The End of My Internship at Small Army

This past Thursday, I finished my time as account services and social media intern for Small Army and Small Army For A Cause. So it’s safe to say the end has been very bittersweet for me as it is never easy to say goodbye to a place I genuinely enjoyed being a part of. I already miss being a part of the Small Army team and being able to work with all of my coworkers there. I will especially miss all of the .gifs and memes exchanged in the office email chains. That being said, the end has really made I appreciate all of the experiences I’ve made along the way. Every experience has taught me many valuable lessons and created new opportunities. Through these new lessons and opportunities, I can thankfully say that I transformed from a student who originally felt like I was not for ready for life after college into one who can now comfortably say I feel confident for life in the workforce.

 

Since my last blog post, these last few weeks have flown by. My responsibilities at Small Army slowly transitioned into focusing solely on the Be Bold, Be Bald! cancer fundraiser. As most of the planning had been completed, I focused mainly on customer service, social media, and scheduling our emails. For customer service I worked to finalize commitment from beneficiaries, handle orders from the Bald Shop, and to answer questions from participants. One of the things I’m most proud of was securing Lowell General Hospital Team Walk for CancerCare as one of the beneficiaries of the fundraisers. It was exciting to be one of the major contributors behind bringing on board such a large and successful non-profit foundation, especially since it is located 10 minutes from my hometown of Dracut. As for the social media and email scheduling my assignments were to run the Be Bold, Be Bald! Facebook event page and to use our email marketing service provider MailChimp to schedule every email we had written to be sent out leading up to the event. In the last few days, I had two exit interviews with different Small Army coworkers. They were very helpful and were perfectly representative of Small Army’s goal to make each intern have as worthwhile an experience as possible. I hope my exit interviews will help Small Army make future internship experiences even better than mine.

 

I would like to end by giving many thanks to all at the Small Army team and by listing the top 15 lessons I learned as an intern there. I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to spend this summer as a Small Army intern and I am thankful to them for making this such an invaluable experience.

Foo Fighters – Learn To Fly – YouTube

Thank you Small Army. (This is a Foo Fighters reference for KC Cole in the media department)

 

 15 things I learned this summer:

  • Be Nice to everyone: You never know where your life will take you
  • Smile: Smiling is contagious and has a positive impact on the workplace.
  • Be Organized: Take notes, keep a to-do list, create a calendar for deadlines and meetings.
  • Network, Network, Network: Attend company outings and strike up conversations with other people at the event. You never know whom you will meet.
  • Understand that you are not perfect: You are going to make mistakes. However, what is important is what you learn from the mistakes and how you use them to make better decisions in the future.
  • Have confidence, but stay humble: Confidence can be very rewarding, but it is important to stay humble and to understand what crosses the line.
  • Keep Learning: Whether it’s new technology, research techniques, or job skills, the more you know, the more of an asset you are.
  • Find a role model(s): Learn what they have done and continue to do in order to be successful.
  • Understand how tasks get done: How does a project start and what is the process to complete it?
  • Understand and Meet deadlines: Completing work when it is due will solidify coworkers’ trust in you. If you ever find yourself in a situation in which you cannot meet a deadline, it is important to take responsibility to effectively communicate that information to your team. Being aware of the situation will allow the team to adapt more effectively.
  • Take on extra tasks, but do not overcommit: Helping coworkers complete projects is great, but if you overcommit on projects it will be difficult to meet deadlines.
  • Call people on the phone: If email is not successful, pick up the phone and talk. Phone calls allow you to give a personal touch.
  • Make the most out of every job: You never know what you will learn. Even the most monotonous jobs can have hidden benefits.

– James Machado ’16

Blog Post #3 – NARAL

One of the main goals I had for my summer internship experience was to enhance my communication skills. I was able to achieve this goal while evolving as a professional in ways that I could not anticipate before my internship began. When I originally set this goal, I assumed I would meet it by engaging with folks one on one to discuss NARAL’s work. I absolutely did communicate with people in this way, especially at events where NARAL hosted a table, such as the Boston Pride Parade and Suffolk University’s Menstrual Health Conference. Overtime, I did become more confident in representing the organization and its mission by talking to people individually and in smaller groups. However, another way in which I was able to bolster my communications skills was through my work as a member of the NARAL staff and intern team.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my supervisor left the organization a few weeks after my internship started, which proved to be a difficult transition for my fellow interns and me.  I expressed concern about the transition to my interim supervisor and engaged in an honest dialogue about the environment that resulted from my initial supervisor’s departure. This conversation was a turning point for me, in both a professional and personal way, as I embraced the opportunity to advocate for myself and express my honest sentiments in a constructive manner.

In the past, I have had difficulty expressing or advocating for my needs, as it is more my nature to please others and shy away from disrupting the flow. However, I realized that if I did not advocate for myself in this situation, my internship experience would suffer. I had a positive dialogue with my temporary supervisor during our initial conversation, which resulted in her understanding and action.  My temporary supervisor enacted immediate changes and was sure to check-in with me periodically to keep the communication lines open and honest. This entire experience proved to be extremely rewarding since I stepped out of my comfort zone and went out on a limb to advocate for myself. I found my voice in a way that I did not know existed. Despite the brief period of disruption, this experience was valuable to my personal and professional growth.

For any students interested in interning with NARAL or another organization in the field of health care advocacy, I would advise them to ask as many questions as possible. The realm of politics and health care policy is filled with nuances and an overwhelming amount of information. The best way to become familiar with all of this information is by continuing to learn and ask questions. The staff members at NARAL have always happily answered my questions and have taken the time to thoroughly explain policies to me. The staff’s openness to inquiries contributes to the positive atmosphere of the office, which is something that I really appreciated about this internship.

(NARAL is currently looking to hire a graphic design intern, and put this image out!) Keep Calm

Overall, this was a fantastic summer, and I am so grateful to the WOW program for allowing me to have this experience.

Here is a picture of another NARAL intern dropping off petitions at the State House. Nate petition

 

For more on recent legislative hearings that included NARAL bills, check out this article!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/08/13/legislation-aims-protect-privacy-health-insurance-forms/HGvYA5Xip9SLXOK9IGRhzH/story.html

For more on the Joint Committee that heard our NARAL bill, look at this government site:

https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Joint/J11

 

A Bittersweet End to an Amazing Summer with the Omaha Farmers Market

It’s officially been a week since I finished my internship with the Omaha Farmers Market. While I am looking forward to returning to Brandeis, I will miss all of the people I worked with over the course of the last couple of months. I worked with people from a variety of different backgrounds, from Health Department workers to local farmers; the people I met this summer really expanded my horizons. Without the help of these people I would not have been able to accomplish the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of my internship.

First among those goals was my intention to improve myself academically and learn more about how local farmers impact their local economies. I set about accomplishing this goal by surveying market customers on-site at the market as well as through an alternative online survey. On these surveys I asked about the customer’s spending tendencies and some demographic information. I also gathered information from the market vendors about their experience with the Farmers Market. From the data I collected interviewing market customers and vendors I was able to generate a report using Market Umbrella’s Sticky Economic Evaluation Device. Annually the Omaha Farmers Market has an impact of over $23 million between its two locations. The results, while not unexpected, were certainly welcomed by the higher ups.

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Overview of the Aksarben Village market – Source: Me

This leads in to my career goal for the summer, which was to apply the knowledge I had gained at Brandeis in the real world. I worked with a couple of professors from the Economics Department at the University of Nebraska Omaha; they were helpful in organizing the Economic Impact Study and I was able to complete it on time with great results. I was able to use the economic knowledge I learned at Brandeis to produce a professional study that the Omaha Farmers Market will use when they are applying for grants.

My final and possibly most important goal was one I set for myself and that was to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the Omaha Farmers Market. Originally, this was supposed to be just researching different methods to improve the program and apply them to the market. However, as projects often do, this grew to include more than just research papers, talking to other markets and SNAP. I spent many hours working to improve awareness of one of our smaller, lesser known markets. The Omaha Farmers Market works with the Charles Drew Health Center to put on a small market for six weeks during prime market season. This market is different because a majority of the transactions involve WIC checks. This program (Women, Infants, and Children) is a special supplemental nutrition program which provides federal grants for low income women and children. The vendors at this market do not really make a profit due to the structure of this particular supplement program, but they are committed to providing fresh, local produce to an area that does not typically have access to produce. In recent years, the attendance at this market has declined, which was most likely a result of lack of promotion. As part of my internship I went around to local churches and community centers, as well as most of the WIC clinics in Omaha. I created flyers for the various facilities to hand out to their clients to bring more awareness of the market at the Charles Drew Health Center. This small market even got attention from the local news station on opening day – Link. Also, as a result of my study, the Omaha Farmers Market extended their SNAP match program for an additional two months to benefit more users.

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The Office Building where I worked – Source: http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/45865/300-South-19th-Street-Omaha-NE/

I do not know if this position will be available in the near future, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in economics or even event management. It does involve a lot of early mornings on the weekends and a general knowledge of Supplemental Nutrition programs. It is a great position to learn how market vendors and people can come together and impact their local communities for the better. While there is still plenty to do at the Omaha Farmers Market my time is unfortunately over, I just hope the work I did will continue to benefit the Market for years to come.

 

-Luke Bredensteiner ’17

Social Justice WOW Recipient

On Leaving Project Harmony Israel: I could never forget you Oh Jerusalem

It is bittersweet to be leaving Project Harmony Israel, to be leaving Jerusalem, the children and staff I have come to know, this country. In many ways I have met my summer internship goals of developing language proficiency in Hebrew, developing my leadership and conflict resolution skills within a work setting, and making memories/forming personal relationships with those who are different from me and learn how to allow that alternative perspective to enlighten my own. However, meeting these goals came in largely different forms than I expected, and some of them evolved because of that. For instance, developing language proficiency in Hebrew became more centered on becoming proficient in certain conversational settings regarding art and food as well as a proficiency in deeper understanding the politics of language in Jerusalem. So, while I did not become more proficient in my Hebrew at large, I became very good at buying groceries, haggling for bargains, naming colors and explaining art projects, and most importantly I became aware of the politics of language (Arabic v. English v. Hebrew) in Jerusalem. Developing my leadership and conflict resolution skills within a work setting came from taking on an authoritarian position, delegating tasks, and creating a cohesive vision and then following through with it even when schedules had to be re-arranged and staffing changed. Part of developing my leadership and solving conflicts in the classroom also meant learning to strike a balance between having fun and maintaining clear boundaries. This balanced allowed for natural memory making because I was more focused on forming personal relationships rather than constantly having to prove my authority. Making memories and creating bonds with my campers and some volunteers for Project Harmony gave me a lot to think about regarding Palestinian rights, identity politics, and the need for A-political (or normalized) environments as complimentary spaces for youth in Israel. I learned from my conversations with campers as young as 10 and as old as 15 that contact is the first step towards recognition, which is the way towards relationships and, ultimately, respect.

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Project Harmony Israel’s Identity Flag sits behind Israel’s President Ruvi Rivlin at a press conference.

My internship with Project Harmony Israel has undoubtedly solidified my interest in working in Israel and for the betterment of the state through person-to-person interactions. I think it has also given me a deeper understanding of where my observational skills, leadership skills, and cross-cultural curiosity are best utilized. I certainly learned that I am more flexible than I imagined, that I can manage my time well and think of projects at the last minute, and that I am capable of both working alone and as a team to build a positive educational environment for both Jews and Arabs. I think this ties into what I am most proud of looking back on my work. I am so so proud of the children I came to know and the space I created with them. Together, we completed over ten projects, including an identity flag mural that was presented to Israel’s President Ruvi Rivlin.

 

I am also very proud to have been a part of an organization that encourages dialogue, and to have been a witness to the incredible kinds of conversations that occurred at this camp, including the sharing of other peace organizations and being present for a Jewish boy’s first time experiencing an integrated environment and making an Arab friend. There was actually mention of Ori’s experience in the Hand in Hand Newsletter, which you can read here. I will quote it briefly though,

Mural
Campers Yarden and Basel carry the mural into President Revlon’s home.

“How is it that my kids don’t like Arabs? I’ve always taught them that we are all equal, but somehow my 11 year old thinks all Arabs are bad – how does that happen?

I sent Ori to Project Harmony this summer because I thought it would be good for him. He was scared at the beginning, but the staff at camp was warm and supportive, and he opened up and started playing sports with the other kids. After a few weeks in camp, he came home and told me: “You know what, Ima, you were right. My Arab friends are really cool, and I can learn from them, maybe they can come over?” That was everything for me. I know change doesn’t happen overnight, but this was a start. I told him that my granparents and my father spoke Arabic, and as an Iraqi Jew, the language is part of our heritage too. You can’t judge people by their religion or ethnicity. Being part of Hand in Hand is about really understanding and living the equality I believe in.”

This is a community that gives to each other and I am so proud and grateful to have been and to continue to be a part of its work.

-Risa Dunbar ’17

Reflection: An unforgettable time in Ecuador and working in Pablo Arturo Suarez Hospital

It has been an incredible time in Ecuador which makes this an even more difficult time saying good-bye to everyone at the hospital, friends I have made, and the country itself. The privilege I have had to learn, work, and observe the healthcare system is truly humbling and I feel so grateful to return back to the United States safe and healthy.

I walked int11931685_10206815787186424_485108242_no my internship at Hospital Pablo Arturo Suarez pretty unsure of what to expect. Luckily, I realized I had a great amount of freedom and many opportunities to converse with healthcare professionals and patients everyday while performing my expected duties. A pretty big goal this summer was to learn Spanish medical terminology because I personally find it critical to be able to communicate effectively in another language as a doctor in our healthcare system. I found that over the course of the summer my knowledge expanded exponentially as I could keep conversations which conveyed medical information with patients.

Another goal which I accomplished which was inspired by the class called American Healthcare at Brandeis was to observe and compare and contrast the different health care systems. Keeping this goal in mind really helped me shape the conversations I had with my mentors and doctors at the hospital. I also learned a lot about how culture differences can really impact medical differences such as in the difference in privacy practices in Ecuador (which is very loose) compared to those of America (more strict). Although there were many differences that raised a red flag, the healthcare system was incredibly effective and is catching up to the west every day. As well, the cost of medical care is incomparably cheaper. If you go to this link, you can read how much cheaper it is to get basic procedures done which changes the quality of living you can have.

This experience has certainly helped me reaffirm by desire to pursue medicine as a career. Even more than reaffirm this passion, it has made me realize the privilege I have had growing up in the States and the great healthcare I’ve been able to receive. I realize more each day how important it is to give to those who don’t have access to healthcare the agency because of the tremendous impacts it can have on a persons quality of life. I know in the future I want to purse nonprofit/ volunteer opportunities here in America or other places in the world where this is a severe problem. By doing this, I know I want to expand my knowledge in public health and really focus on preventative/ holistic measures as mean of solution.

Mitad del Mundo--or the equator!
Mitad del Mundo–or the equator!

I would recommend anyone with an open mind, a passion for the medical field, and an ability to be flexible to volunteer at this hospital in Ecuador. Many times in order to get a fulfilled day it was up to me to take initiative and engage. A lot of succeeding and feeling accomplished each day came from a personal motivation to make the most of it. A personal goal/ reason for coming to Ecuador was to explore my own heritage and culture. I am half hispanic and immersing myself in Spanish and Latin culture was really wonderful for me to self-identify with. The ability to challenge myself with spending a summer in an unknown country and handle different mishaps along the way is by far what I am most proud of. As a whole, I would recommend anyone to travel and explore the country Ecuador–and even according to NBC News, it is possibly the best place to retire!

– Paulina Kuzmin ’17

Blog Post 3: Completing My Internship at AJWS

After learning about AJWS from my Near Eastern & Judaic Studies listserv, I understood that its mission to realize human rights and end poverty in the Global South so resonates with my values and aspirations. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be an Office of the President Intern, and while I knew I would learn a lot, what I have learned far exceeded my expectations- meeting my learning goals and beyond. From my third day at the internship in attending the All-Staff and getting to know the staff members here, I found that there is so much to learn and be inspired by all of the people involved in this mission. I have discovered the paths that people have taken that brought them to this organization. Many of them have histories in activism, social work, and many of them have also been involved with Jewish life in some form. They all have been inspired, they all are extremely passionate about the work that AJWS does, and all of their experiences are so valuable for me to hear about because the atmosphere in the office is one of such enthusiasm and hope that I would love to work in a similar setting one day.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on meetings with Ruth, hearing how she presents AJWS and the mission to all different audiences. Her ability to constantly appeal to people’s sense of morality is amazing. Having the ability to speak with her on topics such as the concept of “voluntourism” and whether or not can you always respectfully disagree has been incredibly meaningful for me (after hearing a radio show by Eboo Patel). In these conversations, I learned about the difficult decision of whether service trips for college students was truly a part of the mission- while they did accomplish a lot, the trips were designed to benefit the participants more than the people in the developing world who are trying to realize human rights, as AJWS vows to help them do. In talking about respectfully disagreeing, Ruth mentioned a plethora of helpful life tips that she learned as a politician. While there are some issues you should stand up for, if you are trying to work with a person or need that person to accomplish a given task, sometimes it is best to put your differences aside.

Throughout my meetings with other staff members, I also loved learning about navigating decision making in this organization, whether it be whether to fund an organization or not, when to pull out of a country or program, how to present a provocative concept such as sex worker’s rights, or how to create a strategy while maintaining the bottom up, grassrooted approach. I have learned how to research in a professional setting through briefings and reading many articles and dvrei tzedek. I have worked on organizing the ORG system and Ruth’s “Public Appearance” excel sheet, as I mentioned earler. I have also brainstormed with Rachel, my co-intern, a way to bring AJWS to college campuses, we presented them to Joshua and Ruth, so now we hope to implement our ideas this fall. Joshua has taught me so much about working with people in a professional setting as well as organization within a nonprofit. He taught me so much about presentation and how impactful it is, and has given Rachel and me so many wonderful assignments, and is always an encouraging and fun supervisor. This summer at AJWS has been one of immense growth for me, from learning how to be a professional and how a nonprofit works, to learning how to live in Manhattan completely on my own for the first time.

Before this internship, I predicted my career path to be as a college professor. This internship has shown me another world, however, that I definitely would not be closed off to working in in the future. Each day I felt energized by the positive work environment, the driven and enthusiastic atmosphere of people who love and strongly believe in what they are doing. They are making a difference in many lives, and I grew to be passionate about the organization, their causes, as well as the incredible staff who work there.

In terms of learning about myself, I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses, how I feel about working inside an office, and where my interests and passions lie. It was a great opportunity to learn how to complete different tasks (such as research, writing, etc.) in a professional setting.

The American Jewish World Service is an extremely special place and a very fun place to hold an internship. My advice for those interested in an internship at AJWS or at a nonprofit in general would be to really take up all of the opportunities offered. Go to human rights movies with your supervisor if he/she offers, ask a lot of questions (at appropriate times, of course), try to get to know staff members and ask them about how they got to be where they are today. What did they study? What do they love about their job? What is the most challenging? I think while working at a desk all day can be challenging for college students who are used to a much lighter and more flexible schedule, it gives you a great opportunity to read the news, read stories relevant to your organization, and if possible, be creative in what you present in your own work to help the organization. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had this summer with this internship! It has been a truly amazing experience.

-Gabi Hersch ’17

Rachel, my co-intern and I, pose with our supervisor, Joshua, for a quick picture at his desk.
Rachel, my co-intern and I, pose with our supervisor, Joshua, for a quick picture at his desk.
President of American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger, tweets about her interns on our last day of the internship.
President of American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger, tweets about her interns on our last day of the internship.

After the End: My Thoughts Post-O’Neill

I ended my internship at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center about two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what I’ve learned about myself as a student, artist, and collaborator. I have a clearer idea of what I am capable of doing and what I actually want to do in the theater industry. For example, this internship reaffirmed my interest in directing and confirmed that I am not interested in acting. But it also made me think more seriously about theater administration, dramaturgy, producing, and theater education as possible career paths. My experience at the O’Neill taught me that, if I continue to work hard and educate myself, I’m capable of more than I originally thought.

The O'Neill logo projected on the Gala tent earlier this summer.
The O’Neill logo projected on the Gala tent earlier this summer.

For the immediate future, I know I will use the skills I’ve learned here to improve my work at Brandeis. The deeper understanding I’ve gained about the structure of musicals and plays will inform how I direct my thesis production this fall. I will also use my knowledge of professional theater productions to enhance my classwork. The administration skills I gained will affect my work as an Undergraduate Departmental Representative and Senior Interviewer in the Office of Admissions. Once I graduate, I am considering returning to the O’Neill as a worker or student. I also will be in contact with the friends and professional connects I made this summer. They are not only great resources for future work, but also help me keep up with what theater is going on across the country.

I would recommend my internship to anyone who is seriously considering a career in the theater industry, specifically those who are interested in the development of new work. The O’Neill looks for people who are hard working, self-starters, and kindhearted. The O’Neill is located in a small town away from other theaters. Many of the workers live on campus. The staff and interns get to know each other and are all an integral part of what makes the theater run. They must be willing to put in the work to make things go smoothly while simultaneously sustaining a positive working and living environment.

Me visiting the Mystic Seaport, 20 minutes away from the O'Neill.
Me visiting Mystic Seaport, located about 20 minutes away from the O’Neill.

Experiencing what the day-to-day workplace was like in such a competitive and fast-paced industry was reassuring. It can certainly be stressful and exhausting, but with the right support, it is an absolutely inspiring place to be. The works of theater kept me excited about going to work—even at 8 AM, even after a 14-hour workday. I realized that my experiences at Brandeis prepared me to take on long days with many tasks. I am most proud of my ability to focus and to know the appropriate times to speak up or step back. The most valuable thing I learned this summer, however, is that I am excited to get into the working world, not scared. It has reassured me that I can find a place in the theater community and that I am ready to get to work.

– Rachel Liff ’16

Midpoint Reflections–Writopia Lab, NYC

I write this in front of a large arched window in the New York Public Library (NYPL), St. Agnes branch, looking down at Amsterdam Ave. Until I arrived in NYC close to nine weeks ago, my connection to the NYPL didn’t go past watching PBS’s “Between the Lions” as a child; my primary understanding of streets and avenues came only from short trips into the city where I relied on others to take charge of navigating.

Nine weeks later, I can now walk alone from the 79th Street subway stop to work each day, coffee in hand, feeling the directions intuitively. I also have a New York library card to fuel my subway reading, and travel once a week to an NYPL in the Bronx to help lead free Writopia workshops for kids and teens. Each week, more areas of this enormous city become familiar as I visit them more frequently and form personal connections with them.

Though I still make mistakes with subway transfers and muddle what it means to be Queens-bound or Bronx-bound, express or local (and where is this mythical Van Cortlandt Park, anyways?), I now solve transportation problems fairly quickly, knowing how to navigate the basics of different lines and their connection points. I also have official lunch break traditions on constant rotation–I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the park bench outside of Central Park on 81st and Columbus, paperback book in my lap. Or, I’ll get a ham and cheese croissant and sit at the communal table in Zabar’s, surrounded by elderly ladies. If I’m in a rush, I’ll go for the “P.S. 85” turkey sandwich at the Parisian Deli on Columbus, with a bag of blue Doritos.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but I suddenly find myself at home here, settled into the routine of 9-5 work.

It’s a strange new feeling, being a 19-year old in the “world of work,” yet many of the basic emotions I feel here are similar to how I often feel in college. For starters, I constantly feel some mixture of inspiration and sleepiness, and being in a workshop setting each day requires critical thinking and attentiveness just as classes do. One difference I really appreciate, though, is how much I feel I am directly benefiting the lives of others. Though I of course have ample opportunity at Brandeis to volunteer or give back to the community through my extracurriculars and on-campus job, the basic reasoning behind college is typically to further one’s own life: a student takes classes in order to complete a major, in order to then get a job that ideally helps the student feel fulfilled. Even if that dream job is related to helping others, the student has to get to that point by working hard and focusing on their own studies and goals.

Working at Writopia this summer, one of my goals was to take a break from this college mentality and immerse myself in making a difference in the lives of the children I worked with. What I did not predict is how much of a difference they’ve made in my life, too.

Teaching Writopians in a graphic noveling class
Teaching young Writopians in a graphic noveling class

I came into this internship as an English and Creative Writing double major, with an interest in teaching but more of a passion for generating my own work. Writing has always been a creative outlet that allows me to put elements of my life in perspective, while providing a temporary escape from it. Writing helps me understand myself when I feel my mind is running in an unmanageable number of directions, and is always what I turn to in times of unhappiness.

After many weeks at Writopia, focusing entirely on the work of others, I’ve begun to rethink the role of writing and creativity in my own life. Though I still feel strongly about how much I love it, I realize now that if (realistic thoughts aside) I were to somehow manage to be just a writer for a living, it would not be enough. It is too amazing to help facilitate this process for children and teens–many of whom are experiencing the benefits of creative writing for the very first time–to not continue teaching and inspiring.

The responsibility of helping Writopians express themselves through writing and graphic noveling is something I take seriously, because I know the emotional vulnerability that a child can put into a creative piece, and how beneficial that process can be for their emotional growth and confidence. I want to help them feel safe expressing whatever they want to through their work, and proud of themselves for doing so. My internship at Writopia has not only helped me learn the NYC subway system, explore various NYPL’s, or discover places to get sandwiches–it has taught me that the act of helping another person create a piece of writing or art is just as powerful as, and often more fulfilling than, the act of creating itself.

Through the many lonely, sleepy, and even depressed moments I’ve had this summer living on my own in an often stressful city environment, it is not my own writing that got me through, but working with the campers at Writopia. When I read their amazing writing pieces, laugh with them on a picnic blanket in Central Park, or help them illustrate their imaginative and often downright weird ideas in a graphic novel, I gain inspiration and strength through their fearless, boundless creativity, their insightful comments in workshop, and their discovery of writing and art as a means of self-expression. It is indescribably rewarding to help young people reach their creative goals, big or small, and I find there is beauty and truth to each Writopian’s piece, whether it be about a talking toilet or the death of a sibling. I know now that working with and empowering the next generation of artists and writers is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life–it allows me to feel like a mature member of the “world of work,” but with a sense of humor and emotional awareness that only a young writer can inspire.

Presenting the graphic noveling pieces at the weekly Writopia showcase
Presenting the graphic noveling pieces at the weekly Writopia showcase

ERG: A Reflection

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Three months ago, I began my internship at Eastern Research Group, an environmental consulting company in Lexington, MA.  During my time at ERG, I gained an inside look into environmental consulting work and explored a range of different projects. When I left, I left with a greater understanding of the work, feeling more comfortable being in a professional setting, and having a stronger sense of what role I hope to fill in the future.

I initially came at ERG to learn about the breadth of environmental consulting work, the collaborations between different sectors on large-scale environmental projects, and to see it all in action. I wanted to learn about the various applications, scientific and technological, being used in current environmental initiatives. As an intern, I worked on projects ranging from developing marketing flyers to researching social science. To my surprise, I frequently found myself working in Excel for different purposes. My supervisors also gave me the opportunity to explore a similar program, Access, as well. I learned more about these programs’ various uses and applications – from organizational to mathematical – in this field.

I have always envisioned pursuing a career working towards a more sustainable future, and that has not changed at all. After seeing the different recent and ongoing environmental services and projects at ERG, I feel optimistic and energized about working in this industry. This experience has given me more motivation to attend graduate school as well. When it comes to the nuances of workplace preferences, my experience at ERG reinforced that I enjoy a degree of variability in the workplace and working on a continuum of changing, project-based tasks.  As I mentioned previously, this experience also piqued my interest in learning more about Excel and Access applications, so this is something I plan to explore further.

I highly recommend this type of internship to students who are interested in working in climate change issues and who are studying social science or STEM fields who want hands-on experience with applications in ongoing environmental conservation and climate change adaptation efforts. At ERG, there are engineers, social scientists, economists and many more, collaborating on projects. You will witness the importance of teamwork dynamics as well as the unconventional project-based format of environmental consulting. As I was telling my supervisors, it’s certainly not your 9-to-5 job! You’ll learn about the capabilities and technologies we have to address climate change issues, and you will brush up on the environmental jargon that you don’t learn from taking classes. For students interested in environmental consulting, I recommend exploring the services that ERG offers to get an idea of what roles exist that you can see yourself filling, taking social science or STEM-related courses to lay a groundwork for the type of work you may be exposed to, gaining research experience, and possibly pursuing a post-graduate degree as well.

I am fortunate to have had this fulfilling learning experience at ERG, which I owe to the support of my wonderful ERG supervisors, the WOW program and Hiatt staff. This summer, I am proud of being able to work independently, to approach unfamiliar tasks, and to know to be proactive about asking questions and reaching out for assistance when necessary. I am happy that my work supported a company that supports climate change efforts for a better future. I really appreciated learning about how government, nonprofit and private sectors as well as communities can communicate and work on environmental projects. To me it shows just how wide and interdisciplinary the cause is and that there are so many ways to be a part of it.

An example of a recent project at ERG: ERG supported the EPA in developing their Report on the Environment (ROE) website.

Dora Chi, 16

Wrapping up at the Indianapolis Woker Justice Center

After completing my internship at the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center (IWJC) I learned a lot about the labor movement and some more about what it means to organize both in unions and in other labor organizations. I wish I were able to take a more active role in the organizing efforts, but it was difficult to find a place in an organization without staff, especially because they are still figuring out the exact tactics they want to pursue themselves.

However, I was interested in the work that I was able to do. I know that I want to work for an organization with the goals of activism and organizing, trying to assist people in their quest for justice rather then helping them and seeing themselves as the savior of others. However, I am not sure if labor is the right direction for me, it is very important work but I am not sure if it’s my passion.

The Interfaith Worker Justice internship program can be very good, and I heard from interns that went to other affiliate organizations and had a great time. It was challenging working at an organization that was not staffed. If any students end up interning for an organization that does not have any staff, make sure that your expectations and the site’s expectations are both clear from the onset. I did not do that and I think it was a mistake. I would tell students interested in working in the labor movement to pay attention to the inter-organizational and union politics. I found it very interesting to see how groups that are trying to achieve the same things (or at least claiming to) are not necessarily able to because they are focused on other things.

Me and 2 other IWJ interns at the debriefing in Chicago
Me and 2 other IWJ interns at the debriefing in Chicago

I am most proud of being able to contribute to the organization even though I had very little structure. I am also proud of the religious ally training that I created and led. It was challenging to create something independently, but I was able to facilitate a conversation about different religions and the importance of understanding and respecting other peoples’ practices when working together. We had a conversation that would probably not have occurred in a different setting, and those of us who attended all enjoyed it and learned something that evening.

The beautiful view of Indianapolis very close to the Worker Justice Center
The beautiful view of Indianapolis very close to the Worker Justice Center

– Tamar Lyssy ’17

My final days at the Alliance for Justice

I cannot believe my summer in Washington, D.C. at the Alliance for Justice is over. It went by so unbelievably quickly! I could not have asked for a more incredible experience. I learned so much, primarily due to the accepting atmosphere and the constant encouragement of my mentors. My co-interns were equally wonderful–passionate, driven and intelligent. I was also able to make a number of connections outside of my organization through networking events and in dealing with them on behalf of AFJ.

I spent my last several days at the Alliance for Justice assisting with a transition in staff. This work included compiling instructions for everyday tasks and ensuring everything that needed to be completed was, in fact, completed.

I also had the opportunity to compile strategies for reaching an expanded number of target audiences for our upcoming campaign. I focused on organization outreach and social media. I discussed how to focus the issues in a way that personalizes the campaign for a number of diverse audiences, the potential obstacles in reaching these audiences and how to overcome these obstacles. The campaign will focus on Harris v. Quinn and the upcoming Friedrichs case as an angle to discuss workers’ rights, and the importance of allowing unions to organize. I am excited to see their short film when it is finally released, and hope to continue my involvement with the Alliance for Justice. It is a truly amazing organization that does vastly important work. If you are not familiar with the Alliance for Justice, I urge you to visit their website to learn more.

If you want to get a glimpse at what the AFJ stands for, take this quiz: “Who Said It: Justice Scalia or a right-wing extremist?” Feel free to share it on social media! This is one of AFJ’s posts that has gained a lot of traction in the last several weeks.

My final week at AFJ was not without some fun and getting my last hoorah in D.C. I had the opportunity to attend the Beach Exhibition at the National Buildings Museum. The ball pit was difficult to maneuver through, but fun nonetheless!

Beach Exhibition Marissa Ditkowsky
National Buildings Museum Beach Exhibition

I was also able to attend a SlutWalk. These walks focus on the idea that it is never the fault of a sexual assault survivor, nor does clothing choice does not indicate consent. It was an incredibly empowering experience, and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of strong individuals–men and women alike–who are survivors or stand with survivors of sexual assault.

Marissa Ditkowsky
SlutWalk D.C. Marissa Ditkowsky

 

This summer definitely helped me to solidify my passions and understand what I want to do and where I want to be in the future. I wish everyone that I worked with at the Alliance for Justice the best of luck in their future endeavors, and thank them again for their patience and encouragement. I hope to see AFJ continue to do what it does best in the future.

– Marissa Ditkowsky ’16

A Sneak Peek into the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Brought to you by Max Justice Parish: Part 3, The Intersection of Big Data & Politics

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I am sitting in my cubicle. It’s hot. The air conditioner is on very low because certain un-named colleagues like to keep it that way. I bring a small fan to the office, positioning it right next to my face, setting it on high to take full advantage of its gift of cool air. Today it is the only thing that keeps me awake. It’s 1pm and I already have that “2:30pm” feeling. But I am lucky – I have a good task to match my afternoon drowsiness. My supervisor needs me to compile a list of zip codes that comprise each Massachusetts legislator’s district, in addition to researching how many participants of the state’s Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC) program there were in each district in 2013. It’s a good task to have at the moment, because it only requires repetition by calling many numbers asking for the same information. The task is not as simple as conducting a quick google search; only the legislative offices have access to the precise zip codes of each district, and I need to dig deep into the computer system’s files before I discover a record of EAEDC participants. I spend the day calling approximately 50 offices. Most aides that I talk to can recite the zip codes off the top of their heads, but some put me in hold for 20 minutes (I enjoy the State House’s on-hold music so it wasn’t a bad experience by any means), a few scold me for wasting their time, and two offices could not identify which Boston zip codes their districts occupy. Such is life working in politics. I enjoy it.

I spend most of my day collecting this data. A lot of people would find this project to be menial and only that. But you’ve likely heard the following statement over-and-over again somewhere recently: we live in an era of big data. What makes this era so exciting, you ask? Put simply, we use data to make better, more impactful decisions. For this particular project, gathering these zip codes and piecing them together with the number of postcards we send to each district (postcards being a classic advocacy tool used to empower the public to communicate with their legislators). This information allows us to best choose which zip codes we need to dedicate more energy and resources to in order to enhance the likelihood that our policy campaigns are successful. This prospect may not seem all too exciting, especially when making call after call to gather data. But it is meaningful, and I do appreciate it.

I truly care about addressing homelessness. Facebook friends of mine may even have the perception that it is “my issue,” or “THE” issue that I am passionate about. I can’t blame them. But do not be fooled; I care very much for addressing sexual violence, ridding our culture of the patriarchy, eliminating white supremacy, pursuing environmental justice, etc., in addition to addressing homelessness. I want more. I want to address as many topics of injustice as I can. This is precisely why I have made it a career goal of mine to help progressive lawmakers get elected to office so that they can address the breadth of these issues. Not everyone gets to be the next President of the United States, or the next Governor of Massachusetts; not everyone gets to be the Executive Director of a nonprofit agency or the Chief Lobbyist; hard work is required of a support system to ensure that these positions are attained and are successful at what they seek to accomplish. I want to be a part of that process, and I want to take advantage of voter data to do it.

My internship at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless was great because I was given the opportunity to fulfill meaningful responsibilities while learning a ton about careers in advocacy, what it takes to organize a successful advocacy campaign, and how to manage relationships with lawmakers. As someone who has completed unrewarding and menial internships in the past, I recommend interning at the Coalition. It is the sort of organization where you can step right in and make as much of an impact as you choose to; where you can dedicate as much time as you wish and receive a commensurate amount of growth and learning in return. If I were to re-do my first few months at the Coalition, I would work more proactively on new projects and find ways to make an impact on my own instead of solely relying on the instructions from my supervisors. The truth is that they are too busy, as most internship supervisors likely are, to always be supervising. If you have the time, it may be beneficial for you to show initiative and work on a project of your own, in addition to working on what you are assigned, in order to gain the most out of your experience and maximize the support that you provide to the organization that you intern for. The Coalition offers the sort of welcoming environment that lends an ear to these projects and new ideas coming from interns. That is why I tout it so highly.

If you are interested in learning more about the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, careers in advocacy, topics of homelessness, or my own experience interning, please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail, shpilman@brandeis.edu.

Max Parish, ’16

Last Week at the Brigham

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After three seemingly long months flew by, I have finally concluded my internship at the Hoffmeister Lab at Brigham Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Looking back to when I first began, I see that I reached many of the goals I began my internship with. Besides my PI, I networked with my fellow lab members and other interns and researchers from neighboring labs. I also walked out of here with way more biology and biomedical techniques in my toolbox than I had when I first started and in fuller control over my experiments.

However, I am most proud of becoming more involved in lab meetings. Before, most of the talks went in one ear and right out the other, but at the end, I could follow along and even give input in editing conference power points and papers. More importantly, these two to four hour long meetings allowed me to observe lab politics and see how doctorates and post-docs fund themselves, mainly through writing and applying for grants such as the Pathway to Independence Award. I also saw how papers are published from start to finish. Data is first collected, which is then analyzed and gone over by the PI and lab team. The paper is then written, submitted, reviewed, edited, and then finally published in journals such as Nature and Blood. While the process of obtaining data and being published is a long process, it is rewarding and well worth the trials and errors.

For any student interested in doing an internship at a lab to learn more about scientific research or this career path, do not hesitate to shoot the PI an email. Especially with labs who accepted interns before, many mentors welcome students desiring to gain experience. When finally working in a lab, while experiments may get repetitive, never hesitate to inquire or ask for clarification to understand why you’re culturing these mice cells or running a Western blot. The researchers there will understand that you haven’t reached their level of specialization yet and enjoy seeing students take initiative and think beyond the box. Also, ALWAYS keep a lab notebook to take notes on the protocols shown to you, the experiments you’ve done, and the results you’ve obtained.

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My lab notebook containing all my protocols, data, and results.

Most importantly, take the opportunity to ask other scientists or lab techs about their goals and why they chose their career paths. You’ll find that everyone has a different backstory. My PI actually got into an industrial design school before going to medical school to be a pediatrician, ultimately ending up as a researcher and associate professor devoted to glycobiology. By talking to my fellow colleagues at the Hoffmeister Lab, I’ve realized that while science does interest me, I still feel more compelled to work with patients. Although, I wouldn’t mind working as a lab tech for two years before going to medical school and doing part time research in the future. However, I will definitely follow the advice my PI gave me on my last day, which is to always keep an open mind and pursue your interests and heart no matter where you end up, despite how cliche it may sound.

Overall, I am extremely grateful for the time I spent at the Hoffmeister Lab and look forward to the upcoming school year. I’m sure all the skills I’ve learned and invaluable advice given to me by my mentors will benefit me whether in the classroom or in whatever career I decide to pursue after I graduate!

Vivian Liu, ’17

 

Saying Goodbye to Lawyers For Children (For Now)

I can’t believe my summer at Lawyers For Children has come to an end! Working with foster care youth in New York City has been an eye-opening experience. Before I started the internship, I aspired to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations. Working at LFC taught me how important it is for Foster Care attorneys and social workers to work collaboratively with one another.

After attending several meetings for clients with several different agencies and organizations present, I noticed that LFC provides a comforting presence in every child’s life that other governmental agencies and nonprofits do not. This is because the fundamental element of LFC’s philosophy is that each child has an attorney and a social worker that work together as their advocates.

Although other organizations and agencies work hard to provide youth with the services they need, they often do not develop as in-depth relationships with the youth because they only see the child’s situation from one perspective. Other nonprofits serving foster care youth assign a social worker to as little as 15% of their cases. LFC recognizes that every child, regardless of the ‘severity’ of their situation, needs a social worker because social workers have different skills than attorneys and can provide a unique perspective on their case and how to best serve the child.
IMG_5031My career goal was to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social policy. I gained more ‘social work’ than ‘legal’ experience at LFC after working alongside a social worker all summer, but I did get to observe clients’ cases in court which gave me insight and a diverse perspective on how the legal side works.

This internship has definitely solidified my desire to work as an advocate in the public interest field, but I am unsure as whether I’d like to fulfill that role as an attorney or social worker. I did learn that I enjoy being out in the field more than I do sitting at a desk which directs me toward the field of social work.

A personal goal for this summer was to gain a better understanding of the social issues the foster-care population in large cities like New York City faces. Sadly, these issues were much more prevalent than I could have imagined. The greatest issue that caused me the most frustration is the stigmas foster care youth face, whether in school, the community or among agency workers whose job it is to help them.

I highly recommend Lawyers For Children as an internship destination, whether it be the legal or social work side. The internship gives interns the opportunity to see the various tasks each side is responsible for which can help solidify a future career path. I would also advise anyone interested in social work and human rights to consider an internship at Lawyers For Children because it exposes interns to the dire human rights issues that often go unnoticed in their own communities.

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intern workroom

This summer I am most proud of helping clients realize their potential when it comes to applying for jobs or brainstorming future academic goals. Unfortunately many foster care youth are not viewed as capable of achieving the kind of goals the rest of us may have and they themselves start to believe that stigma. I learned that consistent support and affirmation goes a long way.

Lawyers For Children’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LawyersForChildren

About interning at Lawyers For Children: http://www.lawyersforchildren.org/internships

My Status at the Community Day Center of Waltham

Preparing Lunch for the GuestsWorking at the Community Day Center of Waltham this summer has been an incredibly moving and emotionally intense experience. At this point, I have developed such strong relationships with many of our guests. These relationships have taught me a lot about separating my emotions towards the circumstantial work I do from the objective work I have to accomplish. I have learned to set boundaries as a professional while still maintaining an approachable demeanor, that way I can both relate to and create a comfortable environment for the guests as well as professionally address the problem(s) at hand.

In the office, it is easier for me to maintain a professional standing in the eyes’ of the guests. For me, emotional dilemmas arise when I bump into them around town and see the reality of their challenging circumstances first hand. It is hard for me to grapple with and go on with my day-to-day activities, because, I often struggle to separate my work life from my personal life. I am a compassionate counselor and a dedicated, hard worker but the circumstances and the environment poses a emotional dilemma for me. This emotional dilemma manifests itself when I take unrealistic or unreasonable measures to try to make a permanent fix to people’s lives when it is a highly unlikely outcome. It is my job to help with the services provided at the Day Center. To conduct further work outside the Day Center would be my choosing but also could post significant liability and moral issues. For this reason, I choose very carefully and after much thought before going the extra mile and also receive approval from my supervisor before proceeding.

Day Center LogoThis work opportunity has greatly differed from university/academic life in that I have received such intense hands-on experience that a classroom setting could never provide me with. It is through this kind of experience that I have begun to master the interpersonal, organizational, and diagnostic skills necessary to be an effective case worker and have become well-acquainted with the specific services and resources that we provide and refer throughout the Metrowest area.

The biggest skill I have further developed as a result of this internship is interpersonal skills. Working with people from all different backgrounds with a wide range of circumstances and needs, I have learned about how multi-dimensional we are as people. Addressing situations that are often accompanied with complex circumstances has taught me about problem solving, troubleshooting, and many of the things to consider when assessing an individual’s well-being. For future career plans I have thought of potentially being a medical social worker, working with health care policy and reform, an occupational therapist, a cognitive behavioral therapist, or a clinical psychologist. This experience has given me a good basis that harnesses my capabilities to work with people and make a difference in whatever field I pursue. I also plan to continue to work at the Day Center throughout the year and bring what I continue to learn to the classroom setting as well as share my experiences with my peers. Hands-on experience like this alongside a classroom education prepares me to make real contributions to society and continue to make a permanent impact on peoples’ lives.

Community Day Center Facebook Page

Social Worker Duties and Responsibilities

 

 

Midpoint Means Making Meaning at Project Harmony Israel

Ariel paints a rock from the garden at camp
Ariel paints a rock from the garden at camp-part of the purpose of this project was to take the symbol of rocks (often associated with violence during the 2nd Intifada) and transform them into symbols of creation.

I am imminently feeling the speed of time here in Israel working at Project Harmony. Each day begins early, at 6:40 AM. The commute is over a half hour on a bus that never comes when it says it will (this can mean up to a half hour early, or over an hour late). Because of this chaos I arrive very early and often spend a lot of my time waiting for the bus; as I wait, though, I have time to be present at my stop across from the downtown shuk (market) or to reflect on my experiences here in Israel.

Some of the things I think about are how:
This place is a beautiful mess (which fits with my internship and role as an Art’s Specialist at Project Harmony Israel). Time is a suggestion here, food is a priority, and there is no consistency. Some days I have 40 kids to look after, and others I have 12. Most of the children who behaved the day prior will be ill behaved the next. Nothing is for certain here, and I have come to love that more and more each day. At first I was so troubled by feeling out of control, but living and working here has taught me that being out of control does not mean that what I am doing or working towards isn’t meaningful or effective, it’s just dysfunctional along the way. I think this is an invaluable lesson that is applicable in my personal, academic, and occupation-related life.

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Identity flag mural in the works

I have learned part of this lesson from the various children I work with, and with whom I spend upwards of five hours a day. The children at Project Harmony Israel are rambunctious, and culturally dramatically different from the American children I have worked with in the past. I feel myself living out cross-cultural encounters like the ones I read about in my Anthropology classes, but I also find myself witnessing them. For instance, in one conversation I was explaining a project very slowly in English to a young Jewish girl who then turned to her friend and translated everything I had just said into Arabic. Moments like these, where I feel like the children teach each other, are the most special and meaningful part of this experience working here. My approach towards cross-cultural understanding was fostered academically at Brandeis in my Anthropology classes, but my approach and application has been tested and developed by these specific instances and interactions.

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Plaster hands and mask-making then used for theatre productions at camp

Š-L-M from the Harvard Semitic Museum

This week marks the close of my internship at the Harvard Semitic Museum.

I came, I saw, I archived. I also learned a lot.

I came to the museum hoping to gain greater context and appreciation for my studies of Near Eastern history, through interactions with the museum’s collection of artifacts. I was excited at the prospect of handling tablets, pottery, and other artifacts from thousands of years ago. To my surprise, I have done just that, and more. This summer at the Semitic Museum has given me an even greater intimacy with artifacts than had I expected, and I have been amazed by the level of trust and responsibility the museum staff gave to its interns.

This is the second floor of a full-scale model of an Ancient Israelite house. The display mixes artifacts (pottery) and replicas (food). Photo credit: Semitic Museum, via Tumblr

In addition to handling artifacts, I’ve learned a lot about archaeology, geography, and general Near Eastern history. I now know about ancient sites like Nuzi, Tell el-Kheleifeh, Nemrud Dagh. Only months ago, those names would have been foreign to me.

And while I’ve had previous curatorial experience, this internship immersed me in the collections-management side of museums. The Semitic Museum is a small museum, with long-term exhibits, so most of its efforts are put towards its collection rather than planning new exhibits. Still, being in a small museum gave me access to almost every part of the museum process. I would recommend interning in a small museum to anybody interested in museum careers, as you really get to see all aspects of the museum’s operations, and work directly with the entire museum staff.

My time at the Semitic Museum has certainly solidified my interest in continuing my study of the Ancient Near East, and particularly its languages. I hope to return one day and read from the cuneiform tablets that I held this summer! At the same time, the internship has reaffirmed my interest in curatorial and collections work, and I will certainly look for more ways to stay involved in museum work.

A shirt with “Harvard” written in four ancient Semitic scripts. Photo credit: Noam Cohen

Of my varied projects at the museum, I am most proud of my archiving of Theresa Goell’s archaeological records. The materials- mostly maps, plans, and sketches- came to the museum roughly sorted and rolled into boxes. After spending two months sorting and organizing the identifiable materials, I moved on to the last box- the unidentified papers. Using my knowledge of the different sites Goell worked on, I was able to identify nearly all of the previously unidentifiable maps and plans. This was a particularly proud moment for me, as it was tangible evidence of the familiarity I gained with Goell’s work.

Semitic languages (from which the museum gets its name) are defined by their triliteral root system. The three letter root Š-L-M, which can mean ‘whole’ and ‘peace,’ is used both as a greeting and farewell in several Semitic languages (such as shalom- the Š is pronounced as a ‘sh’-  and salaam), arising from exchanges of wishes for good health.

So, ŠLM.

–Noam Cohen ’16

Wrapping Up the Summer at UFE

I completed my internship at United for a Fair Economy (UFE) today. It’s hard to believe the summer is already over. I learned a lot from this internship and I’m proud of the work that I did.

The project I most enjoyed was interviewing and writing a blog post about another intern, Shirley Pryce. Shirley is the president of the Jamaica Household Workers’ Association which advocates for domestic workers’ rights. Against all odds, Shirley established this organization and is doing essential work. She told me how her time at UFE made her think about organizing in a different way and about her plans to share her insights back home. It was challenging to condense Shirley’s powerful story into a blog post that was both concise and engaging. In the end, this blog post was the first way I saw my writing skills that I learned in school be effective in the real world.

Furthermore, the way Shirley talked about UFE and how meaningful her experience here was made me think about my own. My internship has unquestionably influenced my beliefs about inequality and social justice. I’ve been exposed to striking numbers showing the income gap, racial wealth gap, and so much more in the U.S. One of my coworkers told me that, although everyone has a different analysis of these numbers and different ideas of what to do to change them, the numbers are still the same. Hearing my coworkers, politicians, and even my friends debate policy and inequality and talk about how to fix it has motivated me to work for change as well. I am not yet sure whose, if anyone’s, solutions I agree with yet, but my internship at UFE has truly made me question our country’s current unfairness. Now, the idea of social justice seems much more complex. I know that as I learn more and gain more experience, my understanding of fairness and responsibility will continue to be challenged and grow more intricate.

Suzanna, my supervisor, and I on my last day.
Suzanna, my supervisor, and I on my last day.

My last project this summer was to write a Letter of Inquiry to a foundation for a project grant. I learned what language to use in grant writing and how it is different from writing to an individual donor. The biggest challenge was to present UFE’s work in a way that fits with the foundation’s guidelines. In general this summer, I had the opportunity to build my writing skills outside the classroom. I gained experience being more concise, getting my point across and connecting with my audience, all of which are important skills that will be useful in classes and in future careers.

Overall, I learned a lot about the working world and being in an office every day. UFE is a small organization, so I got to be a part of a team of people constantly working together. Everyone has the same goal, but often different opinions about how to achieve it. I saw what it means to really talk through ideas and share insights. As a part of this team, I experienced how important it is to ask questions, communicate effectively, and be on top of what needs to get done. Being in the development office, I also learned a lot about how nonprofits fundraise and then have to decide how to best spend the money to make the biggest impact.

If I were to give another student advice about working at my internship, it would be that everyone is working towards the same mission. Of course, people sometimes have opposing suggestions and opinions. But, in the end, everyone wants a better, fairer place to live.

Learning About Qualitative Research.

 

As the summer progresses, I have moved onto the second phase of my internship at Supportive Living Incorporated. I am helping conduct a qualitative research project about the exercise program I was helping facilitate. This has given me an excellent chance to reflect on the on-site work I did as a fitness trainer, and put the program into a public health policy perspective.

The process of conducting qualitative research has been a fascinating, because in my studies thus far I have only taken classes about quantitative research. Quantitative research uses statistical and mathematical techniques to analyze observable facts. The central question of most quantitative research is “how can I use mathematics to give statistical significance to a quantifiable change. The gold standard of clinical quantitative research is of course the randomized controlled trial, which I had been taught to trust above all else.

In my current internship, I have begun to see the flaws in relying too heavily on one type of research. Due to a number of complex sociological factors, it is essentially impossible to randomize and control a large enough sample size of adults with brain injuries to do quantitative research on the exercise program. What our team can do, however, is conduct interviews asking participants and their families to share their thoughts and opinions on the program. Using these opinions themselves as our data, we can then look for the patterns in people’s experiences, and use these patterns to analyze the effectiveness of the program, and ultimately look for ways to improve the program.

As an intern, it is my job to transcribe and “code” the interviews. Transcription means listening to recordings of the interviews and typing them out on a word processor to create a hard copy. “Coding” is way of labeling and organizing bits of conversations from the transcripts. Similar quotes can be collected from multiple interviews, or a researcher can see how many times a particular topic was brought up in a single interview. You can also tag important pieces from an interview so a researcher can easily access the exact quote they need at a later point in time. You can see what a coded transcript looks like here.

Doing research in this way is much more productive for the purposes of Supportive Living Incorporated than a randomized controlled trial would be. A randomized controlled trial could only tell us about the size of a specific change in a strictly defined, predetermined aspect of our client’s fitness. Qualitative research allows us to work in reverse. We can gather all of our data, and then decide what questions are important to ask and look into further. Additionally, we can look to current literature being written about brain injury across the country and even internationally to see if the patterns we are seeing have been seen before, and what other clinics have done in similar situations.

My research advisor has given me the freedom to look into the research questions of my own choosing. I’ve chosen to focus on four aspects that I heard participants talk about repeatedly in the interviews that I transcribed and coded. The four aspects of brain injury I’ve been researching are:

  • Body Image/Self Perception of people with brain injuries
  • Depression and Suicide Risk for People with Brain Injuries
  • Traditional Physical Therapy for Brain Injury and its Effectiveness
  • Social Benefits of the Exercise Program

Reading through interviews and finding quotes about these topics has been a really interesting experience. The research I’m doing will be used in a forthcoming article about brain injury rehabilitation to be published in a scientific journal. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved with such a meaningful project and can’t wait to see where my research will lead me.

 

Here’s a video made about the exercise program with me in it!

Julia Doucett ’16

 

Na Wè Pita! Empowerment through Education Camp: The return to the States

Bon jou!  As I am writing this blog I am preparing myself to return to the States. I most definitely reached the goals that I have set for myself. I am able to reflect on them with the blogs I’ve written for the WOW Social Justice website as well as the ETE Camp blog website. The goals that I made were very broad and vague because this is my first time being involved with something like this, so essentially my goal was to learn as much as I could. I learned a lot about the importance of having efficient teaching skills and financial literacy. Ideas of cultural relativism were things that I learned about in school that gave me a mindset to truly appreciate my environment. Although my family is from the Caribbean and South America,  Haiti is different because it is the poorest nation on this side of the world. It suffered from extreme political corruption that has lend to the poor maintenance of both the country and the people, but it has a history of being the first liberated country in the Caribbean. It has been heart wrenching to move through the shanty towns and see the one bedroom homes made of dirt and aluminum with an exceptional view; a view that you know someone from your home would pay millions of dollars to have. I have never had such a clear visual of the Have’s and the Have Not’s than when I move throughout cities in Haiti. The levels of classism that exist are so different from the ones I am all too familiar with living in Brooklyn, New York. My goals have only changed in a more immediate sense because I am now aware of the importance of educating myself more about the politics and culture of the developing nations that I aim to work in and their interactions with the developed world, from the colonizing and abusive history, to the recent reparations and aids distributed.

Here is the ETE Camp staff for the summer of 2015
Here is the ETE Camp staff for the summer of 2015

 

I’ve learned so much about myself working for Empowerment through Education Camp this summer. My knowledge of Haiti’s history and cultural evolution has expanded tremendously, as well. I know a lot of Kreyol and French now, which is exciting. I have developed a confidence in myself that I thought I had already, but I realized there is a different sense of self-assurance a person has when they are in a familiar circumstance than an unfamiliar one. Although I worked in Italy last summer, my role was more of an assistant or junior counselor than a solitary facilitator and I was equipped with 2 years of having studied the language. I am extremely proud of myself for keeping up, which was impressive to my peers who know the languages of Haiti, and also pushing myself to find that sense of self-assuredness that can propel myself forward to one day become a leader in public and global health forums.

Here I’ve provided a link to The Haitian Internet Newsletter to give readers the opportunity to look into Haitian news written by their own and a link to read some more updates about how the program went at ETE Camp Blog.

I would advise anyone interested in an internship working with Empowerment through Education Camp to be either very open-minded or very aware of what your limits are, or both. The evident displays of poverty, corruption, malnutrition, and bare existence could be very troubling to see and become acclimated to for a month. On the other hand however, the fun, joy, beauty, and serenity that can be found in a place like Hinche, Haiti can very much outweigh the negatives. I personally have seen how the luxuries of running water, constant electricity, internet access, and air conditioning are things that I can essentially live without; but not everyone is like that, which is okay. Any job in fields of public health and human rights can be emotionally and physically taxing in a way that it is better to know if you can handle before you start something rather than after. The purpose of these careers are to be helpful to which ever community you are in or working with, so the only way to be able to do that is to give them your all. Passion and drive are important elements to becoming a leader in this field because seeing and knowing of the injustices are enough for you to help make things better in any way you can.

The beautiful faces that I have had the privilege of seeing for the last few weeks. Not only have I been able to spread my knowledge, but I have been able to learn so much about myself from them as well. Thank you timoun (children)!
The beautiful faces that I have had the privilege of seeing for the last few weeks. Not only have I been able to spread my knowledge, but I have been able to learn so much about myself from them as well. Thank you timoun (children)!

 

I am most proud of my Polaroid Self-Esteem Project. I gave every student a small journal, a pen, and a polaroid of themselves to promote self confidence, self-expression, and positive body image. The students loved getting their photos taken and having an immediate copy to put in their journals. I held this project around week two and they learned the vocabulary words mentioned and were told to bring their journals every day. There were a few prompt questions to guide them in using the journal and by the end of the camp the journals were filled with aspirations of careers, goals for self-improvement, positive personality traits lists, songs, drawings, raps, stories, etc. My project was a huge success and for that I am extremely proud! Au revoir!

Zari Havercome ’16

It is unbelievably hard to say goodbye to these incredible kids. I will miss their humor, excitement, and hopefulness. It has been an honor to know you.
It is unbelievably hard to say goodbye to these incredible kids. I will miss their humor, excitement, and hopefulness. It has been an honor to know you.

Reflecting on my summer at NCL

As I sit at home watching Netflix and packing for Brandeis, I find myself missing the fast-paced DC lifestyle and the stream of exciting projects at NCL. Even though I never thought I’d like sitting in a cubicle, I miss diving into various projects in my little space. I learned that I like to work with and get to know many people within the workplace, which was made easy at such a small organization. While reminiscing about my summer, I have reflected on how much I have learned during my internship from everyone I worked with and from the projects I worked on at NCL.

My cubicle, with a poster that roughly translates to "Yes, we can!"
My cubicle, with a poster that roughly translates to say “Yes, we can!”

I now have many new interests within the field of health advocacy, since I’ve met lots of people working at various agencies, companies, and non-profits that promote public health. I learned about women’s health from some of the meetings I attended and I would be interested in working somewhere dedicated to this group. While improving the website for the NCL’s national medication adherence program and attending FDA hearings, my interest in working on drug education or drug policy piqued. NCL opened my mind up to a host of potential career paths related to social justice advocacy and public health.

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NCL’s Executive Director took the interns out on a museum day trip

I developed a deeper understanding of the health policy environment and of the current issues facing consumers in the U.S. I had the opportunity to attend briefings to hear from experts about topics I am interested in, such as drug safety and the ACA, and to learn about topics I knew nothing about beforehand. There is a lot to stay on top of in Congress but working at NCL kept me on my feet, learning firsthand about bills each week. I enjoyed analyzing the implications of new policies for consumers and writing blogs about policies that should be enacted to combat consumer issues. I gained new knowledge while researching for my blog posts covering birth control costs and life insurance. The most rewarding project I worked on was for my supervisor for her appearance at the United Mine Worker Association conference. I wrote a brief about the coal industry and the environment and wrote a paragraph for her speech about some of the work we had done together.

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One of my co-workers presented the charts I worked on to display facts about consumer choices in the health insurance marketplace

I would advise students interested in interning at NCL to learn about the organization’s impressive history and find out what parts of the organization relate to their interests. I expected to participate in more lobbying with NCL but the summer is a slow time in Congress and it is difficult to get meetings with representatives and senators. My first week, I sat in on a meeting about a bill with a Congressional staffer, my supervisor, and another NCL staffer. Unfortunately that was the only time I saw lobbying take place but I learned that everything NCL did, from our blog posts to our attendance at press conferences, was a form of advocacy. Sometimes I would be writing a blog post and wondering how it could make a difference in the lives of others, something I aimed to do when I applied to this social justice oriented internship. When I visited the Newseum this summer, I realized that journalism is one of the best ways to make an impact and aid in solving issues. Although I wouldn’t call myself a journalist, my research and writing skills have improved at NCL and I plan to use them for my further advocacy efforts and in the career I end up choosing.

My co-interns at a consumer advocate party sponsored by the Committee on Energy and Commerce
My co-interns at a consumer advocate party sponsored by the Committee on Energy and Commerce

While House of Cards and West Wing are fun to watch on Netflix, there is nothing quite like living and working in DC for 8 exhilarating weeks. I am grateful to have had this opportunity through WOW and NCL. Thank you for reading my blog and keeping up with the work I’ve been doing this summer!

– Rebecca Groner ’17

Saying Goodbye to AVODAH

This summer has been a whirlwind of adventure to say the least, and I have enjoyed everyone minute of it. It was weird saying goodbye to the cubicle that I had worked in for the past 11 weeks, and to all of my amazing coworkers and friends that I was introduced to along the way. 

I know that I mentioned in my last post that I had discovered that working in the non-profit sector was more of a hobby than a profession for me, and although it was true I am still so grateful for my opportunity with AVODAH this summer. My first day in the office, I came in with no experience working in an office, and brought with me only a notepad and a pen. Now I am leaving with a confidence I never had before about this style of work. My main goal with this internship was to figure out how to work in an office setting, and whether working in the non-profit world was something that I wanted to pursue, and I think I was successful with both targets. My career interests have altered since I first arrived at AVODAH, but that was part of the reason I explored this internship experience in the first place. To figure out if a girl wants to work in the Theater, first you have to take her out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think what I have learned the most from this experience is to not be afraid to try different professions, and take innovative opportunities because you never know where they may lead. For me, spending a summer New York City exploring both the non-profit world by day, and the theater world by night helped reaffirm my passions for the two, and helped lead me into a professional direction for the future. I truthfully was nervous when I received my internship with AVODAH for the summer, but I am so thankful that I seized this job because I know I have grown from it in a way that I probably would not have by staying in Philadelphia. If anyone reading this is interested in working for AVODAH for the summer, my recommendation is to apply! This is coming from someone who learned she does not even want to work in this field, but this summer was unforgettable. The people you will meet throughout the company are so kind and intelligent, and also it is an opportunity to explore a new place or field summer, so to me applying here is a no-brainer. I am truly shocked by all AVODAH, and New York City has taught me over these past 11 weeks. From meeting volunteers who moved me, to seeing shows on discount that inspired me. Never be afraid to take a chance on a wonderful position, you may just be surprised at what it will teach you.

– Jessica Star ’17

Finishing up the Summer at the Benson-Henry Institute

This summer, US News ranked Mass General Hospital #1 Hospital in the world. The Psychiatry Department on its own was also ranked #1.

It is hard to believe that my time at the Benson-Henry Institute is coming to a close. It is has been an absolutely incredible summer and I have learned so much in my time at the BHI that it’s hard to put it all into words. I’ll start with the easier part. Working at the Benson-Henry Institute at Mass General Hospital this summer has taught me a lot about research. From IRB requirements to spreadsheets to “Note to Files” to the proper way you have to sign any mistakes you make on official documents (one strike through, sign, date!), it has been so exciting to learn about the process of accumulating data, keeping track of it, and learning from it. Similarly, I gained a lot of experience in the clinical world this summer which was an initial and now superseded goal of my internship at the BHI. Though we are a research institution, we also serve as a clinical research institution which means that I interacted with a lot of patients and participants this summer. I met study participants at the Clinical Research Center on the main hospital campus for their appointments and gave them surveys to fill out for our studies related to their stress levels. One of my favorite patient-interaction opportunities was making phone calls for our multiple myeloma study, where I interacted with doctors (who told me if a patient was eligible based on our particular biological criteria), patients, and even some patient family members as I recruited for our study on how the relaxation response can affect those who have a precursor for multiple myeloma (MGUS or SMM).

The two examples listed above are the easy ways to tangibly express how much I took away from my summer at the hospital. However, one other factor that is slightly harder to put into words is the mentorship I received this summer. I am so thankful for all three of the clinical research coordinators (one of them a Brandeis alum!) who trained me this summer not only on the work and studies we were focusing on, but also on a personal level. They gave me incredible advice and wisdom regarding how to join the field of clinical psychology. At the beginning of the summer, I was convinced that after I graduated this May I would immediately start a clinical psychology PhD program. I still want to do that, but I think now that I am much more open to other opportunities as well. Maybe I’ll look for a psychology fellowship to really hone my research interests and skills. Perhaps I’ll take what I learned about stress management here and go abroad for a while to see how mind-body medicine fits into different cultures. Maybe I’ll look for a clinical research coordinator position right here in Boston where I can continue learning before I take the leap and dive in graduate school. Regardless of where I choose to go, I feel much more confident (and less stressed!) about my future as I delve into this field and I could not have done that without the incredible mentorship of the clinical research coordinators at the BHI.

Luckily for me, I’ll be continuing at the Benson-Henry Institute for the school year and I can’t wait to see what more I can learn.

Happy August!

Ellie Rosenthal ’16

This is me and my roommate (an intern at Fenway Health) on our last day of work.
This is me and my roommate (an intern at Fenway Health) on our last day of work.

A Summer to Remember: Reflecting on my Internsip

This summer has been eventful, exciting, busy, and most of all, rewarding. As an intern with Legal Outreach’s Summer Law Institute, I have grown tremendously both professionally and personally. It has been a rewarding experience because I was able to become a role model for twenty-five students. Seeing them grow and progress into young professionals was wonderful, as it helped me feel as though my duties and work led to tangible and beneficial results that helped improve the lives of young people. It is difficult to believe that 10 weeks have passed by so quickly. I will deeply miss many of the friends and amazing people I met during this internship.

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Prior to beginning my internship, my learning goals included strengthening myself academically, personally, and professionally. Academically, I wanted to develop better writing, editing, and researching skills. Since a large part of my responsibilities included drafting and sending invitations, thank you letters, and other types of correspondence, those target skills were strengthened since I was required to employ them quickly. It also allowed me to practice writing professionally, which is certainly a useful skill.

My personal learning goals included developing stronger communication skills, particularly with younger people, and public speaking skills. I was able to do so throughout the course of my internship due to another major part of my duties, which were teaching and interacting with diverse personalities. By teaching one lesson a week during the Summer Law Institute, I was able to develop stronger teaching and public speaking skills as I took command of the classroom and in fact even taught our students a class on public speaking. I also further developed my communication skills, as I sometimes had to interact with different personalities. For the most part, everyone I communicated with, particularly our guest speakers and generous volunteers, were absolutely fantastic and a pleasure to work with. However, through the few times that I had to have somewhat difficult conversations, I learned to develop and use patience as a key skill in communication, one that I believe I previously was not as strong in. As a result of my interactions, I believe each one of them was valuable and helped me become a better communicator in different types of situations.

Professionally, in terms of my career goals, this internship has been extremely valuable and significant. Prior to beginning, I wanted to learn from this experience whether or not law is what I would like to pursue. I especially wanted to learn more about the practice of law and what it is like to be an attorney. Through my work experience, I was able to interact and work closely with various attorneys. My supervisors, whom I worked closely with and learned a great deal from, are attorneys who practice non-traditionally as leaders of a non-profit agency. Most of our guest speakers during the Institute are attorneys who practice traditionally at law firms and they represented different fields and practice areas, which I found fascinating and very helpful. Through this internship, I was also able to visit a law firm for the first time and get a sense of the environment and what it is like. I also was able to visit important courthouses in New York City and meet very important and prominent judges. My interactions and experiences have helped me better understand what being an attorney is about, what it takes, and most importantly, why it matters and what it means to me. For this reason alone, I find this entire experience invaluable.

In addition to the above mentioned goals, I also did something I did not really think about or expect–I made friends with my colleagues. My two co-coordinators at my Institute became good friends of mine, as did my fellow interns. Working closely and keeping good relations taught me that having solid and friendly working relationships are central to making any workplace run smoothly.

Want to know more?  Check out this video or read SLI’s 2015 newsletter – a summary and celebration of the Institute.

– Aditi Shah ’17

Midway Point at Kids4Peace

My experience this summer in Jerusalem does not solely revolve around the work I am doing with Kids4Peace. Rather, the work I am doing with Kids4Peace adds to my overall experience of working within the conflict. The difference between last summer, where I worked at a camp in Jerusalem for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and this summer, is that I am engaging and working with peers of a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, and religions every day. Last summer, I worked for an Arab-Jewish camp, but all of my colleagues, including the camp directors, were largely American Jews. At Kids4Peace, half of my colleagues are Israeli and half are Palestinian. I am learning just as much, if not more, from these colleagues, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as I am learning about how an NGO operates.

Effectively, my work at Kids4Peace has taught me how to rely on others when working with a group, to be flexible, and to work with and talk to people who come from different backgrounds. I am not only working within the conflict but living every minute with it on my mind. As an intern for Kids4Peace, my job is not only to work for Kids4Peace directly, but to practice what I have learned as a person who is living in Jerusalem and engaging with Israeli and Palestinian society. Thus, my work environment is not just at the Kids4Peace office but everywhere I go in this region.

My experience has been complicated and difficult because the conflict is inescapable here. In Jerusalem, I can feel the tension. The air is tense and the looks I get from people who do not look like me, a secular white woman, reminds me how segregated and intolerant this city is. When I go to Tel Aviv, it is much better, but that is mainly because many people in Tel Aviv are Jewish, secular, and liberal. Their city is not divided in the way Jerusalem is. But, when I go to Tel Aviv, I still cannot escape this conflict and the impression that my Palestinian colleagues at Kids4Peace have left on me because I remember when I am there that they do not have same rights and freedom of movement. Everyday on the way to and from work, they must cross through checkpoints that are basically life-size metal cages. There, they are treated inhumanely. They must get permits to step foot in Israel proper, and they can only cross into Israel at 6am and come back at 11 pm. They are living in an air prison, and I have a hard time going about my daily life with my rights and privileges without thinking about the freedom that my Palestinian colleagues do not have. In a sense, working within the conflict through peace building is a full time job: there are no breaks.

One of the most important things I have learned about peace programs in Israel and Palestine, such as Kids4Peace, is that they are only successful because they are aimed at youth (and youths’ parents) who are already tolerant and willing to encounter the “other.” As someone who would like to see peace in this region along with a peaceful resolution to this conflict, I would like to figure out how to reach those who are not already in support of dialogue and a peace process.

As an aspiring leader in the American education system, I am thinking about how to apply what I have learned this summer to my future career. One of the biggest issues in American society right now is the opportunity gap between race and class. I am beginning to consider how to bring students from different backgrounds to learn together in order to narrow this gap. However, I keep getting stuck in the same way that I have been here in Jerusalem, about how to bring those who are unwilling. However, I know that my experience this summer with Kids4Peace will supply me with the tools I will need in the future to figure out how to solve these problems.

 

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Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Kids4Peace participants playing a game at camp
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Kids4Peace logo: church, mosque, synagogue

-Leah Susman ’18

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, At My Midpoint

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Fisheries Humor

In working here at GMRI, I can’t help but admire how much people care about the work that they do here and how much they believe in what they are doing, despite the countless obstacles. And there are many. I mentioned in a previous post about the difficulty of finding good data that is both accessible and trustworthy. I’ve also come to recognize how difficult the work done here is. As a non-profit research and education orientated institute, an unbelievable amount of time has to be dedicated to fundraising to support the work being done here. It can be exhausting constantly applying for grants and seeking out charitable donations, but as the people and their results prove every day, it’s completely worth it.

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Friendly cricket match at the GMRI summer BBQ

(On a side note, check out the trailer for a new documentary highlighting the struggles in today’s fishing industry.untitled

At any rate, my general attitude towards the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the people, and my internship this summer is a combination of awe, admiration, and appreciation. The work that is done from the community side of the organization, promoting and encouraging sustainably harvested seafood, to the research and education side, is all incredibly important. There are over 10 interns this summer, sprinkled throughout the three major departments and despite our large number, the staff here has made it a point to get to know each one of us at special welcome events, meetings, and at GMRI’s annual summer BBQ. I could not be more grateful for such a supportive and friendly work environment and I could also not be more grateful for my fellow interns, especially the economics interns. Not only am I learning a lot from my supervisor, but I am learning a lot from them as well. I’m also so inspired by the passionate people here who have made it their life’s work to support, protect, and educate people about the Gulf of Maine and its invaluable resources. Here is a link to a recent interview conducted by the local NBC affiliate at GMRI. When the local station decided they want to do a piece on the effects of climate change, they immediately contacted us, showcasing what a leader GMRI is in the state of Maine.

This internship opportunity afforded to me by the WOW program has definitely differed from my academic coursework. In typical classes, the syllabus is set, you know the direction that you are going, and in general, you work alone. My work here at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has been very collaborative and taken me in many new and surprising directions. Research has a way of doing that.

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Portland, Maine’s working waterfront

Without a doubt, I am learning a lot from this internship specific to the mechanics of how you analyze datasets, the types of software environmental economists’ use, and how to present your information to make a clear case or recommendation, but I am also learning much more. I’m learning how to network, and I’m becoming I’m learning to become proficient in a much more collaborative group setting where I am not just working with and relying on my fellow economists, but also the expertise of biologists and oceanographers and software engineers. That collaborative skill set is transferable anywhere, back at Brandeis, and to one year from now when I will no longer be a student but an alumni, finding my first job in the ‘real’ world. But most importantly, I am learning what I want to do, and what I want to do is this, environmental economics.

– Rebecca Mitchell ’16

 

Conclusion of my time at the Rhode Island Foundation

It is hard to put into words just how inspiring my time at the Rhode Island Foundation has been.  I have been able to meet and expand upon all of my defined learning goals.  Coming into the Foundation, my goals were to be able to apply my classroom knowledge of philanthropy, network with professionals and sharpen my research and analytical skills.  This summer, I assisted the Foundation in researching a variety of grant opportunities.  Applying my classroom knowledge of philanthropy was necessary for this task, because I was required to use a number of search engines such as Guidestar, www.grants .gov and the Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance.  The research was time consuming and I was able to sharpen my analytical skills by quickly reading through and summarizing large amounts of information.  Also, throughout the entire process, I was able to interact with a variety of professionals within the Foundation and learn workplace conduct from them.  I continuously received positive feedback from these professionals and my supervisor.  At the end of my internship, I am confident in my newly acquired skills.

Working at the Rhode Island Foundation has shown me that I would like to work for or with a foundation at some point in my career.  One of the reasons why I enjoyed working at the Foundation so much, is that it is an interactive organization.  I was able to either meet or work with people from all departments of the Foundation.  Because a variety of skills are required to smoothly operate the Foundation, I could use my business degree to work in the finance department, apply my social justice and social policy minor to the development department, or even become a professional advisor if I decide pursue a J.D. in the future.  I also learned that while my work doing research was fulfilling, some of my most enjoyable experiences were actually presenting my research, or participating in a meeting or brainstorming session.  I learned that because of my personality, I like to be in front of people and take the lead in presenting and delivering information.

If I were to give advice to future students in an internship at the Rhode Island Foundation, I would tell them not to be anxious about their experience.  I found the team I was working with was extremely supportive and willing to accommodate my interests and learning goals.  Naturally, there was an expectation to work and act professionally, but there was not an overwhelming pressure to do everything perfectly.  The Foundation is not going to put interns in a position where the work is over their head.  The research I did was challenging at times and time consuming, but it was rewarding to know my work was making an impact, even in a small way.  The advice I would give to someone working in the nonprofit field is that persistence and teamwork is key.  In fact, the first thing I saw coming into the Foundation in the morning was a powerful sign that hangs above the stairs that lead to my office.  The sign reads, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.  In the nonprofit world, there are discouragements and people who will say no, but it is up to us, this small team of committed citizens, to be positive and persistent so that we can change the world.

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The sign with quote by Margaret Mead

This summer I am most proud of the fact that I was able to complete all of the assigned projects that were given to me and I did not commit any major mistakes or errors that needed to be fixed.  I had a little bit of experience with nonprofit work prior to joining the Foundation through my classroom experience, but I was still nervous that it would take more work for my supervisor to train me than I would be giving back.  However, I am proud to say that the opposite turned out to be true.  I was able to work efficiently and finish all of my assigned projects.  I am truly going to miss the people who make the Rhode Island Foundation the powerful organization that it is and the opportunities that the Foundation has awarded me.  Hopefully, I will be able to keep in touch with the Foundation and one day give back to the work that it does.

 

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The beautiful upstairs of the Rhode Island Foundation

 

-Lauren Nadeau 17’

Small Army Midseason Review

 

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As I looked at the calendar this week, I was surprised to realize that I had reached the halfway point of my internship at Small Army and Small Army For A Cause.  Just like every summer, the weeks have flown by. In the whirlwind of time speeding by, I realize just how far I’ve come—I’ve learned so many new things, met so many new people, and made so many memories along the way—and it’s only the halfway point! With that, I’m going to share how my time as Small Army and Small Army For A Cause has progressed and all of the experiences I’ve had along the way.

Experiences

Small Army does a great job of bringing interns into the mix with our clients. I’ve learned more than I could have imagined working on the different teams assigned to each client.  Performing research for our client Zillion and their platform Zillion Health really opened my eyes to the telehealth industry.  With this breakthrough cloud technology, our era will see a convergence of online cloud platforms that enable us move from the reactive health care system that we all know so well and transition to a much more preventative health care system that helps to keep us healthy each and every day.

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Another client I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with is SolidWorks. Based out of our very own city of Waltham, SolidWorks is a 3D “solid modeling computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) software program” It allows “engineers, designers, and other technology professionals…to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life” (Company Info SOLIDWORKS). Their software allows businesses like Astrobotic, a company that “flies hardware systems into space for companies, governments, and universities,” to make space exploration a norm across the globe. Astrobotic plans to make our generation the first to live on the moon. Through SolidWorks’ 3D modeling program, Astrobotic is able able to streamline the process in which it designs and simulates their lunar modules to the point where SolidWorks’ simulations will make it affordable for more people than ever to fly to the moon and beyond (About Astrobotic).

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(Screenshot showing the 3D CAD capabilities offered by SolidWorks via http://3dprint.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/solidworks-prosthetic-gks-1.jpg)
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(Rendering of the Astrobotic Lunar Polar Prospector Rover Design via http://www.parabolicarc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/polaris_astrobotic.jpg)

While all of these experiences have been eye-opening, the best experience I’ve had thus far at Small Army was being a part of the commercial shoot team for Mass Eye and Ear which took place at the beautiful Artists for Humanity building in Boston. This would normally be a fantastic event for anyone interested in advertising and film, but it was even more fantastic for me as it allowed my world to come full circle. When I was a child at the age of 3, doctors at Mass Eye and Ear performed surgery to remove a rare benign tumor known as a congenital cholesteatoma from my left eardrum.  Not only did the surgery save my ability to hear, but it saved my life as early detection caught the tumor before it could spread. Now 19 years later, I find myself on a team that helped Mass Eye and Ear produce a commercial.

 

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(Inside the set at the Artists for Humanity building for the Mass Eye and Ear commercial shoot)

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(Another set at the Artists for Humanity building for the Mass Eye and Ear commercial shoot)

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(Photo of the camera used for the commercial shoot)
Lastly, since joining Small Army, the main account I have worked on is Small Army For A Cause’s Be Bold, Be Bald! cancer foundation. A lot has happened since we last spoke as we are now in the final stages of planning the event in order to make it an even bigger success this year. We have been working on all types of event planning and coordination projects including developing this year’s Google Adwords advertisements, developing event apparel and other promotional items, collaborating with our PR team Ring Communications to improve our social media presence along with our brand recognition, working with a company called Mavrck to develop a reward community for our participants, using the MailChimp email platform to send emails to our associates, and many more. Within the next week, the planning and coordination should be almost complete and we will transition into the peak stages of the fundraiser as participants start to order bald caps and apparel, set up their teams, and begin to raise funds.

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Looking Forward

I am looking forward to my last month working for Small Army and Small Army For A Cause. It will be exciting to see how the next few weeks unfold.

Works Cited

“About Astrobotic.” About. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.

“Company Info SOLIDWORKS.” Company Info SOLIDWORKS. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.

Completion of Internship at AIDS Action Committee

During my eight weeks at AIDS Action Committee (AAC), I was able to learn and grow immensely from my interactions with coworkers and our clients. I am proud to say that at AAC I was able to meet all of my learning goals that I defined at the beginning of my internship. An academic goal that I had was to be able to use information that I had learned in my public health classes to further examine the health disparities that clients at AAC faced. Through the “Getting to Zero” training series that AAC facilitated, I was able to learn more about the root causes of HIV/AIDS not only through a scientific model, but also through a public health lens that focused on social, psychological, political, and economical perspectives of the disease.

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Artwork in AAC’s entrance lobby

A personal goal I had was to learn more about real estate and the housing market. Learning the housing search terminology and the procedures for obtaining property information was the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part of my internship. Towards the end of my internship, I worked on a draft for a “Housing Search Guide” that would be able to help guide future interns and employees in AAC’s housing program. Creating this guide was a rewarding experience because I had the chance to collaborate with my coworkers to create something that would benefit future AAC employees: people who all share the common goal of being social justice advocates for those living with HIV/AIDS. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to work in the housing department, as I was able to see first-hand how large the need is for access to safe and affordable housing and how acquiring this housing can drastically improve quality of life, especially for those who are sick.

Additionally, a career goal I had was to learn how to best educate and advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. Attending the “Getting to Zero” training and helping to facilitate housing search groups provided insight on some of the most pertinent needs of AAC’s clients. One video that I watched during the training was HIV: The Goal of Undetectable, which highlighted the mechanism of how HIV acts in the body and helped me better understand how HIV treatment works. The videos and brochures presented to us during trainings were informative, engaging, and simplified enough for people of various educational backgrounds to understand. For additional information on HIV/AIDS that I used as part of my trainings, click here.

Brochure from one of the "Getting to Zero" trainings on Young Adults and HIV/AIDS.
Brochure from one of the “Getting to Zero” trainings on Young Adults and HIV/AIDS.

Working at AAC helped me to clarify my career goals, as I was able to see a wide range of services that AAC provides. Though I worked at AAC’s Boston site, I had the chance to visit Youth on Fire, which is AAC’s program in Cambridge that helps homeless youth, and I also worked at AAC’s Cambridge site in Central Square, where I got to visit the Needle Exchange Program that focuses on harm reduction for intravenous drug users. By seeing such a wide range of services and being able to engage and relate to such diverse groups of people, I relieved that my interests in public health are indeed very broad. The one commonality between my experiences is that I learned that advocacy is a field that I am definitely interested in gaining more work experience in, and that I want to pursue further opportunities in HIV/AIDS and public health.

 

One bit of advice I would give to a student interested in interning at AAC is to take advantage of the wide range of services provided here and try to experience different parts of the organization even if they are outside of the department that you are working in. This was crucial for me, and as a result, I was able to network with a wider range of people who still shared so many common interests with me. Another piece of advice would be to keep an open mind. I had a few misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and harm reduction at the start of my internship and some of the educational outlets that AAC provided me with were able to shift my understanding of different concepts and allowed me to view topics such as HIV/AIDS treatment, sexuality and contraception, drug use, and other harm reduction topics in a new light. I encourage students interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS to use internships as an educational tool by and taking advantage of hands-on opportunities to learn from diverse groups of people.

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Picture in AIDS Action Committee hallway.

 

Ngobitak Ndiwane, ’16

Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School: Midpoint Check

 

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Nice city view from the lounge.

I have now reached the midpoint of my internship at the Hoffmeister Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Since starting back in late May, I have pretty much grown accustomed to my work place environment, as my schedule and tasks have been more stabilized and set into stone. I have practiced and almost perfected some old lab techniques, such as western blotting and genotyping, and at the same time, have been exposed to a variety of new lab techniques, such as microscopy, quantifying protein, and preparing mice samples for flow cytometry. I had also been busy re-running experiments to reconfirm data in preparation for the International Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis Conference a post-doc in my lab presented at, and got a chance to see how researchers practice, prepare, and present for big conferences such as this one. Of course, I have run into obstacles along the way, such as gaining almost no results from experiments, but as I’ve learned, mistakes are OK and are necessary in the field of science. Success often bears from and conclusions are often drawn from mistakes.

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My lab bench where I do most of my experiments.

While I was sort of nervous the first week, I now feel more comfortable and independent in the lab. My mentor and other post-doc researchers have given me a lot of guidance in going through experimental procedures. Everyone is very patient and encouraging, and I have grown less conscious of making mistakes. I’ve learned that overall, it’s always better to ask a question, no matter how simple it may be. Preventing avoidable mistakes, such as using a wrong chemical and then ruining the entire experiments, saves a lot of time and money, which are very important factors to consider in a big research lab. More importantly, asking questions to understand the purpose of the technique and experiment is also crucial. I feel that this mindset is different from my university labs, which focuses more on learning techniques. Here at Brigham, I have to decide which techniques to use in order to test and prove a hypothesis or idea, creating a bigger picture, which I still often need guidance on.

My internship also differs from my university lab in that I have more of a handle on planning experiments in my given schedule and timetable. Definitely, I have improved in managing my tasks and time in a productive manner, such as planning experiments in ways that avoid coming into the lab on the weekends. As mentioned before, while I have learned a lot method wise, my critical thinking skills have vastly improved. Interestingly, I have applied a lot of the knowledge I learned from the biology courses I’ve taken at Brandeis, which is very cool. Outside of benchwork, I have had opportunities to eat out with some of the lab technicians, post docs, and PIs in and outside of my lab, allowing me to expand and build stronger networks and at the same time, learn more on their thoughts about their jobs.

Ultimately, the techniques I have learned and the relationships I have built here at the Hoffmeister Lab will help me when I consider or apply for a research job such as a lab tech when I graduate. More importantly, the critical thinking skills I have been practicing will help me anywhere, whether for my science or health policy classes I will be taking this upcoming semester at Brandeis, and also in my future career choice, which might not even involve research!

Vivian Liu, ’17

Blog Post #2

The work environment that I am in has proved to be fluid, fast-paced, and unpredictable. About two weeks ago, my supervisor notified my intern cohort that she would be leaving our organization to take on a new position elsewhere. Wow! Her departure was certainly unexpected and shocking. Another employee in the office is now overseeing my internship program, which has been somewhat of a difficult transition so far. While I am still enjoying my internship, it has been challenging to get used to the different leadership style of my new boss. However, I think that once the entire office gets acclimated to having one less employee, everything will smooth back out. The work environment has also proven to be fast-paced given the nature of the state legislature. Our office is always on its toes since we have to react quickly to the new bills, vetoes, and other actions carried out by the legislature. The most recent example of this occurred this past Tuesday, when Governor Baker made a line item veto to the new state budget plan in which he cut $600,000 for family planning. Our organization had to respond immediately to this upsetting news, which meant shifting our priorities at the last minute. Instead of focusing on creating testimony for our next legislative hearing, we had to strategize a mini-campaign to respond to the Governor’s disconcerting actions. Despite the stress that comes along with the nature of politics, I find the fast pace to also be really exciting.

The most exciting part of my summer so far occurred this past week, when I had the opportunity to testify in front of the Joint Committee on Financial Services in the state house for one of NARAL’s bills regarding confidential health care. I read an anonymous personal story that was submitted to NARAL that related to the bill that was being heard before the legislature. This is a picture of me testifying before the legislature.

Bill Hearing 1

(Picture taken by NARAL intern)

This next picture was taken the same day, but at a separate hearing for pay equity and pregnant workers’ equity.

Bill Hearing 2

(Picture taken by NARAL intern)

You can also find information on the bills that were heard with these links.

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H871

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H948

 

Life in the working world comes with a lot of freedom and responsibility that I do not have in university life. I like being in the city, where there is a lot of excitement and movement, as opposed to the sheltered atmosphere of campus. I have also come to value the feeling of returning home after a day at the office and having no more work to do. During the academic year, I always feel as if there is more work to be done. I think that the physical separation from the office to my house back in Waltham also creates a psychological barrier between work and free time. On the other hand, constantly being on campus makes it harder to separate the two.

This internship experience has forced me to adapt to change, which is something I have always struggled with. The skills that I am building as a result of the transition in my office, which are hard to put a name on in the moment, will definitely come in useful in the future. I am learning to be more flexible and patient when facing situations that are not ideal. I am also learning how to advocate for my needs, as I have had the opportunity to express to my new boss how this transition has affected me personally. I think that this summer has been transformative to say the least, and I am looking forward to returning back to campus this fall with the new skills I have developed from this internship.