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.

dph logo

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!

Author: Victoria Jonas

Victoria Jonas is a rising senior at Brandeis University, with majors in Psychology and Women's & Gender Studies. She is an intern with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in the Sexual Assault Prevention & Survivor Services Unit.

2 thoughts on “Wrapping up at the Department of Public Health”

  1. Hi Victoria, sounds like you had a great summer. I worked with the Boston Public Health Commission this summer and I would have to agree with your advice on not getting too discouraged by the slow pace of work being processed in a bureaucratic agency. This pace definitely annoyed me at the beginning of the summer, so I was wondering if this pace affected your passion for certain projects in anyway and whether or not you can now see yourself “affect change” through this type of outlet as opposed to just working as a ground level activist. Having experienced public health on both levels, like yourself, I can certainly see now how such agencies wield true power in affecting positive change if you have the patience to see it come to fruition.

  2. Hi Victoria, this internship sounds like it was perfect for you! It also seems that you got a lot out of it and you realized how to take the information you learned and apply it to your future goals. Like myself, it’s nice to see that you met the original goals you have set up for yourself at the beginning of this experience. Do you think you see and future with this company and would work with them again? It sounds like even through some struggles, that you learned how to manage and overcome the obstacles. I’m glad you had such a great internship and I wish only the best for you in the future!

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