this habit of reflecting on myself will be of great help no matter what I do in the future. Furthermore, being able to make mistakes was a precious experience; I will be a better person in the future through those experiences.

– Sohyun Shin ’15

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Time is flying at Project Happiness!

Time is flying by here in California, and everyday includes a new adventure – whether at the office or just at home. I have familiarized myself with so much about Project Happiness, and every time I come into the office, I enjoy spending the day there more and more. Though my projects change daily, they all revolve around establishing a sustainable business model for the organization. Last week, I worked on the organization’s executive summary, revamping its old format and making it more reflective of our current goals and programs. At this point, very little supervision is required, as I have become very familiar with what we do and what our objectives are. Though it is very nice to have my supervisor a couple feet away for whenever I have questions, it’s also great to have so much independence and a chance to explore the best methods to complete my tasks.

I am so incredibly proud of how much I have come to love Project Happiness and their mission. Helping this wonderful organization has not only given me valuable job market skills, it has also shown me a more positive attitude towards life and its hardships. I hope to be able to carry those skills with me throughout my senior year of college and also the rest of my life. Everyone at the organization is so passionate about what we do, and they truly embody what we stand for.

This summer, I have been participating in an extremely positive work environment, meeting people of extremely diverse professional backgrounds and been allowed a great degree of freedom with my work techniques. I hope to carry all the important lessons I have learned this summer with me as I enter my senior year, start my post-graduation job search, and lead the clubs I participate in at Brandeis. I’m looking forward to the rest of my summer at Project Happiness and can’t wait to see what other skills I will acquire in the remaining few weeks.

The poster for the Project Happiness film, directed by our founder.
The poster for the Project Happiness film, directed by our founder.

 

– Genevieve Oliveira ’15

Passing the midpoint

I’m past my midpoint here at GRAG and thinking about the learning goals I put down two months ago.The summer has been a good one, both because of the sunshine sweeping down on Dakar and the office atmosphere that’s always so positive. Even the long afternoons during the holy month of Ramadan, always slowest around the usual time for lunch, haven’t done much to deter the assorted GRAG staff. July was full of completed program funding bids and new projects to take on.

My academic and career goals have become intertwined because of the nature of my internship. GRAG is first and foremost a research organization, so my academic goals (augmenting my classroom knowledge of West-African development with firsthand involvement) and my career goals (gaining more experience in crafting advocacy materials and promoting NGO/research findings) are being met every day that I sit at my desk and draft a proposal section or edit a survey questionnaire.

I’ve read a lot about the different ways to go about international aid and over the past 2 months I’ve seen a lot of them in action. GRAG builds a knowledge base by doing its own studies based around target populations, but it also evaluates projects being done by other NGOs and government offices. Working on the outside evaluations has been especially helpful. I’m gaining more of a logistical look into the realities of aid programs and the various things that can go wrong, ways they can be improved, and in general more of a scope for understanding these ventures. Academically, this glimpse into the industry has answered a lot of questions I had about projected versus achieved results. There are more factors going in than I had thought or read about and now I know more about the multitude of difficulties that can and do arise during implementation.

Senegalese Initiative for Urban Health; one of GRAG's current evaluation projects
Senegalese Initiative for Urban Health; one of GRAG’s current evaluation projects in conjunction with the Senegalese government

I have farther to go before I’m prepared for an actual career in an organization like this one — assuming I even choose to work in this industry — but I’ve taken big leaps in some areas. My technical writing skills have definitely improved and I’ve gained a lot of experience drafting different proposals — for funding, for proposed projects, and for proposed evaluation reports. A lot of elements go into each document, and details are especially important for the advocacy materials and the study questionnaires that we distribute. Tact is essential, plus simplicity of questions and language use. Many of the materials go to poorer communities outside of Dakar so they don’t necessarily have access to the French education in public schools here. There are as many as 7 local languages at use in some regions of the country and many people here are bilingual or more, so a lot of translation work happens at the office. And sensitive issues like gender roles or sexuality can quickly cause a problem if confidentiality agreements don’t hold. I’m still learning exactly where to toe the line with subjects like that but it’s been an interesting education on the topic.

In terms of personal goals, it’s been interesting seeing the amount of focus everyone maintains in the office while working on sensitive subjects. Just yesterday my supervisor was telling me about the implementation of a project that was started before I got here on integrated health services in Senegal, and he spoke about how he is now suggesting that they take out the issue of domestic violence from the study. Researchers understand that many of the issues afflicting poor communities are intertwined, but there’s also the danger of over-saturating a survey and losing the focus of a particular research mission. In attempting to tackle too many issues at once, you run the risk of too little in-depth analysis and in fact not helping to solve any problems in a major way.

One of my learning goals was to find that emotional balance necessary for NGO work, especially during fieldwork, to juggle the heavy subjects that are the center of such studies. The GRAG team doesn’t completely separate themselves from the human elements of their research or else they wouldn’t be able to fully account for the needs of the target populations. Instead, attention is shifted to concentrate on the particular issue at hand and take the larger socioeconomic problems case-by-case. I’ve been doing the same in a lot of ways. There are always smaller pieces of a problem to work on and each project brings us closer and closer to bigger changes. My contributions don’t look like much on a day-to-day basis, but they’re part of a bigger whole and it helps to keep that in mind.

I wasn’t certain that I could do much in an international research organization back in May. When the Francophone nature of the office was added in I was almost positive that I was jumping into a place that I might not be able to keep up with. It was a surprise to discover that GRAG could teach me a lot about the field, but also that my supervisor and co-workers took my opinions to heart and my intermediate language skills didn’t end up being a problem. I am proud of the fact that I took the initiative to dive into a new experience without as much surety as I’m used to and still managed to have a great time and learn so much in the past months.

Only a few more weeks to go in Dakar until I pack up and leave both GRAG and Senegal! Things here have been heavy and confusing at times, but they’ve also taught me to keep on my toes and work on tight deadlines. Overall I’m enjoying my time in the city and trying to take in everything I can. This summer has definitely been an interesting one and I’m sure August will bring its own flavor to the mix.

-Natasha Gordon ’15

Learning How to Manage: NARAL Midpoint Check-In

I hop in the car and pull out of my house on Shakespeare Road, driving past Brandeis and onto the interstate as I make my way into Boston. The early summer sun shines hot through the windshield. I look out the window at the highway, shimmering upwards in convoluted waves, and I feel a surge of appreciation for my interns who will be spending three hours outside today canvassing for our endorsed candidates.

Six weeks after my first blog post, my job at NARAL has swelled to encompass a new set of managerial responsibilities. In addition to doing substantive work – helping my supervisor brainstorm creative field operations, draft LTEs, and strategize political campaigns – I now manage a team of nine interns, and am responsible for distributing them to our four-plus priority campaigns. This task is surprisingly complicated; I have to take into account more variables than I initially thought when I began drafting my interns’ schedules. On a daily basis, I have to consider whether or not the interns have a car, how far away the campaigns are and whether or not they are accessible by public transportation, how many hours we should be devoting to each campaign based on its priority level, etc. I spend the better part of my office days with my eyes glued to Google Calendar, attempting to utilize our interns as best we can.

Last week, I finally managed the interns’ schedules such that they are traveling to work on each of our priority campaigns at least once a week. This is no small feat; NARAL’s Political Director reported that our Political Committee was thrilled that we are able to assist our endorsed candidates in such a way. Today is the first day that our interns are traveling throughout the state in groups of two or three. Two are in Bedford, knocking on doors for Representative Kenneth Gordon; two will be in Cambridge making calls for Representative Marjorie Decker; and two will spend four hours this evening traveling to Methuen to phone bank for Representative DeCologero. I am acting as a chauffer for the Bedford folks, and will bunker down in a coffee shop to work remotely while they are in the field.

Of course, this is just a typical Monday. Tuesdays are similar, with interns in the field; Wednesdays begin with a weekly intern meeting, facilitated by me, that features a brown bag lunch and guest speaker plucked from the ripe Boston political scene. On Wednesday evenings, our intern team helps conduct research for NARAL’s (c)(3) committee; on Thursdays, our interns are in the field, collecting signatures for our campaign to have Massachusetts Congressmen Lynch and Neal sign on to the Women’s Health Protection Act. On Fridays, interns are working for campaigns yet again. Sometimes, we break our typical schedule to participate in special events, like tabling at Boston Pride or having organizing and canvassing trainings with Planned Parenthood.

It is an utter whirlwind, and I am consistently amazed by the amount of organization and attention to detail my job requires.  Serving at NARAL in this capacity has increased my managerial abilities tenfold. I have grown to feel comfortable delegating tasks to my intern team, although some are older and more experienced than me. The staff has been exceptional in their eagerness to accommodate my needs and treat me as one of their own. I sit in on staff meetings, assist in building strategy and blueprinting campaigns, and am privy to exclusive conversations among the Political, Communications, and Field teams.

More than anything, this internship has given me an in-depth look at the machinations of the political non-profit sector. Though I previously worked at NARAL for a year, I have never understood the extent to which fundraising and membership building are critical to the maintenance of a non-profit. Sometimes I become disenchanted by the reality that a significant proportion – if not a majority – of NARAL’s work is dedicated to maintaining the structures that already exist instead of directly propelling forth a pro-choice agenda. In this field, progress comes more slowly than I expected, and victories are few and far between. (It becomes even more discouraging when the Supreme Court strikes down laws and provisions that were originally NARAL victories, like the Buffer Zone Law and the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that private employers coverage of birth control.) Though the fight for reproductive justice was and is my foremost passion, I often find myself wondering if the political non-profit venue is the most effective means of pursuing electoral and legislative success.

Doubts aside, my internship is precisely what I had hoped for. Though the headaches that comes as a result of managing nine interns are quite real, the successes of doing so – the gratification of knowing that we are helping four pro-choice champions get re-elected throughout the state – make it all worth it. I make an effort to check-in with my interns consistently to ensure that the internship is meeting their expectations. Although they tell me that spending hours canvassing isn’t always the most enjoyable task, they understand its significance and understand that without their boots on the ground, NARAL wouldn’t have the clout it does among elected officials and special interests alike. I hope to make this experience as challenging as rewarding for them as it is for me.

The Value of Interning at a Small Company

Small companies are great places for summer internships! My experience so far at NYCSCC will help explain why.

One of my WOW learning goals is to network at my internship. While interning at NYCSCC, I met a fellow Brandeis student, Corey Shapiro. Corey is a rising senior and is an intern at a small web development company, Hudson Horizons. When I asked him what his internship duties were, he excitedly explained them to me. One of the projects that he completed involved testing the mobile application of one of Hudson Horizon’s clients. Corey also did research online and found a few potential clients for Hudson Horizons. He said that although there are challenges, his supervisor and his mentor are always there to help him overcome them. When Corey spoke about this support at his internship site, I related it to the intimacy I feel and the guidance I receive at NYCSCC.

Due to the size of NYCSCC, I get to know all my coworkers and can truly collaborate as a team. Furthermore, I get to speak with one of the owners on a weekly basis and have picked up plenty of advice and knowledge based on his experiences. I expect to keep in touch with him and all my coworkers even after my internship ends.

In a small company, I have many internship responsibilities and projects. I have learned to “wear multiple hats” just because there are not enough people to fulfill all of the business functions. Not only am I exploring the company’s finances, I am also helping out in event operations and writing blog posts for the Flatiron Hot! News, a company partnership. As a result of doing a little bit of everything, I am gaining skills that I never thought I would gain this summer.

I have quickly learned that the challenges that small companies face are different from the ones that big companies face. Small companies do not have the same resources as big companies. As an intern, I can provide my coworkers with a fresh, outsider’s perspective.  I offer suggestions on what the company is doing well and what it could do better to maximize its resources.  I feel valuable.  I know that every suggestion I make and every project I do count. By the time my internship ends, I know that I will have an impact on this company.

Both Corey and my experiences show the benefits of interning at small companies. Even though not all small companies come to Brandeis to recruit students, these companies are always looking for interns throughout the year. There are so many opportunities for students to gain knowledge and develop skills at these companies. Students just have to be proactive and look for them.

– Tifani Ng ’16

Corey Shapiro’s internship site

Learning and Creating at UFE

Wow, I can’t believe I’m over halfway through my time with United for a Fair Economy.

It’s been a very interesting, educational, and positive experience. I really enjoy interacting with all of the other people at UFE. They make me feel supported and appreciated, and I can’t stress enough how important that is at a job or internship. They are also supportive in teaching me things, giving feedback on my work, and collaborating to accomplish tasks.

After the end of fiscal year gift processing died down, I was able to accomplish a lot more on my individual projects – the projects I chose at the beginning and some more that came up along the way!

MataHari, with whom we share an office and consider a “sister” organization, had a great success recently with the passage of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights! We went to the signing and I wrote a blog post about it.

DWBoR1I also created a donor survey to find out more about who our donors are, their feelings and thoughts about UFE, what we’re doing well and what we can do better, etc.  Suzanna, the Director of Development, gave me some materials on donor surveys and helped me formulate questions. We’ll be launching that soon and tracking the results.

I also got to design a one-panel info card to replace their outdated brochure! It’s double-sided: English on one side, Spanish on the other (I even got to create a Spanish version of the UFE logo, which was quite a challenge! I’m still not sure I completely understand how paths work in Adobe Illustrator, but I managed). We tried to keep it simple and informative, attractive, and readable. After my first draft, I sent it out for feedback from the staff and worked with the new Communications Coordinator to make it consistent with UFE’s branding. I’m proud of the final product. And the Popular Education team is heading to an event this weekend, and bringing copies of my info card to hand out!

New UFE Brochure 3 New UFE Brochure 3-p2

I’ve learned more about the economy, as well. Suzanna lent me a copy of Inequality for All, the new documentary by Robert Reich on income inequality in the U.S. In meetings and other conversations, I’ve learned about interesting ideas such as post office banking. And one day, one of the Program Coordinators screened this great clip from John Oliver about the wealth gap.

I can’t believe I’m approaching the end of my time at UFE. Certain people have already started trying to convince me to stay instead of going back to school. 🙂 Although I won’t be able to do that, I’m appreciating the time I do have left.

Internship Completion at Riverside Early Intervention

Friday July 25

Jean Perez, ’15

Days and hours at the internship site: From the day that I started my internship (Jun 2) until now (July 28) two whole months have gone by and I have successfully completed 200 hours at my internship site.

My internship at Riverside Early Intervention has given me the opportunity to achieve the three initial goals that I had at the beginning of this whole journey. My first goal had to do with academics. Initially I wanted to expand my understanding of topics covered in the course, Disorders of Childhood. During the internship I observed and got hands on experience with both psychological and physiological disorders in children with disabilities. The experience has helped me to understand that that these two aspects originate from many sources including environmental factors and family genetics. As I went through many of the readings that were assigned, I quickly learned new things and how to apply these new skills to the work that I was doing with the kids. For example, one of the things that I learned was that many kids have sensory needs and so by helping the children learn about different textures I was showing them how to explore the world and learn new information. This was a therapeutic way to experience the world around them and ultimately enhanced their learning abilities.

My second goal dealt with the career path that I am most likely going to be taking after I graduate college and get my Master’s degree. After my experience at Riverside Early Intervention, I am now considering becoming a developmental specialist for children with special needs. Also, my second goal was to be able to treat children with special needs effectively. By doing charts reviews, reading articles based on different disorders, and learning about the maturation process of children,  I have increased my understanding of child development. With the training and the knowledge that I have gained at Riverside from their team of specialists, I can now detect motor disorders and developmental disorders such as Autism with ease. I can also treat these disorders by applying the same techniques and concepts that developmental specialists, social workers, speech language pathologists and physical therapists use at the early intervention center.

My third goal was a personal one. I wanted to increase my understanding of the family dynamics and intervention methods that are used to assist children with different disabilities. In this internship I have learned that one of the most important factors that can help a child with special needs is to have a supportive environment both at home and outside the house. Many parents simply do not know how to properly handle a child with special needs. At Riverside, the work that I was doing with my co-workers offered parents help, and taught them how to properly interact with their child and further their child’s learning process. These proper interactions ranged from sign language for those children with limited vocabulary, to working with children and facilitating communication by getting at their level and coping with their needs instead of taking a hostile approach. Many intervention methods included communicating with children and engaging them by using simple and short vocabulary, usually one to three word phrases. Also, using visuals is an excellent way to communicate with children with special needs. Specialists at Riverside use a computer program called “Board Maker” with which they create a curriculum for kids using pictures and words to communicate the action of the picture. This way, a child can make sense of words by linking both the words and the picture. Other intervention methods include the social aspects of daily life. At Riverside, children are taught how to socially interact with others by simply saying their name. However, other intricate forms of interaction can include sharing and learning to say “thanks” and “excuse me”. As simple as it sounds, these kinds of methods are the ones that can help a child with special needs to do better later in life. Overall, my whole experience was a successful because I had fun doing it and I do not regret any of it.

A very valuable lesson that I have learned that can be useful in the classroom at Brandeis and beyond in the workforce is to always accept any good advice that others with more training and professionalism have to offer because that advice can help one to improve and to keep learning. It is important to also be patient and to reflect about how far one has come. It is impressive the amount of information that one takes in with such an internship. Overall, the biggest lesson that this whole experience has taught me is to never limit myself and to always think big because the world is full of possibilities and it is up to the individual to shape his own destiny and future.

Upon graduation, I want to get a job in the same type of environment as my former internship and work for a year so that I can gain more experience in the field. This way, I would be doing what I love the most—working with children—and I would be entering the workforce and learning even more. If I could advise any intern looking to work with children with disabilities, Riverside Early Intervention is a must go! Riverside became a second family for me in such a short amount of time. I would definitely encourage an intern to spend a summer working there! The only thing that I would warn a student about is that he must love what he is doing, be patient, have an open mind to learn new things, and be able to take advice from others to increase his understanding of child development. Lastly, I would remind any student that no one is going to get rich by working with kids. There is not a lot of money to be made in this industry or field, but it is a decent job and it is extremely rewarding.

Reflecting on Theatre and Social Change

From organizing the company bookstore to painting giant sheets of wood with chalkboard paint for an interactional lobby display (photo below) to learning exactly how much work it takes to apply for a liquor license to researching Filipino organizations we need to reach out to in order to advertise for auditions for our upcoming show– my jobs at Company One have varied a lot in the past month, making the time fly by. The idea that I’m over halfway done with my internship (and my summer) is unbelievable. 

One of the many interactional lobby activities for Astro Boy (I made those chalkboards!)
One of the many interactional lobby activities for Astro Boy (I helped make those chalkboards!)

Since my last blog post, I’ve debriefed with my supervisor about the LMDA dramaturgy conference (and learned even more in our almost 2-hour long conversation; about theatre history and the Regional Theatre Movement which helped create regional theaters across America, how Boston is not only one of the most gentrified cities in the nation but one of the most racially divided, how dramaturgs at Company One and at various theaters work and what they do specifically, etc.), I’ve helped out with lobby set-up for Astro Boy, and I’ve seen the show twice. It opened to a pretty good review in the Boston Globe and NPR covered it, too (listen to the radio segment here, or read the review here). 

I find I’m learning even in the most “mundane” tasks I’m asked to do at the theater. For instance, while I may sit in the lobby for many of the auditions I help with and do simple things such as sign actors in and gives them their sides (scripts to read for the audition), I get to see how important it is for actors to be polite to the person doing that, I get to debrief with the casting director after every audition and see what he thinks about actors and what he looks for, and I get to know the plays for which we are holding auditions. By organizing and ordering books for the company bookstore, I’ve learned about award-winning playwrights and plays I had never heard of before and am getting a glimpse into the incredibly vast ocean of theatrical literature we only barely dip our toes into with an undergraduate theatre education. Every single day at Company One, I learn something new. 

The lobby for Astro Boy, which I helped set up during tech week
The lobby for Astro Boy, which I helped set up during tech week

Watching Astro Boy reminded me how much I love theatre and reaffirmed my desire to become a director. Seeing a show at Company One is an incredible opportunity because they aren’t a super-polished, generally “safe” (ie non-risk-taking) regional theatre. They worked on this show in their female playwrights XX Play Lab and have been developing it since. As a company that strives to make theatre accessible to a younger, more diverse population, they have lower ticket-prices and, unfortunately, a lower-budget than most companies. But this theatre is so important as I, along with many others, have learned so much about Astro Boy— the comic of manga artist Tezuka, a huge artist in Japan. Just by seeing an 80-minute play. I knew nothing about the artist or the comic before working for Company One and now I’m fascinated by Tezuka’s life and his comic, Astro Boy. I’ve also seen an incredible, new take on mixed media in the theater involving projection, animation, drawing, puppetry, and live music, giving me ideas for future work I might produce in theatre. 

Theaters need to be doing more work like this, and hopefully smaller fringe theaters like this are having an influence on the larger regional theaters out there so educational, culturally diverse theatre will be more widely produced on a larger scale. I hope to take what I’ve learned about non-profit work, professional theatre, and representation in theatre and apply it to all future work I pursue in the theatre world and otherwise. And I mean it when I say I can’t wait to learn what I’ll learn in my last month of my internship at Company One. 

Thanks for reading.

Alison Thvedt ’15