Passing the Halfway Mark with the ICM Program

Having just passed the halfway point of my internship, my outlook of the Integrated Chemistry Management (ICM) Program has changed. Initially, I was outraged at the blatant waste of resources spent on chemicals. Some schools had so many chemicals that they didn’t need to purchase any for another ten years. Outrage became acceptance, then resignation. The current school system enables a lack of accountability, knowledge and guidance with respect to chemical management, safety, disposal and protocol.

One school that stood out was Billerica High School. There a chemistry teacher explained that when she first came to the school there were many unknown and spent chemicals, which would be stored in a separate storage area. When teachers don’t know what to do with a chemical, they keep it. This trend carries on due to lack of accountability and oversight leading to an accumulation of RCRA hazardous waste and nonhazardous waste. She further shared that a new facility is being built in three years and that funding was allocated to ensure that the new chemistry labs and storage spaces meet current standards. Timing wise, it was best that Billerica reorganize their chemistry labs before moving to the new facility to avoid transporting old, banned and spent chemicals there.

The school may be the oldest I’ve visited so far this summer. The chemistry laboratories were quite grimy and there was an excess of everything from chemicals to glassware to over the counter products, materials and apparatus. It had lots of RCRA hazardous waste and banned apparatus including 60 mercury thermometers. Consolidating compounds and separating waste from remaining chemicals allowed me to make a number of observations and think about the work I’ve been doing this summer. I noticed that some of the most dangerous chemicals are the prettiest. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) lists a number of transition and heavy metals (metalloids), concentrated acids and bases, and alcohols as hazardous. They fall under the categories of corrosive, ignitable, toxic and reactive. All nitrate salts are considered RCRA hazardous waste because they are oxidizing agents. Chromium nitrate is an oxidizer and toxic. Other hazardous but colorful chemicals include copper sulfate (blue), cobalt chloride (pink), iron oxide (orange), potassium dichromate (orange), potassium chromate (yellow) and so on.

Chromium nitrate
Chromium nitrate crystals
Cobalt Chloride crystals
Cobalt Chloride crystals

The responsibility of disposing RCRA hazardous waste lies with the manufacturer. However, some chemicals are so old that companies have merged or were bought over the years. For instance Welch Chemical Company became Seargent Welch, and eventually their packaging transitioned from glass to mainly plastic. In order for Billerica to dispose of their unwanted chemicals they will have to bring in a hazardous waste company. I hope our efforts will help chemistry teachers there to reduce or halt their spending on chemicals for a number of years, and increase safety within the classrooms.

To learn more about RCRA visit: https://www.epa.gov/rcra/resource-conservation-and-recovery-act-rcra-overview and the ICM program visit: http://www.umassk12.net/maillist/msg00362.html

Midpoint Reflections at IIB

It’s hard to believe that I am more than halfway done with my internship. I started my role the day after I finished finals, and I have exactly one month left at the International Institute of Boston (IBB). When I arrived at IIB, I was somewhat overwhelmed with program acronyms and the names of services offered. Now, I’m at a point where new staff are shadowing me in my work. There is a new Employment Specialist, and she often comes to me with questions about clients and programs. I still love the work I do as well as my increasing responsibilities. Surprisingly, a big boost in confidence actually came when my supervisor left the organization. I was worried that I would be left with many questions and feeling somewhat directionless, however, I have just become more self-directed. I am confident in my ability to direct clients who need help looking for jobs, proactively reaching out to clients by phone, filing reports, and running the Cultural Orientation Program or the Workforce Orientation Workshop. When one client told me he got his Social Security number on Friday, after class on Monday, I scheduled an appointment with him to apply for jobs on Wednesday. I now have a better list in my mind of which companies our clients succeed at and which clients and companies make for a good fit.

My view from a table where I often meet with clients in our temporary space
My view from a table where I often meet with clients in our temporary space

The world of work is different from university and academic life, but I have applied university and academic life to my internship. I love my work because I am a hands-on learner. I learn best from experience, and I think I will learn more skills from having an internship than from sitting in a classroom. Some skills I have built relate to problem solving, communication, flexibility, patience, resilience, teaching, language, and even technology. I have worked at the front desk directing phone calls that I did not know how to answer. I have worked with another intern to create a status report of certain clients neither of us had ever worked with. I have had to figure out how to teach people who do not speak English or French. Resilience is a major skill I have built, and it has helped me problem solve and be patient. I have also learned the importance of communication. These skills are all transferable to my future – academically, professionally, and personally. I see academics as a way to learn information, have discussions, ask questions, and gain interests. I have used knowledge from my Politics and Economics classes, and I have applied experience as a Waltham Group coordinator and Teaching Assistant at Lemberg.

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Free Fun Friday at the Edward Kennedy Institute. Sylvia (other intern I teach with, pictured here) and I decided to tour the clients around ourselves, because we could more effectively explain US government and history than the official tour guides, as we catered to their English levels and related the material to their refugee status.

It has sometimes been hard to work in a temporary space so I look forward to moving into our brand new building in early August. I am also excited to take the refugees on more Free Fun Friday trips, and to go to many of the places I have been to while growing up near Boston. I am also enjoying the Olympics games which for the first time has a Refugee Olympic Team. This team is different from the Independent Olympic Athletes. The Olympic committee states that “Ten refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 this summer.” I think having a team of refugees is important because it shows how the international community can respond positively to the current European migrant crisis and the Syrian Civil War by allowing these athletes to compete in the biggest sports event in the world, despite the fact that they cannot be in their home country. I know I will be watching and thinking of what my clients have gone through and left behind before starting a new life in Boston. In my last month, I hope to use all the skills (and Spanish) I have learned, and to think more what kind of work I want to do in the future.

Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18

Proximity

Working five days a week is similar in a lot of ways to going to classes five days a week, but it is also very different. In both cases, there are times when there is not a lot of work, and I have time to work on long-term projects. But there are also frantic days before a big event, in the world of work, or a big paper, in school, where it suddenly seems like there is not nearly enough time.
This week, we had a graduation for the New York City corps members, an event that almost 100 people attended. It was really amazing to see all of the different people come who had been inspired or affected by AVODAH’s work, whether it was rabbis or alums of the program, many from many years ago who still stayed connected to AVODAH. It was also nice to see the event come together so well after all of us the office had been preparing for it.

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My name tag from the graduation

I appreciate working at AVODAH because of the work environment. Not only are all of my co-workers helpful, but everyone is also deeply engaged into their work. People discuss not only how to get their work done, but also why they are doing it and the larger implications of social justice work in general.
For example, we are currently reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, which talks about his work as an lawyer with disadvantaged clients on death row as well as children who had been sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed when they were sometimes as young as 13. Although AVODAH does not work directly on legal cases, one central concept in the book is proximity, which is a concept that is deeply embedded in AVODAH’s work. Stevenson argued for the need for proximity saying, “This is my challenge to you: We need to embrace need. We need to get closer to the problem. Human beings have the capacity – when we get close – of finding our way to justice.”* AVODAH corps members directly engage with the populations they are serving, so they can better understand what those populations want and need, instead of simply assuming what they need or the corps members deciding.

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I think proximity is really important, but I also think that there is the risk that it can be used to simply assuage someone’s guilt, rather than actually address the problem. For example, I went on a service trip in high school that had policies that forbade giving out any food or goods, both of which were not related to the service we were doing there. When the trip first started, I did not understand why. We were in a very poor neighborhood and I did not have to look hard to find something easy that I could do to help someone, like giving a child water or food. The program did not ban giving out food or goods to be stingy, but to try to ensure that relationships were not just a relationship where one person gave and another received, but rather a relationship between two equals. While I do not necessarily completely agree with the policies, by the end of the trip I understood why they were there. They forced me to look beyond simply giving a child a little food and then feeling good about myself to grappling with why the children needed food in the first place and what my role as an American was in the causes.
Proximity is an important tool in social justice work, but I think it can be also dangerous, which is why it is so important to have discussions and truly grapple with the issues, like what I think is happening at AVODAH.

*Quote is from: http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2014/11/bryan_stevenson_huntsville.html

Lydia Ruddick-Schulman ’17

Midpoint Reflections at Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health

 

Midpoint Reflections

 

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What summer looks like at Harvard!

Now that I am more than halfway done with my internship at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health it is time that I reflect upon my work here so far! I have definitely become more comfortable with the working environment at the lab and feel like I am a helpful part of the research team.

After the initial excitement of starting out my internship, the next couple of weeks were a bit trying. There was a big push for data to be entered into Excel so a good portion of my time was devoted to data entry. After figuring out how to correctly code the data, I found the work to become monotonous after typing for several hours straight. On top of that I developed tendonitis in both of my wrists from typing too fast and incorrectly so I was a little bit disheartened. However, I remembered from the WOW advice given to me at the start of my internship that I should “embrace the grunt work” and try to look at the bigger picture of the work being done. I really took that guidance and applied it to my internship setting. I recognized that while the day-to-day typing was not the most glamorous job, that the results that came out of the study could really help children with mental health concerns.

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Manual for MATCH therapy used in studies

Furthermore, I was trained in the meta analysis project which is more hands on and utilizes some of the knowledge I have gained from previous neuroscience and psychology classes. The meta analysis is a paper that the PI (principal investigator) puts out every couple of years that examines many previously published studies. It is a way to streamline all the data that exists in youth psychotherapy approaches. There are many different criteria a paper must meet to “pass” through the screening process so my job has been to read the paper and code for different research elements. It is extremely interesting to read about all the current work being done, and I feel like it has really enhanced my internship this summer.

Links to previous meta analyses

I think that while my classes at Brandeis have prepared me for this internship, working is pretty different from university/academic life. I’ve noticed that I am much more tired after working in the lab for a couple hours, versus taking classes and participating in extracurricular at Brandeis. Sitting in front of a computer requires energy in a very different way than I would have originally thought! However, as the weeks continued I noticed I became more adjusted to a working schedule and it didn’t feel as overwhelming. I have also noticed that working in a research lab is not as much about what you know but how well you work with others. Key skills are thinking on your feet, problem solving, and multitasking. Collaboration is essential to being able to accomplish anything in the lab.

Overall I feel that my weeks working at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health have given me a greater understanding in what research in a clinical psych lab looks like. While I am not sure if I would pursue a career solely in research, I can see myself being happy working as a research assistant after graduation and gaining more skills in the field. I am excited to finish out my internship and continue to develop professionally.

Melissa Viezel ’17

Midpoint at Massachusetts Peace Action

Hello everyone!

Over the course of the past few months, there has been much to reflect on and respond to as an organization that works to foster more just and peaceful U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Recently, the shibboleths of both major political parties in the U.S. have come under intense scrutiny and there have been efforts from both the left and right to reshape society as we know it. In the height of this political tension and discord, the summer has also been plagued by rampant gun violence and mass killings, the continuing hatred facing the LGBT+ community, police brutality in minority communities facing unemployment, poor schools and crumbling infrastructure, and today’s wars and nuclear weapons buildup, all symptoms of violence closely tied with racism.

Though all of us at Massachusetts Peace Action are working very hard to reverse these scornful trends, it often feels like our efforts are futile. But on one particularly crestfallen morning in the office, it was a conversation with one of our volunteers that changed my perspective of the movement entirely. “Responding to my qualms,” she said, “Whenever I feel doubtful about how much of a change we are actually making, I try to imagine a world without the peace movement and that keeps me going.” For the first time in my experience working with MAPA, I felt that I was being selfish. I realized that in the face of this collective struggle, progress is not measured by the actions of one person and we must maintain faith in the process in order to achieve social righteousness for all no matter how long it takes.

Keeping this concept in mind, in addition to my daily in-office responsibilities, much of the work that I have been engaged in has been community outreach. For example, I participated in tabling and petition gathering at the Cambridge River Festival, the Lowell Folk Festival, and at our Distinguished Peacebuilders Series, which has featured speakers like Michael Dukakis, Noam Chomsky, and Helen Caldicott.

Jonathan King (Professor of Biology at MIT) gathering signatures at the Cambridge River Festival.
Jonathan King (Professor of Biology at MIT) gathering signatures at the Cambridge River Festival.
Cole Harrison (Executive Director of Massachusetts Peace Action) petitioning at the Lowell Folk Festival.
Cole Harrison (Executive Director of Massachusetts Peace Action) petitioning at the Lowell Folk Festival.
The honorable Dr. Helen Caldicott speaking about nuclear disbarment at our Distinguished Peacebuilders Series.
The honorable Dr. Helen Caldicott speaking about nuclear disbarment at our Distinguished Peacebuilders Series.

In addition, I have been actively involved in planning our first annual folk/acoustic music series as well as one of our major summer events to commemorate the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which took place respectively on August 6th and 9th, 1945, and the 2nd anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. We are broadening the focus of our event this year to call attention to racialized police violence and gun violence in light of the tragic events that have transpired over the past few years (Ferguson, Orlando, Baton Rouge, Dallas, etc.) and I invite everyone who is around to attend! Lastly, I have been an active participant in our Legislative and Nuclear Disarmament working groups to structure our new economic and disarmament campaigns.

I look forward to the remaining weeks of my internship and hope that I can continue to spend my time advancing MAPA’s mission of inclusion and social justice.

Remington Pontes ’17

Halfway there!

"Chocolate Thursday" Outing - Every Thursday all the interns go to a chocolate store around the corner. We go to this specific shop because its products are fair trade.
“Chocolate Thursday” Outing – Every Thursday all the interns go to a chocolate store around the corner. We go to this specific shop because its products are fair trade.
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Bernice (a close friend and fellow Brandeis student) visited me one weekend. This is us in front of the Lincoln Memorial

It’s hard to believe that my time at NCL is halfway over. I’ve grown accustomed to my daily routine and it feels second nature to hop on the metro and arrive at the office to begin my day. Washington D.C. is flooded with a new population of interns and young professionals, especially during the summer. It is exciting to be experiencing the city during this time of the year. The other interns and I have become good friends and supportive colleagues. We help each other with projects and provide insightful feedback. My colleagues have impressive backgrounds and they are extremely helpful in that they are always willing to offer me advice or assistance in any way that they can. The other interns and staff members are older and more experienced than I am so it is insightful to be exposed to the different roles that they play within the organization and the manner in which they each complete their tasks.
My week at National Consumer’s League begins with a staff meeting every Monday. Everyone gathers in the conference room to discuss their agenda for the remaining week. We announce any new projects and assign people to work on them throughout the week. We also do a “current events” of recent consumer issues in the news. Then we say all the meetings we will be attending at Capitol Hill to determine which congressional members or senators we would be in contact with to advocate for a certain bill or law. I usually head over to my cubicle/workspace and begin on my assignment for the day. We have set deadlines for our projects so I try to gather all my research and data early in the process. I think the most stimulating aspects of my work are in the beginning of the week when I start a new research assignment or project. For example, this week, my assignments were to research consumers’ perceptions of drug prices and the pharmaceutical industry in general. I also really enjoy attending meetings on the Hill because I get to witness the legislative process and the more proactive efforts on NCL’s part. Other times, attending panel discussions are also really insightful and relevant to the work that I am doing. World of Work has differed from academic life in that there has been a lot more freedom and self-initiative involved in this experience. In a classroom setting, you are often given instructions and assignments. However, this internship experience is really what you make of it. Even if a project is not necessarily under my department, I will ask to be a part of it if it seems interesting. The head department supervisors are great about letting interns be a part of various projects and they really make the effort to cater to our interests.
Something that I’ve learned at my organization is how to write consumer friendly blog posts. I think this is an important skill that will help me in the future because it’s one thing when experts are knowledgeable but it is also really important that the general public is well-informed and educated in consumer issues. I am also constantly honing my research, analytic and writing skills. These are skills that are transferrable to many jobs, especially if I want to pursue a career in public policy. I am still practicing my networking skills. This past week, I attended an intern lunch at Google’s DC office. Google offers a public policy fellowship and one of the interns at NCL, Mike, is a Google Fellow. The whole event was very exciting and I had the fortunate opportunity to speak to people who work for public interest. Understanding the path they took to reach their current career positions was extremely helpful since I’m still not quite sure what my future plans are after graduation, specifically if I want to begin working immediately, attend graduate school or possibly attend law school.

Elese Chen

Halfway Point: Learning from the Bumps in the Road

Since my first blog post, I’ve conducted twelve additional experiments, mainly working to optimize conditions for the big experiment that I will be conducting in about two weeks. I spent about six weeks attempting to optimize an LDH assay (which measures the amount of lactase dehydrogenase, a chemical produced in the endogenous metabolic pathways of all cells that is released when they lyse). My supervisor believed that this assay would be a good measure of immune system activity against tumor cells, as the immune cells would attack the tumor cells, causing the release of LDH. This assay also does not use any radioactive substances and so is safe and easy to handle. Unfortunately, we ultimately determined that the LDH assay was not sensitive enough for our purposes, and so we had to move back to the old, tried-and-true method that involves labeling cells with radioactive chromium. So far we’ve conducted a few different experiments using this method, and we were very happy to see that it has worked every time. As my supervisor remarked, sometimes the old way is the better way, even if it does mean working with radioactive isotopes. Now that we have a working assay, I will be conducting an experiment to see whether our experimental compound increases the immune cells’ ability to attack the neuroblastoma tumor cells. This experiment will be a big undertaking, involving about 15 hours of work, several different experimental groups, and numerous controls, so we are crossing our fingers that we will get the results we desire.

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Setting up an LDH assay in the sterile hood

I am gaining confidence in my technical abilities, which was a major goal of mine before the summer began. Despite the fact that many of the experiments we ran had systematic errors, I’ve been able to learn a variety of research techniques through running these different experiments. I’ve become quite competent at cell culture, which is a heavily-utilized technique across the biomedical sciences. I’ve learned how to isolate immune system cells from rat spleens and whole human blood, as well how to prepare blood serum for analysis. Overall I’ve become more independent in the lab, in terms of planning and running experiments and analyzing data. Additionally, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the scientific research process, as I’ve now seen that despite extensive planning, research is rarely linear; the twists and turns can nonetheless be valuable learning experiences.

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Another benefit of this internship: I’ve gotten good at Excel!

Since my internship is academic in nature, it has aligned nicely with my experiences at Brandeis. I’ve been able to apply some of the molecular biology and immunology knowledge that I’ve gained through my coursework at Brandeis. However, I’ve also seen that research, unlike school, is a collaborative effort so being able to work with a team is very important to the process. I’ve also seen that even when the theoretical concepts are clear, the logistics of planning and running experiments can be complex. This has shown me how the “real world” connects to the science that I learn in lecture; there is more to being a scientist than just having an academic understanding of science.

In conclusion, while the research itself has definitely felt slow-going at times, I am excited to test our experimental compound in a couple of weeks and am hopeful that the weeks of optimizing will pay off. Nonetheless, I have grown through this experience and have gained a good understanding of the research process, which has been informative to my career exploration of fields related to veterinary medicine.

Michelle Oberman, ’16

Change through Roots

WOW (pun intended), a lot has happened since I last posted here! Members of the Roots team and volunteers built a new animal pen and bought a goat, built a temporary new kitchen which will hopefully one day become a guesthouse, and are in the process of building a bigger kitchen with an office space above it. We also held five interfaith break-fasts during Ramadan, a leadership training retreat for core activists, photography workshops for children, photography workshops for women, educational youth trips, history lectures, and many meetings and information sessions to spread the word about this exciting work and create communal paradigm shifts in how each side sees the other.

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Our newest member of the Roots team!

For my part, firstly, I finally got the cameras out of customs! I also have delved into the world of PR, developing the Friends of Roots Facebook Page and taking over the website as well. I have helped advertise events and send follow up emails to attendees. I am also responsible for recording donation information and sending thank-you emails to donors. It may not sound like a lot, but it is certainly filling up my time! The work is not glamorous, but I am very happy and feel quite fortunate to be able to help out an organization and people that I admire with the things they don’t have time for, so that they can take care of the rest of what needs to get done. Additionally, I am feeling more and more like part of the team and feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas with the leadership.

In addition to my work at Roots, I have taken advantage of my time here by participating in an Encounter trip to Bethlehem, an emotional movie screening with Combatants for Peace, a prayer service with Women of the Wall, and few classes at the Shalom Hartman Institute and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and other events. I also hope to join part of the Elijah Interfaith Institute’s summer school next week.

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Pictures from the gay pride parade in Jerusalem

As a result of this internship, I am learning a lot about the ins and outs of establishing a young organization. I am also learning how to use public relations methodologies, how to run a website, and how to use Salesforce. I am learning about the use of art in resolving conflicts and brainstorming ideas – through the Roots photography classes and sessions on the leadership retreat. Most of all, I am learning that creating change is a process – sometimes a slow process – that can be effectuated through one person at a time.

These skills that I am developing will certainly be transferable back to Brandeis and my eventual career. The patience I am learning in effectuating change is crucial in maintaining hope for the vision of this social justice internship and cause. I know that we cannot fix the world in one day, but the more individuals we reach, the stronger our message will be in order to influence our communities, our leaders, and society at large.

-Rivka (Rebecca) Cohen ’17

“Foundation for a Future Career in the Pacific”

The beauty to be seen almost everywhere in Samoa
The beauty to be seen almost everywhere in Samoa

While Samoa and its culture are not new to me, working within the Apia UN office and within a government ministry is entirely new. I’m seeing a whole new dimension to social and political interaction. First of all, UNDP is a global IGO (intergovernmental organization) and it has a complex hierarchy with its own administrative and operational procedures —some of which I’m learning about. The Ministry of Women, Community, and Social Development (MWCSD) is a large government ministry with about 115 employees. There is a hierarchy here too and I find that Samoans are quite formal in the work place, placing an emphasis on respecting this hierarchy and observing protocols. As I’ve mentioned before, I am an intern at the UNDP but have been asked to work within the MWCSD, in order to assist them with various projects related to youth, especially youth employment. In my office there are about 11 people and everyone is extremely friendly with me. Most people work at a relaxed pace and take moments out for coffee or snacks, but as I have been assigned so many duties by the UN, I rarely feel able to chill. I try to be ultra productive while still taking the time for a bit of friendly conversation now and then. I have regular reports to write up, and various projects to work on, including research on employment opportunities.

Skype meetings together with my boss at the High Tech Youth Network and other HTYN centers across the Pacific
Skype meetings together with my boss at the High Tech Youth Network and other HTYN centers across the Pacific

Two days a week I’ve been assigned to assist a new government program called the High Tech Youth Network (HTYN). I really enjoy being out of the office for this work, going into communities to research and speak to youth about technology and their possible involvement in I.T. training programs. It is also interesting to learn about how Samoan youth understand the word ‘technology’ and their views on media.

My World of Work experience in Samoa is proving to be a fantastic learning opportunity- different from university training, particularly because it carries both responsibility and accountability. The UN and Samoan government are relying on a few of us to conduct research and assist with these initiatives designed to improve the prospects of Samoa’s youth, helping to create a framework for the new High Tech Youth Network, a multimillion-dollar initiative. I feel that I’m learning and building important skills that will endure well beyond this experience. These include: gathering information (often from primary sources), meeting deadlines, liaising with different offices and agencies, speaking to people who are in top leadership positions, speaking with young school leavers and trying to be a role model for them. I am confident that my work this summer will help provide a foundation for a future career in Samoa in my areas of interest: development, social justice and environmental management. I am meeting many key players in the government and the UNDP office and I’m truly enjoying making these connections and being in situations where I am continually learning through experience.

I was invited by the US embassy in Samoa to participate in a workshop titled “Our Changing Oceans - The Challenges Ahead”, hosted by Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
I was invited by the US embassy in Samoa to participate in a workshop titled “Our Changing Oceans – The Challenges Ahead”, hosted by Dr. Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

What does outreach really mean?

Outreach materials in Spanish
Outreach materials in Spanish

I have been working at the Alzheimer’s Association for a couple of months now, and I have learned that work comes in waves. Some days, I am stuffing packets and calling churches from the second I get there to the second I leave, and other days, there is a lull in the office. As I mentioned in my first post, I am working at the Watertown office, which is the headquarters for all operations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This means that although the office is huge, it can feel really empty when people are out and about all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

A huge part of what I am doing this summer is outreach. During the past couple of months, I have really gotten a feel for what that word really means. In my case, working with the Hispanic/Latino population in the Boston area, it means calling churches to send informational packets and set up education programs, training volunteers in the community to educate their congregations about Alzheimer’s disease, and generally getting the word out about all of the resources offered by the Association.

I think the most valuable thing I have learned so far about outreach though, is that information alone is not enough; it really has to be put in cultural context. Most of the people I’ve been working with are either immigrants to the United States, or children of immigrants from Latin American countries. The way that they experience and understand disease can be different from my own. In the case of Alzheimer’s disease, many Latin American countries have considered the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s (such as memory loss and confusion) to be a normal part of aging, and the medicalization of Alzheimer’s is just beginning to reach some parts of the world.

So we can’t just go into communities and say “hey, there’s something wrong with you!” which could incite fear and mistrust. There is already a pretty widespread aversion among the Latino/Hispanic community to drugs and other resources related to Alzheimer’s disease; which is understandable considering some people don’t even believe that AD is real. This is why cultural competency is so important in medicine. There are small steps that can be taken in terms of outreach to mediate this transition and make the process of diagnosis and treatment of symptoms much less stressful for everyone. These steps include things such as involving family members in decision-making, having professional translators trained in more than one dialect, and focusing outreach efforts on researching different customs and practices. Most importantly, we can find out what people want by actually asking them.

At this mid-way point in my internship, I think the most important lesson I have learned is this: outreach means more than just sitting at a table handing out packets – it means tailoring discussions to the communities you’re working with and learning from within the community; after all, they know their needs. I’m looking forward to continuing with this work and also continuing research for my upcoming thesis.

Leah Levine ’17

The Day in the Life of a Radio Show

Hello everyone!

I’m happy to share my adventures with everyone again! It has been adventurous. I’ve had the opportunity to write, research, and voice my own radio piece. I’ve talked to extraordinary innovators, like a woman who is starting a zero waste store and another who wrote a book inspiring young girls to pursue science. I’ve even had an opportunity to Skype with the government of Paris, which just passed a green transportation law banning cars built before 1997.

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My voice was on the radio!

Now that I’ve had a significant amount of time in my internship, I figured I would share the creative process we go through at Living on Earth when we take an idea and turn it into a radio piece.

Of course, first, we need to find an idea. It can be anything, well anything related to the environment. There are a few hubs for that. I like Eurekalert.org, which provides a feed of all sorts of new scientific studies. Many of them are related to environmental health. I found the study associated with my bee piece on this website.

Other good resources include Google News, Environmental Health News, and Daily Climate. It’s also always great to find an environmental perspective for a mainstream news event, like the election. Sometimes good stories just appear, right at our feet. Literally. As I mentioned in my last post, we often receive advanced copies of books in the mail. Some of these books are really interesting, so we invite quite a few authors to the program.

Once we have a good story, we need to figure out how to approach it: What angle will we take? Who could we interview? For the Paris piece that I mentioned above (it is yet to be aired), I spoke to over 10 people in order to research the topic and figure out what would make the best story. For this specific story, language was a main barrier. There were a few fantastic, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic potential guests that were not ideal for our English speaking audience, but I found one that was just right.

Next, we need to finalize a list of questions for the guest. I usually write most of them before I even speak to potential guests. I then revise after I talk to the guests and figure out what they can speak about the best. We often call the pre-interview conversations, “test interviews.” These allow for the guests to become familiar with our questions, for us to become more familiar with the topic, and for us to make sure all of the technology works.

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There are usually quite a few tracks of audio in Pro Tools!

Next, it’s interview time! We usually record on an iPhone App called “Report It” while we speak to a guest on video chat. Interviews last between a half hour and an hour. It’s always great to finally see what our guests look like because prior to that we usually just talk to them on the phone.

After that, we edit the interview. We use a program called Pro Tools to edit the audio, which includes editing out awkward silences, filler words, and parts of the interview that don’t fit. Sometimes we have to edit hour long interviews down to just 15 minutes, and that can be tough. For one of the pieces I did, I also was able to play with putting music into the piece.

Then, once we write the introduction, the DACS (a blurb that goes with each story), and choose pictures, we’re done!

It always feels great after we finish a story. And then… its time to work on another one!

I like working on the show a lot. It feels great to see a finished product every time a piece I worked on goes on the air. And it’s great to feel like such an important part of the team. I know that I would love a career where I could feel the same way. I’ve been able to work on my writing skill, my creative skills, and my people skills all while learning about all sorts of new technologies. Lastly, I love that this is social justice work. There are so many important issues that we cover on the show, and it’s great to be able to share these issues with the world.

I know that all of these skills will be very useful after Brandeis. I am very happy about this internship placement.

 

Jay Feinstein, ’17

Pain of Silence and the Beauty of Dialogue

I love this vibrant city. Everyone is on a mission to accomplish something big. I have enjoyed being among people who thrive in this fast-paced environment. Traveling through the subway in the early morning among men and women in suits makes me feel important. I am seeing a glimpse of what my professional life after college could be like, which is both scary and exciting. The city is also very expensive, which is a constant reminder for me of how privileged I am to have parents who are able to supplement my WOW stipend. There are many students whose financial standing would not allow them to do a summer internship, which is why the existence of the WOW fellowship program is so critical.

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Ruth Messinger, former president and now Global Ambassador of AJWS

In my work environment, there are a lot more opportunities at work to collaborate with different groups of people. AJWS has many different departments, but they are interdependent. For instance, the Program Division selects which grassroots organizations AJWS funds, but the grants that are given to these organization would not be possible without the work of the Development Division which is responsible for fundraising. The Communications Department creates the materials that describe our work that are essential to Development Division which utilizes them to engage donors. I have been learning about the importance, but also the challenges of collaborative work. It requires a lot of open discussions and compromises, which I see happening here everyday. These are important lessons that will be useful for any of my future career plans. I have been meeting with individuals in different departments to learn more about their professional experiences and their work at AJWS. These meetings have been very insightful for me. Before this internship, I did not know so many different career options existed within the nonprofit world. I can see myself working in the Programs Division because I am so passionate about grassroots movements, and I can also see myself working as a fundraiser in the Development Division. As for skills, I have been working a lot more with Raiser’s Edge database which is a great skill to have as I continue in the nonprofit sector.

The staff has been extremely welcoming and friendly. However, coming into work this past week has been difficult. The media coverage of all the black lives lost due to police brutality has been tough to digest. As a person of color, I find the constant dehumanization of black and brown bodies in this country to be extremely infuriating and I wish all of America felt the same way. I felt isolated, but I remember feeling grateful that I work at a human rights organization. I thought my work environment would provide me with a space to engage in dialogue and be among colleagues who would be equally outraged. However, I came into work and I was disappointed to see that there was silence. Everyone was proceeding as if it was a normal day at work. I attempted to start a conversation with some people, but the responses ranged from blank faces to statements like “I know it is so sad.”

Our new president, Robert Bank, sent a heartfelt email to the staff during the Orlando shooting in which he offered support and acknowledged the different ways each staff was mourning. The organization as whole released a statement standing in solidarity with the families of the victims and calling for justice. Therefore, I repeatedly refreshed my email imbox hoping to see a similar email and statement about standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and an acknowledgement of all the lives lost, but no such email was sent and no statement was released.

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Robert Bank, new president of AJWS

When the interns this week met with the Robert, I had an opportunity to ask him about this silence. My question opened up a dialogue about how difficult it is for AJWS to decide which domestic human rights issues it should respond to. Robert discussed how AJWS, as a non political organization, wants to maintain focus on the social movements they we support in the 19 developing countries in which we work. Additionally, when international organizations begin taking a stance regarding many different domestic issues their mission becomes confusing to their supporters. AJWS responded to the Orlando shooting because we fund many organizations abroad that are working for LGBT rights. However, AJWS also funds organizations that are working to protect the lives of blacks and people of color. For instance, AJWS has spoken out against and funds social movement organizations in the Dominican Republic that use the courts and media advocacy to defend equal rights for Dominicans of Haitian descent. The horrid discrimination of Dominicans of Haitian descent is entirely an issue of racism. In other words, while I understand that different factors complicate the decision of whether to take a stance or not,  the brutalization of black and brown bodies is a global human rights issue and no one should remain silent. While I praise and admire the work of AJWS, I will continue to ask these challenging questions and start a dialogue because there is always room for growth and improvement, and I feel lucky to be at an organization that is open to hearing constructive criticism and constantly looks to improve.

Marian Gardner ’18

Midpoint at the Red Cross in Puerto Rico

Hi Everyone!

Last time I wrote here, the Red Cross was responding to the Orlando shooting back in June. After a couple of weeks, the office slowed down and went back to the original environment, busy but not stressful! We had a lot of home fire prevention campaigns and even more pillowcase talks. In case you have forgotten, the fire prevention campaigns seek to prevent home fires by going into communities, usually low-income communities, and installing smoke alarms. We team up in groups of two or three people and go house to house saying that we are from the Red Cross and that as part of our home fire prevention campaigns we are installing smoke alarms. While a volunteer gathers the information of the person we are helping, another installs the smoke alarm. These campaigns are extremely helpful and important because it allows the Red Cross to do the outreach and help people that may not be able to leave their communities and seek the Red Cross. By going into people’s home, we make sure that our services are being offered and utilized by the community. While the pillowcase talks are about disaster prevention geared towards young kids from second to sixth grade. The talks are called this because we give the kids a pillowcase where they can put important things such as water, food, emergency contacts etc in case of an emergency. Being part of presenting the talks has been one of my favorite parts of my internship because I really enjoy interacting with young kids.

Very tired after a home fire prevention campaign in Salinas, Puerto Rico!

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One of the homes I went to in the fire prevention campaign had tons of chickens!

Here are just some.

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These events happened in towns outside of the capital, which is really good because it shows that the Red Cross is helping people throughout the island and not just in the capital. It also shows that volunteering is very important because these programs cannot be done without the work of volunteers. With their help, the Red Cross has the capacity to offer its services all around.

Last week, we had a lot of rain that caused floods. Although this type of disaster is more common from August-November because of hurricane season, it was a great privilege to be part of the response team of the Red Cross. I am sad that I wont be in Puerto Rico during hurricane season to see more of the disaster response. How would you participate in it?

One thing I’ve noticed about the people that work in the Red Cross Puerto Rico chapter is that they know how to manage stress and emergencies. While I understand that this is part of their job, it’s a quality that I really admire and have tried to gain. I’ve never seen anyone yell, or shut someone out because they are too busy.  The Red Cross staff is always looking for volunteers and extra help and will take the time to explain things. It’s also been really good to be part of this department because I’m learning how to apply this to my own life. If something happens, you have to respond and not spend time over thinking or getting stressed out. It’s also been very interesting to be in this environment because most of the people who work here are women (there are only two men). Generally, women tend to get more stressed out but it’s been very refreshing and eye opening to see women handling disaster situations. I feel very empowered to have such great role models.

I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope that the good work continues!

 

Claudia Roldan ’18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxed and On a Mission

I love the environment at One Mission, it is one of the major reasons that I wanted to return for a second summer. The office has a very relaxed feel to it. On the average summer day there are only about 4 people in the office, keeping it quiet and quaint. Due to the size, or lack thereof, I have gotten to know and work with everyone and that is something I greatly appreciate. Over the course of the summer I have been able to help everyone with at least one project and get their feedback on my work. I have also been able to get a deeper insight into each person’s role in the organization.

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One of my favorite One Mission programs is the Chemo Duck program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Chemo Ducks are cute, cuddly companions for kids battling cancer. They were developed with the help of child life specialists and medical professionals, the Chemo Duck Program helps introduce children and families to their new life and encourages healing through the power of play therapy.

The World of Work has differed from university/academic life in multiple ways. First, work stays at work, at least for me. The minute I walk out the door, all of my One Mission tasks are over for the day, unlike at school when I always have more studying and work to do for classes. Working is also more collaborative than school. At school I have to be self driven to my own success, but at work, if I am slacking then that affects the jobs of all of the other employees and the reach of the organization. Another big difference is commute. During the school year, I live on campus, but during the summer I am commuting to my internship. I spend 40 minutes to an hour every day driving to work and another 40 mins – 1 hour driving home, compared to my less than 10 minute walk across campus to class.

A big skill that I am building as a result of my internship at One Mission is how to write professional letters to companies proposing partnerships and/or asking for donations. I have been working on a formal proposal for a partnership with an organization for the past few weeks and have also written a few shorter letters to companies. Regardless of what career path I pursue after graduation, the skill of writing a formal letter and creating a thorough professional proposal is a great asset.

The reason that I applied to intern at One Mission initially last summer is because that I want to work in this specific field. My goal is to work for a pediatric cancer based non-profit, preferably one that focuses on programs more than research, and that is what I found in OM. (To learn about OM programs check out their website http://onemission.org/how-we-help/). The skills I am learning in branding, outreach, social media marketing, and many other things, is invaluable in my future career path. Interning in the type of organization that I want to work in helps me build applicable skills daily and is giving me a realistic insight into what I may be doing in the future.

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I have posted all that you see here and much more, make sure to check it out to find out what One Mission does!

If you’re interested in following us on Twitter you can at https://twitter.com/buzzforkids and Instagram at @buzzforkids. I currently control our Instagram account and will continue to until the end of my internship, so like all you want

Jen Rossman

Continuing my Internship at Lawyers for Children

In the past couple of weeks at Lawyers For Children, I have gotten to meet and work with many different clients that were assigned to the social worker I’m shadowing this summer. I find meeting with clients at the Manhattan Family Court before their court appointments to be particularly rewarding. LFC makes sure to leave time before court to speak to the children they’ll be representing to make sure all parties are on the same page about the child’s most recent circumstances. It is during these meetings that I see clearly the way Lawyers For Children’s work touches their clients. Instead of going into the court room, telling the judge what the child wants, and leaving, LFC takes the time to get to know their clients and why they want what they do. These pre-court meetings have shown me the difference between blind representation and informed advocacy.

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“Creating a Community of Care: Fostering Emotional Wellness for LGBTQ Youth” Hetrick Martin Institute

In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month in New York City, I had the privilege of attending a summit hosted by Hetrick Martin Institute and a panel of youth advocates from an organization called “You Gotta Believe”. The summit brought together hundreds of advocates for youth in New York City to discuss ways to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth (an especially vital conversation after the tragedy in Orlando, FL earlier this summer.) Attending the meeting with foster care children in mind, the Youth Advocate I’m working with and I discussed with other advocates from different organizations the difficulty foster care youth have in finding stability in general, and how this struggle is intensified for those who are LGBTQ identifying. Often times, these kids face rejection from foster homes and from other foster children in their placements because of their sexuality or gender identity, making it more difficult for them to settle into new places.

The work environment of my internship is different from university life in that, at LFC, everyone I’m surrounded by has similar goals in mind to make things better for the children LFC represents. At school, a lot of what we learn about is broad and large-scale, but at LFC I’m exposed to a tiny fragment of a small city and get to see the full effort employees put in every day, and the small levels in which change is needed. At LFC I’m developing skills in talking to and listening effectively to people of all ages and backgrounds, and learning to appreciate the importance of personal narratives. For many children in care who are moved from place to place, one of the most central, stable things they possess is their story.

At the You Gotta Believe discussion, called “Nobody Ages Out,” adolescents who have recently aged out of the foster care system shared some stories about their experiences in care. In NY, youth can legally sign themselves out of care at 18, but officially transition out at 21. The youth present at this month’s meeting were LGBTQ identifying youth who shared their experiences tied to coming out to foster parents and other children in their placements. It was very clear to me after this conversation that there is a lot that needs to be changed in the NY foster care system.

The youth on the panel disclosed that foster care children are often left in the dark with regards to their placements and a large percentage of them have no warning or time for preparation when they find out they’re switching placements or need to move. LFC has a specialized policy and litigation task force that works on getting laws, such as the ones that allow for kids to be moved with no warning, changed and updated for foster care youth. I had the opportunity to accompany one of the attorneys on the litigation task force to a New York City counsel meeting that was being held to discuss some proposed bills on foster care reform. The proposed bills aimed to address some of the issues in ACS policy that make it difficult to keep track of the housing and education choices of youth who’ve aged out of care.It was interesting to hear the counsel members question the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) about some of the areas in which they are falling short. The counsel will be holding a vote on bills that will make it necessary for ACS to follow youth in care, send out surveys to gather accurate statistics about foster care youth high school graduation rate, and follow up on the whereabouts of youth who’ve aged out of care.

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New York City counsel building decorated for pride month and hosting a press conference with the foster care youth who spoke at the meeting.

 

Rachel Geller, ’18

Social Work WOW Fellow

Midpoint at Verité

As I reach the halfway point in my internship, things are beginning to pick up at Verité.  Deadlines are rapidly approaching for some projects, while other projects are just being started.  My fellow interns and I have finally become fully comfortable with our roles and responsibilities at Verité, and have learned how to manage our time surrounding those responsibilities.

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Entrance of Verité

I have lived in Amherst, MA, for the majority of my life, so I did not expect to experience it differently throughout the course of my internship.  However, the research I have done this summer has altered how I view the world, including how I see my small hometown. After being at Verité, I have become more inclined to take into account the nature and extent of each individual’s rights, specifically labor rights, whether I am buying produce from a local family farm or am buying food at a mega supermarket chain.

My emotions at the office are more dichotomous.  On the one hand, I spend my time at work researching abhorrent topics such as child labor and human trafficking in an attempt to eventually contribute to the eradication of those human rights abuses. Read the 2016 Trafficking Report here

On the other hand, the people who surround me at Verité are not simply co-workers; rather, they are a community of people who provide one another with support—whether it is career-based or emotional.  I am incredibly thankful to be surrounded by such genuinely good and caring people, who not only push me to learn new skills and information, but who also take the time to sit down with me and hash out any questions I may have.

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The Main Conference Room

I have found both similarities and differences in the world of work in comparison to university and academic life. The main similarity is that research plays a major part in both settings. However, in a university setting, the research goes into some kind of project or paper, which is demonstrative of my academic capabilities and displays what I have learned. In the world of work, my research is for other people. Rather than hoping to get a good grade, I am instead striving to help others. The effects of this research are more immediately impactful. When at school, if I lose focus or procrastinate, it is generally only myself who is affected by it. If I poorly managed my time at my internship, I would be guilty of negatively affecting many. At Verité, each individual comes together to form a community. We work together on projects and ideas, so losing focus is not an option if one wants to keep up. (Check out Verité’s monthly newsletter!)

My time at Verité has allowed me to expand my skillset. This internship has been my first office job, so spending all my time at a computer has been an adjustment. Prior to Verité, I often had trouble managing multiple projects and tasks, and would become overwhelmed. However working in an office has taught me effective ways to organize myself and manage my time. While working in an office is not necessarily what I want to do in the future, it has been an important and valuable experience.

Georgia Nichols, ’18

Progress: Halfway Through my Internship with Cornerstone

It’s been four weeks since my internship has started and I have learned a lot about the organization I am working with, Cornerstone Church of Boston, and myself. Living in Boston to pursue this internship has opened my eyes about this city. Compared to living at Brandeis, the shift from a suburb to urban environment showed me a different side to the city. Now, I am more comfortable saying that Boston is my home, because after all, I have spent 11 months out of the past year.

One aspect of future pastoring and this internship is meeting with people. This job is less about logistics and office work, but more about building relationships in order for the community to grow stronger. Because I live in the middle of the city now, the accessibility to public transportation makes it so much easier to meet up with people and to talk with them. I realized that if I want to go down this potential career path, then I would have to get a car, either in Boston or in Chicago. With me being an intern at the moment, it is a lot easier for people to come meet me where I live. But if my living conditions were not as favorable as right now, it would be a lot more difficult to meet up with people. A good portion of these meetings are with pastors and other leaders within the community. This is to ensure that there is communication within leadership and everyone knows where we are in our lives, socially, academically, and most importantly spiritually. To have the opportunity to share my life with others and them to share their lives really gives me a good grasp on being a pastor in the future and makes me even more excited to go down this career path.

If i were to describe how this internship is different from academic life at Brandeis, I would say that the only difference is location and people I am involved with. In a way, the same things I am doing in the internship should carry on to my life when I am even at Brandeis. Since my internship entails a job past 9-5 everyday, and is “fieldwork” in a sense, there should be no difference in the way I live during the internship compared to at college. However, Brandeis does not offer theology courses for Christianity and other courses for my career, so I would have to study these things independently, which I am fine doing.

Since I have been given leadership roles within certain ministries, I have scheduled events for the College students, and have led Sunday Service band few times as well. One event that I scheduled this summer was a Bowling Outing with the college students! I planned all the logistics for it. In a way, it was my first major leadership responsibility as a College ministry leader. It went really well and achieved goal of connecting with students and having fun!

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As someone who has leadership positions on campus during the school year, my skills have been able to carry on into the internship. However, I believe that this internship is helping me be able to become a better leader and organizer in the next school year. I am excited to close out the internship and put forth as much effort as possible for the next few weeks!

Daniel Choi

Mid-point Reflections

It’s hard to believe how quickly my time at the ADL is flying by, and that it’s already time to write my mid-point blog post. Having now completed more than 115 hours at the Anti-Defamation League, I feel far more comfortable, knowledgeable, and inspired than when I first began my internship. I’ve grown to really love working at the ADL and already feel nostalgic about having passed the mid-point mark. In this post, I’ll share some of the highlights, challenges, and events that have made this experience so transformative.

 
Last time I checked in, I had just started my internship. Since then, I have participated in civil rights committee meetings, helped draft an op-ed to a Florida newspaper, and assisted with projects relating to the transgender bathroom law. I attended ADL’s annual board meeting, where I learned about “No Place for Hate,” a program dedicated to combating bullying in schools. I’ve continued to speak with witnesses and victims of discrimination who wish to file reports with the ADL. I’ve conducted media searches, helped in the education and outreach department, and interviewed participants of ADL’s trip to Israel.

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I have infinite respect and admiration for the ADL staff. They remain committed and steadfast in their fight for social justice, actively working to combat discrimination. Initially, I found it difficult to be immersed in the discrimination, anti-Semitism, and racism that still plagues our world; but as I spent more and more hours at the ADL, something else occurred to me: that meaningful efforts are being made to combat the hate, and that there is still so much love in the world.

 
The skills I’ve developed throughout this internship have already proven to be critically important in my academic, career, and life endeavors. By participating in civil rights committee meetings and engaging with highly intelligent people, I have grown more competent and capable. By speaking with victims and witnesses of discrimination, I have practiced compassion and empathy. By drafting letters and op-eds, I am enhancing my writing abilities. Most important, it has reaffirmed for me that I thrive on growth and contribution.

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I’ve taken many courses at Brandeis that delve deeply into the inequities that exist in healthcare, government, and media. This internship has made everything I’ve learned at school come alive. The biggest difference between academic and work life is the incredible sense of contribution I feel each day at my internship. I love knowing that my work is helping to make the world a better place. Like anything else, the world of work and the world of academics are what we make of them: in both universes, we have the ability to extract every lesson or orbit passively, choosing not to see the opportunities right there in front of us.

 
I am eternally grateful to Brandeis University, to the generous donors, and to the Anti-Defamation League for this extraordinary opportunity.

A Humbling Experience: Seeing the World From A Different View

Just in my time with The Fortune Society thus far, my experiences have already far surpassed any and all expectations I held for my internship before it began. The people I work for and with are some of the most genuine and driven individuals I’ve ever encountered; their unremitting desire to help others, despite the constant uphill battle, is a truly remarkable trait that makes this organization one-of-a-kind. In my contact with clients and staff thus far, one thing has become abundantly clear: a lot of people take a lot of things for granted. The fact that people can drive, gain employment with no clear discrimination, or even obtain individual housing or food, is now something I consider to be privileges rather than rights. To contextualize this idea, about a month ago I took a client to the Human Resources Administration to receive his food stamps benefits but was told he did not qualify due to his citizenship status (despite being in the country legally and even showing the staff proof of his legal status).

Another humbling event, or rather sequence of events, was a New York State Assembly hearing I attended in which the president of Fortune, JoAnne Page, testified along with others concerning housing barriers encountered by those with criminal justice system involvement. Within a couple weeks of the hearing, I attended a rally outside New York Governor Cuomo’s office to protest his reneging on a promise to construct 20,000 new supportive housing units over the next fifteen years with 6,000 of those coming in the next five. This was an issue that was explicitly mentioned by every individual who testified in front of the Assembly members.More information on his original promise is available here.

Rally outside Gov. Cuomo's office in New York City surrounding suppotive housing issues.
Rally outside Gov. Cuomo’s office in New York City surrounding supportive housing issues.

This summer, disregarding the obvious differences from my academic work, has contrasted from my experience at Brandeis because I’m able to observe concepts I’ve learned as theoretical, abstract ideas as real issues that impact real people. One particular course I took this past semester has really affected the way I perceive my experience with Fortune so far. As a seminar-styled course, we explored the ideas of justice and punishment in various fashions, including through historical context, literature, and even from a philosophical point-of-view. I find that I’m able to apply the concepts I’ve learned from this course to further delve into the intricate issues regarding the criminal justice system.

This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.
This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.

I’ve gained many things from my internship so far, but one of the most applicable to my future, whatever it may hold, is learning how to advocate for those who can’t do so for themselves.  In attending numerous events that included a call for action, the speakers have often taken personal experiences and applied them to others’ issues and subsequently systemic issues.  I find this to be a particularly effective because it takes an issue and makes it real, and one you can’t ignore.  I’ve also learned how to organize events to conduct studies.  Currently, along with others in the policy department, I’m coordinating a focus group to explore the unique needs of veterans with criminal justice involvement.  You can find out more about this project here.

My experience with The Fortune Society, even though I still have a bit to go, is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience that I will be able to apply to my life in the years to come.  I’m excited to see what’s in store for me for the rest of the summer!

Midpoint at Rosie’s Place

I can’t believe how quickly time has passed that I’ve now reached past the midpoint of my internship! I think a true mark of my time at Rosie’s Place so far is that it has felt like I’ve been working there for much longer than just five weeks. By now I am familiar with many of the names and faces of the guests and a number of them know my name too. I can walk through the doors at 9 AM already expecting what tasks I will need to do but never fully knowing what the day will bring.

Daily calendar of events

One impression about my new environment in the workplace is that no two days are ever the same. It is always busy, but some days the sign up list for the computers may be very long and other days the computers may not be as high in demand. There are also days when I get to step away from the front desk. For example, I have attended two trainings for the Social Justice Institute, a summer volunteer program for high school students. Generally it can be stressful and tiring working in such a fast-paced environment because I am trying my best to help as many people as possible. It can also be emotionally taxing when I encounter situations I can not help, and so I need to take care and not bring such feelings home with me.

The World of Work has shown me how much time I have in my university life in comparison to working 35 hours a week. While I still juggle classes, work-study, and clubs, I often have small breaks between everything to help me recharge. I have also noticed what it is like working in just one building rather than walking up and down campus to get to class, and how really important it is that I get the chance to outside for lunch and fresh air. The World of Work has made me aware of my age as well. I am so used to interacting with others around my age that I forget I am a still budding young professional who may not be as taken as seriously.

Home at the front desk

I am, however, building many skills as a result of my internship. I am learning how to better communicate with all people from different backgrounds, especially when answering the phone. I no longer hesitate as I used to when I had to answer the phone because I understand that it is okay to put someone on hold if I do not have all the answers right away. In anything I encounter whether is be academics or on/off campus involvement, I will know there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Certainly in my future career plans, I need not to put pressure on myself and stress myself out about getting everything right, no matter how good of a first impression I want to make when I start, It is only with time that I will learn and become more comfortable in my position.

Tina Nguyen ’17

Technology Consulting – Life outside the office

I did not let long working hours prevent me from enjoying the benefits of Dubai and warm weather (as you can see in the picture above – one of the sunsets with the Dubai skyline). One may notice that here everything is in progress, as if the authorities decided to build the city yesterday since numerous projects across Dubai are flourishing. Nowhere else I have I seen such harmony between contemporary style and the local culture. Dubai is a vibrant city with many things to do, especially in the evening.

Moroccan tea was one of the major discoveries and a favorite activity to relax after work (the best one that I tried was at the City Walk cafe, shall you ever visit). Since it is the month of Ramadan, it was very hard to notice many people on the streets – on top of that, Dubai isn’t the most popular destination in the summer due to its high temperatures – but it was very nice to walk around in a non-congested city meeting different people, mostly expats in their late 20s working in Dubai. One of the most interesting feelings was going to The Palm and while driving down to the one of the hotels for tea, imagining that several years ago the place I was driving on was nothing but ocean. All in all, Dubai has a very healthy, positive vibe, with a lot of energy originating from the young minded people populating it.

Post 2: From One Show to Another

Orpheus in the Berkshires closed on Sunday and I started rehearsals for And No More Shall We Part on Tuesday. With this transition from one show to another, came many changes. I went from a show with an 80 person cast to a show with a 2 person cast; from a show with community members who were acting for the first time to a show in which both actors have been in numerous plays, movies, and TV shows; and from a fun musical to an extremely serious play. Needless to say, my experience is going to be different in so many ways. Despite all of the changes, my responsibilities as an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) will be similar.

When working on Orpheus in the Berkshires, I thought a lot about the importance of theater. Because work in the theater is often high stress, it is easy to forget why we do what we do. Seeing how much this experience meant to the members of the Berkshire community, made all of the hard times and late nights worth it. Additionally, this article talks about an actor who is a member Soldier On, an organization that helps homeless veterans, and how life-changing this experience was for her. Skills that I developed while working on Orpheus include anticipating problems before they arise, adapting depending on who you are talking to, and being extremely aware of everyone around you. These are skills that are important in stage management, but become even more necessary when you are working with a cast of 80 people. 

This picture captures some of the incredibly talented people that contributed to Orpheus in the Berkshires.
This picture captures some of the incredibly talented people that contributed to Orpheus in the Berkshires.

At Brandeis, the work is less focused on product than in the professional world, but a little less focused on process than the community engagement project was. Experiencing both sides of the spectrum, has allowed me to appreciate more why we do theater. Working at Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) is more intense than my work in the Brandeis Department of Theater Arts. Yes, WTF is also an educational experience, but here you are expected to work alongside the professionals without a noticeable difference. The stakes are higher and as a result, mistakes have more of a significant impact.

One of the community actors painted a large version of our show poster.
One of the community actors painted a large version of our show poster.

 

I came to WTF to make sure that I wanted to pursue working at higher level theaters. This internship so far has confirmed this. Working alongside New York and even Broadway Stage Managers has proven to me that I want to strive to get to Broadway. I am learning a lot about what it means to be a successful ASM. At Brandeis, I have Stage Managed more than I have ASMed, so it is helpful to be able to work on the skills necessary for an ASM since that is what I will start out doing professionally. Next year at Brandeis as a Stage Manager, I will be able to better guide my assistants because of my work as an ASM and my observations of professional Stage Managers.

The Stage Management Team of Orpheus in the Berkshires.
The Stage Management Team of Orpheus in the Berkshires.

I am excited to see what the last month of my internship has in store for me. So far, I am loving every second at WTF and I look forward to continuing to work on And No More Shall We Part.

Hannah Mitchell ’17

Theater WOW Recipient

Post 2: Keeping On At SACHI

For the last month, every conversation that goes on long enough will eventually reach the topic of politics, except rather than American politics, which I’m confident speaking about, these conversations tend to involve British politics. This is in the wake of the recent referendum in which, with a margin of two percent, the UK voted to leave the European Union (I used this to help understand what happened:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887).  The aftermath has been chaotic, and despite my opinions on the topic, the experience has been a crash course for British politics.

These conversations mostly happen over lunch or coffee breaks, during which one person will stand up and ask everybody else in the office if they would like to join for tea or coffee.  The huge group that would then migrate to the kitchen includes people of all different levels in the “hierarchy” from the undergraduate researcher to the post-doc or lecturer.  It was difficult getting used to talking so casually to supervisors, but getting to know everybody has made me more comfortable with my position in the group and I’m not as nervous speaking with the supervisors.

The coffee machine
The coffee machine in its natural habitat

And of course, I work and have my weekly meeting with my supervisor.  Our meetings have progressed since I first started working. What began as brainstorming sessions, taking influence from similar projects like http://mariandoerk.de/edgemaps/demo/, have become more status update sessions and refocusing my direction as I take some form of ownership over the project.  Though, obviously, she has the final say, I’m not worried about bouncing different ideas by her or disagreeing with her.  

Because I work on the project every day, there are occasionally unforeseen issues that come up.  And if these issues are small, I manage them myself according to my own judgement, which is unfortunately occasionally flawed.  I enjoy the weekly meetings for the feedback.  While most of the time the feedback involves smaller tweaks to the work, sometimes we come to the conclusion that I’m going in the wrong direction (such as when I wanted to incorporate a timeline into the visualization).  That was difficult at first, taking a chance and being wrong, but I’ve stopped seeing these ventures as wasted time.

Very rarely are ideas entirely wrong, they’re mostly just inappropriate for the problem I’m solving or the current situation.  I’ve begun to write down most of my ideas for later use or to use for a different project. I’ve come back to some of the first ideas after I hit a wall. Even if I don’t use the exact idea, it puts me back in the mindset I had when I was first coming up with the concept, which is nice when I forget the idea and focus on some tangential part.

Here’s one of the earlier sketch ideas that were scrapped, but later used for parts of other parts of the project.

Sketches

I’ve started to use this “write down” thought process for things outside of work.  Here’s the page for this blog post:

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Very few of these notes made it into this post

 

–Katherine Currier

Mid-Point Update – The Improper Bostonian

Now that it’s more than halfway through the summer, here’s an update on what I’ve been doing at The Improper Bostonian. First off, I’ve done a lot more writing, researching, etc. for stories to appear mainly on the website but also in the printed edition if it’s needed.

For example, I interviewed the Director of a new circus show at the Cutler Majestic Theatre by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a Montreal-based offshoot of Cirque du Soleil, for a Q&A piece. Originally, this was just going to be published on the website but when the original Q&A piece that was set to run in the print edition fell through (the subject was unavailable I’m assuming, though I never heard a definitive answer to that), my piece filled that space. It was great to contribute and feel that I was helping more with the print edition than just fact-checking articles. Of course fact-checking is very important for every publication but there’s physical representation of that work. With the Q&A piece that ran in the front-of-the-book (which is basically the first half of the print edition, which has all the big feature stories), you could actually see my exact contribution. These clips are extra important because every publication, whether its an online blog/digital publication or a printed daily/weekly, wants to see clips from applicants. Building a personal portfolio of clips is vital to breaking into the editorial industry.

 

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While it might not seem like there would be any drawbacks to having your byline in the front half of the magazine, one annoyance did come out of this. This start-up energy/nutrition bar company has emailed me twice and also started following me on Twitter (PS: follow Hiatt on Twitter when I take the account over on August 9 and share about my day interning. I’ll try to refrain from tweeting about mid-90’s Disney films) to try and get me to write about their new product. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of pull with the magazine to get something about this energy bar in the magazine. Even if I did, I know nothing about their product to warrant covering it.

That’s a minor complaint and of course I can handle bizarre spam emails if my work gets published in the magazine. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill issue of The Improper my Q&A was featured in, it was the Boston’s Best Issue. I mentioned in my first post from my summer internship experience that I had started already fact-checking the blurbs about each winner. The most worthwhile aspect of working on this issue, in terms of community impact, is that I see how much pride these restaurants, shops, artists, etc. take in winning. Its great publicity for these firms first off, but I really got the impression when I reached out via phone or email to the winners—before they knew they won—to fact check their blurbs. I could only tell them that they were nominated for an award and they would have to check the issue to see if they won but they were excited at the possibility. I think the recognition of their hard work is what they appreciate the most, not the publicity or boost in clients.

It’s odd to know that I’m almost at the end of my time with The Improper. I’ve interned here since January and I’ve probably logged over 400 hours of work up to today. I have a month left and I want to make sure I get the most out of it. My main goal for the last few weeks I have is to solidify the relationships I’ve built with my supervisors and co-workers. The clips I’ve produced and the general experience I’ve had are great, but what makes any experience worthwhile is the relationships you take out of them. Specifically speaking, networking is a skill that can always be honed. Whether it’s while waiting for the Keurig machine in the office kitchen to finish my coffee or at an actual networking event, I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable in that scenario during this internship experience.

 


 

Comparing my working/interning experience with my academic life is difficult because I’ve never valued my academics in the way I value my work. Of course I work hard in classes and am attentive but I’ve always been more receptive to a work environment than the classroom because the fruits of my labor are much more tangible and immediate. Over the past year, I have been more focused on my future career and work than my coursework. The world of work comes pretty natural to me, though I never rule out that I could be missing something completely and don’t get it, as if I’m Richard Hendrix sitting on Bighead’s boat holding a prototype Hooli phone. Either way, I feel perfectly competent and capable to jump into the professional world once I’m finished with school.

Midpoint @ Supportive Living Inc

World of Work has differed from my university academic life because I become a more independent person. Leaving my home everyday to travel by car or public transportation to work forces me to rely on my own self for transportation. I have become a much more self motivated person by discussing with colleagues about what kinds of work I hope to pursue in the future because of my experience here.

An official picture of me and the other interns for Summer 2016 internship.

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Due to this internship, I have been able to participate in two research opportunities during my time at Supportive Living. My first research project involved evaluating the nutritional diets of residents at each of the houses. I have and will be conducting interviews with the staff and residents on what kinds of menus they have and the overall kitchen/dining experience by looking in the pantries and observing the meal times. My second research opportunity involves designing an ideal brain injury fitness center for a future house. I have to participate in more individualized research by looking into other successful wellness centers and looking into financial aspects. These opportunities for research have helped me develop my skills in communication. I have been able to go out of my comfort zone to actively network with other staff members to learn about their new positions at the organization and how they got to be there. In addition, I got to meet a fellow Brandeis alumni through my work. Her name is Laura Lorenz and she is a current visiting scholar at Brandeis working on research with some Brandeis graduate students at Heller. She came to talk to us about a photo voice project she worked on with some of the brain injury residents at the Douglas House. Her project involved giving cameras to the residents to take pictures of struggles in their lives that otherwise would not have been noticed by “normal” people. For example, there is one picture that is angled on the ground that shows a sharp ridge hill. From this perspective, the picture shows how difficult it is for wheelchair bound residents to navigate. I have also talked to Ms. Lorenz about possibly participating in some research with her, dedicated at understanding the financial opportunities for different programs and the effect finances have on the resident experience. Unfortunately, I would not be able to do anything until I came back from studying abroad this fall, but she said she was very interested in working with me in the future. She has allowed me the freedom to pursue any kind of independent study I am interested in, with hopes that I can find something I am personally passionate about and am motivated to work for everyday while I am with her.

A picture of fellow Brandeis alumni Dr. Laura Lorenz who has allowed me to work with her on an independent study this upcoming spring.

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As an HSSP major working at Supportive Living, I have been able to utilize my skills from interviewing friends and family members for papers in class to interacting with people from all kinds of organizations at work for research. Therefore, my work at Supportive Living has helped me immensely improve upon my communication skills. As a previously reserved and quiet student, course interviews on the experience of illness with family members have prepared me for interviews with work colleagues and even complete strangers. Also the fact that I already have experience talking with people of a specific disability/illness background (my interview with my father who deals with diabetes) has definitely helped me in interacting with the brain injury population. As I talk to people from various organizations, my skills in communication have helped me inquire about their backgrounds and current projects/missions. Thanks to these skills, I was able to further discuss with Dr. Laura Lorenz about her upcoming research project which I can hopefully be a part of one day. These communication skills are necessary in being able to learn about different career paths I can possibly take in the future and also learn from other more experienced veterans in other fields.

A picture of me with one of my residents for physical fitness

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Two Paths Diverged: Learning About Different Paths Towards Growth

Greetings from sunny California! While I do miss my East coast summer rain, I can’t say I miss having to make rainy day plans, especially with 20 (or more) energetic campers to entertain.

I’m writing this at the end of the fourth of seven weeks of camp and I can’t believe we’re so quickly approaching the end! I’m content with all that we’ve done so far and the relationships that we (my co-director, the counselors, and I) have formed with the campers living at the shelter. This past week was “Going Green” week at camp. We went on a hike, made leaf rubbings and stamps, and led the campers on a street cleanup around the shelter. All the kids were engaged and excited about the activities, which was encouraging to see. Over these past few weeks, I have come to get to know the kids and what is special and notable about each of them. They continue to surprise me with what they are interested in, what they’re not so interested in, and how they interact with each other and me.

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A sweet note from a camper

One of my favorite things about my internship is getting to be part of the community at Haven, even outside of my work with the campers. I speak to the parents about their kids, their housing searches, or their hometowns or home countries. I also have the opportunity to chat with the parents whose kids are too young for camp and spend time with direct services staff members who are dedicated, supportive, and knowledgeable. Every once in a while I pop into the main building for LifeMoves to meet with the administrative staff who are focused on the big picture and are able to give me some more insight into the organization as a whole and my small part of it.

At Brandeis I am a coordinator of the Waltham Group program, Hunger and Homelessness, a group that works with local organizations attempting to address the causes and effects of housing and food insecurity. We talk with our volunteers and community partners about how homelessness carries a stigma. As a society, we have learned to make assumptions about who is homeless, why they are in their situation, what they look like, how they act. The list goes on. It can be incredibly damaging to those individuals and families who are living without stable homes.

Through working with and alongside those who are experiencing homelessness, I am continually finding that there is no one way to be homeless and there is no one path to healing. In my orientation, the psychologist who is serving as the Vice President of Program and Services at LifeMoves spoke to us about how the organization must always “meet people where they’re at.” He explained that he often fields calls from frustrated clients upset that they were not being treated fairly, that their neighbor had it “better” than they. He recounted that he responds to these kinds of calls by letting the caller know that, congratulations, they had figured it out—the program is not fair! In other words, no two program participants follow the same path because each person needs something suited to the particulars of their situation. The National Coalition for the Homeless does a good job of explaining some of the causes of homelessness in this fact sheet. For some families and individuals, they can point to one of these headings as the root cause of their homelessness. For some, it is a more complex mix of many factors.

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The LifeMoves Model

I’ve found that this principle of different paths can extend to my work with the campers. Of course, each camper gets the same number of graham crackers or time on the bikes. However, some campers need extra attention to get the same results. For example, one camper might need a sticker chart that rewards her for saying goodbye to his mom without crying, while another camper might need to be assigned her own project to be in charge of in order to feel like she is being challenged. Some might want to sit and talk while some learn best by getting their hands and knees dirty on the soccer field. It’s been one of our largest tasks to adjust to these diverse needs, but it ultimately is leading to far better results.

I’m looking forward to what these next three weeks will bring and letting you know what I learn!

Mira McMahon ‘18

Midpoint at United for a Fair Economy

I am at the midpoint of my time at United for a Fair Economy and it feels like time is going by so quickly! The more I have adapted to the environment at UFE and the more I have become acquainted with the type of work I am doing there, the more I feel like a part of their community and it is hard to believe that I am halfway done with my internship. It feels like there is so much left to learn! Recently, I have been learning a lot about the finance side of non profit organizations. At first, I thought this would be more tedious and monotonous than the rest of the work I have been doing, but I have actually enjoyed it a lot because I feel like an integral part of the organization; the tasks I have been given are ones that if they were not completed, the organization would fail to run smoothly. For example, I have been in charge of all donation processing and deposits, as well as reconciling information regarding online donations in preparation for their upcoming audit. While I have been doing this, I have also been given projects that fit my interests such as creating an informational postcard to send out with some of their mailings regarding bequests. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I am being given projects and tasks that both fit my interests, teach me a lot, and also help UFE a lot. Feeling valued by the people who work at UFE has allowed me to become more passionate about the work I am doing as well as take notice to more real life issues that are relevant to UFE’s work. I have felt myself become more aware of economic injustices and feel a stronger need to fight for economic equality. Staff members periodically send articles or events related to economic justice through email as a way to keep us grounded in our work. For example, I was sent an article about internships and the fact that they are only provided to people with privilege (link to article here). Reading this article made me realize how grateful I am for the opportunities I have, and how unfair it is that not everyone is provided these opportunities, making UFE’s work so important. Similarly, I was sent an article about a protest led by immigrants against deportations (link to article here). Before working at UFE, I would have probably skimmed through this article and not given it a second thought, but after meeting people through UFE with heartbreaking stories of deportation and unequal rights as immigrants, this article sparked an anger in me that made me want to do my very best work while at UFE and spread the word about these injustices.

One of the many charts found on UFE’s website illustrating economic phenomenons that are causing inequality.

In this way, working at UFE is very different than academic life because the work is so real. In academics, a lot of what I learn comes from textbooks or lectures, and sometimes it is hard to remember that the things I am learning are reality when they are coming from words on a page or someone else’s voice. At my internship, however, I am constantly reminded that what I am doing matters because what I am doing is linked to real life people and situations. Rather than just reading about people who are experiencing economic justice, I am meeting them in person and hearing their personal stories. Rather than just having a professor tell me how to compile and analyze data in a spreadsheet, I am determining the best ways to do so for the present needs of the organization and creating reports that will be used to persuade real people to help others in need.

Another graphic produced by UFE in response to a policy in North Carolina, one of the states that they are expanding to.

Similarly, doing work that involves real people and real issues makes the work I am doing more prone to sudden changes or problems. Thus, this internship is teaching me how to creatively problem solve quickly and effectively in a way that I have never had to do before. In school, solving problems quickly and effectively is important, but only for my own success; at UFE, solving problems quickly and effectively could be the difference between getting a program funded that will help a lot of people in need, or having to cancel that program. This is a skill that I think will be useful in everything I do, whether that’s academics, work, or even interpersonal relationships and social situations. In addition, I am learning how to assert myself and ask for projects that I really want to do. This was scary at first, but my boss really appreciates it because it allows me to do work that I care about and thus will do a better job on. I look forward to the lessons I learn in the second half of my internship! 

Ilana Cedarbaum

 

Midpoint at ExpandED Schools

I am halfway through my summer internship at ExpandED Schools and have begun to hit a real stride with my role, team and workflow. I have developed a steady routine and my desk has accumulated lots of papers and clutter. I know what time I need wake up and leave for the bus, what I do for lunch, and how to budget my time after work. I take the bus and the commute usually takes about 45 minutes each way. On the ride I get to listen to my music and the Port Authority Bus Terminal is only a 2 block walk from my office which is perfect. I hit the ground running when I arrive to the office, work on projects until lunch with occasional meetings, and usually walk down the street to Bryant Park to parkenjoy a little bit of fresh air. After lunch I continue working on my projects and then check in with my boss to update her on my progress, ask questions, and receive any new assignments.

I also try and see friends after work about twice a week. In fact, one thing I find particularly nice about work life as opposed to academic life is that once my day is done I don’t have more work to do. There is no homework to complete, essays to write, or studying for tests. When I leave the office I just get to appreciate my time with the knowledge I put in a good days work.

As I have become more comfortable in my role I have had the chance to learn new things and expand my understanding of how my projects impact our mission. After the first few weeks I started sitting in on more meetings, including discussions about topics outside my specific role. I also went on my first site visit last week to one of the summer programs ExpandED Schools runs. It was really interesting to see firsthand how the work we do materializes into these programs. It was also really nice to interact with the students and hear how excited they were about the things they were learning.

site visitOne set of skills I have improved is my research abilities. I spend most of my day doing research and there have been some very difficult pieces of information to find. I have learned research requires immense patience, knowledge and creativity to use alternative paths to find the information I seek.

I have also improved my communication skills by conducting phone interviews to gather information which is the other substantial part of my job. I has taught me to be thoughtful, organized, and clear in my conversations with people.

This internship has been a wonderful learning process. I had a bit of a slow start with some of my projects this summer and learned how to ask my supervisor for additional opportunities in an open and respectful manner. I am also gaining a range of skills and experience. I am sure that my research skills will have a greater effect on my academic life, and that both my research and communication skills will be incredibly valuable and necessary in helping me reach my future career goals.

A Summer of Hope: Thoughts on Working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

At the Esperanza, I enjoy not just working but living as a part of a community. Everything done here reflects the values of inclusion and community. One of the aspects of working at the Esperanza includes self-reliance. Since our community is predominantly working-class, many folks don’t have the privilege of paying someone for building maintenance. The interns spent a couple of weeks repainting walls after taking down an art exhibit. Everyone takes turn cleaning bathrooms or mopping before a performance, and we invite community members to help fold La Voz before mailing out the magazine.

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Photo courtesy of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. I’m on the scaffold.

As far as outside of the workplace, I already knew that San Antonio is extremely economically segregated, but my time at the Esperanza reminded me how true that is. Early on, the director and other staff members took us to different parts of town—Eastside near the Hayes Street Bride and the near Westside—to learn the history and conditions of people living them. Developers have started targeting the Westside, a predominantly Mexican/Mexican-American working-class side of town. Many cities have been hit with gentrification and displacement and San Antonio is no different.

Working in the real world back at home feels like more of a relief than working in college. Although I have to drive nearly everywhere I go (welcome to Texas), I know where I am and can often navigate without the assistance of GPS. My internship feels like a full time job, considering I spend more than forty hours a week at the Esperanza. More importantly, I feel like the work I do affects people other than those that live in a campus bubble.

One significant change is my outlook on meetings. This summer, I’ve observed city council, comprehensive planning, and housing bond committees.

Photo from The Rivard Report. That's me in the hat.
Photo from The Rivard Report. That’s me in the hat.

Many meetings I’ve attended in college revolve around planning events or discussing long-term organizing strategies. The meetings I’ve sat at (or spoken at in some cases) affect the lives of the over one million people living in San Antonio. It amazes me that policy can be decided in a simple conference room. For example, I recently attended two meetings surrounding San Antonio’s affordable housing bond. This bond had the potential to provide affordable housing and emergency repairs to families. At the meeting—in which the committee had to make draft recommendations for affordable housing—members were surprised to learn that they could not pass most of the policies for legal reasons.

Much of the work for SA Tomorrow involved reading, research, and coming up with creative solutions. One of the other interns majored in urban planning and environmental policy, so while she already had background education around sustainability, I have to read extra to understand some proposals in the works. Hopefully this extra work will pay off when studying for my environmental studies minor.  I’m also learning to take the initiative on certain projects. One of the interns and I are spearheading a social media campaign talking about water in San Antonio. This will build my social media skills, which I can transfer to campus organizing.

Anastasia Christilles, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Law is not a Machine

To me, the phrase the “criminal justice system” has always evoked the image of a well-oiled machine. A case comes into the courthouse and—after a little under the hood mechanics—is transformed into a verdict. My mechanical vision of criminal justice led me to believe that a career in law would necessarily be mundane and repetitive. Halfway through my internship, I have come to realize I was entirely wrong.

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My corner of the office!

Cases certainly enter Boston Municipal, but sentences depend on countless factors. Last week, the office also hosted a “Brown Bag Lunch” where they invited interns to hear a speaker: the head of the Family Protection and Sexual Assault Bureau, David Deakin. Deakin discussed a rape and robbery he was prosecuting in which the defendant was an identical twin. While his DNA had been found on the victim, his brother’s DNA matched the sample as well. In 2014—ten years after the assault—a German company became the first to pioneer a DNA test that could differentiate between identical twins. Deakin now prepares to be the first prosecutor to ever introduce ultra-deep next-generation sequencing in court, setting a legal precedent for years to come. His job certainly did not sound systematic or dull.

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Some of the many disposed case files being stored in the office

 

 

Even my “boring” tasks as an intern have proved to be exciting, thought provoking and incredibly gratifying. Answering phone calls is exceptionally rewarding, when there is a victim on the other end expressing how thankful they are to have someone they can contact directly to update them on the status of their case. Shadowing the daily routine of my supervisors is so impactful, when I get to watch them help transform timid, vulnerable victims into confident, self-advocates willing to testify against their assailant. And filling out paperwork is extremely satisfying when I know I am creating an important document that a prosecutor will use in an upcoming trial. My work has taught me important skills such as how to work in a high-paced environment where assignments often need immediate attention and how to stay calm when presented with unfamiliar situations and tasks. I truly feel like I am developing skills that will better equip me to enter the work force, teaching me how to adapt, take direction and be a leader.

As a student preparing to apply to law school, I hoped my internship would provide me clarity as to my future career goals and I have not been disappointed. This internship has allowed me to see the legal system from a closer perspective and through a far different lens then any academic or on-campus experiences have permitted. My experience at Boston Municipal has proved to be exceptionally different than learning about legal issues in a classroom. Rather than reading about the criminal justice process or learning about an individual’s legal rights from an analytic perspective, I am able to see these issues unfold. The work is fast-paced, exciting, and extremely rewarding. Seeing the application of law makes me realize the integral role the legal system plays in maintaining order within our society.

Overall, this experience is making me confident that pursuing a career in law is, undoubtedly, the right decision for me.

Dustin Fire, ’17

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Embracing Hinche and Education

Upon arriving to Haiti, I was greeted by customs and eager taxi drivers to drive me to my desired location. Yet, the only person I was excited to see was my supervisor. She greeted me with her warm embrace and reassurance of a transformative time in Haiti. So far, she has lived up to her promise.

Once I arrived in Hinche, our staff was immediately put to work and started organizing the materials for open house the following day. During this time, I was able to bond with my new staff members. Most of the staff members are Boston Public School teachers who have experience teaching Haitian-American students at their local school. I am really grateful to receive insight about the education field through their experiences. In our time of exchanging stories, I found out that three of the staff members are first generation Haitian-Americans. Witnessing the intrinsic motivation to give back to their community was comforting. I knew right then that my staff would instill passion and dedication in their work during their time in Haiti.

The busy and vibrant city of Hinche is encased in voluminous green mountains. Everyone around you is working or going somewhere. To add on to the excitement, the director is pretty much a local celebrity in the community. With that being said, it is a thrilling feeling to migrate through the street and witness the smiling faces of the citizens. In that time, I noticed that

Me and a few of my students
Me and a few of my students

the local citizens really value their Christian faith. Most communal spaces are reserved for religious ceremonies and the citizens outwardly and unapologetically express their faith. It is beautiful to see so many people rejoicing and in celebration together.

On my first day of work, about sixty students were eager to start camp and immediately greeted me. You can see the gratitude plastered on their face as they successfully entered the camp. Gaining a spot in this camp is extremely valuable to the students because they are receiving enrichment and are guaranteed two meals a day for free. Services such as these are usually not free and thus helpful to both the student and their parents. Their desire to be here is beyond admirable. I know students who walk twenty minutes to get to the camp. The students come prepared and are attentive and very respectful. It is safe to say we have a symbiotic relationship too. Since I am teaching them English, the students have agreed to teach me Haitian Creole.

The World of Work in regards to this specific organization is not too different from university life in my opinion. I live in a shared space with different people, we eat together and we work together. Like Brandeis, we are all working to achieve the same goal even if it is through different paths. Socially, my life here in Haiti is not too different from university life as my staff members all have different values and experiences. The varying experiences and unique perspectives existing in the workspace enhance productivity and the overall richness of the program.

Outside of organizational and team building skills, I believe I’ve gained great experience in project management. I am currently conducting a poetry project at the camp. To complete this project, I had to work closely with my co-teachers to successfully execute the project and be in consistent communication with my director with any updates on the project’s progress. Engaging in this kind of work directly applies to my life at Brandeis. This is especially true in my role as a Community Advisor at Brandeis where planning is essential to maintaining a healthy environment for my residents.

Overall, I am so grateful to have an opportunity to work with such remarkable people to achieve such a meaningful mission.

LaShawn Simmons, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Ms.LaShawn's English Class
Ms.LaShawn’s English Class

A Summer of Learning

Every day at the EPA brings a new and exciting learning opportunity. My supervisor has encouraged me to attend seminars throughout the EPA and Washington, D.C. and to write memos for the Office of Water. In the end of June, I attended a seminar about federal coal leasing at Resources for the Future, an environmental economics think tank, and heard Jason Furman, the Chief Economic Advisor for President Obama, give recommendations about reforming the federal coal leasing program.

As a student studying environmental economics, the discussion was intellectually stimulating and offered a new perspective on energy policy. In the following week, I attended a town hall meeting led by EPA Deputy Administrator Gina McCarthy, and I learned about EPA’s amazing accomplishments in the past few weeks—the Toxic Substance Control Act reform and the Volkswagen settlement. The talk was energizing, and I felt proud to be part of such an impactful agency.

Panelists at the DC-Israel Water Summit discuss transboundary and off-grid water
Panelists at the DC-Israel Water Summit discuss transboundary and off-grid water management.

The DC-Israel Water Summit, a conference about Israeli solutions to its water scarcity crisis and its applicability to U.S. water policy, was the highlight of my summer so far. This summit was absolutely amazing, as it brought together both my love for Israel and my passion for the environment. The summit was also relatively small, so I had a chance to meet water professionals from around DC and meet the author of Let There Be Water, a book about Israel’s approach to its water crisis. I heard from panelists who were from USAID, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Israeli research institutions, Coca-Cola, the Israeli embassy, the Brookings Institution, and more.

 

Seth Siegel's book about Israeli water innovation
Seth Siegel’s book about Israeli water innovation

The summit was both personally and professionally fulfilling. The Israeli response to its water crisis was incredibly inspiring and gives me hope for other countries to overcome their own resource scarcities: Israel recycles 85% of their wastewater, decoupled water usage from economic and population growth, and now has a water surplus and exports water to Jordan and the Palestinian authority. We have a lot to learn from Israel! After learning all of this from the summit, I had the chance to write a memo for the Water Policy staff to share these findings and offer recommendations. For myself, I may consider a career in the water field— water management will be a growing focus in the U.S. and has potential for great reform and modernization.

I also started working on two reports for the Water Policy Staff. First, I am comparing two similar environmental screening tools—an environmental justice tool called EJSCREEN and the Community Focused Exposure and Risk Screening tool (C-FERST). Two different committees worked on these tools, and I am tasked with comparing any overlap between the two tools and providing my thoughts and recommendation to both the C-FERST and EJSCREEN committee.

Additionally, I am in the midst of writing a recommendation of water indicators to add to EJSCREEN. This requires doing a literature review of different environmental justice topics related to water and climate change, assessing available data sets to find high-resolution data, and making an argument for adding these new indicators. So far, I feel most passionate about my water scarcity indicator, especially after attending the DC-Israel Water Summit. I know the EJSCREEN committee is most open to adding climate change related indicators, so perhaps they will add this indicator. At the end of the July, I will pitch my ideas to the EJSCREEN Steering committee. I have my fingers crossed!

Internships can be another way to grow and learn

The alarm clock wakes me up around 7:30 a.m. The sun is already trying to sneak into my room. I do not think that El Paso has a much time living in the darkness. The scintillating sun does not leave until 9 p.m. and comes back sooner than it is expected.

After a shower, I put on some sunscreen, have a little snack, and grab my belongings, ready to go to work. I can walk daily from where I am staying to Cinco Puntos Press (CPP). Obviously, a routine has formed, however, it is a routine I very much enjoy. My supervisors, they described themselves as “hippies”—although, according to them, they were not the sort of hippies who would do drugs or used to go insane when they were young, back in the 60s. They usually order me that the first thing that I must do when I get to work is to grab a cup of coffee, so that I am wide awake, and I am happy to follow their orders.

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A regular day working at Cinco Puntos Press (CPP).

They have all appreciated my work and I have come to appreciate their hospitality and selfless guidance. As the days go by swiftly. I have done a little bit of everything. I have had the opportunity to proofread a Spanish translation of a successful sequel to a series of books that CPP has published for quite some time already, known as Maximilian. The third installment is titled, Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club: A Bilingual Lucha Libre by Xavier Garza. It is a gleeful story about a young boy who happens to have an interesting, comic, yet dangerous family. They are all involved in the business of lucha libre (a term used in Mexico for a form of professional wrestling). The boy begins to train to become the next big thing, just like his uncle the Ángel Guardian (Guardian Angel). Although Max has still a long way to go, after all he is just a boy. However, he has two professional, expert trainers along him: his uncles. They are on the verge of retiring and Max’s family has commenced to seek and train the next big successor. It seems that lucha libre is intrinsically pumping through Max’s blood because he seems to be their man.

Furthermore, the truth is that I have enjoyed every book that I have read from CPP. I have given the privilege to attend the pitch meetings, in which the three editors (Mrs. Lee, Mr. John, and Mr. Bobby Byrd) choose the books they will like to publish the upcoming spring of 2017. They select a few options from the hundreds of submissions that CPP receives for consideration.

In fact, I had the chance of reading two stories that would, eventually, if chosen, become picture books. One I liked ; the other one I did not. I had to write a report, about 350 to 400 words on what I thought it works and what does not for each of the submissions that I read. Both stories were, of course, centered around diverse characters. An excerpt of my report from the submission I liked, “Lois Dreamed” by Kara Stewart:

[…] I think the metaphor of Lois’s yearning to become an acrobat has an element of universality. Any child that reads this story may replace Lois’s personal longings of becoming an acrobat with his/er own goals (i.e. becoming a doctor, astronaut, president, etc.). They will for sure understand that the color of their skin or gender or any other intersectionality, will not dictate what they ought to become. […] [D]espite the story being about an Indian, it undoubtedly has universal elements that would make of this book: a book for everyone.

Not only does CPP need my opinion on the book they publish, but I have also been collaborating on getting their books out there. One of such books, it is a book, titled, Photographs of My Father by Paul Spike. It is a great book, which I happen to have read as well—one of the perks of this job is that I get to read as many books as I want for free. The story about Rev. Robert Spike, who later became a civil rights activist and was mysteriously killed after finding out that the funding that was supposed to go to a federal Mississippi education program was in lieu going somewhere else–to fund the Vietnam War.

This book was published in 1973 and when it came out, it was reviewed by a lot of newspapers and publications, including The New York Times. Nevertheless, the book stopped printing, and what CPP decided was to re-print it again. The bad news is that not everyone is interested in reviewing a book that has already come out and reviewed. Therefore, my job has been reaching out to different outlets that could potentially be interested in selling, endorsing, or reviewing the book, and I have been successful at it. This task has allowed me to develop my marketing skills, which I did not really think I had.

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Working on the e-books.

I have also come to realize that close-reading skills are indeed transferable. In the current week, I have been compiling a spreadsheet list of all the contracts of rights that CCP has signed with different publishing and film companies over the world. Some contracts are one-time deal, while others are renewable, others have expired, and others are about to. I need to follow up on each and every single one of them. I need to make sure that CPP has received the payments from the companies on which the agreement has been settled. Also, I need to add the contracts’ expiration dates on Google calendar. In addition, I ought to reach out to the companies whose contract with CPP has expired, inquiring whether they would like to renew their contract or not.

Mr. John Byrd has also been introducing me to how to convert books into e-books, using InDesign. InDesign skills were skills that I used to possess, but throughout time, I have forgotten half of it. But, thankfully it is coming back, thanks to Mr. Byrd’s guidance. This is still a work in progress, notwithstanding, I look forward to telling you more about it as I keep trying.

My time at Cinco Puntos has allowed me to think about my future. I can definitely see myself doing this.

Best,

Santiago Montoya, ’19

The Reality of Corners and Day Labors

Organizing it is a meaningful, but demanding job. I enjoy very much the relationship that those in the Worker Justice Project create with its members. These people need the support WJP gives them to stand up to unfair wages, and the abuse they face in their everyday jobs. This is my mid-point blog, in which I will describe how these past weeks had been as a Worker Justice. I am still working on the research with Cornell together with Angel Sanchez, my supervisor. It has become a routine to wake up around 4am so I am able to reach the site around 6 am. Then, between 6 am and 11 am, Angel and I observe, and sometimes converse with the day laborers. Sometimes the places we visit are filled with hardworking immigrants, other times we visit corners, in which a lot of issues are present. For example, we recently visited the corner situated between East Tremont Ave and Westchester Square. The majority of day laborers at this corner felt our presence to be hostile; they stared at us and even approached us to tell us to leave. I did not feel safe at such a place, filled with men that reeked of alcohol and marijuana. A few day labors were open to talked and explained to us how this corner worked, “Estamos divididos en dos grupos: los que quieren trabajar y los que vienen a bochinchar y pasar el rato.” (We are divided into two groups: Those who want to work, and those who come to fool around and waste time). This division was palpable to us, outsiders. This experience allowed me to understand that corners are a unique and complex world, which inner-work we do not completely understand.

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Besides, observing for the research Cornell was conducting on corners and day labors, I was still working on mapping the corners in the Bronx. So, after 11 am I explored the surrounding areas, and visited multiple offices, churches and other institutions to introduce the organization, as well as, our purpose and work with day labors. Many of these institutions were not interested in our work or the well being of these day labors, which made it difficult for us to organize the community to provide essential protection to these workers. Day laborers face numerous barriers in their work; a vast majority of them are illegal immigrants, who need to feed their family. Their only source of income is doing these jobs for cheaper rates, and without any guarantees that they will work on a safe environment, that they will be provided adequate equipment, or even that they will get paid the amount that was promised. They are unable to seek legal retribution or consult because of their illegal residence in the United States.

This summer working with the WJP, I have learned a lot about the labor movement, Unions, how corners work and the type of individuals that work at these sites, as well as, the issues that they face. But, learning about these issues from someone is incredibly different than when you are listening to these stories from the people themselves. It really does stir up something in your belly that pressures you to do something about it, to stand up and support these people to grow, and that is exactly what the Worker Justice Project does. WJP does not only help them face their problems, but trains them to become problem-solvers, conscious, resilient, and independent individuals so when faced with other problems

Lisbeth Bueno ’17

Midpoint Reflections–Writopia Lab, NYC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning About Qualitative Research.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Julia Doucett ’16

 

Midway Point at Kids4Peace

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

-Leah Susman ’18

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute, At My Midpoint

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Fisheries Humor

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

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Friendly cricket match at the GMRI summer BBQ

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

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

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

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Portland, Maine’s working waterfront

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

– Rebecca Mitchell ’16

 

Small Army Midseason Review

 

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

Experiences

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Looking Forward

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

 

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Nice city view from the lounge.

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

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My lab bench where I do most of my experiments.

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

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

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

Vivian Liu, ’17

NOLA Indie Scene: Community Media and Youth

Photo by TuckerGurl inc.
Photo by TuckerGurl inc.

After hearing Ava DuVernay speak about diversity in media at the Essence Festival and seeing a diverse number of independent filmmakers in and out of our office, I am proud to be a summer intern for an organization that is about making filmmaking and community media accessible for all members of society. At its core, NOVAC is about giving the citizens of New Orleans access to channels of communication so they can tell their personal narratives. NOVAC provides the tools necessary for digital storytelling to its local community by forming workforce training programs, digital storytelling camps, filmmaker workshops, and free conferences.

Since late June, my responsibilities includes designing logos for non-profit organizations, creating slideshows and short videos for NOVAC and taking notes in meetings with NOVAC affiliates. But lately everyone at NOVAC has been trying to spread awareness about the detrimental effects of the HB 289 Bill that just passed through the Louisiana state legislature. The HB 289 Bill caps tax incentives at 180 million dollars for film production companies. This bill would increase unemployment and displace film professionals out of their profession because film studios would rather produce films in areas that do not cap tax incentives, like Atlanta. The HBO/Cinemax Quarry Internship program was an amazing opportunity that provide 15 individuals with an internship based on their interests, but now their industry worthy skills may be under utilized because of the the HB 289 Bill. NOVAC’s workforce training workshops are economic opportunities for local residents. After New Orleanians complete our training programs, they gain access to jobs in the film industry through our job referral program and they can use their newly acquired skills to gain social mobility but the HB 289 Bill may hinder that.

Despite worrying about the effects of the HB 289 Bill, NOVAC has been preoccupied with New Orleans youth! Earlier this month, I checked in with parents to confirmed their children’s spot in NOVAC’s Youth Digital Storytelling Summer Camp. These young aspiring filmmakers spent one week creating a PSA about the harmful effects of smoking. From creating their own props to adding the credits, our campers had a say in the creative process and in deciding what issue they wanted to tackle with their video. Through digital storytelling, these students were able to disseminate a powerful message about the effects of smoking, and here at NOVAC we think it is imperative that community members, young and old, learn how to use mediums of communication to inform citizens about social justice issues. After all, in 1972, when NOVAC was founded, one of their aims was to use videos to spread awareness about poverty in New Orleans. Now, NOVAC provides outlets for New Orleans youth to tackle issues of domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness, abuse, and other issues they are passionate about.

I’ve worked closely with Clark Prep High School rising senior Bernisha Hooker since she joined NOVAC as a summer intern. The city of New Orleans offers an internship program for teenagers in New Orleans, however most of these internships do not correlate with the students’ future career aspirations. Through a special program called Youth Force, Bernisha was placed at an internship site that matches her career interests: photography and filmmaking. Bernisha and I work side by side and I aid her with her duties. Since she is a New Orleanian, I thought it would be interesting to hear about her experience with Hurricane Katrina, especially since this year is the 10th anniversary. I interviewed and recorded her story for NOVAC Project 10. Project 10 is a digital storytelling initiative from NOVAC and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Representatives from local community organizations and New Orleans citizens tell us their stories about one of the most devastating events in America. The project has taught me about documentary and social justice filmmaking as well as the non-exciting part of filmmaking: planning and working with people’s schedules. There are ALWAYS last minute changes and you have to adapt accordingly. In college, you are aware of deadlines and you usually have enough time to prepare for assignments and projects. I’m realizing in the independent filmmaking world, you just always have to be ready for the next opportunity, especially when working on documentaries based on people volunteering their time to help you with your work.

My awesome radical bosses!
My awesome radical bosses!

My internship is providing me with the technical skills necessary for documentary filmmaking and community media. Since I have been in New Orleans, I’ve met state senators, representatives from the Urban League New Orleans Chapter, independent filmmakers and creative problem-solvers. Meeting these people emphasized the importance of teamwork and collaborative practices. As a college student, I am use to working solo, aside from the dreaded group project, and I like working by myself because I make all the decisions and I do not have to work with people’s schedules. However, this summer I was brought into projects, so I could add my own vision and my mentors have pushed me to think critically about the work I am doing, whether it is editing my logo designs or finding an issue to tackle for my final project. Working with other talented individuals makes my work better and I am excited to engage with more community members for my final video project on Gentrification in the Upper Ninth Ward New Orleans!

Karen Seymour ’17

Social Justice WOW Fellow

The midway point

Now that I have completed half of my internship at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), I have a lot to reflect upon. From the lessons I’ve learned to the friends I’ve made, I know that I have already gained so much from this experience. I can’t believe it’s almost coming to an end!

The doors to AEI's building.
The doors to AEI’s building.

When I first came to DC I was scared. The city was so huge and overwhelming, and I knew next to no one. Unlike when I began Brandeis, no one was here to show me the way. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to explore and even to play tour guide to others. When my family visited me, they were impressed with my knowledge of this city, which at first glance on a map looks like a maze. I have my favorite restaurants and boutiques, and the places where I love to stroll (like Rock Creek Park: http://www.nps.gov/rocr/index.htm). I know the shortcuts and the scenic routes. At school, my life revolves around happenings on campus, and my focus seems far narrower; however, living in the middle of the city has allowed me the opportunity to get to know Washington far more intimately. Now, this place feels like my home.

Working at AEI has also become less overwhelming. The interns have really bonded and I’ve made friends that I hope to keep in touch with when we all leave this town. My co-workers are also less intimidating, perhaps as a result of our shared experience of waiting in the lunch line each day. AEI is known for its stellar kitchen, and everyone, including interns, guests, and staff, lines up at noon to wait for the amazing food. As a result, the person in front of you striking up a casual conversation may turn out to be an AEI fellow or even a Senator. After finding myself in that position a number of times, I’m ready for anything. I’ve learned that sometimes even a quick chat can be the foundation of a professional relationship, which may be solidified over coffee or a later meeting. The opportunity to interact with these individuals has been a highlight of my summer experience.

One amazing thing about working at AEI is each department’s willingness to help provide the experience interns are looking for. In addition to mastering my ongoing and day-to-day tasks managing various digital platforms, I wanted to learn more hard skills this summer for personal and professional development. After mentioning this goal to the digital strategy team, one of my co-workers took it upon herself to schedule weekly training sessions with me. So far, she has taught me how to use design tools such as Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. I feel as though I now have a good handle on each of these products. I even designed a vector that AEI is using to promote Arthur Brooks’ new book The Conservative Heart. (See more here from AEI’s Instagram account: https://instagram.com/aei/).

 

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A vector I designed for AEI.

Overall, I am immensely enjoying my summer here in DC and at AEI. I know that I am learning valuable skills, meeting important people, and really taking advantage of my opportunities here. I know that none of this would have been possible if not for the WOW Scholarship, and I think about my gratitude for this program every single day. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings!

 

Margot Grubert, ’17

Midpoint at SIF

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At the midpoint of my internship at the Social Innovation Forum, it’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for five weeks. There has never been a slow moment at the Social Innovation Forum. Though I do not have much experience at other offices, my impression is that my office environment is exceptionally friendly, kind, and passionate. Since it is a nonprofit, it attracts people who care deeply about making a positive change in the world. I’ve heard from friends who have worked at direct service nonprofits that the work is extremely rewarding, but it can be emotionally draining because you interact with individuals in great need of help on a daily basis. This feedback has always made me hesitant to seek out nonprofit internships, but since the Social Innovation Forum is not a direct service nonprofit, I get to learn about the incredible innovative work happening in the nonprofit field from a happy office environment where people don’t seem to mind going the extra mile.

The SIF Social Innovator Showcase attracts 300 Boston area business leaders, funders, and individual philanthropists
The SIF Social Innovator Showcase attracts 300 Boston area business leaders, funders, and individual philanthropists

I am constantly learning new skills that I have no doubt can be transferred to different jobs and projects in the future. For instance, two of my biggest projects are market scans and outreach, which involve research and phone skills, respectively. My classes, as well as many jobs, require some level of research skills, so I have no doubt that the hours I spend researching at this internship will help me build the skills for future success. Additionally, I have become extremely comfortable on the phone. Like many Millennials, I make much fewer phone calls than previous generations, but this internship has made me well versed in phone etiquette, a skill that will make me a competitive candidate for future jobs that may require phoning skills.
Working a nine-to-five job is very different from student life. I think I will return to school with a greater appreciation of my free time. During the school year it always feels like there is more to be done, and when I spend a Saturday hanging out without being productive, I feel like I’ve wasted the day. However, now that I’m working at an internship, I can go home on Friday and not have any responsibilities until Monday morning. At the same time, I spend a much longer time working than I do on my schoolwork on the typical day, and by the time my commute is over there’s very little time left for myself at the end of the day. Balancing work with other responsibilities is certainly teaching me how precious my free time is. Working life certainly has its pros and cons, but I’m glad that this internship is giving me a good idea of what full-time employment is like as I prepare to graduate from Brandeis. I am looking forward to more good things to come in the second half of my internship.

Emma Farber, ’16

Akshaya Patra Foundation in Bangalore, India—Mid-Point Reflection

My first month in Bangalore has brought a host of opportunities for personal and professional growth. As I mentioned in my first blog post, my primary responsibility is to visit government schools that receive the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal in order to collect testimony about the impact that the mid-day meal has on students, teachers, and school administrators.

I collect this information via one-to-one interviews, often translated from English to Kannada, and then Kannada back to English. With support from the Foundation, I have been able to collect a reasonably representative sample of testimony of school children from several communities in Bangalore.

Collecting testimony has been a practical application of the fieldwork necessary for much of the work produced in social science research. I’m lucky to be able to practice a modified version of fieldwork, with a lot of support from the people around me. After finishing my time at Brandeis, I would like to pursue graduate study in anthropology. I have India in mind as a place I would like to explore further, so the exposure I’m getting this summer will be helpful to me during future trips.

Being an intern at such a large transnational NGO, like the Akshaya Patra Foundation, has helped me understand some of the challenges of operating an NGO in conjunction with a government mandated program. I am also learning about the opportunities, and difficulties, that fundraising across continents may pose.

During my time at Brandeis, I have been introduced to the ethics of international (and domestic) development. I have been fortunate to receive a strong academic background in some of the ethical considerations that circulate in academic circles. My internship is supplementing theoretical arguments that I have been exposed to—most of which are very critical of the development industry—with exposure to the challenges of running a social welfare program, initiated by the government, on a scale necessary to accommodate India’s large population.

In the last month, I have been reading Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?written by Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m finding that much of Dr. King’s commentary is directly relevant to my time as an intern at Akshaya Patra. Dr. King rhetorically asks, “How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellows?” (1968:86). He then responds, “To ignore evil is to become an accomplice in it” (1968:86).

The effect, however small, that the actions in my adult life will have in swaying our collective consciousness towards justice—or towards further harm—remains to be seen. For now, I have been very lucky to sit with, and bear witness to, the stories of people in India who we do not regularly hear from. I hope that, in my working life, I’ll be able to remember and honor the stories I have been exposed to this summer. My internship is renewing my commitment to following Dr. King’s leadership, and his assertion that it is in our best interest to actively engage in creating humane, fair, and just living conditions for all members of our societies.

-Shane Weitzman ’16

 

Government Urdu High School, DJ Halli

Government Urdu High School, DJ Halli

(A school I visited to collect testimony.)

 

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Government Lower Primary School, Kattugollahalli

(A school I visited to collect testimony.)

 

To learn more about the mid-day meal scheme in India, please see:

  1. http://mdm.nic.in/

(Government of India website for mid-day meal scheme)

  1. http://www.archive.india.gov.in/sectors/education/index.php?id=7

(Explanation of mid-day meal scheme by Government of India)

 

United for a Fair Economy- Where has the time gone?

It’s hard to believe the summer is half over. I have learned so many valuable things so far at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). One of my goals this summer was to learn more about the behind-the-scenes at a small non-profit organization. Even in such a short time, I have gained an understanding of how UFE operates. I’ve learned what goes into a budget, how to frame a development plan, and what different types of communications are used.  I also attended a website building meeting to determine who visits our website, what they are looking for, and what content is essential for us.

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My beautiful walk to work in downtown Boston

One particular skill I am building is my writing. UFE talks about being “donor centric,” which means writing from the viewpoint of the donor. In broader terms, I am working to understand other perspectives. I have been able to apply the writing skills I learned in school in a new and creative way. I have to think carefully about the wording of everything I write, improving my writing for both academic work and future jobs.

The work I am most proud of at this point is a three-email appeal I helped write that was sent to donors. They were designed to get donors excited about the direction UFE is headed, and to let them know what their money does and why it is important that they support our work.

More abstractly, I’ve learned that non-profit work is complicated. From the development perspective, the organization never really knows how much money will be given, or how successful what we are doing is. For example, UFE sends multiple appeals each year. Sometimes, more money is donated than others. It is hard to know what about the appeal worked- the writing, content, design, timing, or something else. However, this money is necessary to fund the many worthwhile projects UFE hopes to take on, so I’ve learned that you just keep going and do the best you can.

In addition, working in the real world has been different from academic life because it isn’t planned. In my classes, the professor has a plan of what he or she will teach and provides a syllabus. As a student, I know what I am going to learn and when I will be tested. On the other hand, in my internship, I find out what I am doing each day based on what is happening. The future is unknown to everyone; there are plans and objectives, but any number of things could change them. Furthermore, at school, I am only accountable to myself and my own success. I do as well as I can in classes for myself. At a non-profit, I am doing all this work for and with others as well. I am accountable to the organization and the people the organization is helping.

This internship is helping me build skills for school and the future. I’m learning to ask questions, help with as much as I can, stay organized and motivated, and develop relationships. I look forward to the second half of the summer.

One month into research

I can’t believe it’s already been one month working at the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital! One of the best parts about this internship is how comprehensive it is in terms of the tasks I get to work on at the Institute and the hospital. At Benson-Henry, we work on tons of different projects and studies all at the same time. Most of our studies center around the body’s reception of the relaxation response, which is essentially the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. Right now, we’re working on a study that examines various manifestations of the relaxation response (i.e. meditation or yoga) in healthy individuals who are chronically stressed, a study that tracks the same response in individuals who have a certain susceptibility gene for multiple myeloma, and a study that explores how the relaxation response can affect resident students in medical school. And those are just a few of the projects I am working on! In comparison to some of the research I do at Brandeis and in the classroom, at the BHI I really get to follow experiments all the way through and see all of their different parts come together. Because we’re working on so many projects at once, each project is usually in a different place than the one next to it. That is to say, some studies are in their beginning phases in terms of recruitment, some are in full swing in terms of data collection, others are pushing through data entry, and still others are being analyzed.

One of the best parts about this internship is that I get to combine and manipulate much of what I have learned in my psychology classes at Brandeis in science. For instance, for the chronic stress study, one of the biomedical measures we are collecting is cortisol, a steroid hormone involved in stress in the body, a hormone I have learned about in multiple classes. It’s really interesting to combine what I learned about cortisol in my Biological Basis of Motivation neuroscience class with what I learned about cortisol in my Adolescent psychology class to really see cortisol in action. Similarly, I just started a literature review for the Institute on a new research topic we are starting that will focus on stress and eating disorders. After taking Research Methods and reading multiple research articles, I am thrilled that I can incorporate those classroom lessons in practical psychology in the real world. I am especially enjoying working with the research coordinators at the BHI because they all have such different and unique research interests and have already proven to be great resources for me as I delve into the world of research and clinical psychology.

Below is a video of Dr. Herbert Benson explaining the benefits of the Mind Body Medicine.

The BHI also holds many classes for multiple populations with various focuses. Below is a video compiled by Mass General about stress, teenagers, and the relaxation response.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w12H_U7IXvw

 

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Back to the books!

Ellie Rosenthal ’16

ERG: Midpoint

By now I’ve grown comfortable in my adopted corner office with the four pet plants and the picturesque views. After interning at Eastern Research Group for more than a month, I feel more integrated with the work and the people. Since the previous blog post, I’ve helped conduct social science research, built spreadsheets and continued to shadow environmental consulting work. I’ve become more adjusted to the work schedule and grown better about inter-office communication.

I think that, after being in school for so long, it’s easy to forget about the non-stop nature of the world outside the “bubble”. That’s why I believe doing internships is so important; not only is it about gaining insight into the world of work, but it’s about recognizing and preparing for other aspects of the world as well.

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Monthly meeting in Boston – a presentation on renewable energy options

Recently, while at ERG, it occurred to me just how “abnormal” and condensed the academic year is. Since I’ve lived by the academic year for the past 15 years, it’s not easy to imagine what a full calendar year of work really entails mentally and physically, but it’s something I will learn to adjust to when the time comes.

Another comparison I would make is: academic work is more structured and comes in cyclical waves, but being at ERG has shown me that, often times, work can happen on a less predictable and rigid schedule. I’ve seen how work doesn’t necessarily stop after completing a project or leaving the office for the day.

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Notes and visitor cards from the monthly meeting

 

At ERG, I’m learning to become a better communicator. I’m learning to think deeper about the purpose behind my tasks and to not be shy about asking questions and contributing ideas. As a student, I’m admittedly more accustomed to independent projects and assignments, but at ERG I am adjusting my mindset to be more teamwork-oriented.  It feels good to know that my work here ultimately contributes to larger projects and therefore impacts my colleagues and the company. While the pressure is greater, I enjoy not having to worry about achieving a certain letter grade, but rather something that feels more significant and meaningful.

I am also realizing both the limitations of academic applications in the world of work as well as the intersections of skills and knowledge between the world of work and school. For example, it felt rewarding to use my research paper reading experiences from Political Psychology class to conduct social science research for ERG, just as it did when I could understand some of the data I’m working with thanks to a foundation of knowledge built in my Conservation Biology class.

Interning here confirms there are many aspects to the world of work missing from the familiar grind of academic life, and that there are many aspects to environmental consulting that one can only learn or learn best from the job itself. My observations and experiences at ERG have reinforced to me why interning is so critical, and why the WOW program is so valuable to us. As I begin my senior year next month (eep!), I am confident that what I’ve learned here will inform and ease my transition from my work-hard-play-hard student life to my independent, professional life.

Dora Chi, ’16

Week One of Empowerment through Education Camp: Hinche, Haiti (Contact Phase)

Sa kap fet!  At this point of my internship I have reached the Island of Hispaniola, and made my travels throughout Haiti from Port-au-Prince, where I landed, to Hinche where ETE Camp is held. We, five other teachers and I, have been holding sessions of ETE Camp for a week now and all I can say is that I am loving this experience. My new environment is only new to me in technical ways while the ambiance of my surrounding is all too familiar. I have been to the Caribbean many times and have spent weeks in my family’s countries of Guyana and Grenada. The familiarity of the food, culture, and day-to-day life of Hinche, Haiti is one that makes me feel close to home. It is not that hard to adjust although there are many inconveniences. The power is consistently inconsistent and makes it slightly harder to be comfortable in the sweltering summer heat and to get important things done by email. My work in ETE Camp, as a leader in the English class, and outside of it, as a Hinche community member, both involve the same levels of enthusiasm, attention, and participation from me, which I appreciate a lot. I feel fully immersed in this experience.

Port-au-Prince: The Have's and the Have not's
Port-au-Prince: The Have’s and the Have not’s

The world of work differs so much from academic/university life. Firstly, no one here cares about my grades, clubs, or the authors that I could name drop. People, to simply put it, care that I can do the tasks in front of me. Shaina Gilbert, the director of the camp, cares that I can bring to fruition all of the public health workshops that we discussed. Ms. Jessica, my teaching partner cares that I can effectively co-lead lessons in english with her. The students of ETE Camp care that I know what I am talking about and that I am there to help them be better leaders. The list goes on and on. I am not saying however that my academic transcript is insignificant or my resumé and mental stock of literary scholars is useless, because it is important. I am just noting how refreshing it is to take the skill I’ve learned from my academics like quantitative reasoning, flexibility, and quick-thinking and use them in an everyday setting of a classroom. The spontaneity of the students, ages 10-17, makes everyday, although planned through the curriculum, very much a series of surprises.

Education programs in Haiti article

 I’ve had recent discussions in my education group’s forum about this article and the complications of it being written by a white man and the tone that presents education as a luxury instead of as a right. That being said I am still including the article to continue the conversation of education’s meaning and how, as a community, we can do better to educate one another.

I am gaining a lot from working for ETE Camp. I am developing my teaching skills that include the ability to be charismatic and command the attention of others, improving my diction, and expanding my confidence in what I know, amongst other things. My ability to asses forms of nonverbal communication and look for context clues has sky-rocketed because I do not speak any Kreyol. The thing I enjoy about being an English teacher is that while the kids are learning English I am learning Kreyol and somehow we are able to meet in the middle and have this bond.

Some of the unbelievable students of the GREEN GROUP!
Some of the unbelievable students of the GREEN GROUP!

At this point in the camp the 60 day time students and the approximately 60 alumni kids make their way throughout the school between the hours of 7:30am and 6:00pm. The fact that we are seeing, most-likely, over 120 students a day is mind-blowing to me because I’ve gotten to know them personally in such a short amount of time. They all laugh at my Kreyol and I take their photos and teach them English. My public health projects just started and have been a hit so far, as we tackle positive self-esteem. I think I am getting a feel for what I want to do career-wise, which I appreciate a lot. In all honesty I can talk about ETE camp and Hinche all day but I think this will do for now. Bon soir!

ETE Camp blog

Zari Havercome, ’16

Is This Where I Really Want to Be? : My Midway Point at AVODAH

It is weird for me to think that I am halfway through my internship, and yet by the same token that I still have so much time left. When I first entered AVODAH five weeks ago I was excited by all that I would learn and the opportunities I would have, and I certainly have gained a lot from this experience. I had the opportunity to work at a fundraiser that was attended by more than 200 people, and learned how to mingle with extremely influential members of the Jewish Service community.   11407160_10204301021381322_3430737214322635737_n

 

I have also been able to learn about software tools such as Salesforce, which holds current, alumni, and staff contact information, as well as records of phone calls and donations made by these members. The skills that I have gained this summer are extremely valuable. However, I mentioned in my last post that this summer was going to be a trial for me on whether my passions sided more with community service or with theater, and I believe I have discovered my answer (although it may change 100 more times between now and when I graduate).  AVODAH is a wonderful organization, and I want to make that clear before I continue, but I have come to realize that my interest and passions lie more with theater. However, I am really thankful to have given this opportunity to discover this passion, and also to spend a summer in such a wonderful city. Internships are an opportunity to explore career prospects and this experience has better aligned me with my preferred path.  In the future, I foresee myself supporting a non-profit in more of a volunteer capacity.
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Again, this should not dissuade anyone from applying here because I think AVODAH is wonderful, and I have loved and been inspired by everyone I’ve met. In fact, it is a testament to AVODAH that I enjoy coming into work every day.  There is no denying that it is a noble endeavor to work in a social justice field, and the feeling you get from helping others is unmatched. However, if there is something that you really love doing and you can find a profession in it, then you have to follow your heart. At the end of the day, I want to go into the theater after I graduate because it excites me in a way that no other field does. I am glad that I took this summer to test out working in a non-profit, because it taught me to go for what I really love moving forward, but also to make sure that I do not forget my love of service.

– Jessica Star ’17

 

 

OneWorld Now! – Midpoint Entry

Interning for a non-profit organization whose mission I am very passionate about has made me really think about what kind of work I want to do in the future. I know that I want to do something international and service-oriented, but have not yet figured out what it is that I want to do. Because work is a large part of most peoples’ lives and takes much of our time, I want my work to be meaningful both to myself and to others. What can I do that will add meaning to my life? And, what will I find self-fulfilling?

The organization that I am interning at is located in downtown Seattle. The organization so far is small (and young). There are three permanent staff members, three part-time staff members, and 6 – 8 interns. As we all share one office space and work in close proximity to each other, it can be slightly chaotic at times. However, the space makes it possible for us to easily talk to one another and keep track of what everyone else is doing.

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It feels good being in an international and service-oriented environment and to be able to have contact with some of the students whose lives we are impacting. The organization has just finished hosting a three-week summer language and leadership camp, and has sent two groups of students to China. I am currently compiling a Study Abroad Booklet for the students who will be traveling to Morocco in August.

How Speaking Multiple Languages Benefits the Brain

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Working at a non-profit organization has made me realize how our academic lives at Brandeis tend to be self-oriented. When we are in school, the focus is entirely on us; the person who benefits most from every book we read is oneself; the person who benefits most from every essay we write is oneself. In sum, we do not work for others, but for ourselves.

At OneWorld Now!, the attention is entirely on the success of the organization and the success of the students whom we serve. Thus, each task we are given is not necessarily aimed at enhancing our knowledge in one discipline or another or improving our critical language skills. Though I enjoy working at OneWorld Now!, some of the tasks I am asked to do are not as exciting as others. This has allowed me, however, to develop skills that will help me no matter the job market. Interning at OneWorld Now! has taught me how to conduct myself in a professional manner, strengthened my problem-solving skills, and my ability to think on my feet. It has also taught me when to ask for help and how to pick up work from where someone else has left off.

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In conclusion, I really appreciate being in a culturally sensitive environment that is not too stressful and living in a city that is so diverse. I am very grateful that I am honestly able to say that I find my work at OneWorld Now! to be both enjoyable and meaningful.

– Honore Cole ’17

Midpoint at VocaliD

Despite getting settled in a little more at VocaliD, my excitement about being here this summer hasn’t changed. It continues to be an interdisciplinary, dynamic environment, and though my central roles haven’t changed much, the details and everyday tasks vary from day to day, making it an always-interesting place to be. For a few weeks now, I have also been joined by another summer intern. The two of us work closely on some tasks and separately on others.

Our crowdfunding campaign ended its initial phase this week, marking a critical point for both the company and my summer. The campaign was largely a success, raising nearly twice as much as the initial goal, bringing in troves of new customers, and solidifying the coming timeline for VocaliD.

The current campaign status, showing our funding percentage.

For most of July, I’ll be doing more or less the same work as before, but applied towards the fulfillment of “perks” bought by customers on Indiegogo.

This week and next, we have a special visitor. Samantha Grimaldo was among the earliest recipients of a VocaliD voice, and an important pioneer in bringing the technology to market. We’re working with her to become more comfortable using her device to speak in public spaces, and documenting the process for a short video piece. Sam, who has much to say, made a few contributions to a new Tumblr page we’ve put up. In the future, the page will become an important place for people like Sam, who can feel very alone, to connect with other users of augmentative communication and share information about having and using a voice from VocaliD. In fact, most of the recipients of pre-orders during our campaign have been children or teenagers. The opportunity for somebody still young to be able to speak with their own voice is a wonderful thing to witness, and part of VocaliD’s service is that as your voice changes with age, the custom voice is updated to match these changes and always sound like you. Most of our past and current customers are young children, and that seems to be the demographic VocaliD most immediately affects. Hopefully the Tumblr page will allow for the sort of connecting between these young people that we hope.

In working on marketing-related things, such as drafting and sending email campaigns, I’ve become privy to just how many businesses today use email marketing as their main method of customer relations. We’ve been using Mailchimp, for example, and now I look at all of my email subscriptions and notice just how many companies use Mailchimp.

Mailchimp's ubiquitous email footer, common in emails we probably all subscribe to.

Email marketing is a staple today, especially for small businesses, and a great thing to have experience with, no matter what sort of business I may find myself in.

As someone who has worked a variety of jobs since early high school, I tend to think not of how work differs from university life, but more the other way around. In studying Linguistics and being exposed to academic publishing and field research, that always seems the more magical, less accessible, somewhat intimidating world that undergrads seem to mean when they talk about the “real world.” Even more daunting is the prospect of leading a life as a composer, which inherently involves connection with the academic world (and a good amount of financial struggle), and can be called “work” only in the loosest sense of the word.

Then again, that sort of thinking only reminds me that there aren’t really any such boundaries. My “world of work” this summer has been at a tech startup with a social mission, driven by donations from interested, generous people, and founded by a professor who underwent something of a STEM learning epiphany after some uplifting research findings. It blurs the lines between business and academia, something I often wish would happen to more of my university peers, and something I predict more of in the future business world.

-David Stiefel ’16

Midpoint at the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center

At my midpoint working at the Indianapolis Worker Justice Center, I feel confident that the organization is getting more focused and stable to do the work they do more effectively. After a board training from Interfaith Worker Justice (the national organization through which I was placed at my internship site) we know what IWJC is, what it could/should be in the near future, and how to get there. Because of that, the board is able to actively take those steps and we now officially have our first members. I am enjoying being in a new city and a different part of the United States and being able to experience the differences in the culture of the Midwest. Beyond the work at the Worker Justice Center, many board members are involved in other social justice and labor groups, and therefore, I have had the opportunity to attend meetings from groups such as Indiana Moral Mondays, Indiana Central Labor Council, and Jobs with Justice.

 

The first IWJC members taking their membership pledge.
The first IWJC members taking their membership pledge.

The World of Work is very different than my academic life, mostly because I am working more independently than I do at school, since IWCJ is currently not a staffed organization. However, the interactions that I have are with people with more varying life experiences. At Brandeis most of my interactions are with people of a similar age in a similar stage of their lives. Here I am working with people from many different ways of life and I am able to learn from them. I am learning about social issues similar to the way I am learning about them at Brandeis. Here I get to meet groups of people affected by the same issues and see how they work together to fight it. In addition to learning about what is going wrong, I also see people take action to improve their situation and I can take part in the actions as well.

4th of July party preperations
4th of July party preparations

 

As a result of this internship I am learning how to work independently and keep myself motivated, even when I am by myself. I am also learning how to be more open and talk to people I don’t know and how to listen to people with very different stories. Being able to work more independently and motivated without constant supervision is very important for me both in an academic setting and in the future. So is the ability to be more open and talk to people. I am usually shy and having to go out and talk to people helps me get over that. This will hopefully help me to be more comfortable talking to people I don’t know in the future, which is helpful in any situation.

– Tamar Lyssy ’16

Midpoint Entry–Teaching and Learning at the Same Time

It is difficult to imagine that I have already reached the halfway point for my internship at Legal Outreach, Inc., time has gone by so quickly. Since the Summer Law Institute (SLI) began during the end of June, my two co-coordinators, our 28 students, and I have embarked on a valuable and exciting educational journey.  Check out this great video about our program!

When the Institute began, the significance of all of the work that my colleagues and I had been doing suddenly became realized since it was being put into action. We were all a bit nervous on the first day, especially since it was our first time actually teaching and handling a classroom full of teenagers. However, after seeing how enthusiastic and bright our students were, we realized that we were not alone on this endeavor. Since the first day, our mission to educate and encourage our students has continuously inspired our efforts.

I give an academic skills lesson every Tuesday, and my first one was on study skills. I had rehearsed this one previously with my supervisors and colleagues, but I was unsure about how our students would react, especially since this was only the second day of SLI. Fortunately, the lesson went well and the students seemed interested in learning about new ways to study and its importance.

Teaching these students, listening to lessons, and above all, becoming responsible for twenty-eight young adults has taught me a tremendous amount about the value of education. Being in the shoes of a teacher has allowed me to develop a greater appreciation for the work of teachers, as I now understand much better how much time and dedication is required both inside and outside of school hours.

Lesson at SLI
Lesson at SLI

Through my responsibilities, I have also been able to develop many of the skills I wanted to prior to beginning this internship. For example, I have further developed my organizational skills to complete the variety of tasks and duties with efficiency. I have also been able to strengthen my communication and public speaking skills, since that is essential to be a good teacher and lead a classroom. Most importantly, I believe that so far, through my experiences in this internship and by being surrounded in a legally-charged atmosphere, I have become more interested in pursuing law in the future. Interacting with and learning from inspiring attorneys and legal professionals has given me the opportunity to learn more about the profession and to explore my own passions and interests.

Moreover, one of the most rewarding aspects of this internship so far has been the opportunity to mentor students and learn from them at the same time. Many of them are so intelligent and inquisitive, and their questions often lead us to wonder and think in ways we did not previously. This is notable not only in the classroom, but also on our exciting field trips, such as our first one to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) last week. This experience has certainly taught me that in any working process, including teaching, there is both giving and receiving.

SLI Students at Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Field Trip

– Aditi Shah ’17

Halfway through my internship at Tip Comunicación

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“Floralis Genérica” is only a couple of blocks away from Tip. It opens when the sun comes out, and closes when it sets

It has now been a little over a month since I started working at Tip Comunicación, a small PR agency in Buenos Aires. I have had such a good time so far, and I am excited to share a little about my experience with you. This past month has been an amazing learning experience.

First, I assisted at a fashion show for Sweet Victorian, Argentina’s leading swimwear and underwear brand, for the launch of their swimsuit collection. It was so fun! I got to greet some amazing journalists at the door and guide them towards where the other press representatives where gathered, help my boss and coworkers throughout the event, and also watch the show alongside a few Argentinian celebrities.

I also have had the opportunity to ghost-write a few articles to promote our brands and write more press releases. My writing skills have gotten a lot better this past month! I know this will help me so much after college, when I hope to be working full time either in PR or advertising. Another thing I’ve been doing a lot of this past month has been preparing product kits to send out to journalists. We have a new client at Tip called Successo. They produce alfajores: traditional Argentinian candy that consists of two cookies put together by dulce de leche (milk caramel) and usually covered in chocolate. Successo also makes cookies and other types of candy, but alfajores are their specialty. I had to make 93 packages, so by the time I was done I had seen more alfajores than I ever need to, but it was actually quite a relaxing experience. I have been working on my organization skills through this task, which I know will be very useful after my work at Tip is over. Whether I end up in advertising or PR, I will most certainly need to be organized.

Writing for brands has also helped me get out of my “writing comfort zone” and speak in a way that represents the brand I’m trying to promote rather than myself. I know that if I’m writing for an educational institution I must use a somewhat friendly yet mostly serious tone, while if I’m writing for a teen swimwear company I have to take on a younger, bubblier personality. Different vocabulary is also used for the different brands and it is very important to always keep that in mind. Writing a press release or an article in the name of a certain brand is very different from writing my own blog, or posting something on my social media accounts. This internship has provided me with the tools to identify each brand’s personality, target, and “dialect.” My boss is very strict about this and it has made me very aware of the use of each word.

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Just a few of the many, many Successo packages I put together

Being at work is so different from being at school for many reasons. First, there are no grades involved, which means my goals are only to learn as much as possible and to meet my boss’ expectations. Second, there’s a lot more “figuring out” to do on my own. I am told what needs to get done and a few tips on how to do it. I’m always allowed –and expected– to ask questions and get help when necessary, but I am also expected to get things done as well and fast as possible, which sometimes means I have to make my own decisions. I am so lucky to have an amazing boss that gives me the space and tools to work things out on my own and make some mistakes that will help me learn. Of course, she is always there to step in and save the day in case I actually do something wrong, but so far it’s been working out just fine!

Overall it’s been a really exciting month. I’m so glad I have this opportunity this summer and I’m excited for the rest of my internship.

Mijal Tenenbaum, ’16

New England Innocence Project Midway Point

 

The best part of my commute every morning. Photo: Soul of America
The best part of my commute every morning.
Photo: Soul of America

While I’ve held steady employment since I was 14 years old, working at the New England Innocence Project this summer has been the first time in my life I have genuinely looked forward to work each and every day. As much as I love being on campus, I could certainly get used to commuting to Boston everyday, walking across the downtown area, and spending time in an office overlooking the Common. However, as much as I enjoy the scenery of downtown Boston, I enjoy NEIP not simply because of the location, but because it’s a place where I am proud of the work I do, and confident in my ability to contribute.

This week marked the arrival of the next intake intern, Freda, who will serve in my position throughout the fall and winter months after I have left NEIP. The task has been given to me to the train Freda and in doing so I now recognize how much there is to learn about the intake position. I’ll be responsible for familiarizing Freda with many of the nearly 4000 applicants that NEIP has been working with since its inception, spreading extensive knowledge about our past and present cases. In addition, I’ll need to show her how the organization functions, by instilling in her an understanding of the online databases, the system of physical files, and the interactions between directors, attorneys, volunteers, and interns. To be effective, I’ll have to transfer to her many of the skills that I have learned from NEIP over the last month, in becoming a better communicator, a more patient individual, and a more organized worker.

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One of my favorite co-workers, Bishop.

By speaking with attorneys on a daily basis, I have learned to communicate more effectively, sounding at times more like a seasoned attorney than an intake intern – to the point where I’ve been called “Attorney Jacobson” more than once. Through experience and repetition, I have become more confident and more helpful when speaking to inmates and applicants as I am better able to answer their questions, predict their responses, and provide guidance throughout our screening process. In becoming a better communicator, I expect it to pay dividends whether I am engaging in discussion in the classroom, or working behind the counter at Einsteins.

In learning the essence of patience, I have become more accommodating and more responsive in my exchanges with the family members of inmates. While I’ve often avoided conflict throughout my life, I no longer fear potentially argumentative interaction with applicants, and instead I look forward to trying to achieve conciliation through patient dialogue. While this newfound patience will undoubtedly benefit my personal life, it should also improve my ability to work with others in an academic setting.

By serving in a position that requires many hats, I have become more organized in my work. One minute, I might be performing drafting a Case Review Committee Memo for an applicant such as Clarence Spivey, the next I might be brainstorming ideas for how to improve our screening process, and the next I might be gathering statistics for a grant, such as the Bloodsworth. Without effective time management, and physical and mental organization, I would struggle to keep up. This should hopefully make me a better studier, and a more productive employee.

It saddens me to recognize that I’ll soon be done at NEIP, but I intend to make the most out of my last month here.

Daniel Jacobson, ’16

Midpoint Entry – New Experiences and Development at the MA AGO

 

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My 19th-floor view of the Commonwealth I am serving, including the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House

At the beginning of my internship in the Criminal Bureau of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, I could not have imagined the extent to which I could be enriched within so little time. Despite the challenges that my novel experience of independence presents, such as budget management, humbling homesickness, and an increased sense of responsibility, these perceived difficulties are only augmenting the growth I am undergoing and I am thankful for this opportunity to learn how to overcome them. My initial apprehension has turned into a sense of pride as the weeks progress and as I am increasingly exposed to valuable information about workplace environments, networking, independence, justice, policy making, career development, the law, and myself.

The numerous projects which I have been assigned so far range from contributing to the office’s implementation game-plan concerning human trafficking policy (my favorite assignment so far) to scanning boxes of grand jury exhibits. I cannot truthfully say that they have all been as fabulous as those depicted in an episode of Law and Order; still, each of them is crucial to the process and fulfilling to complete. The kind and capable troopers, lawyers, paralegals, investigators, etc. who have assigned them to me make sure to explain how my work contributes to the bigger picture and to the eventual execution of justice, which gives me a greater appreciation for my role in the legal process. I do not shirk the seemingly menial jobs, because thorough completion of such tasks is important to the execution of law and also facilitates access to more fascinating projects such as checking bankruptcy dockets for patterns of criminal behavior or reading up on habeas corpus appeals in order to summarize them for the lawyers on the case.

My own little cubicle
My own little cubicle

 

In addition to the projects and cases in which I am involved, I am also exposed to unique opportunities for growth and enrichment due to the excellent programs set up for the office’s interns. Ranging from meet-and-greets to mock trials, these events allow the interns to network and to be exposed to the greater structure and goals of Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey’s office. With every event, I sense my networking skills expanding and my dedication to this line of work solidifying, and I know these social skills and passions will weave their way through my interactions with others and through career-defining decisions from this point forward. Already, I am making connections with interns and lawyers from both the criminal bureau and other bureaus in order to acquire some insight about their jobs and the steps they’ve taken to pursue their careers. I now have a better understanding of my options and preferences concerning things like law school (which, as of now, is a definite part of my future) and additional internship possibilities. The exposure I have had to some of AG Healey’s truly inspirational workforce has enlightened me about the configuration and function of the office I am serving as well as about what I would love to explore further, such as civil rights/anti-discrimination work, victim services, and executive work for Attorney Generals like Maura Healey.

http://www.mass.gov/ago/bureaus/executive/ – I was inspired by the bureau presentations set up for the interns and was especially enriched by the Executive Bureau’s presentation.

Thus, beyond my wildest expectations, I have come to know myself and the world of work I have entered better than I could have expected within just a few weeks. Although I am mostly proud of my work with the Human Trafficking Division, which encompasses my newly developed women’s and gender, civil rights and victim-aid interests the most, I am proud of even my smallest contributions, because serving this Attorney General, this bureau, and this Commonwealth gives me a sense of fulfillment I have never felt before. I eagerly look forward to my last few weeks here.

http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/hr/transgender-rights-policy.pdf – Maura Healey’s newly introduced transgender rights policy (one of the many testaments to her greatness as a civil rights leader)

 

Lilly Hecht, ’18

Engaging in a new culture of work at ICAAP

For the first time in my life, I have joined the traditional workforce. In the past, I have done remote work, put in much sweat and tears into working at an overnight camp, and have worked part time jobs, but never have been exposed to this type of consistency in an office environment. I am now amongst the throng of suburbanites who, every day, flood the Metra and commute into the city- I am a member of the 9-5 commuting community. I always assumed I wouldn’t enjoy this type of stationary work, but so far I feel quite comfortable and happy with my job and work environment.

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Commuters leaving the Metra during an early morning rush

The people who work at ICAAP, 13 staff in all, are quite open and friendly. Every morning at 8:59, after pushing open the warehouse door, I can expect several “hello’s”, or relaxed smiles from the early risers. My work experience has been largely different from my academic life. The largest adjustment for me cognitively was having to train my brain to focus for longer periods at a time. In school, I would have a smattering of classes throughout the day, and my schedule would necessitate multiple walking breaks as I navigated the campus. Additionally, the learning process here is much more informal than at school. My “teachers” have never been trained to teach, so they explain concepts to me through their passion and experiences. They tend to have more of an experiential approach to my learning, especially because their job is not to teach me, but to use me as an aid to their work.

This style of learning has been simultaneously exciting and frustrating for me. At the beginning of a new task, when I don’t quite understand the framework of the work I am supposed to be doing, I exist in a state of constant searching; one that both invigorates me and leaves me at the end of each day feeling unsure. However, when I break through into understanding, which I have been able to do thus far in each task, the feeling is beyond enticing, and beyond anything I have felt at school being ‘spoon fed’ my learning (if you will). This internship is teaching me tangible skills, such as grant writing, research, utilizing community tools, improved communication skills, how to exist and present myself in different work cultures, and how to best focus myself for the duration of a work day. However, beyond that, it is teaching me how to adapt, and self-teach in efficient and tangible ways in a workforce. I am constantly striving to find the balance between asking for help from my very busy supervisors, and using immersive experience (just plowing through my confusion in combination with very intimate google counseling), to get the work done.

Currently, I am in the middle of writing and researching a grant, and was just given responsibility of our social media accounts. (Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!) Curious as to how to use social media as a business? This has been my guide. This being the first grant I have worked on, I am still trying to put myself in the framework of how to write a grant, from the targeted language they use to the type of data that works best. I don’t think I could have honed these skills in a classroom, but they are skills that I will use the rest of my academic and career life, and hopefully will be able to utilize in my personal life as well.

Elizabeth Villano, ’16

 

My first official twitter posts!
My first official twitter posts!

Elizabeth Villano, ’16

Omaha Farmer’s Market – Midpoint Update

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As I am finishing up my sixth week interning for the Omaha Farmer’s Market, I wonder where the time has gone. Working with the market to conduct an economic impact study and improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has seemed to consume life lately. SNAP at the Omaha Farmers’ Markets is gaining more attention every week, in fact it made the front page of the money section of the Omaha World Herald last week. And this weekend I begin to get more hands-on with the impact study when I conduct a population count of the markets at Aksarben Village and the Old Market. Seeing the progress I have made toward achieving my goals in the workplace has been more of a rewarding experience than I expected.

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Link to the the Original Article

The last few weeks have been markedly different than my life at Brandeis; working with people from a variety of age groups or having to commute to work seem like some obvious differences. A not so obvious aspect that I have noticed recently is the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. While being a student does involve working with peers and helping others,  the results are not often as visible and can sometimes be discouraging. With this internship however, I’ve found being part of an organization that seeks to improve the lives of others and doing work that affects more than just yourself to be a motivating factor in my day to day activities.

One aspect of my work that has been not that different from my academic life is the amount of research I have done so far. A lot of my time has been consumed by reading market evaluations and conversing with other markets about SNAP via email, which in turn has made me well-informed about SNAP and the methods other markets have used to make it successful. It has not been just research and emails, however. There have been obstacles that I have learned to overcome, most prominently with the Economic Impact Study portion of my internship. The study was initially going to be conducted by collecting revenue data from businesses local to the markets and compare them to similar businesses that did not have a Farmer’s Market. While it seemed like a good plan on paper, I quickly found out that businesses are not too keen on giving out that kind of information. This forced me to find an alternative way of measuring the economic impact of the markets, so I decided to get the data from the market customers rather than the businesses. This led me to marketumbrella.org, which provided me with the tools to accomplish the impact study using non-intrusive and efficient methods. While I did not anticipate this sort of dilemma in my internship, it has prepared me to deal with unforeseen consequences that I will face in my career after Brandeis.

– Luke Bredensteiner

 

Marriage Equality and We’re Not Even Half Way There, Well I Am – Midpoint Check-In

As I approach the half way point of my internship at PFLAG National, I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. So much has happened since I began my internship in June: I’ve written 3 issues of our national policy newsletter Policy Mattersthree other amazing interns have joined me in the office with all of us working together to accomplish some serious LGBT advocacy; I’ve attended more events than I can count at places like the White House, various federal agencies, and a range of NGO’s; Pride Month ended; and oh yeah of course, MARRIAGE EQUALITY!!!

Hundreds of people gathered at the Supreme Court on June 26th waiting anxiously for the ultimately monumental decision handed down on marriage equality.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Supreme Court on June 26th waiting anxiously for the ultimately monumental decision handed down on marriage equality.

Having the opportunity to witness the historic SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges decision in action was incredible and to be honest, almost unbelievable. During the decision days, the entire office waited on the edge of our seats anxiously watching SCOTUSblog. When the decision came down on Friday June 26th at 10 in the morning, everyone in the office cheered and many of us interns went over to the Supreme Court to join hundreds of others in celebration. But although the marriage decision was a success, at PFLAG we also wanted to make clear that the fight for LGBT rights was in no way over.

“While we celebrate today’s victory, we are dedicated to continuing and redoubling our advocacy work to secure legislation that explicitly protects people who are LGBTQ from discrimination in the workplace, in their homes, in their schools and in their communities. Now is the time to expand federal law–law which already protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, age, ethnicity, disability, and religion–to include explicit protection from discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” – PFLAG Marriage Equality statement

Taking advantage of the White House while I was there for a Big Table discussion with Valerie Jarrett about the Obama Administration's LGBT priorities for the remainder of his term.
Taking advantage of the White House while there for a Big Table discussion with Valerie Jarrett about the Obama Administration’s LGBT priorities for the remainder of his term.

 

But in respect to things other than marriage equality, in this past month I have already surpassed all of my initial expectations and goals. By working on Policy Matters as well as various other policy-related PFLAG publications, I have not only learned so much about LGBT advocacy and policy, but also have become up to date on all LGBT current events. Similarly, by attending White House briefings, and working directly on LGBT federal legislation and advocacy, I have truly learned and received first-hand perspective on the political process and all of the research and preparatory work that goes into policy work behind-the-scenes. Finally, by attending countless events and having my supervisor Diego introduce me to more people than I can remember, I have had the opportunity to meet and form important connections with influential figures in the field of LGBTQ advocacy from across the country.

An exciting July 4th in our nation's capital while on our nation's Capitol.
An exciting July 4th in our nation’s capital while on our nation’s Capitol.

 

All of these skills, experiences, and connections will prove valuable in the future. I am doing all I can to take in and take advantage of every opportunity offered to me while here in DC and while working at PFLAG National. It has been such a beyond marvelous month so far, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the month ahead.

– Aliya Bean ’16

 

The Story of a Brandeisian at NCL: A Match Made in Social Justice Heaven

Washington, D.C. is an amazing place to be for the summer, despite the humid heat and the high density of 20-somethings. This summer has been a particularly exciting time to be in D.C.: I’ve shaken Bernie Sanders‘ hand at a press conference, celebrated at the Supreme Court on the day of the marriage equality decision, watched a live taping of my boss speaking at FOX News, and met the 2014 Noble Peace Prize winner on the National Mall. I also ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung, who you may recognize from the anti-tobacco campaign that comedian/TV host John Oliver introduced on his show, before heading to a briefing on health care. While not at work, I’ve been kayaking the Potomac, attending intern networking events, and performing or watching improv comedy at various theaters. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and I am sad that I am already halfway done with my internship.

Lobby at the Fox News headquarters in DC, where my boss spoke about the benefits of the new "female viagra" drug
The lobby in the Fox News headquarters in DC, where my boss spoke about the benefits of the new “female viagra” drug
I ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung on the Metro while headed to a health care briefing
I ran into Jeff the Diseased Lung on the Metro while heading to a health care briefing last week

Working at the National Consumer’s League is similar to being at Brandeis. If you’re like me, what some might describe as the “typical Brandeis student”, you’re passionate about a variety of social justice issues and you’re always busy at some meeting or event. My colleagues and I at NCL are interested in fighting for every issue you can think of regarding consumers and workers, from product safety regulations to bans on child labor. We attend events and meetings every week dedicated to solving these issues and we talk with policymakers and industry leaders about what they can do. I now know much more about consumer and worker issues and feel passionately about making people aware of these issues and solving them. While Brandeisians aren’t exactly lobbying Congress on a weekly basis, they’re always doing something to make change, whether it will affect our campus or the greater good. I hope to bring the same energy I’ve gained from working on various projects at NCL back to the clubs I’m involved with at Brandeis and look for new clubs to join that align with my new-found passions and growing skill set.

At the Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing in Bethesda, MD, where I learned about regulations for laundry detergent pods, table saws and ionization smoke alarms
At the Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing in Bethesda, MD, where I learned about regulations for laundry detergent pods, table saws and ionization smoke alarms

I write blogs, articles, and press releases on behalf of NCL, and although they are much shorter than the papers I write at Brandeis, they often require a similar amount of in-depth research. Since my start at NCL, my writing and research skills have improved. My co-workers and supervisor have offered me advice on writing and given me additional work to help me practice these skills.

I have also been writing questions for NCL’s program LifeSmarts, which is a consumer education competition for middle and high school students to help them develop consumer and marketplace skills. While researching a variety of topics that relate to health, technology, the environment, worker rights, and personal finance, I have become a smarter and more responsible consumer. I now know more about my rights and responsibilities when I enter the workforce and how to manage my finances. NCL has another program called Script Your Future that has taught me about managing medicine and various health issues.

For my next four weeks in DC, I hope to learn even more that will help me navigate my future, including but not limited to surviving the heat here. I hope that the work I’m doing and the people I’m meeting in the capital and at National Consumers League will be a part of that future because it is hard to imagine leaving both behind in August.

– Rebecca Groner ’17

Halfway in Quito, Ecuador- Hospital Pablo Arturo Suarez

El Pancillo statue which stands in the historic center of Quito

Working in the hospital for the last four weeks has been an incredibly fulfilling and engaging experience. Additionally this experience has illuminated the underpinnings of a foreign health care system first hand. From 7am-12p.m I assist the nurses, doctors, and patients to  the best of my ability in order to help the day run easier and quicker. The medical culture in Quito is quite different than that of the States- there is a much more relaxed and calm aura, even in the emergency rooms, female doctors and nurses spend full days in heels, and there is often many patients in a consultation room. Beyond these small observations, however, the desire to improve and get up to speed with western medicine is evident and exciting to watch. All of the doctors and nurses I have assisted have been warm, inviting-and love explaining everything they do in a way that I can understand. Life in Quito has also been very interesting. Ecuadorian culture has been wonderful to be a part of and observe-as it is heavily tied to family, Catholicism, and salsa dancing which serve as channels to meet locals. The history of Quito and Ecuador as a whole is also fascinating and the more I learn, the more I have come to understand the evolution and reasonings of the health care system here.

imageI have also had the chance to connect with many volunteers in the hospital from around the world. It has been really interesting to hear about their countries’ healthcare system in contrast to that of Ecuador. Given the opportunity to converse with healthcare professionals and learn hands-on has been an experience completely different from studying at Brandeis. I have gained many medical skills such as taking blood, stitching, and taking vital signs which are skills that I would not attain until later in medical school. I have also learned that 80% of Ecuadorians use the universal healthcare system, which is supplied by the government. Unfortunately, there are not enough hospitals to support the demand. Consequently, often the hospital I work at and others in Ecuador tend to be in hysteria, with as many people jammed into the waiting rooms as possible. A great article that discusses these issues can be found here. As the United States moves toward universal healthcare, I think it will be important to recognize the weaknesses of other universal healthcare plans to know how to structure and improve it. If you are interested in a quick synopsis of the healthcare system in Ecuador, PubMed does a great job.

San Francisco Plaza- Historical Center
San Francisco Plaza- Historical Center

A skill that I have gained and am continuing to work on is my ability to communicate in Spanish to the patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals. More than becoming well versed in Spanish medical terminology, I have been more confident in approaching doctors and nurses and asking them about their experience and what they do. Finding the confidence to follow my curiosity in a very different culture is something that I was afraid I would be unable to do. I look forward to continue pursuing my curiosity academically, as a future healthcare professional, and as a visitor in a foreign country.

– Paulina Kuzmin ’17

Half way there: Midpoint at the Alliance for Justice

Everything began to pick up at work as the summer progressed. For those who are familiar with the Supreme Court, you may know that many major decisions come down over the summer–specifically in mid to late June. June 29 was the last day the Supreme Court delivered decisions for this term. At Alliance for Justice, we focus on the Supreme Court and emphasize its importance and potential impact on our daily lives. Thus, we followed a few specific cases, including King v. Burwell (which determined the fate of the Affordable Care Act), Obergefell v. Hodges (which focused on same-sex marriage) and Glossip v. Gross (which was to determine whether or not a particular substance could be used in lethal injections used for the death penalty), just to name a few. We focused social media campaigns and press releases on the potential impact of these court cases, and the results once the decisions were released.

Friday, June 26 was one of the more exciting experiences in our work following the Court. On this day, Obergefell v. Hodges was released, and it was decided that same-sex marriage should, in fact, be legal in all 50 states. Not only was Alliance for Justice hoping that this would be the result, but we also took action and went down to the Court to wait for the decision to be released. This is an image of my view from that day:

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I was standing by the Court steps–along with activists from across the country–when the decision was released. This is just an image to try to convey how many people were at the Court awaiting the decision:

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It is so thrilling to see when our work pays off, and for so many to understand what we do here at Alliance for Justice. This decision has a profound impact on people’s lives, and AFJ wants to make sure people recognize that. We want people to understand that the #CourtsMatter, and that who is sitting on the bench can determine whether or not your rights are protected. That is why we launch campaigns regarding judicial appointees and upcoming cases.

In addition to our other campaigns, AFJ always launches a year-long campaign. We are in the process working on a new campaign, for which a video will be released. The current campaign, which started last year, focuses on forced arbitration. The campaign, called “Lost in the Fine print,” discusses how companies take advantage of consumers and employees by inserting forced arbitration clauses that are convoluted, hidden and not always understood.

Here is a pamphlet from the last campaign:

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I am excited to begin working on this new campaign.

– Marissa Ditkowsky ’16

 

Rhode Island Foundation Midpoint Check-in

RI Foundation 1

 

As I reflect on my midpoint at the Rhode Island Foundation, I am aware that I have experienced many positive emotions in and out of my workplace environment.  I enjoy going to work at the Foundation so much so, that I come in before the time I am supposed to arrive everyday.  I like to be in an environment filled with people who are passionate about the work they do.  It encourages me and gives me hope that I will one day find a job that I can be equally as passionate about.  My overall impression about the workplace is that the work can be challenging and tedious, but every detail counts.  Life moves fast and it takes energy, skill and passion to make the work go by smoothly.

Rhode Island Foundation 2

The world of work is different from university life in that you are not measured on your performance by grades, or how much you have memorized for a test.  Instead, you are measured on how well you can work with members on a team and alleviate some of the pressures and challenges team members face.  Academic work is oftentimes individualistic.  However, I have realized that in the real world, you have to know how to talk, interact and learn from one another across a company, or in my case, a foundation.  I know that this can be a challenge for many workplaces; however, at the Rhode Island Foundation, everyone tries to make time for one another so that communication stays open.  I feel very well supported in this type of environment and because of the great teamwork and cross-departmental collaboration, I have been fortunate to meet and work with a large network of people.

The skills that I am learning in my internship are extremely valuable for me.  I am learning how to analyze and read through large amounts of information, and then summarize it in order to present my findings to my supervisor.  I am also applying my classroom knowledge of philanthropy and scanning broad search engines, such as Grants.gov, to do effective research for the Foundation.  The research I am doing is time consuming and I am required to search many key-word combinations to find grants for which the Foundation can apply.  It would be impractical to spend a lengthy amount of time on any one source so I have to find the information that I need quickly and then move on.  I am now confident in my ability to be able to continue to use my skills to help the Foundation, as I have been receiving positive feedback from my supervisor.

 

Best,

 

-Lauren Nadeau ‘2017

What Makes AVODAH’s Anti-poverty Work So Jewish

“… there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
– Abraham Joshua Heschel

AVODAH’s mission statement states that the organisation strengthens the American Jewish community’s response to the causes and effects of domestic poverty. The mission statement also expresses the goal of fostering “lifelong leaders whose work for justice is rooted in and nourished by Jewish values.” The question I had after reading the mission statement when applying for my internship was what connects those two aspects of AVODAH. Fighting poverty is an important and noble cause, and fostering Jewish leaders is integral for continuity, but what makes fighting poverty so Jewish, and what about anti-poverty work makes for a Jewish environment?

One of the first questions I was asked upon coming to AVODAH was: what keeps you up at night? This was not referring to the New York heat, nor was it referring to the neighbour’s dog, but rather it was asking me to think about what truly bothers me. Walking through the subway in New York, and on the streets in Midtown on the way to work every day, I began to see poverty everywhere. I saw homeless individuals on corners where I had not seen them the week before. The scary realisation that I had was that they were there all along, but they didn’t stand out to me – they seemed like a natural environmental fixture. My “indifference to evil” was worse “than evil itself.” When my sensitivity was heightened to the suffering around me, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to get a roll of quarters so I could help everyone, but a friend reminded me that that would only assuage my guilt and not actually help.

I began to think of what AVODAH does as an organisation. I realised that trying to remedy the effects of poverty is important, but combating poverty from its roots was key. AVODAH’s approach to fighting poverty addresses the issue from varying approaches including housing, healthcare, education, and hunger. Corps members are placed in jobs that extend from direct action, to advocacy, to organising around individual’s rights and policy. I learned that the only way to properly address a social issue was not just to assuage the effects that make the rest of society uncomfortable (like I wanted to make myself more comfortable by having quarters to give out), but to also address the root issues and work towards solving them.

On considering the new subject that succeeded in keeping me up at night, a teacher of mine reminded me of the rabbinic trope that “it is not on you to complete the task; however, you are not free to abandon it” (Tractate Avot 2:21). This was the view I had to take in encountering poverty as I sipped my Starbucks coffee, while going to work to fight poverty. I was doing my job, I was contributing to the effort, but this was not a task I could go at alone. Likewise, fighting poverty is not a task anyone can go at alone and that’s why AVODAH exists, to create a community of leaders with a common goal. My question, however, still remained: what makes antipoverty work so inherently Jewish?

The quotation that I quoted and affixed to the top of this post is, not surprisingly, one that I borrowed from an AVODAH promotional poster. It emphasizes the Jewish values of mutual responsibility and fighting injustice. Acknowledging an issue is human, actually doing something about it is Jewish. I think this idea is what Heschel was trying to convey in his words, and I think this is the idea that AVODAH embodies every day.

– Ariel Kagedan

My endless journey summer

Over half of my internship has passed and it seems like such short amount of time. Beyond desk research and collecting data for the project that I am working on, my tasks involve a lot of traveling to remote areas to conduct surveys. We are working on building libraries focused on climate change issues for children, so the work requires on-field surveys to get information on the needs and facilities in the villages where we want to set up our information centers.

Through field visits and data collecting from the field, I have learned so much about the job and the skills I would need to be more prepared for my future career. Despite strong quantitative skills and attention to details, a development worker should build up a very strong background on the community and soft skills to deal with unexpected situations. We have worked with people from different sectors such as the government, private businesses, and most importantly with farmers and children. I have learned that all the theories and knowledge I get in school contributes to the work that I am doing now, bringing our project on paper into real life.  Moreover, I have had a chance to talk with local people about various NGOs’ work and the impact on their lives. One of the most interesting parts about the job is that I could travel to lots of remote places in the country that I have never been to.

During our trips we face many challenges.  The local authorities are not always coordinated.  Sometimes traveling takes lots of time and road conditions are not very good. However, thanks to our partners in the village, we are able to collect all the survey we need.

Here is the picture of our team in a coastal village which is heavily affected by climate change. As we can see, the old church which used to be in the center of the village is now partly covered by sea water.

 

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The following picture captures us conducting a survey about climate change in  Hai Hau village in the Nam Dinh province.

 

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The more I get involved in my work the more I learn about a career path in development and sustainability. The knowledge I receive at Brandeis is very important, but I also have to learn a lots about the field, the situations in developing countries and what development needs are most pressing. In Vietnam for example, environment and climate issues are the two most in-need fields of development as the country is the second most country affected by climate change. The cross-cutting approach that has been recently used in NGOs requires students with variety of skills and multitasking abilities. Hence, I know what I should gain for my last year at Brandeis. Beyond academic focus, I also need to explore the needs in other developing countries and prepare a good background in global issues.

The experience has been so good so far. I have learnt many things about the culture, the people, and most importantly the next steps I need to progress in my career path. I hope the rest of the summer will come with more journeys and explorations.

– Trang Luu

Work Hard and Embrace the Struggles at Poturo Michoacán México

Working at CECYTEM-EMSAD has been an honor because I have grown and matured as a student and woman. I am very thankful for this great opportunity to work at this organization and have an amazing group of individuals working and supporting me. Although I have sacrificed many things while here, it has been worth it; seeing the smiles from my students and being thanked by the mothers of children with special needs for helping their children progress is the best gift I could ever ask for. Being around the Purépecha Mexican community has made me appreciate my culture and heritage that I come from. I love working at CECYTEM-EMSAD and hope to one day in my near future return and continue the work and change I have initiated at this organization and community.

“Clinic Rooms at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

I believe that I am on the right track on accomplishing my defined learning goals that I established before arriving at my internship. My academic goal is to use my Health: Science, Society and Policy major knowledge in order to help progress the health and education of this community. I also intend to improve my presentation skills through teaching English to children as well as educating teens about sexual and reproductive health. This includes holding workshops on various health topics at the clinic and nearby towns. I am really proud of the progress I have made toward this goal because I feel very confident speaking in front of large groups of children as well as adults all by myself. At first it was a bit difficult, but now I am used to the type of work and no longer feel scared, embarrassed or nervous.  This is the skill for which I am most proud and grateful.

 “Workshop on the Theme of Pregnancy”

My career goal is to establish an Occupational Therapeutic Learning Center for special needs children as well as a clinic for teens in order to help progress the medical and educational knowledge of this community. I think that I am on a good path in achieving this goal because through the weekly committee meetings with the faculty each week, I am learning how to better operate an organization, giving me the fundamental skills in understanding how to manage a business. Being around staff members that are so welcoming and understanding helps me to comprehend that in order to capture an intern’s attention, supervisors and staff must engage and challenge the interns in order to demonstrate if in fact they are ready to take on the responsibility of managing a whole team or event on their own. As I have learned through this experience, I must work hard and embrace struggle.

 “Patient Beds at CECYTEM-EMSAD’s Community Clinic”

My personal goal is to build a stronger connection with this community as well as build my skills of working with special needs children by operating different cases and offering them services such as speech, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy in order to help better the lives of the children and these families. I am working on three cases that have children with special needs. The parents love the way that I motivate their children and they tell me that they see drastic progress in the way that their children behave and act. By holding the weekly workshops of various medical themes, such as family nutrition, disabilities, psychology/stress, pregnancy, methods of protection from sexual reproduction, I am able to build a stronger connection with the population and help them adopt better health styles.

“Teaching English to Elementary Students at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

“Teaching English to Middle School Students at CECYTEM-EMSAD”

The thing that I am most proud of is teaching English to the students at the local school. Within these four weeks my students are already writing and reading English.  As I walk around the village I hear them singing the ABC’s and counting. This shows me that my students are learning and I am making the classes fun. I hope that they continue to have an enjoyable time in my classes and that at the end of my internship they will be able to have basic conversations in English. This would show me that I am creating change in the lives of these students.

“Having Class Outside with my Awesome Students”

I am very grateful that I was selected as a recipient for the WOW Social Justice because this is an unforgettable experience. It is awesome to go to another country and see the difference in culture and lifestyles because one appreciates the little things in life that one once considered insignificant. As a result of this internship, I am building many academic and life skills that will help me become a better student and woman in life. I am improving my participation, confidence, and most importantly I am no longer nervous or scared to speak in front of an audience or ask questions. I would not been able to improve on all of these weaknesses if it were not for this internship. This work has giving me the opportunity to become a better person and has supported me in my path to help me in my academics, future career plans, and other campus involvements. I am no longer a follower, but a leader that is ready to take upon any challenge.

Midpoint Blog Post

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

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

its-not-the-nicest-neighborhood-the-hall-of-justice-headquarters-for-the-san-francisco-police-department-is-the-biggest-local-landmark

Half-Time at World Vision

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

– Linda Phiri ’16

 

Mid-Point Post from New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For more on the Capital Appeals Project:

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

 

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

http://silenceisviolence.org/

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

Midpoint check in at PlayRock

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

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

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

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

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

– Sohyun Shin ’15

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