(2) Overcoming Inequity in Education with Legal Outreach


When reflecting on my Brandeis education and the copious amount of information that I have learned as part of a liberal arts curriculum, it is easy to identify material that I have utilized during my internship. As a legal studies minor, I have gained an incredible foundation and understanding of the law, which has helped me effectively teach legal subjects to the Summer Law Institute (SLI) students. However, my motivation to help these students succeed in their academic and professional careers stemmed from what I learned in Sociology of Health, Community, and Society, taught by Professor Siri Suh. In this course, we discussed education as a social determinant of health, which has proven to be incredibly relevant to my internship. Education is one of the most influential determinants, as people with higher levels of education are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

“They [children from low-income families] are less likely to get safe, high-paying jobs and more likely to have health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.” (Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Due to a variety of factors, children living below the poverty line are less likely to graduate high school, and are therefore likely to remain below the poverty line. However, this disparity in education accessibility is inevitably influenced by race. Figure 1 (below) shows the percentage of people, by race, that have attained various levels of education.

Figure 1 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

While white Americans are likely to obtain a bachelor’s or professional degree at some point in their lives, the majority of Latino adults receive less than a college degree due to a lack of education accessibility. This puts minority populations at a perpetual disadvantage, not only regarding health outcomes but economic success overall. 

Motivating underserved and underrepresented students to overcome these statistics is the driving force behind Legal Outreach. Of the twenty eighth-grade students in my Summer Law Institute at Cardozo, every single one wants to go to college. However, the majority of them would be first-generation college students. Some of them would be the first in their family to graduate from high school. This inevitably leaves them with questions about how to apply to college, how to study for the SAT, and whether or not they can afford a college education. Legal Outreach’s College Bound program, a four-year high school program that students join upon completion of the SLI, helps underserved students overcome these unjust barriers. The College Bound Program provides students with academic and college advisors, free test prep, writing courses, internship opportunities, and college scholarships.

I am so honored to be part of an organization with such a targeted and important goal, and it is inspiring to see the motivation that the students have gained in just the past two weeks. These young women of color are gaining confidence in themselves and their ability to overcome the barriers that stand in their way. They want to become lawyers, even if no one in their family has ever reached that level of education before, and they know that they will be able to achieve that goal with hard work and the help of Legal Outreach. Learning about the benefits of an education and the obstacles these students face in obtaining it has allowed me to see this program in a new light. Their aspiration to succeed is the most inspiring aspect of this internship. 

(2) The Connection Between Public Health and Domestic Violence Education

During the spring semester of my first year at Brandeis, I took a class called Health, Community, and Society with Professor Siri Suh. In this class, we learned about the sociological perspective of health inequality and how barriers and trauma can manifest themselves in physical health. While this concept is seemingly obvious, taking the time to unpack and analyze these trends was one of the most impactful and relevant things I have learned during my time at Brandeis. I was introduced to this concept during my first year, and it continued to present itself throughout my Health: Science, Society, & Policy coursework throughout my time at Brandeis. As a rising senior, I still feel as though health inequality impacts me more and more each time I discuss it in an academic setting.

As someone who has always had access to comprehensive and adequate health care, I did not know how pervasive and complex the issue of health inequality in America is. However, given how important physical health is to quality of life, it immediately became significant to me. I was always interested in the scientific pathway to disease but was never really given the opportunity to reflect on the social and environmental pathways to disease. While not all biological problems are easily solved, it seemed as though society created systems that lead to such problems, and much like biological issues, social factors are also not easily solved. There is, however, so much opportunity for education and prevention measures. I quickly became passionate about finding these effective education and prevention measures and implementing them in my own life.

This art piece was created by survivors of domestic violence and sits in the lobby at REACH.

REACH is an organization that serves domestic violence survivors, and much like physical health, certain groups face a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence. REACH offers services for those who are experiencing domestic violence, but the organization also creates prevention measures in order to better educate the community on how to understand what characterizes abuse and healthy relationships. They use this model of advocacy and prevention that I learned about in my coursework to better inform the community about domestic violence, and I find that inspiring. 

During my internship, I interact with a wide variety of people who have had a wide variety of life experiences. From different racial identities and sexual identities to different socioeconomic statuses, it is very important for me to be aware that these differences may exist when interacting with victims. Throughout my training, my supervisors spent a lot of time going over boundaries, proper language, and how to support someone experiencing domestic violence. While I still have a lot to learn, this training has made me much more aware of how to be aware of others’ traumas, and I am able to use this knowledge both in my personal and professional life. This training and internship is an example of the difference proper awareness can make in impacting social structures and community understanding. 

(1) Starting at the BPS Office of Equity

I have been working for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Office of Equity for around a month now. The BPS Office of Equity exists at the district level and has a variety of functions. Primarily, the office handles Title XI claims by either conducting investigations into bias-based or sexual misconduct reported by schools, or assisting schools in their own investigations and documenting their findings. Bias-based misconduct can be anything by which an individual is harmed on the bases of a protected category, which includes but is not limited to race, class, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and ability. Cases may be between students and students, students and employees, or employees and employees.

Accountability is one of the key components of change-making, and is one of the major reasons I chose to work in this field. Anyone can say they would like to make change, but what will be done if there’s no way to ensure it happens? As a person committed to doing anti-racist work in whatever field I end up in, and as someone who loves education and learning, the opportunity to influence the environment under which students learn—and to create a more respectful, welcoming, and equitable place for all students to flourish—is a great and important place to start. I am also interested in education policy, so working in an office within a school district has been a great way to get to know a district and the ways policy determines how districts and schools run.

It is interesting to think through what change looks like in this field. Despite efforts to change the future actions of any one individual, or to repair the harm that has been caused as a result of bias-based conduct, or even the more structural re-imagining of an anti-racist educational system, the district itself and the office by extension are nonetheless parts of a system that perpetuates white supremacy and racial capitalism. It seems the way of making change, then, is a multifaceted, multi-tiered approach that starts with education and the changing of hearts and minds on the interpersonal level, to a rethinking of how schooling occurs and how schooling can be better suited for all students regardless of race, gender, nationality, and class, etc., despite the capitalist system within which schooling in the United States is situated.

The individual level work is time consuming and is the majority of the change-making the office is able to do. However, those bigger projects, larger ways of thinking, and new proposals for restructuring schools and supporting teachers are things on everyone’s mind in the office. As the school year comes to a close and the number of cases begin to decline, I look forward to a shift away from administrative work and towards work with more members of the team to continue imagining the potential for the office and creating programs which can work towards racial justice in schooling in myriad ways.

Baby Brain Research at UMass Medical School

I’m working this summer as an intern at UMass Chan Medical School in support of Dr. Sohye Kim’s Infant Brain Imaging Study. 

Dr. Kim, a clinical psychologist and developmental scientist, seeks to discover early neural markers in the infant’s social brain that predict long-term developmental outcomes. She is also seeking to identify modifiable early-life factors that influence the trajectory of development to translate into innovative strategies for early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment in high-risk children and families. Her Infant Brain Imaging Study uses innovative imaging techniques to investigate how naturally occurring hormones in the brain and early life experiences impact social brain development. 

One part of my work in support of the study involves subject recruitment. This study looks at pairs of first-time moms and their infants, so we recruit participants at UMass Memorial Hospital within a few days of delivery. Recruitment involves pre-screening participants by reviewing their medical charts, approaching and explaining the study to Moms who we believe might be eligible, and guiding them through the consent process.

Another large part of my job involves study visits. My responsibilities include setting up materials needed for each visit, assisting in brain activity monitoring (fNIRS and fMRI scans) and salivary specimen collection, and interacting with participants. 

Below is an example of the setup for fNIRS scans. You’ll see the doll is wearing a cap with optodes attached to measure blood flow in response to neural activity. 

My main goals for the summer are the following:

  1. Learn how the theories I’ve learned in psychology classes at Brandeis apply to actual research in the field and learn new methodologies like fNIRS, fMRI, and salivary oxytocin assays. These skills will make me a better future researcher or clinician, and the firsthand observation of phenomena and use of methodology will make me a better consumer of the research I learn about in classes.
  2. Explore a potential career as a clinical researcher and learn from other lab members about their various career trajectories. I want to learn from professionals about their jobs in psychology and medicine to aid in my consideration of a future career as a psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatrician, etc.
  3. Gain experience working in a professional setting. As my undergraduate career nearly ends, I am eager to gain confidence in my verbal and written communication skills to feel more sure of myself in professional spaces.

The first half of my internship has been phenomenal! I look forward to continuing working on my goals and learning a lot from Dr. Kim and her team during my time with them.

(1) Riverside Community Care

Source: https://www.facebook.com/RiversideCommunityCare

Riverside Community Care provides individualized behavioral health and social services in a community-based setting. This organization respects individual consumers and believes accessible, quality care should be available to all. Riverside is a community-based non-profit organization, serving more than 40,000 people a year in Massachusetts. The non-profit offers a wide range of care, including behavioral health services and services for people with developmental disabilities.

I work as an intern within Riverside’s Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team, a program that provides care management and coordination for eligible adults who are enrolled in a MassHealth ACO (Accountable Care Organizations) or MCO (Managed Care Organization) and have significant behavioral health needs. BH CP aims to serve vulnerable populations and connect enrollees with services in their own community. Some of the consumers need the support of BH CP to know what care options are available to them and how to go about accessing these. A care coordinator is assigned to the member and meets the consumer where they are. The care coordinator works with the enrollee to build confidence and independence in navigating the healthcare system and social services. Together, they create a care plan that helps connect enrollees to resources in their community and provides support for people who may face challenges on multiple fronts such as health, food, and medication.

By now, I have worked as an intern within the BH CP team for about three weeks. Besides orientation, of course, I have been working on a project to create a moving guide that is catered to our members’ needs. Moving homes alone is a huge undertaking for anyone. For people without the financial means or friends and family support, moving can be made even more difficult. The document doesn’t solve everything, but it does try to make the moving process a little easier. Not only does the moving guide help members, it is also a resource for care coordinators on the BH CP team. Unfortunately, finding resources for moving expenses is not as easy as one might think. By having the information in one place, care coordinators can more easily access what they need and, in turn, support enrollees.

Before my internship started, I identified two goals for myself. First, I want to gain an understanding of state agencies and programs (DMH, Social Security, MassHealth, etc). As someone interested in behavioral health and health equity, I believe it is vital to grasp the intricacies of the U.S. health care system and how this impacts patient care. Second, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the field of social work. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to observe, ask questions, and receive help when I am unsure. Having now started my internship, I still really like the goals I chose for myself. I’m grateful for my experiences so far and I’m looking forward to continuing this work.

(1) Working with Consensus Group

Maybe it’s just a product of getting older and becoming more aware of what’s going on in the world, but it feels to me like we’re all becoming more stratified. I look at the communities I recognize myself as part of, and feel like we’re all crumbling apart.

My work with Consensus Group feels like I’m stepping in the right direction, for a change.

Consensus Group is a consulting firm with specific focuses on conflict resolution, communication and peace building. Their work includes giving classes on conflict resolution, negotiation and communication in the workplace and in everyday life, helping in specific conflict and negotiation situations, and working with the United Nations to facilitate long-lasting peace in conflict regions around the world. It sounds at first quite specific, but it touches on many things.

If you are trying to help people learn new skills—in this case, that includes how to communicate better, how to resolve conflicts effectively, and how to improve negotiation skills—the challenge is not just providing them with the information. You also need to find a way to present that information in an engaging and informative way. It’s just one small part of what happens at Consensus Group, but it’s needed. That’s been my focus in the past few weeks.

What that boils down to is wrapping up real, important lessons in a package that would catch a person’s interest and keep them engaged throughout the lesson. If done right, the person will leave with a genuine new tool in their toolbox, and a desire to learn more.

With this in mind, I work with Consensus Groups to write articles that present their lessons in an exciting and intriguing way. For me, as someone who of course is just starting on this work in the summer, it means I need to first learn about what they teach, and then find an inventive way to present it.

Fortunately, Consensus Group has been unbelievably supportive and helpful, and I’ve been learning from them those tenets of their teachings in depth. Therefore, I’ve been able to focus on learning how to write about something I care about in a way that makes other people care too. And I’ve learned more about conflict resolution, negotiation, communication and peacekeeping than I ever had before.

These are subjects that we all know about a bit. After all, we communicate and we deal with difficult problems needing resolution constantly. But this type of learning is a whole other beast altogether.

Hopefully my work with Consensus Group does something to help get others interested in the core focuses of the group, and to realize the importance of communication, and of finding better ways to resolve our problems than the less-than-ideal ones many of us tend to default to. It starts small, with people caring about communication, and learning ways to do so in a productive and peaceful way.

(1) The Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery

As a sociology major at Brandeis, I’ve learned over and over how our systems and institutions fail many of the people they are supposed to help, but are actively designed to uphold patriarchal and white-supremacist norms. It’s clear to me, then, how much of a need exists for community resources that are trauma-informed and able to provide mental health services. This summer, I have the opportunity to work with the Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR) with the Social Work Department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. CVPR is the department at Beth Israel that works to reduce community, interpersonal, and domestic violence in and around Boston, Massachusetts. Social workers from CVPR respond to and support victims of sexual assault and other types of violence. The Center also runs support and healing groups for survivors. In general, CVPR provides many of those resources that are lacking when a person seeks institutional support from law enforcement or even hospital services. Indeed, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault often face secondary trauma in the hospital or from engaging with law enforcement or the court system.

It is clear that institutional services that provide support in times of crisis are essential to our society and our communities; however, in reality, many of these institutions do more harm than good. I wanted to intern specifically with the CVPR because I see it as an example of what institutional services should include: trauma informed care, mental health services that are both responsive and ongoing, and an active effort towards combating the embedded racism, misogyny, and homophobia that are pervasive in our society. 

In the past few weeks, I have gotten the opportunity not only to learn about what the CVPR does but to engage actively with staff and department activities. I have spent time updating the CVPR webpage, making it more accessible and relevant to visitors to the site, designing a flyer for a healing-through-gardening workshop, working with CVPR staff to update the Center’s new employee manual, and assisting with grants. I have also spent time compiling and writing up the latest research on trauma and mental health.

In addition to working with CVPR, I have learned about the broader social work department at Beth Israel Deaconess and to meet social workers who work everywhere from the Emergency Department to the NICU. I have begun to learn the workings and the rhythms of the CVPR.

Although my work is a small part of what is done at the CVPR, I feel that I have been able to contribute to this space that truly cares for the needs of its patients and the community. Spending time with the staff at CVPR, I am reminded that change happens slowly, but it happens when people who have a genuine care for their community do this type of work that is so greatly needed and so greatly lacking in most places around the U.S. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring, and how much more I will learn about the world of social work.

Dipping my toes in the Social Work field

Navigating the first week of my internship has been an exciting  moving experience. I’ve had the joy of dipping my toes into the field I see myself being in five years from now. I am interning at Strong Strong where I am teaching high schoolers from the city of Boston how to foster healthy relationships and how to prevent teen dating violence. This is important to me because Boston has a high rate of domestic violence incidents. I am devoted to playing a part in reducing violence in relationships. I have learned that a lot of people around me grow up with unhealthy representations of love and struggle to find and maintain relationships that are good for them. 

Start Strong trains leaders such as myself on a trauma-informed curriculum that helps teens distinguish between unhealthy and healthy qualities in a relationship, the cycle of abuse, what a break up looks like, and other important dialogues. Then we teach teens through workshops and activities in this curriculum. We hope with this knowledge they have the tools and resources in place to make healthy decisions for themselves in current and future relationships. 

My most significant task is leading a break up elective where we zoom in on how to practice healthy habits in ending a friendship or a relationship. I have been analyzing the media and doing research on my own to best help the youths understand what a healthy break up looks like in a way they can understand. I have been learning how the media shapes the decisions we make in our everyday lives. The point of the break up elective is to expose young people to healthy breakups because breakups in friendships and relationships have led to alarming rates of violence.



(1) United For a Fair Economy

Erick sitting in the UFE office holding a welcome Erick sign while sitting down
First Day at UFE

I am currently interning for United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE is a nonprofit fighting for a resilient, sustainable and equitable economy. UFEs caught my eye because of their work to raise the minimum wage in North Carolina. Most importantly, three aspects of the organization caught my attention: their expertise as grassroots organizers, the fight for higher wages (even if it’s not in MA) and their work as supporters of on-the-ground organizations. I chose UFE because I think it can teach me a lot about nonprofits and guide me toward the right career choice. I hope to learn more about the hard work that community organizing entails and about the difficulties of working in the industry.

Erick with UFE and community partner staff at the end of a popular education training.
First Popular Education workshop

While working for UFE, I learned that most of their work revolves around giving a voice to people who have experienced injustices. They encourage people to talk about their struggles and hardships and then summarize this impact by providing additional facts for contextualization. For example, they discuss facts like the federal minimum wage losing its purchasing power due to inflation. UFE also works on other projects. One of these projects is called Responsible Wealth. This program addresses the inequity resulting from billionaires not paying their fair share of taxes. For this reason, they actively work and advocate for a Billionaires Income Tax. To achieve these goals, UFE uses popular education as an alternative to traditional classroom education, where ordinary people define their problems and cooperate democratically to understand the successes and failures of past political policies to assess their situation.

Currently, I am working on a project meant to encourage popular education. The Conversation Deck uses a deck of cards to facilitate a conversation about people’s experiences, struggles, and barriers with the economy. I hope to host a focus group with staff, interns, and community leaders to gather feedback on the conversations we want people to have. While at UFE, I also work with donor relations by responding to correspondences and other funding-related administrative tasks. As a grassroots organization, this is a vital part of my work and necessitates being responsive to donor needs and requests.  

Furthermore, I also help staff with databases and phone banking for events, webinars, and popular education workshops. For my main project, The Conversation Deck, we hope to distribute the cards to our partner organizations. We want to encourage, engage and promote dialogue surrounding issues affecting our daily lives like our identities, our communities, the economy, and the actions we should be taking to address our concerns.

Overall, I am looking forward to learning more about nonprofits as a field and as a future career. It is very exciting to learn about the jobs, roles, and responsibilities that individuals are responsible for. I am also very grateful to see and experience what a healthy work environment looks like. I look forward to bringing this experience to my next jobs and internships and coming into the workforce with open eyes and with hindsight knowledge of what I should expect from an employer.

(1) My time at UFE

Hello, my name is Monica Alfaro, and I am a recipient of the Social Justice WOW grant. I am a rising junior at Brandeis and am double majoring in International Global Studies and Politics with a possible minor in Legal Studies. With the help of this grant, I have the incredible opportunity to intern with United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to challenging the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide, and tears communities apart. 

I work as the communications intern at United for a Fair Economy. UFE accomplishes its goals through three programs: Popular Education, Responsible Wealth, and Inclusive Economies. Through these programs, UFE strives to close the wealth gap. The Popular Education program provides training for activists to grant them the tools and resources they need to build a collective approach and expand their movements. The Responsible Wealth program comprises business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest 5% of wealth or income in the U.S. They advocate for progressive taxes and greater corporate accountability by speaking out in Congress and engaging in critical conversations to examine and change corporate and government policies. Lastly, Inclusive Economies brings together grassroots groups, business leaders, faith communities, unions, and think tanks in a coordinated effort to influence local policy toward equity. They speak out in Congress and participate in activities that promote progressive taxes and greater corporate accountability.  

Interning for United for a Fair Economy is the perfect opportunity for me. I have previous experience working with nonprofit organizations, which is how I know I am very passionate about community service. As a Latina from a low economic background, I can directly relate to UFE’s mission to challenge the unequal distribution of wealth and power and advocate for a more egalitarian society. United for a Fair Economy aligns with my interests. Its friendly, open environment empowered me to take initiative and direct projects, such as the video series “A Conversation About the Economy.” I know that after getting my undergraduate degree, I will go on to either law school for immigration law or join a nonprofit organization like UFE. 

As the communications intern, it is my job to support UFE’s mission through communication like editing videos and writing for their website and social media. My recent projects include a video series about the economic obstacles marginalized communities face, including the housing crisis, minimum wage, the cost of healthcare, and higher education opportunities. I am also working on videos documenting the retreats for trainers that UFE hosts, and I helped direct our most recent event, Tax the Rich. This event was a five-hour Zoom meeting with activists, rich people, and senators from Boston and North Carolina. We talked about how the rich can use their resources and social capital to advocate for an equal distribution of wealth, such as the rich getting taxed more. My upcoming project this week is an interview series from workers in North Carolina, highlighting the stories of those most impacted by economic inequality. I have gained much more experience with software such as Canva and Adobe Premiere. In the near future, I plan to connect more with people from other departments at UFE and help them in any way I can. I wish to learn more about UFE’s different programs, which is the perfect way to do so. 

I do not doubt that by the time I conclude my internship at UFE, I will have gained some expertise that will be necessary to excel in my desired career path.

(1) An Introduction to the World of Public Health

The logo of the National Consumers League

Being a part of the Public Health Policy Team at the National Consumers League (NCL) has categorically been the most rewarding and meaningful experience I have had so far in my professional career. Although I have worked here for only a month, I have helped prepare testimony for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the ongoing infant formula crisis, staffed events, and written public policy statements. More importantly, I have found invaluable mentors who trust me and my work and are eager to help me learn and succeed.

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League has long advocated for a fair and transparent market for consumers. NCL focuses on research, advocacy, and education on some of the most pressing issues affecting consumers including fraud prevention, healthcare, food and nutrition, child labor, and workers’ rights. In the past, my experience in the public health arena has been limited, but it has always been a field I have wanted to explore. The issues NCL addresses such as health equity, consumer choice, food and drug safety, and people’s ability to access safe, affordable, and quality healthcare impact the lives of millions of Americans. I have always believed that public policy is a potent mechanism for making positive and impactful changes in people’s lives. NCL’s work reflects my own values, making it an incredible organization for me to contribute to this summer.

The National Consumers League Team present at the HAC Summit.

As a nonpartisan organization, NCL works with nonprofits, grassroots coalitions, congressional staff, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to fight for consumers and ensure that people are able to receive necessary and sometimes lifesaving health services. NCL’s strategy for meeting these objectives begins with listening and amplifying the voices of underserved communities. From there, the team blocks out targeted and coalition-based approaches to help these people struggling in the U.S. health system. Final steps in this process include communicating the importance of these issues with congressional offices, putting pressure on regulatory agencies such as the FDA and FTC, and outlining health policy needs in collaboration with other groups. 

In my current capacity, the majority of my work centers on drafting policy statements, but I also attend meetings and brief NCL staff on specific issues and the meetings they can not attend. So far this summer, the policy statements I have written cover a range of different health issues such as copay accumulator programs, the monopolistic practices of PBMs, the unfair treatment of pregnant workers, the FDA’s ban on Juul, and the ongoing gun epidemic. I am also working on creating a health equity policy stance/agenda for the NCL website and had the immense privilege of assisting the Director of Health Policy in her testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. This included helping craft her formal statement, opposition research, and strategy recommendations for the Q&A portion of the hearing. 

Looking forward, I want to explore the full scope of public policy advocacy. From learning effective lobbying tactics to the process behind building a coalition of support, these skills will be invaluable to me throughout my future career. As someone new to public health, I also want to develop a more holistic understanding of the industry and how seemingly distinct issues, such as stringent immigration policy and health inequities, can intersect.

From my time at NCL, I have learned that progress can appear in many forms. While usually associated with policy and regulatory changes, increasing awareness, disseminating knowledge, and building coalitions around key issues are also mechanisms that create a base for the implementation of positive change. I am absolutely ecstatic to continue working at NCL and I can only imagine all the new things I will learn in the coming months.

(1) Getting back on track with Someone Cares Atlanta

This summer I am working as a case management intern at Someone Cares Atlanta. Someone Cares is a nonprofit that works primarily with people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual people who are a part of high-risk groups for HIV. Someone Cares offers a variety of different services including HIV/STD testing, primary care services, and behavioral health treatment. The majority are clients are HIV positive, sex workers, and/or houseless. These populations often have trouble accessing health care and other important services. Someone Cares provides these kinds of services to help people get back on their feet and to look out for people who have nowhere else to turn.

As a case management intern, my job is to listen to clients and assist them in connecting with the different services. Many of the clients I interact with struggle with substance abuse and are low-income or no income. They often need assistance finding housing, healthcare, and employment. Depending on the client, this could just mean providing them with the phone number and address of the resource they would like to get connected with. Other times, you have to be on the phone with them or help them complete an application because they might have trouble using technology. Many of our clients do not have a readily available source of transportation, so sometimes it is also necessary for a case manager to set up transportation for them through Someone Cares or by providing them with a MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) card so they get there themselves.

The Someone Cares table at Atlanta Metropolitan State College

One of the other responsibilities of a case management intern is shadowing the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) group that meets three days a week. This group is for clients dealing with substance abuse issues who need more support to develop positive mental coping mechanisms and substance abuse recovery skills. The session is run by a therapist or therapy intern. Clients often have questions about primary care and other services, which is why it is necessary to have a case management intern. We also occasionally do outreach events in the community to help promote our different services. For example, we went to Atlanta Metropolitan State College to do a tabled event along with other organizations. 

The mission of Someone Cares is to help people who are HIV positive, houseless, or struggling with substance abuse access resources and services necessary to their survival; my role in achieving this mission is to help where I am needed. Every individual I assist in accessing food, housing, and/or healthcare puts Someone Cares one step closer to fulfilling its mission. Success can be seeing how far the clients have come since they started the program. Often clients come in houseless without any identification, access to food, or employment. Being able to see clients obtain these things during the duration of the program is the most noticeable measure of progress. This also helps complete Someone Cares’s secondary objective of creating a welcoming and caring environment for people who may have nowhere else to turn.

(1) The Safe Passage Project

Through the WOW Grant, I am able to continue my work with the Safe Passage Project this summer.  Safe Passage is a non-profit organization located in NYC that frames its mission around providing free immigration services to refugee and immigrant children. What makes Safe Passage so special is that they also work with a team of social workers and are attentive to research into the home countries of the youth migrants. I am currently completing this internship virtually, but will have the opportunity in July to begin working in person. I focus on starting special immigrant juvenile applications, reaching out to clients, interpreting, and translating. My daily work schedule usually consists of working closely with one supervisor. I appreciate this work environment because my supervisor is available any time during the day to ask questions about the projects I am working on. I also receive helpful feedback at the end of every day.

I am confident that this work environment will ensure that I leave Safe Passage with skills that I can apply to other work experiences, especially since I hope to continue working within immigration law. Beyond working with my supervisor, Safe Passage also holds weekly opportunities for interns to meet one another and other attorneys. Every week we are able to virtually have lunch with one another. Each attorney also holds a weekly meeting where they explain and hold an open Q&A session in regards to specific topics within immigration law. Since this internship consists of both law students and undergraduate college students, it has been most interesting to learn from the questions being proposed by law students. Many of them are in positions where they are practicing the law topics we learn about. From this, they can apply and share real-world cases they are working through. 

Developing meaningful relationships with attorneys and members of Safe Passage last summer has enabled me to deepen these connections now. Finding my voice and space within this work has also supported me in reaching out to other first-generation lawyers. Being a second-year intern also exposed the attorneys I get to work with to a greater understanding of who I am as an individual and intern. From this, they have shared fellowships, schools, and scholarships they relied on to support them throughout law school. 

This summer I made it a goal for myself to ask very honest and genuine questions about pursuing higher education. Safe Passage exposes me to many different lawyers with different motives regarding immigration law. During the first few weeks of my internships, I scheduled one on one meetings with questions on how attorneys, paralegals, and social workers navigate work life and their journey in higher education. I started at Safe Passage with a desire to work closely with Central American migrants. I am very grateful for this experience because I get to work with youth and passionate people within immigration law. I knew I had a strong passion and skills that could make me an effective team member. However, this summer with Safe Passage, I am able to embark on more leadership roles and explore the different paths in immigration law. I am excited to continue working with youth and supporting them. I am also excited to continue learning how to apply my skills and grow within this field.

(1) My Part at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is an independent state agency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts working to enforce anti-discrimination laws by conducting extensive investigations of discrimination complaints from citizens to determine if said cases will continue to conciliations or a public hearing.  In addition, the Commission also provides trainings and information as strategies to prevent future discrimination from occurring in these different spaces.

A view of my morning commuter rail stop

The Commission has four office locations: Boston, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester.  At these offices, alleged complaints are organized into scopes of discrimination such as employment, housing, and public accommodations.  My position is an Employment Investigative Intake Intern working out of the Boston office.  This entails me waking up early and taking the commuter rail from the Brandeis Roberts stop in Waltham all the way to North Station in TD Garden in the middle of the city.  From there, I walk to the McCormack Building, right next to the Boston City Hall and the Old State House.  The Commission is just one of many agencies in the McCormack building, along with the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Higher Education, and many more.

My job as an Employment Investigative Intake Intern has two main areas of focus.  The first is to be an intake specialist.  For the function of the Commission to be effective, it needs to be made available to all people alleging discrimination, whether they have the means to afford attorney representation or not.  As such, pro se litigants, or people representing themselves, call the Commission to share their story of alleged discrimination in hopes of their experiences falling under the jurisdiction of the Commission to merit a neutral investigation by investigators to present the facts of their case.  If those facts present a case of probable cause where discrimination is present and within jurisdiction of the Commission, the case has the opportunity to proceed to conciliations, mediation, or a public hearing, all of which are steps closer to justice. 

My cubicle on the first day!

As an intake specialist, I am trained to receive those phone calls, hear the stories of the people alleging discrimination, and draft an official complaint of their narrative as a starting point to be inspected for jurisdiction, and potentially start an investigation.  These calls and drafting of the complaints allow me to talk to a range of people, and it is empowering to be participating in the process of providing neutral legal assistance for all—many of whom would otherwise have no way of reporting their experiences.  

The second part of my duties as an investigative intern is to do case management.  At the start of the internship, myself and my fellow interns were assigned a handful of cases for which we are responsible during our time at the Commission.  These responsibilities involve reading each case from front to back, including the stories of all parties involved in the alleged discrimination and every piece of evidence that they submit to the Commission.  For some of these cases, there can be hundreds of pages of exhibits and written explanations that must be sifted through, and it takes a significant amount of patience and focus to read through all of it and make sure that I have a grasp of what each document contributes to the case. 

Furthermore, I am also responsible for the outlining of each case, which entails—after reading each case’s materials in their entirety—summarizing and organizing all the information to make a judgment of investigative analysis.  The investigative analysis is almost like a preliminary assessment of if the investigation has revealed the facts of the case to be either a Lack of Probable Cause or Probable Cause.  This is by far the most exciting and interesting part of my position because it gives me the opportunity to be involved in the actual legal understanding and application of the facts of the case that will then actually be used in the next steps of writing a disposition to be used for an official judgment.  In addition to the drafting of an outline with investigative analysis, I also have the responsibility of drafting and sending out interrogatories, or additional questions to the parties involved in the alleged discrimination to fill in missing information that is necessary for coming to a finding in the case.

Working for the MCAD is teaching me a lot about the moving parts of legal cases and investigations, while also allowing me to be an active participant in providing investigative assistance combatting discrimination to all people, no matter their identities or access to legal counsel.  I look forward to learning more and seeing what else I can achieve in this position to promote equity and legal justice for all people.   

(1) My internship with Legal Outreach

My internship with Legal Outreach has undeniably put me out of my comfort zone. I moved to New York City, started my first 9-5 job, and was forced to learn the ins and outs of the moody office coffee maker. But more importantly, I was confronted with topics that I had never discussed before—the most prominent being the racial injustices of the education system. Legal Outreach is a non-profit educational organization that seeks to bridge educational gaps by providing underserved and underrepresented students from the NYC area with skills they are usually deprived of, but are necessary for future success. Legal Outreach provides students with opportunities to develop these skills via tutoring, test prep, and extracurricular opportunities such as a mock trial team.

Their best-known program is the Summer Law Institute, which I am working with this summer. The SLI is a 5-week program for rising ninth-grade students, focusing on criminal law and taught by law students. This program, which is incredibly selective, pushes students to see themselves as future lawyers and provides them with the skills they need to one day succeed in the legal field. There are six individual institutes within the SLI, with each one taking place at a different law school in NYC. Every week, the students take tests and submit essays, converse with guest speakers, visit law firms and courthouses, and compete in a cumulative mock trial competition at the end of the program. 

I chose the position as a Coordinating Intern for the SLI because I have developed a passion for non-profit legal organizations, stemming from my first legal internship with the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Most of the full-time employees of this organization are lawyers who have chosen to trade in their legal careers to be mentors and advocates for students that have dreams to become professionals, but have faced incredible obstacles in their education that prevent these dreams from coming true. 

As a Coordinating Intern for the Cardozo School of Law SLI, my main responsibilities are to assist the Legal Teaching Fellows with grading student essays and tests, along with preparing and teaching one academic skills workshop a week. These lessons vary from plagiarism and citations, to essay-writing and public speaking, and so on. Additionally, it is my responsibility to reach out to attorneys and judges to serve as guest speakers and field trip hosts for the program, and to schedule and organize their visits. 

This summer, I am going to support Legal Outreach and their mission by sharing the valuable information, tools, and skills that I have gained throughout my own education with the students. I want to be an outlet for students to describe the areas of education that they have been wrongfully deprived of, with the hopes that I can supplement these gaps. 

At Legal Outreach, progress is seeing the SLI students gain confidence in themselves and their abilities after the program. Progress is them deciding that their dream to be a lawyer is within reach, and dedicating themselves to achieving that dream.  

(1) The Next Step in my Criminal Justice Journey

Today marks a full month at my current internship at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office! Before I get into my current activities as a summer intern, I owe it to the Legal Studies department to explain how I got here in the first place. As a Politics major on the Pre-Law track, I have fortunately been able to participate in multiple immersive learning opportunities in the past year – mostly thanks to the Legal Studies Department and Professor Rosalind Kabrhel, who graciously notified me of this internship opportunity at the beginning of the Spring semester. In the summer of 2021, my good friend and fellow Legal Studies buddy Maheeb Rabbani introduced me to the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Throughout the year and into the summer, the BEJI team conducts one of many incredible programs, the Partakers Empowerment Program (PEP). PEP is a virtual 13-week series of educational workshops for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, facilitated by Brandeis staff, graduate, and undergraduate students. Workshops include Civic Engagement, Financial Literacy, Technology, Health and Wellness, and Education. 

Alongside BEJI, which is co-founded by Professor Kabrhel, I have gained further enrichment through the Legal Studies program’s experiential learning courses: the Legal Studies Practicum (LGLS 145a) and Legal Studies Internship and Seminar (LGLS 98a). These courses have allowed me to deepen my understanding of the criminal justice system with hands-on experiences including assisting Professor Aaron Bray in facilitating his course on Pre-Trial litigation (Street Litigators Academy) within the Nashua St. jail facility, as well as working as a legislative advocacy and research intern at Citizens for Juvenile Justice for their Raise the Age campaign.

This is to say that I owe it to the Legal Studies program’s unorthodox yet crucially impactful courses for preparing me for my current internship. At the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, I work under Antonia Soares Thompson in the Racial Justice Initiatives Unit. This is a new department that was created in response to the racial reckoning in 2020 that urged every institution to investigate the racial responses both within and beyond its offices. The department’s novelty does not reflect the critical Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work that has long been—and continues to be—conducted by those in the legal field. 

My first day at the office with Director of Racial Justice Initiatives Antonia Soares Thompson

As an intern, there are a number of projects that I work on. One of the long-term projects I am currently working on includes going through the prosecution case management database and analyzing demographic data and diversionary outcomes for juvenile court cases. In Massachusetts, once you turn 18, you are automatically prosecuted as an adult. Those aged 12-18 are charged under the jurisdiction of juvenile court, which is critically divergent from adult court notably for defendants’ ability to be diverted and for criminal record confidentiality. With diversion being key to a young person’s development and accountability, as opposed to being processed in the justice system, it is crucial to investigate who is granted diversion—and why certain demographic groups may be left behind. 

My attempt to justify this mess of a workspace. It’s called multitasking!                                             Image Credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Czu-TuTXAAAjXYr.jpg

Another project I am working on is revamping the Social Justice Roundtable curriculum that will pilot in the fall. The SJR is a traveling 4-6 week workshop for public schools around Massachusetts. The goal is to educate students on matters of social and racial justice; instilling self-confidence in their intersecting identities; and empowering young people to engage with emerging cultural and political discourse in an empathetic and nuanced manner. From the district court meetings that I have attended with superintendents, teachers, and police departments, it is clear that these young communities are disproportionately prone to bullying, discrimination, and violence that often lead to assaults or hate crimes—offenses that we have a vested interest in investigating as a prosecuting office. These meetings have allowed us to hear directly from the community and its stakeholders to gain a better understanding of school environments and the overall well-being of young people in Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a mental health crisis in young people and a less stable school environment for adolescents of color and LGBTQ+ youth. Hopefully, with the continuation of these workshops and my incorporation of social-emotional learning, we can foster empathy among these communities and kickstart a movement of healing and understanding on a local level. I am beyond delighted to be a part of such integral work that investigates crime and hate at their root causes, rather than prosecuting its symptoms. What we do not need is to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and over-prosecute young people by thinking of hate and violence as issues easily resolved via incarceration. Young people have the capacity to learn and change, only if we lead by example and provide them with opportunities to learn and practice empathy. I am overjoyed to see and be a part of this restorative work at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and am excited to see what else is in store for me this summer.

(1) The Beginning

Act-Up is a grassroots international organization that advocates for HIV/AIDS prevention and other intersecting social justice struggles related to the epidemic (safe drug use, anti-sexual violence, etc).

I wanted to work with Act-Up for many reasons.  First, I took Prof. Vijayakumar’s course “HIV/AIDS, Society, and Politics” and found an interest in HIV/AIDS activism because it is so intersectional with women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.  I also have volunteered for harm reduction services as a high school student, many of which provided needle exchanges, and taking Prof. Vijayakumar’s course allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the work I had previously done but was too young to understand, and how important the field of harm reduction is at large.  Second, I am a New York native who is also a theater kid.  Inevitably, I am very familiar with all of the performance art that came out of the 80-90s in New York City that centered on HIV/AIDS activism.

The chapter is comprised of members with a lot of experience in harm reduction work, specifically with people who use drugs.  There are also members in medical schools, nonprofit work, and fine art, which makes a group of adults well-versed in how one can advocate for human rights in many mediums.  

Act-Up Boston addresses a lot of social injustices as they intersect with HIV/AIDS activism.  Besides working towards reduce HIV/AIDS transmission, the Boston chapter of Act-Up does a lot of community education on safer drug use, unsafe drug use, and the houselessness crisis in Massachusetts.  This, inevitably, intersects with combating homophobia, racism, transphobia, etc. Strategies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rallies and protests
  • Live and virtual panel discussions addressing safer drug use, HIV/AIDS prevention, etc.
  • HIV/AIDS prevention via community education workshops
  • Narcan trainings
  • Creating art projects as a means of prevention

So far, I have been responsible for facilitating or note-taking during our weekly meetings.  I keep track of our action items (upcoming events and projects) for each meeting, along with taking on the multitude of small tasks that need to be completed (emailing, social media updates, checking in with members). I help design promotional fliers for our virtual panels in the Month of May and for Boston Pride events that Act-Up was involved in, and I help think of new events and activities for each month, along with spearheading them. 

I think my eagerness to incorporate more arts activism into Act-Up’s work will inspire the mission to continue to include the arts in their work, especially during community engagement activities as a form of processing emotions and seeking creative solutions as a collective.  Additionally, I am currently starting to outreach with other organizations to host community facilitation courses on safer sex and safer drug use, which are incredibly relevant to the present atrocities occurring in the Supreme Court in regards to reproductive rights.  

In addition to the impact my work will have, I think my personality has allowed me to bring more mindfulness into the organizing space.  Most of my fellow organizers are adults with a bunch of jobs, adult obligations, and life stressors that I am not experiencing yet.  Being the youngest member and being a very extroverted person, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to check in with everyone and create an environment where everyone is getting to know each other a little more each day.  

Change and progress look like a million different things.  Change looks like having difficult, tedious conversations with close friends and family or total strangers.  Change looks like listening to your colleagues/peers when they are discussing their expertise.  Progress looks like consistent public outreach and seeing 2-3 new members at each chapter meeting.  Progress looks like acknowledging your own implicit biases and harmful beliefs that you may have stuffed down, but now have the language to understand and correct.

(1) Exciting Summer in Women’s Health

This summer I am working as an intern for a women’s health startup called NNABI. NNABI a hormonal wellness company that is currently developing a holistic, natural supplement for women experiencing perimenopause, the lesser-known health stage prior to menopause. Perimenopause is incredibly common, with all women starting at the age of forty experiencing symptoms. Despite its prevalence, one survey shows that 73% of women are currently not treating their symptoms, instead choosing to “tough it out,” a view largely based in the stigma surrounding menopause.

NNABI aims to lower that percentage by raising awareness of this phase, both through helping women treat their symptoms naturally and through educating other groups about the overall importance of women’s health. I chose to work in this particular field because of my background in Health Science and Social Policy (HSSP), where I learned about many injustices that occur in the healthcare world. One of the most impactful is the gender data gap, or the disparities in research quantity and quality between medical issues that more commonly affect men, and issues that more commonly affect women. Research shows that healthcare solutions, like medications and their dosages, are often based in male physiology, which can lead to women experiencing adverse affects to medications.

NNABI, as well as other companies focusing on menopause, are dedicated to closing the gender data gap. One of my responsibilities this summer is to create a survey that the company will use to gain insight into how both women and men think of menopause. The main goal for the survey is to show that despite being extremely common, menopause is incredibly stigmatized. With NNABI, I am also working on ways to raise awareness of menopause among younger women. I have been researching possibilities of getting menopause to be in sexual education so that students of all genders will be informed later on in life.

My current project is to do audits of the category and of the audience. I am currently researching other menopause supplement companies and analyzing their formulas and claims. I am also studying women’s conversations on social media surrounding perimenopause, looking at potential customers’ biggest concerns and frustrations. These projects will ultimately be crucial for NNABI’s branding. Since the company is still new, there is work to be done in explaining exactly how this company is different from its competitors. The small steps of combing through competitor websites, completing their product quizzes, and viewing their social media are all ways of understanding the current market. Reading and watching real conversations between women about perimenopause are smaller steps towards revealing what gaps exist in women’s understanding of their symptoms and the solutions that are available to them. My observations from these two projects will be synthesized into a company reference sheet, which will help when deciding on branding choices like pricing and audience interactions.

I believe that the work I am doing this summer will be a small part in the overall fight to redefine women’s health in the United States and worldwide. Overall progress in this fight will be when issues like the gender data gap and menopausal stigma are minimized. NNABI is a company that is committed to changing the definition of women’s health by highlighting menopause as an issue that impacts everyone. In my research, I found this sentiment echoed in this quote: “…women’s health, in other words, contributes in a significant way to stronger, healthier societies.”

(1) Volunteer Lawyers Project

This summer I am interning with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), which is part of the Boston Bar Association. VLP is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income people living in the Boston area. I am excited to work in the field of legal aid because it is an arena in which real positive change is achieved. At VLP, I get to interact directly with clients in need and help provide them with services they desperately need. VLP is not only working towards an abstract, far away goal; they make real, tangible change in people’s lives every single day. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to legal representation and advice regardless of their financial situation. Justice should not come with a price tag. Additionally, VLP’s work relates to my academic interests at Brandeis, where I study Politics and Legal Studies. At VLP, I can further my academic and occupational pursuits in a manner that helps people in my community.

I am working in VLP’s Housing Unit, which primarily aids people facing eviction. These clients face a massive uphill battle brought on by a number of injustices. The Boston area has a severe shortage of affordable housing and therefore, the clients VLP aids with their eviction cases often need to stay in their current unit because they are unlikely to find another one in their same area. Furthermore, landlords are often more likely to be able to afford an attorney than tenants, giving them a strong advantage in a legal dispute. More information about the issues faced by VLP’s clients can be seen from the screenshot below of a virtual training I completed.

As an intern at VLP, I have the opportunity to help rectify these injustices. My role in the Housing Unit will involve conducting intake interviews with clients to collect information about their housing predicament. This information is then passed on to an attorney who will do what they can to aid the client in their case. During the time when clients meet with attorneys—meetings VLP calls “clinics”—I will help attorneys draft legal documents pertinent to the client’s case. So far, I have only shadowed document drafting and intakes, but I am excited about the prospect of doing it myself.

Another facet of VLP’s Housing Unit is a program called Lawyer for the Day, which is run out of the MA Eastern Housing Court. This program trains and connects volunteer, non-VLP attorneys with clients in need of representation. I will be attending this program for the first time on July 5. I am excited about this opportunity because it will allow me to attend the courthouse in person. Most of my internship has taken place on Zoom. Although this can be convenient, I feel that I will be able to learn much more through in person experiences.

Overall, I am inspired  by VLP’s mission and practices and I am thrilled about the prospect of getting more involved with their work through hands-on experiences!

(1) What does social impact look like?

For many young people, the idea of creating positive change in the world can feel daunting. This goal seems bigger than oneself. We often ask ourselves, “How can a single individual create impact?” This is where Fulphil comes in. 

Fulphil is an ed-tech nonprofit striving to empower high school students to make an impact on their local communities, society, and the world through engaging in social entrepreneurship education and training. Driven by the mantra, “the people closest to the problems are closest to the solution,” Fulphil inspires every young person to start tackling the very issues happening within their communities. Fulphil aims to harvest the potential for the greatest innovation by unlocking the most dynamic minds in the community—the youth. Thus, it is crucial to provide equitable and equalizing education to youth in underserved communities and to equip them with the tools to break out of their personal economic barriers and dream, execute, and materialize innovative answers and visions to problems that affect them, their local communities and beyond.

Image Credit: Fulphil Team

Fulphil’s E-Lab brings online curriculum to teachers and students to continue leveraging experiential learning in times of distance-learning. Fulphil’s online curriculum covers topics across social entrepreneurship, sustainability, 21st century soft skills, diversity, equity, inclusion, financial literacy, design thinking, and mental health and wellness. Through fun and engaging content, ​Fulphil hopes to directly empower students with a social entrepreneurship education that will propel them to take on global citizen mindsets to be catalysts of change in their own communities. Social entrepreneurship is an excellent vehicle to catalyze individuals to be excellent changemakers and problem solvers, which is the mindset students need to succeed in their future careers.

Fulphil’s curriculum is co-created by high school and college students and iterated yearly by former students and current teachers to ensure that curriculum content is engaging, relevant, and includes up-to-date case studies and current events. The iterative curriculum process also allows students to contribute new content they want to see into the curriculum. Since its founding, Fulphil has served over 3000 students across the country.

At Fulphil, I manage the diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum development team to develop and iterate DEI curriculum spanning examples in educational institutions, in the workplace, in social media and brand development, and STEM. I work with the leadership team to create fun curriculum content for Fulphil’s e-curriculum, and to create partnerships with teachers and schools across the country. Students graduate from Fulphil with the skills and mindset they need to be an effective and impactful changemaker in their communities.

Every student, teacher, and staff who comes across Fulphil learns how impact can come in a variety of forms. For us, it is crucial to understand that impact can be created through small-scale efforts, and one can start right where they are at. We inspire students to recognize that they too have the ability to make a difference in the world. Fulphil aspires that each student can take away a newfound understanding of what impact can look like. Because the secret is: everyone can create life-changing impact right where they are. 

(1) Opening the Book at the Harrison Public Library

I have always loved the library. I have loved to read for as long as I can remember, and for me the library is a natural extension of that. Libraries serve many purposes, acting not just as repositories of books but as centers of communities that foster a love of reading in people of all ages. Before the pandemic, I regularly volunteered at my local library, but I always wanted to play a larger role than simply shelving books. Working as an intern at the Harrison Public Library, I am able to play a role in organizing and running library events I never could have as a volunteer.

The Harrison Public Library serves many functions, as I mentioned. As with any library, it loans out books for the people of Harrison, and indeed anyone who has a library card in the Westchester Library System. The library also organizes numerous community events for people of all ages. This includes but is not limited to Q&A sessions with authors, art receptions, and various workshops covering topics ranging from painting to resume writing. It also provides numerous opportunities to aid people learning English as a second language, including conversational hours and a book club. For children specifically, the library hosts a number of events, especially during the summer. This includes cooperation with the 4-H STEM program and Westchester Battle of the Books.

My workspace at the Harrison Library, with BoB books.

For my part, these first few weeks have seen me largely assisting in the training of the Battle of the Books teams and researching into The Human Library. Once the school year ends for most children, I will be spending more time helping to supervise various library events, but for now this has meant a lot of time reading books and doing research.

Battle of the Books is a kind of trivia competition for children from grades four to twelve. Each library involved in the Westchester Library System organizes teams, who read five pre-selected books in preparation to the event. There are different selections of books for teams from grades 4-6  and for grades 7+, and the Harrison Library has one team for each grade range. The Battle itself is a trivia competition, where teams compete to answer questions about the books chosen. My part in all this is helping the Children’s Librarian to write practice questions specifically for the 7+ team, and to help run practice sessions for both teams.

Human Library is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to confronting prejudice by creating spaces of open dialogue. It does this by organizing “books” (volunteers who have faced discrimination and are willing to tell their story) to attend public events where they will have one-on-one discussions with “readers,” giving a brief synopsis of their lives and then engaging in an extended Q&A session. The library will not be able to hold an event until after I return to college, but I will be doing much of the research and helping to recruit for and advertise the event.

My presence here frees up the time of the librarians to pursue other projects. Given the time it would have taken to organize a Human Library event, I am unclear if the Harrison Library would have really been able to get it started without me providing extra manpower. Ultimately, the goal is to get kids excited about reading, and in the case of Human Library, to help people confront their prejudices. I do not think I will be volunteering here long enough to really see the fruits of my labors, but I hope I will help in accomplishing those goals.

(1) The Right to Immigration Institute: Providing Pro Bono Immigration Legal Services

This summer, I’m interning virtually (from my home in Reno, Nevada) with The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), a non-profit organization based in Waltham, Massachusetts. TRII provides pro bono immigration legal services to non-citizens seeking citizenship, asylum, a green card, or a visa. TRII also provides humanitarian assistance in the form of advocating for clients in housing, employment, and school matters, and referring clients to organizations which specialize in rent assistance, access to warm clothes, and food. In order to reach those in need within the Waltham community, TRII is frequently involved in community outreach (tabling at various community events), popular education, and know-your-rights sessions.

I first learned about TRII at one of Brandeis’s volunteer events at the beginning of the year, where I met some of TRII’s student volunteers who introduced me to the organization. Before I knew it, I had begun a six-month intensive legal training offered by TRII, intended to train those who took it to become certified as Department of Justice Accredited Representatives. In addition to learning about U.S. immigration history, various types of immigration relief, filling out specific immigration forms, court etiquette, legal jargon, and the intimacies of client work, we were broken up into six teams to prepare for an immigration court mock trial to test our skills. About halfway through our training, I had the opportunity to begin working on cases with our executive director and attorneys, which I am continuing to do from home this summer having now completed the training.

At-home office!

My passion for social justice, particularly with regard to TRII, stems not only from my interest in immigration, but from my family’s history. On my mom’s side of the family, we are a family of immigrants; all of my great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe to escape the pogroms in the late 1800s. For many like my great grandparents, the U.S. acts as a sanctuary from the persecution and violence in their home countries and provides protection, security, and agency. As someone who is passionate about politics and history, it is my conviction that we are a nation of immigrants, by immigrants, and for immigrants.

That said, while I strongly believe that the U.S. provides a sanctuary to those fleeing persecution, I have also observed that U.S. immigration law makes it incredibly difficult for them to do so. This, on top of the fact that many immigrants are unfamiliar with U.S. culture and customs, and do not speak the language, makes it incredibly difficult for them to get and maintain a job, put food on the table for their families, and adequately provide for their own healthcare. TRII works to guide clients through the immigration system while accounting for the humanitarian aid they need to survive in their new home. In addition to meeting with our clients weekly over months to thoughtfully build their applications, we also ensure they have a place to live in the community and are able to provide for themselves and their families. It is our job to help them navigate a complex and intimidating immigration system and ensure that they feel secure in their new community. It is for these very reasons that I so deeply enjoy working with TRII and providing the assistance we do.

Check out TRII’s LinkedIn and Facebook!

(1) Sparking social change through STEM education

This month, I started my summer internship at Science Clubs International, a nonprofit organization that aims to spark social change by expanding access to high-quality STEM education. Founded in 2016, SCI has the goal of supporting the growth and organization of Clubes de Ciencia (Science Clubs) internationally. This is a program that invites scientists, graduate students, and postdocs to share their stories of pursuing careers in science with high school and college students and to conduct a series of intensive, hands-on workshops on topics across multiple STEM fields. SCI currently has clubs in eight countries: Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Spain, and the U.S. They organized +600 clubs around the world, with +25000 hours of activities and +15000 students involved.

I realized I wanted to work with SCI when I participated in one of their clubs back in high school, so I know from first-hand experience the impact this initiative can have on young students by boosting their confidence and reassuring them that they belong in STEM. Additionally, during high school, I taught mathematics to young girls and adults, which helped me understand how STEM education is essential to thriving in today’s rapidly changing world, creating community-oriented citizens, and empowering changemakers.  As a Biology and Neuroscience double major, I know the importance of breaking barriers in STEM, and I’m eager to work with an NGO that perfectly aligns with my goal to further develop outreach for scientific educational opportunities, especially for Latin American students.

I’m currently working on the development a six-day online event that will happen in September with +300 students from different parts of the America Continent. The event will happen in three languages— Portuguese, Spanish, and English—and will host panels with scientists from around the world, workshops with specific themes, and presentations at the end where students will showcase what they learned. This will be the second edition of the event and we’re currently selecting the mentors that will coordinate each one of the workshops (clubs).

At SCI, I work on the technology committee and my main task is to supervise and improve the STEM educational online platform developed for running the program. This includes analyzing and testing the platform’s requirements, enhancing its performance, creating comprehensive guides to ease the platform use, facilitating the students’ engagement and participation during the event, giving technical support to students and other committees, directly talking to and helping Portuguese-speaking students navigate the event, and other duties as assigned. 

The work I’m responsible for this summer will contribute to the organization and success of the second international edition of the Science Clubs Event, therefore furthering SCI’s mission. I’m currently writing guides on how to sign in to the platform, and these guides will make it easier for students to apply for the program. Additionally, by translating the guides/platform to Portuguese, Spanish, and English, I’m helping to make the program more accessible to students. I’m excited to get to know the team of renowned scientists working side by side with me and learn from their experiences developing such an amazing program.

(1) Zealous Advocate, Zealous Community

As a second-generation Mexican-American, I have heard stories from family members about their journeys immigrating to the United States. This inspired me to delve into immigrant advocacy and learn about the American immigration system. I began pursuing this interest with the Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), an organization that seeks to provide legal aid to Greater Boston area immigrants. Throughout my work with TRII, I have learned about immigration processes and the history behind the system. After graduating from TRII’s intensive legal training program in Spring 2022, I realized that I wanted to experience working at a law firm to potentially pursue a career in immigration law.

My immigration background brought me to my current role as a legal intern with the Law Office of Saikon Gbehan. I was drawn here due to Attorney Gbehan’s dedication to being a “zealous advocate” for her clients, a Brandeisian principle of jurisprudence. From my interview with her, she relayed to me how she zealously advocates for clients, overwhelming judges with insurmountable evidence of eligibility for the clients in pursuit of various processes. The concept of a zealous advocate resonated with me, as I feel that it is the job of a lawyer to stand up for their client in the face of institutions that must attend to the needs of individuals in society. By implementing this legal style in immigration firms, it serves to challenge unjust institutions and center the client, which is a main goal for me.

In my role, I assist Attorney Gbehan primarily in immigration matters for her client, which includes but is not limited to: researching current immigration statutes and case law to incorporate in matters of asylum, family-based petitions, and adjustments of legal status; drafting research memos and contacting representatives of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to inform clients of their prospective immigration opportunities to the United States; and meeting with clients to gather supporting evidence for their case and work on their applications.

In my time so far, I have primarily worked on family-based immigration petitions for individuals who are receiving legal permanent resident (LPR) status—commonly known as a green card holder—via a relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, through blood or marriage, for example. In addition to other forms, the primary application for this procedure is called the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

I believe that knowledge is power, and I am intentional about informing clients of their options and why the law functions the way it does. By putting information back into the hands of clients, it gives them the power to have a greater role in determining the outcome of whatever immigration matter they are involved in. In my work at the firm, I hope to create a ripple effect in which knowledge is disseminated among immigrant communities. In this ripple effect, I would hope that it leads to a more systemic reformation and change of the current immigration system by putting power back into the backbone of American society.

(1) Pride Month with BAGLY

June was my first full month as a development intern with BAGLY Inc. BAGLY is an acronym that stands for “The Boston Alliance of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Youth.” BAGLY provides many services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as community events and temporary housing for homeless trans youth. This work is essential for underprivileged people of Boston, especially at a time when trans, abortion, and other rights are under attack.

I work as a development intern, which means I do mostly back end work. I have sent and created emails, created thank you letters, and sorted donor information in my first month as an intern. It is inspiring to see how many people support and donate to help the LGBTQ+ community in Boston.

Being a development intern has helped me prepare for my post-graduate career path in that I have had to delegate and be delegated tasks within projects. Working on these projects has taught me to also make sure to schedule my time with work, even if what I am doing does not need to be done for a while. It has also taught me to be able to work within a company, as it is my first real “office job.” I have learned to teach myself to navigate various programs such as Sales Force, which are used by many companies to manage their clients.

It has been amazing working at BAGLY during Pride month. Pride month is during June because the Stonewall Riot—which started due to police oppression of a well-known gay bar—occurred in June of 1969. This means that BAGLY has been supporting lots of Pride events such as Roxbury Pride Brunch.

I also attended a Pride event in Attleboro, MA to show my support. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it makes me very happy to see so much support for our community both within BAGLY and outside BAGLY. I have met many people within the LGBTQ+ community at BAGLY, which has been great for networking. I have gotten to know my manager Michael and the other interns Mary and Misty. It’s nice to know that I am accepted and can feel safe at this company because many of the employees are members of the LGBTQ+ community and its mission is explicitly pro-LGBTQ+. It is also nice to know that my own work is helping those who need it and getting funds to those who don’t have any.

Although most of my work has been remote, I still get the feeling I am part of a team at BAGLY because the cause we work for is worth working for. Through BAGLY, I can also meet corporate donors, which is amazing for networking with companies that support the LGBTQ+ causes, which may lead to more jobs after I graduate. My experience with BAGLY so far has been great and I hope to continue it for the rest of the summer.

(1) Interning at REACH: Bridging the Gap in Accessibility

This summer, I am excited to be interning at REACH. REACH is a local non-profit organization that supports domestic violence survivors by offering a variety of services and resources, as well as providing advocacy and prevention resources within the community. They work directly with survivors to assist them in their current situations and ensure they feel supported and heard. When researching summer internships, I was interested in working with a non-profit that supports disenfranchised and underserved members within communities. REACH supports all survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial background, race, and sexual/ gender identity. I was immediately drawn to their work and mission because their philosophy is that any member within the communities they serve, even those who are marginalized, has access to their resources.

Domestic violence can impact anyone, no matter their social identity, but REACH’s definition of domestic abuse is when control and power are taken away from someone. REACH works to empower survivors by attempting to give them back their control and power. In every interaction, they trust that the survivor is the expert on their situation and allow them to make their own decisions. By offering a variety of services such as counseling, housing, and legal resources, they allow survivors to take control and leave unsafe or unhealthy situations if they wish. They also run workshops within different community groups (from faith groups to K-12 schools) to educate the community about what abuse is, how to recognize it, how to cultivate healthy relationships, and how to respond to abusive situations.

These mirrors are in the REACH waiting area, where many survivors wait before they meet with a REACH team member.

As an intern this summer, I will be working at the front desk, greeting survivors, answering the phone, and responding to anyone who seeks help on the online chat. The online chat is a place where survivors can ask for advice, emotional support, or seek resources. Additionally, I am responsible for small projects and data collection, such as updating manuals and collecting contact information for potential community partners. In all my interactions with survivors, whether it be through the phone, in person, or online chat, I am able to use REACH’s philosophy in trusting that survivors are the experts in their situation. Regardless of my own opinions or thoughts, I trust that survivors are making the best choices for them. Giving survivors their control back and empowering them can be a crucial step in ending the cycle that is domestic violence, and these small interactions can lead to major changes in someone’s life.

Domestic violence has been an issue for centuries, and unfortunately, will likely be around for a long time. Ideally, the change would be eradicating abuse as a whole, but change can also look like a changed social perspective regarding what abuse is and how it can be prevented. Through REACH’s work, more people in the community can recognize abuse and can feel empowered to seek help.

(1) The Greenfield Court Service Center and Discovering Injustices of the Court System

Greenfield District Court

This summer, I have the pleasure to be interning at the Court Service Center (CSC) in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The Greenfield CSC is located in the beautiful Greenfield District Court (pictured at left). People either come in person or contact the CSC remotely, and we provide pro bono assistance to people who do not have lawyers while they navigate the court system. I chose to work in this field because I wanted to gain real-life experience and knowledge about the justice system and to see how people in society are directly impacted by the court system. 

My workspace

Something I have noticed that comes up a lot in every space I have been present in so far is how complicated the court system is. The reason why people in the community come to us at the CSC is because they do not have a lawyer to help them figure out which forms to fill out, how to fill out those forms, or the possible options of what to do next. Starting out, many people do not know the processes of the court system and do not have the money to afford a lawyer. When someone has more money and resources, they typically have an easier time getting through their case. In our society, not everyone is fortunate enough to have their own lawyer and can be left in the dust, figuring things out for themselves.

The CSC addresses these injustices by being a free resource for legal information, referrals, pamphlets, guides and much more. Unfortunately, there can be many filing or publication fees, which under certain circumstances can be waived, but many people are unaware that there even is a fee waiver available. A second injustice that I have seen is for those who do not speak English very well. They have a more difficult time understanding what they need or could do and how to fill out paperwork correctly. A woman I work with speaks Spanish and English, and she told me how scared some people are just being in the court building and feeling lost about what to do, especially for someone who does not speak English or is an immigrant.

Notes on old guides

One of my main tasks is doing initial intakes to figure out what services a litigant is in need of or interested in. Once they meet with one of my supervisors, I may be asked to help litigants fill out forms correctly or contact them for more information if the person is contacting us remotely. Another one of my tasks includes updating guides and pamphlets to make sure they are accurate and written in a way that is easy to understand. Lastly, I attend meetings in the community and in other areas of the Greenfield District Court to learn about upcoming events or to gain knowledge on other topics relating to the court system. 

In a larger, direct way, I will be helping by just being another person to guide people through the complicated court system. This lightens up the work for my supervisors so they are able to help more people. There are so many people who interact with the court service center every day, so the more hands on deck, the quicker litigants get what they need. In a smaller sense, keeping guides up to date and written in plain terms so everyone can understand them is very important because they can be essential resources.


From a basic standpoint, making people more aware that the CSC exists and is an important resource will be a first step towards progress. Having pamphlets, forms, and guides in different languages would make the CSC more accessible for non-native English speakers. Through the community meetings, I have seen how many community organizations have come together to try and find or workshop possible solutions to problems in the community. The court system has been very concrete for a while, but the biggest changes that could be made are finding ways to make the system easier to navigate for someone who does not have a lawyer. I am excited to see what I will learn and experience the rest of this summer in the complicated court system.

(1) Assuaging the Education Gap in New Bedford, MA

Our Sisters’ School (OSS) is an independent, tuition-free, non-sectarian middle school that educates and inspires economically disadvantaged girls from the New Bedford, MA area. OSS offers the perfect intersection between education and my Health: Science, Society and Policy major. OSS provides unique experiences to students whose economic status disables them from obtaining certain opportunities. Through providing a rigorous and engaging environment at no costs to families, they start to assuage the equity gaps within education. OSS reaches beyond the academic scope. Through discussions with current students, I learned that they feel grateful for their teachers’ commitment to their learning and the small knit community that fosters meaningful relationships. They relish nautical learning at the Community Boating Center where they learn how to sail, and their fitness class where they are challenged mentally and physically. In other conversations with some students from the 8th grade graduating class, they shared that they will miss attending classes, community meetings and lunch in their outdoor classroom. 

OSS shares my commitment to improving my greater community, and while I have an established relationship with them as an alumna, I am now gaining professional experience under a team of passionate advocates and educators. My duties thus far have included: 

  • Supporting current students in their academic and social lives 
  • Helping the Summer Program Director design learning experiences, prep materials, organize and set up lessons for the day, and instruct and support students
  • Supporting the Creative Suite: STEAM and Arts program.
  • Supporting health teachers and the health curriculum by attending classes, working as a mentor, and observing and interacting with students
  • Working in the Graduate Support Program to help support, communicate with, and share resources with OSS graduates as they transition into high school, college and beyond 
  • Setting up and facilitating the annual Festival of Art and Achievements 
  • Assisting the weeklong “Circus-Up” Summer Program
8th grade gallery (Anyis Mendes)

My favorite experience so far was assisting their Festival of Arts and Achievement, where students showcased over 1200 pieces of artwork. The distinctive Creative Suite Program at OSS allows for different modes of art where students can fully express themselves. The night was filled with artwork, but also showcased different groups such as African Dance, Step, Guitar and Percussion instruments. The 8th grade class even orchestrated their own personal galleries that included their work from all four years. This event was open to the greater community and truly demonstrated the commitment of each OSS student. 

5th Grade African Dance Performance

Moving forward, I will support their summer programming throughout June, July and August. OSS is a private institution, so they rely heavily on outside donations and volunteer work. My help as an intern allows them to contribute their money to their programming, which directly helps their current and future students. They produce change every day as they inspire and educate the future leaders of the world. Coming up, I am honored and excited to attend a conference in Boston on June 27 hosted by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. The goal of the event is to gather educators, researchers, advocates, authors, and practitioners from around the world to share ideas about “how best to prepare and empower girls to be ethical, globally minded change-makers who lead with courage, competence, and empathy.” At this event, OSS’ Creativity Director, Tobey Eugenio, and a few student will be presenting their outdoor classroom.  I will be able to not only attend this conference as a product of an all-girls school, but be inspired as a future change-maker as well. 

Art Work – all grades

Blog Post #1: Introduction

1. Explain your site (mission, location, type of work, etc.)

This summer, I am interning with the USL Players Association (USLPA). The United Soccer League (USL) is North America’s largest professional soccer organization, which oversees the USL Championship, USL Super League, USL League One, USL W League, USL League Two, and the USL academy. The USLPA is a labor union that currently represents all the players signed to a standard player contract in the USL Championship (men’s professional second division) and USL League One (men’s professional third division). The goals of the USLPA are to advocate for and advance the interests, terms and conditions of its players, to bargain on their behalf, and to increase the popularity of the league as well as soccer as a whole in the United States. I am running the USLPA’s social media platforms (Instagram and Twitter) in an effort to build its outreach and create a content plan going forward once I depart from this internship in August.

2. Describe the projects or tasks for which you are responsible and the impact your work will have on the greater organization. 

Specifically, the mission of this role is not to grow the page to as many followers as possible, but to use it to the advantage of the players association. The social media goal is the same as the organizational goal. I am focusing on two variations of objectives: How to engage players and how to grow a general audience. Engaging players is intended to build unity and collective identity as members of the league. It is also used to teach players about the labor union, what its goals are, who represents them, and to keep them updated about how negotiations are going. Growing a general audience is not about getting as many followers and as much engagement as possible. It is about a public impression of strength as well as growing the brand and interest in the USL. Both of these objectives are meant to be used for leverage in current and future negotiations. The USLPA is continuously fighting to improve conditions of the players, and strength and unity are two very important characteristics for having an authentic and persuasive approach to negotiations. Also, publicly perceiving this strength on social media can apply public pressure on policymakers and organizational leaders in the USL. My goal is to create a social media approach to growing the USL brand and portraying its strength.

3. What are your goals for learning this summer (from your WOW application)?

My learning goal this summer is to gain true, realistic experience in a field of interest to me. I have been involved in administering many social media accounts before, but I have never had control over a page as impactful as this. This will teach me a lot about the legal side of sports organizations, and I will be able to build hands-on skills running a page that can actually impact the lives of players. There is a professional pressure to post exactly the correct graphic, at the correct time, with a perfect caption, because any slip up there can have a consequential effect for the perception of the organization. Having this kind of responsibility will help me navigate this type of operation in the future. Going forward I am very interested in working with social media, branding and marketing for influential organizations, doing graphic design, and potentially working in the field of professional sports. This experience will give me the necessary tools and experience for all of the above.

Unfortunately, it will not let me submit media on here, but all of the media available is on the Twitter and Instagram pages that are linked in this (@USLPlayers).

My Summer Goals with the Department of State at the U.S. Mission to the UN

This summer, I am interning through the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City (USUN-NY). I’m interning in the political section of the Mission, which is responsible for supporting the U.S. Permanent Representative and other ambassadors in advancing U.S. policy at the UN. There are several other interns in my section, and we all work to support the Foreign Service and Civil Service Officers who primarily make up the political section. The work varies from providing escorts for visiting guests to attending meetings to crafting briefing materials, all of which are important in their own way. 

Although I cannot give specific details on my work and experiences thus far due to strict security clearance requirements, the work has been insightful and engaging. Even just note taking for a given meeting has its own importance. It’s easy to see the “final products” of U.S. foreign policy, but it’s extremely informative to get a first-hand look at the crafting of said policies. I am proud to work in an office where the work of all individuals is truly vital to the organization’s success, which is something that cannot be said for all workplaces. As such, I am lucky to have the benefit of feeling the immense importance of my work for my organization, but also for the broader global community.

This summer, I set out to tackle a number of goals that will allow me to grow both personally and professionally. Academically, I hope to learn more about how USUN-NY balances the United States’ own interests with the importance of being a global leader. After just a month of work, I’ve already had significant exposure to the important bilateral and multilateral relationships that allow the U.S. to effectively participate in the global community. Career-wise, one major goal of mine is to utilize my experiences to build important personal connections with individuals who work in my field professionally. Additionally, I’ll be using my internship to determine whether a potential career in the State Department is best for me. Personally, I hope to encounter information, individuals, and experiences that challenge my own personal ideas and beliefs. This is one of the only true ways to grow, and I have (and inevitably will) encounter challenges through working for a diverse organization made up of many individuals.

In just one month of work, I feel that I’ve already gained insights into international diplomacy that I can carry with me for the rest of my career – and I look forward to more in the coming weeks.

(1) Interning at the Capital Jewish Museum

This summer I am interning at the under-construction Lillian and Albert Small Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum grew out of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, which has been operating out of a historic synagogue building since 1975. The museum is set to open next year and will physically incorporate the old synagogue building into its design. The photo on the left below shows the synagogue perched on the corner of 3rd and F Streets in northwest D.C. and the photo on the right is a digital representation of the future museum building. The brick building to the left in the second image is the relocated old synagogue, connected by a walkway to the newly constructed museum. 

My work for the museum this past month has primarily been a combination of genealogical research and cemetery record documentation. The genealogical aspect involves researching and creating family trees of multi-generational families in the D.C. Jewish community. I have also been spending a great deal of time at historic cemeteries in D.C., photographing and creating comprehensive indexes of graves. This is a personal passion of mine, as grave photos can be incredibly valuable for genealogical research, and online grave photos are a resource for people all over the world who are unable to personally visit cemeteries.

The particular cemeteries I have been working with thus far are home to members of some prominent families in D.C. history. One of the goals of my internship is to create a self-guided tour so that visitors can walk through the cemetery, visit particular graves, and access information about deceased individuals and their contributions to the D.C. Jewish community. This project would combine the genealogical research and cemetery photography aspects of my work, offering a resource to those in the area interested in D.C.’s Jewish history.

I entered this internship with the hope to learn more about the D.C. Jewish community, its diversity, and the ways in which the Capital Jewish Museum is positioned to explore and preserve the community’s history and support its future. As a side benefit, the internship offers me the opportunity to delve deeper into my own history, as my grandfather’s family settled in D.C. in the early 20th century. During my first visit to Ohev Sholom Cemetery, a historic cemetery in southeast D.C., I was able to visit my great-great-grandparents’ graves, along with the graves of several of their children, and the grave of the founder of the synagogue, all together in a cemetery whose history covers multiple centuries.

(1) Getting Started at ITA

This summer, I am interning at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Advocacy Center, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. ITA is located in Washington DC, but I am completing the internship remotely. The mission of the Advocacy Center is to promote U.S. exports by helping American companies win contracts with foreign governments. For example, imagine that the Spanish Port Authority wanted to modernize their breakwaters. If a U.S. company pursuing this contract requests the assistance of the Advocacy Center and is approved, the U.S. Government is then free to advocate on behalf of the company for that particular contract. This could mean anything from a Cabinet-level secretary drafting a letter of support to a foreign decision maker, to having someone from the U.S. embassy in Spain meet with someone from the Spanish Port Authority to discuss why this company’s bid should be selected, or simply to make sure that things like project technical specifications aren’t skewed against U.S. industry. While receiving advocacy is not a guarantee of winning the contract (like any sale, the company would need to be competitive in terms of factors like cost and quality), it can help.

During my summer internship, my primary task is to conduct due diligence on companies requesting advocacy. To do this, I search through the information the company has submitted to the Advocacy Center, information available via the public record, as well as some Commerce Department databases to make sure that they meet all eligibility criteria and that they are a company the Advocacy Center could feel comfortable endorsing. For example, if only 2% of the new breakwaters would be made using U.S.-sourced materials, then the U.S. Government’s time and resources would likely be better spent assisting companies whose work is more beneficial to the American economy. Similarly, should my search show that the requesting company has questionable activity in the past, the Advocacy Center would not want to risk embarrassment to the U.S. Government by allowing high-level U.S. officials to advocate on the company’s behalf. As such, the work that I am doing supports the greater organization by making sure that the Advocacy Center can focus its efforts on the cases most likely to be successful and that reflect positively on U.S. firms.

While working to support the ITA’s goals, I have a few goals that I hope to achieve this summer. The first is to learn more about how the U.S. supports international trade, which I am accomplishing by being immersed in ITA’s working environment and learning about the work they do in-depth. I am also learning about the types of companies that pursue international trade through conducting due diligence research on them and sitting in on staff meetings where I hear about the projects on which others are working. Additionally, I am working in a professional environment, gaining a better understanding of the opportunities and career paths that the U.S. DOC offers and the skills needed to be successful here. Since I am interested in working in public service, this is an experience that I expect will prove valuable in the future. Finally, a third goal is to enhance my communication skills and ability to work collaboratively since I believe that this is something that can always be improved. To that end, I will continue to ask questions, interact with my supervisor and peers (e.g. weekly staff meetings), and incorporate feedback about my performance.

Arts Internship

(This is a photo of me and Legislator Gerardo together)

The organization I will be working for this summer is the office of legislator Oriana Gerardo, the youngest female to hold office in the municipality of Yauco, Puerto Rico. I will be working with her to develop projects for her constituents. Legislator Gerardo’s mission is to provide programs for the people that elected her that will help them in their everyday lives and represent their needs to the larger government on the island. I will specifically be working to develop a program called “Arts for All”. It is an outreach into the artistic community of Yauco to provide artists with the space and encouragement to create with the goal of collecting resources and raising awareness for various causes like cleaning up the beaches, moving towards more sustainable resources, recruiting more women into politics. Throughout the summer, we will be drafting proposals and building the program’s framework. The goal is to propose the fully mapped out program to the committee at the end of the summer. In addition I will be reaching out to artists and essentially brainstorming projects with them that will promote social awareness and change.

During my first month as an intern with Legislator Gerardo. I learned that in her municipality in Puerto Rico she handles more of the budget rather than actual law making. I have begun to speak to different artists in Yauco, PR and asking them about political issues they are passionate about. Many of the artists have expressed their desire to become a state and have their voices properly accounted for in the U.S. government. In addition they are very passionate about keeping the environment clean and are concerned about climate change. With all of the natural disasters that Puerto Rico has endured in the last few years, it is vital that as a community they do not contribute to worsening global conditions. Many artists have pushed for companies to reduce their carbon footprint and Co2 emissions. I have begun to ask if they would be interested in integrating their political views into their art. So far, I have gotten mixed reactions where some artists are hesitant because they feel they want their art to reach and spread to everyone and are afraid of having political dissenters deem their art “too political”. However there are artists that are interested in integrating their political opinions into their art and others that are interested in using their artistic talents to raise money to support political campaigns that align with their views.

This past month I have learned a lot about Puerto Rico’s politics and I have been spending a lot of time with Legislator Gerardo and learning about her role in her municipal government. It is an amazing opportunity because she is the youngest female legislator in her district and maybe in Puerto Rico as a whole. I am very excited to start this out reach program and learn more about the politics of Puerto Rico.

Blog Post #1

This past month I have been working at the Spelke Lab at Harvard’s Developmental Psychology Department as a research assistant. The Spelke Lab focuses on infants and children and their experiences with hidden objects, words, numbers, and social relationships. As part of the Spelke Lab team, I’ve been able to see firsthand the methodology behind psychology research. The specific project I’m working on with a graduate student is how children explore numerical concepts as preschoolers. This project builds on concepts explained in previous literature from Susan Carey on how young children can be categorized into subset knowers and cardinal principle knowers (CP-knowers). Subset knowers understand the numerical value of small numbers such as “one”, “two”, “three”, and “four”. Children then become CP-knowers around the age of 3 ½ where they understand the concept of counting and can count larger sets. This specific project focused on the number five as it becomes a difficult numerical concept for children under 3 ½ years. This research is crucial in understanding how children come to understand numbers, whether through verbal counting, using their fingers, or a mental map and in understanding at what age do children transition from subset knowers to CP-knowers. 

As a research assistant, I’ve been responsible for mainly communicating with parents when it comes to recruiting participants for the studies, scheduling, and ensuring consent forms are sent and completed. Since the project is still in its data collection stages, I’ve been able to observe these studies where children play a game to identify how they engage with numbers and what their knower level is. Hopefully, I’ll be able to run the studies on my own soon and interact with the participants more. Since we may be doing data analysis soon, I’ve also been getting trained on softwares such as Detavyu and RStudio. The lab team has also been meeting up for book clubs and lab lunches weekly. It’s been great to hear from other graduate students and the research they’re doing regarding how children perceive social relationships and vocabulary. This past week we even had a very interesting conversation during book club on language and how previous research explored word gaps between children in different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

As a rising senior, I wanted to explore potentially going into graduate school for psychology research. So far, my experience at the Spelke Lab has allowed me to work directly with researchers and helped me get comfortable with reading published articles. This summer I’m looking forward to beginning data analysis and seeing how the results of these studies compare to the previous literature. I’m also looking forward to leading my own book club discussion, hopefully exploring literature on the neurological side of development and neuroplasticity. All the research assistants will also be creating a poster on their specific projects. I’m excited to work on my poster that I’ll be presenting towards the end of the summer and also seeing the results of other projects from the lab. 

Post 1 — My Summer Goals at The Legal Aid Society

Hello, my name is Norah Khadraoui I am a rising junior majoring in Sociology and I am interning at the Legal Aid Society. The Legal Aid Society is one of the largest social justice law firms in New York City. The organization’s mission centers around the idea that no person should be denied the right to equal justice. The Legal Aid Society has specific teams that practice nearly every area of law that can impact New Yorkers and I am working in their Immigration Law Unit.

The Immigration Law Unit was created to provide urgent legal services to assist low-income immigrants to obtain lawful status, reunify families, apply for citizenship, and defend against deportation. Within the Immigration Law Unit, they have four current projects. The federal project uses litigation to ensure immigrants are able to get fair hearings in immigration court. The youth project has provided free, comprehensive screenings, advice and direct representation to undocumented immigrant

The Legal Aid Society

youth and unaccompanied minors in New York. The removal defense project represents immigrants in removal proceedings. The criminal immigration specialists support attorneys in the Criminal Defense Practice, advising them on the impact of criminal prosecutions on non-citizen clients.   


I have been floating between the various projects as well as assisting my supervising attorney in whatever he needs. For example, for the youth project, I participated in a screening event where I screened migrant minors to help determine what relief they were eligible for. This experience was really exciting and a little scary. My internship is mostly remote but I was able to come in person to conduct the interviews and I learned how to work with interpreters during an interview. It was also the first time I had screened potential clients by myself. After I finished speaking with the clients I discussed the information I gathered with my supervisor and then together we would talk to the client about possible next steps.

Besides screening, I became responsible for DACA renewals. I have been managing the DACA email, filling out client forms, and reviewing the forms with the clients before sending them to my supervisor for his review before they are submitted. I am really happy I am able to help a lot with DACA renewals, especially with the ongoing lawsuits with DACA it is very urgent to renew everyone’s DACA status. 

One of my academic goals this summer to learn more about a realistic experience of what it is like working as an immigration attorney in a non-profit organization. I want to be able to determine if I would be able to handle and enjoy the workload and everything that comes with it. I also want to network with other attorneys working at the Legal Aid Society because I am interested in pursuing a legal career at a non-profit organization in New York.  Another one of my goals for the summer is to become more familiar with different areas of immigration law. Prior to this internship I worked primarily in asylum law. During my internship, I have been able to work on various types of casework with my mentor including DACA, naturalization, and applying for work permits. I hope to be able to also work on Special Immigrant Juveniles and U-Visa cases soon! 


Wildlife Care and Conservation with EARTH Limited

This summer, I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a part of EARTH Limited’s internship program at Southwick’s Zoo, located in Mendon, MA. EARTH Ltd is a non-profit organization whose mission is to aid in conservation efforts by educating and inspiring the public to care about preserving our planet and the wildlife within it. I will be able to participate in this education by assisting in animal behavior shows and an end-of-internship project, where I will create an interactive display on a conservation issue of my choice to educate zoo visitors about. This is exciting for me, as one of my major goals going into this internship was to directly contribute to wildlife conservation.

My work is within the zoo’s bird department. I carry out the birds’ husbandry, clean their enclosures, prepare species-specific diets, create enrichment, assist during educational presentations and answer questions the public may have before and after shows. All of this work centers around keeping the birds healthy and happy, as well as educating our guests.

We care for 20 different bird species within the bird department (over 30 individuals). The majority of our birds are parrots and macaws, who mostly live in the “inside” area of the zoo. All of them have their own distinct personalities, along with different voices. Many of the species are masters of mimicry. Fun fact: this is due to an organ called the syrinx, which allows them to copy sounds they hear in order to socialize. While humans have a two-folded larynx, their four-folded syrinx allows them to copy what they hear around them, from human phonemes (like “hello!” and “what ya doin?”) to meows and even water bubbling in a pot!

In addition to the birds based mostly in the private zoo areas, the larger species we take care of live in their outside exhibits, like the baby emus, Eurasian Eagle Owls, and Red-Legged Seriemas. One of the major goals with our baby emus is to socialize them and get them used to being around humans, which has certainly worked out well as they flock around me every time I enter their enclosure! Regardless of species, our department is always focused on conditioning positive behaviors, along with enrichment. The purpose of enrichment is to reinforce natural behaviors like scavenging, which decreases boredom and stress. Each bird has their own specificities. Some need different materials, different reinforcing treats and different levels of complexity, and we keep track of all of this.

I’ve enjoyed participating in the two daily bird shows, which showcase some of our birds and their talents, along with bringing light to our endangered bird species and how to help. We close out each show by raising money to donate to an organization called Asociación Armonía that builds homes for the critically endangered blue-throated macaws. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed beginning to build bonds with the birds, something which is also essential to training them. I’ve already gotten to see training in action by some of my supervisors and have participated in training sessions myself. Here’s a quick video of my training with Pongo.

Right now, my focus is reinforcing present behaviors that they perform in shows, like their vocals (for example: when I ask “can you say hello?” the bird responds with “hello!”, or if I say “where’s the fire?” the bird will make a firetruck sound). All the show birds have different vocals and skills they perform, so I’m currently helping in rewarding those behaviors so they’re motivated to continue doing them. These sessions have been fantastic, and have allowed me to bring my classroom knowledge of classical and operant conditioning, learning, and reinforcement into the real world. 

My overarching goal for the summer is to help solidify my career interests. I want to use this incredible opportunity to the fullest by continuing to gain skills in animal care and management, along with wildlife conservation outreach. I’m excited for all that lies ahead!

– Ori Cohen







Post 1: My first month at the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts!


For almost a month now, I have been lucky enough to be the Communications and Research Intern at The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (WFWM). With the goal of increasing gender equity in the region, WFWM is thoroughly invested in the well-being of all those who identify as women in the four regions of Western Mass. Through grant-making, partnering with local organizations, and facilitating leadership programs, WFWM has achieved incredible change throughout Massachusetts and has strong goals to continue this success. While the office was previously located in Springfield, the entire staff is working remotely so I am doing the same. Luckily, my few worries about a virtual job (zoom fatigue, disconnect from other workers, feeling like I can’t ask questions) have been proven wrong, as the six other staff members have figured out an effective strategy using the Microsoft Office suite to stay connected and productive. 

As the Communications and Research Intern, my job encompasses a large number of tasks. Overall, I assist the Community Engagement and Research Manager with her duties involving social media/marketing efforts and the new research she is aiding in. So far, this has involved looking through their social media accounts and finding ways in which they can improve their reach and accessibility. Largely, I have spent my days editing their series called “Wait…What!?” which is a bimonthly zoom seminar in which they invite local people, activists, and experts to talk about social issues that are currently in popular culture, adding a local lens to it. For example, just a few weeks ago there was a fantastic episode entitled “Reproductive Justice and the Future of Roe v. Wade” which included two women speaking about the many different ways you can procure a safe abortion (even through telehealth!), the dangers of “crisis pregnancy centers,” and how to order abortion pills online. Given the news this week, I believe this is a wonderful episode to watch, especially with the information specific to Massachusetts within it. 

While my last month has been filled with primarily video editing, there are several things that I am looking forward to in the next month and a half at WFWM. Firstly, my supervisor is very involved in one of the Women’s Fund’s new initiatives, the Greater Springfield Women’s Economic Security Hub. This project is focused on collecting community-driven research data to discover obstacles to women’s economic security. In the next few days, once the research portion is complete, I will begin to help edit and refine the report. Additionally, I will hopefully get to conduct my own research as I plan a social media campaign for the fall. Lastly, while this internship is remote I have had the opportunity to go to one in-person event thus far to take photos and there will be a few more in-person programs that I am looking forward to. 

Looking back on my goals (listed below), I feel as if I have already made a dent in completing them and I can see a clear path to accomplishing them by the end of the summer. 

Academic Goal: Learn how to conduct and manage research, and how to present it clearly.

Career Goal: Make tangible connections in the non-profit world to enhance job prospects for a career in the non-profit industry after graduation.

Personal Goal: Build confidence in decision-making and expand upon creative pursuits and skillsets.


-Esther Daube-Valois, Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts Communications and Research Intern

Discovering the Diversity of New England’s Caterpillars

My summer internship is with a non-profit organization called The Caterpillar Lab in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The mission of the lab is to educate communities about the unique and diverse native Lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) species with a focus on their caterpillars via educational programs, photography and research; showcasing native species is a strong emphasis as it creates awareness and care for the local habitats that need more attention.

My role largely focuses on assisting with species care (the wrangle) and educational outreach. Each day, the caterpillars must be cared for and fresh host plants collected. The wrangle includes cleaning out frass, supplying the caterpillars with fresh hosts and checking the animals’ overall health and wellbeing. The lab cares for hundreds of Lepidopteran species and developing a general understanding of their varying host plants is important. The list of needed hosts extends from the most commonly used plants of black cherry and red oaks to supplying food for specialists that rely on some unusual hosts such as pitcher plants and even aphids.

Wrangling the beloved woolly bears.

For educational outreach, we travel throughout New England to lead programs by partnering with other organizations such as museums, schools, public gardens, etc. At these programs, we set up numerous plant displays, each with caterpillars on them. I provide support by addressing questions and talking to the visitors. We foster conversations that go beyond simply looking at the caterpillars and present our knowledge and narratives for each species on display. Our engagement creates rare opportunities for newfound appreciations of the complex mechanisms of natural selection and natural history that depicts the interconnectedness of nature. 

Mothing is one interactive program that highlights our immense local biodiversity.

The displays are made to highlight each Lepidoptera’s evolutionary traits relating to concepts such as species interactions, camouflage, mimicry, aposematism and physical and chemical defenses. We emphasize how these characteristics fulfill ecological niches and are overall more complex than many typically understand. Just within camouflage and mimicry, further diversification can be observed. Some blend in as twig mimics, thorn mimics, leaf edge mimic, bark mimics, bird dropping mimics and some even use plant materials to conceal themselves, such as the bagworms and decorator caterpillars. These adaptations are so well evolved that if you do not know what to look for, they are easily overlooked. Because of this, we often hear visitors conclude, “we must pass so many without even noticing!”. This speaks to a greater overarching theme for our local wildlife; many of the unique native species are hidden and unknown yet essential for ecosystems and ecosystem services, therefore it is vital to promote connections to a person’s local wildlife and inspire them to want to protect the biodiversity right in their backyards for the wellbeing of nature and people alike.

This is an Abbott’s sphinx which demonstrates an incredible snake mimic with its false eye. A great demonstration of evolution.

By diving deeper into these topics, I would like to continue learning about New England’s native caterpillars and plants. In the field of conservation biology, understanding a native ecosystem’s flora and fauna along with its species interactions is crucial, so developing my knowledge in these topics will be imperative for my future. Furthering my own learning will allow me to translate it to the audience, and continue my development as an educator to inspire others in the subject of ecology and entomology. Finally, I intend to add to this goal by improving my photography and applying it as a tool for engagement, awareness and education.

Post 1 — Maps, Music, and Museums

This summer, I’m equal parts invested in and intrigued by my opportunity to work for the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The Museum is a state-run institution located in the historic French Quarter district of New Orleans dedicated to celebrating the history of Jazz through educational workshops, live performances, and exhibits. At the same time, the Jazz Museum is home to the Louisiana Historical Center (LHC), the largest archive on the history of Louisiana stretching from the colonial period to now. As a history student with an interest in museum studies and public history, I believe that the Jazz Museum is a perfect place to intern in order to learn about how a museum organizes and develops its public-facing programs.

As an intern, my work is split between the Museum and the LHC, with the two areas comprising fairly distinct work within these first three weeks. Within the Museum, I most often find myself writing & collecting copy, creating marketing materials, and editing and updating Museum reports. Although I’m not currently creating one large cohesive project, this kind of work demonstrates how many avenues the Museum ends up exploring. Because of this, the Museum values succinct and widely applicable descriptions and explanations of events and material that can be edited and shared across multiple platforms and documents to reduce the need to rewrite and reinvent constantly. In the future, I will be working with multiple staff members and interns on designing material for the NOLA River Festival, a festival designed to celebrate the role of the Mississippi in New Orleans’ life.

Over this summer, I want to explore how my writing and organizational skills transfer to museum work along with how I can build new skills. Sometimes the work environment is chaotic in the Museum with so many different people being pulled into new projects, and I’m hoping to learn new ways to track project development.

Within the LHC, my primary project at the moment is a comprehensive inventory of the LHC’s maps. With maps being sent to new collections, exhibits, and other museums, it is essential that the LHC has full knowledge of the status and whereabouts of all its material. To this end, I am going through multiple flat files of maps and comparing the maps found within to the maps listed on the Center’s finding aids, tools used by researchers, librarians, and archivists to easily locate documents. While this job is not particularly flashy, it is absolutely crucial as this kind of survey of the map collection has not been performed since 2011. As of this blog’s writing, I have recorded information on around 400 maps, and I am hardly a quarter of the way done. In many ways the work is solitary, but it also means that I get to spend two days a week recording information about some really fascinating maps. I think the most important question I want to begin to answer over this internship is “how do you make material found in museums and archives more accessible to researchers and the public physically and virtually?”

One of the Fascinating Maps in Question- Credit to the Louisiana Historical Center
An example Finding Aid that I am currently updating- Credit to the Louisiana Historical Center

(1) Creating Windows Into Black Reproductive Health

A Bond of Sisterhood, 2019, by Jules Arthur – Property of Resilient Sisterhood

This summer will undoubtedly be memorable! I’ve always aspired to be an advocate, a source of empowerment, and an innovator, and during my internship at the Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP), I’ve been flooded with sisterly mentorships and advice on how I can become that leader. Prior to interning at RSP, the women of my family shared similar experiences of maternal complications, which helped me survive and prepare for Black womanhood and a professional career as a health administrator. Nevertheless, it is good to have examples of resilience, healing, and grieving to create spaces for young Black individuals like myself to understand our interconnected identities. These anecdotes and real-life experiences can be used to formulate policies, resolutions, and cultural competency in the medical field, which is why I am grateful to be a part of RSP, a Boston-based reproductive non-profit! 

RSP was founded in 2012 by Lilly Marcelin, who has dedicated her career to furthering reproductive health education and access. Their mission is to educate and empower women of African descent regarding common but rarely discussed diseases of the reproductive system that disproportionately affect them. RSP approaches these diseases and associated issues through a cultural and social justice lens. They believe that poor knowledge of reproductive health is primarily related to health, racial, and socioeconomic disparities. These diseases include: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, as well as breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Their slogan, “Creating windows into reproductive health,” exemplifies their work with Black women and young adults to address health and medical inequities based on deeply-rooted racial discrimination, oppressive cultural/gender norms, environmental/food injustice, and other social determinants of health that perpetuate the silence, secrecy, and inaction surrounding these diseases. 

Sisterly Resistance, 2019, by Jules Arthur – Property of Resilient Sisterhood 

The Resilient Sisterhood Project has a Youth Advisory Leadership Council, which is made up of young professional women of color from Boston and Washington, D.C. who work with RSP staff to raise awareness about reproductive health concerns that affect women of color. RSP is building safe spaces for young Black women and extending the notion of early access to reproductive health care. Furthermore, RSP has many strategies for addressing injustice, such as hosting multiple webinars and events about reproductive health conditions such as “The Harm of Medical Racism as Experienced by Black Women Physicians,” “Exploring the Intersection of COVID19,” and more.

As a summer intern, I am conducting a research project on preconception health awareness of Black women ages 21 to 40. Preconception refers to the health of one during their reproductive years, when they are able to produce a child. It focuses on taking measures to protect the health of a baby they may have in the future. It also entails understanding how certain health issues and risk factors may affect a pregnancy and an unborn child. Some foods and lifestyle choices—even certain natural hair and makeup products—can harm your baby even before he or she is conceived. Myself and the RSP team will be distributing a survey on preconception health in the coming weeks. To end my internship, I will create a resource guide and podcast regarding preconception health for Black women, which will both be published on the RSP website.

Overall, I have learned a lot in a short period of time. RSP has taught me about the professionalism that comes with working in a nonprofit, particularly in public health. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn these skills early on, such as how to write and design a research project, as well as how to create a health-based resources guide for Black women. I am excited to see the end product of this project on the RSP website! Although my project is only a small part of what needs to be done, it all contributes to improving reproductive health access and equity, which serves to the greater RSP vision. 

WOW Blog #1: A Day in the Life at the Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab

This summer, I have the privilege to be working as an undergraduate research assistant for the Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab at Brandeis University located in Boston, Massachusetts. The Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab is in the Department of Psychology and supervised by Principal Investigator, Anne Berry, Ph.D. The research team I am working with consists of the principal investigator, research administrator, lab manager, research assistants, a postdoctoral fellow, PhD students, and two other undergraduate research assistants. The mission of the lab is to better comprehend neurological factors that influence cognitive decline in older age. Through behavioral and neuroimaging tests (fMRI, EEG, PET), the lab studies how lifestyle and neurobiological components, like the dopamine system, shape different aspects of cognition across young and older adults. 

​​As an undergraduate research assistant, I spend most of my time focusing on the Brandeis Aging Brain Study. The goal of the Brandeis Aging Brain Study is to better understand cognition and thought as humans age. It is a longitudinal study in which some participants are invited to return to the lab every few years. The study consists of multiple tests to examine cognitive performance. Some of the exams are on paper and pen while others are on the computer. The exams consist of tasks including solving different types of puzzles and remembering lists of words. It is approximately 3 to 4 hours. The participants are mostly older adults, all healthy, who are passionate about research and committed to participating for a longer-term collaboration.

I am being trained so I can administer these neuropsychological testing sessions; this has included shadowing sessions and learning how to supervise and evaluate the results of the various exams. I have also been helping recruit participants and supervise pilot trials (initial trials of a study) for a postdoc researching aspects of intrinsic motivation (curiosity). Additionally, I attend weekly lab meetings in which we discuss obstacles and potential solutions to different lab members’ research as well as possible directions for new research. I have read past academic papers the lab has published and other papers the lab has used as the topic of periodic journal clubs. Along with the other undergraduates in the lab, I have helped the lab stay informed about its participants by organizing the participants’ data and communicating with them through newsletters we send out.

This internship directly aligns with my personal, professional, and academic goals. As a neuroscience major at Brandeis, I have always been interested in the brain and how it functions across a lifespan. In the Neurochemistry and Cognition Lab we directly study how the brain ages overtime and what factors contribute to healthy cognition and thinking in older adults. Similarly, as a rising senior, I am thinking of my career path after college. I am very interested in gaining more experience in neuroscience research to potentially pursue this field later on in my life. The lab provides me with a warm and welcoming environment to explore the world of neuroscience and psychology research and gain confidence in my work as I take on more responsibilities in the lab while being guided by those around me. I’m really excited for what the summer has to offer!

My First PM Role and Life at Teamlift

As a Universal-Category WOW Fellow, I am currently the inaugural Product Management Intern at a tech startup called Teamlift. Teamlift is a software-as-a-service (Saas) company that is revolutionizing the future of work by developing an AI-based skills mapping software. Their product uses employee data and data from project management softwares at companies to identify, validate, and develop skills within that organization. While our official headquarters are in Boston, our team is incredibly diverse, and this summer we are working from across the globe: people are Zooming in from places as distant as Macedonia, the US, and Bangladesh(me!). I can safely say that I’ve learned how to do just about any time zone calculation in my head by now!

When I started my internship this summer, I definitely hit the ground running. Product managers triangulate with UI/UX i.e. design teams, sales and marketing teams, technical development teams, and most importantly their potential clients. And I entered the role as we began interviews to determine preliminary customer feedback, or as we call it, “User Testing”. Prior to actually working as a Product Manager, I assumed that User Testing only consisted of showing a customer a version of the product and then asking them what they thought open-endedly. Instead, I discovered that User Testing is a process with distinct stages. Firstly, we ask a set of unbiased questions to understand the customer’s pain point(more on that below!), and strategize how that can be solved. Of course, we do show our users the product and let them test it. However, in addition to an opportunity for open-ended feedback, I learned that there was a stage in which I needed to ask more specific questions about various features of the product. I also gleaned that Product Managers need to be careful in their phrasing of questions, since the goal of a Product Manager in a User Testing interview is to get responses that are as unbiased and truthful as possible. We need to determine customers’ “Pain Points”: things that the customer identifies as annoyances or problems, either with the product or more generally in daily life. The ideal product will cater to these pain points and assuage customers’ struggles in the sphere of the product. 

As a next step, Product Managers need to collaborate with design and development teams to take new feedback into account. After I’ve synthesized and summarized responses from User Testing interviews, I meet with Teamlift’s tech and design teams to improve our prototype. I’ve learned to use a program called Figma for design management, and I’ve had enlightening conversations with our development team about the AI they’ve developed so far. I’m still trying to grasp AI models more in-depth, since as a Computer Science major and Technology-sphere Product Manager it is particularly advantageous for me to comprehend as many of the aspects of the product as I can. Notwithstanding, my final current task involves visualizing product roadmaps, or determining a timeline for the product from a prototype to a stable release. 

This experience at Teamlift– albeit only one month so far– has been instrumental in helping me develop desirable skills in my field and giving me a glance into the real world of Product Management. Thanks to the fellowships team, and stay tuned!

Post 1 — A heat wave, fireworks, and the journalistic dilemma

A gentle hum escapes the AC as it labors away on this particularly humid, June day. The flowers and plants droop in the sweltering heat, but my building sits proud and tall, nearly towering (fine, slightly hovering) over the neighboring houses and businesses. Such was my introduction to the Evansville Courier & Press. Inside you will find a collection of hardworking men and women, dedicated to uncovering the truth within their community. Keys click and clack – everyone is working away. 

Courier & Press logo – Image Courtesy of the Evansville Courier & Press

Since beginning my internship 2 weeks ago, I have written 3 stories and learned so much. The first was a compilation of resources on how to best escape the heat wave we were experiencing. I next wrote a story about where to see fireworks in the Evansville area. I am now polishing off a longer story about the more sinister side of fireworks (impacts on veterans, animals, and the environment) and possible solutions. I really love the approach my internship has taken in having me dive right into my work. This has really forced me to familiarize myself with the community and has also forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. My coworkers have been incredibly helpful and have answered any and all of my questions as they arise, but I have mostly been on assignments on my own which has been a really valuable experience. For my deep dive on fireworks, I have probably called at least 30 local businesses and spoken with various important institutions in the community (such as the fire department). The joy I get when introducing myself on the phone “this is Jen Crystal with the Courier Press” or from pulling out my access card to go to my desk and computer is truly unmatched. 

This internship has reinforced for me the importance of local journalism and has magnified the work these people do every day. It has also surfaced questions that I will continue to ponder as my work continues. We all watched as the landmark Roe v. Wade decision was overturned this past week. As a woman, as a student, and as a journalist I was horrified. We are now faced with the momentous task of covering the public outcry (and rejoicing), stomaching our own emotions related to this historical moment. Enter the journalistic dilemma – how do we report on these highly important issues without allowing our own bias to seep into our writing and hurt our credibility? This is certainly something I am still navigating, for in historic moments such as these it is difficult to remain quiet, but I trust that my experienced colleagues will guide me through this and lead by example. 

As I stated in my WOW application, I hope to continue to learn about the inner workings of a newsroom as I continue on in my internship. I think this first-hand experience and institutional knowledge will immensely benefit me in my journalism classes going forward. I also want to improve my writing skills in order to further my journalistic prospects post-college. I am interested in pursuing either journalism or social work professionally. Even if I go the social work route, I think that the journalism skills I will continue to develop during this internship—concise writing, communication skills, research and fact-checking techniques, and more—will be incredibly valuable in any field, especially social work. 

Introducing the 2022 WOW Fellows

Monica Alfaro– Social Justice Award

Priscilla Appenteng– Social Justice Award

Ligia Azevedo– Social Justice Award

Audri Bhowmick– Universal Award

Jovana Bijelic– Social Justice Award

Jenna Blocher– Social Justice Award

Lilian Bresler– Social Justice Award

Xavier Butler– Social Justice Award

Bonnie Chen– Social Justice Award

Emanuel Cohen– Politics/Public Service Award

Ori Cohen– Universal Award

Erickson Comas Hernandez– Social Justice Award

Jennifer Crystal– Theater, Writing, &  Creative Arts Award

Lia Dankowicz– Jewish Service Award

Esther Daube-Valois– Women’s Rights & Education Award

Ava Faria– Social Justice Award

Eric Feigen– Social Justice Award

Joshua Gans– Universal Award

Peyton Gillespie– Social Justice Award

Joshua Gladstone– Social Justice Award

Deb Haimowitz– Social Justice Award

Anna Hirsh– Social Justice Award

Jasmine Huang Fu– Social Justice Award

Eli Issokson– Arts Award

Gabriela Katz– Social Justice Award

Norah Khadraoui– Senior/Immigrant Community Service Award

Casey Lindemann– Social Justice Award

Allissa Masse– Social Justice Award

Alaysia Penso– Arts Award

Lucca Raabe– Social Justice Award

Juliana Rivera– Universal Award

Ilannysh Rodriguez– Social Work Award

Catherine Romero– Social Justice Award

Anthony Ruiz– Social Justice Award

Natalie Sadek– Social Justice Award

Amy Schroder– Social Justice Award

Arielle Schutt– Universal Award

Jessica Schwartzman– Politics/Public Service Award

Micah Seigel– Social Justice Award

Forrest Shimazu– Climate Change Award

Ruby Siegel– Social Justice Award

Krupa Sourirajan– Jewish Service Award

Hannah Spear– Universal Award

Jessica Umanoff– Social Justice Award

Dee Whyte– Social Justice Award

WOW post #3: Coming to an End

Me alongside my poster at SciFest.

This summer has been one filled with a great deal of learning. Although it is not quite over, I have already gained new knowledge from my time at Boston Children’s that I would not have been able to if it weren’t for my summer research internship. My goals at the beginning of the summer included learning more about how research is conducted and participating closely in the research; I would say that I have achieved both goals. Over the course of the summer, I met with my post-doc along with other teams from our lab to discuss the project. I helped in explaining the white-matter segmentation protocol we use to new undergraduate students and provided the new lab members with data that I worked on to use as a model. Additionally, I have made some interesting discoveries regarding our data that have further expanded the scope of our project. I am so happy I have been able to participate in such a hands-on manor and am excited to continue participating in the lab throughout this upcoming year.

In addition to gaining research experience, I was further able to clarify my future career direction. I still want to go to medical school to become a physician but doing clinical research at a hospital has opened my eyes to how deeply interconnected research and medicine are. Research is vital to the progress of science and medical practice; the two are so deeply intertwined that it is impossible to have one without the other. I learned that I really enjoy thinking critically and I believe the career path I am on is truly the correct one for me as I will be able to continue using the skills I gained in this internship and in college in the future.

Although there are many accomplishments from this summer that I am proud of, one I am most proud of is my poster from SciFest. It has been a goal of mine to create a poster of my research and hang it up in the halls of Gzang since the first time I walked those halls to my introductory biology class. Although my poster was not perfect, I am very proud of myself for working as hard as I did to accomplish this goal before I graduated from Brandeis. In addition to doing my lab responsibilities, I worked on creating a scientifically correct and aesthetically pleasing poster for several weeks, receiving a bit of aid from my post-doc student as needed. At SciFest, I was happy to present the project I have been working on to other students and faculty. Most importantly, I got to speak to our university’s president, Ron Liebowitz, and his wife about my research as they asked me several questions regarding the project. Seeing how genuinely interested they were with my current and future directions further validated me in feeling proud of myself. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better summer experience, and I am beyond grateful for everyone who has assisted me along the way.

Ron and Jessica Liebowitz listening to me explain my project.

My advice to future undergraduate researchers and WOW fellows is to never give up. I experienced several setbacks due to covid-19 and for some time I lost faith in myself. I began to accept the fact that I might not be able to complete my MS/BS as I had trouble finding a research position. However, due to my hard work and persistence in addition to support from the Brandeis University faculty, I am about to begin my senior year of college with almost 2 years of research experience under my belt. I can attest that hard work does pay off.

(3) A Summer of Work in a Policy Advocacy Organization

During my internship experience this summer with the National Consumers League, I have not only learned a lot about health policy, but I have also gained a greater understanding for what life is like in a real office job. Before this experience, I have had different jobs and internships, but none that involved a traditional work schedule in an office setting. My internship has given me a much better understanding of how one’s daily activities are structured in a workplace, and how people within an organization or company work together to accomplish the overarching goals at hand. I have experienced how coworkers coordinate and delegate tasks, and how communication occurs effectively between them. Being able to see how a professional organization works on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis will be very beneficial going forwards as I begin a professional career after graduation. 

Additionally, I learned how one aspect of social justice work is conducted. There are many avenues for social justice advocacy. These can include grassroots approaches, nonpartisan/apolitical organizations, and the nonprofit advocacy establishment, which would include my organization. I was able to see how an established social justice advocacy organization works largely behind the scenes to push the policies it supports. I learned how they work with like-minded advocacy groups, government and legislative staffers, and various stakeholders throughout society to push their issues to the forefront and get positive policy changes enacted.

AP Gov: Unit 1 Flashcards | Quizlet

I also learned of the challenges that this type of social justice advocacy faces. These challenges can include securing funding for work that often occurs behind the scenes and away from the public eye, and balancing the interests of various stakeholders who often hold conflicting views. All of this can result in advocacy efforts that are not as robust or transformative as many would prefer. It has been really interesting to see all of these tradeoffs, and how social justice advocacy works in the face of these challenges. 

In my time on the job, I have made an impact on my organization by helping the health policy department work on long-term projects that they normally would not have time to complete, and by helping them get through a particularly busy time without reducing the amount of work and materials produced. One thing that I contributed to was updating some of the health policy position statements for NCL’s website. Some of them had not been updated in over twenty years, so my work went a long way in helping NCL to revise their content for the present day.

Before I started this internship, I wish I had known more about how the D.C. advocacy establishment functions as a whole so I could have been more prepared for the environment as a whole. My advice for someone looking to get into the field of advocacy, particularly health policy advocacy, would be to continue getting educated, as the people with the most success in this field often have some kind of advanced degree. I would also suggest that they always seek to learn more about the policy area they are advocating for, and to make connections with people from a wide-range across the industry.

(3) My experience at HAEFA

My experience at Health and Education For All (HAEFA) throughout the summer has been very meaningful to me. I was able to get a lot of experience with various kinds of work. From making social media posts to contributing to a research paper, I was able to learn about the ins and outs of the organization and its work. I learned that HAEFA has many dedicated and hardworking individuals who are out in the field in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh.

Being able to work with people who are as driven as the HAEFA team members have taught me a few things. Firstly, I learned that I must always be able to adapt to changing circumstances in this line of work. A few weeks ago, a landslide and flooding devastated the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, and our team on the ground had an emergency response. As the media team leader, I had to coordinate with the fundraising team to launch a GoFundMe campaign to collect funds for the emergency response. We spent that whole day creating the campaign and social media posts to raise awareness and funds.

Secondly, I learned that clear communication is the most productive way to complete work. Whenever I needed information for the monthly newsletters that I am responsible for creating or for the research paper that I am working on, I was able to reach multiple people that could help me via WhatsApp. Rather than providing incomplete or inaccurate information, I was able to simply reach out to someone for help, which resulted in me being able to do a better job.

While I was unable to visit the camp site due to the pandemic, my remote work with HAEFA has shown me that I can make a contribution to a global cause from all the way across the world. Social justice work does not always have to be focused on our own communities. While it is important to advocate for our own people, it is important to keep in mind that many of us have the skills, expertise and resources to help those in need in other parts of the world as well. By working at HAEFA remotely, I was able to raise awareness about the struggles of the Rohingya refugees, the prevalence of cervical cancer in Bangladesh, and the dire COVID-19 situation in the country as well. My contributions also aided the fundraising campaigns, which had a direct impact on HAEFA team members on the ground who benefited from new equipment used to help those in need.

Before I started my work at HAEFA, I wish I knew how quickly I would have to learn about the organization. While a lot of information was provided to me during the first days, I had to constantly ask questions about the organization’s activities to better understand certain tasks. This, however, is not a negative thing. I would urge those working in the nonprofit sector to be ready to ask questions and learn about the organization very quickly.

(3) Leadership is about Communication and Organization

During a typical summer, after school ends, I would go to my seasonal job of being a server and youth camp counselor. But this summer I decided to aim for a job in the professional field that I hoped to be in some day. I found an internship at the nonprofit the Power in Place Project: Settings of Inspiration, which was started in 2015 by professional photographer Katrina Hajagos and highlights the stories of women through photojournalism. Content such as photoshoots, portraits, political haikus, podcasts, and write-ups, are all products of Power in Place (PiP). For this summer, I was assigned as a project manager for the PiP Time Capsule. In addition to my assignment as project manager, I had a short term project of interviewing a woman in office or potential candidate. I chose North Carolina Associate Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls.

Justice Anita Earls at the judges bench

The PiP Time Capsule has three parts: the physical time capsule, the virtual timeline, and the outreach/connections section. I specifically spent my efforts on the virtual timeline with two additional project managers and twenty other collaborators on the time capsule project. The physical and outreach sections were aimed at reaching out to female politicians to interview them about their political ambitions and experiences in office as women and/or women of color.

A small sample of the virtual timeline and what we’ve created for the overall Power in Place Project

My section, the virtual timeline, was an art and research project focused on retelling the story of the feminist and suffragette movements, beginning in the 1800s through present day. The bulk of the summer was spent on research focusing specifically on suffragettes of color whose stories have not been as amplified, but played a significant role.

Towards the end of the internship program, I worked with the team of graphic designer putting the entire project together, and so far we’ve accomplished digitalizing the 1940s to the early 1990s. There is still much work to be done, and since the internship program is coming to an end, I will have to pass it on to the next group of collaborators.

The overall experience was fun one and definitely a learning process. I enjoyed working with other collaborators from across the country (and the globe!), hearing different approaches to problems, and working together to make solutions. One thing I did not anticipate going into my internship was the organization of the workload. The workload itself was manageable, but I did not anticipate the time that the art section of my project would take. The entirety of the 1940s-90s itself took a week and a half, and by the time I completed it, there was only a week left in the internship program.

Additionally, I found it challenging to balance the two projects at hand. Our manager/boss heavily emphasized that we work on our long-term projects (virtual timeline) the most, and the short term (interview) project  when we had individual time. I personally felt that my interview needed to be published, seeing as I’d put in the effort to interview and do a full-write up. That can be found here!

Three things that I have learned from this internship program are:
1. communication is the key to success not only as an individual but as a team
2. write our your weekly schedule, and
3. the key to a good write up is in the detail.

I did not foresee my first internship being fully remote, nor did I foresee stepping up into a leadership role so early. Regardless, I enjoyed my experience and this furthers my interest in pursuing a job in politics.

(3) My Learnings At SuitUp

This internship packed a punch in under 300 hours. I simultaneously learned about the not-for-profit space, what it means to work on a small team, and honestly just how to be an effective employee. In my time I also had an impact on SuitUp as well. I know my perspective and skillset were an asset to the team, especially in tricky and busy times.

As for my growth, I learned that social justice work is complicated and takes constant reflection. SuitUp taught me to navigate this complicated space by forming strong relationships with my team and the external partners we work with. With these relationships, I was able to have hard conversations and make tough calls regarding COVID, fundraising asks, and staying mission-driven. For example, making the choice to delay our fundraising initiatives to not come across to our youth and corporate partners as deaf to the ongoing pandemic. Or thinking about ways to showcase BIPOC and minority-owned companies at our gala in a way that is equitable and not forced.

It was in making choices like these that I learned when you can have discussions that weigh each choice with people that you trust and value, it is simple to stay mission-aligned. This perspective and frame of mind will come with me in all of my social justice work and made every smaller decision easy in comparison. This experience will carry over into my hands-on social justice work both in classrooms and in communities. I certainly have learned to be a stronger facilitator thanks to the SuitUp programs I participated in. I will also be a stronger advocate and coordinator of social justice-minded programming from the backend. This experience has solidified for me something I have always known: that social justice work is far more than hands-on service. As my time ends, I am immensely grateful for this team as they helped me learn and see everything I have mentioned above.

On the topic of things I am grateful for, SuitUp and my mentors at the organization recently helped us interns make a list of our accomplishments in our internship. This was geared towards resumes and LinkedIn, but for me, it helped me realize all I have done. I will include this list below as well as some artifacts of my work.

  • Codified strategy for post-COVID era in-person fundraising gala. Created strategy, ticketing processes, marketing campaigns, pandemic protocols, etc. which will ensure $110,000+ raised to serve over 4,500 students in the 2021-2022 school year.
  • Executed a new outreach strategy that engaged 2,000 companies, resulting in $10,000+ silent auction items for the SuitUp Annual Gala.
  • Led team of SuitUp board members (eight corporate executives from companies like Morgan Stanley, UBS, KKR, Fox Corp) to execute strategy, marketing, and design for SuitUp’s annual Gala.
  • Facilitated SuitUp entrepreneurship programming with full-time staff to serve over 600 Title I students across 11 states to increase their college and career readiness.
  • Worked heavily in Excel to build multiple databases, systems, financial models, etc. that will assist the organization in efficient outreach for fundraising events in years to come.

Looking at this list and through my portfolio, I can see now the impact I had. Through my support, as well as with help from the whole intern staff, we are leaving SuitUp ready both to reach financial goals but more importantly ready to fundraise ethically and mission-aligned. A huge thank you to my team at SuitUp and of course the folks at Hiatt and WOW for making this a possibility for me.

(3) Reflecting On My Experience with the Color of Health

My supervisor presenting on unintended pregnancy rates among people of color.

As I begin to wrap up my summer internship and reflect on the work I’ve done the past few months, I think about the influence taking initiative has had on my experience at the Color of Health (COH). I am given considerable freedom in my work and have found that, especially when working independently, taking initiative can make all the difference in your experiences and the opportunities you have. In social justice work, there are constantly issues that need to be addressed and this can be extremely overwhelming. The members of COH each work on a different project and regularly have their hands full. My supervisor is the CEO of the organization, and I was continually looking for ways to help with administrative tasks. By offering to be involved in these processes, I had the opportunity to get a more comprehensive look at how nonprofits operate while also working on a project of my own. I was able to learn new skills, build upon others, and create more experiences for myself in the process. I learned that by expressing interest and taking initiative, more opportunities are likely to come your way.

One aspect I love about COH being a small nonprofit is that every program can have an impact, and I am excited to be leading the first research project the organization has conducted. I have designed a study that will allow us to examine provider prescribing habits related to HIV PrEP for Black women. While COH has multiple healthcare providers on the team and serves as a health education organization, they have not led any studies or collected data. This is something my supervisor has always been interested in and I am grateful to have this opportunity that hopefully paves the way for future studies.

During my time at COH, I have adjusted how I organize my work several times and tried to find the best method. As I am frequently switching between tasks, it is very easy to lose focus of what needs to be accomplished. I wish I had known when I started the best approach for staying organized. Through trial and error, I have determined an effective system that allows me to manage and organize all my documents, lists, and modes of communication. This has been a game-changer when it comes to productivity.

Working for a nonprofit, you learn that burnout is real, but you must stay focused on what motivates you. I have had the privilege of being a part of COH for over a year and, wow, has it been a crazy one! As we have seen from thousands of healthcare providers, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the healthcare system, and not only is COH an organization that addresses public health issues, but it also fights for racial justice. Last summer, in the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, the members of the organization shifted their energy to join their communities in fighting for racial justice. The team members were exhausted and the planning of many of our projects took a pause. Energy was low as we focused on other things. Getting started again was difficult but we reconnected later in the summer and reexamined our reasons for why we do what we do. Talking about and reflecting on our passions and motivations allowed us to resume work with a new energy and enthusiasm. While this situation was unusual, I learned early in my training that in the nonprofit world, employee burnout is real. It is difficult to avoid, but my advice is to always keep your reasons for doing this work in mind and to let that motivate you.

(3) Last Update On UFE

I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work with United for a Fair Economy and to have been introduced the social justice and nonprofit worlds. I’d previously worked with many offices that did good for their communities, but I’d never been brought into a workplace that so strongly viewed itself as part of the communities for which it stood, and that provided a community in itself for staff. From my mentors at UFE, I learned everything from fundraising to communications to project planning, all through the lens of an inclusive nonprofit atmosphere. I also found it refreshing to work for an organization that focused so seriously on the wellbeing of staff. Everyone at UFE wants to form genuine relationships with each other — in fact, it’s pretty much required, as collaboration and understanding are at the core of all their projects.

The first panel of a social media post I helped create.

I was lucky to try and have a small impact on every aspect of work at UFE. I’ve done database entry and a bit of research for our fundraising efforts, I’ve worked in Canva and done writing for communications, I’ve learned about social media and its place in nonprofit work, and that feels like just the tip of the iceberg. What I’m most proud of, though, is that I was able to pitch and build the framework for an entire long-term project on my own. Obviously, the project itself will be a surprise until UFE is done with it, but I had the opportunity to write a full-length project proposal on my own, to search for potential vendors and artists, and to feel like I’d really built something for the organization.

I wish I’d known before I started with UFE how free I’d get to feel throughout the internship. Everyone I worked with was concerned with my happiness and comfort as much as, if not more than, they were concerned with my output. The hours were extremely flexible, and I was consistently asked which parts of UFE work I’d like to explore more. This really stuck in my mind through the summer because I quickly realized how much higher the quality of my work was when there was that relationship of trust.

If I could give advice to anyone interested in working with United for a Fair Economy, it would just be to speak openly about your background in nonprofit and social justice work, and to be even more open about your interests and the things you hope to accomplish in those spheres. I think it goes this way for many internships, but it’s so much more important to be genuine about your experiences and honest about your curiosity than to project an image of the perfect undergraduate student. You don’t have to have years of experience organizing protests or running your own nonprofit to be the right fit for UFE. The most important thing is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Overall, I’m so thankful for my internship with United for a Fair Economy and I’m excited for the next Brandeis student who might get to work with them.

(3) Reflecting on My Time at C-TAC

 While interning at C-TAC, I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of social justice work. Throughout my experience, I gained new perspectives on what it means to bring advanced care planning to the most vulnerable populations. C-TAC’s social justice work is trying to ensure that all aspects and participants in advanced care planning have a seat at the table. During my time, I have learned that the best way to approach the complexities of healthcare is to address each aspect of the problem head-on. 

During my internship, I was given the opportunity to support and be a part of C-TAC’s advanced care planning work. While interning, I participated in over thirty outreach calls to discuss potential partnerships and collaboration events. I had the opportunity to meet with death doulas, large hospices, volunteer hospices, virtual planning organizations, and many more. Through these calls, I have been working to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to be a part of the change and reform of the healthcare system.

After a discussion with the Greater Illinois Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition, the C-TAC team is working to set up the “2nd member-only meet up” to discuss The Pediatric Palliative Care Bill (SB.2384). As discussed in the article linked below, the bill would allow more families in Illinois to get benefits sooner rather than later. The bill is aimed to make community-based, interdisciplinary palliative care services more accessible to patients and reimbursable for providers. I have been working to promote the event to C-TAC’s 180 members, in which we will be discussing the bill. After the virtual event, I will work on a blog post for the C-TAC website in which I will interview participants and take a deeper look at the impact the event had on the C-TAC community.

I feel that my outreach to potential members, calls with other interns and C-TAC members, and promotions of the organization have given me the opportunity to have a larger impact on the world of advanced care planning. I am spreading the word that advanced care planning and comprehensive health care should not be a privilege, but rather accessible to all individuals. 

Before I started my work at C-TAC, I wish I would have known the magnitude of different resources needed for comprehensive advanced care planning. If I had known more about the different branches involved in advanced care planning, I feel as if I would have had a better understanding of the issues C-TAC is working to address. Although I did not know the complexities before, C-TAC gave me the opportunity to be immersed in each facet of this field. 

For everyone who is interested in pursuing an internship or career in public policy or public health, I would advise them to keep an open mind when looking at the field. The world of public health includes many different pathways and lenses in order to create comprehensive change. By keeping an open mind about the world of public health when pursuing an internship, students may find a sector of public health that speaks to them. Throughout my internship at C-TAC, I have had the opportunity to learn about and talk to many different organizations in the world of advanced care planning and public health. Through these different lenses, I have a better understanding of the complexities involved in advanced care planning. 

Illinois Approves Pediatric Palliative Care Benefit

(3) Reflections on Interning with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute


My internship with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) and the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition has greatly informed my continued interest in working in a job related to advocacy. I learned that the world of work differs from a college student’s life in relation to the schedule, purpose, and goals. 

One difference between college and the world of work are the stakes of the assignments you are given. While time and effort spent on projects impact your personal grade and GPA in college, projects in the world of work impact the overall goals and deadlines of your department at your organization and possibly other departments as well. In the world of work, you are communicating with the same people from your team constantly and it is important to always do your best in order to maintain the trust and confidence of your coworkers. 

I have learned that it is important to be patient, specifically in the social justice world of work. Legislators are sometimes not on the same page as advocates and those who have been impacted by harmful policies. Legislative change and social change can take years and you cannot let your frustrations about the pace of change distract you from reaching your team’s goals.  

As an intern at MLRI, I made a difference at my organization in a supporting role by being the notetaker at meetings. This allowed me to hone my focus on the discussions about the cases each lawyer, social worker, or advocate was discussing and future strategies or projects that they could work on regarding policy changes. I also helped keep the Coalition members informed on upcoming child welfare webinars and news articles through the weekly newsletter. 

Working with MLRI and the Coalition reminded me of the importance of continuously staying informed about the social issues that I am hoping to fix. There are so many resources to learn from whether it be podcasts, articles, books, or webinars. For example, for my project about mutual aid, I listened to an episode of Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast with professor and trans activist Dean Spade. These resources can be used to learn about the history behind a social issue, related policies, and personal experiences of impacted people. In addition, I wish I realized the impact of the tasks that might seem small. Generally in the nonprofit world, and also the social justice world, people may be asked to do a lot of different tasks, and if you can take a little off an employee’s plate, it can be super helpful. You should value all projects you are doing, big and small. 

I would advise other students who want to pursue a career related to advocacy to find a particular social issue that they are passionate about and find internships or clubs that will help them learn about that industry or topic from other people. Social change and legislative change can be slow and frustrating. As an advocate and ally, one needs to keep up to date on the news and not be afraid to ask questions from peers and people with experience in the field. 

(3) Wrapping Up My Summer With The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

Going into my internship, I did not know what to expect. I had plenty of previous experience in the world of private law offices and even nonprofit organizations, but public office was an area that I had yet to work in. As I write this blog post during the final week of my internship, I can say that I am grateful to have finally had an experience in the realm of public office.

Interning at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) this summer taught me valuable lessons about the world of work, especially the importance of communication and taking initiative. While a virtual work setting is not always ideal, working under these circumstances pushed me to make the most out of my internship. If I hadn’t utilized my communication skills or taken initiative to ask for meetings with different people in the office such as my supervisor, the head of the cold case unit, I would have missed out on valuable information and lessons. From meetings like the one-on-one phone call I had with my supervisor, I gained valuable tips on going to law school as well as how to successfully enter the world of social justice work. My supervisor talked to me about the importance of prioritizing loving your work over any other variable when it comes to employment. This reminded me that social justice work is something I am passionate about pursuing in the future because it is the type of work that will ensure I love what I do every day once I embark on my professional career.

Photo from MDAO Linked in
Myself and some of the other interns at our final meeting- Photo from MDAO LinkedIn

One of the best parts about interning at the MDAO was that they made it clear to us interns that our work was extremely beneficial to the office. While digitizing, organizing, and going through unsolved cases may seem like a small task, it was an extremely important one that I was responsible for this summer. This task allowed me to have an impact on the MDAO because the cold case unit will now be able to proceed with solving these cases and providing the families of victims with the clarity they have been waiting for. Here is a link to an article published by the National Institute of Justice explaining how important it is to have enough tools to solve a cold case.

I try hard to remind myself that each experience I have is a steppingstone leading me to my final goal of becoming a lawyer. Looking back at the start of my internship, I would remind myself of just that. Working as an intern can be frustrating as you often wish you had more responsibility or more diversity of tasks. As I went through the months of the MDAO internship program, I came to remember that these experiences are the ones that will lead me to conquer big tasks and assume leadership positions in the future. To anyone looking to pursue an internship or career in the legal field: go for it! Throughout the many interviews I did that led me to this summer’s internship, I was constantly told that experience is one of the most important things. Go out and get that experience now because each experience you have will allow you to achieve your bigger goals!

(3) “The Movement Lives On”

Image created by Jolecia

Throughout this internship experience, I have learned how to navigate in a nonprofit setting and environment dedicated to empowering women in politics. In my relationship with the world of work, I have tapped into what it looks like to reach out and to network and talk to those who you feel you will be able to connect with, learn from, and engage with. Specifically, in relation to social justice work, my internship has taught me the importance of closing the gap of power between genders in politics and empowering diverse groups of women. This is important because different women’s perspectives are needed in politics and the world in order to learn from one another, to grow, and to create future imagined positions for young women interested in politics. 

During my summer internship with Power In Place, I chose to participate in the groups of Marketing and Polikus. In Polikus, my responsibilities included composing haikus inspired by women political officials. In the Marketing group, my responsibilities and duties included creating a marketplace page on the Power In Place website, as well as innovating and advertising pro-women in politics branding items.

It was through these teams that my creativity and passions blossomed, as I was able to craft and innovate, and to relate my interest in politics with these creative endeavors. In addition, my one-on-one meetings with the head of Power In Place, Katrina Hajagos, has taught me how to continue to fight for the things I believe in and to never give up. In our meetings, Katrina was consistently optimistic and continued to affirm my knowledge, power, and creativity as a scholar in the internship program. 

One thing that I wish I would have known when I started is that politics is a very diverse field to enter, and it takes accepting this, and knowing what you’re most interested in, in order to take up space. Networking is super important in this field, so talking and being confident about the things you’re interested in and being able to articulate this is very important. 

Based on this internship experience, and the various ways in which I was able to broaden my horizons and experiences in politics in relation to women empowerment and the field in general, the advice I would give to someone else would be seek to understand the issues that make your heart boil and that you are most passionate about as well. Don’t be shy to reach out to other organizations, people, professors, lawyers, and policy makers that may help you align to and reach the goals you have set for yourself. Another piece of advice I would give would be to connect with the people inside of your internship/ career field as well. I met some nice people in this internship and felt I learned best when we were sharing our experiences as young women in politics and wanting to work towards inspiring others to get involved in the field as well. 

Power In Place Pipster 2021 Highlight Page

(3) Final Reflection

This summer working with the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative (BEJI) allowed me to learn and grow in ways I never could have imagined. The opportunity to get undergraduate work experience within a social justice field was quite an impactful experience and one that will certainly shape my future professional path. I learned not only a great deal about the world of educational justice and carceral reform, but I also got to see how I personally fit into this framework. Through challenging and fulfilling assignments, I was pushed this summer to be a better educator, researcher, team member, and collaborator. My internship allowed me to be both a student and a practitioner of the work we were conducting. Because of this, my confidence in professional settings grew, and I was able to practice advocacy and demonstrate initiative.

In my time with the BEJI, I feel I accomplished quite a lot. As the undergraduate intern, I was directly responsible for expanding opportunities available to undergrads and making sure our voices were heard. I effectively pitched the idea of paid research working groups for undergraduates, which will launch as a pilot program this fall. Additionally, I communicated with Brandeis CMS, and am now co-creating the BEJI website. Finally, I was able to help restructure the content offered in our education workshops and better tailor the content to meet the needs of our students. These are all accomplishments that I worked quite hard to achieve, and I take great pride in.

Having completed all of these things, I feel I was an impactful contributor to the BEJI, and look forward to how my role will continue to flourish with the initiative in the fall. The volume of work I was assigned or took on also afforded me wonderful insight into the world of work that I did not know before. For folks considering interning with the BEJI or an initiative like it, I now feel privileged to offer advice on what you can do to make the work all the more meaningful. 

The first piece of advice I would give to someone interested in an internship like this is to honor the experience they bring to the table. As an undergraduate, it can seem daunting to enter a workplace staffed by adult professionals. Through my love for this work, the training and support from Hiatt, and the kindness of those I worked with, my age never felt like a deficit. Instead, I was honest when I needed help and advocated for what I believed was right. As a result, those I worked with trusted me. I honored both the areas I had room to grow in, as well as my strengths. A new set of eyes on a project is often a welcome presence! Lean into this opportunity and allow who you are and the unique skill set you bring to the table to guide you.

The final piece of advice I would offer is a note on intention. The world of summer internships can be a daunting one. It is easy to get lost in what sounds most sophisticated, or which job is likely to propel you the farthest. From my experience with WOW, I learned that the personal pride and care  you can attach to whatever it is you do is the greatest marker of success. If you are intentional about finding a job that is meaningful to you, it will be clear to those hiring you, those who you work with, and those with whom you spend time. 

Working with the BEJI was an intentional and incredible experience. Being able to reflect on it through these blog posts has made it that much more special. And I hope, through the culmination of these posts, it is evident just how hard I have tried to follow the advice I have laid out and how wonderful the outcomes have been as a result.

(3) Lessons in Advocacy: Learning the Importance of Stamina in the Field of Public Health Work at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid

One of the biggest lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn about the world of work and social justice work overall is what it means to be an advocate. Advocacy can be defined in many different ways, but in general, it involves taking action to create change. Through my work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, I have seen that truly successful advocacy goes beyond this step of just identifying these weaknesses and flaws in our systems. It involves championing them to change or be uprooted entirely.

Consumer Diary: It's Medicare enrollment time — what you need to know | Business | journalinquirer.comIn the time I have been with CMS, I have critiqued policies that do not allow for coverage of nearly enough patients, and pushed for new and improved technologies to be available to patients under Medicare. I have questioned outdated standards of care and encourage optimal coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. Though my tasks have been very detail-oriented and I focus on smaller aspects of access to quality care through recommending new technologies, my hope is that my work as an intern this summer will further my department’s mission to advise policy surrounding coverage and access to technologies to push for health equity within CMS and the U.S. health system as a whole. 

One thing I wish I had known before I began my internship is that progress in many forms is often slow-moving. Although you can approach advocacy with gusto, true and sustainable change often takes longer than you realize. It is frustrating at times to want to see large scale changes in healthcare access reflected in policy and infrastructure changes, but not witnessing it due to things like bureaucracy, red tape, or even just the nature of change in the field overall. However, one of the most beneficial traits of someone entering the field of public health and working towards the pursuit of health equity is understanding the importance of stamina. To anyone else looking to pursue an internship or career in public health, I encourage you to think critically about the ways you can maintain your stamina in your work. Whether you accomplish this through acts of self care, or by setting boundaries in your professional life, maintaining stamina in your advocacy and not burning out when immense changes do not occur immediately is a key factor in ensuring that when the progress actually does occur, it is sustainable and will be upheld by the institution even after you are gone.

I have been honored to work with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Division of New Technologies this summer. My work this summer has taught me an incredible amount about how different subsections within Medicare work to optimize coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. All patients, whether they are Medicare beneficiaries or private beneficiaries, deserve access to the same promising technologies and interventions, and watching the DNT push for that by streamlining the approval of technologies under coverage has been a privilege to witness. I hope that my impact as an intern at Medicare will be one step out of many more to come to continue the important progress being made by the DNT towards a larger goal of health equity overall.

(3) My Summer Experience at Oxfam America

As I reflect on my summer experience at Oxfam America, I’ve realized how much I’ve learned about the realities of social justice work, in terms of what promoting justice truly looks like in the real world. Social justice work is incremental, and oftentimes feels invisible or impossible. However, I’ve witnessed how the combination of seemingly small actions and collaboration between changemakers can create larger actions and long-lasting structural change. Instead of being disillusioned by the reality of social justice work, I am empowered to be part of the process. Before my internship started, I never thought it would be possible for individuals to leverage the power of corporations, but now I can confidently say that changemakers at Oxfam do so every day.

Throughout my internship, I collaborated and led various projects that supported my department’s overall mission of creating equitable food value chains for the largest food and beverage stakeholders. My biggest contribution was documenting supplier disclosure practices through researching and compiling resources, which I used to create a database to keep track of the supplier transparency efforts of these companies, traders, and supermarkets.

There were definitely moments along the way that felt tedious or like I was searching for dead ends. However, once I completed the project, I was so proud of myself and the research I had conducted. This project will be valuable for the members of my team who can now access this information in a consolidated and organized document. Since my team members work directly with companies, this information will serve as a knowledge base to guide action and directly influence the companies to improve human rights, environmental practices, and promote justice in all its forms.

After completing this internship process, I would recommend that others spend the summer interning at an organization like Oxfam America. I’ve learned how important it is to stay open-minded and say yes to every project, especially those that I knew little about beforehand. I’ve learned the importance of asking for help, and advocating for myself as needed. Over the course of my internship, I asked so many questions.

I would also recommend connecting with people outside of your department. After my supervisor asked me if there were any projects that I wanted to learn more about, I advocated that I wanted to learn more about health equity efforts at Oxfam, and had the opportunity to speak with Oxfam staff working on the COVID-19 People’s Vaccine. This campaign is working on improving vaccine access around the world by making the vaccine free, fair, and accessible (learn more and sign the People’s Vaccine petition here). It was so valuable to meet with people outside of my team and department, both for networking opportunities and to learn more about the topics that I’m passionate about!

I wouldn’t change anything about this internship experience. Through my internship with Oxfam America, I learned so much about how to promote gender justice, climate justice, human rights, and labor rights in the value chain. I also learned more about myself through this internship and the kind of work and setting that I want to be in once I graduate. I hope to stay connected to Oxfam America and am confident that this internship will help steer me towards future opportunities that promote social justice.

(3) Be Patient!

My most important takeaway from my internship is to be patient. Social justice work takes a long time and you can’t expect to solve every problem in a day, let alone a summer. Sometimes it takes a (very) long time for projects to be published and even if they are published, it can take some time before they achieve their intended purpose. I wish that I had known the importance of staying patient going into the internship. Even with this knowledge, I sometimes feel like my work is not reaching enough people or having enough of an impact. It has been important to be kind to myself and lower my expectations.

That is the other important thing to learn about work in social justice, but especially human rights: it is frustrating! Either there is no obvious solution and you really need to get creative about what the next steps should be, or there is an obvious solution that is nearly impossible to achieve! Often it is a combination of the two. For example, at the beginning of my internship, I focused on advocacy for the Rohingya. I went through two weeks of research to learn about Covid-19 rates among Rohingya in refugee camps and vaccination efforts, only to be told to focus on a new project by my supervisor because of a lack of feasibility. The clear solution was to increase vaccination for refugees in India and Bangladesh, but this would have been impossible for our virtual-based organization.

My advice for anyone interested in genocide prevention and human rights work is not to get your hopes up too high. This sounds really disheartening but I think it’s true. It is unfair to yourself to go into an internship with the expectation that you will have a significant impact on preventing a genocide in Ethiopia, China, or even here in the U.S. This work depends on so many people, and one person cannot do the work of hundreds. Managing expectations and being fair to yourself is not only important for your mental health, but crucial for not getting disgruntled or disheartened with your work. Understand that this is hard, but that there are so many amazing people just like you with the same passion and drive. Work with them and over time you will make a difference!

The process of putting together my Timestream on Brazil’s eco-cide. This presentation required a LOT of patience to figure out!

In the next few weeks, I will leave my internship with three soon-to-be published country reports (Egypt, U.S., Czech Republic), two of which lacked reports (you can find them here when they are published). I will also have a number of infographics and documents about the Rohingya genocide and its similarities to the Holocaust. Additionally, Genocide Watch will have a presentation on Brazil’s eco-cide to use in classrooms and other pedagogical areas. These concrete deliverables do not include my achievements updating the Alliance Against Genocide Watch website and my efforts in coordinating between Genocide Watch and our Alliance members. I have also begun the process of adding a new organization called Cultural Survival to the Alliance.

While this experience was not the rainbows and sunshine that genocide studies is (that is supposed to be a joke), it was a really amazing learning experience. I plan to take these new skills and perspectives to all of my future endeavors!

(2) Blending Academic and Activist Experience

One of the most important aspects of Brandeis’s history is its focus on social justice. Not only did I learn how to be a better activist through student life at Brandeis, I also learned how to have more productive conversations about social justice with a broader variety of voices. There are many ways to achieve our goals in activism, and with a more intersectional mindset we can find paths that can accommodate and benefit everyone. The Brandeis attitude toward consistently having these conversations and being flexible with how we see the world was massively helpful as I became an intern at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). The organization is constantly finding new angles from which to look at different issues, and new ways to fight for what we believe in. Everyone on staff has a different background and different strategies for fighting for an equitable economy. Just like Brandeis, that’s one of the team’s greatest strengths.

Through the Economics and International and Global Studies departments at Brandeis, I’ve gained so much of the necessary theoretical and policy-based ideas I need to properly discuss the issues we work on at UFE. So much of what we do is a discussion of what changes we actually want to see occur, what those changes could realistically do for our communities, and how to work in such a way that those changes get made. Again, we have to think deeply and in an intersectional way about who is affected with every issue of policy change, and those questions go into everything as large as our full-scale projects and events and as little as what we decide to post to our Instagram story.

When we talk about how to work for a higher minimum wage in different states, we have to discuss the ways it will benefit the surrounding communities, who specifically it’ll benefit, what the math looks like, how to campaign to make it happen, etc. When we plan events like our Training of Trainers, we don’t just hold seminars on how we think people should do their activism better; we work within a popular education framework and give participants opportunities to express not just their pragmatic views of how to make change, but also how their own lives are affected and how they think of organizing.

We prioritize things like healing and language justice and even try to build small communities as we learn together. I think, ultimately, one of the most special parts of my experience with UFE has been seeing the way one can use the education they’ve already received, especially from traditional sources like a university, and utilize that while still learning and growing every day as part of a community. All the time, team members at UFE are coming up with a new lens through which to look at the world, and thinking about how to make it a better place for others.

Finishing Up the Summer at Ariadne Labs

The summer has flown by faster than I can remember and I am left with nothing but to express gratitude to my colleagues and mentors as I wrap up my summer at Ariadne Labs. At the beginning of the internship, I was caught in a whirlwind of supervisors striving to find work for me to do as the original project I was set to do, establishing a universal guide to medical marijuana, got put on hold. My original goals were catered to that project, however, with help from my supervisor I was able to craft new and improved goals relating to the work I am doing currently. My goals were revamped around building a professional network, gaining more patient interaction through interviews, and authorship on a published manuscript. In addition, I wanted to understand the ins and outs of a larger health care organization and I was able to do so by helping to draft OKRs for the Serious Illness Care Program for 2022. 

This internship has helped me clarify my career interests in becoming a physician as it showed the caveats of being a physician. The work done at Ariadne is to improve healthcare outcomes and ensure that physicians are doing the best they can to provide equitable care to all patient populations. I want to be a part of the next generation of physicians where we utilize person-centered practices in order to make sure we are using best practices and honoring the patients’ goals, values, and choices. I have learned from my supervisors that I have great networking skills and that I am driven to always find the next step no matter where I am in the process. I am also not satisfied with leaving tasks unfinished which is why I will continue to work with Ariadne asynchronously through the Fall 2021 semester.

The advice I would give to a student interested in an internship at Ariadne is to get in touch with as many professionals as you can and learn about their journeys to where they are at now and what they value in their work. To go along with that, everyone at the company is interested in your development and growth and every employee knows how important it is to network in the professional world and they will help facilitate every connection that you may need. Another piece of advice I have is to not be afraid to ask for more or less work or to be honest about your role. At the beginning of the summer, I felt that I was being underutilized and quickly reached out to see if there was any other work to be done, and I was quick to know that there always will be work to be done from the top-down. 

This summer, I am most proud of my adaptation to my new role on the team. Coming into the summer I was supposed to have one project for the whole summer where all my time would be dedicated, however, I quickly learned to adapt to my new role of helping in a myriad of different ways throughout the lab. 

–Ayush Thacker, Experiential Learning Fellow 2021

(3) Reflections: A People-Powered World

In my twelve weeks with Alliance for Justice, I have learned a lot about the United States’ judicial system—more than I ever thought I would know. As a result, I now have a deep appreciation for the people who are dedicating their careers to fighting for a fair and diverse judiciary, and a greater understanding of why our courts matter. You can read my thoughts on why young people should care about our state courts here. But as I wrap up my internship and reflect on the summer, my biggest takeaways have nothing to do with the U.S. judiciary. 

This summer reminded me that everyone has a story. Behind their LinkedIn profile, job description, and the lag on their Zoom screen is a really interesting human being. As an intern during a virtual summer, it was easy to go through each day only interacting with my team, plus maybe a quick (and sometimes awkward) nod to another staff member while we waited for a Zoom meeting to begin. As I came in knowing virtually nothing about the federal judiciary and having little interest in pursuing law (the likely trajectory of many AFJ interns) or a job related to the judicial branch, it was easy to convince myself that any connections I made outside of my team wouldn’t be valuable.

I made sure to walk by the office (right on Dupont Circle!) when I was in DC last weekend.

And yet, as the summer went on, I made sure to reach out to and connect with AFJ staff whose roles had nothing to do with mine, and this is where I found that I learned and grew the most. These conversations weren’t necessarily meant to advance my career or to “network.” Instead, I learned how people spend their time when they’re not thinking about work, what their families are like, and where their favorite places to travel are. Along the way, I learned a lot about being a more thoughtful adult and what kind of professional I hope to become. Connecting with people is what is most instinctive for humans; it’s how we make friends and mentors, how we find people we can rely on, and how we navigate the world. Being the new and less “experienced” employee at an organization makes it daunting to reach out to new people. But, it also means that each connection you make is that much more transformative.

If I could give a piece of advice to anyone pursuing a career in the nonprofit world, or in any profession, it would be to take every opportunity to connect with your colleagues. You never know what interesting stories you might learn or what kind of impact you may have on someone else.

Social justice work is also exhausting. Anyone who commits their time and energy to advocate for a more equitable world exposes themselves to the very worst of our society, often because they’ve been personally harmed by a system that has failed them. The only way to avoid complete burnout is to be in community with others. I feel grateful that my colleagues at AFJ were open and excited to be meeting me and answering my often endless spew of questions, and I am looking forward to working on more teams in the future—regardless of the field—that foster this same opportunity for connection.

The Wind in Your Sails

This summer has made me come to terms with the fears involved with working in the “real world.” A world where adulting is the norm and society expects you to operate under the prewritten boundaries of what your title entails.

Now, I may be speaking from a slightly more anxious state being that I’m a senior, and the “what are you going to do after graduation?” question keeps being asked of me. Nevertheless, I do believe there is an underlying fear that comes with embarking on a new journey, especially one that involves your livelihood.

The first type of fear is finding an internship or job. I had worries about whether working with a literary agency was the right fit for me. I was intrigued by the job’s responsibilities but was unsure if my previous, and relatively limited, work with manuscripts was enough of a foundation to perform well in the role. This fear soon subsided as I began the job; I was thrown into the deep end. I was assigned multiple, different genre scripts a week where I was expected to read and write script coverages for each. I also was expected to do subject-based research for our clientele and create proposals and presentations to display my findings. While these responsibilities seem overwhelming, they motivated me to learn quickly and from my mistakes to make my next assignment that much better.

This brings me to the second type of fear, one that is performance-based. Before starting my internship, Imposter Syndrome made me doubt my confidence. I couldn’t help but question: Is my best good enough? Will I be able to produce the type of work they expect? Why should I have a say over what scripts have potential, I’m nobody… Needless to say, self-doubt is always a natural enemy. Yet, these doubts only define you if you let them. Rather than letting the fear take over, let it motivate you and prove it wrong. You will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish.

The third fear is the expectations associated with the completion of an internship. The main expectation is knowing if this role is what you want to pursue as a career. If you haven’t heard it before, let me be the first to say, it is okay not to know. While I really enjoyed all that I have learned, the people I have worked with, and the role itself, I’m not sure if I would want to pursue a career as a literary agent. But I have gained a lot more knowledge about myself after this internship. I learned that I have a deep passion for helping those find their voices and ensuring their stories get told. I learned that I thoroughly enjoy the entertainment industry and would love to better understand different career paths in the field. I learned that work is not work if you love what you’re doing. In the end, it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s learning more about the person you are that makes an internship impactful.

This is all to say, it’s normal to be afraid. In fact, most people are afraid to start something new, so don’t feel like you’re alone. This summer has taught me that the best satisfaction comes in overcoming the doubt that tries to hold you back from an experience that has the potential to change your outlook on your future.

My advice would be to chase the opportunities that make your heart skip a beat, find the excitement in the uncertainty, and allow the wind to blow fear into your sails, it will help you go far.


Mid-Summer Check In

The last time I wrote I was finishing my work with the “Health Professionals Declaration” and wanting to transition my focus to the Retail/Fashion industry to making their operations more sustainable. I am happy to say that I was able to do just that, by working alongside the new BCL sector dedicated to Retail and Fashion known as the Fashion Industry Action Team “FIAT”.

Similar to the “Health Professional Declaration”, the FIAT group is dedicated to connecting with corporate leaders within the fashion industry, such as Chief Sustainability Officers, Governance, etc, to encourage their overall industry to mitigate climate change by accountably incentivizing sustainable business practices through signing a declaration. Ultimately, doing so will urge members of Congress to enact climate solutions in an effective, bipartisan, economically supportive, and equitable way by the end of 2021. I worked alongside this group predominantly within the declaration’s outreach. With this, I researched a list of clothing companies that were leading in sustainable fashion and operations. My strategy was to connect with the people who were in charge of their organization’s sustainability efforts, as I assumed they would be the most knowledgeable about climate issues, and the most willing to sign up. I cultivated a spreadsheet that specified over 25 retail companies, each person in charge of the company’s sustainability efforts, and their email address contact. Furthermore, I utilized LinkedIn to additionally message and get in contact with these key players in effort to set up a meeting with them and discuss their companies’ efforts to become more sustainable through signing the declaration.

Since beginning my work in this area, I will say that while it has been challenging getting in touch with retail sustainability stakeholders, I have made smaller accomplishments that I realize upon reflection. One example of this is creating my own research database of companies and scoring sustainable initiatives that I can refer to in the future and share with others. The hope is for me to one day simulate these initiatives within smaller mid-sized retail companies and integrate them into other industry practices as well. The FIAT “Fashion Industry Climate and Carbon Pricing Declaration” is now live and it has gotten great traction and coverage! Here is an article by ECOCULT that mentioned the fantastic work that this team is doing. You can find the declaration here. Please share this initiative with others.

I am so happy to have begun working toward my career passion, engaging and consulting with the fashion industry to better the practices within sustainability. I have learned so many new methods and ways this specific industry can find better alternative operational practices, which has inspired me to think about how other sectors can additionally integrate similar practices into their industry as well. In relation to personal growth, I have become more proficient and confident in my ability to reach out and network with people surrounding a cause. Before I was hesitant to ever do something such as sending a message to someone on LinkedIn, now I do it with a breeze. Additionally, within networking with an array of different people I have been able to strengthen my storytelling skills. What used to take me 10 minutes to explain, regarding my work for the summer and purpose, now takes me 2 minutes. This ability to pitch something quickly is a skill I know I will need for my career journey but most importantly is a universal skill that can be applied to life. My goal for the remainder of my time is to continue outreach work alongside the FIAT group and begin recruiting other students of color within the BCL internship program. 


So Long and Thanks for All the Fun

I was in Israel for so long that in a way it still feels weird to not be there and working to fulfill my goals at the RRG Beit Midrash. I spent a lot of time this summer working on myself and my professional skills and I think that I have come away with a much better understanding of who I am and what a Jewish nonprofit is like that should give me a leg up in the future when I need to put those skills to the test!

In a way, I intended this internship to be a proving ground for me to test myself, to see if working as the rabbinic head of a Jewish nonprofit was something that I was capable of, let alone liked doing. I can’t say that after this summer that I now feel like a position of that kind is my calling, but I haven’t ruled it out as a potential job that I could work in the future and now that I have some experience I would feel much more comfortable in such a role.

I would recommend someone to take an internship position at the RRG Beit Midrash in a heartbeat because of how much of a positive work environment it is and the best advice I could give for someone with my internship would be not to underestimate themselves. The people I worked with were incredibly supportive and kind and helped me through whatever I needed assistance with and were too considerate of my limits to the point where I needed to tell my boss that I could handle more than he was giving me. But to get to the point where I felt comfortable with telling him that I needed to believe in my own ability to rise to the whatever task I was given, with or without help. There is nothing that you will encounter in this or any internship that is too difficult to do with some help, so there is no need to hold yourself back out of fear or lack of confidence. And in the world of Jewish nonprofits the best thing for an intern to have is confidence, even if it’s only false confidence at the start. Internships like mine are all about how well you can interact with people and we are all human, a smile, some friendliness, and the impression that you know what you are doing are all you need to succeed and make an impact. It seems scary at first but isn’t once you get used to it.

My goal for the summer was to get experience working at a nonprofit and to make an impact where I worked and my most proud accomplishment is what I helped the organization to accomplish and how doing so helped me to achieve my goals. All nonprofits live and die on how much money they can raise and the RRGBM is no exception. When I arrived back in June my boss told me the program had an ambitious goal for the summer, to raise $60,000, more than twice as much as they had ever raised in a year. I am happy to say that in part thanks to my efforts we raised slightly over our $60,000 goal and managed to secure full funding not only for the program’s usual operations but also enough money to expand our outreach to two new locations in Givat Ram and the IDC in Hertzelia! So I leave my internship with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that my efforts will make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of young Jewish college students.

So long, Jerusalem and see you soon!

Vicente Cayuela – Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund for the Arts 2021 Fellow

As my internship at the Griffin Museum of Photography comes to an end, I am more certain about my future professional prospects and the steps I need to take to work in the museum field.  Throughout the course of the summer, I have learned the importance of organizational skills to succeed in the field of arts administration. Art programming is a fast-paced environment in which the future is planned months in advance. This entails all sorts of communications with artists, organizations, guest curators, gallerists, and all sorts of creative professionals that keep the museum engine running.  This introduction to a fast-paced environment helped me organize and systematize my own work, as well as being more strategic with my own creative production. I learned to systematize my workflow, files, and graphic assets we work with for the sake of time and efficiency.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I am much more of a self-starter than I had previously imagined. For most of the creative multimedia projects I worked on at the museum, I had almost complete independence in choosing what things were going to look like, as well as a say on the technical aspects of video and audio editing, graphic design, and social media strategies. I am glad this internship program allowed me to use my creative vision to contribute to make the art world more accessible one step at a time.

At the Griffin Museum, I have been promoted as a Lead Content Creator for Social Media. Starting this August, I will be leading a team of creative interns to elevate the photographic arts and promote the mission of Arthur Griffin and the Griffin Museum of Photography. In the near future, I expect I can continue utilizing my multimedia skills to promote the museum’s many exhibitions, events, and educational programs. One of my biggest passions is to make art accessible. I hope that in the future the support offered by the Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund for the Arts and the Griffin Museum will allow me to do this on a bigger scale.

In less than two weeks, I will be starting my curatorial internship at the Rose Art Museum of modern and contemporary art. Having the opportunity to employ my creative skills and work in a museum with a permanent collection of 8,000 objects of art is really exciting. Something that I am much better prepared for thanks to the support of the World of Work program.


Intern Wrap Up

While concluding my work with the FIAT group it was heavily on my mind to pass along this opportunity to someone else. As a Black American Environmental Major, I have noticed that there are not a lot of people of color within this field, so I felt it to be imperative that I made a more long-lasting impact, within this important area increasing inclusive perspectives and experiences, by connecting other Black and other POC students, interested in environmental studies, to join the Business Climate Leaders. With the additional encouragement of my mentor, I went to action utilizing my research, network, and outreach skills to compile a list of the top 30 Historically Black Colleges and Universities “HBCU” environmental programs in the country. I then found each school’s Department Head of Natural Sciences,  collected email addresses and sent out outreach emails with the opportunity enclosed. For each school that I did not get a reply to, within a week and a half, I sent a follow-up email. I  am so happy that I took on this initiative as a whole, because the response and support from the amazing Black and other POC faculty were amazing, who essentially all told me they would “most definitely” encourage their students to join. I was even additionally able to pass along the BCL internship opportunity to an amazing student of color here on the Brandeis campus, which made me even more proud of my impact. Currently, I am drafting a blog, that speaks to the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, as the #1 leading contributor to global pollution. You will soon be able to find my post on the BCL page.  

 Since the age of sixteen, I have always known that I wanted to help businesses become more sustainable through investment in eco-friendly innovations. My time throughout college has been a journey to figure out just where exactly I start in this unpaved career field, at the time. Upon finding Business Climate Leaders and working with this inventive organization of pioneers, I must say that I have begun to find the pavement on the road headed to my career goal. I have had an amazing opportunity to be mentored, connected, and well-in touch with sustainable leaders that I have always dreamed about in their position. I have been able to become a fearless leader in engaging large Health Professionals and retail business leaders on the importance of climate change and advocacy for carbon price dividend legislation in order to increase their contribution to making a healthier environment across the nation. I would have never thought that this opportunity was one that would help me toward the initial steps of my career journey ahead.

My time at Business Climate Leaders has been an amazing experience, which has strengthened leadership skills in research, outreach, communication, and networking, while also enabling me to affirm my desire in working corporate sustainability. Ultimately, I know I want to become a Chief Sustainability Officer of a retail company, to help lead the way of adopting sustainable innovations and substitutes within operative practices.

(2) Advocacy in Action: Championing Health Equity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)

Throughout my time at Brandeis, one of the biggest lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn is what it means to be an advocate. Advocacy can be defined in many different ways, but in general, it involves taking action to create change. As a university that prides itself on its mission of social justice, I hear a lot of words akin to the theme of advocacy (such as diversity, inclusion, and equity) discussed in my classes and my roles on campus. I have learned what it means to look at institutions introspectively to see just where they have fallen short of achieving these tenets of advocacy.

However, I have also learned that successful advocacy goes beyond this step of simply identifying these weaknesses and flaws in our systems; it involves pushing for them to change or be uprooted entirely. Medicare and Medicaid as institutions are not exempt from these flaws and weaknesses, and as an intern it is pivotal for me to champion for health equity and challenge existing structures within CMS.

Consumer Diary: It's Medicare enrollment time — what you need to know | Business | journalinquirer.comAll of my roles at Brandeis involve a personal learning curve for me to see exactly how I can use my voice to champion for these very changes. For instance, as a Head Residential Assistant, I constantly reference concepts of cultural humility in order to foster inclusive living environments and to plan culturally competent events for residents. I then take what I have learned at the Department of Community Living to my role as the president of South Asian Students Association (SASA), where I also push for inclusive programming in order to encourage diversity and accessibility in the events that SASA holds. With each position I hold, I become more capable of advocating for sustainable and intentional change because I am applying the concepts of advocacy I learn from one role to another.

Now, I can see myself applying the same themes of advocacy that I have learned in other roles (particularly surrounding health inequities) to my internship with the Division of New Technology! For example, I find myself critiquing policies that do not allow for coverage of nearly enough patients and pushing for new and improved technologies to be available to patients under Medicare. I question outdated standards of care and encourage optimal coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. When I submit reviews on technologies to be approved and work to ensure patients have access to technologies that will afford them better health outcomes, I can see that my approaches to my work are shaped by my time at Brandeis, whether it is by my Health: Science, Society, and Policy program coursework or my leadership positions in which I advocate for change! 

Especially after this past year, as a woman of color who has watched COVID-19 predominantly impact and kill marginalized communities both domestically and internationally, I feel an urgency to tangibly contribute to the dismantling of health inequities. Thus, my approach to advocacy within my internship has involved directly questioning and calling out inequities in the structures of Medicare in order to encourage structural change. I work to channel the frustrations I have in the disparities present in our health structures (which have only been highlighted by COVID-19) towards critical change which addresses the root causes of disparities so that I can actually take my advocacy beyond the walls of Brandeis and push for intentional change on a larger scale.

From the World of Work to the World of Writing

This summer, I set out on my internship with the goal of gaining insight, experience, and references and resources within the writing industry— an industry I had only ever sought to enter as a writer, but which I have now gotten to know as someone on the publishing end at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency.

While I set out to gain knowledge about the publishing process and what it takes to make it in the industry—and got exactly that—I also gained new knowledge about myself. I learned that, in the workplace, I am not only a committed and talented worker, but a passionate one. The work I did at Harvey Klinger truly felt exciting and personal to me, and it showed me that, in my future career, the work I do should not only ask for this passion from me, but be worth the energy I will put forth.

From this internship, I also came up with new questions for myself about what I want out of a career. As I discussed in my previous blog post, I had a Zoom meeting with my supervisor, Andrea Somberg. During the meeting, I had asked her how I as a writer could fit into or learn from the industry, and she answered honestly that being a writer wouldn’t necessarily contribute to my experience and skills in publishing, and that working in publishing could interfere with the time and energy I could otherwise dedicate to writing, although the level of success and enjoyment those who were both writers and publishing employees achieved really depended on the person.

Brown University’s Literary Arts Graduate Program, one of the MFA writing programs I will be applying to post-grad.

And so, the questions I ask myself now are, will I prioritize my writing rather than go into publishing, or can I do both? I don’t dream of “working,” but of creating, so what part do I want to play in creating within the literary world? And if I do continue to pursue publishing, what specific positions or departments would most interest me and best allow me to also be dedicated to my writing?

Currently, my career goals have come to include pursuing more internships and fellowships in writing and publishing through college, applying for MFAs in creative writing post-graduation, then seeking either, or both, writing and publishing opportunities with organizations that focus on queer Asian experiences, such as the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

Publishers Marketplace Job Board, where I stay updated on available job opportunities within the publishing industry.

The advice I would give to future interns at Harvey Klinger is to not stress or overthink the tasks of reading queries. The workplace is extremely easygoing, flexible, and friendly, and the more one trusts their instinct as a reader, and the experience they gain as they read more and more queries, the better and more confidently one will perform. Within the publishing industry in general, I would advise students to not overly romanticize the work they are doing—although it is tempting to do so with literature—to be flexible and easygoing, and to understand where one is a writer, a reader, or fulfills another role entirely, because it is important to not let one’s literary passions overwhelm the task at hand. 

Overall, my experience as an intern this summer at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency was priceless, and I am ever so grateful to the agency, especially Andrea Somberg, for the opportunity and experience, and to the World of Work program for contributing greatly to my educational and career pathway.

Post #3: Saying Goodbye

I cannot begin to fathom the many things that both my Sapphire internship and the WOW fellowship have done for me this summer. I want to begin this post by thanking both organizations for what they have done to enhance my learning skills while also adding to my work experience.

My defined learning goals mainly consisted of gaining experience in the creative arts field through my internship with Sapphire which I am happy to say I have achieved and cannot wait to use what I have learned during the rest of my time at Brandeis. Throughout the internship, my goals stayed consistent and did not waiver.

This internship has in many cases supported my career interest, which is to become a professor in English literature. One of my tasks during this internship was to go through the online submissions for one of Sapphire’s upcoming publications. It was this task that made me realize how much I love reading through people’s work while also deciding which pieces fit into the theme of the publication.

Another thing I have definitely learned while not only doing this task but also myself in the workplace is that balance between work and your life outside of work is key to achieving all of the goals you have set for yourself both in the workplace and in your personal life. Through this internship, I practiced scheduling consistently with the use of a planner, detailing how much of my time during the day I would dedicate to completing tasks for Sapphire while also setting time aside for myself.

It is working towards a balance between work and your personal life that I would recommend to a student who is interested in applying themselves to a summer internship like the one I had with Sapphire. If you can find this balance, then you will not only consistently gain new knowledge every day from your internship but you will also be enjoying your restful summer at the same time!

Something I would recommend if you are interested in a career in the creative arts is to develop strong confidence in the work you produce. It takes a lot of guts to display and accept critic of the pieces you develop, and I applaud those who did submit their work to the Sapphire organization because no matter whether we decided to accept or decline their piece, their submission was made based on the faith they had in themself and their work.

Completing this internship and knowing that I put my best foot forward in everything I did for Sapphire is something I am proud of. I know many rising sophomores who did not want to take on an internship the summer after their freshman year, yet that is exactly what I did; I did it for the experience. I would not have traded this summer with the Sapphire team for anything, because it has taught me so much about the world and about myself.

In conclusion, this summer was great, and I cannot wait to see how Sapphire’s new publication, which can be found on their website in mid-winter, comes out! Goodbye, and to the rest of my wow fellows, see you in the fall at Brandeis!!!

Picture of Amelia after completing tasks for her virtual internship!