Post 1: Fighting for Asylum Seekers and Migrants

I became interested in working for American Gateways after I spoke with an attorney who was presenting a Know Your Rights session to individuals from the undocumented community and allies. Growing up surrounded by those who are struggling with matters of documentation and citizenship status, I wanted to gather the tools and knowledge in helping my family and friends. I understood that the only way to do so was by educating myself on the issue of immigration and the laws that might be preventing my family from prospering in the United States. 

After expressing my desire to work alongside the staff and attorneys, immediately American Gateways welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to come on board as an intern. My first weeks on call where filled with both anger and frustration as I saw with my own two eyes the struggles that asylum seekers and migrants experience while crossing the border. I was lucky enough to be given a variety of tasks that approached our organization’s mission in a variety of ways. I was able to translate powerful personal statements, to visiting the detention center where migrant families are being separated and held under ICE custody. I was not ready for the overwhelming sensations that filled me the times I visited these centers. Seeing these families separated from their children and significant others made me realize how privileged my family’s immigrant experience was, in comparison to those who are currently under custody. Even though my feelings while at the center were mixed with anger and sadness, I was also able to have heartwarming conversations and even shared some laughs with these children and women. 

I expressed my interest of one day becoming an immigration lawyer, and American Gateways gave me the opportunity to attend court and experience first-hand the intensity of an asylum-seeking hearing, as well as the process an attorney takes in representing their case and clients. In comparison to the migrants who were at the detention centers, these individuals were filled with hope as they reached for freedom. This opportunity made me realize how much I enjoyed being present in the court, and the overwhelming sense of responsibility it brought me. The attorney who I was shadowing even allowed me to do “intake” and other important paperwork in getting the case set up. Thus, allowing me to see the “behind the scenes” work that lawyers are doing. 

Currently, my city of San Antonio has been a destination point for many migrants and asylum seekers because we are close to the many detention centers and the national border. San Antonio receives about 200-300 individuals on the daily,  who are in desperate need of flight tickets to their final destination, meals, clothing, shelter, and even medical assistance. Which is my the City of San Antonio set up a center where we are providing the aid these individuals need American Gateways saw this as an opportunity to provide these migrants with an overview of their rights and important court hearing and ICE dates. After much consideration, the staff placed me as the one responsible to recruit and train individuals in order to go help out in the center. I enjoy this project because I have complete autonomy of my tasks and responsibilities. At times, I am the only one making sure that all 200 individuals receive training of their rights. Beyond this, I am able to come face-to-face with the people I’m helping, instead of looking through a screen or doing paperwork. All while having the ability to occasionally help these people out with meals or any other service they might need.  

My time at American Gateways has been a mixture of feelings. At times, I notice myself becoming tired and stressed, but I remind myself to take a moment and step back. I am only one person who can do so much. I remind myself that even if I am just meeting with one person, I am still changing their life for the better. And that’s what keeps me going every day.

Post 3: My Journey at a Nonprofit

 

My coworkers and boss during our lunch break

As I began the first day of my internship, I was apprehensive of the many possibilities: tasks I might complete, what the company looks like, and the co-workers I will meet.

The first week was fairly exhilarating, as I had fresh, new ideas to improve the Chinese-American Planning Council’s Education and Career Services Program. However, as the weeks continued, I began to realize that there are many challenges when doing social work. For example, my task was to create a tech program and work on fundraising initiatives; yet, upon designing my tech program, I realized there were many limitations in funding, staff, and resources to create this program and other existing programs at CPC.

With my particular work, I contributed to the organization by researching additional grants to provide CPC with financial stability and different resources to increase their funding for their underfunded programs. In addition, upon my arrival, I understood that there is not a great focus on technology programs and applications. Therefore, in understanding the imbalance between available tech jobs and people interested in tech, I understand the need for technology programs to increase interest towards the field. I even introduced my boss to many different marketing ideas, as well as ways to spread the message about the different fundraisers. While social justice work is extremely challenging due to limited resources and the constant need to seek financial stability, I will say with pride that I truly am fortunate to contribute to CPC and its mission to serve Asian Americans.

As my internship is coming to a close to, I wish I attempted to gain relationships with other co-workers and people who worked in the company at an earlier time. I wish I learned their stories, such as why they worked at a nonprofit, and what does CPC mean to them, to gain a better understanding of the people I am working with. It was only near the end when I got up the courage to meet many of these gracious, truly remarkable individuals. Had I to give someone advice who wants to pursue a field in the organization, I recommend being continuously curious about the work and the people and to constantly ask questions. It is also truly important to learn the history of Asian Americans and understand the background behind why nonprofits devote their resources to Asian Americans. By doing so, people can truly see the impact and understand why CPC is such an impactful nonprofit that continues to positively influence the Asian American community.

Throughout these eventful 7—almost 8—weeks working at CPC, I must sincerely close the chapter with CPC and thank them for igniting the beginning of my profound interest in education, for my humorous coworkers and boss, and for the many laughs shared during lunch breaks. And I must thank New York City for continuously providing me with a home full of adventure. My time at New York City, too, is coming to an end, and even though I am only a train ride or bus away, I will miss the rush, the culture, and the never-ending surprises—from witnessing the ticket parade to seeing a live summer performance. My city never ceases to surprise me with its effervescent beauty and its fortuitous events.

Ice cream break!
My surprise ferry around New York City 🙂

Post 3: The Mechanism for Social Justice

I aspire to educate women about their respective rights, as well as inspire future generations to continue the fight for equal conditions in both the private and public sector. I hope to one day represent women in the workforce in order to help them secure a better and more stable economic future, as well as help them break down age-old barriers disallowing equal access and opportunity. I am especially focused on promoting entry into non-traditional pathways for young women. Per these goals, I was fortunate enough to work this summer at the Women’s Bureau, an organization that is an integral part of ensuring women across the nation have the adequate tools to ensure their grievances are heard and addressed, as well as helping bring public attention to the issues of concern to women. 

My experience in serving the public exposed me to the dynamic and multi-faceted definition of “social justice.” Through my experience as a Policy and Research Intern at the U.S. Department of Labor, I utilized relevant skills, such as research, social policy writing, and marketing that enabled me to contribute to the mission of opportunity and access for all women. Moreover, my internship afforded me the chance to really hone in on the strongest aspect or core identity of social justice, which in my personal opinion is teamwork. By working with a multitude of different persons and engaging in conversations of policy, culture, economics, and issues across the board, I was able to clearly understand the fundamental, foundational work that must be attended to before great change can prevail. I also heard from other agency directors similar messages of community and interagency collaboration as key factors in their success. Although involving multiple partners on one issue can be inefficient or convoluted, it also helps identify the broader spectrum of issues persistent in various local communities.

During my time at the Women’s Bureau, I completed many projects, but my research on lactation and compiling a lactation toolkit for federal supervisors and employees served most beneficial, as the work was valued for illuminating the issues at present and in need of future attention. By helping create documents surrounding best practices in lactation spaces and scenarios for further discussion, I was able to help my organization pinpoint certain commonalities across regional offices and potential issues that may arise for nursing mothers in the workplace.

Quad in the JFK building

Before beginning my internship, I wish that I had a more sound basis of social policy work and what it entails. However, my supervisors were gracious enough to teach me the ropes and the inner workings of the federal government, and thus I was able to quickly pick up on the pace and style of this type of work. If you are looking to pursue an internship with the federal government or in public service, I would strongly advise taking a class on social policy, movements and/or change because the systems in place can either be confusing or complicated when first faced with them. Don’t forget, an excellent supervisor or co-worker can also show you the way if the path appears dark at first, but you must speak up and ask. 

Innovating Medical Education and Research

A lot of pre-medical students are eager to delve into the life of a doctor. I have had my share of experiences where I worked and volunteered in hospital environments alongside doctors to understand the daily life of various physicians. However, I was always eager to learn about the process students and physicians have to undergo to be where there are. While, I have heard from many doctors and current students about their experiences in medical school, there are many aspects of medical school I was unaware of until I began my internship at New York University School of Medicine. My internship at PrMEIR Scholars Summer Intensive Program (PSSIP) has allowed me to witness the operations and management behind how medical schools run. I have learned about the array of people required from various backgrounds and the years of research that the Medical School puts into ensuring their students receive the best medical education. I am grateful to have an opportunity to observe and work within the department that oversees the faculty, residents, and medical students to provide them the best medical education to become the best physicians.

The night before my internship, I was nervous and anxious because I had a brief idea of the program I was a part of; however, I was unaware of the vast knowledge I would attain from just the mere first few days of my internship. The first few days I was introduced to the department and team I would be working with. The team is composed of people that have studied research, business, public health, computer science, statistics and many other specialties. I have also met my fellow interns who are from various universities and study different things. We learned that all of our backgrounds are an essential asset to the workings of the PrMEIR program.

Like many medical schools, New York University School of Medicine has a Program for Medical Education Innovations and Research (PrMEIR). This department’s mission is to institute the best practices of medicine for the students to create a hospital environment best for patients and workers. The research the department conducts helps strengthen the tie between healthcare providers and patients’ well-being. The PrMEIR program is composed of many departments; I am specifically a member of the Database for Research on Education in Academic Medicine Team (DREAM). With my academic background in Biology and Computer Science, the DREAM Team has allowed me to showcase my knowledge and skills from both of my fields of studies, but also learn a lot of skills useful in medical education research.

My role in the DREAM Team has been to assist my co-workers with data cleaning and programming to analyze results from research studies conducted on residents and medical students. These studies are known as the Objective Structured Clinical Examination where residents are tested on how they treat and care for patients medically and socially. Moreover, my role is to assist with analyzing medical records by residents who have had a patient that was meant to be an anonymous actor. The interns also are required to speak with patients to understand their experience with residents and attendees. Overall, my favorite part of the experience is being able to apply my knowledge in coding, but also learn about coding in the medical education environment.

I am amazed by the intensive studies and organization the PrMEIR program does to ensure the students are receiving not only one of the best medical education, but to learn how to grow as a person and to be aware of their role as a physician in society. I look forward to the immense opportunities this internship has to offer me to learn about my passion for medicine and computer science. I hope to learn of careers and departments in this program that allows me to intertwine my two fields of interests.

 

A Washingtonian’s Guide to DC: More than the Monuments

As I join the crowd of people approaching the Metro station at 8:30 on a Monday morning, I realize that I’ve become one of the people I used to roll my eyes at; a DC young professional. Growing up in DC, I always saw these types, heading downtown in waves, and wondered what their experience of DC was and how it differed from mine, knowing that many of them weren’t from Washington. Many people come to DC for work, to the point where it’s more unusual to find a native Washingtonian than it is to meet a transplant. I’ve realized that there can be some misunderstandings about what Washington, DC is from people who haven’t lived here. However, my city is not just monuments and tourists. It is not just federal government and Congress. It is a living, breathing place with people trying to go about their lives.

Buildings like the Capitol are symbols of our country and frame the DC skyline. But what truly makes up DC are people like the young girls who beautifully created art on our office chalk wall.DC is also filled with ironies and frustrations coming from the weird balance of power that is a result of our status as a federal district, with congressional oversight of our laws and a lack of representation within Congress. This is compounded by ever-present inequalities such as de-facto segregation, gentrification, and struggling public schools which all negatively impact the diverse cultural and socio-economic population. So, no; being here for a summer, or a year, and visiting trendy neighborhoods for brunch and happy-hour while interning on the Hill are not sufficient for gaining perspective on this enigma of a city.

This lack of understanding has left me feeling protective of my city and more aware of the shortcomings in my own understanding of it due to being raised in a middle class, mostly white, neighborhood in Northwest, Washington. These contemplations have been deepened by my interactions with staff at the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Six members of the Coalition staff are from DC, and those that are not all demonstrate a great understanding and desire to learn more about the city. I have greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness and dedication to thinking specifically about how domestic violence shows up in DC that the Coalition continuously addresses. They constantly strive to fight against the systemic issues of the city to develop projects and resources that are accessible, relevant, and effective for all the diverse communities in this unique place. This commitment to the people of DC pervades all the work the Coalition does and has taught me new things about the place I’ve lived my whole life.

 

Dedication and passion for serving a specific community is an essential part of advocacy and activism, a point that has been driven home to me this summer. The Training and Outreach Specialist at the Coalition, my supervisor, is especially important in this dedication as she balances various activities from training new survivor advocates, meeting with community partners and organizations, and going into the community through leading workshops and tabling at events, just to name a few. I have observed the differences in how conversations about domestic violence occur in different settings and how engaging meaningfully with different populations on this difficult subject involves being mindful of their lived experiences. The balance of being mindful of those around you and transitioning between settings is valuable to learn for any profession, but especially for advocacy and social work. I am excited to bring some of the passion the Coalition holds back to my endeavors at Brandeis, and I hope this experience acts as a reminder that there is always more to learn to deepen our understanding of the world around us and the places we call home.

#DCStatehood

Post 2: Lessons from the Field

Working on a boat is incredibly different than sitting in a traditional classroom at school. My internship is tied to the weather and the behavior of unpredictable wild animals. Often times, thundershowers and torrential down-pours do not stop our whaling adventures, and I have come to learn to be ready for anything. Recording data in brutal wind conditions or spotting for whales with reduced fog visibility has honed my observation skills and my adaptability in the field. That being said, occasionally work is canceled due to massive sea-sick inducing swells and brutal wind, and I feel like I do in school when we get an unexpected snow day.

Sunset Whale Watching

Whales are wild animals and therefore unpredictable; every day I get to observe them in their natural habitat. As much as we can make predictions about where the whales will be and what they will do, I have been shown many times this summer to never take anything for granted. For example, one day a whale named Diablo appeared right outside of Boston Harbor, 10 miles from where we expected to see her. Another day, we went to an area where whales had been feeding for weeks and found absolutely nothing.

Clamp Lunge Feeding

Visitors will sometimes come with sea-world assumptions, and an important takeaway from my internship is to understand how to balance expectation versus reality. While I get to see amazing behaviors frequently, such as breaching or open mouth feeding, some days the whales are less surface active.

An important part of my internship has been learning how to articulate critical messages of environmental conservation about these spectacular animals, and to treat each day as an opportunity to learn something new. Understanding marine mammal physiology and behavior has not only broadened my academic understanding but has allowed me to better understand why whales will behave in certain ways on certain days. Even on “average” days, my internship has provided me opportunities to learn something new every time I go out on the water. For example, just today I got to see a Mola mola for the first time! Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish, are huge bony fish that look like big dinner tables in the water.

Mola mola (They’re super weird)

Over the last few months, I have seen myself expand in my comprehension of marine conservation and marine mammal behavior as well as gain field skills, technique, and knowledge through data collection and observation. One of the coolest ways I have been able to track my own progress is through the identification and behavior of humpback whales. I now can recognize many individuals by eyesight. By discerning individuals from each other, I have picked up on subtle behavioral distinctions between humpback whales that I would never have been able to recognize without spending months in the field. The Aquarium has provided an amazing opportunity and network, and I am so happy for this internship that has provided resources for my interest in a marine conservation/biology career.

Fan (One of my favorite whales!)

– Kate Laemmle ’20

 

 

Welcome to Cologne Germany – My Summer Journey

Germany has officially hosted me for a month now and the memories, times, work, and friends have been incredible. Despite having a few doubts before embarking on this internship – looking back this experience is becoming immensely more important for me personally and professionally each day.

Above all, Köln has surprised me in how multicultural and open it is – with festivals almost every weekend. Highlights of the past two weeks have included the Cologne Pride (CSD day) where 1.2 million people attended, and the Kölner Lichter Fireworks show. The investment that the city is putting into making these majestic events such a success is truly remarkable and have made my weekly schedule filled with fun social opportunities. Weekends have been reserved for seeing more of Germany, traveling to other cities including Bonn, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, and more to come. Although sometimes exhausting, traveling is fueling me with new power and energy that makes work-life balance so much more efficient. I’ve learned the importance of letting myself fully immersed in the freedom of exploring, not knowing where exactly my path will take me or what the plans are for the day, while also always embracing the local culture and trying new things. This mindset is something that I really want to take back with me to the United States.

Another important aspect of the German experience for me has been the openness to shared learning. Not only in terms of cultural events, Köln is similarly dedicated to encouraging this shared space in the more professional realm. An example can be the Nacht der Technik hosted at the end of June. Open to the public and attracting both young and old, the night was an incredible opportunity to travel around the city and see the showcasing of underground tunnels, aerospace engineer work, university research, and hospital technology in action. In addition to being inspired, it was also a nice time for our lab to showcase our virtual reality retail work and for me and another intern to see the city from a technical perspective.

Work-wise the internship has been proceeding well and fully challenging. We are adapting our timeline to holiday breaks, student exam schedules, and coding progress, but overall it is heading towards halfway completion. Coding for me in a new language has been a lot harder than what I had anticipated and I am struggling to be as optimistic as I usually am about bearing through hardship to recognize the full potential of figuring it out. Because computer programming, in general, is new for me and it’s a must to design code that is at the level necessary for professional research, the pressure has been pushing me further than I had expected. Although at this stage it is unclear how much we can achieve within a month’s time, I am already feeling the reward of doing things that I would have never been able to do if not for this lab and the opportunities the internship is providing me.

And this feeling, the unique reward from the extreme challenge, is what makes the internship experience so different and powerful compared to at the academic setting. As a student, there are always other motives such as grades, time management, and future employment that steer the focus from the goal of learning and challenging oneself. If school is easy, you say thank you and continue with another subject, if it is hard you accept a bad grade and try better next time. In the actual work environment, you are trying to achieve something that can be done in multiple ways and you must navigate your own path within pushing yourself, doing the best work, and maintaining relationships. The learning process is so much more focused and freeing than a college setting, but it is also more demanding. I hope that I will be able to incorporate, maintain, and grow this while finishing my studies at Brandeis University.

 

– Shai Dinnar ’20

After a Couple More Weeks

After just two more weeks at the Hariri Imaging Lab, I feel as though I am getting used to the way the lab works and research that they do. At first, I was doing small tasks and was astonished by how important those tiny tasks are to the overall research process. I’ve realized that here, everything builds on itself and that it is amazing to begin to see tiny progression in such long term work. One of my goals for this internship was to get a better understanding of research and to experience its process. Now that I am familiar with their work, I have been given my own tasks to do, which makes me feel like I am a part of the research process and team.

OCT imaging of my finger!

I think the biggest difference for me between Brandeis academic life and the World of Work in a laboratory setting is structure. At Brandeis, my academic life is very structured. I have due dates that are planned ahead of time and each science class has the same basic structure and I know how to plan for it and I know what I will be learning and how I will be studying each day. The World of Work at the lab is very different. The structure is a lot more laid back, even though everyone is constantly doing work. There is a loose schedule, but each day that schedule changes many times because each component of the research depends on each member and their own work. This looser structure is vital to the lab because it ensures that work will get done in a way that allows for changes to occur frequently. Alternatively, at Brandeis, most of the academic work is personal, and only few projects require the dependence of others getting their tasks done.

 

As a result of this internship I have learned many new skills that will assist me with academics and future career plans. I have learned that Matlab is very useful in the research world. As a result, I have begun to learn Matlab and familiarize myself with the basics. I think Matlab is an important skill for my future if I decide to go into research, and, even if I decide not to, it will allow me to be able to have a greater understanding of how things are accomplished in science and medicine. Another important skill that I am building on is patience and determination. A lot of the information and topics that are worked on and discussed here in the lab are very complex and specific. At first I found it very intimidating that I did not really understand the technology and the physics behind the machines that are being used. As a result, I realized I needed to be patient and slowly repeat the readings and ask many more questions so that I could begin to understand the complexity of the material. I think this patience and determination to learn when things are tough to understand will be a useful skill in all aspects in my life, especially next year in my classes. In addition, being flexible and able to work in different work environments is an important skill to possess.

  • Ashley Bass

Post 2: What is special about the Asset Forfeiture Unit?

Brandeis has taught me many things that encouraged me to apply and prepared me well for my internship in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Among all, and in this blog, I would like to discuss how Brandeis helped me build a strong academic background; why it matters that much; and how it has contributed to my work in the internship site.

Entering Brandeis, I first majored in Philosophy and Studio Art, and then shortly followed with the third major in International Global Studies with three minors in Legal Studies, Art History, and East Asian Studies. The diversity of the courses that Brandeis provides and the flexibility of its academic curricula have encouraged me to explore different fields. I benefit from it not only as I have three majors and three minors, but also as I am able to connect all these fields of study with each other.

Among all the major or minor-related courses I took, some taught me to carefully read important texts to extract and evaluate arguments from them. Some taught me critical thinking skills such that I have formed my own ways of critically engaging with and building on the existing texts. Some taught me to develop creativity such as to extend theories beyond their original scope. Others taught me to conduct deep research in fields like history, art, and law. A part of my responsibility working in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO)-Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is to conduct legal research, critically engage with the existing legal languages, and connect them with the philosophy of this office.  All these academic learning and researching abilities that Brandeis trained me prepared me well for my role in the DA’s office.

Besides academic learning and researching abilities, attending Brandeis also taught me many other important qualities, such as organizational skills, time management skills, and interpersonal and communication skills. Other than the majors and minors, I have three on-campus jobs. With my intense schedule and rich experiences on campus, I learned how to manage my time wisely, how to handle stress, how to be a good listener, a collaborative team member, a strategic thinker, and a resourceful leader. With that background, I was able to adapt to different situations and work in my internship’s fast-paced environment.

AFU is the only civil litigation part of the DA’s office; the others are all criminal litigation units. It deals with asset forfeiture; in other words, it deals with criminals’ illegally-gained property and monies. Therefore, a very common task of mine is to work on Excel charts, making sure the case numbers, the defendants’ names the property amounts, and the police departments that seized the property are right, and that they match with each other for transparency reporting purposes. I usually need to check various sources to make sure the information we have is correct, which includes but is not limited to the Mass Court Website, the MDAO’S own data management system, and the actual case files (the police reports, etc.). Once the basic information is verified, what I do next is to track the monies that MDAO has or has not received judgments on. All these tasks require the ability to concentrate for a long time, and strong research and problem-solving skills. For example, what if the information on the Mass Court Website does not match with that in MDAO’s data management system? Which information is the right one, and how can I ensure that piece of information is the accurate one? Good communication skills are also needed as communication and teamwork is always the key to getting the job done correctly. I have gained these basic skills and abilities prior to this summer internship at Brandeis, while this internship further developed these skills.

A snapshot of the Mass Court website

-Carrie Sheng ’20

Post 2: Applying Self-Care to Legal Advocacy

Being a full-time college student is enough to warrant exhaustion from any individual, but this is often coupled with extracurricular and social activities. It was during my “trial-and-error” period early in my freshman year that I learned the art of time management. In the classroom, this translated to how I divided up study hours between classes. With my extracurriculars, this had to do with prioritizing the activities that were of the most importance to me, while socially, this pertained to how I allotted time between friends and social activities. Collectively, this meant mediating all three facets of my life.

Brandeis’ Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC) offers confidential support relating to sexual and relationship violence, and practices self-care in the process. In its office, PARC has fidget toys for all members of the Brandeis community to use. (Photo credits to Juan Bordon.)

Somewhere in the midst of navigating time management, I also found myself learning a new lesson: the need for self-care. I learned that while I could probably find time for all of my commitments, it was also important that I leave time for myself, time to refuel so that I was not overworked and still had the energy to exercise my passions wholeheartedly. In short, I learned that I couldn’t just focus on allocating my time among my commitments, but had to factor in my wellbeing as well. I have been fortunate enough to have learned this valuable lesson from the amazing Brandeis professors, staff members, students, and institutions that have prioritized and encouraged this practice.

This is where the  Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit is located (and where I work!)

This lesson has been central to my positive experience as an intern at the Legal Aid Society. As an organization that helps impoverished citizens dealing with a magnitude of heartbreaking issues, the Legal Aid Society has no shortage of citizens in need of help and no shortage of things to do. I experience this even as an immigration law intern; my desk is often covered with files to go through and the DACA inbox I manage is always brimming with requests for appointments. Perhaps consequently, the busyness of legal advocacy also means that the work can be emotionally taxing. Many times when I thumb through a file, read immigration-related headlines, or meet with a client, my heart stinks due to the tragedies currently embedded in our immigration system. This makes self-care especially vital. There is so much baggage and responsibility that comes with being in a position like my own, but so much honor too. It is a privilege to engage with the stories of immigrants and to be able to assist someone in need.  Self-care is the catalyst through which that responsibility is the most efficient and one’s impact is the most sustainable.

This is where I take my lunch break. It’s my go-to spot because it faces both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges!

Self-care and checking-in on myself is how I approach my internship and all the duties it involves. While this practice is unique to the individual, I have personally found my own healthy habits. For example, I do not check my work email outside of my internship hours; I have fun and explore Manhattan after my internship ends; almost every day I take my lunch break outside of the office; and I allow myself to slow down and take a break when needed.

My sister and I have visited many NYC attractions after work hours, including the Brooklyn Bridge as is pictured with me here.

I think that individuals, especially with the drive to help others, yield a lot of power. But we are in no way invincible, even when we are pursuing what we are passionate about and even when we seemingly have enough time to do it all. Checking in on myself and exercising self-care is not a substantial sacrifice nor is it the “be-all, end-all” factor for success, but it does go a long way. This lesson, taught to me by wonderful professors, staff members, and students at Brandeis, ensures that I can do the most for myself, the passions I hope to pursue, and the populations I seek to aid. 

-Alison Hagani ’22

Post 2: Coalitions and Team Building

As I transition out of college and into the brave new world of 9 to 5 workdays, I am consistently relying on the lessons I’ve learned in the field and finding ways to apply them to the nonprofit sector. At Brandeis, I am a member of the women’s soccer program, and have been for four years now. I’m also interning at a Chicago-based organization called Restore Justice (RJ), a criminal justice reform policy institution. While these institutions seem entirely different, they’re actually quite similar in the sense that they are rooted in the fundamental values of teamwork and coalition building. Here at RJ, we treat lobbying like sport. You have rules, teams, strategy, and all the action happens within a season or “legislative session.”

The summer for us is our offseason. This is an opportunity for us to regroup and prepare for the upcoming legislative session, when we get the chance to work on pushing our bills to hopefully become law. We meet with our lobbyists, do research, and try to write and rewrite language that we will then bring to members of the Illinois State Legislature to hopefully find a sponsor to push the bill through.

We are also working on finding more donors through fundraising to help fund our expansion and give us more opportunities to do the work that everyone in the small office wants to do. The summer session is treated very much like my offseason is for soccer in that it is seen as an opportunity to get better, stronger, faster. We aren’t put under the pressure of everything having to happen right now, and we have the opportunity to shop things, work on new techniques, or completely scrap something that isn’t working. We build on what we learned last season and work to take those lessons into our next season when the legislature comes back into session.

Another big thing that I have experienced is the very necessary job of understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. Brandeis soccer prides itself on having the mindset that every single player was brought here for a reason, and has something to contribute to the team. When we succeed, it is because of everyone’s efforts, and when we fail, it is on everyone to look at what they need to do better next time to help the team. Restore Justice thinks the same way. We wouldn’t be able to have the successes we’ve had if it weren’t for everyone in the office, and in times that we have failed, everyone has the chance to do better and play a part in the successes in the future.

We finally got the whole team in one picture! From left to right, Jobi Cates, our Executive Director, Marshan Allen, our Project Manager, Wendell Robinson, our fundraising apprentice, Jessica Genova, a graduate intern, Julie Anderson, our Outreach Manager, and myself.

Most importantly, it is vital that we recognize our own strengths and weaknesses. We all know that different individuals in this office have experiences in different ways, and we try as much as possible to play on those strengths, but also to get out of someone else’s way if we know a certain area is not our strongest. Understanding what you bring to the table and when you might do better to sit back and listen is key to having a team that works in harmony. I have always known that on the field, but it is a very important experience to be able to learn it off the field and in the workplace as well.

Post 2: Lessons from the Project Healthcare Health Fair

Music played loudly from the health fair tables in front of me. It competed with the chatter of volunteers discussing their noncontroversial topics of fitness, diabetes, and smoking. The mixture of staff, patients, and community members laughed enthusiastically as they played interactive games to learn about each topic. I stood eagerly in front of my poster, waiting for the crowd to approach me. Slowly, they neared my station, only getting close enough to shoot me a glare before quickly walking to another table. It hurt that my welcoming smile wasn’t enough to draw people in. I looked around and compared my project to those around me. My game was just as interactive, my poster was just as colorful, and my presentation was just as informative. I saw one clear difference: my poster displayed one of the most taboo words in American culture: sex. I realized that though I had become comfortable talking about sex in the past weeks researching, other people were not as receptive. 

My health fair group: (from left) Favour, Seb, and me

Sex is so stigmatized in the United States that people would rather lie to their children about how babies are made than talk to them about sex. This environment creates a community where people feel uncomfortable asking important questions about a topic that is natural and healthy. So, although I had prepared for weeks to promote informed safe sex, I was met with a community who rejected the topic. To accommodate these feelings, my group changed our approach by advertising our game as a test to people’s knowledge rather than putting the emphasis on sex. Now, these adults became interested in proving how much they know. Our activity, called “the pull-out game” prompted participants to pull out a card with true or false questions to test their knowledge on sexual health. 

My poster with “the pull-out game”

Questions that were commonly answered incorrectly included “wearing two condoms is safer than one”, “you can always tell if someone has an STI by looking at them”, and “you can’t get an STI from oral sex”. Through conversing with the public, we broke down significant misconceptions about sexual health and created an environment where people felt comfortable talking informatively about the topic. We handed out many pamphlets in English Spanish and Chinese on different kinds of sexually transmitted infections and forms of birth control, and answered extra questions afterwards. When handing out pamphlets, we persisted in being cognizant of people’s backgrounds. We prioritized handing out a flyer with sexual health clinic locations, making sure to advertise that these clinics provide low to no cost services and that no appointment is necessary, regardless of immigration status, health insurance, or ability to pay. 

My experiences in the health fair reinforced for me that issues in the emergency department are a reflection of society. In my day to day experiences in the emergency room, sex is not the only taboo subject addressed. Substance use and homelessness are prevalent in the hospital and are also taboo subjects in “normal” society. However, in an emergency situation, talking to a person about their medical history and housing situation, however controversial, is paramount in effectively treating that person. 

Many situations like these prove that in healthcare, it is essential to genuinely understand and be sensitive towards a patient’s background, education, and values. I am learning that this rounded outlook is necessary in ensuring patients feel treated and heard. In my role as a volunteer, I am developing skills to more effectively communicate and sympathize, while being cognizant of people’s disparities. I am uniquely positioned this summer to listen to patients and community members and learn important lessons from them that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Post #2 – Working in a New Environment

As I enter my third month with the National Park Service, I have been reflecting a lot on how my three years at Brandeis have prepared me for this line of work. My work in the field has taught me a lot about what it means to be an environmental scientist. First and foremost, I have learned how different research is in the field as opposed to in a laboratory setting. Through my coursework at Brandeis, I have gained significant experience in a lab. A full year of lab work each for general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biology gave me lots of experience for the scientific work I am doing this summer and I plan on doing as a career. However, it did not prepare me for field work in some of the ways that I thought that it would.

For my work on the coasts of the Boston Harbor Islands to document wildlife, I am working closely with a PhD candidate from UMass Boston. Last week, she gave me an important piece of advice. She told me that field work is really nothing at all like lab work. In the lab, everything must be done with precision to ensure the best results. This sort of accuracy is much more difficult to achieve in the field, as a range of other factors can vary widely.

Laying out a transect tape measure on the rocky intertidal shore of Peddocks Island

When going from the specificity of a sterile lab to climbing over rocks on a beach as the tide comes in, a lot of rules simply no longer apply. Laying out a straight line to best measure the shoreline is difficult when it is dotted with boulders. Certain species of encrusting algae growing on rocks look really similar to cyanobacteria, a type of marine bacteria. When time is of the essence, you often have to make do with the best you can before your entire work space is submerged again under the incoming tide.

Identifying shells on a sandbar with a team of other interns working on other projects. An hour later, this entire landmass was underwater.

This all being said, while I was not expecting a lot of these differences, they give my work more meaning.  My work at the National Park Service has been an amazing experience and has only strengthened my interest in field work and environmental research. I have been working for a cause that I strongly believe in and wish to continue work like this into the future. I am grateful to the National Park Service for this summer-long learning opportunity among dedicated and hard-working people who are also dedicated to environmental science and change. It has given me a renewed desire to study and fight the effects of climate change, and it has given me some experience that I could not get almost anywhere else.

– Isaiah Freedman

Post 3: Ending my summer internship

Over the past two-plus months at my internship, I have learned so much. I have learned a lot about suicide and addiction in Oregon, as well as the large group of people working in prevention to decrease the numbers and help those struggling with suicide or addiction. I have learned how many people are working alongside and with Lines for Life on this mission. There is a whole network of people who are doing prevention work in Oregon on different levels. By working together, they are making real change. 

I have learned that in the world of work, at least at Lines for Life, community is very important. It is crucial for the prevention team to know each other in order to work together effectively. I have also learned that social justice work is a very fulfilling field of work, and it draws a lot of inspiring people to those jobs. 

This is the heading for the Suicide Prevention Website I have been working on.

I feel that my biggest impact on the work that Lines for Life does is the suicide prevention website that I, along with my supervisor and OHA (Oregon Health Advisory), have been working very hard to create. This has been my biggest impact, but also my biggest challenge. It has been a huge learning experience for me to work with people outside of Lines for Life. I have learned how to communicate via email, phone calls, or meetings where some people are there and some are participating via conference call. Along with my work on the suicide prevention website, I have been a supporting person for the other prevention team members and have been able to support them in any of their projects.

 

I would give the advice to pick an internship that sounds interesting and will offer you a variety of tasks to do. I was choosing between two internships, and I am so glad that I chose this one as I have kept busy, as well as had the opportunity to attend many offsite events. Through this variety that my internship offers, I have had the opportunity for maximum learning and have created a strong connection with my coworkers. It has been crucial for me to have many different projects that I can go back and forth between so that I don’t get tired of one of them. My advice is that if an internship becomes monotonous and the same work over and over, it becomes less interesting. This has been very fulfilling and a great learning experience, much more so than sitting and doing paperwork all day. 

My advice for someone who wants to pursue an internship with Lines for Life is to be proactive, participate in all the available opportunities, and get to know everyone you are working with, because they are really awesome people. There are a lot of different projects going on at all times, so get involved, go to the meetings, and learn as much as possible. It has been a great experience and I would highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to learn more and explore a career in public health and prevention work.

I belong here

The last few weeks have been extremely busy for me. Not only I spent hours in meetings about social media strategy but I also spent hours creating content and interacting with the audience especially on Instagram.  Despite the workload, I’ve been falling in love with my internship and the place. The people are lovely, space is accommodating and it kinda feels like I belong there.

The view of Bratislava from the 20th floor of Twin City Tower

Even though I still do not see myself working in a co-work space longterm, I have to admit there is something amazing about it. During the summer, we have events every Wednesday – it started with brunch and last week we had a movie quiz. It gives me the opportunity to get to know my colleagues as well as people from other organizations. In between all these events, we managed to celebrate a colleague’s daughter birth. Somehow, I am already part of the team, despite being there only for a little over a month.

One of our meeting and chill out rooms

During my time here I learned that to some extent I prefer learning from experience, trial-and-error, rather than lecture halls. Through working by myself on projects, I had the time to further research details that interested me, for example, the best use of Instagram features for campaigns, how to track engagement more effectively, and how to analyze Instagram statistics. The things I did not understand, my mentor very kindly explained or made a note to get back to it during one of our meetings. Having an internship is definitely teaching me numerous practical skills which  I would not be able to gain in an academic environment.

Coloring book in the restroom

I am learning to be more independent in a professional setting as well as more communicative. The other week, the director of the NGO took me with him for a business meeting with one of the partners. My role was to shadow, yet I still had the chance to communicate with the partner, introduce myself and give them insight into social media communication. I can see myself taking advantage of these skills once I am attending job interviews or communicating with professors. As somebody who tends to be shy and quiet, I appreciate a lot that my boss is taking the time to help me step out of my comfort zone.

Lastly, I am incredibly proud to say that the engagement on the Instagram skyrocketed ever since I’ve started to post regularly on stories and feed. Our newest campaign (displayed above) has the highest engagement of all posts so far. As of right now, I am preparing content for the next couple of weeks in order to ease the process and make it understandable for all team members – whether they work for communications or not.

 

Sabina Simkova ’22

Post 2: “saleswoman” or “researcher”?

When I was taking the course Clinical Practicum with Professor Cunningham, we talked a lot about the limitations we have as mental health helpers and the importance of self-care. Volunteering at a crisis hotline also helped me realized how different a conversation could be when you are using a different attitude or even a different way of wording. All of these skills equipped me to screen and keep up the study with new participants.

After a few trainings, I went to our coordinate site, South Cove at Quincy, to enroll participants. My first time doing subject screening was exciting and scary. I enjoy talking about our study with strangers and I enjoy the moment when they become interested in the study and agree to participate. Reaching out to women in the waiting room could be scary because I was not sure what their attitude would be or what kind of questions I would have to answer. My mentor went through the research assistant guide with me again and I asked all the questions that I was not certain about. She also offered a short orientation for me in the hospital and introduced me as the new research assistant to all the doctors and nurses at the OB/GYN receptions. They were all friendly and encouraging, which decreased my anxiety a little. They have the perfect attitude working with patients, especially pregnant women who are relatively more sensitive and need support. I believe that they are trying their best to create the most comfortable and reliable environment for the women, which I should mimic as well. I found it really helpful to stay calm when I am smiling and talking in a slow and light way. I also successfully enrolled one new participant after I approached four patients.

It is difficult to not the rejections personally, but we have to understand our limitations. Not taking it personally does not mean that we should believe that we are approaching it in the best way, we should definitely always ask for more advice and try to improve ourselves when we don’t feel confident talking with the patients. However, we also need to understand that the patients have thousands of reasons for not wanting to participate in the study. It is possible that you have introduced the study the best way you can and explain how important independent data is, but the participant still says,”I am not interested.”

I spent a semester trying to not feel guilty about not being able to decrease the level of sadness of my caller while working at the crisis hotline, and I found that attitude really helpful when I was trying to enroll the participants in person this time. My mentor pointed out that I should pay close attention to their body language as well, and I realized that this is something I overlooked while I was talking to the patients. Since I was eager to introduce myself and the study to them, it could be possible that I was “invading” their personal spaces. That is something I need to be cautious about, and the improvement will help me in daily life as well.

Besides the first-hand experience, I am lucky to have a really friendly and supportive group. Led by Dr. Cindy Liu, the group has a lab meeting every Friday and we share a lot about the study updates and how to deal with all kinds of problems. Everything is back on track now and we are looking forward to more data and results.

Post 2: Nonlinear Career Paths

It’s been an exciting four weeks interning with Divest Ed and the Better Future Project! My project team with reinvestment has split into two working groups: one focused on campus outreach and one focused on community outreach. Together we are working to close the gap between campuses that are looking to reinvest in local economies and the community organizations doing the work to allocate those funds. It’s been productive work! I’ve been learning so much about the Boston scene and seeing all these different organizations working to build regenerative economies through democratically controlled funds (check out the Boston Ujima Project, the Haymarket People’s Fund, and the Solidarity Economy Initiative while you’re here).

Solidarity Economy Initiative Logo
Haymarket People’s Fund Logo
Boston Ujima Project Logo

Although working with these different grassroots organizations has been an incredible experience, I’ve also had a hard time reckoning with my own career path in this work. Even though grassroots organizations are crucial agents for change, they are often underfunded and, as a result, don’t have many job opportunities to offer. That’s not to say it will be impossible to find a job within this area of work, but as a rising senior who isn’t pursuing a “pipeline internship” this summer, I’ve definitely been struggling with navigating my own career path. After all, I’ve only got one more year left of university, and plenty of “What are your plans after college?” interrogations to answer in the meantime. 

Luckily, however, I’ve been reminding myself of a lesson I first learned at Brandeis, which is that life isn’t linear (and you shouldn’t plan it to be). When I first came to Brandeis, I was sure that I was going to be an English and biology double major. Three years later, I’ve taken one English class in my entire Brandeis career, and am now most excited about studying computer science in my remaining time here. Coming into Brandeis, I had no idea what fossil fuel divestment was, and now I spend 21+ hours a week working on it through my internship. My Brandeis career has been anything but predictable, and I’m grateful for it! It’s led me to so many new discoveries about myself and the world.

As I’ve been worrying about my future career at my internship, a new discovery has made its way into my nonlinear vision. Our community outreach working group has decided to throw a fundraiser for the community organizations we are learning from, and through this process I’ve discovered I’m really interested in grassroots fundraising! As someone who already has experience in fundraising for larger institutions, I never expected to make a career out of it, but seeing the power of moving money has really inspired me to reimagine what fundraising can do. Comparing what a thousand dollars can do in one of these community controlled funds versus what it would do in a large corporation is really eye-opening, and it motivates me to think of ways I can move money in my personal life along with the general public.

Where does this leave me? A senior who doesn’t have the most coherent resume in the world, absolutely. But also, a potential grassroots fundraiser in the making. I’ve already taken some personal steps into learning more about grassroots fundraising as a career, but until then I’m hard at work planning a fundraiser for our reinvestment team. We’ll see where my career path takes me in the meantime.

Further Comments on “Film Comment”

WoW, these past two weeks have flown by! It’s business as usual over here at Film Comment, and our July/August issue recently hit newsstands. My name is on the masthead, which was pretty exciting! One of my main jobs these days is to update Film Comment’s Rotten Tomatoes profile, which is another example of a job that probably isn’t that exciting but I very much enjoy. Basically, I turn the full length reviews into snappy, single sentence summaries that sum up whether the critic liked the movie or not. I’m also spearheading efforts to archive Film Comment’s prior articles, which basically means spending a lot of time in a massive Google Sheets document. Thankfully, we’re almost finished.

One thing I’ve really come to appreciate about this internship is my fellow interns! Writing criticism is a pretty specific type of writing, and it’s not really something that’s taught within Brandeis. Sure, higher ed has given me a lot of tools and shown me methods of breaking down different texts, but it’s not like there’s a class on writing 400 word reviews or why popular criticism is a worthwhile discipline on its own. Meanwhile, my fellow interns here at FC have also spent lots of time contemplating this type of writing, and what makes it special and necessary.

Meanwhile, I’m really loving living in New York City. I had a few speed bumps when I first moved here (including one major, bug related problem), but it’s all smooth sailing here now. I’m from a small town in the midwest (Champaign-Urbana IL, also known as the greatest place in the world), so the hustle and bustle of NYC isn’t exactly what I’m used to. But… I love it! You sort of have to prepare for the worst at all times (and the city never cuts you a break when you need one), but at this exact point, I’m enjoying being on the perpetual hamster wheel. With a little help from my Maps app, I’ve had a ton of fun exploring this endless concrete jungle, and it’s nice knowing I could handle living here.

Between spending time with Brandeis friends, meeting up with other (read: older, wiser and more experienced) writers for coffee and advice, my second job, and my internship, I’m busier than ever, but that’s hardly a reason to complain. I really want to bring this energy back to Brandeis with me – right now, I’m constantly juggling different pieces and working on about six things at once, and I don’t plan on slowing down during my senior year. In fact, I’d better get back to it now!

Jonah Koslofsky

Post 2: Communication

Over the past two years at Brandeis I have learned how to better communicate with people who are different from me and have different life experiences. I feel that the skill of communication is a skill that can never be fully mastered, but through my involvement with Brandeis I have continued my learning and it has pushed me to grow into who I am today. I have recognized the varying communication skills I use to talk to different people. With a peer I use casual language, I put less thought into applying a filter, and I am not afraid to say what I am thinking. In a more professional setting with a professor or colleague, I am aware of what I am saying in a conversation. I contact them through email rather than text and observe their email signature to better understand how they want to be addressed. 

I have learned communication skills through my work at Brandeis as a peer advocate at PARC, Prevention Advocacy Resource Center. I have learned how crucial it is to be aware when talking to someone that they have different experiences than me and I need to be conscious of that. Through my work at PARC I have learned skills to show I am listening without judgment. Through mirroring language and letting someone tell me as much or as little of their story as they want to, I try to make them feel comfortable and heard. I have learned how important it is to acknowledge my own biases and privileges in order to be more accepting and empathetic when talking with someone about a tough topic. 

Through my internship at Lines for Life I have learned that communication is key in more than an advocate role. The topics of suicide and addiction are often tough topics to talk about because of the personal connection and devastating effect they can have on someone. Prevention work requires communication with lots of different people; it requires professional communication through email with the conference presenters and those helping to put on conferences, as well as with those who are collaborating on a project. Communication is required in face to face meetings with people and at events. It also requires communication with the community to teach them about suicide and substance use and abuse. Prevention work cannot make a change from an office; it must be a group effort working with the community.

I have learned that many people get into prevention work because of a personal experience or the experience of a loved one. Because of this, I have learned how crucial it is so be aware of the language I use so as to be respectful of a person’s relationship with the work. The communication skills I learned at Brandeis have informed my thinking by making me aware of what I am saying and being aware of the language I use. It has also helped me to consciously continue to learn more about how to best communicate with someone either through face to face or through written exchanges. 

Post 2: Celebrating Diversity at the Bronx Adolescent Skills Center

When I think about what I have learned throughout my time at both Brandeis and at my internship, I realize that appreciating diversity is crucial to my success in every environment. I am overcome with this realization whenever I enter the Adolescent Skills Center (ASC) office, which is filled with bright, friendly, and unique faces. A central aspect of the work that we do here is that everyone comes from a different background and no one’s story is the same. Most people are afraid of the unknown and are made uncomfortable by new environments. To some extent, I am too, but at my internship, I learn about new people, places, cultures, and how inequality and oppression can affect a group of people. 

I come from a privileged, predominantly white suburb of New York where I would never encounter most of the struggles of teens in areas like the Bronx. Growing up, I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from or whether I would be able to graduate high school. I chose to immerse myself in the world of these Bronx teens because I believe it is important to understand different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. 

My first year at Brandeis was influential in shaping my perspective on diversity. I originally fell in love with Brandeis because of the institution’s appreciation of diversity, whether racial, cultural, or intellectual. Brandeis is a place where students are eager to learn about and support each other. This is the attitude that I bring to the ASC office every day. 

Pictured: The desk where I do most of my work and reflect on my discoveries

I am incredibly grateful to have this knowledge and perspective of diversity as a result of my experiences at Brandeis. Understanding how to respect differences has helped me navigate the more difficult and troubling interactions that I have had with students at the ASC. 

Last week, I met with one of the three students that I am advising this summer to discuss his progress on his vocational, educational, and social-emotional goals. He spoke to me about an incident that had happened to him in the past week in his neighborhood. He told me that he was walking down the street with his friend when a white woman started screaming at them about the texture of their hair. She screamed that they shouldn’t style their hair and that it is “awful.” When I asked the student about how he responded to this attack he said he and his friend “just ignored it and walked away.” When I asked him about his thoughts and feelings after the incident, he told me that it didn’t bother him because he knows that there will always be “people like that” in the world and that he is “proud to be black.”

Though I know that people experience attacks like these regularly, my student’s story was particularly hard to hear because it happened to someone that I know and support, as well as someone that is my peer. I realize that hearing of this attack was so disturbing because it would never happen to me, but it happens so often to so many other people. This is the moment where the concepts of diversity and oppression go hand-in-hand, which is exactly what we are combatting through our work at the ASC. Through my eye-opening experiences at both Brandeis and the Bronx Adolescent Skills Center, I am able to positively contribute to our fight against oppression.

Post 2: Reflecting and Getting Geared for the Gala

This summer I am beginning to recognize how my experiences in community causes at Brandeis helped shape the goals I created for my internship, and how my internship and club activities are both playing a critical role in helping me form new goals for graduate school and my career.

At Brandeis, I have focused my time outside the classroom on being involved in community causes. During my first week at Brandeis, I joined several clubs, including the Right to Immigration and the Brandeis Labor Coalition. The Right to Immigration is both a club and a nonprofit organization that exposes undergraduate students to the immigration field and assists those who are seeking asylum or refugee status in the United States by providing them with pro-bono help in completing applications and preparing for immigration interviews. The Brandeis Labor Coalition is a student group that uses our status as “paying customers” at Brandeis to leverage our interest in the school’s contracts with the worker unions on campus. For example, the graduate students were able to reevaluate their contract with our support.

My involvement in clubs on campus helped me realize that active participation in social movements can really make a difference, regardless of one’s level of expertise in a particular area. Additionally, as I hope to one day go to law school, these clubs have exposed me to interesting areas of law I might pursue in the future. The first is immigration law, specifically helping people who are applying for asylum or refugee status in the United States. The second is labor law, with a focus on helping to represent individuals who would like to discuss better labor contracts with their employers or unions who seek support and guidance in suing their employer.

Learning about these two branches of law has been monumentally helpful to me in pursuing a career path. Additionally, my newfound experience in these two fields has allowed me to feel more comfortable doing my own research into these topics and develop well-informed opinions on the issues at hand, namely labor practices in America and America’s immigration policy.

This summer, I decided to further explore America’s immigration system by working for New American Pathways. This NGO provides employment, employment resources, housing, education, child care, and women’s empowerment programs to immigrants who recently have been settled into the greater Atlanta area after gaining asylum or refugee status. This is, essentially, an organization that works with refugees after they have successfully navigated the process of migrating into the country, independently or through an organization like the Right to Immigration. 

My job at New American Pathways is not policy-heavy; rather, it is administrative, which exposes me to a broader scope of work. I am largely in charge of fundraising, which means I must convince donors about the importance of their contributions to our work.

My club and community service experiences at Brandeis have proven to be invaluable for my internship. For example, I already know how important it is to streamline the process of settling into the United States for new immigrants. Further, my experience working directly with refugees allows me to represent their voices and stories to donors. Now, when I am instructed to help organize and dictate the “stories” of the immigrants at New American Pathways, I believe I can do so with more understanding and tact than I could have before being this deep in immigration-oriented work. 

Currently, I am focusing on organizing a fundraising gala

I hope that the experiences I have taken with me from Brandeis will continue to allow my work to be fruitful and efficacious as I move towards the date of the gala.

On Becoming a New Yorker & Set Life

Moving to New York is basically a requirement if I wish to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. I knew the city was extremely loud, smelly and bustling with people who can’t see in front of them because they are blinded by all of their responsibilities. And I thought I would be able to fight assimilating to this culture, but I find myself speaking like a New Yorker with each day that passes. Despite knowing the subway map by heart, and being able to get things done in a “New York minute”, I will never – I repeat, never – run to catch a subway car.  That’s just me, haha. Work wise, I wish I felt more confident in my workplace, but that just comes with time. There are so many intricacies that come with the job one can only master after a year or so of being on sets. Working at Annie Leibovitz’s studio is definitely introducing me to much more than I could have imagined, and I am grateful for that. 

 

This job is definitely different from what I do on campus. On campus, I am able to be creative and hands-on with the videos I shoot. I collaborate with other students and we come up with ideas that sometimes change as the ideas present themselves. At my internship, everything is more administrative and less creative. I work to make sure all purchases for shoots are accounted for and organized in the information drive. I also help set up everything when we get to set, making runs if the photo team or AL needs anything. Understanding this side of the pre-production process helps me be better organized and create more solid videos on campus because I have a deeper understanding of why I should certain steps during planning and brainstorming. I also now know how to contact and book locations, plan catering and other processes I never really thought about including for my shoots. 

 

I am definitely learning the do’s and don’ts of working on set. I am noticing how specific people interact with each other and how to dress for a set prep day, vs a day at the office vs, how to dress the day of the actual shoot. Some of the things I am picking up seem like “oh, well, who cares?” kind of details, but they all play factors, however small, in how one is received and subsequently, treated on set.

 

what we and the photo team have to load and unload and load back up again every day for a shoot

Tips on how to dress for [prep] set, work, and shoot day:
1. Wear black to set preps. You will sweat. A lot. You are going to be lifting heavy equipment and running from place to place, so do yourself a favor and wear black. Especially because everyone else will be.

2. Do look nice when you arrive at the office, but it’s nice to know that you actually don’t have to wear a button-down and slacks! You can come in your favorite t-shirt if you want. Just…no jeans, please.

  1. When it comes to the actual shoot day, look up your location first to get the vibe. As a PA intern, If it isn’t a completely closed set,  you may want to go for the business casual look. Just make sure you can still do everything you did on set prep day because you will definitely be doing that the day of the actual shoot. If it is a completely closed set, you can definitely just opt for all black. You normally can also judge the first day and adjust your look for the next day if you want to “fit in”.

    There is still so much more to learn, and I can’t believe we are almost done!

Savannah Edmondson

 

Post 1: First Weeks at GreenRoots

A bilingual radio show, urban farming, and community organizing collectively summarize the first few weeks of my internship with the environmental justice organization, GreenRoots. Located in Chelsea, MA (a city just north of Boston), GreenRoots is a non-profit organization that utilizes the power of community organizing to mobilize local residents of Chelsea and East Boston around issues of environmental injustice that directly impact residents. GreenRoots engages in environmental justice work through initiatives including waterfront access on the Chelsea Creek, youth leadership development (particularly with a team of six teen leaders from Chelsea known as Environmental Chelsea Organizers), transit justice, and food justice.

Over the course of this summer, I am working collaboratively with a team of four other interns to support the GreenRoots staff across a wide range of ongoing programs. With each intern offering support for specific projects, I am involved with the food justice work and the East Boston waterfront initiative.

Before starting my work with GreenRoots, I knew that I wanted to learn more about food justice and how it is put into practice, and so I have greatly appreciated the very hands-on approach here. This involves devoting a certain number of hours each day to help out at either the Chelsea urban farm or the youth community garden by weeding, watering, planting, harvesting, and distributing food to the local residents that live in the neighborhood. These two projects (the urban farm and youth community garden) represent a very grassroots approach to working to address food insecurity through direct distribution (all the food is free) while additional events such as open community work/harvest days invite people to bring their families to the farm and learn how to grow their own food. Both of these forms of community building are an important part of the overall movement towards food sovereignty, in which members of the community feel empowered through knowledge about/access to healthy food in their neighborhood.

The East Boston waterfront initiative is an equally ambitious and wide ranging project of GreenRoots, which at its core seeks to organize community members of East Boston to address issues of environmental concern taking place along the Chelsea Creek (a body of water running in between East Boston and Chelsea), which directly impact the health and lives of residents. The major current campaign aims to oppose the proposed construction of an Eversource electrical substation on the East Boston side of the creek, as this substation would be constructed in a flood risk zone that is also a mere 100 meters away from an eight million gallon tank of jet fuel. Concerned with the potential of an explosion that could occur with this proposed site as well as alternative uses of the site that would better serve the community while not being a public health risk (such as creating a soccer field), organizers at GreenRoots are currently working to build community awareness and engagement around this project.

Lastly, one relatively new project that I have been given the opportunity to work on is a weekly radio show called GreenRoots/Raices Verdes, which is a bilingual (English and Spanish) radio show that provides space for discussions on topics relevant to East Boston and Chelsea residents by interviewing guests from a variety of local organizations who share their stories and experiences around themes such as immigration and housing. Although through a different medium, Raices Verdes is yet another way that GreenRoots seeks to build community networks and power.

[The Chelsea Urban Farm on Miller St]

Post 2: Understanding Intersectionality and Structural Violence

In the class “Anthropology of Power and Violence” with Professor Ferry, we learned about various sociological theories about power, violence, and how they materialize in the real world. Some of these theories and terms included intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, and structural violence, from Johan Galtung’s work.

Intersectionality is a crucial aspect of any social justice work since acknowledging that each person has interconnected identities and experiences is one of the first steps toward effectively supporting that individual. An indigenous woman is both a woman, and indigenous, so the marginalization she experiences would be informed by both of those identities simultaneously. This is a concept commonly used at Cultural Survival. Most of the interviews conducted with indigenous people invite the individual to discuss how their other identities intersect with their indigenous identity.

Indigenous men and women are both indigenous, but women are bound to have different life experiences because they are women, and acknowledging that with the tool of intersectionality makes it possible to adequately get indigenous women the support they really need. Even when a group shares something in common, like being indigenous, respecting differences within that group allows each person to feel fully seen for who they are.

Structural violence is another incredibly relevant concept to the work Cultural Survival does. It is violence that is embedded in government policies and practices, where a social institution prevents someone from getting their basic needs met. Colonization brought with it structural violence toward indigenous peoples. Some examples of violence are requiring indigenous children to enroll in schools where they must learn English and are not allowed to speak their native languages, and also governments forcing indigenous peoples off their lands and onto new lands that do not provide the same resources that the community would need to sustain itself. Another example is the use of caricatures of Native Americans as mascots for schools and sports teams. On June 25, there was a public hearing at the Massachusetts State House where one of the potential bills was one that would ban the use of Native Americans as mascots for public schools. This is an issue that Native American communities have been fighting for decades, but the governing structures have yet to enforce this ban. 

The Joint Committee on Education public hearing on June 25, 2019.

Generations of structural violence have led to many indigenous communities struggling with poverty and unemployment. One thing Cultural Survival does is provide small grants and assistance for communities that submit project proposals. The aim is to help provide indigenous peoples with the monetary support that structural violence has prevented them from accessing. Lack of funding is a major problem communities face when they are the victims of structural violence. Cultural Survival also helps provide monetary support for community-led radio programs that are trying to get off the ground. The purpose is so the indigenous people concerned have full control over their content, and they can discuss topics that are relevant in the language that is most fitting for their community. Cultural Survival is there to help the community get access to equipment and get on the air, which are things that structural violence can prevent. 

You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and social problems are generally bigger than what any one person can solve. Conceptual tools like intersectionality and structural violence help us understand the large-scale issues so that we can better address them.

-Christy Swartz

Post 2: Become Something New Everyday

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.“ -Michelle Obama (Becoming, 2018)

This is a quote I read while doing my daily reading on the Metro. I found it so profound that I had to read it a couple more times, and eventually  it caused me to reflect on my brief career path thus far. I originally wanted to be a computer science major, but things have changed.

When I first arrived on the campus of Brandeis University in fall of 2016, I was sure of two things. The first was that I would be need a good winter coat because New England winters are much harsher than what I was used to back home in DC. The second was that I would major in computer science. My high school was heavily STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused. Every student had to choose a STEM track of study, as well as completing five math classes and other additional requirements. I chose the information technology track with a concentration in computer science. Throughout my four years I took computer science classes and had some amazing opportunities. I was able to learn about cybersecurity, including obtaining  a certification, participating in computer science internships, and learning the basics of coding. Naturally, at Brandeis I believed majoring in computer science would be the path I followed.

Ain’t No Makin’ it by Jay MacLeod was on of the books we read for the class

However, once at Brandeis, I enrolled in “Wealth and Poverty,” a class offered by the Heller School for Social and Policy Management taught by Professor Tom Shapiro. In this class, I learned about the systems of wealth and how these systems are creating and maintaining inequality in modern society. I always knew these systems of inequality existed because I saw myself and the people around me affected by them. But I didn’t think there was a way I could actively be involved in working to dismantle these systems until enrolling in that class.  I then became more interested in policy, and mid-semester decided to drop my computer science class and focus on fulfilling the requirements for my current majors of politics and international and global studies. The person I was in high school would have never dreamed of becoming someone interested in studying law, but that’s who I have become today. I became interested in something because it affected me and the community I come from, so I wanted to become someone that could best serve my community. This summer, I see this same shift happening at Legal Aid Society.

Interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Colombia, I have seen how the organization has gone through countless changes to become what it is today. In the past couple of years, Legal Aid has created special projects including the Re-Entry Justice Project and the Immigrants’ Rights Legal Services Project. The Re-Entry Justice Project aims to help individuals facing discrimination as a result of having a criminal record, while the Immigrants’ Rights Legal Services Project helps provide resources to those in immigrant communities. These projects were created because there was inequality happening in the community that needed to be addressed.  Legal Aid is also involved in advocacy and, on occasion, cases in the DC Court of Appeals in order to create systematic changes. Although the organization has been around since 1932, it has continued to grow and become new iterations of itself every day in order to fulfill its mission of “making justice real” by working to provide the tools the community needs most.

Speaking of learning my internship site took us to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of a racial justice learning experience.

I was inspired by this mission and the ongoing work that the organization does, and that’s why I choose to intern there this summer. I was expecting it to be a typical legal internship for undergrads. However, I wasn’t expecting to be able to use my skills in HTML to help work on the online intake form.  I thought computer science and coding was something I left in the past and I had become someone totally different than my high school self, but I’ve realized that the world of work is not linear. Sometimes it involves twists and turns, or in my case, returning to a skill that one might have thought was long forgotten. As First Lady Michelle Obama said, growing up is not finite. One day we might be one thing, and the next day become something different. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer reveals to me about the organization’s constant change and the change within myself to, in the short term, become an attorney, but in the long term who knows what the future may bring because we never stop learning and growing.

-Rolonda Donelson

Chapter 2: The midway point

Over the last few weeks, I have become a lot more comfortable with the environment inside and outside my workplace. Blueport Commerce has an open space environment which creates a collaborative atmosphere. I like this because it allows me to easily ask questions to my supervisor and other people in my team. Along with this, there are pair programming desks and many conference rooms which people can use to collaborate together. My co-workers have been great and four Northeastern interns just joined last week as well. It’s nice to also have a few people my age go through the same process and learn together. In terms of outside the workplace, it has been really nice living in the city and being close to so many places. Living alone and cooking has also been a great experience.

Some of the dogs at work 🙂
Watching the Women’s World Cup at work

I have felt that the world of work is different from university life in many ways; like differences in the social environment and the practical use of what we have learned in our courses. In university, we are mainly told what to do in terms of assignments and projects which differs from an internship or job where we have to use the concepts we have learned and apply them to real-world problems. This has taught me a lot because it has forced me to learn and explore programming languages and software tools that I would probably not have explored. Recently at work, I had to learn PowerShell which is a scripting language to edit a Powershell script to make it more efficient. This made me feel accomplished because I learned something new and made something that will be useful for other people in my team. Another instance is having to learn C# and Selenium which is a web browser automation tool. It’s interesting to learn all the different things you can automate and test the websites. 

Through this summer internship, I am learning, not only programming skills but also interpersonal skills which will help me in many different areas. Last week I had to demo a PowerShell script to the rest of the team and showcase what I have been working on and how it will be useful to us. This was a nice experience to have to demo your work and also see what other people have been working on. Blueport uses the agile work environment in which we work on specific tasks for 2 weeks at a time (called a sprint) and at the end of the 2 weeks, we reflect how that sprint went and what areas we need to improve on. I feel that this is a great technique because we create goals and reflect every sprint and I think this can be used even at college. Overall, the last four weeks have taught me a lot and I am excited to see what the rest of the summer holds for me!

First Couple Weeks at Hariri Imaging Lab at MGH

This summer I am working as a research intern for Dr. Hariri at the Hariri Imaging Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The Hariri Imaging Lab focuses on the development and clinical application of high-resolution optical imaging for early detection and diagnosis of pulmonary diseases, such as fibrotic lung disease and lung cancer. The Hariri Imaging Lab also aims to increase diagnostic yield through real-time lung tumor biopsy guidance as well as the integration of in vivo optical microscopy into the practice of clinical medicine and pathology. This would create a form of virtual microscopy so that tissue removal would not be needed.

Currently, the Hariri Imaging Lab is performing clinical studies to evaluate how well in vivo imaging can detect disease in the lungs. In addition, there are translational studies which aim to create imaging criteria for in vivo imaging based on excised human tissue. The Hariri Imaging lab is developing new technology to enhance imaging modalities to identify disease.

Before the start of the internship, I had no prior experience with lung pathology or Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Therefore, I spent a week before I went to the lab reading many research papers Dr. Hariri’s lab published as well as research papers on the physics and purpose of  OCT in pathology, which is the technology that is primarily used in this lab.

Once I officially started working at the lab, the research team gave me a tour of the lab and showed me one of the OCT machines, which helped me better understand the technicalities of the papers I had previously read. For the first three days, I was introduced to the more clinical and medical side of lung pathology by observing clinical procedures and surgeries. I gained an understanding of the medical process of diagnosis and treatment by watching a resident resect a lung and then observing how Dr. Hariri diagnoses the biopsy and creates a treatment plan.

histology slide of lung biopsy

Currently, I am assisting with the research aspect of the Hariri Imaging Lab. I am working directly with the research technician to figure out a way to streamline the diagnostic process of fibrotic lung disease. I have been working on the digital manipulation of histopathological tissue samples by classifying different tissue regions. I also have been segmenting the histology slides so that the computer is able to process the histology more easily. These steps are necessary to digitalize this process. We are hoping that this digitalization of the diagnostic process will assist pathologists in determining the progression of fibrotic disease.

To date, I have already increased my knowledge of lung anatomy and the progression of disease in a formal setting. I am challenged and enjoy learning the research lab methodology that incorporates both science and medicine and with many different people in the process. I am excited to better understand the research that the Hariri Imaging Lab is focusing on each day and to learn the magnitude of impact this research has on a global scale and the importance of translational and clinical research in medicine.

Ashley Bass

Post 2: Systems in Shambles – Healthcare, Hospitals, and Homes

Did you know that Medicare has parts A to L, each with a different purpose? Did you know that despite being a public hospital, Bellevue still sends a bill to each of its patients? Did you know that 30 million people in this country do not have health insurance? Do you know what the differences are between an HMO, PPO, PSO, and EPO? There is no denying that the US healthcare system is one the of least accessible systems in our country, yet it is still objectively one of the most important. It has been a hot topic in political debates and the news, but I would argue that very few people fully understand these discussions. I am one of the few lucky people to understand the different numbers and acronyms on my health insurance card, but I am by no means an expert. Even my beginner level of proficiency took a college-level class to impart this knowledge, one that is rarely accessible to most of the population.

Our poster and interactive materials (including models of livers) on substance abuse disorders for the health fair, which is an event for the public focused on public health education.

In all honesty, the woman living in a shelter who was bounced from hospital to hospital needs to know this information more than I do. The man who decided to leave AMA (against medical advice) because he did not want to pay for his care needs to know this more than I do. The elderly gentleman who needs an assisted living home but does not have insurance needs to know this more than I do. I am not discounting the importance of my education, as I think that everyone who wants to go into the healthcare industry needs to know how our healthcare system works.

What about the millions of people who use our healthcare system daily? They have more than just a right to know; they have a right to be educated. I think that health care professionals need to capitalize on their role as educators rather than just providers–teaching patients both when to take their medicine, but also what a co-pay means and how much they are going to get billed for their visit. In reality, however, most physicians know little more than the patients when it comes to our healthcare system. It is seemingly impossible to wade through the layers and layers of bureaucracy, the mountains of paperwork, and the thousands of exceptions to truly understand this system.

How are we supposed to give our healthcare system the facelift it so desperately needs when there is no clear answer? We are stuck in this ever-draining and difficult system of insurance, administration, and government battles all speckled with inefficiencies. Doctors can still treat the patient with high quality medical care and comfort, but the healthcare system and hospital are not set up in a way to benefit the patient.

Watching how the hospital system functions has been one of the hardest things to comprehend this summer, as it does not seem to have the patient’s best interests in mind. I am not discounting the amazing work all of the healthcare providers perform, as the individuals clearly want the best for their patients. In fact, I have met some of the most passionate and empathetic people in this job, and they are the reason I can keep returning to work. But how can I just sit in this hospital and deliver clothes to the man I know I will see shirtless the next day? And when a patient walks in with an infection contracted from their homeless shelter, why is discharging them to same shelter all that the physicians can do?

My group for the health fair! We worked to contact organizations for pamphlets and education materials, while creating fun games!

When I reflect on my experience (which I do a lot), it is not the mysterious sickness or intense trauma that stands out to me; it is the never-ending cycle of abuse from the patients to the hospital and back again. In all honesty, many of these patients know how to work the system. They know what to say to the doctor, they know the rules to qualify for a detox bed, and they know how to ask for the social worker. If this is all the hospital can do for them, they might as well make it part of their routine.

Having been there for over a month now means that I am officially part of their routine, both good and bad.  Providing someone with their first hot meal in three days is one of the better moments, even if I know I will see them next week. Treating a patient with benzos (medicine for alcoholism/withdrawal) only to see them intoxicated the next day is one of the worse moments. Our healthcare system is so focused on the short-term it is impossible to see through the presenting symptoms and try to fix the problem at hand.  Who is going to spend the time to implement more stable housing initiatives through the hospital when it is so much easier to continue as is?

Again, I do not blame any individual for the way this hospital or this healthcare system is run; it has been built upon years and years of complicated policies and bureaucratic nonsense. But watching how it trickles down all the way to the patients is beyond painful. I am at a point in this internship where I am unsure if I could ever work in a hospital. I am at a point where I feel myself becoming numb to these issues, and that scares me more than anything. At this point, all I can do is continue asking questions, criticizing our systems, and craving answers. You have given me the ammunition to push myself into this system with a critical eye and an open heart, and for that, Bellevue, I thank you.

Midsummer Post: Russian Studies at AEI

Dupont Circle is, in my opinion (and I am sure that the local lease rates would support this), arguably one of the best places to live in the city because it has the perfect balance of a residential neighborhood that is just a block or two away from a commercial district packed with bars, shops, eateries and more. Walking around is especially nice because the area is filled with an even mix of nice apartments and beautiful, lavish buildings which often serve as the embassy or ambassadorial residence for dozens of countries—case in point, I am a stone’s throw away from the embassies of Sierra Leone, Argentina and Georgia. Living in Dupont Circle this summer has definitely increased my affinity and desire to move to a similar sort of neighborhood when I start working full time in the near future, wherever that may be. Some metropolises in the world never sleep, and DC may have its rush hour times, but I have come to appreciate the natural ebb and flow of human traffic in the city. Also, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to live at the International Students House in DC since in addition to being a six-minute walk from work, I made several friendships there that I am sure will last a lifetime.

At work, I have really enjoyed the process of familiarizing myself with the various writers, thinkers and biases present in the Russian media and I definitely feel like my understanding of Russia has deepened considerably since the start of my internship. I should also mention that I am a huge fan of the two highly nutritious “five-star meals” that AEI serves each day (I basically won the lottery when it comes to saving food on meals during the week). I also really love the overall ambiance and overall character of the think tank world.

The “World of Work” is a different universe altogether when compared to university life. It is much easier to settle into a consistent rhythm when you have the same 9-5 schedule five days a week as opposed to a variety of different classes interspersed throughout the week, with gaps in between for additional work. I think another major difference between university and real world life is that in a classroom setting, you are given a set of standards to meet—the technical term for that is a syllabus. In the real world, you have to make your own syllabus because after the initial training period is over, you’re on your own and people expect results regardless. This position has been far from easy, but ultimately, it has significantly enhanced my Russian reading comprehension skills, as well as my general understanding of Russian society and politics. Finally, the networking potential that I have gained just by being here for the summer is unbelievable, and I have already begun meeting with relevant connected people in the field while also cultivating a list of possible future employers.

 

 

Post 2: Critical Perspectives on International Non-Profits

This year at Brandeis, I took a sociology class entitled “Gender, Sexuality, and Globalization,” which explored sexual identities, gendered labor practices, sexual practices, and queer and feminist social movements from a transnational perspective. In this class, I had the opportunity to read critical perspectives on the employment of non-profit and non-governmental organizations as vehicles for social change. I have learned through that class and through my own personal research how NGOs serving the global south that are based in or funded by the global north frequently bring their own interpretations of social issues to the places that they serve. Unfortunately, because of this, the work of many non-profit organizations in the global north involves entering countries in the global south and essentially instructing local populations on what they should do to improve their own countries.

For example, international NGOs dealing with LGBTQI+ issues often utilize a Western understanding of sexuality or gender when serving non-Western communities. In a study I read for Gender, Sexuality, and Globalization, “The Queer Time of Death: Temporality, Geopolitics, and Refugee Rights,” (2014), Sima Shakhsari writes about how international human rights organizations frequently view sexuality as a “fixed universal sexual identity” (Shakhsari 2014, 1005). However, individuals being served by these NGOs often have an entirely different narrative of their own sexuality. Non-profits and NGOs can thus be both positive and negative forces of social change.

When searching for an internship with a focus on international development and human rights in the non-profit sector for this summer, it was important to me that I keep in mind what I have learned about the role of non-profit organizations in the global south. I found that American Jewish World Service, the non-profit where I am interning this summer, has a vastly different approach to their work in the global south. To me, AJWS’s strategy of providing grants to human rights advocates in developing countries, where activists on the ground can make a difference, is extremely effective. With a focus on marginalized people and communities, AJWS utilizes local experts who can identify and implement social change in a way that they view as being most beneficial to their community. This, combined with AJWS’s advocacy in the US government to adopt laws and policies that benefit people in the global south, is why I believe that AJWS’s model of social change is particularly beneficial. I admire AJWS’s unique approach as well as the values that motivate their work, and this is consequently why I am so delighted to be interning with them this summer.

Post 2: The Importance of Public Spaces

My experiences at the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) and on campus at Brandeis University have taught me about the importance of public spaces. If you read my first blog post, you know my role at the Main South CDC is centered around community organizing, which means I will be planning and coordinating free family-friendly activities in public spaces in the Main South neighborhood. 

On the first day of my internship, Casey Starr, director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC, handed me a book called How to Turn a Place Around by Kathleen Madden. How to Turn a Place Around is a handbook about creating and improving public spaces with a chapter dedicated to explaining why these public spaces are important to cities. Reading this book moved me to reflect and appreciate the public spaces at Brandeis University.

Before I share the answer to why public spaces are important and break down the thought that goes into creating public spaces, I should define it. A public space is a place indoors or outdoors that is generally open and accessible to people of all backgrounds. When we think of a public space our minds tend to immediately go to parks or squares however, the definition informs us the extent to what qualifies as a public space is broad. 

Public spaces unite the community. It is a gathering point for celebration through concerts and festivals. Celebration brings a sense of spirit and pride like no other in a community. Along with its collective uses, there are private reasons to enter a public space that are not limited to dog walking, jogging, biking, reading, picnics, and playing. It is multipurpose with an ability to simultaneously cater to the specific needs of many because not everyone has a quiet place to read, money for a gym membership, or a backyard for their children to play. Not to mention how different spaces carry different atmospheres. Parks carry a lively atmosphere while libraries carry a quiet atmosphere. Each space fills a unique role and purpose. 

Students especially require multiple public spaces on campuses to accommodate for population size. Observing Brandeis University’s spaces, I realized it works to cover the demand for learning/study environments (Library and Shapiro Campus Center), green spaces (the Great Lawn and Chapel’s Field), and expressional spaces (Intercultural Center and Spingold Theater Center). Brandeis knows how essential each space is for its students, which is why it devotes resources to ensure comfort and safety. 

Comfort and safety is what allows people to enjoy a public space. I will even go beyond that statement to say it is what draws people to public spaces. On Wednesday, July 10, the Main South CDC had its first concert of four at University Park. It was a great turnout that took lots of promotion and outreach. It is a beautiful, large park and the city recognizing this continues to devote resources to ensure comfort and safety so community members utilize it to its full potential. Coordinating events like the concert creates the lively atmosphere and improves the perception of the park in the eyes of the community.

Post 2: Brandeis to NCL

As a rising senior, I have accrued plenty of knowledge and skills over my last three years as Brandeis student. Above all, I am most grateful for the flexible, proactive approach to opportunities that I have developed since my first days at Brandeis. My college career started a little unorthodoxly when I received my acceptance letter to Brandeis as a midyear student. As a high school senior, I had daydreamed of walking to class in the beautiful New England fall. I never imagined that I would be moving into my freshman dorm in the dark, cold month of January after spending the fall at home.

Despite this unexpected twist, being accepted as a midyear was one of the best things to happen to me. When I began in January, I was surrounded by a cohort of midyear students who were mature, adaptable and ambitious. We each had diverse paths during our fall semester, but we all began our college years shaped by our experiences and eager to jump into campus life. Although all Brandeis students are passionate and inquisitive, I believe that midyears are exceptional in their open mindedness and initiative. Midyears are open to challenges, see opportunity in the overlooked, and are ready to hit the ground running.

My exposure to other midyears and integration into the Brandeis campus cultivated the flexibility and resourcefulness that had enabled me to take advantage of my gap semester. The Brandeis community has so much to offer, both on-campus and resulting from its location in the bustling Greater Boston area. Being immersed in a student body that is passionate and eager to learn taught me the value of reaching out and keeping your eyes peeled for opportunity everywhere. This is how I found my summer internship at National Consumers League. I saw a listing for the WOW pre-approved fellowship while going through my clogged Brandeis inbox. Going through my emails with diligence is one habit I’ve adopted at Brandeis, since you never know what random opportunities may be nestled into a message from Hiatt or a club listserv. This instance was no exception; National Consumers League seemed like a perfect fit, and the WOW stipend made moving to D.C. a financial possibility. Much like my choice to enroll as a Brandeis midyear, I decided to move to a new city and take on whatever it had to offer me.

Since arriving at National Consumers League, my adaptability and Brandeisian initiative has served me well. Although I am mostly working with LifeSmarts, NCL’s consumer education competition for high schoolers, there are always additional projects and events for interns to take advantage of. I’ve been able to write blog posts about environmental policy, work on press releases in support of lifesaving legislature, attend hearings on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, and sit in on several congressional committee hearings (including one where Alexandria Ocasio Cortez gave a rousing argument in support of Obamacare). I would not have been equipped to participate in these experiences if it wasn’t for the ability to bounce between projects and jump in wherever needed and be proactive. These strengths, cultivated on the Brandeis campus, have allowed me to make the most of my time at NCL and in D.C., a city with countless cultural, professional and educational experiences to take advantage of.

Myself and several other NCL staffers standing with Presidential candidate Jay Inslee at a protest outside the U.S. Customs & Border Protection building.

I see a similar open mindedness and passion in National Consumers League itself. The organization has four main priorities–Health, Privacy, Labor and Food–but often shows flexibility in the work it takes on. The NCL understands that many other issues are interwoven into these topics. They show a well-rounded commitment to the consumer through collaboration with other groups and a willingness to speak up on issues beyond their immediate scope. One perfect example of this occurred last week, when the staff attended a protest organized by educators’ unions to call for better conditions at the border. Although NCL does not have an official focus on immigration, the staff understands that immigrant rights are inextricably linked to many issues within our labor department. It is inspiring to see the intersectional nature of social justice work firsthand at NCL.

It has been eye-opening to see how national nonprofits like NCL and other like-minded groups interact. When doing social justice work, it is essential to remain flexible, collaborate and find solidarity wherever possible. I believe that the adaptability, can-do attitude and proactivity I have gained as a Brandeis student and NCL intern will be an asset to me in the future, inside and outside of the nonprofit sector.

Post 2: The Historical Link Between Slavery and Mass Incarceration

During my sophomore year at Brandeis, I took a class with Professor Mischler called “A  Global History of Prisons” that examined the historical link between slavery and mass incarceration we see today. As part of my work with Partners for Justice, I often visit the prisons in Delaware to meet with our clients facing issues with mental health treatment, re-entry services, or case outcomes. As I speak with our clients and observe the prison floors with hundreds of inmates dressed in all white, it is clear that the majority of those in prison are people of color, have mental health issues and/or come from a low socioeconomic background. 

Howard R. Young Correctional Facility is a level 5 prison in Wilmington, Delaware which houses approximately 1,500 inmates.

It is imperative that we understand and recognize the true nature of our nation’s history of crime and punishment of people of color and low-income people because the parallels today are disturbingly apparent.  Through a misguided war on drugs that disproportionately targets people of color, we have increased criminality as a means of oppression and enslaving people of color behind bars. According to Michelle Alexander, more black men are behind bars or under the supervision of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850. She writes that, “…denying African Americans citizenship was deemed essential to the formation of the original union.  Hundreds of years later, America is still not an egalitarian democracy.” Whether through convict labour or mass incarceration, under the guise of crime prevention, we have continued for almost two hundred years to rationalize the bondage of poor black men and women. The evidence is so clear and the damage so deep, yet we have not mustered up the will to acknowledge and change our criminal justice practices. History continues to repeat itself.   

When thinking about this history, it is easier to contextualize how mass incarceration plagues this nation today and how organizations like Partners for Justice must respond to these injustices. Principles of due process forbid us from physically shackling prisoners to walls, but solitary confinement and other penal practices allow us to metaphorically shackle prisoners inside their own minds. This devolution reflects America’s shortsighted and reactionary penal policy, as well as a general disregard for the welfare of the people (disproportionately men of color, many of whom suffer from intellectual and psychiatric disabilities) who populate our prisons.  This is why organizations like Partners for Justice and the Delaware Public Defenders advocate for systemic change in the criminal justice system. 

As I think about my internship, I try to consider the historical influences which has made today’s legal system so oppressive. Following the end of chattel slavery, Southern states looked towards incarceration as a mechanism of bondage and suppression. In order to incarcerate large numbers of newly freed black people, Southern states had to increase criminality through the use of black codes. As part of these black codes, vagrancy laws were enacted to increase criminality among black populations. Of course, these laws that increased criminality were justified as a war on crime. Vagrancy laws and convict labour were not only economically beneficial, but an extension of the bondage aimed at preventing any rise in black political power. As Michelle Alexander notes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, convict labour and vagrancy laws were used to “…protect their economic, political, and social interests in a world without slavery.” We see a similar system of oppression and exploitation in our criminal legal system today. It is up to groups like Partners for Justice and Public Defender Offices across the country to fight for an end to increased criminality and unjust punishment. 

Post 2: Breaking Free of History – Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

While working in the Housing Unit at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, I bring the historical frame of reference and the ability to critique that I developed at Brandeis. 

A public service announcement on the Green Line about what the MCAD can do.

I first became aware of racial housing discrimination, specifically redlining, when I was still in high school. Redlining changed the way America looked forever and through the government’s support of efforts to lock families of color out of white neighborhoods, the most steady and reliable method of wealth accumulation was denied to them. The racial homeownership gap remains a persistent feature of the racial wealth gap, although closing it is not sufficient to close the wealth gap.

The first time I studied this in college was during Professor Knecht’s class where we examined redlining through the lenses of capitalism and gender. I came to work at this agency with an understanding of American legal history that Professor Willrich and Professor Cooper helped me develop. They helped shape my views on legal marginalization, the history of dispute resolution, and what an agency like MCAD should do. Beyond that, my time at Brandeis has just further fleshed out why people discriminate in housing. Brandeis has helped me examine things in a much wider scope through a more comprehensive lens. This is something I owe to my peers as much to my professors. I can thank my work at The Right To Immigration for giving me the experience of listening to peoples’ story and helping them navigate a system completely unfamiliar to them. This is another really crucial skill at the Commission. 

Now, the Commission will occasionally see cases of steering, mortgage discrimination, and discrimination in lending, but housing discrimination is actually much bigger than that. Failure to grant a reasonable accommodation for a disability is one of the leading complaints the commission receives. If you are a potential renter with children, landlords sometimes will not rent to you out of a desire to avoid the de-leading process, or the desire to not even check if there is lead. People who receive rent assistance or social security disability insurance often face landlords who refuse to rent to them, oftentimes out of ignorance for what the law actually says.

One complainant told me that she knew landlords discriminated against her all the time because she had a housing voucher, but this one landlord happened to say it in an email, so she just had to bring it to the Commission. This then makes us stop to think, even if someone did not know they could not refuse to rent to someone because they had a housing voucher, why did they think they could in the first place? Where did their preconceptions about people who need public assistance come from? Why did this landlord not believe the law would protect them? If they knew about the law, would they still have done the same thing or did they simply think they could get away with it? And what about all those cases where the landlord does not make it obvious? Or all those people who do not believe reporting will do any good? This is where the difficult work of education, direct action, and systematic change begins. 

Brandeis prepared me for what I would see at the Commission but it also maintained my blind spots. I am grateful to be coming back to school with a better idea of what I want my education to mean and what I want to do with it.

Post 2: Rose and Thorn

Through my academic work at Brandeis, I have learned that curing psychopathologies is rather difficult. Even after recovery, patients might still relapse. Therefore, early intervention and support on social-emotional learning are important.

People don’t just have mental disorders all of a sudden. They might start with a small concern or bother and then it gradually progresses into an affliction. With professional support, patients can better handle those concerns and keep them from growing into a blaze, which can prevent further difficulties in the future.

Despite this information, we rarely talk about early intervention in the classroom. Therefore, before my internship this summer, early intervention was only a vague concept to me. I did not really know how it is developed and carried out. To me, it seemed like a magic stick and somehow it was developed by some professionals to save children from mental distress in their futures. That is until recently, when I took over the role as a social-emotional learning curriculum developer at PEAR (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) for early intervention, which exposed me to how complex the process is.

The past few weeks of my time at PEAR have been a mixture of fun and struggle. In the first couple days, I received training on the Clover Social-Emotional Development Model and pretended we were middle-school kids as we tried out the activities and games in the curriculum manuals. It was a lot of fun. But as I started to do the actual work to further develop other manuals for this group of curricula, I realized that I underestimated the hard work required to develop such a fun and audience-specific curriculum for the early intervention of mental disorders.

I have sat at the desk all day for weeks conducting literature reviews, and looking for evidence provided by researchers to figure out what mechanisms and practices would be effective to support different populations of students at early adolescence with different needs for mental support. At times, I felt my research findings were never enough and that many research findings were inconsistent. Furthermore, deciding which practices should be implemented in the curriculum manual to guarantee effectiveness has not been an easy task, beyond also making the curriculum kid-friendly and engaging.

Me with my colleagues

Fortunately, my colleagues and supervisors are very supportive. Every week, we brainstorm potential activities for the curriculum based on the research finding. I also carry out field test experiential of those activities to keep refining the curriculum manuals according to feedback. Even though I am working on intervention of mental health burdens, my focuses are not limited to dimensions that a certain population need support on. Kids are very complex. Kids who need mental health support do not just have a combination of several symptoms. In order to help kids balance among different dimensions of abilities, we need to take both strengths and weakness into account. Even though this process contains a lot of twists, turns and frustrations, I am glad that I am working on intervention curriculum that will make a direct impact on children, especially those who are in low-income communities.

Continuing my Internship at the Jewish Museum

I love working at the Jewish Museum. Growing up outside of New York City, I had the frequent privilege of walking along Museum Mile throughout high school. It was always a dream to be able to work at an institution on Museum Mile, in the company of so much great work. This summer, at the Jewish Museum, I have the opportunity to be surrounded by these museums that I admired so much when I first began to study art. In my work at the Jewish Museum I am doing research for an upcoming exhibition about a female art dealer named Edith Halpert. In addition to the research I am doing at the Jewish Museum itself, I am also doing research in the extensive Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an opportunity I have because I am at a Museum on Museum Mile and can easily visit the many museums in this area during the workday. As I am going into my senior year at Brandeis, I am beginning the process of writing a thesis in art history during my time at the Jewish Museum. As I develop my research skills in my work for the museum, I am also able to take advantage of the Museum’s archives to develop my own research I will use in the coming year. 

My World of Work internship allows me to see how my academic training in art history translates to the active art world. A museum is a business, after all, and there is so much that goes into getting the awesome art on display. In my internship, I am learning so much about the inner workings of a museum. As public programs intern, I interact with many people who are featured in the evening events hosted by the Museum. This past week, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City held a concert at the Museum. Part of my job included ordering the pizza for students before the concert. While this may not seem like the most glamorous aspect of art institutions, these young performers needed dinner! Although ordering pizza is not directly related to art, this part of museum work is imperative to creating good programming. As much as I love the research I get to do at the Museum, this part of my internship makes me proud because it relates to the Museum’s ability to function smoothly. In addition to a chore like this, I am assisting in the day-to-day tasks that go into programming for a museum, such as managing contracts and sitting in on meetings regarding the logistics of these events. I am gaining a lot of organizational and technical skills that are crucial to the smooth running of art institutions. I love the academic side of art history but I find it exciting to do the tasks that may seem less creative — this is the work experience I’ll need to bring my creative ideas into fruition in a gallery, museum, auction house or other sorts of art space one day. 

Hannah Kressel ’20

Post 2: Language justice and other learnings at GreenRoots

One of the core values of the work environment at GreenRoots that has left the biggest impression on me is how the organization and those in it put language justice into practice. In a society that very often prioritizes English over other languages, the matter of translation is also often assumed to mean simply translating English into other languages, and not as much the other way around. Since GreenRoots is a bilingual organization using both Spanish and English, one way that language justice informs how the organization operates is that staff meetings are typically conducted in Spanish and then translated into English only as needed. This routine practice is an example of what it looks like to try shifting the dynamic that often places unequal burden on non-English speakers in order for those people to be able to access information, resources, and conversations relating to the work of community organizations.

I have observed that it is equally as important for this to be the case not just in communication within the organization among staff, but also throughout community engagement such as at events. While it is one step to provide materials such as event flyers in multiple languages, or even to use a Spanish script when door-knocking/canvassing, using only these methods can limit the opportunity for meaningful conversations with community members, which are crucial for those representing an organization to use as opportunities to listen to the hopes and concerns of local residents.  

For instance, the majority of conversations that take place at events such as the free canoeing/kayaking days on the Chelsea Creek take place in Spanish. This is highly important because it is in these conversations with individuals in which we contextualize the canoeing/kayaking event with its multiple purposes – to improve open and free access to the waterfront for the community, and also to raise awareness around the proposed construction of the electrical sub-station (the no to Eversource campaign mentioned in blog post #1) because people can literally canoe/kayak right up to the potential construction site.  

Chelsea Creek on free canoeing/kayaking day

Working with GreenRoots differs from academic life mainly in that connecting with people and building relationships with community members takes a longer time and happens on a slower timeline than when living on a campus where other students, faculty, and other administrators you may want to get in contact with can all be found in very close proximity to you and each other. I do not think that this is a negative comparison, it simply means that it takes more creativity in order to engage people outside of a confined university context.

Helping out with community events like the canoeing/kayaking days on Chelsea Creek has been just one example of such creativity that simultaneously puts language justice in practice.  

Post 2: Combatting Savior Narratives at Tahirih Justice Center

Particularly within the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department at Brandeis, my classes this past year have compelled me to think a lot about the savior narratives that many organizations tend to have towards women and girls transnationally. Classes such as Professor ChaeRan Freeze’s WMGS 5A and Professor Harleen Singh’s Postcolonial Feminisms had me thinking about campaigns that reinforce the idea that women and girls of color in largely non-Western countries need saving from their patriarchal culture and the men in their culture. This kind of narrative degrades women by portraying them as helpless without the aid of Western non-profits or service workers. Particularly within the immigration context, it is easy for asylum-seekers to feel re-traumatized and as if they have lost control of their autonomy/story/narrative in the immigration system. This savior narrative, which is driven by many non-profits that serve refugee populations, acts to take away individuals’ narratives even more.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous when I first heard about the Tahirih Justice Center (which primarily serves women and girls who are victims of domestic and gender-based violence), as I thought it would be another organization to reinforce this harmful narrative. However, since working at Tahirih, I have found that they do all in their power to combat this savior narrative and actually empower their clients to take control of their lives and stories. In fact, on many Tahirih advertising and informational materials, they describe their clients as “courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence.” The efficient services that Tahirih provides–including pathways to immigration status and social services like therapy and help finding housing–allow clients to take control of their lives again. This is particularly important for victims of domestic violence here in the U.S. Many of our clients are completely reliant on their abusers when they first seek our services, and Tahirih does everything in its power to provide them tools to lead independent, self-sufficient lives.

This mindset of empowering clients (even in an immigration system that does a lot to disempower them) is what I am thinking about as I start assisting on one of our lawyer’s VAWA cases this week. VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, was put in place specifically to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence and give them a pathway to status that may otherwise be barred by an abuser. I am looking forward to sitting in on an interview with the client and the lawyer, during which the lawyer will ask questions that will help us write the client’s declaration. I will be observing the ways that the lawyer phrases questions so as not to re-traumatize the client, but rather to give them space to tell their story exactly how they want to tell it.

Tahirih Justice Center’s 2017 Impact Report.

I am also excited about a project I am working on that is a resource guide with information about how to prepare for ICE immigration raids, with information about knowing your rights, hotlines to report ICE raids, hotlines for domestic violence, and family planning guide. This user-friendly resource contains information that is catered to our clients and is meant to give them the resources they need to stay safe during potential raids.

It has been inspiring to see that Tahirih is truly working towards the mission to empower its clients–who are made up largely of women and girls. It has been a valuable learning experience thus far to partake in work that supports this mission.

Ellie Kleiman ’21

Post 2: Learning about Language Justice

I had the opportunity to go to the Lights for Liberty protest in Boston Common on Friday, July 12 to stand in solidarity with immigrants jailed at the border

One of the most important skills I have learned at Brandeis is how to write concisely and accessibly. Last semester, I took Professor Vijayakumar’s “HIV/AIDS, Society, and Politics,” course. One of my first assignments was to write a 2 to 3 page analysis of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a country of my choice; I chose Brazil. In just 2 to 3 pages, I was expected to include data about Brazil’s HIV incidence, HIV prevalence, the social groups most affected by the epidemic, how the Brazilian epidemic compares to epidemics in the wider geographical region, and what progress Brazil has made in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Along with everyone in the class, I found it challenging to distill all the necessary information down to 3 pages, and my task wasn’t made any easier by the sheer amount of data that exists about Brazil’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The experience of writing the data analysis taught me how to write concisely and accessibly and extract relevant statistics from large data sets. With a maximum word count, there is little room for superfluous data or flowery language. In addition, Professor Vijayakumar emphasized the importance of taking your intended audience into account when writing a data analysis and making sure it’s accessible. 

In the first few weeks at United for a Fair Economy, I’ve found that they, like Professor Vijayakumar, stress the importance of making all of your writing accessible to your intended audience. You cannot claim to work for economic justice while simultaneously making your work inaccessible to the people you claim to be helping. UFE works with many people who don’t have any postsecondary education and who don’t speak English, and UFE makes sure everything they produce is accessible to these audiences. They discourage the use of jargon and acronyms; a rule of thumb in the office is that the average tenth-grader should understand all of our communications. In addition, UFE is very conscious of the marginalization of those who don’t speak English and is committed to language justice. All of UFE’s communications are published in both English and Spanish and UFE conducts bilingual (Spanish and English) Training of Trainers for activists and organizers. 

Last week, Madeline and I had the opportunity to write a blog post about immigration policy for UFE’s website. This blog post gave me a chance to put UFE’s commitment to language justice into action. We started the blog with a history of US immigration policy, an overview of the multitude of problems with America’s current immigration policy, solutions that have been proposed so far, and UFE’s idea of what a humane solution to the immigration crisis looks like. At nearly 2,000 words, I’m not sure that the blog can be called concise. However, we made sure that it’s free of academic jargon and superfluous information. Our piece assumes that our readers have some knowledge of the US immigration system, but aren’t versed in all of its intricacies. While it currently exists only in English, it will be translated into Spanish before it goes up on the website. In addition, Madeline compiled a list of organizations advocating for immigrants’ rights locally and nationally. It is important to keep in mind that while learning about the roots of America’s current immigration crisis is necessary, such learning is useless if not coupled with action. 

Halfway Through!

I’m about halfway through my internship at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and I have enjoyed it immensely so far. While the Office of Regional and Multilateral Affairs unfortunately has no windows, my colleagues and the interesting information that I am constantly learning about makes up for the lack of sunlight. I have been lucky to work closely with two of our office’s staff who previously did internships with the State Department. From their own experiences, they know how valuable it is for me to work on substantive content and have assigned me projects that have allowed me to better understand issues like women’s empowerment programs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the relationship between NEA and Congress. Unlike when I’m at Brandeis and have a set schedule with classes predetermined at the beginning of the year, my projects differ more frequently at my internship, and I have the opportunity to further research and explore interesting topics as I learn about them.

In general, working at the Harry S. Truman (HST) building, which is also known as the main State Department building, has allowed me to have access to additional interesting opportunities. Conferences that are held at HST are easy for interns to slip into. One example of this was when I had some free time in my schedule, and I was able to sit in on a panel discussing space initiatives around the world. This coming week, the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be occurring. I will be volunteering as a control officer, which means that I am assigned to escort a distinguished guest who was invited to attend and speak to a panel about her experiences as a survivor of religious persecution. I look forward to this responsibility as much as I look forward to the panels that I will be able to sit in on promoting religious freedom that will be occurring throughout the three-day event. When panels are not happening, there is still so much to see and do throughout HST. In one corner of the building, there is the Hillary Rodham Clinton Pavilion, which currently has an exhibit on consular and diplomatic work throughout the world.

 

So far, I have had the opportunity to develop my technical writing skills by writing summaries of events I’ve attended, congressional briefings, and reports from the embassies and consulates throughout the region. While the skills necessary for writing academic, lengthy papers are valuable, it seems that concise summaries will be more useful if this is the line of work that I ultimately end up in. Another skill that I have developed and during the first half of my internship is an appreciation for attention to extreme detail. When preparing documents for the senior leadership of NEA, I have developed the habit of double checking the amount of spaces and the formatting of each aspect of the document to ensure that the highest quality document has my name on it at the end of the day. I will continue improving  on this transferable skill, making sure that each document look appropriately uniform and organized.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.

Learning in the Lab

Over the last few weeks I have become comfortable and familiar with my work environment in the Columbia Irving Medical Center. It is now a routine each morning to walk 20 blocks from my apartment in New York, go into the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons building, go up to the 15th floor and begin with my work, looking at kidney transplant rejection in the department of pathology and cell biology. My mentor is kind and helpful and wants very much for me to learn as much as I can while being helpful to her. This has created a very positive experience for me in the lab, and has enabled me to explore many opportunities to learn more.

In the pathology lab, I have learned a great deal about tissue staining and cellular imaging, both of which I knew very little about prior to my internship. While preparing for my internship, I read about kidney anatomy and function, but I now understand the microscopic level of biopsy samples and how to properly decipher cellular images. Just recently, my week was spent doing a multi-day staining lab procedure. The lab process was a three day process of intubation, buffer washings, and rinsing of different chemicals. The goal of the process was to do a multiplex “stain” where antibodies were used to stain particular cell tissue, so that the different dyes could identify different cell types clearly under a microscope. For example, if there can be 6 different dyes on one kidney biopsy tissue cross section, then we stained with an antibody for different types of T-cells, B-cells (both lymphocyte immune cells), macrophages, nuclear stain (DAPI). In simple terms: we want to see if the kidney was attacked by the immune system. When having the antibody bind to the antigen on different immune cells, it allows us to see under a microscope if immune cells are all over a kidney.

Normally, if the body has a foreign body, it is great for the immune system to attack the pathogen or cancerous cell and try to destroy it, but in the case of a kidney transplant, it is actually terrible. We want a patient’s body to accept the kidney transplant as something that’s trying to help. After the staining, the slide can then be looked at under a microscope, images are taken and then these images are analyzed further on advanced biotechnological software to count cell types electronically. By looking at the types of immune cells, their spatial orientation and the quantitative amount in certain areas, it is possible to determine how to better prevent kidney transplant rejection.

My work at the Irving Medical Center with the help of “World of Work”, is different from university life in an exciting way. In my course study at school, it’s easy to get lost in a book and lose sight of the larger purpose and real benefit to serving the medical field. In other words, potentially lose sight of how you can impact the health of people in the real world. This experience is making the connection of scientific study to improving the health of patients very clear. It is strengthening my motivation to work in the medical field and to continue to pursue studies in science. I have now seen the direct impact that medical professions have on individual people’s lives. Our analysis is directly helping current patients as well as helping to further the study of successful kidney transplantation.

My work at Columbia is certainly going to help to improve my skills and confidence in the laboratories at Brandeis. It has also helped to strengthen my analytical and reasoning skills over the summer. So far, I’ve had a lot of fun and learning along the way!

Arielle Leeman, 2022

Post 2: Teamwork at Avodah

This past year at Brandeis, I learned the value of team effort whether it be in academics or extracurriculars. The non-cut-throat environment that Brandeis facilitates truly works in everyone’s favor. When my friends make study guides for tests, they would share them with me. As I am called the Quizlet Queen, I would complete my royal duties of sharing my quizlets with them. We are all reaching for the common goal of attaining a certain grade, so why not spread the joy of study materials? When it comes to extracurriculars, my a cappella troupe displays to me the value of working together. Although a test grade won’t validate teamwork, ears will surely do the job. If we haven’t individually practiced our parts, the cumulation of music will not sound correct. Additionally, the troupe has different roles such as music director, president, business manager, and even birthday celebration coordinator. The responsibility of each of these roles are crucial to a smooth semester of music and performances.

What could resemble teamwork more than the US Women’s Soccer Team? I stumbled upon their parade on Wall St. on the way to my internship last Wednesday.

This idea of working together has been prevalent at Avodah, but in a more professional way. Teamwork is especially shown every two weeks during staff meetings. It is here where I see the meaning of team effort at its finest. The meetings entail a more holistic experience, and they are not solely business and numbers. Last meeting, Executive Director Cheryl Cook decided to start out by asking each staff member, “What is a talent that you have that is not utilized at Avodah?” After answers such as boardgames and baking, topics got a little more serious. Subjects included budgets, goals, updates, and what Avodah stands for. Cheryl will steer conversations and do a lot of updating herself, but a great chunk of staff meetings involve hearing about the work that everyone’s been up to. This usually follows with some variation of validation ranging from a smile to “amazing job.” Additionally, everyone gets the chance to talk. After every update, questions and comments are greatly encouraged. Often, follow-up questions bring up a new topic or something that hasn’t been thought about that can potentially push forward progress and the organization.  

My work of updating long lists of donor information or doing research may not seem crucial to the organization’s stability, but there have been ways in which my work is acknowledged. For the data component of my internship, one of my projects was to look up individuals associated with Jewish Experiential Education. I came up with a list of names and information. Once that list was finished I received emails from the D.C. branch of the non-profit appreciatively reacting to my work. For the communications aspect of my internship, I do varying tasks. My supervisor is the director of communications and part of her job is to order merchandise for Service Corps Members and Fellows. She asked me to research websites that make sustainable and customizable items that people will likely use day to day. One of the items I found were reusable, bamboo utensils. A week later the utensils came in and they were a hit. My supervisor got countless compliments of the utensils and I know I attributed to that in a small way. I have found having a supportive network can truly make a difference of what one puts into the job.

-Jolie Suchin ’22

5 Week Journey: Running A Hospital

This blog marks 5 weeks into my internship journey where I have fully immersed myself into the experience as a New York University Medical School employee. Throughout my experience thus far, I have learned an abundance of crucial skills important in a work environment. Moreover, I have learned insights into the process of hospital medical school operations. 

We have many weekly meetings at my internship and during these meetings I learn about how research and operations in a medical school works. I have always been aware that medical school is a hard journey; however throughout this experience I have concluded that running a medical school may be quite harder. There are various teams and leaders from diverse backgrounds required to come together to ensure a medical school and hospital runs smoothly. Running a big operation like a hospital requires everyone to pay attention to the small details.

As for my specific role, the intern team has different skills and assets, therefore we are assigned different projects. My projects specifically are correlated with research and data analysis. I conduct a lot of data cleaning and statistical analysis on large datasets using R, SPSS, and STATA. I always work efficiently and quickly to provide my results at every meeting and to demonstrate my strong work ethic. 

As an intern and part of this team, I am often jumping around to various locations. I usually work at Bellevue Hospital Center or NYU Langone Tisch Hospital. Since the majority of my work requires me to be on a computer coding I am often sitting at a cubicle or out on the balcony at a desk. 

As someone who has been working since I was 16 years old, I have always had a strong work ethic. However, since my internship has been a 5 days a week 9:00am-5:00pm job, I have begun to understand the lifestyle of a full-time working adult. I enjoy having a routine schedule where I work efficiently for 8 hours a day and then I have my evening to relax or catch up on other responsibilities. 

One of the best aspects of my internship is that every week we meet different members of different teams in the hospital to understand their role. We witness people from different backgrounds working on completely different projects in the hospital; however, they are all an important part of helping the hospital run efficiently. I believe these events allow the interns to make connections with people working in different fields. Personally, I have enjoyed meeting all these people and making connections. I learn about so many different careers essential in a hospital. 

During the remainder time at my internship, I will continue to work diligently to complete all of my projects and be prepared to present the results of my projects in the end. Moreover, I will continue to make great friendships and connections during my time at NYU Medical School and in New York City. 

 

Post 2: Seeing Vulnerable Populations in a New Light

The word jail immediately brings to mind images from a first-grade field trip to my town’s holding center. A group of sodden-looking seven year olds walked through a row of cells under an overhang of harsh fluorescent lights. Afraid to step too far to the left or the right, we walked past cells with people’s heads hanging low to avoid making eye-contact with the curious, small faces cautiously peering in. Even as a first-grader I remember having a pit in my stomach as I passed through that long hallway. Automatically associating the jail with terrible crimes and people my parents told me to avoid at all costs, my insides churned at the idea of imprisonment. On a separate occasion, a driving instructor directed me to a high-security prison. Eyeing the silvery barbed wire and high gates, the instructor commented, “I wonder what you have to do to end up in there,” sending chills down my spine and my hand to place the gear into reverse. 

The concept of vulnerable populations was first introduced to me in Sociology of Body and Health. Some populations, such as pregnant women, the elderly, or racial minorities, made sense to me, and others, such as the incarcerated population, caused me to raise my eyebrows. 

How can a population that is known to illicit violence and unrest among the community be considered vulnerable? Working in Bellevue’s Emergency Department (ED) and learning more about Riker’s Island, the largest jail in the world, has taught me a great deal regarding the circumstances surrounding incarceration in the United States and in particular, its intersectionality with race and gender. 

Riker’s Island Jail, home to New York City’s main jail complex.

Riker’s Island, home to New York City’s main jail complex, has recently been under fierce debate. Known to house up to 15,000 inmates, and notoriously known for the violence and corruption within its walls, it has been proposed to close within ten years by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The plan, though highly controversial, aims to reduce incarceration rates by 25%, create a more humane environment within smaller jails, and provide inmates with more opportunity for growth and recreational activities. Studies have shown that providing inmates with educational and therapeutic socialization, as opposed to traditional solitary confinement and violence, is indicative of a positive return to citizenship and a lowered re-incarceration rate. 

Part of a doctor’s job is to release patients back into a safe environment, but what happens when that environment is a vague and misunderstood idea? Healthcare providers often fail to fully comprehend the true conditions that incarcerated individuals are released into. Oftentimes, inmates are mistreated, abused by other inmates or guards, and are constantly being disrespected. Learning more about what it is like to live on Riker’s Island, I realize that my uneasiness surrounding the idea of imprisonment isn’t necessarily placed on the prisoners themselves–rather, on the unrealized dangers surrounding the prison system in the United States that has turned what is meant to be a system of rehabilitation and reform into a grossly violent and unjust environment. 

Kailef Browder, a teenager held at Riker’s Island for three years without trial was eventually released with dropped charges.

Take Kalief Browder, a sixteen-year old African American boy at the time of his arrest. Browder was held in solitude for over three years at Riker’s, without trial, for stealing a backpack. Ultimately, the trauma of abuse and confinement led Browder to commit suicide when he was released back into the custody of his parents at age nineteen. Browder’s trial had continuously been delayed by the courts until they decided to drop his charges, but at too large of a cost.

Graph depicting the racial disparities in incarceration rates. Data is taken from Prison Policy Initiative.

It is not a secret that incarceration rates disproportionately affect people of color. African Americans are more likely to receive longer, harsher sentences than their white counterparts and are more likely to become incarcerated in the first place. There is little evidence to indicate that either race is unequally committing the same crimes, so why does this discrepancy exist within our jails? Imprisonment is a life-changing event. Having a criminal record makes it extremely difficult to obtain employment in the United States because of the stigma surrounding incarceration, regardless of the crime committed. 

This stigma is something I personally encounter at Bellevue. Incarcerated patients treated at Bellevue come from Riker’s Island. Nearly 85% of inmates at Riker’s are still awaiting trial. The liberty of “innocent until proven guilty” is something that I consciously have to remind myself of when I see a patient handcuffed to their stretcher or a corrections officer hovering in their corner. Making an effort to remind myself that this person could be in for anything, from subway fare-evasion to multiple homicides, has helped me come to the rationale that it is not my place to judge or fear them. Their basic human right is to receive the same quality of healthcare that is given to every other patient that walks through the ED. 

A personal goal of mine, after learning more about Riker’s Island in particular and observing the care given to incarcerated individuals, is to distance myself from the ideas I was taught surrounding imprisonment. Realizing that there are many factors that determine incarceration beyond simply committing a crime, I have shifted my view on prisoners to see them as capable of redemption and of having a second chance in our society. Changes in my body language and time spent speaking with prisoners, reflective of how I interact with other patients, helps incarcerated patients recognize my positive take on their current state.  

The incarcerated is a population that I will inevitably encounter as a future healthcare provider and I am so grateful to have interacted with them in a healthcare setting as my career is just beginning to develop. I understand their positions as a vulnerable population better. Following this experience, I want to educate myself more on the vast number of issues surrounding mass incarceration and I stay hopeful that proposed criminal justice reforms will begin to stabilize the inequalities that permeate our justice system. 

I recognize there is a much larger societal movement needed to address vulnerability among our groups, particularly the incarcerated, and so I leave you with some food for thought: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman because it often results in physical death.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Post 2: Discovering Popular Education

Last semester I spent three hours every Wednesday in deep discussion about the future of the US and the policy that is going to get us there. My professor, nine graduate students, and I analyzed proposals from policymakers and economists, but we also put forth our own proposals. The course, “Political Economy of the Welfare State” at the Heller School, provided a new learning environment that I embraced.

Sara, my coworker, and I in solidarity with a coalition of organizations pressuring Fidelity Charitable to stop funneling money to hate groups.

I was taking the class with students who had life experiences to build from. Unlike most undergrads at Brandeis, I had a classmate with a baby at home who was experiencing the necessity of accessible childcare. I had a classmate who had bought a house and realized it was the worst decision she had ever made. Through sharing personal stories with each other, we were able to develop ideas for long-term policy that would benefit us.

Not long after I finished the class, I was seated at the Newtonville Diner with my advisor talking about the year and my ideas for the thesis that I am preparing to write in the fall. My advisor gave me a few words of advice: 1) find patterns in what you are told not to study and lean into them, 2) find what inspires you, but also what makes you angry, and 3) think outside the box, as fresh, new ideas are valuable. I left invigorated by her open perspective and her trust in me. My conversation with her helped me to understand why I liked the Heller class so much: it helped us tell our own stories, learn from them, and develop solutions that would work for us.

United for a Fair Economy fosters a similar environment through popular education. Popular education is an educational methodology that incorporates lived experiences and critical analysis with a race, class, and gender perspective in order to challenge systems of oppression and bring about social change. UFE supports movements for economic and racial justice by holding popular education trainings where organizers can develop facilitation skills, collective knowledge, relationships, and movement strategies that can be used to strengthen justice efforts nationwide.

Participants in a popular education and healing justice Training of Trainers retreat that I was able to attend at the beginning of my internship.

Popular education incorporates personal experience into learning environments so that the content is relevant and the knowledge that participants already hold is shared and valued. This is done by sharing stories, looking for patterns, and challenging norms. This is ultimately what my classmates and I were doing as we talked about policy.

My internship at United for a Fair Economy has helped me find clarity. In many ways, it has helped me to build upon the knowledge that I have learned through my studies of labor and employment policy as well as my movement work for economic justice. It has helped me to value long term efforts such as education, healing justice, relationship building, and constant dialog. I am thinking about all of these components as I develop a plan for my thesis, and this understanding and knowledge will only continue to grow as I continue in this work.

-Madeline Bisgyer ’20

Post 2: Opportunity at The New York State Attorney General’s Office

One of the most important things that I learned at Brandeis was to take every opportunity presented to you because you never know where it may lead. During my sophomore year, I had a class called Immigration and Human Rights with Professor Doug Smith. In this class, we learned about immigration systems and practices in the United States and around the world; the international treaties and institutions affecting migration; and the history of immigration policy and rhetoric in the United States. Over the course of the semester, I became more and more interested in immigration law. During one class session, two Brandeis students came in to discuss a new club they were forming and asked if anyone in the class wanted to join. My first thought was that I was too busy and had many other commitments. However, I thought about it and decided to go to the first club meeting.

A recent press release from Attorney General Letitia James

After that first meeting, I went to every subsequent meeting of the club, which is called The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII). TRII helps immigrants navigate legal issues through consultation, workshops and legal representation. In this club, I am being trained to represent asylum seekers and non-citizens through immigration proceedings. I host drop-in hours every week where I help with client intakes and assist clients through every step of the immigration process. In addition, I am now on the E-Board serving as the community relations director. In this role, I help publicize TRII and help it reach a wider audience. My passion for immigration work and helping people who have limited resources is what led me to the New York State Attorney General’s Office internship and I think is part of what made my application stand out. Overall, taking advantage of the opportunities you are presented with is something that I learned at Brandeis and will continue to practice throughout my life.

One of my fellow interns, Rosie, handling a mediation call at her desk.

At the New York State Attorney General’s Office, one thing that I continue to notice is that opportunity is not always available to many of the people that we serve. This is why it makes it even more important to try and help these people using all the tools the NYAGs office has to offer. For me, it is an opportunity to help people in need and it is also one of the few opportunities our constituents have to solve some of their most pressing problems. I am a mediator, which means I try to make both parties involved in a conflict come to an agreement. I treat every case like it is the constituents’ last chance to solve their problem. This approach helps not only the people I serve but helps me better develop the useful skills needed in negotiations and the mediation process in general.

Post 2: The power of coalitions, from our campus to our courts

Alliance for Justice is a coalition organization. In our work, we seek to be collaborative in finding the best strategies for crafting a progressive court. The work is more than just having 120 organization names that we can put behind our work. In my time at AFJ, I’ve sat in on huge meetings, gone to protests, set up calls, and hosted events, all designed to foster greater understanding between us and the groups we work with.

A prime example of this was the census decision. While at AFJ, we deal mostly with nominees, so many of our partners in the fight for fair courts were deeply invested in ensuring an accurate and fair census count. When the decision came down on the last Thursday morning in June, we were on the steps of the Supreme Court walking the picket and supporting the important work of groups like Common Cause, The Leadership Conference, Casa, and more. 

5 interns with signs from Alliance for Justice standing in front of the Supreme Court.
A group of AFJ interns at the Supreme Court the morning of the census and gerrymandering decisions.

In my work organizing at Brandeis, whether it be for transgender rights, gun violence prevention or civic engagement, I’ve learned that working in coalition like this always, always strengthens a movement, for a few reasons. First, having a broad base of support simply means your issue reaches more people. On a college campus, that means you’re able to talk to more groups of students that may never have thought about your issue until then, or you can activate communities into causes closely related to what they’re already doing. At Alliance for Justice, and in the world of national political organizing, it means more people are talking about your issue. When it comes to the courts, that is essential, because so many people don’t realize how much is at stake.

But more importantly, working in coalition means that you can learn from your partners. Here, we brought in reproductive justice organizers to give a training on making the movement for a progressive judiciary inclusive of queer and trans folks. Reproductive justice, especially questions around abortion access, is often a top-line issue in federal court fights, given the fragility of Roe v. Wade. By making these discussions more inclusive, we can start to change the conversation so that public opinion, legislation, and court decisions start reflecting these attitudes as well. 

Now, while organizing both at Alliance for Justice and at Brandeis, I plan to always ask myself what other voices could I bring to the table on this, or what voices have I not yet heard. Being in DC gives you so many opportunities to see collaborative work, from the small discussions we have in our conference rooms to the Jewish- and immigrant-led protests against deportations at the House buildings.

A group of protesters at the Spirit of Justice Park in Washington, DC.
A group of protestors (including me!) waiting to enter the House Office Building to protest the inhumanity of our government’s treatment of immigrants.

The most central lesson I’ve learned since being here is the value of realizing that I will always be learning. Becoming an organizer is a continuous process with no set end. Everyone that I’ve talked to here has mentioned that they are always learning, and being in coalition with so many groups willing to educate is a boon to that mission. It’s a privilege to be able to learn from so many different sources, and I will continue to do so as I develop as an organizer.

Post 2: The Truth Behind the “Unneeded” Help

Meet my team: Kevin (my boss) and Rachel (one of my coworkers)

As an underprivileged Asian American, I continuously fought for my opportunities. Opportunities did not come easily to me because of the many barriers in place due to my ethnicity. In particular, Asian immigrants—like my parents—face xenophobic stereotypes assigned to them like the “forever foreigner” narrative that causes great discrimination for Asians in the job market. This means Asians cannot access similar programs available to other minority groups like welfare due to the expectation that they are successful, so they do not need help. While I acknowledge my family’s experiences, I have never known it was a collective feeling amongst the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community until after my first semester in college.

When I took my first AAPI course—Introduction to Asian American Studies with Dr. Day—I understood that my truth is also other people’s reality. As I left my first lecture, I remember the crinkles from my furrowed eyebrows. I was unable to fathom the treacherous stories that lie within each scar of an Asian American’s hand: the marks of anguish for being refused by their own country—America, the cries of sacrifice stoned in their souls, and the lashes of alienation marked in historical novels. This class taught many topics: the stereotype of the “model minority” myth,  Asians’ forever foreigners narrative, and the sacrifices from the AAPI community. Because the perceptions of Asians as the model minority are deeply entrenched in our history, little attention is devoted to the AAPI community.

Therefore, my passion for assisting other Asian Americans arose because of understanding this information. I began to realize the many limitations and lack of opportunities provided to Asians to advance themselves, despite being born in America. This information explains why CPC (Chinese-American Planning Council) provides a positive impact and is crucial to the AAPI community: it combats common misconceptions. Through understanding the AAPI’s deep history with the US, I finally comprehend the significance of CPC’s mission: it provides services to the AAPI community that the government denies.

Understanding the importance of my contribution to CPC’s overall mission, I maintain my resilience through adversity. At times, it is difficult to establish fundraising initiatives and coordinate events as there are many restrictions—financial difficulties and understaffed workers to name a few. However, despite enduring several adversities, I am devoted to using these challenges as my motivation. I would execute creative, alternative solutions when there is a lack of resources for the bar fundraising event and when building the new tech program. I ensure, though, that with these modifications, my plans still align with CPC’s mission. I even take the initiative to research other grants to guarantee that CPC’s underfunded programs and lack of staff will not be an issue after the summer concludes. CPC’s mission and its influence throughout the AAPI community are what motivate me to continue instead of asking for an easier task. My greatest respect for CPC and the knowledge I gained as a first-year are the reasons I am confident and proud of the internship I am in.

My work desk

If you are interested in seeing a day in my life as a CPC intern, click on the URL link: https://youtu.be/oP3d9xouklw! Enjoy 🙂

The Halfway Point- Lessons Learned So Far

My new work environment has exceeded my expectations for my summer internship. I find the work I am doing to be meaningful and feel like a valued member of the department. The projects assigned to me have been thought provoking and I have received mentorship from other members of the office and fellow interns. Transitions can be difficult, but I feel well adjusted and am set in my routine. 

Many lessons I gained in college have prepared me for the modern American workplace.  College teaches us to be diligent, take pride in our work and follow the instructions to meet requirements. On the contrary, academia teaches us how to be curious, ask questions and explore our interests. We are taught to capitalize on our skills and improve upon our weaknesses. All of this has translated into valuable preparation for the workforce.

In many ways, the world of work is quite different from university life. In college, a class is eighty minutes and our free time outside the class is our own. The standard American work day is much longer, and while breaks are encouraged, it is expected that we are productive throughout the day. As students, we wake up and more or less know what the day will hold. We know our extracurriculars, jobs, clubs and classes. Class syllabi limit the number of unexpected assignments. In contrast, work is much more exciting and surprises can arise at any given time. 

Through this internship, I am improving my research skills. As I enter my senior year, being more confident in my ability to conduct research will prove valuable. I am also becoming better at time management. I am learning how to make the most of my day and keep myself organized. My schedule can be unpredictable and hectic, and I live through my planner. I am also learning to maximize my productivity in my 9-5:30 workday. This was in part my realizing that it is necessary to take breaks from my desk. Sitting in front of a computer and focusing can be difficult, so now I run up and down the stairs several times a day. Seriously, it works! 

Now that I am settled in, I am working to be stay organized.
My desk at AJC! I live through my planner, which is always front and center on my desk.

An unexpected skill I have learned is self preservation. Humanitarian work, advocacy and politics can be draining, and at times, depressing. I find this work to be extremely rewarding and continue to believe this is the right career path for me.

In Judaism, we are taught to have a moral obligation to help those in need and create a better world. This concept is called tikkun olam, which translates to “repairing the world.” So, while this can be exhausting, knowing that I am fulfilling a mitzvah, a Jewish commandment, is empowering. 

– Sarah Berkowitz

Post 2: A Cog in the Wheel

Over these past two years as a student at Brandeis, it is fair to say that I’ve realized my college experience is defined just as much by my learning experiences outside of the classroom as it is by my experiences within a lecture setting. Perhaps the most important skill I’ve built since becoming a Brandeis student is the ability to take what I have learned from my coursework and incorporate that knowledge and understanding into how I live my life. The entire purpose of learning, in my opinion, is not to merely memorize facts and figures, but to gain an enriched perspective through the lens of a given person’s field of study. Bridging this gap between life and information learned from class is certainly a feat in itself, and potentially the most valuable skill I have attempted to master thus far.

As an intern at the Sierra Club, a lot of the work I am receiving is a small cog in the works of a much larger project. Therefore, it can oftentimes feel challenging to understand how what I am doing is significant in combating climate change and climate injustices. For example, one project I am working on with a fellow intern will ultimately involve creating a map to display disparities in solar installations per capita in predominantly white neighborhoods as compared to predominantly black neighborhoods, predominantly LatinX neighborhoods, predominantly Asian neighborhoods, and neighborhoods without a racial majority in six cities around the country. The goal of this project is to have a visual display, which can relay that regardless of class and regardless of solar potential, white neighborhoods are the most likely to have the greatest solar per capita.

While the project as a whole is extremely exciting and seemingly rewarding if we are able to succeed, the fact remains that these past few weeks have mainly consisted of me and my fellow intern collecting all sorts of data, merging files, and spending lots of time performing simple math equations. With projects like this one, it is quite easy to feel frustrated by a lack of obvious progress towards our overarching objectives.

Throughout the early stages of these sorts of projects, I have thought back to my time at Brandeis in classes such as statistics and biology. In these courses, I learned about valuable scientific discoveries, discoveries that I could connect to my own life or to the world around me. At the same time, I oftentimes received works that seemed far from tangible or meaningful to the bigger picture. But I came to grasp that these smaller steps of understanding are just as integral to creating great change.

If nobody focused on the more monotonous sides of work–the data collection, organizing the Excel sheets, calculating averages–the larger scale goals could never be reached. My time at Brandeis has taught me that there is always a way to bridge this gap; it all depends on your mindset. So, during my time at Sierra Club, I am choosing to view my internship tasks as a step in the direction of a seeable difference, but I am also trying to understand that not everything I do is going to be a part of the next great breakthrough in climate change-related disparities.

School And Work Are Nothing Alike

Outside the main treatment area of UVa

I have always felt like I was being treated like an equal, as opposed to being simply an intern, which I have greatly enjoyed.  The sense that I am being helpful and that that help is valued is wonderful.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know the people that I’m working with, both as colleagues and friends outside of working (and getting introduced to some wonderful new foods from the restaurants nearby).  It feels like I’m doing something useful with my time, especially because I get to read the thank you notes that departments send after we’ve done a simulation for them.

The type of work that I’m doing is very different from what I do in school.  So much of college is spent doing input-type work: reading, memorizing, trying to retain as much information as possible, with a little bit of time spent doing output/mental work in the form of assignments and papers.  Interning has had bits of these, but interspersed with social work (coordinating with people), physical work (prepping simulations and moving the training supplies to different rooms in the hospital), and routine work (making individualized schedules for a class, going through post-training survey answers).  The balance of tasks between different parts of my brain makes this type of work much more sustainable for me, whereas the constant input that school requires tends to wear me down.  Seeing that not all jobs are as energy draining as school makes me much more optimistic about what post-college life will be like.

I am learning a lot about how to best phrase things.  Part of running simulations means convincing department heads that it would be worth it spend money out of their budget to pay for the training.  During the training themselves, and during the routine classes the center runs, the way feedback is given to participants makes a big difference in what they take away from the training.  I am seeing how different departments structure their teams and how that changes the ways people work together.  In addition, my EMT skills are improving, as I get to see what happens to patients after they leave the care of EMS and transfer to the hospital. 

I am also seeing how long it takes to bring a project from start to finish.  From a department head requesting a simulation, to the discussion on what the scenario for the simulation should be, clarifying learning goals, putting together the supplies for the simulation, and doing the paperwork afterwards, all for an hour training session.

Give ’em the old ‘Razzle-Dazzle’

     In order to make it in the world of showbiz, one must “Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle”, as Billy Flynn says in the musical Chicago. No matter if you’re under the lights or behind the curtains, it is important to always provide your best work- even when you have little to work with. As the Production Management Intern at Speakeasy Stage Company, this summer I have indeed learned to both “razzle” and “dazzle”.

Cords galore!

Though I have had experience in onstage and backstage work prior to this summer, these past few months have opened my eyes to the world of theater administration -a fundamental sequin of razzling and dazzling audiences that many forget to acknowledge. I have learned how to complete weekly finance reports, write journal entries for box office revenue, and comprehend 990s. My advisor blew my mind when he introduced me to ‘Quickbooks’, a computer program that houses all the financial information of a company who chooses to use it. (You would not believe the millions of numbers, codes, and breakdowns of every dollar spent.) I even set up sound equipment and new desktops complete with essential software programs for the office, something I never expected to do while working in theater. 

     Theater administrators are often tasked with as many jobs as what multiple employees would be hired to do at a non-art company. While theater employees love and value the work they do, they are also well aware that they must make every dollar count because there is not an ounce of sparkle to spare. This being said, it is important to know your worth as an employee- something I learned at Speakeasy’s weekly ‘How to Get Hired’ seminars for interns. As an intern, one should always be on the lookout for new tasks to learn because doing such demonstrates your hard work ethic. However, as an employee, one should be aware of his/her/their compensation in relation to the jobs they are hired to do. If a company is asking for more than what they are paying, the job may not be a good fit. This is something I was aware of in the workplace, but never related to the theater scene. I always assumed to do as much work as possible because theater jobs are hard to come by. 

A Leko light

Lucky for production interns, not every day is spent in the office. I got to participate in striking a set from a past production. I learned how to take down stage lights, something that was on my list to learn for the summer. A ‘color blast’ is a rectangular light that literally blasts the stage with color. In contrast, a ‘leko’, also known as a ‘Source 4’, provides directed light. Learning the lingo is certainly beneficial when demonstrating your worth as an intern. I also had to breakdown the platforms of which the audience’s seats are placed because we had to set the theater in a new configuration for the next production. Working alongside me for the day was a man who also works as a sound designer. Throughout the day he described various tasks he does in sound and offered to show me equipment on the next show he would work on. The more outgoing and helpful you are, the more people you will meet who will be all the more willing to help you!

     I was also invited to sit in on the first creative meeting for our upcoming production, Choir Boy. (It was on Broadway this past season!) The director explained the role of the audience, the set designer brainstormed transitions between scenes and production management considered what type of choreographer to hire- all of which were essential to putting on that razzle dazzle. I was mesmerized listening to everyone on the creative team discussing the vision of the show. A couple days later, the marketing department asked for extra hands in setting up equipment for an interview with the director. I have knowledge on how to do that since my dad is a photographer, so I pitched in. Because I helped in a department other than my own, I was asked if I’d like to learn about filming/photo editing software! (Another activity to check off on my bucket list!)

                                                           Get tickets here!

     The harder you work to help a company shine, the more opportunities they will give you to do so. After all, if you can’t razzle and dazzle yourself, how can you expect others to do the same?

 

Amy Ollove ’21

 

First Weeks at UVa HealthSystem

In the main training room, the manikin and mock headboard to simulation a hospital room. This was where Intern Bootcamp was held.

I’m interning at UVa’s Life Support Learning Center this summer.  UVa Hospital is a 600 bed Level 1 Trauma Center and tertiary academic medical center with multiple outpatient treatment centers.  The Life Support Learning Center provides simulation training and education in medical emergencies for the hospital staff, which includes everyone from the doctors to the administrative staff.

So far, I’ve helped run an AdvancedEMT class with the Prehospital Program (our sister department) as a patient during their final practical exam, and helping to set up the skill stations the day before.  I also helped with ATLS (Advanced Trauma Life Support), a required class for the new doctors that we run every June, a logistically challenging class to organize.

I help run Intern Bootcamp for all the first year residents at UVa (doctors who just finished medical school and have never been in charge of a patient before).  We take groups of five residents, one at a time give them a basic patient scenario, where the patient isn’t dying, but something is not going right.  At the end of 5-10 minutes, the group(the residents, their chief – people who finished their third year of residency and are in charge of orienting the first years) sits down and talk about what went well and what could be done better next time.  It gives the first year residents a chance to be the one making the decisions about a patient in a place where they can’t really mess up, so that when they first deal with an actual patient, they have something to fall back on.

One of the bigger projects I’ve been a part of is running a board game type simulation for the Emergency Department (ED) management staff.  UVa just finished building a new wing of the hospital, which the ED will be moving into soon.  Along with a new layout comes new challenges for where to place patients to make sure no one nurse or doctor has too many, or has two on opposite sides of the department.  We got a large map of the new department, creating fake patients (cards with made-up patient information on them), and ran a simulated Monday.  Every half hour some patients come in, some go out, and people can be moved around within the ED.  This simulation has shown the pros and cons of the new floor plan, places where things tend to get difficult, and has allowed the ED staff to play with different techniques for dealing with these difficulties.  This way, when the new ED opens, they’ll already know how to handle it.

This summer, I wanted to improve my time management skills, which I think is happening slowly but consistently.  I wanted to see if I enjoy being in an organizational or teaching role, both of which I have decided I definitely enjoy.  I wanted to be able to take a project from start to finish.  All of the simulations that I’ve worked on so far have either been routine simulations that were already put together or new simulations that were already in progress when I arrived.  However, as the summer continues there are some simulations that have been scheduled but work has not begun on, and I am excited to work on those.

Post 2: The Vehicle of Change

JFK and his journey to fight for change. P.S. I work in the JFK building, where this picture was taken.

Thus far, my Brandeis experience has allowed me to set and achieve both communal and intrinsically individual goals. Aside from my academic accomplishments, I began to shape and perfect the goals I wished to accomplish outside of the classroom and vice versa. The considerable advantage of the Brandeis experience is how the classroom and community complement each other, pushing individuals like myself to stretch our goals to the furthest boundaries and spheres of the college experience.

Some may call it a self-awakening, or an epiphany of sorts, where you suddenly see the rudimentary elements of a passion for one subject develop into something more. No, this passion did not develop from the news or the textbook, but rather from my sophomore year Business Law course. Torts, contracts, injury, discrimination—all of it gripped me as relevant and controversial, not merely historical fact or minutiae. Professor Breen engages his students with an intellectual experience rather than the tedium of spit-back textbook verbiage. The fictional cases assigned for us to argue in an essay format made me feel as if I was defending someone’s livelihood or business. I wrote with vigor and true conviction, trying to best present all the facts and assumptions succinctly and with precision.

Throughout the semester, I would arrive at Professor Breen’s office hours with a list of questions to further clarify the complicated UCC (Uniform Commercial Code), Supreme Court precedents, or any other mysteries of the law. As the semester progressed, the national news became a hotbed of discrimination lawsuits and hearings. I listened to the testimony and judge rulings, feeling empowered in that I could now comprehend the myriad legal jargon. I suddenly realized my college experience had come full circle. My knowledge in the classroom began to enhance my understanding of the surrounding world. The exhilaration I felt did not dissipate in the coming weeks but rather laid the foundation for my newfound passion for social justice and the rule of law.

After working at the Women’s Bureau for over six weeks, I have begun to piece together the nuances of different issues in light of the sociocultural norms we experience every day, especially as women in the workforce. My courses as a legal studies student at Brandeis allowed me to approach my internship from a sharply legalistic lens, but also within the context of the world we inhabit. Issues are complex and cannot be solved on a whim but it is important to be persistent or else one will not invoke change.

The women who I have the pleasure of working alongside at the Bureau embody this and have motivated me to see the positive, yet slow-moving, aspects of change. We cannot always look forward and project our hopes and dreams for a better future because of the immense heartache it may create but we should always strive to look back and feel a sense of pride in our journey. As I finish my internship in the coming weeks, I realize I may have only made a minuscule impact on the lives of working women but this is the truest source of comprehensive change.

Post 1: The kickoff to my internship at Avodah

These past few weeks I’ve learned a bunch: to pay attention to subway signs so that I do not end up in Brooklyn, sleeping by 11p.m. is vital to my well-being, and most importantly, the value of social justice.

This summer I am the data and communications intern at Avodah, a Jewish social justice nonprofit organization. Avodah’s mission is to work to improve the causes and effects of poverty. This is done through a year-long service corps where young adults are placed into different organizations. These placement organizations serve a multitude of causes such as education services, health services, housing, hunger, immigration, legal services, and more. This wide variety of injustices Avodah fights against is what initially drew me to the organization. As an undeclared major that is leaning towards Health: Science, Society, and Policy, I felt that a nonprofit working with health services organizations gave me the opportunity to explore those interests and possible career paths.

There are two components to my internship: communications and data. For the communications half, I develop social media marketing, work on the Avodah Spotify account, and organize and compile emails. The data aspect of my internship entails mainly working with Salesforce, a database that breaks down information from donors. My job is to make sure their information is up to date. I do this by researching individuals and their affiliations (usually a synagogue, congregation, or university) to see if they are currently working there. If they are not, I update their information. Additionally, I’ve been researching Jewish Experiential Educators for the prospect of them building a relationship with Avodah. Although my data work may seem robotic-like at times, one of my first days here I had a meeting with Jill Hertzler, the Director of Individual Giving & DC Community Director, that changed my perspective. Jill stressed the importance of my work and data hygiene, especially for a relatively small organization that relies on their donors. For example, clean, specific data allows for more personalized emails. Only through clean data will an organization be able to continue making those multi-dimensional connections to more and more people.

I’ve learned about many technical, tangible skills such as customer relationship management systems (aka CRMs), but also the importance of work culture. The people I am surrounded by at work definitely have an impact on the work I put in. I’m very lucky to be working at Avodah because the work culture is very welcoming. One of my first weeks here, I had a meeting with the Executive Director, Cheryl Cook. She displayed the importance of a friendly work environment. For example, there is an Avodah award passed along to a different staff member every staff meeting to commemorate the work they are doing. It’s amazing to see staff supporting each other and validating the work they’ve done.View from the rooftop looking over the East River into Brooklyn.Avodah playlist – take a listen!My desk space.

– Jolie Suchin

Post 1: First Weeks at Restore Justice Illinois

The Restore Justice Foundation is a nonprofit based in Chicago that works to promote criminal justice reform within the Illinois Department of Corrections. I found this organization through my mentor that I was connected with through the Brandeis Athletics Mentorship Program. After doing research on the organization, I decided that its mission was something that I am passionate about and I want to pursue further. The Foundation is committed to ending inhumane and unconstitutional practices in all facets of the criminal justice system, working on issues from sentencing reform to prison conditions to re-entry policy. The organization hosts events in the community such as advocacy trainings, prison visits, and lobbying days at the state legislature. It also meets with legislators in session and works on getting bills passed into law in order to help reform the criminal justice system in Illinois.

Their most recent accomplishment was getting HB531 passed in the last session. That bill, which is now law in Illinois, outlawed juvenile life sentences without the possibility of parole, which had been the case since 1978. HB531, which is now Public Act 100-1182, allows individuals seeking review the right to an attorney and the Prisoner Review Board. This bill had been worked on by Restore Justice for the past six years, and was passed right as I began working for the organization.

Restore Justice Illinois does most of its policy work while the state legislature is in session, so while the summer is not necessarily pushing policy work, it is a time for the organization to do important work in preparing for the issues we want to push during the next session. One of my biggest jobs for the summer is to work on restructuring our website. I am working with our new communications hire on restructuring the website, as well as creating new content for it. Our hope is to be able to create more resources for the public to be able to come to our site and learn about the background of the issues we have chosen to pursue as well as more about the structure of the Illinois prison system. I want to bring the skills I have learned at school in terms of research, writing academic work, and my passion for these issues to help the organization create a space for the public to learn about the fight we are engaging in, and hopefully draw support (both in sentiment and in monetary donations) to keep doing the work we are doing and to be able to expand our reach.

I am one of three interns we have working currently. I started at almost exactly the same time as Wendell Robinson, who is at the organization doing a 14-week apprenticeship in order to figure out if he wants to pursue this field as a career. His focus is on fundraising and financial support for the organization. As a nonprofit, we rely on donors to help us have the resources for the work that we do. The picture is of him and I and was featured in the monthly newsletter for the organization. Overall, I love the organization and the people I am working with and I am excited to learn and grow in my skillset and my activism over the rest of the summer.

American Enterprise Institute: Russian Studies

NB: A Russian text version of this post should be available shortly on the Brandeis GRALL website.

My name is Micah Pickus and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University majoring in Russian Studies with a double minor in Politics and Islamic/Middle Eastern Studies. Next semester, I will begin working on my senior thesis, which will focus on arms control and

nuclear weapons (more specifically) in the late Soviet era, as well as the modern era. This summer I am interning under Dr. Leon Aron at AEI in Russian Studies. AEI is located in DuPont Circle, and is just a few blocks from where I am living this summer. AEI is a very busy, bustling place with a wide variety of disciplines studied. Every so often, AEI brings in some notable speakers. Most notably, IMF Director Christine Lagrande came to give a talk a few weeks ago.

My primary task each day is to compile a Daily News Packet for Dr. Aron. This consists of identifying different analytical prose in both Russian and English regarding the current situation in Russia (especially with regard to Putin), as well as analytical pieces discussing the international or Eurasian political climates. From time to time I also help Dr. Aron with his travel logistics, as he is about to depart on a 3 week business trip to the Baltics.

Work station with two computer screens
My workspace at AEI.

Even with Dr. Aron leaving for three weeks, I am confident I can make a lot of progress in continuing to improve my Russian throughout the course of the internship. Luckily, the place where I am staying this summer happens to have one Russian-speaking resident, and that has enabled me to practice conversation away from work, which is really wonderful and beneficial to maintaining and improving my Russian language skills.

Conducting open source research in English and Russian is a great way for me to broaden my horizons and gain greater control over the subject material. The most exciting part of the internship by far is that it is entirely possible that in Dr. Aron’s next publication, he will cite a news article or op-ed in English or Russian that I was responsible for finding in the first place. Dr. Aron is a well-respected member of the scholarly community on all things Russia related, so the chance to assist him with his research is a great honor and I am certain that by working with him, I will only learn more about the field.

By itself, my work is hardly impressive, but it has significantly reinforced my Russian-English translation, reading, writing and speaking skills in just the first few days. Considering the fact that improving my Russian skills across the board is a primary goal of mine for the summer, I think as long as I can continue to speak with Dr. Aron and the one Russian resident at my summer living residence on occasion, I think I will meet my goal for the summer.