“We are your medical home, we care about you”

This is what I believe social justice is: acknowledging the world’s greatest needs, and helping people right where they are.

The two core social justice goals of my internship organization are to provide health care access to everyone regardless of income and eliminate health disparities among Asian Americans.

In terms of achieving the first goal, the Health Center funds most of its initiatives through government grants. I have witnessed my supervisor write these grant applications. It is a lot of work! However, what can be accomplished through them is incredible. Grants cover transportation costs for patients (via a two-way subway metro card) and provides the finances to establish mentorship programs such as “Smoking Cessation” and “Hep B Moms.” Even my project this summer is funded by a grant. My role has been to evaluate an educational comic book’s effectiveness and write up an abstract on the research findings. In a few weeks, we will be able to print, publish, and disseminate the innovative material to public health organizations all across the U.S.

Hepatitis B comic book: TBP (to be published!)

The nature of the organization as a nonprofit requires smart financial decisions where every dollar is allocated for patients rather than for private spending. I think this is a significant factor as to why the Health Center is effective in accomplishing its social justice mission. Outside of government-funded initiatives, primary care and urgent care visits are offered to everyone; no one is ever refused treatment due to financial reasons. Patients can either pay through family health insurance or through a sliding scale fee determined by yearly income or their W-2 tax release. Essentially, this expands the health center’s accessibility to out-of-state patients (often extended family members or migrant workers), as well as patients without Medicaid / Social Security / Medicare.

NYC public transportation system.

The Health Center has also made strides in its second mission to eliminate Asian American health disparities. It has implemented key services such as mental health therapy, social work consultations, and referrals to health care providers within the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center network. These efforts significantly reduce the amount of traveling and time that patients take out of work in order to meet their health needs. Additionally, for Asian dialects that are less common (e.g. Fuzhounese), there are in-person and language access line interpreters available to assist physicians in translating clinical diagnoses. Care managers also make follow up calls to ensure patients are continuing their treatment at home.

Attending a press conference with Commissioner Mary Bassett on mortality among Chinese New Yorkers.

On a broader scale, the Health Center has formed close connections with specialists at NYU Langone and pharmacists at Metropharm to guarantee that patients are directed to quality referral care and receive the most affordable prescription medicine. The Health Center’s education and research departments are also great at maintaining relationships with Chinese press reporters, elected city council officials, NYC Department of Health, and national public health organizations. As a result, there are ample opportunities for press conferences, free citywide tuberculosis and hepatitis B screenings, publicity/outreach, and enrollment of the Asian American population into programs that will be of lifelong benefit to them.

As I watch all of this progress unfold, I remember Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s slogan, “We are your medical home, we care about you.” It is neat to watch the various departments fulfill the slogan and reach the goals they had set forth to accomplish.

-Michelle Yan ’19

The Neuropsychology of Social Justice

In neuropsychology, there are a few categories of subjects that a lot of researchers are hesitant to explore because of their complicated and messy nature. Empathy and social interaction are two such subjects, and I am spending my summer investigating these phenomena in human behavior at the Social Interaction and Motivation (SIM) Lab at Brandeis University. We are exploring the physiological and neurological processes that underlie how human beings interact, connect and empathize with one another. More specifically, we are investigating what are fundamental neurological and physiological differences that occur when someone interacts with a person of their “in-group” (same race) versus a person of an “out-group” (other race).

Because it is an ongoing experiment I cannot share too many specifics; however, the experiment we are currently running involves inviting in Boston-area community members and asking them to complete a series of surveys and tasks while we record their brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG). Participants meet each other and are asked to share personal experiences, as well as complete a few tasks together. Specifically we are interesting in recording from pre-motor neurons, looking for a phenomenon called “motor resonance.” Without boring you with the nitty-gritty science of it, this phenomenon of motor resonance is thought to be the neural underpinning for human empathy.

If you’re interested in learning more of the science and theory here is a link to some useful background information. 

What does this have to do with social justice? Well, by investigating social interactions we are hoping to find some valuable answers to the mystery of human empathy. Empathy has become an increasingly important skill in today’s social and political climate, and I hope that by better understanding the neurological and physiological events of empathic connection (or lack thereof) we can apply this new knowledge to social justice movements. Here at the lab, we want to understand what facilitates empathy with some groups of people, while others are discriminated against and even sometimes dehumanized.

There has been previous research into the neuroscience of prejudice and intergroup relations, and the experiment we are running this summer hopes to build on the existing literature.

Here is another link about the neuroscience of prejudice and intergroup relations

As a research assistant, the majority of my job is to help run the actual experiment. This involves greeting participants, getting them settled into the lab, preparing their EEG cap, and setting up tasks. This first month especially has been a lot of learning protocol, but we are now running the study a few times a week. When I am not running the study, I am often helping graduate students with their research or conducting literature reviews.


This is me, interacting with an EEG mannequin. We use these to attach all the electrodes to the cap before we place it on the participant. 

Before the summer ends, I really hope to have a better scope into how scientific discovery can alongside with social movements. In social neuropsychology, a lot of the research on prejudice and bias (alongside social interaction) provides deep and sometimes dark insight into human social behavior. It does not simply suffice to be aware of these discoveries; the real challenge lies in how do we, as researchers and scientists, get this information out to the public in a way that is useful and constructive.

Promoting Resilience Through Mapping

During my freshman year at Brandeis, I took the course, Sustainable Cities and Communities.  Among the various topics I had learned and discussed during the class – from environmental justice, to grassroots climate movements, to building healthy communities – one term that has stuck in my mind is resilience.  Resilience refers to the capacity of a community to recover from stress, whether it be environmental damage, social upheaval, or economic decline. However, by building resilience to a variety of stressors in a community, that community can protect its residents and organizations, alleviating much of the potential damage even if disaster strikes. Resilience is an important concept in both the fields of Environmental Studies and Sociology and I have seen elements of this concept trickle into various aspects of my work with Green Map System.

Reviewing the Emergency Preparedness Plan with the Lower East Side Ready! Coalition

Since starting my internship, I have seen how Green Map System interacts with its local community, helping it build resilience to climate change and partnering with local organizations to promote their own environmental endeavors.  In the Lower East Side, where Green Map System is the based, the community has been taking major steps since the impact of Hurricane Sandy to build resilience in the face of hurricane flooding. Green Map System has stepped out of its standard role to help the community build resilience to this threat in various ways. Primarily, the founder has mapped out the effect of flooding during Hurricane Sandy and the potential impact of sea level rise with climate change on the Lower East Side, which we have been able to present to community residents when they ask about the risks of climate change.

In addition, Green Map System has worked with the Lower East Side (LES) Ready! coalition on its resilience plan and has suggested ways to incorporate both sustainability and flexibility during disasters. Specifically, Green Map System contributed to the plan by making a resilience program called Bike Ready. Bike Ready is a practice of using bicycles to bring relief aid, such as batteries, water, and first aid kits, to areas inaccessible by cars during emergencies. This program was launched following Hurricane Sandy, and Green Map System has further contributed by distributing Bike Ready supply kits to various sites around the Lower East side, ultimately enhancing the resilience of the neighborhood.

Images of Bike Ready in Action after Hurricane Sandy

I have contributed in my own small way to community resiliency during the start of my internship by sharing and writing stories about former Green Map System maps that focus on community resiliency and health, such as the Recycle a Bicycle program and the Harlem Eco-Mappers map. The Recycle a Bicycle maps illustrate the areas one can bicycle through in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, which promotes flexibility when public transportation fails, and the Harlem Eco-Mappers promotes public health by charting eco-locations like gardens and farm stands and by addressing hazardous areas of the neighborhood plagued by pollution. Through bringing these stories to life, community residents are more likely to access and utilize the maps on Green Map System’s page and better able utilize the resources charted on each site to respond to challenges in their neighborhoods.

 

 

 

 

The Intersection Between Art and Politics

While explaining paintings at the Rose Art Museum on campus may not seem like a task that would translate to the world of development, I have found that the two jobs are one in the same.

Just a year ago, it was natural for me to see a stern, expressionless face and steer clear; but after just one shift at the Rose, I realized how unfair these judgments were. In our society, we are expected to be friendly (but never intimate), social (but never curious), and when a stranger deviates from the trend, we are too quick to write them off as entitled or aloof.

Once two individuals are placed in just the right context—whether that is in front of a canvas or a picket sign—the world starts to make a little more sense.

And communication is key for anyone working for United for a Fair Economy. We are constantly reaching out to donors, foundation heads, disenfranchised communities; we have people on the phone explaining specific laws, leading workshops on the wealth divide, and so much more.

So, when it comes down to it, there is simply no room for any of us to just assume that the person on the other line doesn’t care about our cause. Instead, it is our job to frame our thoughts and mission statement in such a way that inspires others to act!

 

As you probably already know, the zip code we start with almost always dictates where we end up; a “can do” attitude is only part of the equation.

Quite simply, millions of Americans deserve better. They deserve more than a society that deems them as inherently lazy. They deserve more than just stories of opportunity.

Because how much can any child accomplish when the only meal they can depend on is their school lunch?

WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO IT…

Working at the Rose has made me so much more open-minded, even when I didn’t think that I had much room to improve on that front. (I do go to Brandeis after all.)

Though, when I don a uniform, I have to treat every visitor with the same level of kindness and be whatever they need at that moment. Sometimes, that means I’m giving spiritual advice or big bear hugs. Sometimes not.

But the ability to treat every shift on a case-by-case basis? To improvise and pick up on what the other person expects? That is vital whenever you are representing an organization—and United for a Fair Economy is no different.

As development members, it is our job to tailor each donor interaction and ensure a steady, reliable string of communication. We have to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions and occasionally dismantle long-held norms–which can be challenging, but makes every hour all the more exciting!

NOW, LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU.

Although I just made a big deal out of not jumping to conclusions, I have a feeling that I know a little something about YOU. If you care or are scared about our world right now, I get that.  I suggest finding the geographic gems that make your heart sing. Maybe even pay a visit to the Rose. (If you find me there, I’ll happily discuss the fact that we are highlighting artists of color and women in the art world or how we had an exhibit showcasing the economic environment in sub-Saharan Africa.)

I want to be a part of an amazing experience; and that’s what development and social justice are all about.

Ashley Loc

Finale

Another milestone for the books. My internship at Central Square Theatre is officially coming to a close but I am so happy for the opportunities and insights it has given me. Over the course of working at CST, I have not only learned a lot about myself as an intern, but as a person, student and professional.

I am a diligent, go-getter who keeps plugging along even when the going gets rough. There were some tough spots during my internship where I had to stop and re-strategize. Each experience has helped shape who am today and what I hope to pursue in the future. 

This summer I helped launch our last show of the 2016-17 season, The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion and took to the streets by my own volition to hand out postcards. I started an initiative to get CST postcards to all hotel concierge services in the area and into guestrooms. I also attended the Central Square Flea Market where CST had a table and I passed out pamphlets all day and discussed one-on-one what the theatre is all about. Lastly I contacted local television stations to hopefully bring CST beyond the stage and to the greater community via television.

So what’s next for me? We shall see! I am grateful for the experiences I had this summer and for the connections I made through the theatre. It was a pleasure to work with the other interns in gearing up for our brand new season. It is rewarding to know that my work at the theatre will not go unrecognized and that I had a hand in the upcoming productions.

I want to say thank you to CST and WOW for making this experience possible.

Tricia Cordischi

The Invaluable Work of Public Defense

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is a federally funded organization that represents indigent adults and minors accused of serious crimes in DC. The organization was established in 1970 under a federal statue that stipulated under the 6th amendment that the government provide counsel to those who cannot afford an attorney. As a model public defender, PDS typically handles the most serious felony cases in the district.

This summer, I am an intern investigator working alongside two attorneys, one in the Trial Division and one in the Civil Legal Services Division. Despite the fact that I’ve only been working for a few weeks, I’ve already had the opportunity to work a variety of cases including misdemeanor assaults, custody, housing, and drug cases.

I chose this position as an experiment in law. After pivoting away from business last year, I figured an immersive foray into the legal field would help me determine whether I want to pursue such a career. Six weeks into my internship, I’m definitely considering it. The work here is proving to be a great fit for my skills and interests, and the fact that I’m always learning doesn’t hurt. Also, it’s challenging, which is absolutely a personal requirement for the career I ultimately choose to enter. Public defense is sometimes spontaneous and urgent, sometimes calculated and deliberate, and it is that diversity of experience which I’ve come to nothing short of love.
 Our role as investigators is primarily to fact-find and to gather as much evidence as possible to enable our attorney to provide the best possible legal representation for our clients. Every day is different. Just to get an idea, here are some of the most exciting tasks we do fairly regularly: interview clients in jail and in the field to hear their side of the story; assist our attorneys in developing questions and theories of defense; obtain character letters and educational records for sentencing; serve subpoenas; draft memos, pull surveillance footage; canvass for witnesses; and, of course, watch our attorneys and others in court. There is really never a dull day on the job.
One of the best parts of the internship is client and community interaction – working in the field to gather information and help bolster our case. It’s the nature of our work that we encounter people during some of the worst times in their life, so it’s quite the privilege to be able to help them during these dark hours. And, as always, this requires being a zealous advocate on the client’s behalf – doing everything we possibly can to best defend him or her.
The DC Superior Courthouse, where PDS tries most of its cases.

Public defenders are crucial to maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system. One’s income cannot and should not determine whether they have quality legal representation in court. While PDS is not a criminal justice reform or civil rights organization, we certainly do a substantial amount of important work in both of those areas, first and foremost by fighting zealously for our clients. And if that means taking the case to trial, we’re not afraid to do so. In fact, PDS has won acquittals on all significant charges in more than 50 percent of its trial cases since October 2011, a value considerably higher than even the performance of much private counsel.

By the summer’s end, I will have a more in-depth view of the criminal justice system and the communities we serve. While I am learning an incredible amount professionally, working at PDS is also a deeply humbling and personal experience. It’s exposing me to a part of our world I didn’t know existed, and is starting to empower me as the voice of the voiceless. Public defense is not easy work by any stretch of measure, but it’s fun, especially for an adrenaline-junkie like me, and profoundly rewarding.

I’m truly overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to work firsthand in public defense. Is there anything better than using your mind for good?

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Until next week,
Andrew Jacobson, ’19

My First Weeks at the Center for Autism Research

This summer, I am interning at The Center for Autism Research, a center of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania that brings together a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, and more to discover new ways to improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The specialists do this by investigating the underlying causes of ASD, developing precise treatments, and supporting those with ASD and their families by providing resources and education.

As I began my summer internship experience almost 2 weeks ago now, I was so excited to continue the work I had done for the Center for Autism Research (also known as CAR) as a volunteer in high school. It was great reconnecting with researchers I had worked with as well as receiving updates about the projects I had assisted with previously and learning about the new directions of the work. Also, I enjoyed exploring the new office space at the recently built Robert’s Center for Pediatric Research.

I spent most of my time in the past few weeks in training, preparing to assist in the research process once again. I began by completing many online modules administered by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia according to their protocol. Next, I reviewed the research protocols for two main projects that I will be working on, one about how children with autism respond to their individual names and the second observing males with Creatine Transporter Deficiency. The first project uses a mobile app created by CAR to collect data about how children with autism respond to their individual names and how this differs from children with developmental delays and from typically developing children. This app brings research opportunities to underrepresented populations since only a subset of individuals, who are mostly affluent and Caucasian, are able to journey to the center in Philadelphia to participate in research. The goal is that following participation in the app study, these specific underrepresented people will be identified and will have the opportunity to receive future diagnoses and services. The second study, the Creatine Transporter Deficiency study, aims to differentiate individuals with CTD from individuals with autism spectrum disorder since many individuals are misdiagnosed. Figuring out where along the progression of visits with doctors and assessments with clinicians this happens will allow for proper diagnoses as well as proper treatment for individuals that are currently not receiving suitable care. I am very excited to begin making my impact on these projects!

I also spent much of my time these first few weeks reading up on some of the newest research going on about detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. One article about early detection in infants through the use of brain scans is linked here. Another article about community health clinics detecting autism in adults previously diagnosed with psychosis and other various disorders can be found here (this article was written by my supervisor!).

My goals moving forward for the rest of the summer are academic as well as career and personal. I have a baseline of knowledge from the previous experiences at CAR and my biology and psychology courses at Brandeis; however, I would like to build on this knowledge and better understand the underlying causes of autism in addition to innovative treatment plans for individuals with ASD through the current research. As for career and personal goals, I wish to explore various career options and future paths that are available following graduation from Brandeis. I have already begun working on this goal by attending weekly meetings in which a research assistant, a graduate student, or another researcher at CAR speaks about their experiences and specific interests and gives some advice to individuals interested in their respective fields.

I am excited to continue pursuing these goals as well as assisting in research projects in the coming weeks and can’t wait to see where this experience takes me!

Tali Rychik, ’19’

 

 

Defining Social Justice

When thinking about internships, one of my first thoughts was what Social Justice really is? In all honesty, it is a difficult question. Brandeis takes pride in the fact that it was founded on principles of social justice. Our name itself comes from a key proponent of social justice. But even still, I wonder how am I impacting others with my internship, and what kind of change am I making? That is when I realized something. The definition of Social Justice is in the end, determined by how the individual views it. For it, social justice is about making a difference for someone with less opportunity, and seeing them pay it forward.

I am an intern with United Way, a nation wide non-for profit who focuses on the community. United Way’s mission is based on three essential parts of a community. Education, Income, and Health. Through the United Way, I am currently working with PRONTO, a sister non-profit that operates out of Brentwood, New York.

PRONTO is primarily a food pantry, which uses a thrift store within the complex to help raise money to afford food for the pantry. The typical customers for PRONTO are lower income people, oftentimes Latino or African American, and typically not many of them speak English. These are people with little ability to even afford their own houses, as Long Island is notoriously expensive. Every little bit we are able to contribute makes a difference at least from my perspective.

Here, let me share a case. There was a girl around my age. She’s Latino, recently immigrated to the US, and just had a daughter. She is a single mother and it is hard for her to make ends meet. This was her first time at PRONTO. I was working the front desk at the time, and when she was called by one of the staff for her interview, I could see the giant smile on her face from my desk. In a way, that’s what the work is about. Making a little difference, one person at a time.

In all honesty, people are scared right now. There has been a decline at PRONTO ever since Donald Trump got elected. People are scared that ICE is waiting in the bushes, intent to grab them as soon as they approach PRONTO. They face the fear of being deported just because they left the confines of their homes and apartments to get food. It’s terrible, and is what our reality looks like. I guess the next challenge for me, as a student of Brandeis and someone who focuses on social justice, to combat that fear. I think I can do this.

At ETE Camp We Form Leaders!

 

Many schools in Haiti are limited in providing a good quality education and there are few extracurricular activities for students to participate in, if any.  To combat these issues ETE (Empowering Through Education) Camp was born, an organization that gives underprivileged students in Hinche, Haiti the opportunity to have access to a quality curriculum education which they do not have access to in their regular schools. Students in this program are exposed to leadership, engineering, English and math classes which are designed to strengthen their academic skills, build their confidence and teach them to become leaders in their community. Furthermore, the program serves two meals per day to approximately 60 participants and holds afternoon programming that includes icebreaker activities, soccer, and much-more.

ETE Camp was founded in 2009, by Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP) and Brandeis Alumna Shaina Gilbert as director, five other Brandeis students, and Shaina’s father, Boston Public Schools teacher, Garry Gilbert. ETE Camp has already served 200+ youth participants and provided summer work opportunities to adults in Haiti and it’s where I’ll spend my summer WOW placement.

Last year I had the privilege to work with these students and we were able to bond. I am so excited to see my students from last year again and look forward to meeting the new students.

WHAT IS IT THAT I DO? As a teacher with ETE camp, I will teach three classes on effective leadership practices a day. I adapted and refined a curriculum for this program. I will also help lead afternoon activities including debriefing morning classes with the students and leading games for community building. Afterward, I will attend the staff meetings and debrief the day and discuss what we can do as a staff to improve for the next day.

Also, this is my second year at camp and I intend to start a poetry competition for the students. The purpose of the competition will be to support graduates of ETE camp who may not have opportunity to continue showcasing their poetry talent.  From my previous experience with ETE Camp, one of the organization’s missions is to keep improving for its students and to form leaders in the community that will lead in the future.  I truly believe that by teaching a subject like leadership, I can show that a leader can also be a community influencer.  Now that I am done preparing the curriculum, I cannot wait to start working with the ETE Camp students in Hinche, Haiti.

END OF THE SUMMER GOAL: By the of the summer, I aim to create a ripple effect on the current ETE Camp students and the alumni; where they will continue to think critically and engage in conversation about how they can contribute to their community as leaders. I hope to create a book for ETE Camp with a combination of alumni stories and poems. I  also hope to discover new ways in which ETE Camp could be improved for next year. Working at ETE Camp is one of my favorite ways to spend the summer. I know how grateful and excited the students in the Hinche community will be to have us working with them again this year and I want them to know that I believe in them.  

Love Is Still the Most Powerful Force On the Planet

The mission statement of To Write Love On Her Arms, the organization with which I am interning, does as much justice to its mission as two short sentences can:

“To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

There are many different ways that TWLOHA addresses these goals. One of the most important of these ways is the blog on the TWLOHA website. Twice a week, a post is published on the blog. These posts often directly discuss the four issues referred to in the mission statement, but also discuss abuse, eating disorders, bullying, anxiety, self-care, and recovery, among other topics. The posts bring these issues to light in an attempt to humanize the people who suffer from them, and to provide encouragement and hope to people struggling. They are also an effort to reach people who are not struggling and convince them to care about those who are, as well as an effort to reach people who are struggling and remind them that recovery is possible, and it’s okay to have a mental illness even in a society that tells you it isn’t.

Another important way TWLOHA addresses its goals is by serving as a bridge between treatment and people struggling. The “Find Help” page contains a constantly updating list of carefully selected treatment services for locations around the United States and even in other countries. It also features a list of national resources that can be accessed by anyone in each of the countries listed. TWLOHA also offers counseling scholarships to help pay for treatment for those who can’t afford it, and invests money directly into places like suicide hotlines and foundations for advocacy and the funding of research. To date, TWLOHA has invested over $1.5 million into organizations that directly and indirectly help people who struggle with mental illness.

As an intern this summer, I have a few different responsibilities that I’ll be tackling along with my fellow interns. All seven of the interns answer emails for the first half of the day. This is more important than it sounds. The emails include everything from partnership requests, to expressions of gratitude to the organization, to telling stories of one’s struggles. Often there are emails that ask for help because the senders have no where else to turn. My job as an intern is to respond to all of these emails thoughtfully, with compassion and encouragement, and in a way that shows the sender that we care about them. This is one of the things we do that has the most impact on individual lives. We receive so many emails from people who say this organization helped them find their reasons to keep living, or that a reply email we sent to them was exactly what they needed to hear. I had no idea sending a simple email could make such an impact on someone’s life.

Another one of my responsibilities is to seek out more resources for the website, especially in the few states and many countries that don’t have any listed yet. I also help go through the applications for the next intern term, and I have been organizing our blog archive. Last weekend, I got to run the TWLOHA booth at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. After reading so many emails thanking us for the work we do, I had an even deeper appreciation for the organization than I did before I arrived. However, running the booth at Firefly made me know how incredibly worthwhile this work is. So many people came up to the booth and told us that TWLOHA helped them get through an extremely dark time in their life. Some people hadn’t heard of us, but struggle themselves, or had lost a loved one to mental illness. Their thanks for doing the important work we do was so touching and meaningful. After witnessing this and hearing these stories, my main goal for the summer is to help as many people as possible, directly or indirectly, and to do everything in my power to make life better for people who struggle with mental illness.

Michael Solowey

Working for Environmental Justice at Fiege Films

This summer, I’m working at Fiege Films in Austin, Texas. It’s a small independent film company that I’m really glad to be a part of.

John Fiege, the founder of Fiege Films, is an environmentalist and documentary filmmaker. His past work includes the films Mississippi Chicken, an examination of undocumented workers in the poultry industry in Mississippi, and Above All Else, the story of a last-ditch attempt to stop the Keystone XL pipeline expansion in East Texas.

John has many shorter pieces too. This short film, Torrent on the Blanco, chronicles the devastating flooding that occurred in Wimberley, Texas in 2015:

The environment is a key focus at Fiege Films, and it’s especially important in the current moment, with environmental catastrophes like climate change feeling ever more acute, and a political administration unwilling to do anything to stop it. It’s paramount that people advocate for our habitat. 

Currently, I’m helping out with pre-production on In the Air, an experimental, feature-length film about environmental devastation on the Gulf Coast, told from the perspectives of local artists, such as poets and dancers.

We’re focusing particularly on a part of the country called “Cancer Alley,” a stretch of land along the Mississippi host to over 100 petrochemical complexes and a disproportionate amount of illness.

It’s a depressing situation, but also a great opportunity to speak out about this great injustice. I believe that environmental justice is social justice, and that by fighting for better air and water conditions for the residents of this region that have been traditionally mistreated, I’m helping to further the cause of social justice. When we protect our environment, we protect the people living there, too. That’s why telling this story is so important. 

Here’s an excerpt from the work sample for In the Air. It was shot in Baytown, Texas, and features a piece of poetry from Baytown native Ebony Stewart:

Right now, there’s a lot of work to be done for the film, and it’s pretty busy here in the office—but also really exciting. Coming off a successful Kickstarter in April, we’ve raised enough funds to start production, and for me that means researching locations, creating shooting schedules, and coordinating with artists, among many other tasks.

My hope for this time is that I can best facilitate the creative vision for the film, to help the story of a very marginalized and exploited part of the country get told. Making a film takes a ton of work, but in this case, with such dire subject matter, it’s self-evident how important it is. I’m very grateful to the WOW program for making it possible for me to work for social justice this summer. It’s awesome that I get to spend my time doing something so meaningful and important.

Getting started in Boston Public Market

I will spend the most of my summer interning in Boston Public Market, Boston, MA. Boston Public Market (BPM) is a year-round, indoor market featuring locally sourced, seasonal food brought by and from the diverse vendors from New England area. As a HSSP major, I am very interested in learning about the agricultural sustainability. The philosophy of BPM seems to address sustainability a lot: consuming locally sourced agricultural product reduce both the transportation cost and the waste release. Serving only seasonal food items also reduces energy used to preserve food, as well as transportation cost. However, as good as it sounds, I wonder if it could only be one of a kind, or this operating model can be further promoted. Working here will enable me to get in touch with more vendors, and therefore gain a deeper understand the philosophy of how each vendor works individually to make the market functions as a whole.

This summer, I will work alternating between the office, in the Market, and Dewey Square Farmers Market. I was very excited before starting interning. I envision this internship to be very busy and productive: help setting up farmer’s market, assisting events going on in the market, working closely with supervisor with project after project, etc.

However, little progress was made the first two weeks into this internship. All I had been doing is organizing paperwork, sitting at info desk pointing out the location of bathrooms, and running around for unimportant chores. I comforted myself that it was just the beginning of internship, and the busy summer season hadn’t started. It was not until I got a project related to HIP (Health incentive program) when I develop a feeling of where this internship can go. HIP is a Massachusetts State health program for low-income people, or EBT card holders. This program matches every dollar spent on fruit and vegetable purchase using EBT card, however, only for fresh produce and no added preservative, salt canned or dried fruits and vegetables. In other word, this program further encourages low-income family to purchase more nutritious foods for health needs. The program enacted on June 1st, and replaced Boston Bounty Bucks program, which BPM matched a purchase up to $20 for EBT card holders. While printing out information package for each SNAP vendors, I got the chance to read through the info sheet. This switch made me both excited and concerned. I then offered to summarize a FAQ for volunteers to read and understand the program. It’s only have been a few days since the program started. I had heard a few words about the carrying out of the program among the vendors without actually seeing it happen. With a mixture of concerned and exciting feeling, I look forward to seeing how this program will turn out.

As I dig deeper into this internship and the office gets busier, I gradually realize that I need to actively seize each opportunity. Each project can be more than a plain project if I see the its potential and actively follow up with what is needed. How much I can get out of an internship totally depends on me: how much effort I put into it, how much thought I give, how I ask questions, etc. Through assisting HIP, I started to get a hint of the role of BPM in social justice and conserving of sustainability.

Yuchen He-17′

Social Justice through ‘Avodah’

When I found out about the Social Justice Internship available this summer at Avodah in New York City, I had a feeling it was a perfect fit for me. Avodah is a nonprofit organization that aims to identify, target and address poverty and related social and economic justice issues in the United States. It does so by managing and connecting an extensive network of activists, fellows, and alumni through its Jewish Service Corps and Fellowship programs. The former trains young Jewish people to work and dedicate themselves to social justice work, drawing their inspiration from a fusion of antipoverty organizational culture and Jewish tradition.


(Source: avodah.net)

I think that one of the reasons why poverty is cyclical and challenging to escape is the lack of visibility and attention that disadvantaged or disenfranchised groups and individuals receive in the civic and political arena. Avodah not only gives a voice to these groups, but educates the activists so that their voice is as far-reaching, loud, and effective as possible.
As an intern, I will be working with the Alumni and National Program Network to collect, manage, and analyze data and surveys of Fellows and former Corps Members. I will also provide administrative support to the program of candidate recruitment, followed by assistance to the New York City house turnover process. In making my contribution as valuable as possible to Avodah’s cause, I hope to also become more familiar and ultimately acquire the fundamental skills and knowledge that social justice activists operate with.

Sonia Pavel ’20

My first month at National Consumer League

I am currently working as an intern for the National Consumer League, a consumer advocacy organization, representing consumers and workers on the marketplace and workplace since 1899. The organization deals with real-life knowledge-based education for high school students (LifeSmarts program), eliminates hazardous child labor and fraud, and develops programs to help patients keep up with their medication schedules.

NCL is a small organization, with a total of around 20 employees, which makes it a perfect environment for an intern to get to know everyone, from the director, department heads, to other interns, and learn about what they are working on. NCL is accommodating to the interns’ needs and preferences to improve ourselves. We have C (for privacy purpose, I will only include their initials), who is the general supervisor of all interns. In the first week, the interns will have a one-on-one talk with her about our field of interest, what we want to improve about ourselves, and what goals we would like to achieve. Then, she lets us choose who we will be primarily assigned to. We will work with our supervisor of choice on specific field and assist them with research, blogs, and manage their social media outlet.

I chose to work with R, director of Child Labor issues. Honestly it was not a field I had much background knowledge of prior to the internship. In fact, I hardly ever thought of such matter at all. Talking to R, I realize that is the exact problem we are having with fighting child labor. It is so far removed from the supply chain that average people would never even consider the possibility of some children aged 9 or 12 doing back-breaking work to help produce things consumers use everyday. It startles me to realize virtually everything has some tint of child labor, the cotton in our clothes, the tea leaves and coffee beans in our daily beverage, the bricks in our house and everything else.

My primary work here is to manage the social media outlet of Child Labor Coalition (please follow us on Twitter if you are interested in news and facts about child labor). I respond to questions by followers, follow people who share the same interest, and post facts and news about child labor, or other related issues. It is a never ending job, in a sense of you have to keep doing it everyday. To be honest, there is no sense of accomplishing anything as every morning you wake up, you have to do it all over. It is also never ending because everyday, there is some news about child labor no matter how elusive, as long as you know where to search for them. It is mentally and emotionally draining when you think that it is the 21st century and there are still 168 million children out there participating in labor, often too hazardous and without proper protection, when they should be in school, learning and playing. It is taxing but I am also learning so much.

My goal in dealing with child labor is to think of a way to better communicate this issue and assist consumers out there to make direct, informed and conscious choice in their consumer behavior. So far I am thinking of writing a series of blogs, suggesting how consumers can notice signs of child labor and other types of modern slavery and sweatshop, which sustainable brands to buy from and which unethical ones to avoid. It is a work in progress so far. I will update in my next report.

Credit: All photos belong to NCL Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nationalconsumersleague/

Trang Nguyen

HIVE San Francisco

This summer, I am interning at HIVE in San Francisco, CA. HIVE is a San Francisco General Hospital-based organization that focuses on women and couples affected by HIV. This self-described “hub of positive reproductive and sexual health” has provided preconception and prenatal care to those who are affected by HIV since 1989 and since 2004, all babies born in San Francisco have been free of HIV. HIVE also does much of their work online, hosting a website that holds plenty of resources, both for those who are HIV+ and HIV-, as well as a blog, where contributors can share their experiences with HIV, sex, pregnancy, disclosure, and PrEP, among many others. To visit their website, go to www.hiveonline.org

While HIVE’s multi-pronged approach to HIV care addresses many of the inequalities in reproductive and sexual wellness, one of HIVE’s main focuses is tackling the obstacles that stand in the way of one’s access to healthcare and healthcare education. HIVE recognizes HIV as an identity that coexists and intersects with other marginalized identities; for example, the ways in which people of color and folks with lower incomes are disproportionately affected by HIV. HIVE also focuses on PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a once-a-day pill for those living without HIV to prevent HIV transmission. HIVE aims to break down the notion that PrEP is solely for one sect of HIV- folks. HIVE champions PrEP as a tool for anyone and everyone as it can relieve the stress of not always being able to express oneself sexually and safely. Read one woman’s story of how PrEP has helped her, or check out another favorite blog post.

My time at HIVE consists mostly of working on a patient database, which will house information about their HIV, sexual, reproductive, and social histories. In other words, the database will allow easier access to the results of HIVE’s work. The team will be able to pull information faster for queries such as how many people were infected with HIV in their pregnancy, how many people had undetectable viral loads at delivery, and how many people were engaged in HIV care 6-12 months postpartum. The database will showcase all of the tireless efforts of the HIVE team to engage women and couples in matters of sexual and reproductive justice. This work will further the mission of HIVE—to advance sexual and reproductive wellness—by illustrating to both the HIVE team and others that their work is making a difference in the lives of their patients. 

By summer’s end, I hope to more acutely understand how HIV affects women and couples, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. I hope to gain perspective into the lives of those whose sexuality intersects with HIV. Finally, I hope that I can turn HIVE’s manifesto into a daily practice.

Gaby Sandor

From NM to NYC- American Jewish World Service(WOW)!

I have arrived in Manhattan, and already I am enjoying everything the city has to offer. There are so many incredible people living here who do the most inspiring things, and lucky for me I get to experience this first hand. Never would have imagined that this would be such a perfect fit, but so far it has been thanks to WOW! My first week with the American Jewish World Service Organization has surpassed all preconceived internship expectations I had. Everything about the working environment is being nurtured by people who are passionate about the mission AJWS is built upon and I am beyond enthusiastic to begin my work with one of the pioneers in our developing world for Social Justice, Social Action and change. Founded in 1985, AJWS is the only Jewish non-profit community that focuses specifically on Heath and Sexual Rights, Women’s Rights and Land and Water rights.

These areas of work are overseen in 4 continents and 19 different countries struggling to achieve these major and crucial components of living. As part of my time with the organization, I will be serving in the Development Department helping plan donor engagement events, volunteer opportunities for community members and lending a hand in logistics for our Study Tour programs that allow people who support AJWS to travel abroad and see firsthand the work we are accomplishing. So far I have been fortunate enough to attend meetings with various departments here at AJWS including the Finance team, our Communications team, as well as our Administrative team. These meetings have allowed myself and my fellow intern peers to get an inside look at the work we do in the office daily and how we continue to grow and flourish as an organization. The emphasis on my team is donor engagement where we bridge the gap between our generous donors and demonstrate our thanks for their unconditional generosity and consistent belief in the mission of AJWS.

To find more information about the study tours, the mentors I will be working with, and our “strive to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world” click here! Finally, as part of my first week along with all the other exciting experiences I’ve had, I was able to help coordinate the AJWS Pride March in the 2017 NYC Pride Parade! One of the key focuses here at AJWS is working to “advance the human rights of women, girls and LGBT people, end discrimination, stop violence and combat hate crimes.” In this way, we are able to demonstrate our support for these communities and help to eliminate all discrimination towards people who identify differently than others.

Here I have attached the link to the AJWS twitter page where we will be posting throughout the parade in an effort to stay socially engaged with our international friends. At first I was hesitant about coming to AJWS and spending my summer in Manhattan as I am somewhat of a small town girl from Albuquerque, NM however I strongly believe that my time here will be very educational and eye opening. I look forward to enveloping myself in everything related to “pursuing global justice through grassroots change” and witnessing the ways in which Jewish tradition and values are helping to repair our world.

Aryela Vanetsky

Starting at Umby

I am spending this summer in Chicago at a startup called Umby, which is a peer-to-peer microinsurance platform. Microinsurance is just like regular insurance, except that it targets at individuals living in poverty internationally, mostly making less than $4 USD a day. To address their needs, the premiums and coverage for this type of insurance are relatively low, but it provides an important safety net for families trying to escape the poverty cycle. Umby works by selling umbrellas to consumers, with the money then going to insure one family (of the consumer’s choice) for a full year.

The main social injustice that Umby is redressing is global poverty. In developing countries around the world, individuals are especially vulnerable to the financial hardships which affect all of us at one point or another: health problems, property damage, and the like. However, for someone who is making barely enough money to get by, these hardships can be absolutely devastating. Studies have shown that individuals facing these hardships will do things like selling off their assets, dipping into (quite small) savings accounts, and reducing their food consumption. The problem is that these short-term solutions actually reinforce poverty in the long run: without money-making assets like livestock, it can be difficult to pay for the next hardship; without building up savings, it can be impossible to do economically advantageous but expensive activities such as sending children to school; reducing food consumption to the point of malnourishment or undernourishment can result in long-term health problems that will cost more money later. This is where insurance comes in. If a family has the ability to use insurance to pay for these hardships, they no longer have to deplete their assets or savings, ultimately helping to break the poverty cycle in the best cases.

Further, according to the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change is affecting the poorest countries in the world the most. Many forms of microinsurance help protect against the power of global climate change, including catastrophe insurance and many forms of livestock or crop insurance. This is another social justice issue: the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries have the ability to ignore the effects of climate change, but those living in poor regions around the world do not have the infrastructure or the funds to recover from natural disasters.

I am specifically in charge of marketing for Umby. Umby will be officially launching at the end of the summer, so I am developing blog posts and social media strategies to ensure that people will hear of it and will be interested in donating or buying an umbrella themselves. Without the effective marketing efforts, we may not be able to provide microinsurance at all.

We are working inside of 1871, which is an incubator in downtown Chicago for startups, most of which are related to tech. This is a really cool environment to work in, as there are a ton of other young people working on a variety of new ideas, many of which are related to social justice. Most of 1871 is taken up by a huge, open workspace, where dozens of people sit on their laptops or talking to one another. It is a very artistic environment, with one side of the room taken up by this huge sculpture of downtown Chicago. There are also murals on the walls of the building done by local artists. It is definitely way cooler than your average office.

The sculpture at the front of 1871
Mark Mulhern’s “Anger/Fear of Retaliation” in the halls of 1871

By the end of the summer, the major event that will be happening is the official launching of the company. I hope by then I will have raised awareness on social media and provided some helpful blog posts that spark interest in the mission and work of Umby, and are entertaining and fun to read.

Lily Elderkin

Charting Green Spaces in New York City

Me in Green Map System’s Office!

With a only a week under my belt, and with new experience in New Jersey transit and the New York subway system, I am excited to have started my first true city experience with Green Map System.

Green Map System, is an environmental nonprofit which encourages inclusive participation and knowledge generation about green spaces through maps. More specifically, the organization encourages active involvement in parklands, nature preserves, and local agriculture while also helping communities address areas that raise concerns, such as waste dumps, disaster areas, noise pollution, and more. Outside of maps, the organization works on local projects such as a community garden, called Siempre Verde, developed an energy passive house in Brooklyn, and encourages bike transportation and waste recycling throughout the city.

In my role, I am helping Green Map System as it transitions some of its Green Mapping technology and launches a new website to encourage further participation and alternative methods of projecting environmental data. I am specifically applying the skills I learned this past year in my Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coursework to carry over Green Map System’s iconography and descriptions to new maps on an open platform called ArcGIS. This is a critical transition as it will allow participants to use the maps in new ways, including visual customization and data analytics. I was really excited that I was able to start working on GIS right away and that I have even worked with individuals from ESRI, the Environmental Systems Research Institute, who have been guiding me through the GIS development process. In addition, I am helping catalog and share stories of mapping projects from the past by inputting details about them on Green Map System’s story page on their website. Through this work, I am beginning to learn how technology and business communication skills can play in the environmental nonprofit space.

Tabling with Green Map System’s Founder at the People Power Planet Party – Image by Erik McGregor

Finally, I have represented Green Map System at tabling and community events, where I have begun learning about the Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods, where Green Map NYC is based. One thing I specifically learned was how gardens are often created in urban communities. While at a street event called, the People Power Planet Party, Green Map System’s founder pointed to a garden across the street from us, which was filled with vibrant flowers and trees. She told me that only twenty years prior the site was a vacated lot, where individuals would meet for illicit activity. Fortunately, neighborhood residents saw value in the space and transformed it into a verdant and inclusive garden for meetings and meditation. Clearly, understanding the geography of the region granted me a new perspective to the importance of this green space. Ultimately, I am very excited to learn more about the geography of New York City and beyond, and to learn more of how I can apply my skills – and new ones! – to foster community engagement in green spaces with Green Map System.

 

Giving Flight to Hopes and Dreams

The WINGS logo and motto (which I handily borrowed for my blog title).

For the past month, after a rigorous 40-hour training session, I have been interning at WINGS, a not-for-profit domestic violence housing agency that provides critical relief to those who are victims of domestic violence. While WINGS primarily offers housing services, anyone can call the emergency hotline that WINGS offers 24/7 in conjunction with the Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline. Over the phone WINGS volunteers, interns, and staff provide callers with emotional support, help develop a safety plan, give advice, offer appropriate referrals to other programs, and, if possible, complete a shelter intake. A shelter intake occurs if the three following criteria are met: one of the shelters has space, there was a recent inciting event that led to the victim fleeing the abuser, and the guest does not pose a major safety concern.

WINGS runs two emergency shelters: the Safe House in the Northwest suburbs of Cook County; and another in downtown Chicago known as WINGS Metro. These emergency shelters offer temporary housing for victims and their children. WINGS also offers transitional housing that survivors can qualify for where they are able to live in a shared home for up to two years, additional access to counseling services, and case management. Permanent housing is the final stage of housing support that WINGS offers, and provides survivors suffering from disabilities including PTSD with permanent housing. In conjunction with all the housing programs, WINGS offers community based services and extended services such as: back to school items, doctor visits, legal services, and a plethora of additional services.

As an intern at WINGS, my primary job is organizing and running a 3-day/week summer camp for children residing in the Safe House. A conscious approach is required when interacting with the children and parents. Every day the children begin the day discussing their feelings in conjunction with the Feelings Chart,

We use a similar but more comprehensive chart with the campers in order to discuss how we are all feeling and our expectations for the day.

and we take time to learn and apply various coping mechanisms and stress relief practices. At the end of each day interaction notes are written for each child in which their overall attitude and emotional state are cataloged for record-keeping.

The primary purpose of the summer camp is to provide children with a fun, welcoming, and loving environment (a concept that is foreign to many of them), while also providing parents with a respite that allows them to work on reaching their goals (finding a job, going to referred programs, applying for transitional housing, etc.) Providing these children with a safe environment is critical as it removes them from the cycle of violence which shows many domestic violence abusers have been abused themselves. In collaboration with the summer camp, children’s advocates work with the children to develop a safety plan, offer counseling, therapy, and other services. By the end of summer, I hope to have been able to impact these children in a positive manner by providing them with a safe, fun escape. As aforementioned, this internship requires a trauma-specific approach, and I hope to further develop my experience working with children using this specific approach.

Statistics, facts, and additional information about domestic violence can be found at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website.

 

Nakeita Henry, 19

 

Welcome to BridgeYear

The BridgeYear logo painted by one of our Co-Founders and me over many lunch breaks.
  • Stop by Home Depot for some blue paint
  • Develop metrics for a business plan proposal
  • Come to work in scrubs
  • Make the enrollment steps to the local community college easily digestible for students
  • Assemble IKEA furniture for the office
  • Update the team’s meeting agenda

It may look odd, but that’s how my to-do list reads on any given week this summer. I could’ve opted to write the responsibilities that were listed in my job description, but the truth is that wouldn’t come close to encompassing this out of the ordinary internship experience. The wide range of my day-to-day activities is the result of interning for a nonprofit startup in education, BridgeYear.  Bridge Year is the brainchild of two former college counselors, Victoria Chen and Victoria Doan,  who I’m delighted to call my mentors, and was founded in the summer of 2016 in Houston, Texas.

BridgeYear started off as a community college transition program for first generation students from low-income communities. The goal was to battle the phenomenon known as summer melt, which “melts” away recent high school graduates’ plans to enroll in college the fall immediately after graduation. To decrease the rates of the phenomenon, BridgeYear provided support to students through near peer advisors -college interns like myself– that helped students matriculate into community college. While enrollment rates were doubled, as the summer progressed, BridgeYear realized there were things beyond summer melt affecting students’ futures. After recognizing that students in low-income communities also lack access to workforce opportunities, the program now immerses students in career simulations that expose them to high-growth careers and propels them toward economic mobility.

This is actually my second summer with BridgeYear, as I was part of the inaugural team back when this was only an idea. It was a life altering experience to establish a nonprofit from the ground up; an opportunity I wanted so desperately to repeat because I felt my work wasn’t done.

And so here I am. A few seasons have passed and my passion, purpose, and philosophies on education have only grown. I knew that round 2 of Continue reading “Welcome to BridgeYear”

Intermission

Fifty days in. Can you believe it? Central Square Theater is in full swing and things have really picked up for the upcoming season. Walking into our cozy office, you will see nine interns clustered around a table all typing on their Macs, charging up on coffee from the Mariposa Bakery next-door.I am already beginning to learn a great deal not only about theater but about being an intern and what it means to be in marketing. I had no idea coming in the intensity of the research I would be responsible for or the need to prioritize work.

The wonderful thing about this internship in particular is that it is completely malleable. I have the ability to initiate projects and propose my own ideas to the marketing team. My initial picture of working at the theater is drastically different from my present status as an intern. I have had the opportunity to set up one-on-ones with my supervisor to really cater my experience to my needs and talents.

So much has happened since we last checked in. We’ve had our last show of the 2016-2017 season, The Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion which featured Gordon Clapp, star of NYPD Blue and Chicago Fire. I was the main photographer for this event and was instrumental in the social media campaigns surrounding the production. I also walked around the entire city in my little black dress and heels hanging up posters and rallying new patrons.

I have also been taking lots of pictures for Youth Underground which is CST’s education program that “investigates social issues relevant to young people and our world” (CST Website). I really enjoy the face-to-face interaction that comes with going to these events and photographing the performers.

Currently I am in charge of some secret projects regarding our plans for the upcoming season but I guarantee they are exciting and are sure to engage our current patrons and future audience members!

Patricia Cordischi ’18

Getting started at Encyclopedia of Life

Outside of the MCZ where EOL is located

This summer I am very excited to intern at Encyclopedia of Life’s Learning and Education Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EOL encourages discovering biodiversity on Earth and their mission is to generate an encyclopedia of all the living species on Earth. One of the great things about EOL is that it is an open platform that can be used by anyone. I enjoy looking up my favorite plants and animals on the EOL website and finding out some pretty cool facts and figures. The Learning and Education Department utilizes a lot of this data to develop tools and applications that support educators, citizen scientists, and students when using EOL.


For my internship, I am working on the City Nature Challenge for the Boston area, which is an annual competition between cities across the nation and around the world to find the most biodiversity in their area. This is a great way to get people outside and engaged in science as well as increase data on the different species. Last year was the first year Boston was involved and we observed over 740 different species over a period of 5 days! I am looking forward to seeing Boston as a top runner in next year’s challenge.

Open science and citizen science, both large aspect of EOL, are great ways to engage the public in science projects through data collection, education, and advocacy. I am interested in it because it has so much potential to raise awareness and educate people about environmental issues facing us today such as climate change and loss of biodiversity. By participating in projects, people can get hands on experiences that relate to these issues and the data collected can be used for scientific research or even impact governmental policy.

eol.org

My first day at my internship, I walked through Harvard Yard to get to the Museum of Comparative Zoology where EOL is located, and a huge turtle shell welcomed me into the building. Right away, I got into what I will be working on for the next couple of months and got familiar with EOL. Throughout the summer I will be reaching out to engage naturalists, educators, and environmental enthusiasts in EOL as well as map out the 2018 challenge for the Boston area. So far, I have contacted and met with a number of great organizations in the Boston area that work together to engage the public in science.

My goal for the summer is to develop and implement recruitment efforts for the 2018 challenge and help strategize ways to get EOL materials out on a national level. EOL’s goal is to have materials used by educators and students all throughout America during the city nature challenge as well as part of other community engagement efforts. Overall, I am very excited to see how the summer develops and what I am able to accomplish.

Gerrianna Cohen ’18

My First Month at Open Source Wellness

Oftentimes I feel this sense of knowing that an opportunity is exactly right for me. In April, as I was looking for internship opportunities, I had that feeling when I found an internship listing at Open Source Wellness.

OSW is a nonprofit located in Oakland, California that aims to function as a behavioral pharmacy, to support patients when their doctors prescribe lifestyle changes to combat chronic health conditions. Patients are often told to make difficult changes in the way they eat, exercise, or manage their stress without any support from the health care system or their community. OSW helps patients make those changes by creating events where participants can practice healthy behaviors through a movement session, mindfulness/meditation session, and a healthy meal while connecting with people who are making similar changes. The picture below describes OSW’s four principles and the new cohort model.

Here’s a quick video introduction: Open Source Wellness in 60 Seconds. Also, their fantastic website.

After interning for a month, I know that initial feeling about OSW was correct. The first day that I went into the office, the co-founders, Ben and Liz, started our day of training with a game of hot seat. Then, they went straight into training us to do customer discovery in low-income neighborhoods to better understand the demographics of the target population. Finally, we (the other intern, Adam and I) attended their public event which left me feeling energized and on top of the world. Ben ended the night by saying, “at OSW you should never be comfortable, coasting is not an option here.” Now, I may have only had one other internship, but I don’t think is how most first days unfold.

Here is a picture of the interns (Adam and I started a month before the other two – Liza and Kelliann – who started on Tuesday!)

Now, I help run the Tuesday night event and for the past two weeks I have been leading the mindfulness/meditation session. Although it seemed daunting at first, I think leading people in an area that is relatively new to my life has pushed me to be more confident doing something out of my comfort zone.

Additionally, I help run two events at a low-income, re-entry housing community called Alameda Point Collaborative. On Thursdays, OSW hosts a “block party” where they blast music to draw people out of their houses and out onto the dance floor. This is followed by a five-minute meditation/mindfulness session and a vegan meal that is prepared by community members, using produce grown in the community garden. On Saturday, I help run a women’s circle that connects women who are struggling with similar issues to create social support to find solutions to those issues. The session includes light movement, mediation, and a salad.

This is the social injustice that Open Source Wellness is addressing. The organization is attempting to help people in low-income, formerly-incarcerated, and formerly-homeless communities find ways to address and prevent chronic health conditions by changing their behavior.

One of my major tasks over the past month has been to research and contact organizations, community centers, and individual health care providers in the Bay Area to create referral partnerships. Through this, I have made a few strong connections, yay! I also accompanied Ben to a meeting at a large health center to discuss a potential partnership. It was an extremely successful meeting and it showed me the importance and benefit of provider outreach. Ben would like me to eventually conduct these meetings on my own!

Being able to have those conversations and make strong connections on my own, and confidently giving people advice about their health and what they can do improve their health are my goals for this summer. Throughout the past month, I have started implementing those skills and am well on my way to accomplish those goals. These past few weeks have showed me that I truly need to keep pushing myself into uncomfortable spaces because great things really.

Lucy Miller-Suchet

MUA: Breaking Barriers to Success

Latinos comprise the largest ethnic minority in the United States, consisting of sixteen percent of the overall United States population per the 2011 Census. Two-thirds of Latino children in the United States live in low-income households and roughly one-third live in poverty, according to a report by the National Research Center On Hispanic Children and Families. Among Latina women in the United States, only 65% have graduated from high school, and less than 15% hold college degrees. These statistics stem from a cycle of poverty and a lack of educational opportunities, exacerbated by a growing anti-immigrant sentiment within certain political factions of the United States.

These past few weeks I have been interning at Mujeres Unidas Avanzando, or MUA, in Dorchester. “Mujeres Unidas Avanzando,” Spanish for

Mujeres Unidas Avanzando has helped 7,185 women and 1,420 children to date.

“Women United Advancing,” MUA is a nonprofit that encourages Latina girls and women to seek educational and career opportunities and to grow into leadership roles within their community. Many of the students at MUA live in shelters in the Boston area, and many are victims of domestic abuse. MUA offers a variety of classes and social services, Spanish literacy classes, several levels of English, Hi-SET high school equivalency test readiness, computer literacy classes, and home nurse certification classes. MUA also has a daycare on site so that students, most of whom are mothers, can leave their children in safe hands while they attend classes.

I am responsible for several tasks and projects this summer. I have spent a significant portion of my internship thus far working on an outreach project, which includes formulating and updating a database of key industry contacts in order to establish partnerships with similar organizations and recruit new students. I have also been working on public relations and marketing tasks, such as monitoring and updating the MUA Facebook page (give it a  if you feel so inclined!), photographing MUA events, and sending press releases to local news organizations.

On my third day of work, MUA held a graduation ceremony for students who completed a class this semester. Students in caps and gowns passed the HiSET, or high school equivalency test.

In addition to these projects, I will also be teaching a three-week introductory English crash-course starting in July, and have been preparing for that. My work this summer will help to further MUA’s mission by expanding MUA’s reach, both by working on the outreach project to recruit more students, by creating marketing and promotional materials in order to establish MUA’s presence and acclaim in the Boston non-profit community, and by teaching English.

By the end of the summer, I hope to have made a tangible difference in MUA’s reach and in helping students to learn English. It has been very humbling and inspiring to work at MUA thus far, and am looking forward to the rest of the summer.

First month at MPHA

I have been interning for the Massachusetts Public Health Association in Boston for over a month now and so far it has been a very fun and eventful experience. The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) is a non-profit organization aimed at creating health equity for everyone. They are aware of the social determinants of health, and that there are many people who have less access to a healthy lifestyle.

View from my desk

They address issues from low access to healthy and affordable foods, to unsafe streets. They have secured $6 million for the Mass Food Trust which aims to create more access to healthy and affordable food in food deserts/food swamps. This is what first drew me into this organization.

The problem of food deserts and food swamps is very personal to me, as I grew up in a food swamp. A food desert describes neighborhoods that have low access to a grocery store or supermarket. A food swamp, on the other hand, may have a nearby grocery store, but has too much access to unhealthy food. For instance, in my childhood neighborhood I can easily walk to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, etc. (less than a mile away), however the closest grocery store requires a car to get there. This results in overconsumption of unhealthy foods which leads to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  I like the idea of combating the problem where it starts (healthy food access) rather than only fighting the outcome (chronic disease).

Not only does MPHA aim to create greater access to healthy and affordable food, they also advocate for the Complete Streets Program which aims to make local roads “more walkable, bikeable, and viable for public transit users”. The staff members walk to the state house right across the street in order to attend rallies, go to hearings, deliver flyers to senators, etc. multiple times throughout the week.

For the first month of my time at MPHA, I agreed to help prepare for their 15th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast which took place on June 2nd. This breakfast is to honor health equity champions that have made great strides in the public health of Massachusetts. I helped to write press releases for the honorees, created posters, called potential guests, and more.

15th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast

Once the day of the breakfast came, I was so happy to have helped put it together because of how well it turned out. I was able to listen to the speeches of the honorees and felt truly inspired by their tireless work in their communities.

After the breakfast, my responsibilities changed to work on a story mining project. MPHA does really good work, although the positive i

Hearing on paid maternal/family leave

mpact on people that they have and their other accomplishments are not always effectively promoted as much as they’d like. Therefore, I am interviewing various people in Massachusetts so that I can write their stories to be published online and in print materials. When I’m not working on the story mining project, I go to the state house to attend hearings and rallies as well as provide assistance with data entry .

By the end of the summer, I hope that I will be able to effectively show the impact that MPHA has had throughout the Commonwealth.  I also hope to be more certain about what exactly I want to do in the public health field after I graduate from Brandeis.

Karen Caldwell, ’18

New York Communities for Change

Hello!

My name is Gabriel Fontes. I am an aspiring high school English teacher and this summer I am interning with New York Communities for Change. NYCC is a community organization dedicated to preserving affordable housing, good jobs and living wages, holding Wall Street accountable, and pursuing education and climate justice. NYCC was a lead organization in the “Real Affordability for All” coalition which helped win a landmark victory for affordable housing last year and a lead organization in New York City’s successful “Fight for 15” campaign which secured a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers.

I am situated in the Labor Organizing Division of NYCC. We fight wage theft, inadequate wages, confusing and unfair scheduling, unsafe working conditions and more. I have been working with organizers who are based primarily in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, working with Latino immigrants. I have been working through our phone lists, checking in with members and encouraging them to attend our various actions. For instance, on June 19th, we traveled to Albany to advocate for the passage of S.2664, a bill which “Requires car wash workers in a city with one million or more to be paid the minimum wage without allowance for gratuities.”

On June 12th, we held a rally outside of the Federal Reserve office to urge New York Federal Reserve President, William Dudley, to vote against raising interest rates. Dudley is one of 12 regional presidents, four of whom are former Goldman Sachs executives! Why should Goldman Sachs be making decisions that affect real working families? The economic recovery from the great recession has not yet reached low income Black and Latino communities. Higher interest rates will decrease wages and hiring and make debts more expensive. We were there to make our voices heard and raise awareness on the upcoming vote.

These are just two of the dozen actions that NYCC has led in the two weeks I have been here. To keep up to date visit: http://nycommunities.org/actions or follow us on twitter @nycommunities.

Most of the conversations I have with members are in Spanish, which has been a welcome challenge for me. Spanish fluency is just one of many critical skills I hope to gain this summer. I decided to work at NYCC after reading about community organizing approaches to educational justice in Professor Wallace’s course, “Critical Perspectives in Urban Education”. For instance, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association in Chicago, created a program called Nueva Generacion which trained community members to become bilingual teachers. Their model was so successful that it was replicated across the state of Illinois. How inspiring!!

In my future career as a teacher I hope to mobilize students and their families to advocate for better services, culturally relevant pedagogy and more. To this end, I hope that my time at NYCC helps me to gain interpersonal community organizing skills and knowledge of macro-level campaign tactics.

It is with great gratitude that I begin this journey. Thank you to all the folks at NYCC who have generously mentored me and the generous support of all the folks at the Hiatt Career Center, particularly Sonia Liang, who believed in my vision for this summer.

Gabriel Fontes

First Days

My internship with the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) started last week. While the headquarters of JVS is located in downtown Boston, JVS has many smaller offsite locations.  One of these locations is located in East Boston close to the Maverick T-Station; this is where my internship for the summer is located.  JVS’ many locations is demonstrative of an integral part of their core principles: being easily accessible to the entire Boston community. The program I am working with this summer is called English for Advancement, one of their many departments and programs.  The English for Advancement program pairs English classes and career counseling services to help immigrants and refugees in the greater Boston area find and secure stable jobs.  

The East Boston location of the English for Advancement (EfA) program where I am working meets in an office space that is shared with the East  Boston Neighborhood Health Center.  Though the two organizations are separate entities, they work together in many ways to serve the East Boston community.  The Health Center informs many people in the area about EfA and many of our clients use services provided by both organizations.  It is a successful partnership and I am excited to learn more about both of these organizations as the summer continues.  Beyond the East Boston site, EfA serves the Boston community from six different locations: Lynn, Lawrence, Roxbury, East Boston, Dorchester, and Downtown Boston.  From these six sites, EfA has found jobs for over 2,000 clients in the past year alone.  JVS’ mission plans for JVS to be, “Empowering individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces.”  Their EfA program embodies this mission in all sense and even in my first few days with them I have seen how they put this into action.    

 

During my first day at JVS, I was taught about the different policies, processes, and systems in place at JVS- it was a classic intern introduction- being taught how to use the different databases, understand the codes and filing systems, and find every place in the building that I needed to know about.  By the second day however, things were in full swing.  In the morning (as I will each morning), I worked as a teacher’s assistant in the EfA English class.  The English classes are challenging for one teacher to handle because each student/client (used interchangeably) comes in with a very different level of English ability.  There are some clients who arrive to the EfA program knowing nearly zero English, while other students are much more comfortable speaking.  While JVS attempts to level the classes, JVS’ priority is to bring in as many students as possible, and this means adapting to the schedule of everyone who is a part of the EfA program.  This results in having classes with very mixed levels of English.  

Thus far, I have spent the majority of the time during the morning assisting the students with lower levels of English to ensure that they are understanding what is being taught.  Because around half to three quarters of the students that the East Boston location serves are native Spanish speakers, my Spanish fluency has been an extremely useful.  My personal learning goal for the summer was to improve my Spanish speaking skills and this has already begun to occur.  In the afternoons I work independently focusing on projects and tasks delegated to me by supervisors Maria (the head of career coaching) and Laura (the head of the English classes).  This has enabled me to work on one of my other learning goals: learning how non-profit organizations successfully operate.  My work includes meeting with clients to work on their resumes, apply for jobs, or practice for interviews; calling new clients and providing them with information about our program; interviewing potential clients to see if they are a good fit for our program; searching for jobs for our clients, and translating material from English into Spanish or French.  

Working at JVS thus far has been a pleasure.  I already feel as though I have developed strong relationships with many of the clients.  They are helping me learn so much and are already enabling me to accomplish my third learning goal- improving my navigation of multicultural learning environments.  Getting to meet with the clients and watching them achieve all of their goals, find good jobs, and become more confident in their English feels so special.  I have left work each day feeling so joyful after interacting with everyone who is part of the JVS community.  Almost every client I have worked with thus far has been so motivated and optimistic.  I feel so grateful that this is where I will be spending my summer.  More to come soon, EC  

My First Week at CANDLab

My first week at Clinical Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab at Yale University was amazing. On my first day, after a 15-minute walk from my apartment through the beautiful buildings of the Yale campus, I arrived at the Psychology building on Hillhouse Avenue, a street so charming that both Charles Dickens and Mark Twain have described it as “the most beautiful street in America”. I went in and met the lab manager, Jason Haberman, who is a Brandeis alumnus, the graduate students and the interns. The lab environment was very nice, with two rooms for running participants and a waiting area, a common area for working, computers for the research assistants and graduate students, and the office of the lab manager. Everyone gave me warm welcomes, and introduced themselves. There were students from many different colleges and backgrounds; together to help understand the brain circuits underlying anxiety disorders to enhance the treatments for these disorders.

Psychology Building, Hillhouse Avenue

Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illnesses, and very little is known about the brain circuits underlying these disorders. In these two months, I will be working on the lab’s main project: “Novel Mechanisms of Fear Reduction Targeting the Biological State of the Developing Brain,” which is funded by two grants received by Dr. Dylan Gee, my supervisor, the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award and a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation NARSAD Award. The project aims to examine the neural and psychophysiological mechanisms of safety signal learning. Learning of safety signals encompasses learning processes, which lead to the identification of episodes of security and regulation of fear responses. So to put it simply, safety signals inhibit fear and stress responses, and inability to produce these signals are related to excessive anxiety. This study adapts a paradigm used in animal studies to test the efficacy of safety signals across development in healthy children and adolescents and those with anxiety disorders.

My first week was a week full of training, and I learned a lot of exciting things. I got trained on building participant packets and binders, which included the clinical interview questionnaires that are used to scan for the various anxiety and other disorders that the participants might or might not have. Then, I learned about the questionnaires that are administered to the participants and their parents for different things like emotion regulation, anxiety, depression, resilience, and trauma exposure. Later in the week, I was trained on administering the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, which is an intelligence test that we administer to all participants to make sure our subject pool has a an average or above the average IQ. The test takes 1-2 hours depending on the participant’s age, level of anxiety and other factors. It was my first time learning about WASI, and it was very exciting to see how a standard intelligence test is administered for different age groups. After the training, I administered the test to myself, and another intern later in the week. To be able to administer it to participants, I need to administer it to the lab manager successfully, observe a graduate student, score the test and discuss the scoring. I am looking forward to going through these steps and administering it to an adult participant, and eventually administering it to child participants.

Photo by: Rebecca Crystal

As a psychology major, I want to expand my knowledge of developmental psychobiology and psychopathology through understanding the current state and gaps of the clinical and developmental neuroscience literature. In the lab meeting, the clinical case conference and the journal club meeting that I attended this week, there were discussions on current projects, articles about related research on psychopathology and on cases of participants. It was amazing to be in these discussions with such knowledgeable students and Dr. Gee who is a very experienced researcher. I am looking forward to having these discussions every week, to improve my eloquence and discussion skills and to leading a discussion next week.

 My personal goal for this internship is to build on my existing communication skills with children, adolescents, parents, and adults. Through administering intelligence tests, helping anxious and non-anxious children, adolescents, and adults feel comfortable in the fMRI scanning environment,  and working directly with participants to ensure positive experiences throughout their participation, I hope to reach my goal of improving my communication skills with people in general.

 I have learned so much already in my first week and I can’t wait to learn more and apply my knowledge and training! It has been an amazing week and I’m sure the following weeks will be no less!

Selen Amado, ’18’

First Week with the Middlesex District Attorney

I have just concluded my first week interning at the Middlesex District Attorney’s office (MDAO), and I’ve already learned more than I could have anticipated in such a short period of time. The MDAO office consists of prosecutors and public servants designed to help effectively prosecute cases and provide prevention programs and partnerships for the community. (A list of those programs and areas of prosecution can be found here.) Since last Wednesday, I have been working in my own office on the first floor of the Woburn office alongside with legal interns, an administrative assistant, and Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs). My internship assignment is with the Malden Superior Court, so my assistance in the Woburn office has been focused on cases related to the Superior Court division, which handles serious criminal crimes with possible prison sentences of more than 2 ½ years (more info on differentiating the Superior Court from District Courts can be found here on the DA’s website!). So far, my biggest assignment with this office has been reviewing jail calls by a person incarcerated at a House of Corrections facility who is awaiting trial. My job is to listen to the records of his jail calls from visits and recreation phone calls to see if the inmate admits to the crime or leaves hints about his crime or other crimes he may have been involved in. These notes will eventually serve to assist the ADAs in their investigation. I listened to over 100 calls so far from 3 CDs! Each CD contains about 22 hours of footage, and I included a picture of them below:

http://www.mass.gov/courts/court-info/courthouses/ipswich-marl/malden-district-court-generic.html

After spending a few days here in Woburn, I realized that I am very interested in observing how the court process works, so I asked my supervisor if I could attend a few days of my internship at the Malden District Court (featured above), and now I will be working there three days a week (with the remaining two days at the Woburn office). Yesterday was my first day, and the moment I stepped in, I witnessed 12 pleas in three different court sessions. The ADAs were constantly moving, and it was fascinating to watch them conduct each session. It was also the first time I ever heard a criminal plea, and by the end of it I could recite the informational requirements the Judge gives to each accused before he gives his plea (Otherwise known as Criminal Procedure Rule 12 subsections a through d, found here.) It was perfect to analyze the court system and learn about pleas directly from the judges, accused, Defense Attorneys, and ADAs themselves.

Following court, I was given a desk at the ADA’s office, and within four hours, I had already assisted with case research and case filing for three different attorneys. All of this help went directly to their case files, which affects how the cases will be treated moving forward and how they will be filed in the District Court system. I was also told that the next time I go to court, I will be helping organize more of their case files while I watch the trials. This way I’ll be able to help the attorneys better access the research they need for trial while I learn about how the trials work by observing.

This internship experience has so far met my goals to learn about the role of the Prosecution and objectives of the DA in defining justice above and beyond, and I’m very excited for the next few weeks for me to get involved in more in-depth projects and see how much more I can be involved in. I began this internship with the intent to learn more about prosecution and the DA, but I also wanted to fully immerse myself in the experience so that I could learn about areas I didn’t previously know about. After just one week, I’ve already learned about prisons systems (from the inside), the role of detectives at crime scenes, the role of judges, appellate courts, and members of the DA office like Victim/Witness Advocates that I work alongside in my office at the court. Featured above is only one of three folders that I’ve received from my supervisor filled with information about criminal justice, the court, the DA office, elements of crime, etc. Everyone is eager and willing to help and talk with me whenever I have questions, and I’m excited to start my next week to see what else they have to show me!

Disregarding the Red Tape: Americares in Action

A company operating solely to help others in need in the quickest and most efficient way possible is rare. Americares is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving the health of people both domestically and internationally. This is primarily done by providing free clinics to those uninsured in Connecticut, setting up mobile health clinics in India and El Salvador, and responding to disasters abroad.

The conference room prior to an all-staff meeting

I am a human resources intern at the Americares headquarters in Stamford, CT. Although I am not on the front lines of reducing disparities, my job is to ensure that fair work policies are in place to aid the employees in their efforts to reduce healthcare inequalities and inequities. Specifically, my tasks include updating their employee handbook, presenting to my fellow interns on topics such as resumes and obstacles in the workplace through the Professional Development Series, and providing support to the Human Resources department. This may entail filing payroll forms and training certifications, providing feedback on the cloud data systems used in the office and how to make them more user-friendly, and communicating to the other interns about networking activities coming soon.

The mission of Americares is to save lives and improve health outcomes for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential. My work directly impacts this mission by providing policies that benefit employees and make their lives easier. For example, it can be very complicated to book flights for Americares employees looking to travel to a foreign country in need of support. If I can help to make traveling as well as other internal corporate affairs easier on the employees, policies will be better understood and employees may be more willing to be a part of the emergency response team. Understanding the employees at Americares and what policies would represent their best interests in the handbook also has the potential to make their work life easier while also increasing motivation, collaboration, and productivity. Therefore, the work I am doing directly impacts the mission of Americares by providing its employees with a positive yet firm structure at home so they can help others abroad.

By the summer’s end, I hope to get an in-depth look at the human resources department and its various functions. Prior to starting this internship, I also had an interest in healthcare and was not sure how to apply it, whether it was by pursuing a career in the field, getting a certification, or using my knowledge of health care for my own personal consumption. I am hoping that, through learning more about the different departments of the organization as well as talking to key stakeholders in the company, I learn more about possible health sectors I could be interested in. Most importantly, by summer’s end, I hope that the work I have contributed to Americares has made a difference in the lives of the employees and the good they are able to do.

Sadie-Rose Apfel

My First Week at the Liver Research Center

I am a research assistant at the Liver Research Center, a facility that is part of the Lifespan Corporation and associated with the Brown Alpert Medical School. The building is located in downtown Providence, RI, nearby the Brown Medical School and Rhode Island Hospital. The research focuses around the molecular biology of liver diseases, using animal models including rats and mice. Ongoing studies examine the effects of nitrosamines, a type of chemical found in many processed foods, on insulin resistance in the brain which can result in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease. This study also involves the exploration of the potential mechanism between white matter degradation and Alzheimer’s development.

I am currently receiving training in various lab techniques and procedures. These include the fixation, sectioning and staining of samples, as well as accurate pipetting, bicinchoninic acid (BCA) protein assay protocol, Matrix Assisted Desorption Ionization Imaging Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-IMS), and cryostat sectioning.

This picture is from when I was practicing my pipetting technique:

Before beginning, I had little to no exposure to any of these procedures. It is exciting to be learning new practices everyday and I look forward to being able to implement them through the summer and in the future. I am also tasked with various reading about the procedures I am learning and the research in the lab. The readings are both interesting and challenging, as they are often scientific publications that introduce new terminology and require high levels of comprehension and concentration. Here is a link to a recent article I read in order to better understand MALDI: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2522327/ I was also assigned this review about the role of insulin resistance in Alzheimer’s Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4550311/ Throughout the day, I receive articles like these in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what I am performing or observing.

This is the desk where I do most of my reading: 

Once I finish the comprehensive training, I will be assisting in a research project that involves measuring the expression of genes that regulate sphingolipid biosynthesis and degradation in the white matter of rat brains that develop Alzheimer’s following low-dose exposures to Streptozotocin. I will also be characterizing insulin-modulation of sphingolipid metabolizing enzyme gene expression using frontal lobe slice cultures generated from control and Streptozotocin-treated rats and generating short-term brain slice cultures utilizing quantitative PT-PCR assays. I will also deliver a summative oral presentation and prepare a poster to be shown at a Brown University event. This work will assist the lab by providing a greater understanding of exactly how nitrosamines affect brain tissue, which can be used to provide greater education to the community about the harmful affects of such chemicals and the importance of an organic diet.

My goals for the summer are academic, career based and personal. My academic goal is to build on the knowledge I have gained from the two biology classes I have taken at Brandeis, Cells and Organisms and Genetics and Genomics, in order to more fully understand how concepts learned in class can be applied in a research setting. I will be building on models including RNA extraction, reverse transcriptase reactions, designing PCR primers, setting up PCR reactions and analyzing data. I will also learn numerous new skills and techniques that I can apply to future research endeavors. Additionally, I will acquire the skills of creating a poster, orally delivering my findings and writing a scientific paper. In addition to building upon and acquiring new skills, this opportunity will help prepare me for the Introduction to Neurology class I am planning to take next semester.

This experience will enhance my chances of being considered for future lab positions as well as help me decide if this is a career path I would like to pursue. Many lab opportunities are closed to students without previous lab experience. Working in a lab this summer will help me to gain the skills necessary to operate lab equipment, analyze data and become familiar with the collaborative environment of a lab, making me a competitive candidate for future research opportunities. I also have the opportunity to author a manuscript, which would increase my exposure in the research field and further my research endeavors.

My personal goal for the summer is to challenge myself to fully understand and master all components of the research I will be performing. I will task myself to ask the necessary questions in order to gain a complete understanding of the research, as well as work to eventually become more independent and confidence in this field.

~Dustine Reich, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Hopping Half-haphazardly, Now Hopping with Purpose

No matter what time of day, concerned citizens holding small, injured mammals make their way to our doorstep at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary. The admissions are non-stop this time of the year, and the circumstances surrounding the entry oftentimes tragic: a bunny that was run over by a car; baby birds that fell from their nest; a juvenile pigeon that suffered a dog attack. Or even more concerning yet, a pet owner who became “bored” with their animal and doesn’t know what to do with their pet. Though I am frequently face-to-face with animals that are in dire need of care, I’ve come to a wonderful conclusion about human nature. Humans have an amazing capacity to take action when it comes to the welfare of others, especially animals. No matter how serious the case, or unlikely the recovery, we get animals that thereafter have a fighting chance. Now that’s something to be proud of. It also proves how necessary our services are to the public, and how our founder, Toni O’Neil, really did fill a need in the community when she founded the non-profit.

A baby bunny with its eyes still closed after a syringe feeding.

Having interned for a whopping four weeks at Possumwood Acres, I’ve gained a great many new skills: how to feed baby bunnies, why we “piddle” them once they’ve eaten, how to weigh Barred owls, how to tube feed pigeons and mourning doves, and the many reasons why we administer certain medications, as well as how to administer them. I’ve also become acquainted with a good number of interns and volunteers, and I’m always amazed at their know-how and desire to provide the best care.

Goats “maxing and relaxing” despite the overwhelming heat of summer in North Carolina.

Although it can be rather stressful in the animal care room as we struggle to make deadlines and provide good quality care, making sure to feed, clean, or administer medications to animals, there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment. I’ve come a long way in four weeks—no longer am I constantly asking questions about how to do something or where things are located. I’ve never felt that kind of satisfaction from taking exams or attending classes.

Nika, Possumwood’s resident Mississippi Kite, patiently waits for her hand-fed dinner of delectable meal worms

If I’ve already come this far, I absolutely cannot wait to see where the pieces will fall at the end of this internship. The confidence and authority that wafts off the more experienced interns is inspiring; only a few weeks ago they were in the process of learning the ins-and-outs of the job. Now they know exactly what to do when someone admits an injured, juvenile mockingbird, or what medication to give an adult bunny that appears to have suffered brain damage. Now that’s something that I can aspire to.

Red, the Red-Headed Woodpecker, tries not to look suspicious as he plans his ultimate escape from Possumwood (how original–he’s going to use his beak!)

Sabrina Pond ’18

My First Week at Homeless Prenatal Program

The front entrance of the Homeless Prenatal Program.  This is a photo from an event that I found online.  There isn’t a red carpet everyday, I promise.

After almost 10 hours of travel, I arrived in the Bay Area on a Monday, ready to begin my internship with the Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP). I am lucky enough have access to a car this summer, so on my first day, before I even stepped into the building, I learned about the stress of traffic and parking in the city. Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, an area known for its strong Latinx community, HPP is situated in a building purchased from a failed business during the dot-com boom. Thanks to its origins in the tech industry, the building itself is very hip with exposed piping, natural lighting, and an open layout, which HPP has paired with artwork and bright colored paint to make the site feel welcoming and friendly. On my first day at HPP, I received a full tour, signed paperwork, familiarized myself with the online software, and met the team I will be working with this summer: the DV CalWORKs advocates.

My cubicle in the DV CalWORKs office.  Notice the metal ceiling, exposed pipes, and shelving suspended from chains.

CalWORKs is the welfare-to-work program for parents with children under the age of 18 in the state of California. Typically, recipients of CalWORKs receive a monthly stipend while they are going to school or searching for work for up to 48 months. However, a significant portion of CalWORKs recipients qualify for an exemption from the standard requirements because they have experienced domestic violence (DV). HPP is contracted by the Human Services Agency (HSA) to run the DV CalWORKs program. HPP’s DV advocates ensure that CalWORKs recipients who have experienced DV receive an exemption, help them meet the CalWORKs requirements, meet with clients on a monthly basis, and connect them to other resources both inside and outside of HPP. In my role as an intern with the DV CalWORKs program, I am learning how to input new referrals from the HSA into HPP’s system, call new referrals to book appointments, and file clients’ paperwork.

Mission: In partnership with our families, break the cycle of childhood poverty.

The DV CalWORKs program is only one small piece of what HPP does. For almost three decades, HPP has been providing families experiencing economic insecurity and homelessness with lifesaving resources. Over the years, HPP has expanded rapidly to meet the needs of its clients and now staffs over 80 people who provide services including housing assistance, prenatal care, parenting advice, community health worker trainings, a free computer center, support groups, and financial coaching. My supervisors at HPP are really invested in providing me with a wide range of experiences across HPP’s many other programs, so I will be supplementing my internship with DV CalWORKs by shadowing the staff from other programs throughout the summer.

The parking ticket I received during my first week in San Francisco. Imagine walking out of a long day of work to find this!!!

As someone who aspires to pursue a career in social work, HPP is a great organization to work with. One of my goals for this summer is to develop the strong cultural competency skills required to provide effective and relevant support to diverse populations. Shadowing case managers at HPP will help me achieve this because HPP serves a population primarily comprised of Latinx, Asian, and African American women experiencing poverty and homelessness. HPP is also the perfect place to achieve my personal goal of building strong relationships with coworkers and clients because the culture of HPP is one in which everyone knows everyone else and because the DV Advocate team is such a tight-knit group. To achieve my academic goal for the summer, I hope to explore the intersection of race, poverty, gender, and reproductive rights through direct service and engagement, which will inform my future studies at Brandeis.  My last goal is to learn how to park.

 

My First Week as an Intern for HunnyBon

I am beyond excited to be starting my internship at HunnyBon in NYC! HunnyBon is an e-commerce candy company whose products have been researched, hand picked, and approved by a nutritional counselor, with the health of you, animals, and the planet in mind. HunnyBon candies and chocolates are organic, vegan, sustainablyproduced, minimally processed, and are always free from GMOS, refined sugars, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, dairy and animal products, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and additives, preservatives, pesticides, and trans-fats. With Hunnybon sweets, you will never have to feel guilty or shameful about feeding your sweet tooth. The best part is, these candies taste so good. They are of significantly higher quality than the chocolates you buy at the grocery store, and they are made with real ingredients such as natural sweeteners. Please feel free to learn more about these sweets (here).

Besides gaining experience working with a startup, I am proud to be a part of this project because I believe in the product. It is unfortunate that 2 in every 3 adults in the United States are considered overweight. (National Health and Nutrition). For most people, putting on weight is much more difficult than losing it because humans crave sugar. Many of us have a sweet tooth and need to satisfy our cravings. This is where Hunnybon comes into play! These natural chocolates and candies help us indulge without putting chemicals and unnecessary fats into our bodies. People need to limit their intake of artificial flavors and colors, corn-syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, refined sweeteners, cheap processed ingredients, GMO ingredients, preservatives, transfats, and even plastics because all these ingredients have been linked to serious health disorders like ADD/ADHD, Autism, Cancer, Infertility, Diabetes, Obesity, Heart Disease, Asthma/Allergies, Learning Disorders, Nerve Damage and even Brain Damage. HB I am passionate about HunnyBon because it provides a healthy alternative to the sweets we crave.

On my first day of work, my boss Kim had me sample almost every candy! I couldn’t possibly try them all in one day, but I definitely tried everything by the end of the week. Kim has been in the nutrition business for many years and has experience providing nutritional counseling in both Israel and the United States. She is passionate about what she does and she started this business to merge together her love of sweets with her healthy lifestyle. She enjoys making people happy and feels that helping people to live a healthy life is a wonderful thing.

After conducting a taste test of each product, my favorite HunnyBon snacks were the no Sugar ‘Milk’ Chocolate Hearts and the strawberry SuperFruit Chews. After sampling the products, Kim gave me a tour of the office and the warehouse and demonstrated the storage and packaging process. The candy is kept in wine coolers to stay fresh since it is not made with chemicals or preservatives. The company values its’ careful and delicate shipping and storage process to ensure the products arrive in perfect form.

During my first week at HunnyBon, I am focusing on marketing and public relations. I am helping to manage the company’s social media platforms, specifically Facebook and Instagram. This includes taking attractive photographs of the products and thinking of creative marketing campaigns that would be relevant to the candy and themes of the season. Kim and I talk out our ideas during one-on-one meetings and I hope to discuss more of my ideas and how they have come to life in my next blog post.

I am also communicating with different organizations about how to ship HunnyBon sweets to Canada without the product getting stuck at customs or racking up high export fees. I called the Canadian Consulate to request information and am now in the process of getting the proper documentation in order. Hopefully we can get the company approved to ship the product across the Canadian border without hassle.

In the near future, Kim and I will be working on standardizing financial statements and preparing information for investors. The company is currently seeking angel investors and hopes to expand into physical locations but first they need to complete their fundraising package. This includes organizing their financial information to show how HunnyBon sales are growing and expected to grow even further. I am looking forward to the financial aspects of the internship most because I am excited to implement the skills I have learned at Brandeis into the real world, for a this small but fierce startup.

 

 

Intersections of Culture & Health

Inside a clinic room.

Recently, I have been reflecting on my undergraduate experience and what it means to me. I am so thankful to have a college education, professors who invest in my personal growth, and peers with whom I can discuss ideas. My time at Brandeis has taught me the importance of interdisciplinary and experiential learning. For instance, in my science lab courses, I learned how to think critically and apply learned concepts to real life situations. My Anatomy & Physiology course brought together concepts learned in biology and chemistry, and this background has allowed me to better understand viral Hepatitis B (the health disparity that I am addressing as an intern at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center). Additionally, at Brandeis I have been able to explore the complex intersection between culture and medicine through my anthropology course, Introduction to the Comparative Study of Human Societies. After reading ethnographic texts, as well as the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” I realized the importance of cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness. I try my best to keep these cross-cultural communication principles in mind while administering surveys to patients at my internship.

Attending a Grand Rounds Conference to learn about the impact of CBW programs.

Having studied both science and culture in the classroom, I was not sure what to expect when I initially began my internship at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. However, it has been extremely encouraging to witness culturally competent care being executed in the Health Center on a daily basis. The physician whom I shadow once a week is bilingual and understands the cultural backgrounds of patients (e.g. why they may be reluctant to try physical therapy or take prescribed medications). Language interpreters and nurses are readily available to provide support. Staff members have excellent communication skills to assist a significant number of patients with low income or low English proficiency. Everyone works like a well-oiled machine to serve a diverse community in need. I am also amazed by all of the research, health education, advocacy, and care management programs that have been implemented throughout the years to promote healthy living in target communities.

Outside of the classroom at Brandeis, I have learned about various non-Western cultures through tutoring English as a Second Language (ESL) to Brandeis dining hall employees. There are so many challenges with learning a new language, and with this in mind, I find the service that Charles B. Wang Community Health Center provides for immigrant populations to be incredibly inspiring and valuable.

Literature review on Hepatitis B prevalence in NYC boroughs and various ethnicity groups.

Lastly, during my time at Brandeis, I was able to participate in a university-wide rally supporting the development of a Brandeis Asian American Studies Program. As a member of the task force involved in planning the event, I developed confidence in my own voice. I have learned at this internship that confidence and clear communication goes a long way in any career. In the public health sector, effective research skills, science writing, and oral communication skills are needed in order to convince government officials to allocate resources for a public health issue. Good communication also allows stakeholders to make informed, effective policy decisions that can save lives, prevent diseases, and reduce health system costs. I am humbled by what I have learned thus far at my internship, and am excited to be a part of expanding research initiatives on Asian American health.

-Michelle Yan ‘19

First Thoughts on my Internship with Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival

This summer I am fortunate enough to be working with Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival. I am working as a sponsorship associate through their internship program. This is a particularly special summer to be working with Flickers’, as this year is their 35th anniversary. The Flickers’ film festival is New England’s sole Oscar and BAFTA qualifying film festival, and receives a wide variety of independent films across all genres. Last year, over 5500 films were submitted to the festival. The act of showcasing the work of independent filmmakers is so important, as an audience is needed for any piece of art. As such, I am so happy to be a part of the RIIFF team.

My desk at Flickers!

Within my first week at RIIFF I noticed and appreciated how much I felt like a part of the team here. Interns are given great ownership of their assigned tasks, and expected to complete them independently (with help as needed, of course!). I enjoy fulfilling my duties as a sponsorship intern, which include researching potential sponsorship organizations, updating the sponsorship database and meeting with sponsors to discuss their roles in the festival. In addition, as a member of the RIIFF intern team for 2017, I also take calls, attend staff meetings, and help judge films submitted to the festival. I was blown away by the level of professionalism and in some cases, perfection, in many of the films submitted. My first day I watched many of the films under the college submission category, and saw such an extreme amount of talent, in terms of video design, sound editing, acting, and more. I feel lucky to be able to watch such a wide variety of films with so many different purposes, workers and themes.

On the day to day, the other sponsorship intern and I compose a list of companies to call regarding a potential sponsorship for the festival, then call those companies and discuss partnership opportunities. I love the team environment that I am working in, because I truly feel that I am a significant part of the important work that Flickers’ is doing to prepare for the festival in August. A personal strong suit of mine is conversing over the phone for professional purposes, so I am happy to be able to put this skill to use and to continue to work on it.

Going into this summer, I have three distinct goals. I hope to build close connections in the film industry, explore Providence, and learn how films are marketed after the production phase. So far I have been able to spend time with my fellow interns and the rest of the RIIFF team, and learn from their experiences. I have also been exploring Providence after work: I am in the perfect location to do so! My internship is in Providence, near the state house, and as such, is bustling with action, day and night. We are also near Providence Place, an incredibly vast and beautiful mall, with lots of parking. In addition, through my work as a sponsorship intern I have become more aware of local food and dessert hot spots near me, so I hope to check more of those out this summer. Lastly, I have already learned much about how film festivals are run behind the scenes, particularly in terms of what happens with films after they are submitted. I know that my knowledge of how film festivals run will increase more as we approach the festival in August, when we will all be gearing up and it will be all hands on deck! I’m looking forward to being able to see all of the work put in this summer culminate to one wonderful week.

The Providence State House Source: http://www.goprovidence.com/listing/rhode-island-state-house/23114/

-Anna Craven

My Debut


With my chocolate muffin and latte in hand, I buzzed into the intercom at the Central Square Theatre entrance. First day jitters were in full force but immediately quelled once I stepped into the office. My fellow interns welcomed me with smiling faces and my supervisor, Tabitha, rushed over to greet me.

Our first week was designated to preparation and continued research on the upcoming plays for the season. We spent our initial day reviewing scripts and noting themes, honing in on fundamental issues each piece presented. My second day, I spent a significant amount of time discussing with our staff responsible for education and community connectivity to figure out how we can go beyond the text and into our surrounding environment.

As a Theatre Arts major, I have always been interested in the
production aspect and inner workings behind a theatre company. As an actress, I feel it is important to understand the managerial side and comprehend the process of keeping your theatre running. In the future, I too hope to start my own theatre company and by delving into the world of the theatre this summer, I hope to gain the knowledge and develop a support network to make my business endeavors a reality. Though I will be focusing on marketing, I will have the opportunity to interact with other departments to get a full view of what I would need to run a successful theatre company in the future.
As Central Square Theatre’s summer marketing intern I will be assisting in promotion and marketing analysis. I have already begun working closely with Nicholas and Tabitha, the heads of the marketing department, to begin to get a full understanding of the overall brand and goals for the upcoming season. I will also be advertising in the surrounding community and developing relationships with the ‘potential audience and other stakeholders’ in the Boston area.
I look forward to growing not only academically through getting first-hand experience in the field I’m studying but also personally in the various responsibilities I will be expected to complete. I am excited to be taking on this new endeavor and cannot wait to get started.

Tricia Cordischi

First weeks on the job post

FRED.GIAMPIETRO Gallery

Hello everyone! I am so excited to keep you all posted about my incredible summer internship! I am an intern at the FRED.GIAMPIETRO gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, right across the street from the Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Center, where all the museums are in dialogue with one another. The Giampietro Gallery is an incredibly special kind of gallery, which unfortunately is fading in the art world. All of the artists represented, and the pieces in the collection, are carefully, and lovingly handpicked by the owner, and he specializes in discovering up-and-coming and local artists, as well as folk art. The gallery’s vision merges folk art with contemporary art, to reintegrate contemporary art with art that has traditionally not been recognized as Fine Art, and giving these artists a place in the art historical conversation.

I was very excited and nervous to begin working at the Giampietro gallery, because my plan has always been to work in the art world as a painter, and potentially open my own gallery, however I did not know how these two could merge, and even if the gallery world was the right place for me. After working two weeks at the Giampietro Gallery, I can confidently say that the gallery world, and opening up my own gallery someday, is exactly the place for me! I have already learned so much. I have mastered the inventory program used by most galleries and museums in the country which is an incredibly beneficial skill to have upon entering this world, learned the cataloging system, have formed relationships with many of the artists and other well respected gallerists, updated the website and artist’s pages, managed the press and publications for the Gallery’s blog, learned the intricate process for packaging and shipping art, and even played an integral role in the installation process, as a new show just opened last Saturday! All of these skills are CRUCIAL when working in the gallery world, which is an intimidatingly elitist industry.

As sad as it is, art and artists really do not receive press, and therefore, much respect in this world unless they are in New York, but Giampietro gallery is the only gallery in Connecticut, and one of the only galleries outside of New York that is honored to participate in many art fairs in New York.

I have learned so much about the art world’s atmosphere, and about which kinds of galleries or museums I would best fit in, and I can clearly say now that I have a vision for what I want to do when I graduate, which was my biggest goal for this summer. I am so incredibly excited to continue throughout the summer and gain more and more experience and responsibility in the gallery! I already have a key and have been trusted with opening and closing the gallery, and I am so excited to take on even more responsibility and absorb as much information as I possibly can in order to open my own gallery, and learn the next steps for me.

Here’s a sneak peek at the show that just opened on Saturday with artists: Becca Lowry, Elana Herzog, and Jane Miller.

Olivia Joy ’18

Harnessing Science for the Common Good

Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School

Working in a basic science biomedical research laboratory within the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School[i] has been an incredibly exciting experience.  I started to work in the Lab two weeks ago, located within the Center for Life Science in the heart of the Longwood Medical area.  Since I worked in this same Laboratory during the Summer of 2016, I was welcomed into the research environment, and was able to pick up where I left off last summer.  After recently completing animal research facility training, I began working with laboratory mice, focusing on a knockout (KO) mouse strain of the major hepatic (liver) endogenous hydrogen sulfide producing enzyme, cystathionine gamma lyase (CGL).  The Lab I work in is interested in the regulation of human metabolism by master endocrine regulator, thyroid hormone.  Thus, I have been investigating the relationship between thyroid hormone and endogenous hydrogen sulfide production capacity, with an emphasis on extension of longevity using mouse models.

Inside the laboratory, much of my work consists of analyzing key gene expression and protein expression levels between wildtype (WT) control mice and CGLKO mice through various physiological states.  My research consists of dissecting mouse tissue ex vivo, performing an RNA extraction from that tissue type (i.e., liver tissue, brown adipose tissue, etc.), running a reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR)[ii] using several key gene markers, and performing statistical tests on differences in gene expression levels between WT and CGLKO mice.  For proteomic analysis, I perform Western Blots[iii] and statistical tests to establish potential differential protein expression in CGLKO mice.  Once I have gathered meaningful data, I present the results informally to the post-doctoral fellow I work alongside and to my Principal Investigator (PI).  However, living systems are complex, and bewilderment can punctuate results.  At these times, I turn to scientific journals for answers.

Pipettors and laboratory reagents (Sigma-Aldrich, Fisherbrand by ThermoFisher Scientific): friends of the biomedical researcher.

Biomedical literature publications, such as Brent et al. 2014[iv], have guided me through the complex physiology of thyroid endocrine regulation.  As an incoming third year undergraduate student, dissecting complex signaling pathways with my current learning foundation is a daunting task, especially considering the wealth of knowledge and graduate degrees that my co-workers possess.  However, my co-workers and PI have been and continue to be excellent learning resources.  Bouncing theories back and forth with the post-doctoral research fellow I work alongside is a daily occurrence.  This collaborative environment is characterized by persistent questioning of results and interpretations, which has filled my scientific soul with joy.  This stands in stark contrast to undergraduate classes, where the measure of performance is reflective of the individual, rather than a research team.

Looking forward, the skills I am learning, both in molecular methods and thinking as an experimentalist, will bolster my ability to succeed as a Biology major at Brandeis, and as physician scientist in the future.  I wish to exit this summer with the framework to think as a biomedical researcher, with the ultimate goal of generating meaningful research that can mitigate human suffering.  This can be easy to lose track of in the busyness of a lab, but I hope this goal remains tethered to my being; science for the common good.

[i] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 2017. Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. Accessed on June 4.

http://www.bidmc.org/Centers-and-Departments/Departments/Medicine/Divisions/Endocrinology.aspx

[ii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Basic Principles of RT-qPCR: Introduction to RT-qPCR. Accessed on June 4.

https://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/brands/thermo-scientific/molecular-biology/molecular-biology-learning-center/molecular-biology-resource-library/basic-principles-rt-qpcr.html

[iii] ThermoFisher Scientific. Overview of Western Blotting. Accessed on June 4.

https://www.thermofisher.com/us/en/home/life-science/protein-biology/protein-biology-learning-center/protein-biology-resource-library/pierce-protein-methods/overview-western-blotting.html

[iv] Mullur, R., Liu, Y.Y., Brent, G.A. 2014. Thyroid hormone regulation of metabolism. Physiol. Rev. 94(2): 355-382.

Josh Lepson

New York City AAPI: More Than What Meets The Eye

Over the past month, I have commuted 80 hours, talked with approximately 200 strangers, and used 2 times more Mandarin than English. This summer, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work as a Hepatitis B Program Research Intern at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in New York City.

The Health Center is a nonprofit federally-qualified community health center licensed by the New York State Department of Health. Its mission is to eliminate disparities in health, improve health status, and expand access to the medically under-served (treating all patients regardless of immigration status or income) with a focus on Asian Americans.

The Health Center has a rich history that dates back to 1971, when volunteer doctors, nurses, social workers, and students organized a 10-day Chinatown Health Fair; the first clinic ever held in the streets of New York City’s Chinatown. Forty years later, the Health Center has multiple locations throughout the city, with adequate clinical space and services that meet growing community demands of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in New York City. The Health Center is a leader in providing comprehensive primary care services that are high quality, culturally relevant, and affordable. It also promotes the health of the community through innovative, award-winning health education and advocacy programs, and by recruiting bilingual and bi-cultural health care providers and staff.

With regards to health disparities, the Health Center won the 2015 Tisch Community Health Prize for its Hepatitis B Program. Hepatitis B is a life long liver disease caused by a viral infection that is more common among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) than any other ethnic group, with 1 in 10 AAPIs having chronic hepatitis B. Although AAPIs make up less than 5% of the U.S. population, they account for more than 50% of Americans living with chronic hepatitis B. Unfortunately, the disease can progress without visible symptoms and lead to liver cirrhosis, cancer, or premature death. Furthermore, since there is no cure, physicians need to treat chronic hepatitis B patients on a case-by-case basis according to Clinical Guideline Regulations. This is why effective education about hepatitis B prevention, transmission, and screening is essential.

As a research intern, I am taking the lead on a survey evaluation of a health education comic book on hepatitis B called “The Test,” developed by a local Asian American artist in partnership with the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center Hepatitis B Team and Health Education Department in order to make hepatitis B education more engaging for all ages. Each day, I administer 15-minute surveys in English and Mandarin to patients in the waiting rooms and analyze survey data in preparation for a poster presentation at the American Public Health Association’s conference. My goal by summer’s end is to complete at least 100 surveys, revise and improve the health education material, and provide meaningful data about where New York City stands in terms of hepatitis B awareness.

So far, I have administered 86 surveys to patients of varied ethnicity (including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Indian, Filipino, Latino, Spanish, White, and African American), ages, genders, and educational backgrounds at the Internal Medicine Unit of the Health Center. The work has been both challenging and enjoyable. Due to the nature of human subject research, I have had many insightful one-on-one interactions with patients.

In a short period of time, NYC Chinatown and Charles B. Wang Community Health Center have taught me so much about public health, social justice, and my Chinese-American roots. Gradually, I am learning the nuances of my culture and that there is more depth to each person or situation than what meets the eye. As the American healthcare system falls short in delivering culturally effective care and bridging health disparities gaps, I realize how important it is to continue advocating for the Asian American community.

Thank you for reading my blog. More posts/updates to come!

-Michelle Yan ’19

Beginning at the Benson-Henry Institute

Hello all! I am excited to be sharing my journey interning at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. BHI, an MGH affiliate, rallies around the Relaxation Response: a technique that teaches people awareness techniques and coping skills to combat everyday stress and more challenging situations when they arise. BHI’s mission is to encourage the incorporation of the Relaxation Response into all forms of healthcare worldwide, through research and clinical practice. The majority of their work is done through research and clinical trials and providing individuals with tools and methods to reduce the impact of stress on their lives. And it’s working! In fact, a study BHI recently conducted shows that “BHI Participants Reduced Doctors Visits by 43%.” If you’re interested in reading more about this study please click here.

(Image from: Mindful.org)

In my first two weeks at BHI I have become deeply immersed in the clinical trial process. Currently, we are working on two big groups of studies that I am part of. The first, a pair of parent studies, are evaluating the efficacy of the Relaxation Response through a BHI-developed Resiliency Program on reducing stress in two parent populations. The studies are virtually identical procedurally, and they are wait-list control group trials which means participants are divided randomly into either a wait-list or a control group and their stress levels are compared before and after they undergo the program. What I find to be really interesting is the way BHI measures stress. For this study, they use both self-reporting measures through a series of surveys as well as biological indicators of stress through quantitative measures.

 

The second type of study is still in startup, so while I  participate in the recruiting process firsthand for the parent studies, I also  see what goes into a startup for a study before it even begins. For our study in startup,  I  participated in a full study run-through where I acted as the patient and we tested the electronics and walked through the entire study visit to ensure it will run smoothly when it begins.

A diagram of the Resiliency Approach our Program Teaches (Smarthwp.com)

I have done so many things during my short time here already. I have learned to read and understand study protocols, recruited on a large scale for the final cohort of the parent study, learned to converse over the phone with potential interested participants and explain our programs as well as answer questions, and I have  interacted with numerous clinicians including physicians during research team meetings. I have undertaken the important task of writing detailed SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to aid in the training of future interns. I have participated in an RR session, where we lead relaxations for hospital staff to elicit the Relaxation Response during the workday, and I hope to lead one of these sessions during my time here. I now have a good understanding of the importance of the Relaxation Response and I hope that by leading an RR session and learning more about the detailed practices which we teach in our programs I will be able to implement the RR into my daily life and teach those around me to do the same!

 

I have already learned so much in my first two weeks at BHI and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead! I have BHI to thank for welcoming and teaching me, and I have much more to learn. I’ll be back with another update in a few weeks!

-GP ’19’

Broadway Awards Season with DKC/O&M

I am spending my summer working with DKC/O&M. DKC/O&M are the press representatives for many new Broadway shows, along with many longer running shows. They also represent some off-Broadway shows, theaters, and people. It is difficult to learn about public relations in an academic setting because so much of it is hands on work. Luckily, DKC/O&M is giving me the opportunity to explore the world of public relations on Broadway and allows me to better improve my interpersonal skills in a business setting.

My commute to and from work is just under two hours – if my train is not delayed. However, I spend the train part of my commute studying up on shows my company represents that I do not know very well. Once I arrive at work, I sit down at my desk and immediately start working on the Web Clips I have been sent. This will sometimes include Broadcast Clips and Paper Clips that I compile, format, and save for future reference.

Broadcast Clips are made after there has been any mention of one of their productions on a television network. I am able to anticipate when I’ll have a Broadcast Clip to work on if I know that there is an actor being feature on a talk show. For example, Brendon Urie is joining the cast of Kinky Boots with his first performance on May 26th. He was featured on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” the other evening, so when I arrived at work the next morning, I had a Broadcast Clip to prepare. Paper Clips are similar except are created when a show or actor is featured in a newspaper.

Throughout the day I will be assigned tasks from various people in the office which can range from proof reading press releases to picking up tickets at a theatre to working on press blasts. It is awards season on Broadway so the work we are doing at DKC/O&M is even more important and time sensitive, so I have to learn quickly. My notebook is quickly filling up with information on how to do different tasks and anything else I might need to know.

Marc J Franklin

Since it is award season, I have the opportunity to attend the Audience Choice Awards Winners Reception with DKC/O&M this week! I am so excited for this opportunity because I never imagined I would be at one of these types of events! Most people know about the Tony Awards but there are so many other awards given out throughout Broadway’s award season. On Friday we waited anxiously in the office for the announcement of the Drama League Awards and were thrilled when Dear Evan Hansen, Hello, Dolly!, Bette Midler, and Ben Platt (the youngest actor to ever receive the Distinguished Performance Award) were given their awards. I am looking forward to Tony Awards week and I am extremely hopeful for the shows that DKC/O&M represents. O&M has many shows nominated for various Tony awards such as A Doll’s House, Part 2 (8 nominations), Dear Evan Hansen (9 nominations), The Glass Menagerie (1 nomination), Hello, Dolly! (10 nominations), and Present Laughter (3 nominations). I expect many wins for these shows and am so excited for the work I will be doing around the Tony’s weekend.

 

First Week at Orchard Cove

My internship has begun at Orchard Cove, an independent living and enhanced living retirement community. Orchard Cove is part of the Hebrew Senior Life network. Orchard Cove empowers seniors to live healthy independent lives and honors the aim of the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care to ensure that “delivery of care is aligned with values and preferences at all stages of life and all points of care”.  

At Orchard Cove, my internship involves working for The Vitalize 360 Program, a platform through which Vitalize coaches “elicit and document residents goals, values and preferences.” The way the program works is that a vitalize 360 coach meets with a resident twice to discuss the resident’s wellness, health, and quality of life. The coach helps the resident to set goals and then create an action plan, or vitality plan, to assist the resident in accomplishing his or her goals and pursue what matters most in their lives.

In first arriving at Orchard Cove, I was impressed by the beautiful facilities and friendly atmosphere. During my first week, my supervisor brought me to almost all of her meetings so I could get a grasp of what Vitalize 360 is all about and meet the Interdisciplinary Team members, all of whom support the best lives of the residents at Orchard Cove.

Front exterior of Orchard Cove

The first meeting I attended was on the topic of “What Matters Most.” What matters most (WMM) is a philosophy on which Vitalize 360 and Orchard Cove are built. It emphasizes the idea that residents should define what matters most to themselves and have conversations with their loved ones.

During our time together, the team reflected on the Second Annual Coalition Summit which included research presentations from Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care as well as personal experiences. The team discussed their thoughts on the conference and also talked about how it related to the idea of “What Matters Most.” A major aspect of the Coalition and Vitalize 360 is for individuals to get on their own personalized path to “What Matters Most.” With the goal of finding what matters most, individuals define their specific values and preferences, make sure those preferences are clear to loved ones, and create a health care proxy.

With another team member, I began brainstorming an art project for the kickoff WMM event Orchard Cove will be holding in June. I have also begun to support the team by helping to develop a “What Matters Most” tool box that will be used to support residents to articulate and capture what really matters in their lives.

Additionally, I have also supported the team by taking the lead on  administrative tasks, such as creating folders that contain important surveys and questionnaires used during Vitalize 360 evaluations with residents. I had the opportunity to sit in on a resident evaluation with my supervisor and vitalize 360 coach which provided a helpful perspective. My supervisor asked the resident questions about her life and interests. With help from the coach, the resident was able to determine what matters most to her, and create goals for herself to achieve what matters most. This plan is called a vitalize plan.

Vitalize 360 logo used on most documents for the program.

I also sat in on two meetings related to Vitalize 360 both led by my supervisor. At one meeting, my supervisor trained other staff members to become vitalize 360 coaches and at the other meeting, we discussed different residents and how the team can best support their vitalize plans. I was also able to learn how the Vitalize 360 online software works. In addition, I have done a lot of research on Vitalize 360 and other resources out there for seniors. I also had a chance to sit in on a laughter class led by one of the residents.

I am looking forward to really delving into the Vitalize 360 and What Matters Most Projects, work directly with residents, and see how the interdisciplinary team works to support the residents.

United for a Fair Economy: Philanthropy Demands More

 

When financial systems continue to oppress and policymakers walk hand in hand with corporations, we must ask ourselves if we are truly making as big a difference as we would like to believe. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to admit that pinning on a ribbon does nothing, but assessing the situation is so necessary.

It’s not enough to just peruse through info-graphics and sign the occasional petition; society demands so much more from us now.

A majority of us genuinely desire an inclusive community, so we can’t keep opting for slick solutions — our politicians are already following that route!

And this is precisely why I decided to intern at United for a Fair Economy this summer. I was tired of feeling like just another statistic, helpless and unheard. So, for these three months, I will be focusing my energies on the systemic causes of our political reality and work at the forefront of change.

This organization caught my attention in particular because even in high school, I had seen its logo at the corner of many educational materials. It was clear that this was a group that has affected real change and could project its message across many different wavelengths.

For 20 years, UFE has been one of our nation’s primary coalition builders, mobilizing activists across the country. The staff and its partners tackle economic inequality and advocate for a world without institutionalized racism, exorbitant CEO compensation and tax breaks for millionaires.

“Okay, that’s great and all, but what’s happening behind the scenes? We get the mission statement, so what is UFE actually doing to accomplish these goals?”

So far, my experience with the group has only been positive, since it seems as though the UFE office is one of the few hopeful corners of Boston (that is still intact.) Everyday, I have the privilege to brainstorm alongside individuals from all walks of life, and get a preview of a world we are aiming to create. One in which each worker is treated with dignity, regardless of skin tone, education level, or citizenship status.

We have been featured in many major publications, because of UFE’s annual report “State of the Dream” and an unwavering commitment to create a more level playing field. At any given moment, UFE has employees on the road, working from the ground up.

UFE offers training and support for individuals that do care but simply cannot comprehend the economic jargon that makes public policy so inaccessible. We use popular education methods, break language barriers, and connect leaders with the resources they need.

 

Just today, I finished my first week in the Boston office, but I am already getting a feel for the people around me and the mission that ties them together. As of now, I am drafting a thank you letter to send to foundation heads, working on distributional material, and updating UFE’s database.

Occasionally, I am assigned more secretarial tasks (like running to the bank or punching in numbers), but I ultimately acknowledge that this clears up some of the responsibilities of those around me. By taking on the copying machine every now and then, I’m allowing for others to make real change, and that in itself means so much to me.

In the coming weeks, I will be developing an e-mail series designed to increase all-around activism, as well as a monthly donation system.

UFE stands for values that many of us can get behind, and I finally feel like I’m taking a stand against the leaders that are trying to tear us down.

 

A Bird in Flight: My First Week at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary

Having just studied abroad in Australia, I assumed that I wouldn’t see the interior of an airplane for a long while. Traveling back took approximately 24 hours, including layover time, so I grew weary of flying and the stress associated with traveling and jet lag. I couldn’t have been more wrong; only two weeks after making the trip back home, I found myself separated from my hometown once again. The location this time: Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Little did I know before coming that the U.S. Marines are stationed in Jacksonville, NC. Nor did I realize that the only reason this town exists is because of the Marines. I found myself going in and out of the military base, and every person I met was somehow involved in the Marines; either they were married to a Marine, had a family member in the Marines, or were themselves in the Marines. I was struck not by the incessant humidity and ungodly heat, both of which I anticipated, but more so by the immediate differences I noticed, as if there was a strict line between North and South. I encountered people who took serious pride in their right to carry arms, heard the beginnings of a southern accent, and realized that “southern hospitality” was not just a stereotype, but a real-world phenomenon. NC also turned red for the past election, so I started to have firsthand experiences with more conservative sentiments, something I couldn’t really say before.

The highlight of my excursion is that my internship at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary challenged and excited me; I spent my first week learning about animal care in all the ways that were advertised. I walked through the main door to the animal care room and without a moment’s pause the volunteer coordinator, Ellie Althoff, said to me, “Okay then! Let’s get started.”

The view of the animal care room from the front door, and from that first moment onward I knew that there was a lot that had to be done.

My first day was busy and hectic as I exclusively worked with the birds. Because it is currently baby season, the animal care room is extremely packed and the phone rings off the hook; every day there’s another possum, bird, or duck that gets taken under our wing. As of now, that basically means that we have what feels like a trillion birds, almost all of which need to be fed every thirty minutes. I learned quickly how to feed these differently sized birds using syringes, including proper techniques, the different kinds of food they required, and how much to feed the different species.

House sparrows, chipping sparrows, and finches sit majestically next to each other on a branch, waiting semi-patiently for the next feeding.

Almost everything I was told ended with “and if you do this wrong, you’ll kill the [insert animal here].” Although those words did strike fear in my eyes, I was surprised how welcoming and understanding the volunteers were when I had questions. They never once made me feel terrible when I made a mistake. And mistakes I did make. My first day I accidentally let two birds out of their cage and almost killed a bird because it swallowed a syringe tip. I was lucky that another intern managed to get the bird to spit out the syringe. Despite my incompetence, the other volunteers’ gentle reassurance and constant support never ceased and even though I had fallbacks, my determination to learn more never wavered.

Baby turkeys relax under a feather duster having already made a mess of their cleaned cage.

Compared to Brandeis academics, it is immediately apparent that my internship is more demanding, requires hands-on experience, and will ultimately teach me more in a shorter period of time. I enjoy this kind of experiential learning because although knowledge is great for a foundation to understand a topic, doing something firsthand is the best way to become well-versed in a field. I expect that that’s why residencies exist. For this reason I believe that this internship is teaching me valuable skills that I can apply to an occupation in animal care.

Four juvenile barn swallows and one juvenile rough-tailed swallow gleefully look at the photographer (me).

One basic thing I learned this first week that I implicitly already knew but didn’t understand fully is just how rigorous animal care can really be. So many things need to be considered for the animal’s welfare, and for that reason it can sometimes be overwhelming to work in the animal care room. Even so, I have never felt so tired or so satisfied because of the work I completed. And that’s why I look forward to another week at the animal haven known as Possumwood Acres.

Sabrina Pond