Post 2: The Importance of Public Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Brandeis to NCL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: The Historical Link Between Slavery and Mass Incarceration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Rose and Thorn

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

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

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

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

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

Me with my colleagues

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

Continuing my Internship at the Jewish Museum

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

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

Hannah Kressel ’20

Post 2: Language justice and other learnings at GreenRoots

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

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

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

Chelsea Creek on free canoeing/kayaking day

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

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

Post 2: Combatting Savior Narratives at Tahirih Justice Center

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

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

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

Tahirih Justice Center’s 2017 Impact Report.

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

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

Ellie Kleiman ’21

Post 2: Learning about Language Justice

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

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

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

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

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

Halfway Through!

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

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

 

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

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

Learning in the Lab

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

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

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

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

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

Arielle Leeman, 2022

Post 2: Teamwork at Avodah

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

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

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

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

-Jolie Suchin ’22

5 Week Journey: Running A Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Post 2: Seeing Vulnerable Populations in a New Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Discovering Popular Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Madeline Bisgyer ’20

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

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

A recent press release from Attorney General Letitia James

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: The Truth Behind the “Unneeded” Help

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

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

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

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

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

My work desk

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

The Halfway Point- Lessons Learned So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Sarah Berkowitz

Post 2: A Cog in the Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

School And Work Are Nothing Alike

Outside the main treatment area of UVa

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

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

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

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

Give ’em the old ‘Razzle-Dazzle’

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

Cords galore!

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

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

A Leko light

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

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

                                                           Get tickets here!

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

 

Amy Ollove ’21

 

First Weeks at UVa HealthSystem

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: The Vehicle of Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 1: The kickoff to my internship at Avodah

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

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

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

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

– Jolie Suchin

Post 1: First Weeks at Restore Justice Illinois

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

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

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

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

American Enterprise Institute: Russian Studies

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

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

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

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

Work station with two computer screens
My workspace at AEI.

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

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

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

Post 1: First Week at American Jewish World Service

This week, I began my summer internship at American Jewish World Service in their development operations division. American Jewish World Service, or AJWS, is an American nonprofit organization with their headquarters located in Manhattan. Their mission is to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world. They have five main focus areas: civil and political rights, sexual health and rights, ending child marriage, disaster response, and land, water and climate justice. The organization is structured as both a grant giver to its partners in nineteen countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua), as well as an advocate in the United States for certain laws and policies that support its mission. To me, one of the most interesting things that I’ve learned about the structure of the organization is that it is both a grant recipient and a grant giver, unlike other nonprofits that I am familiar with. As a development operations intern, I will hopefully have an inside look into some of the grant processes.

I began my first day feeling quite nervous, not really knowing what to expect as I walked into the office building in midtown for the first time. It didn’t help that I had some trouble finding the entrance to the building, nearly making me late for my first day. When I came in and was directed to a conference room down the stairs, I was delighted to see that there were already about seven other interns who looked about my age, waiting with looks of excited and nervous anticipation that matched my own feelings. It made me feel better knowing that there were several others at the same stage that I was. After a brief orientation and tour of the office, we were placed at our desks in our departments. As I got settled into my desk and began reading the organizational materials that had been given to me, other employees from the office began approaching my desk to introduce themselves. The multitude of smiling faces helped make me feel so comfortable on my first day.

After receiving preliminary training in Raisers Edge, the database that AJWS uses, I could begin some of my assigned projects. This week, I helped clean up some constituent profiles on the database, in preparation for AJWS switching to a new database. Later, I did a little research on prospective donors. On Friday, I began updating the board’s profiles. However, mostly this week was filled with slowly getting to know the office and the people in it and becoming more comfortable in my new routine. I’m looking forward to being able to get involved in more and more projects throughout the summer. Since this a field that I am considering pursuing after college, I am excited to learn more about the different facets of the not-for-profit sector through this internship.

– Mayan Kleiman

Post 1: First Weeks at the Legal Aid Society

There are many benefits of living in New York City: breathtaking sights, delicious $1 pizza, and…free legal assistance to citizens in need.

My friends and I enjoying NYC’s iconic $1 pizza!

This summer, I am interning at the Legal Aid Society in their Immigration Law Unit (ILU). The Legal Aid Society provides pro-bono legal representation to impoverished citizens of all five boroughs of New York City. In my opinion, the Legal Aid Society and its positive relationship with NYC is an exemplary model of legal practice that other states and cities should adopt. Not only is it fundamentally just to provide an avenue for individuals of all walks of life to access adequate legal support, but it contributes to a more socially just world. For one, it helps disrupt the criminalization of poverty that often leads to the incarceration of individuals of lower incomes who are, consequently, disproportionately of certain races. In this way and many more, the Legal Aid Society stands at the intersection of social justice and law. 

I chose to intern with the Legal Aid Society because of how the organization applies the social justice lens to its everyday legal practices. Furthermore, I chose to intern specifically with the Immigration Law Unit because of my prior experience in and passion for working with immigrants through The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) in Waltham, MA. I have loved interning in the ILU. The Unit works with a wide range of immigrants under a wide range of circumstances, including asylum seekers, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) recipients, and individuals facing deportation and inadmissibility charges. The vastness of circumstances this unit specializes in conveys the magnitude and complexity of immigration law. That’s one thing I love about this line of work–everyday I am learning something interesting and new.

I have completed many trainings at my internship, including webinars on DACA (pictured here), immigration court proceedings, trauma-informed immigration practices, and more!

The Legal Aid Society traditionally only offers internships to law students, so my experience as the only undergraduate makes my internship, in many ways, unconventional. For one, I am working alongside a paralegal rather than an attorney. As a result, I am understandably more distanced from casework and have yet to be in a courtroom. So far, I mostly meet with DACA recipients to renew their status. I have around two or three of these meetings every day. Despite my frustration with the current state of DACA and the responsibility that comes with conducting renewals, this is my favorite aspect of my work here. I love directly helping and interacting with immigrants. When I am not doing renewal meetings, I am often inputting client data into a system called Law Manager or completing projects that attorneys or paralegals need help with. For example, I completed a criminal history chart for the attorney-in-charge of the Unit. That was a new experience for me and was a great way to ask questions of someone very knowledgeable in the field. 

My internship is right near a pier where you can see the Brooklyn Bridge!

I have already learned so many important things at my internship, some pragmatic and some personal. Even though my internship is only eight weeks long, I believe that the knowledge and lessons acquired here are broadly applicable to every aspect of my life. Sure, knowledge about immigration law is more useful in some contexts than in others, but my deepened empathy for immigrants and any American who is stigmatized, underrepresented, and neglected solidifies my own personal desire to continually fight for civil rights and equal treatment. This has implications in every facet of my life and can manifest in many forms, including combating everyday micro-aggressions, improving the political sphere and public policy, and promoting empathy in my interpersonal relationships and in educational discourse. By practicing empathy in my day-to-day life, I know that even after the conclusion of my summer internship, I will be exercising the Legal Aid Society’s greater mission and carrying on their legacy.

-Alison Hagani ’22

Post 1: Revitalizing the Main South Neighborhood

Main South is a vibrant, diverse inner-city neighborhood located in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, it deals with its fair share of challenges, such as a plague of gang activity, drugs, and prostitution, which has taken a toll on its social-economic status and physical condition, from abandoned lots to fire-damaged buildings. On a mission to revitalize the neighborhood, the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides quality affordable housing and economic opportunities for low and moderate-income families. 

The Main South CDC has developed over three hundred units of housing, has sold sixty-eight houses to first-time home buyers, and currently manages two hundred affordable rental units. The Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Neighborhood Revitalization Project, one of the many projects of the Main South CDC, has helped to create Clark University’s athletic complex and a new Boys & Girls Club facility. With each improvement, the Main South CDC hopes to change community members’ perceptions and the overall quality of life in the neighborhood. Throughout the process, the Main South CDC has involved many members of the community, and, as a member myself, I desire to be a part of such an important mission. 

This summer I will be assisting Casey Starr, Director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC, with place-making and the activation of public spaces. Our goal is to plan and coordinate free family-friendly activities in public spaces in the neighborhood. Main South CDC aims to “take back” spaces deemed unsafe by community members, such as parks and vacant lots. To “take back” a space means to create functionality and comfort in a public area that is struggling with a spoiled reputation because of illegal activity.  Often in inner-city neighborhoods, these spaces are vital because not everyone has a backyard. Not to mention, the Main South CDC hosts monthly neighborhood meetings to address community members’ feedback and concerns with a city elected official and police officer always in attendance. I plan on attending a few neighborhood meetings during my time with the Main South CDC.

The Main South CDC programs are what we like to call Summer Saturdays, which are multiple activities and programs held on Saturdays. The various activities target an extensive age range starting at age zero with the Worcester Family Partnership Early Childhood Playgroup to the predominantly elderly presence at the Farmer’s Market. The Summer Concert Series held on Wednesday nights at University Park  is a community favorite event with cultural music that speaks to the diversity of the community. Additionally, the newly renovated Castle Park programs fitness circuits run by the YWCA, Recreation Worcester Summer Camp, and capoeira on Saturdays as well. All programming works to create a safe and lively atmosphere.  

To ensure community members are aware of the many different activities, Julia Dowling, my co-intern, and I will promote programming through social media, emails, flyers, direct calls to residents, and signage on bulletin boards. It is essential to get the word out because these programs are implemented to accommodate the needs of children, adults, and low-income families.  In this day and age it is safe to say social media is an important tool for promotion, which is why I will also be responsible for managing the Main South CDC’s Facebook and Instagram. As I attend programs and events, I will make sure to capture the fun and share it on both platforms.

Post 1: Learning our Courts with Alliance for Justice

How much do you know about our courts? I’m not talking about just the Supreme Court, but our district courts and circuit courts, too. Almost every week, new judges are confirmed to the federal courts for lifetime terms, able to exercise their judgment on workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and more. And very few people are paying close attention.

Alliance for Justice, my internship site for this summer, is focused on ensuring our courts are fighting for people’s protection, and does so in two important ways. First, our team researches the records of every federal judicial nominee so people understand who they are and can oppose them if necessary. Then, more generally, we work to increase the visibility of the courts and their importance at every stage of our political process.

Working with the outreach team this summer, I have been responsible for making our mission better known to our partner organizations and those that want to work with us. Alliance for Justice represents over 130 organizations on issues of justice in the courts, but not all of them are engaged in this issue. This summer, I will be bringing them further into the fray of the work we do. Through webinars, lunches and other events, I’m hoping to bring our organizations closer to our work and empower them to speak up with us when harmful judicial nominees are presented to the Senate. We’re also going to other organizations to encourage them to talk about how the courts affect their work.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaking at the Center for Popular Democracy’s Stronger Together DC Benefit.

We also want to engage everyday citizens in this work. Most people don’t understand the power of nominating federal judges–but the current administration certainly does. To bring some power back to the people, we hold events in the community like book talks, lunches, and, most recently, trivia!

In June, we’ve held events on and offline to raise awareness about the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights and the federal courts. So many landmark decisions about LGBTQ+ discrimination started in the courts, and so many of the nominees to the federal bench today have atrocious records on LGBTQ+ rights. Our trivia night highlighted judicial powerhouses in protection of LGBTQ+ individuals, some horrendous nominees, and other activism in the spirit of Pride month.

Because the judiciary is the least well-known of the branches of government, half the battle is getting people to know, and the other half is getting them to care. Fighting against the tide of horrible judicial appointments is certainly an uphill battle, but Alliance for Justice has been influential in opposing, and in some cases halting, the appointment of conservative judges. The small steps of holding trivia nights and courting member organizations leads to a broader coalition of people paying attention, which leads to strong opposition to nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk, a recently confirmed nominee who has implied that transgender people are “delusional” and that Obergefell v. Hodges, which established marriage equality, was poorly decided.

One of our employees posing at our well-attended Justice Trivia night!

In the past two weeks since starting here, I have learned so much about how we can fight to protect our courts. On my first day, someone said, “Even if we can’t prevent these nominees from being confirmed, every day they aren’t on the court is a day someone’s case is decided more fairly.” Everything we do to stall a confirmation protects an individual who would not have otherwise received fair judgment. Those wins are just as important as getting a nominee to withdraw entirely. That is how we make the change we want to see.

Post 1: Lines for Life, Preventing Suicide and Substance Abuse

My name is Kaya Bothe and I am a rising junior studying Health, Science, Society & Policy and International & Global Studies. This summer I am interning with Lines for Life, a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon that focuses on preventing substance abuse and suicide. Lines for Life has many different crisis lines (youth line, military helpline, suicide lifeline, alcohol and drug helpline, and senior loneliness helpline), as well as a prevention team. I am interning with the prevention team, which works to combat many social injustices that the residents of Oregon experience. Suicide and drug addiction affect different groups of people disproportionately, and Lines for Life works to support all groups of people, as well as to work with the broader community to change policies and educate the public and health professionals.

Throughout my internship thus far, I have not stopped learning and I am responsible for many different tasks and projects. In the first two weeks of my internship I was given lots of tasks right from the get-go helping to finalize and plan the Oregon Opioids + Other Drugs, Pain + Addiction Treatment (OPAT) conference. I was invited to attend the conference and listen to the speakers as well as help to put it on during the third week of my internship. The week before the conference I read the book Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, who was the keynote speaker of the conference. I got to meet him as well as help sell his books at the book signing. Along with attending a large amount of presentations over the three-day conference, I also was able to learn about what it takes to put on a conference of this scale and was able to help with registration and other day-of needs.

This is a photo of my coworkers from Lines for Life and I with David Sheff, the author of Beautiful Boy and keynote speaker from the OPAT conference

Now that I am back from the OPAT conference, I am focusing on research to create a website for the state to provide statistics and resources to Oregon residents on suicide. We are going to separate the website into different pages. We will have information for health care professionals and teachers, as well as different high-risk groups such as Native Americans, elders, youth, people of color, veterans, the LGBTQ+ community and more. I have a huge role in this project as I have been asked to research these different groups of people and find Oregon-specific statistics. I will then eventually create a fact sheet composed of all my research. I am also in charge of gathering resources that will be added to the different pages. After I have finished the research, I will compile everything and write it up into something that eventually be put on the website.

Along with research and helping my coworkers with their projects, I have been invited to many different events and outings. For instance, just today, I went to a press conference where Congresswoman Bonamici spoke about the new legislation, The Safe Disposal of Opioids Act, just passed by Washington County, the first county in Oregon to require pharmaceutical companies to provide a safe and accessible way for people to dispose of unused and/or expired prescription opioid pills. This was really interesting to me and I got to see many important people, along with the CEO of Lines for Life, speak in front of people and news crews. This legislation is a huge step for Oregon, as hopefully other counties will follow and the whole state can in the future provide safe drop boxes. I have learned that there are so many different steps that need to be taken to end the opioid epidemic, and this is just the starting point with so much more work to be done.

Throughout all of this, I am learning more than I imagined I ever could at this internship, and my interest in the field is continuously growing as I see the inspiring work Lines for Life is doing to combat suicide and the opioid addiction epidemic.

Interning at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan

I started my internship at the Jewish Museum (https://thejewishmuseum.org) four weeks ago. I am working as the Public Programs intern at the Museum, assisting with all public programming and with longer term research tasks for the education department, as a whole. The Jewish Museum is a museum dedicated to the preservation, understanding, and enjoyment of the artistic and cultural heritage of the Jewish people. The museum is located on Manhattan’s Museum Mile, neighboring the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, among many others. This location has proved very useful to me as an intern as I am often asked to conduct research in one of the neighboring museums.

Additionally, in my job as a public programs intern, I am working on events often sponsored or in conjunction with other museums along the Museum Mile. For example, one of the first events I staffed as an intern was the annual Museum Mile evening in June when all the museums within these parameters are open extra hours and for free. This was a great introduction to the communal culture of the museums in this part of Manhattan. For this event, the Jewish Museum hosted a band to play outside of the Museum for the night and a craft for people walking by. My work as the public program’s intern included preparing for this craft and assisting the band throughout the night, as needed.

The Jewish Museum has quite a robust program of events throughout the summer and I love being able to help out with these different occasions. I have had the opportunity to engage with the public on behalf of the Museum at all of these events, whether it be a concert or an adult studio class, and in each instance I find myself learning and gaining skills. I love discussing the exhibitions with visitors — honing my skills and perspectives on museum education — and being a source of information about the museum as an institution to guests. I find that, in these experiences, I am learning skills I wouldn’t learn in academia. The ability to transfer information accurately to all different demographics of the Museum’s patrons is something I am working hard to gain and become comfortable with.

As I am expanding my knowledge of art history in the research I do during the day for the education department, in the evenings and on weekends at various events, I am given the opportunity to share this information and receive feedback. Throughout the rest of my internship, I hope to continue to hone these skills and learn more about what it means to be a representative of a cultural institution interacting with all different members of the Museum’s community — staff, museum patrons, and artists invited to the museum for various programs. Additionally, I hope to expand my knowledge of the Museum’s collection and become as well-versed as possible in contemporary methods of education and research within cultural institutions.

This is a photo of me working at the craft table during Museum Mile a few weeks back.

 

 

Hannah Kressel ’20

Post 1: Legal Life Against Crimes in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office-SIU-AFU

The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) serves the largest county in New England. It prosecutes more than 39,000 cases a year divided among 12 district courts, 4 juvenile courts, and 2 superior courts across 54 diverse cities and towns. Its core mission is to protect and serve the people who work, live and raise their families in Middlesex County. Interns work directly with Assistant District Attorneys, Victim Witness Advocates, Paralegals and others to pursue this mission through exhaustive investigations, unassailable prosecutions and compassionate victim advocacy.

MDAO can be generally divided into five units: Appeals & Training Bureau, Child Protection Unit, Elder & Disabled Unit, Homicide & Unsolved, and Special Investigations Unit. I was assigned to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU)-Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). This unit deals with asset forfeiture, which is a powerful tool used by the Commonwealth against criminals and criminal organizations to seize their ill-gotten gains or their assets connected to criminal activities. AFU is a part of SIU, which investigates and prosecutes organized crime such as public integrity, corruption, cybercrimes, and drug trafficking.

My major tasks for the summer are to: (1) Draft legal writings such as complaints, motions to dismiss, motions for default judgment, oppositions to motion to vacate, and draft and respond to discovery requests; (2) Reconcile/audit data through DA’s office files, MDAO’s data management system, and Mass Trial Court Website; (3) Conduct research, draft and update 50-state-survey on asset forfeiture; (4) Assist trial attorneys with casefile storage, trial preparation, and general administrative support; (5) Request, track and update receipt of case-related documents; and (6) Review reports and evidence, i.e. 911 calls, turret tapes, video recordings, and jail calls.

Sometimes, other units in the DA’s office would “borrow” me for other projects, such as jail call monitoring and translation. In addition, as a non-legal intern, I have also done two mock trials for legal interns, one time as a witness and the other as a juror. What’s more is that all the interns in the office, no matter legal interns or non-legal interns, will receive training on a regular base. So far, I have received training in Asset Forfeiture, Victim-Witness Advocacy, Children’s Protection, Juvenile Prosecution, Reflections on Policing, and Appeals Court Training in selecting cases, drafting and finalizing opinions, and selecting judicial clerks.

Among all of what I do, my favorite part so far is to do forfeiture intakes. Each intake includes a police report, and each report contains the narrative of the story. It is interesting to read those stories (a large portion of them are of drug dealers), some exciting and some terrifying. I am shocked by what people have done and what people could do when I see the list of the crimes they committed based on the defendants’ criminal history. I feel sad and heartbroken when I see stories such as child abuse. However, I know my sad feelings will not stop or prevent these things from happening. All I can do is keep doing what I am doing, including but not limited to what’s listed above.  I believe that every single step matters in serving better justice.

-Carrie Sheng ’20

Learning and Growth: A Summer with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence

This summer, I am thrilled to be working as the Training and Outreach Intern at the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV). The DCCADV is the federally recognized coalition of organizations, programs, and individuals working to eliminate domestic violence in D.C. They use a framework for their work that identifies social, economic, cultural, political, and legal factors that impact those who are affected by violence, oppression, subordination, and discrimination. DCCADV works to expand community awareness and activism as well as address systematic gaps that exist through public policy initiatives.

It is so incredible to see the inner workings of a non-profit first-hand and learn about advocacy on the levels of training, outreach, and policy, which I have less experience with. The first week of my internship mostly consisted of attending and participating in the Domestic Violence Advocate Core Competency Training (DVACT) which is a 40 hour training that all domestic violence advocates in the District must complete in order to be granted advocate privilege under D.C. law, and which my supervisor runs. It was an amazing opportunity for me as an intern who has not even finished college yet to be able to participate in this training alongside professionals who have dedicated their careers to serving survivors of domestic violence. I was able to learn so much from the sessions and the facilitators, and especially from the other participants. Their insights were eye opening and made me realize intersections and obstacles in this work that I had never thought about. The training helped me see the impact of violence in our larger society instead of just in the college setting I am used to, while at the same time giving me hope.

Tabling at DC Capital Pride with DCCADV!

By attending meetings, I have started to learn how the non-profit is organized, as well as inter-organizational and city dynamics. I have also tabled at events and started working on a few longer term projects.  One project involves mandated reporting; I am looking into the specifics of and any inconsistencies in the law for D.C. in regards to the requirements for the mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and threat of harm to self or others. Additionally, I have started working on gathering information for and helping to draft a language access policy plan for the DCCADV. I have researched what language justice is and how to implement policies that supports it so that all persons, regardless of their proficiency in English, can access the resources and services they want and need.

I feel like I have already begun to achieve some of my goals for this summer such as deepening my critical thinking about psychology and trauma, social justice, and the systems in society that contribute to the perpetuation of violence. By seeing first-hand how a non-profit organization functions, I am learning the processes involved in providing support services with the goal of creating a positive impact. Also, acting in roles such as coordinating programs and doing research are aiding me in discovering what specific aspects of social work appeal to me and where my strengths lie. Through the extensive training and exposure to the difficult topics I am receiving in this role, I am increasing my self-awareness, empathy, and insight into how I can work to prevent violence both on a larger scale as well as on a personal level in my own relationships.

From Prague to Production

Annie Leibovitz wearing a Fujifilm x100 w/ a 35mm lens

After studying film for a semester in Prague, Czech Republic, I flew straight to another new city. This summer I have the opportunity to work at Annie Leibovitz Studio in New York City as a production coordination intern. Annie Leibovitz is an acclaimed photographer known for her captivating celebrity portraiture. She has been a commercial photographer for magazines such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. She has photographed famous and influential actors, artists, and activists including Whoopi Goldberg, Meryl Streep, and famously wrapped a shoot with musician John Lennon the same day he was fatally shot.

My work is centered around both observational and experiential learning. The photo world is unpredictable, so I have to be able to think quickly and be flexible. My duties include, but are not limited to, conducting research, prepping call sheets, sourcing locations and vendors, and administrative work. I work closely with Annie Leibovitz’s production team to get everything ready in time for the shoot. I also work with other interns throughout the week to run errands, brainstorm creative concepts, and wrap shoots.

So far it has been very eye-opening to see how much planning and organization goes into making a shoot happen. From the research of the talent to logging the costs of production, booking travel, getting all of the equipment to set, shooting, wrapping, logging everything (again), not a single day has been boring. I have had to quickly learn the specific order in which things are done in the office. Luckily, the job is not all work and no play. It has been wonderful getting to know Annie Leibovitz team. They work together as both a well-oiled machine and as a family. As a new addition to the team, it is amazing to witness it all.

I was able to attend my first shoot this week! It was a long day of prepping the set. I had to set up the hair & makeup area which included decorating it with furniture, creating a changing area, setting up lighting, and a few other bits and bobs. I was also in charge of making sure we had food and that the catering arrived on the day of the shoot. As a production intern, we also had to make sure the assistants to Annie Leibovitz had everything they needed. It was busy and everyone was running around trying to make sure everyone had everything they needed.  When the shoot wrapped, I help the photo interns take down the equipment and pack it back into the truck. Ever applied for a job and one of the requirements is to “be able to lift 50lbs or more”? Yeah, packing a photo truck requires that from you for several hours. I love that about the film and photo world: courtesy total body exercise without having to go to the gym.

Annie Leibovitz in action. This is not from the shoot I mentioned in this article.

My goal for the summer is to gain a clear understanding of the step-by-step process of set production. I also want to establish a solid foundation for professional relationships with people who share my interest in image media and production. This position will give me the opportunity to be introduced to incredibly influential individuals in the entertainment and visual media world who may be able to guide me to make the right next steps.

I am looking forward to what’s next!

Savannah Edmondson

Post 1: Supporting the Survival of Indigenous Peoples

Cultural Survival is an organization that advocates for indigenous people’s rights to their cultures and self-determination. It works to support indigenous communities internationally by supporting community radio programs, hosting bazaars where artists can sell their work, and publishing articles about the work indigenous people are doing in a quarterly magazine and online.

This organization addresses the systematic oppression that indigenous peoples have continuously experienced worldwide by helping to support avenues for indigenous people to express their voices and protect their right to live, and doing so in the ways that indigenous peoples choose.

One project I’ve done so far is to write a short article about the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, which, once a country ratifies, is a legally-binding law that protects the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition to this, I have been transcribing interviews with indigenous people talking about the work they do, so that articles can be written about them. I’ve also been doing some data entry for applications for the small Keeper of the Earth Fund [KOEF] grant.

The KOEF is a fund Cultural Survival uses to support indigenous-led advocacy and community development projects. The projects are submitted by indigenous-led organizations all over the world, and address a range of topics such as land rights, food sovereignty, and language revitalization. The KOEF provides grants between $500 and $5,000, and there have been over 150 applications. Reading through and doing data entry for all these applications, although a small step, is a necessary step to provide funding for these projects. I am learning a lot about the kinds of projects that indigenous communities are working on around the world.

Since I am working in the research and publications department, a lot of what I will be working on this summer will revolve around helping to amplify the voices and stories of different indigenous people and the work they are doing, mostly through doing interviews and publishing articles. Indigenous voices have been systematically silenced over centuries, so writing articles and using Cultural Survival’s platform works to amplify those stories. This helps spread information about the work indigenous people are doing to advocate for themselves and resist oppression, both to non-indigenous people and to different indigenous communities internationally.

These projects and articles are all relatively small steps that are working toward larger change. Ideally, in the future, an indigenous community that is looking for funding to develop a food sovereignty program for their community will eventually not need to look externally for support, because they will have the resources they need already. Hopefully, one day, indigenous voices will not be silenced by governments and corporations. But for now, it is possible to organize, to provide financial support to marginalized communities in a way that works for them, and to amplify the voices of indigenous people.

-Christy Swartz

Post 1: My first week at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice

For the past month, I have been working for Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice (MIWJ), an organization based in Jamaica Plain dedicated to building bridges between faith communities and the labor movement. We work in solidarity with a number of important campaigns in the state, including, but not limited to, the elimination of sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, the reinstatement of a progressive income tax in Massachusetts, the prevention of exploitative practices such as wage theft and unfair scheduling, and the protection of immigrants working under Temporary Protected Status. In working with MIWJ, I’ve learned a lot about the special role that faith communities can play in supporting workers rights, by sending faith delegations to company management and utilizing the already existing community networks established by churches and other religious groups. 

Last week I attended a State House hearing to support the end of sub-minimum wages for tipped workers.

So far, my time here has prompted a serious education for me in community organizing, with my responsibilities including attending rallies at the State House, representing the coalition in larger grassroots coalition meetings, and reaching out to congregations to participate in our programs. A couple of weeks ago, MIWJ hosted its annual Faith and Labor Breakfast, where we brought together a number of folks from different congregations, unions, and other social justice-oriented organizations for a celebration of workers and to honor the outgoing director of the New England Jewish Labor Committee. In addition to this, I also had the opportunity to represent Mass Interfaith Worker Justice at a larger grassroots coalition meeting consisting of union organizers, community organizers, and racial justice activists. Attending these meetings and events alongside a wide range of activists and organizers has allowed me to see first hand the intersections of social justice. 

I also feel that I’ve joined the organization at a critical time in which it is seeking a younger, more diverse group of members and partners. For this reason, much of my work here has been centered around connecting the organization with new members and communities. I have also been tasked with helping organize one of our signature programs, Labor in the Pulpits/Bimah/Minbar, where we work to bring workers and community organizers directly to faith communities, often times during services, to speak about their experiences and show people how they can help. With this task, and the broader task of strengthening and diversifying the group’s membership, I feel that the work I’ll be doing for the rest of the summer will be deeply impactful. I’m thankful that I’ve joined the organization at a time where I can make a significant, positive impact on the work they do and the health of their community network. I’m looking forward to what the rest of my time here has in store.

Post 1: From the City/For the City

It’s my first all-staff meeting, and per tradition I have to introduce myself with my name and a fun fact. I rise and say, “Hello everyone, my name is Rolonda and I’m a fourth generation Washingtonian.” That means that my great-grandfather, grandfather, mother and I were all born and raised in Washington DC. In four generations, you would think the city has changed quite a bit, but even in my short twenty years of life I’ve seen the city go through rapid transformation.

New grocery stores, high-end restaurants, and condos are springing up all around the city as a new strategy of “urban development” is being implemented. But with all new structures being created to enhance the new vision for DC, elements of the culture of DC like gogo music, mambo sauce, and even the DC accent are being wiped out completely. Historic residents who are primarily people of color are being rapidly displaced, and DC has become one of the most segregated and gentrified cities in America.

This summer I am interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Legal Aid’s motto is “Making Justice Real.” Legal Aid is an organization that provides a variety of legal services in the areas of housing law, domestic violence/family law, public benefits law, and consumer law to low-income residents of DC. This includes direct representation, legislative advocacy, and education and outreach.

At Legal Aid, I am based in the organization’s intake unit. So far, this has included taking calls from potential clients, having them summarize their legal issue for me, and either referring them to outside organizations or inviting them to intake interviews. I have also been to the district courts in order to file paperwork for attorneys in the clerk’s office, in addition to doing some HTML coding to help the launch of Legal Aid’s new online intake portal. Legal Aid aims to make justice real for those living in poverty in DC. I’m helping contribute to this organization’s mission by being their first point of contact through the intake department. One thing at my internship that gives me joy is seeing one of the people who I spoke with on the intake come in for an interview and have their case accepted by one of our attorneys, and finally get representation.

Quote about justice adorn the walls

To me, progress is little things such as someone having legal representation who otherwise might not have it, and who can now get much-needed repairs on their homes, retain their public benefits, or gain custody of their children from abusive partners. My career goal is to work as a public interest/poverty law lawyer in DC and this internship is the first step on that path.  I have only been at my internship for two weeks, but I’m amazed at what I have been able to accomplish in that time and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings. I’m working towards making justice real for the people of the city I call home.

Also, for those of you interested in linguists here is an article about the DC accent!

-Rolonda Donelson

Post 1: My Start at the New York State Attorney General’s Office

The view from my office!

I am currently interning for the New York State Attorney General (NYAG) at the Harlem Regional Office. As a Legal Studies minor on the Pre-Law track, I chose to work at NYAG to learn more about public interest law. The New York State Attorney General’s Office’s mission is to serve as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens of New York, its organizations, and its natural resources. The attorney general is the “people’s lawyer” and the state’s chief legal officer. The current officeholder is Attorney General Letitia James. The office consists of 650 assistant attorneys general and over 1,700 employees that serve in various locations across New York State. With only two attorneys, the Harlem Regional Office is one of the smallest. However, its size does not stop it from handling hundreds of complaints a year and litigating high profile class action lawsuits. Another plus of the office is the great view!

Attorney General Letitia James

At the Harlem Regional Office, my job is to help some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers in two distinct ways. The first role I help with is mediation. Mediation occurs when a consumer comes in with a complaint about a business or a landlord and my role is to try to resolve the case. Each case is different and provides me with new experiences. One example of a complaint the office deals with frequently is landlords not returning security deposits. I get to interact with New Yorkers and learn about different areas of discrimination and the many ways that fraud can occur. The second part of my work at the NYAG is to help conduct research for the two staff attorneys. The research I do is confidential, but what I can say is that the work I do helps the lawyers investigate and prosecute alleged patterns of unlawful discrimination and fraud in a variety of areas, including employment, housing, credit, education, and places of public accommodation. Any research I do, no matter how inconsequential I think it is, helps the lawyers with their lawsuits and ultimately leads to the people of New York feeling safer.

Judge Alison Nathan

Another exciting part of my internships is the speaker series the NYAG puts on. So far, I have had the opportunity to hear from Orelia Merchant, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Division of State Counsel; Judge Alison Nathan, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams. I was also able to hear the inspiring remarks from the New York Attorney General Letitia James when she introduced Judge Alison Nathan! (see photos). Each of these speakers has provided new insights and perspectives about public interest law. Overall, I am excited to continue learning and experiencing new and exciting things at the NYAGs office. I am looking forward to the upcoming speaker series and going to court with one of the lawyers!

Post #1 – A Summer at the National Parks of Boston

This summer, I am working for the Natural Resource team at the National Parks of Boston, spending the majority of my time out in the Boston Harbor Islands. The Boston Harbor Island National and State Park is a collection of 34 islands and peninsulas covering about 1500 acres in and around Boston that are overseen by the National Park Service. As a lifelong resident of the Boston area, I didn’t even realize that the area existed until recently and how much natural beauty, cultural significance, and history these sites held. Including ancient Native American settlements, Civil War forts, a smallpox hospital, World War II training facilities, and much more, the Boston Harbor Islands are really an incredible place.

Map of the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

The main goal of the Natural Resource team is to preserve and protect the natural resources that the Boston Harbor Islands have to offer. In addition to the many significant historical and cultural sites that I mentioned above, the islands are home to a unique type of habitat found nowhere else in the United States called a “drowned drumlin”, which formed as the glaciers receded at the end of the last Ice Age.  Their rarity gives them ecological significance and importance for both study and conservation efforts

My work this summer is largely field-based and will be focused on two main projects. The first project is one that the Natural Resource team has been working on for years now – invasive plant management and native plant restoration. Since Europeans arrived in Boston Harbor about 400 years ago, the islands began to transform from relatively pristine environments to sites rife with invasive species that grew unchecked and smothered out native species. Part of my efforts with the Natural Resource team is to cut back and remove invasives, such as multiflora rose and oriental bittersweet, in order to leave room for native species to regrow. In addition, we are replanting young natives that have been grown from seedlings in an effort to remove the homogeneity that has overtaken the islands. The purpose of this is to return the islands to their historical biodiversity so they can be seen and admired by visitors as the natural landscapes that they had been prior to disturbance.

For my second project, I am working with a PhD candidate from UMass Boston to inventory marine species found on the islands’ intertidal zones (the shore space between low and high tide). By assessing sites near eroding seawalls and cliff-sides, she hopes to create baseline data on sites that could have new seawalls built within the next few years to mitigate the effects of climate change. By doing so, these sites can be used to show the effects that artificial structures have on coastlines in terms of biodiversity loss. This project fascinates me and working on it has been my favorite part of the job so far. Between measuring coasts, searching for crabs, wading in the subtidal areas to assess mussel beds, and much more, I look forward to spending more time on this project.

Wading during high tide on Peddocks Island to assess water quality with PhD candidate researcher (left).

This summer, I have two main goals: to get experience doing environmental research and to spend as much time outdoors as possible. In the past few weeks, I have immersed myself in my work for the Natural Resource team to get the most out of it that I can. Even when crawling around in tick-infested rose bushes and going up to my waist in frigid Boston water, I have enjoyed it all since I know that my work is contributing to the fight against and understanding of environmental issues.

Summer of Whales

 

A Double Breach

 When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist. This summer I get to live out that reality as a Marine Mammal Research and Education Intern at the New England Aquarium. The New England Aquarium employs approximately ten whale watch interns over the summer, who are part of a team of hundreds of other volunteers and interns dedicated to the NEA’s mission to protect the blue planet. Every day, my work on the whale watch boats has direct implications to ensure the conservation of these amazing animals.

A single breach

 

Note the counter in my right hand, I use it to get a passenger count every day during boarding!

I go on one or two whale watches a day, each lasting 3-4 hours. My “office” is the wheelhouse of boats with grand names such as Aurora, Sanctuary, or Asteria. My coworkers include a naturalist, who is not only my supervisor on the boat who oversees the data collection, but also the main scientist/researcher.

After the boat leaves the dock in Boston Harbor, it takes us 1 – 1.5 hours to see the whales. During this time, I begin the first part one of my internship: educational outreach. The interns discuss in person with the passengers information about our destination (Stellwagen Bank Natural Marine Sanctuary), or the most common species we are likely to see (humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales). Most passengers have never been on a whale watch, and I spend a large part of the ride explaining questions like why we may see White Atlantic Sided Dolphins, but not orcas, or why Humpback whales only spend time in the bank between mid-March to mid-November

Once we begin to approach the whales’ feeding ground, I run back upstairs for the second part of my internship, grabbing a GPS and compass for data collection and research. We don’t use radar or sonar to track the whales as it is harmful to the whales’ hearing. Instead, we find the whales simply using our eyes and the word of other whale watching boats. The naturalist and I stand from an elevated observation area and spot.  Once we see the whales, I record preliminary data like weather, as well as information on the whale’s behavior, location, and identification. When a humpback whale shows its

Triple Fluking Dive

tail (or fluke), we can actually identify individuals from each other. Their tail pattern is unique like a finger print, enabling the ability to identify individuals from each other using a large naming cataloging system

 

The data and research we collect helps scientists better understand and protect these animals. For example, boat strikes is the major cause of death for the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales. Using data on population density collected on whale watches, Boston Harbor moved its shipping lane one degree north, reducing the probability of boat strike by 80%. I plan on potentially doing my own research during this summer, such as studying mother-calf relations or the impact of local marine pollution.

Open Mouth Feeding

On the way back, I give a more specified talk around the cabins about general conservation. Passing around baleen (what humpbacks use to filter their food) or a vertebra, I answer and discuss questions about biology, hunting policies, climate change, conservation, and history.

I absolutely love my internship. I get to see breath-taking whales every day exhibit amazing behaviors. My goals in the beginning of the summer were to expand my marine science knowledge, gain applicable fieldwork skills, and improve in articulating environmental conservation that I am passionate about. Even in the first few weeks, I have already begun to succeed in my goals through the education of marine mammal biology as well as learning practical skills like LCDing a whale from two miles away.

My mom and brother came to visit me on the 21st! Cajun’s 2019m calf did a lot of cool behaviors that day.



 

Some photos and a brief summary of all my trips can be found under recent activity on our blog. 

 

Post 1: My First Five Weeks at the MCAD

The goal of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is to eradicate discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and many more categories you might not know you are protected under. Across the commission’s four offices, over 3,000 complaints are investigated each year regarding alleged discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, lending, and credit. Around 20% of those complaints are for housing discrimination, which is the particular field I work in. Eradicating discrimination in the Commonwealth is a goal as ambitious and necessary as anything a state does, so I am excited to be a part of this mission in as small a way as I am. The other reason I wanted to work in this field was just to observe how people interact with this part of the legal process. Many people, especially in housing, come to the commission without a lawyer and with no intention of getting one. In truth, you do not need one to go through the process and I am proud that the commission does everything to remove barriers of access.

The doors to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on the 6th Floor of 1 Ashburton Place, Boston. Just beyond the doors you can see two intake rooms where complainants explain their complaint to a staff member that helps them write it up.

The complaint is what kicks off the entire MCAD process. The commission then serves the party that has allegedly done the discriminating and the investigator can do their own fact-finding with both parties. At the end of the investigation, they will write a disposition stating if it is more likely than not that discrimination occurred (probable cause), and I will be helping to write those this summer. If there is probable cause, there are various actions the MCAD takes depending on how the parties respond. The MCAD always brings parties in for conciliation so they can try and settle the case to avoid the more time-intensive and expensive public hearings. If successful, the complainant can be awarded emotional distress payment, lost wages, a reasonable accommodation, alternate housing, or whatever is the most appropriate for the case. I have seen this process a few times and the negotiations are endlessly fascinating to me. The MCAD also often requires respondents to attend training on the law they violated. These trainings are open to the public and do so much to prevent discrimination before it even occurs, helping thousands upon thousands to know the law in Massachusetts.

My work in the housing unit is primarily to help the investigators. I communicate with parties and try to get information that an investigator needs. I help keep the ship running by sending out notices, writing summaries of cases, and updating the case management system so future people can make sense of all the work we do.

The best example of small steps leading to bigger steps is the policy review I do. Disability is the most common protected category which complaints are based on at the MCAD. In certain settlements when the claim revolves around disability, and specifically denial of a reasonable accommodation, the Housing Authority or private owners need to come up with a reasonable accommodation policy, which they send to us for approval. I am the one to first read it and give feedback. I hope this helps to eradicate discrimination by ensuring people get better treatment in the future. Change is providing justice, discovering the truth, and then making sure we do everything to make sure discrimination ends. One case, one training, one policy review at a time.

Post 1: The Constantly Shifting World of Immigration & Gender-Based Law

Having worked for the past year at the Brandeis student-run immigration legal clinic, The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), this summer I was excited for the opportunity to further develop my knowledge of the immigration legal system at a well-established, multi-city nonprofit: the Tahirih Justice Center.

From my first two weeks of training, I quickly began to realize just how different Tahirih is from TRII despite providing many of the same services, and what strategies I can take back to my work at TRII during the school year. The most obvious difference is that Tahirih only serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, and for the most part, only takes a handful of the more serious cases.

This means that any given client must be an immigrant who qualifies for a serious type of relief (i.e. asylum) and has also experienced violence because of their gender or sexuality. This results in a client base of mostly women who have experienced some very serious trauma, and some of them are currently undergoing trauma in abusive domestic relationships that our center helps them get out of.

Entrance of the immigration court building in Baltimore, just down the street from Tahirih’s office, where I will get to observe our clients’ hearings this summer.

Tahirih fills the wide gap of immigrant women who are often unable to get help because many immigration legal organizations are scarce in resources and therefore are not properly trauma-informed and don’t know specifically how to cater to women and individuals who have experienced traumatic gender-based violence. One way that Tahirih is trauma-informed and creates a safe space for survivors is its secrecy and selectivity. The small office is discreet and only accessible to employees and clients, and any potential clients are put through three rounds of phone screenings.

The training period of the first two weeks was extremely in-depth, conducted by the lawyers themselves and through webinars. I learned techniques necessary to help a client feel comfortable in our office and reclaim their narrative by giving them space to tell their story their way– something that is often disregarded in the highly invasive and re-traumatizing immigration process.

As one can imagine in this political climate, the world of immigration law is constantly shifting, which makes for extremely uneasy situations for our clients. Just last year, the attorney general released an unprecedented memo that advised judges not to grant asylum on the basis of domestic or gang violence, and revoked a grant of asylum in a domestic violence case. Last week, Trump tweeted that mass raids and deportations in major cities (including Baltimore, where my office is) would begin Sunday. These changes constantly arise, which keeps interns like me busy.

In response to the deportation threat, one of my projects this summer is to compile a trauma-informed resource guide/toolkit for our clients with families, to prepare in case of deportation. This will include instructions on how to designate another guardian for one’s child, emergency numbers to call, and know your rights guides. There are many family preparedness guides already out there, but most are not trauma-informed or gender-specific. Some of our clients in abusive domestic relationships or with abusive family members may need to create alternative safety plans for their children or prepare in different ways.

I know that my other responsibilities at the office–helping file immigration forms, conducting new client screenings, and meeting with clients, to name a few–help the office run smoothly for this summer. However, I am most excited about this deportation guide project because it will be a sustainable resource that clients can use for weeks and months to come. Nonprofits like Tahirih are so important as the government continues to make it increasingly difficult to navigate the immigration system and increasingly difficult for individuals like our clients to obtain status, especially without legal representation. Tahirih’s lawyers are extraordinarily committed and thorough in their work, and I am excited for a summer of being able to support their work and make their (very difficult) jobs a little bit easier in any way I can.

Eliana Kleiman ’21

Commenting On My Time at “Film Comment”

Hello! It’s me, Jonah Koslofsky, certifying that I have entered the World of Work! Thanks to the generosity of this grant, I am currently interning at Film at Lincoln Center. But just what does that mean? Well, Film at Lincoln Center – formerly known as The Film Society of Lincoln Center – is an essential section of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (the organization that’s also home to the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera). Film at Lincoln Center recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary and, year-round, the institution runs film programming that plays at Lincoln Center’s movie theaters, and hosts the annual New York Film Festival every fall.

Film at Lincoln Center also publishes a bi-monthly film publication called “Film Comment.” That’s who I’m interning for!

“Film Comment” is a top-tier magazine that covers everything in the world of independent cinema. It’s also got a website regularly updated with content that won’t quite fit into the issues, and a weekly podcast.  Back when I first started (on May 20, a whole month ago!) the magazine was in the midst of coverage of the Cannes Film Fest. The French festival is perhaps the most prestigious place to premiere a new movie, a hotbed of filmmakers and journalists. So for the first few weeks, my job was simple: transcribe the fresh interviews between “Film Comment” contributors and the directors whose brand new work was just being unveiled.

My first day I typed up this interview with French actress-turned-auteur Mati Diop. Her new movie Atlantique would go on to win the Grand Prix (basically the silver metal of the festival). I also transcribed this interview with Bertrand Bonello, another French filmmaker. Funnily enough, his new movie Zombie Child, is also about France confronting its colonial past through the use of a supernatural conceit.

I actually really enjoy the transcription process: I get to listen to these interesting interviews, and hear about the inspirations and intentions behind films that I genuinely want to know more about. A lot of the material I’ve been transcribing has been about filmmakers whose work I am woefully unfamiliar with, which encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and watch international movies I should’ve already seen. Case-in-point: before she made Atlantique, Mati Diop starred in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, which I quickly (finally) watched, and promptly loved.

Then last week, I transcribed an interview with one of my favorite horror movie filmmakers. I can’t say too much more (because the interview won’t be published until the next issue of “Film Comment” hits newsstands), but I was especially tickled because I actually met this filmmaker in an ice cream parlor in a totally unrelated interaction, and I was already very, very excited for his next movie.

My other responsibilities include proofreading and helping FC archive their back issues. My goal for the summer is to get some of my own writing onto the site or into the magazine, but it’s a slow and steady process. So far, the internship is off to a solid start!

Starting at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

This summer, I am interning at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs’ (NEA) Office of Regional and Multilateral Affairs (RMA) in Washington DC. Due to the extensive length of time required to receive my security clearance, I was unable to start my internship until this past Monday, June 17. As a result, I am still getting settled and spent my first week attending orientation, setting up an email account, and completing mandatory trainings on topics such as cybersecurity. RMA works on issues that broadly affect the region, and in the coming months, I will be specifically assisting with the Congressional and Global Affairs portfolios. This will include projects relating to NEA’s work with the Hill and women’s issues and empowerment, human rights, religious freedom, and human trafficking.

I have three goals for my internship experience this summer. My academic goal is to improve my research skills through the accumulation of information that will be necessary for me to work on projects relating to topics such as the current women’s economic empowerment work being done in the region and the ongoing confirmation processes of ambassadorial candidates for Posts in the Near East region. I also anticipate constantly doing research to stay informed on the news in the Middle East and North Africa, which is often a busy region where things frequently change, and this summer so far proves to be no exception.

My career goal for this summer is to network with people working in the State Department, both within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the entire department in general to learn more about their career trajectories that brought them to Washington DC and to learn about what their current jobs entail. For so long, I have imagined working for the State Department, and it is exciting to see firsthand what it is like. I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet colleagues who share the same interests as me but are a few steps ahead in their professional journeys, and everybody that I met during my first week has been incredibly kind and generous with their time.

Finally, a personal goal of mine is to see how I enjoy living and working in Washington DC. Coming from a suburb of Dallas, the Washington DC area has been a place that I have aspired to work in for a while, without knowing what it will be like. Part of my excitement in receiving this internship related to my eagerness to be exposed to DC and to begin feeling comfortable exploring it. I was in DC for over a week before my internship began and filled that time with Smithsonian museums and visiting monuments and Congress. Walking around the city and running into iconic buildings like Congress and the White House has not gotten old, and so far, I am really loving this city.

 

I look forward to being able to update this blog with more information about my experience as I get further into my internship!

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

Post 1: A Summer Working On Fun Curricula

The PEAR Institute is a nonprofit organization founded as a collaboration between McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. PEAR partners with school districts, out-of-school-time programs, and youth-serving organizations to promote social-emotional development in the service of student engagement, academic achievement, and life success. PEAR is developing a set of social-emotional curricula for middle-school-age children building upon the Clover model of youth development for educational institutes such as public schools, after-school programs, and other education nonprofit organizations all over the United States.

As a psychology major, I am highly interested in the social-emotional development of children. My academic and career goal is to directly make a positive impact on the social-emotional development of children. As an intern at PEAR Institute, I am getting training regarding the Clover model of youth development and social-emotional development curricula developed by PEAR to understand how to improve the resiliency of high-risk children in order to help them develop effective strategies to overcome challenges in their social and academic life.

The Clover Model of Youth Development

Children in families of low social-economic status are more susceptible to mental health burdens and social-emotional challenges due to family instability, financial stress, and undermined collective efficacy of neighborhoods, while they have limited affordable resources available to overcome these social-emotional challenges throughout the course of development. Furthermore, due to the prejudice, social stigma, and impairment caused by social-emotional difficulties, children with mental health burdens are more likely to stay in low social-economic statuses when they become adults. To ameliorate this social injustice, the PEAR institute contributes to offering professional help to children in need, especially children who cannot afford individual therapy and support.

As a PEAR intern, I am responsible for further developing and refining activities of the social-emotional development curriculum program, which includes setting and adjusting goals according to the Clover model, conducting literature reviews on social-emotional development, and applying research findings and feedback from instructors. In the beginning, I received training on the social-emotional development curriculum and the Clover model of development to better understand how the whole set of curricula works. I will also refine evaluation tools for the curricula and maintain consistent structures of curriculum materials across the Clover groups.

Our goal this summer is to improve the flexibility and attractiveness of the activities in the curricula so that educational institutions with smaller budgets can still run the curricula while allowing more students to benefit from the curricula. With more institutions implementing these curricula, we will be able to observe changes and acquire holistic student assessment data for children who have taken our curricula. This feedback will allow us to refine the curriculum and to improve its credibility with evidenced-based research, both of which will enhance PEAR’s efforts to further promote the curriculum to additional communities and partners.

My internship just started this week and I had so much fun trying out the games and activities of the Clover curricula. I am definitely excited to continue exploring this field!

Welcome to Cologne! My Summer Journey

It is junior year summer, and the primary goal for the coming months is to maximize the fun in the crazy challenge that I took upon myself by coming to Germany.

When I reflected over my last summer’s experience abroad I recognized my want to gain international work experience in Europe. A new continent, new country, new people, and new culture. Despite having eleven years of German language study and some German waltz moves, I had never actually visited the country – and I knew being thrown into a completely new scenario would bring the challenge and growth I was searching. This means, in practice, that this summer would function as a huge leverage point in my professional work experience, social environment, skills that I hone, and my personal journey.

Brandenburg Tor in Berlin

So here I find myself, writing from TH Köln – Technology, Arts, Sciences (Cologne University of Applied Sciences), the largest applied sciences university in Germany, and quite an astonishing place. Although the building might be a bit old, the place is breathing of innovation, of “cultural and technological breakthroughs of high societal relevance” (as cited on the website), and of progress. The Deutz location where I work, which is on the “other side” of the Rhine as most Cologne people would say, is mainly for Engineering, Physics, Media, and Technology, so my Institute of Media and Imaging Technology at the Computer Graphics and Computer Science Lab fits in quite well.

Welcomed with an office view that is hard to beat (a 360 view including the Rhine, the famous Cathedral, and much more) and intelligent and fun professors and supervisors, I feel, after two weeks, quite at home here.

TH Koln Deutz where I work

As fitting for my Experimental WOW Grant – the project I will be working on is similarly an intersection of topics and is literally an ‘experiment’. The lab work conducted here specializes in virtual and augmented reality, with our project’s focus being examining presence and collaboration within a virtual environment as a response to auditory signals. Although I hadn’t known what project I would be working on prior to coming to Germany, the work fits quite well with my lab work at the Memory and Cognition Lab at Brandeis University – an added bonus. What is especially interesting is that the projects we are working on are collaborations not only between centers within the university but also between the university and industry. The result is science that is directly applicable to real-world problems facing the industry and society currently, something that I really care about in my education goals.

Rhine River during sunset with the Cologne Cathedral in the background

In addition to gaining a comprehensive understanding of German culture and life, I am hoping to attain a few goals professionally. Mainly these include planning a research project in XR, coding and building the necessary VR environment, running participants to gather data, and hopefully having the time to analyze and synthesize findings. This internship – like any – is a race against time, with a steep learning curve in both social, professional, and academic goals. I could not be more excited, energized, and interested in this process of being exposed to such new topics while in a learning and supportive environment.

 

Shai Dinnar ’20

Co-working buzz

I knew I wanted to spend summer back home, in Slovakia, so when I got the chance to intern for an NGO I was over the moon. My official position is ‘marketing intern’ for Slovak National Office of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. So far I have been working on smaller tasks that had to be done before the end of the school year in Slovakia (last day of June). It meant a lot of mailing had to be done – certificates, posters, letters of recognition, as well as a couple of Instagram and Facebook posts about events for teachers, birthdays of the Duke of Edinburgh and so on.

Twin City – business is where my internship located
Morning view of the terrace

The National office is located in the center of Bratislava in a co-working space. It means we are surrounded by several startups, some entrepreneurs and couple remote offices of corporations. It has many perks such as meeting interesting people, having almost mandatory “pet someone’s dog” break, free coffee and different space to work at (open space desks, so-called ‘aquariums’ for one or two people, private desks, couches, terrace, kitchen bar, etc.). The downside of co-working space is the never-ending buzz. People talk and call loudly, dogs are barking, sometimes there are babies crying, the coffee machine is also not the quietest. So it took some time to find my way around it, get comfortable and find places where I can focus the most. Now I know I prefer coming to work before most of the people, around 8am, and have a head start on my tasks for the day. I schedule meetings for the afternoon as the morning time for my deep work.

1/4 of the mailing I had done
My usual view – official Instagram, my all-access card, papers with notes and ideas and my colleagues
Pheobie – the office dog

My first two weeks, apart from smaller projects, were filled with constant meetings with other team members. The National Office has 14 members and my mentor told me to schedule meeting with every single one, to get to know them and their responsibilities. It gave me the space to explore different ‘departments’ and see whether there is something else that I would like to do.  My mentors and the director of the NGO gave me the freedom to learn not just about marketing but other areas such as partnership and sponsorship. I highly appreciate this mentality, especially in such a small institution. All the departments are interconnected and in order to do one thing correctly, I have to understand all perspectives.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By-PeImHu8o/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Right now, I have some sort of routine. I started working on a long-term project, campaign for Instagram and Facebook. On Tuesday, 25th June, I have a meeting with my mentor about the strategy which I am preparing. We will discuss what we post and when, how it is going to look like, what our goals are, who our main audience is, etc. Until then, I am finishing a few smaller things from the previous week.  It is a pilot year of Ambassador program and I am in charge of any communication and marketing related to it (with the help and consultation from my mentor).

The experience so far directly relates to and contributes to the fulfillment of my goals, which are:

  1. Improving written communication, especially in Slovak language (articles, emails, PR posts)
  2. Developing my creative skills in Canva, photoshop and similar portals (by creating posters, infographics, etc.)
  3. Learning more about Social Media marketing (metrics, how to measure goals)
Coffee shop near our office where I spend my lunch break (me in the background. I found the picture on the story of the place).
Another perk of co-working: There is always food! Free food should I mention.

Throughout the first month, I plan to add goals that I would like to achieve by working with colleagues from a different department. This week I am attending the Executive Board Meeting and next week, I might be shadowing the director in a business meeting. I am excited to be exposed to new experience and meet inspiring people from business, education and the NGO sector.

 

 

Sabina Simkova ’22

Post 1: Refugees in Georgia

I work at New American Pathways, which is an organization dedicated to serving refugees settling into the metro Atlanta area, specifically in Dekalb County. New American Pathways provides more than 5,000 refugees per year with the necessary tools to rebuild their lives and achieve long-term success. I chose this particular field for an internship because of my own personal and professional experiences. I come from a family of immigrants and also intern at Brandeis University’s The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) where I work on policy and assist clients with the application process behind gaining asylum or refugee status.

At New American Pathways, I am less involved with the policy, but still hold an important position in the area of refugee and asylum work. I wanted this experience because it gives me a more diverse portfolio of skills and knowledge at nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as within the field of refugee and asylum work. I believe that refugee and asylum seekers’ safety and well-being is critical and should be prioritized in the United States, especially since our military and policies are often responsible for refugee crises.

New American Pathways helps people who have gained asylum or refugee status find affordable housing, jobs, and offers literacy training, job training, and resources for women and children in dire situations. New American Pathways offers distinct programs that all aim to help Georgia thrive while helping refugees merge into the general Georgian populace without assimilating away from their roots. There is a large emphasis on community pride at New American Pathways and the organization employs many people who are refugees and/or who come from similar backgrounds.

I largely work within the finance and administrative aspects of the organization. I am currently planning a gala and helping to find people to fund the important work the organization is doing. The gala is called the Red, White, and NEW Gala. It will take place at the Georgia Aquarium on August 17th.  This essentially entails pouring over spreadsheets, running errands, and contacting people who might donate an item or service for the silent auction, or who might sponsor a specific need for the organization directly.

My work helps fund the organization, as they need resources for many different branches to ensure they provide the best services possible to Georgia’s refugee population – including legal services, family care, therapy, and women’s outreach for their clients. Unfortunately, in a state like Georgia, refugees are a particularly vulnerable population, due to both a lack of financial security and xenophobia. 

I hope to continue my work with this organization for this summer and to develop professional connections I can maintain throughout my entire career.

Post 1- First Days and First Impressions

For my summer internship, I am working at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). AJC’s mission is to, “enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.” Since its founding in 1906, AJC has opened thirty four offices worldwide and collaborated with thirty seven international Jewish organizations. I am interning with the Africa Institute in AJC’s New York City office. With AJC’s focus on advancing human rights and advocating for the state of Israel, the Institute is necessary and relevant in today’s political climate. Main goals of the Africa Institute include creating a partnership with the African diaspora, advocating for human rights in African countries and encouraging an alliance and strong diplomatic relationship between African countries and Israel.

My internship began at AJC’s Global Forum. Global Forum was held in Washington DC where I heard from renowned diplomats, met 300 other campus leaders and lobbied at Capitol Hill. At Global Forum Lee Zeldin (R-NY) Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) launched the Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus. The goals of the caucus is to bring attention to the needs of the two communities and encourage other members of Congress to join and act as allies.

This relates well to my projects and responsibilities during my internship at AJC. I am currently researching members of Congress who have large Jewish constituencies and are active on Africa issues and vice versa. I am investigating different caucuses that deal with both communities as we decide who can help in future legislation and lobbying. Africa and Israel have a long and complicated history, which makes AJC’s work all the more important.  The United Nations is a prime example of the importance of AJC and building a relationship between African nations and Israel. Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has noted on several occasions that Israel is disproportionately demonized in the United Nations. Between 2012 and 2015, 86% of the resolutions criticizing countries have been against Israel. Today, the relationship between Israel and African nations would be vital in the United Nations. In 2018, when the UN met to discuss Hamas and the Gaza border, three African countries supported condemning Hamas and twelve African countries abstained. I hope to learn more about the history of this relationship and explore what can be done to improve it.

Given that both Israel and Africa are important components of my position, I am also learning about the origin of the argument that “Israel is an apartheid state.” Many universities have “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses, but few can define apartheid. My goal is to compile read more about apartheid and compile a report on different definitions, what occured during South Africa apartheid and how this compares to the State of Israel.

So far, my internship has been thought provoking, meaningful and busy! I am excited for the next several weeks and sharing the incredible work we are doing.

– Sarah Berkowitz

 

Post 1: Advocacy and History – Starting My Summer With NCL

This summer I have the honor of working as an intern with the historic National Consumers League, or NCL. NCL is a DC-based consumer advocacy organization with a long and impressive history reaching back to 1899. The League was chartered by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, two of the most admirable social reformers and trailblazers in American history. Additionally, Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the League, even testifying in Congress on behalf of the NCL and serving as the group’s vice president for a period of time. This is an interesting parallel to her role in the founding of Brandeis University in 1948. Justice Louis Brandeis himself had ties to the organization and its founding staffers. Working with the NCL has been a humbling glimpse into the long, interwoven timeline of social justice and reform that I have the privilege of participating in, as both a Brandeis student and this year’s Brandeis fellow with the National Consumers League.

The National Consumers League has been at the forefront of America’s ongoing struggle for worker and consumer rights, dating back to the establishment of eight-hour work days and minimum wage. The goal of NCL is to represent consumers regarding workplace and marketplace issues. The group focuses most heavily on matters of privacy, child labor, medication and food safety. While these topics are of deep importance to the health and success of all Americans, what I appreciate most about NCL is that they advocate on behalf of the unheard. I grew up in a diverse, working class city with a substantial immigrant population. Because of this, I witnessed firsthand how those who are most frequently taken advantage of also face significant barriers to speaking up. Such people often do not have the time, energy, education or opportunity necessary to fight the injustices they face everyday. The National Consumers League works tirelessly to represent all consumers, and I see their work as a vital aspect of remedying social and economic inequality.

I was drawn to NCL because it hones my passion for social justice in a tangible way. Their work creates social change through a variety of methods, both within and without the political system. During my first two weeks at the organization, I witnessed advocacy in action as staff supported the introduction of two major pieces of legislation and continued to work towards their passage. The NCL also has several long-standing programs that educate and protect consumers. One of these is LifeSmarts, a nationwide consumer education competition for high schoolers. Much of my work at NCL will be centered around creating resources for LifeSmarts, in addition to exploring ways to expand the program. I have been able to experience how NCL empowers consumers through my work on LifeSmarts. In addition to my work on LifeSmarts, I have the opportunity to do research projects on vital consumer issues and attend some of the fantastic events in DC on behalf of the organization.

As a Public Policy major interested in a broad spectrum of political and social issues, it is often difficult to pinpoint a professional outlet for my interests. NCL grants me an exciting glimpse into how I can translate my social justice foundation and Brandeis education into a meaningful career. I am excited to learn more about what advocacy, lobbying and policymaking looks like from the perspective of a non-profit while soaking up the excitement of living in Washington.

– Elaina Pevide

Post 1: A System of Injustice

Partners for Justice is a nonprofit organization that operates within the Delaware Public Defender’s Office. The organization’s mission is to prevent or limit the harm of collateral consequences of justice system involvement. We serve clients of the Public Defender’s Office, who are indigent individuals with current or past criminal justice system involvement. Partners for Justice staff serve as advocates to help clients navigate bureaucracies to improve their access to housing, public benefits, employment, medical care and other civil legal needs.

I chose this particular internship because I have always been passionate about the intersection between civil and criminal law and how the access and quality of legal representation can alter someone’s life completely. This internship serves as the perfect opportunity to learn the benefits of pairing civil and criminal legal representation and advocacy in order to best serve our clients.

In the United States, 80% of the civil legal needs of poor people are going unmet— creating what experts refer to as the justice gap. Without legal representation and advocacy, people in poverty face a greater risk of unjustly losing their homes, their children, and their public benefits. Often, the most vulnerable individuals among those in poverty are those who have been involved in the criminal legal system. With a single arrest, charge, or conviction, people who are disenfranchised face further challenges with complicated bureaucracies that can drastically alter their lives. Partners for Justice places advocates to work directly with clients and community organizers to help them obtain quality legal representation and prevent collateral injustices with the criminal legal system.

As an intern for the Public Defender’s Office and the Partners for Justice organization, I conduct client interviews to meet directly with clients facing criminal prosecution in order to obtain their case information and scan for possible civil legal issues that could arise because of their arrest. I also work directly with clients who are in prison, on probation, or facing possible incarceration to help them navigate court-ordered programs, find housing, employment, or obtain public benefits. Most of my responsibilities involve working with the advocates to meet clients in prison or in court to assist them with civil legal issues or bureaucratic challenges.

In addition to this client-centered work, I conduct research on affordable housing, employment opportunities, expungement processes, property retrieval and other services that can help our clients who are at risk of facing repeated injustices.

My work this summer helps the Partners for Justice organization better serve their clients and help them obtain the correct legal documents and qualify for life-changing services such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, or public housing. My work at the Public Defender’s Office helps assist low-income clients who are seeking legal representation for criminal cases.

Organizations like Partners for Justice are crucial in the fight for justice because they are taking smaller steps to advocate individually for underserved populations by providing direct representation. However, they are also taking bigger steps to fight for systemic changes that will help create a more just society moving forward. Partners for Justice directly advocates for criminal justice reform in the legislature, as well as increased affordable housing and other public policy issues that would benefit our clients.

Smaller change or progress comes in the form of a client obtaining a job, keeping their children, staying in their apartment or receiving necessary medical care. However, larger change comes in the way of policy changes that limit the number of arrests made in low-income communities or the ways we choose to rehabilitate instead of punish.

Kidneys at Columbia

This summer I am doing kidney transplant rejection research at the Columbia University Irving Medical center. The start to my internship has been wonderful! On my first day, I was filled with excitement and nervousness.  As I arrived at the Starbucks on the corner of Broadway and 168th in NYC, I was greeted by my supervisor and by my lab partner. Each morning and afternoon I take a brisk walk from my apartment on 186th, just 18 blocks away. Arriving at the Starbucks, that first morning, I was shown the route to the lab. My lab partner is from Finland, and as the first person that I have met from Finland, it will be great to do research together and also learn a bit about Finish culture.

Within the Columbia Irving Medical center there are many different departments, along with the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. You can see in the photo here the entrance to my building, titled the “College of Physicians and Surgeons – School of Medicine”. On some of the floors of the building the labs are specifically for medical and surgical medicine students. The floor that I am on however, is a part of the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology. Within this department, there are dozens of doctors doing both clinical work, as well as conducting research.

The doctor that I am working for specializes in

renal pathology, looking at the kidneys and the urinary system. She has patients who she often does not see face to face. As a pathologist, she will usually get the tissue samples on a slide for those patients needing medical attention. She will then look at the tissue sample under a microscope and, with a high level of expertise, she can withdraw critical information from looking at the cells and make diagnosis or predictions. The research looks specifically at kidney transplants and when they are rejected. After a person has kidney failure in both of their kidneys, they can either go on dialysis (this involves getting their blood filtered once, twice or even three times a week), or go on the transplant waiting list. 
The waiting list can take a long time. When someone finally receives a new kidney, there is a shockingly high percentage of people that reject the new kidney. In America, 21% of patients reject a kidney within 5 years of getting a transplant. A kidney transplant would be rejected when the immune system does not see the new kidney as trying to help the body, but rather as a pathogen (a foreign substance) trying to harm the body, thus causing the immune system to attack and reject the kidney transplant. In an attempt to avoid this problem, patients that have a kidney transplant are put onto anti-rejection medication (immunosuppressants) that suppress the immune system and prevent it from attacking the newly acquired kidney. I am helping do research which attempts to determine why the kidney transplant rejection is taking place in order to prevent it. To do this, we must analyze the spatial quantitative distribution of T cells (immune cells) in human kidneys that are rejected. Over the past two weeks, I have been learning the intricacies of kidney anatomy, working in the lab to do immunohistochemical slide staining, to then have had the opportunity to analyze the cellular tissue on advanced computer software. I also went to a seminar downtown near Penn Station to learn about an imaging software, to help me better use it in the lab. My goal is to learn a ton more, and to make an impact on the research in the lab. Stay tuned for next time where I will share more scientific detail about work in the lab and explanations of the kidney anatomy and cellular immune response reasons for rejection. Hope you are having a good start to the summer! 

Post 1: Envisioning Progress

This summer I am interning with Divest Ed, a program of the Better Future Project, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit aimed at addressing the climate crisis and the rapid and responsible transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Divest Ed specifically focuses on training student organizers in order to resource, vitalize, and broaden the fossil fuel divestment movement. This past year I have been a participant of the 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellowship, and will continue to deepen my work on fossil fuel divestment-related projects throughout the summer with other organizing fellows in my internship.

The 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellows at the June retreat (photo by Jordan Mudd)

My experience in the 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellowship puts me in a particularly interesting position in terms of my summer internship. Unlike most internships, when I started my first day of work, I had already met all of my coworkers and had actually already spent a large amount of time learning, creating, and making decisions together as a team. The summer internship kicked off with a fellowship retreat, in which myself and other organizing fellows from around the country met for five days to get trained and participate in discussions centering our various fossil fuel divestment campaigns. During this time we practiced consensus-based decision making, learned about principled struggle (informed by the works of Adrienne Marie Brown and Charlene Carruthers) and other important topics, and also made life-long friendships along the way. Oh, and we kayaked too!

Camp Wilmot lake (photo by Shelby Dennis)

This retreat made it easy to transition into a workplace dedicated to imagining an eight-week summer project relating to fossil fuel divestment. Myself and the other fellows decided to split our efforts into two important summer projects: national escalation and reinvestment. Each project has a team of interns that are responsible for creating and facilitating a summer project centered around each topic. I chose to participate in the reinvestment team, and will be working to research reinvestment options and creating accessible resources for student organizers who wish to incorporate it within their divestment campaigns. So far it’s only been a week into our project planning, but we are already generating a running list of ideas to learn more about: financial arguments to engage in, local Boston organizations to start learning from, and a ton of resources created from community organizers who have extensive expertise in this area. It’s both overwhelming and thrilling to think of all the information we are going to be engaging with over the next few weeks, and I for one am grateful to have a supportive team by my side to do it with.

Reinvestment team at work (photo by Jessie Kinsley)

When I first dove into activism, I held the idea that progress looks concrete: laws being passed, resolutions being made, cities being re-envisioned and demands being met. I still do hold that vision, but my time with Divest Ed has taught me to look at progress in a new way. Not only does the work we do have concrete implications, but the way we do them continually encourages myself and others to enact the future we are trying to create. The team that I am working with on reinvestment practices horizontal leadership: recognizing the different skills that we all bring to the table and implementing each one to the best of our ability. My “boss” is very much not my superior, and instead a facilitator who is helping support our vision for our project. And my favorite part of our work culture is the genuine love we hold for ourselves and the work that we do. Envisioning a new, regenerative economy is difficult and stressful work, but my coworkers and I continue to approach each other with compassion and honesty, and the vision follows.

Group hug (photo by Anais Peterson)

I’ve spent the majority of my college career imagining my school’s fossil fuel divestment campaign winning, but I’ve spent very little time imagining what comes after. Through Divest Ed, I’m learning that we must not only envision a sustainable planet, but a sustainable culture that allows for people to form non-extractive relationships with each other and the earth. I’m excited to continue fostering that culture and seeing what it can achieve in the next seven weeks.

Post 1: First week with BWH

I finally start working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a research assistant! I am particularly working under the instruction of Dr. Cindy Liu and my mentor Emily with Women’s Emotional Life and Livelihood Study (WELLS):  Psychosocial Health and Well-Being in Chinese Immigrant Women. I was really attracted to this research because there were such few studies targeting the mental status of pregnant women, especially Chinese immigrant women. I was so excited to learn that there are a group of scientists trying to support this voluntary group and I can be a part of it. SoI am here and ready to go!

The purpose of WELLS is to characterize the psychosocial experiences of Chinese immigrant women from Boston’s Chinatown and South Cove in Quincy; to test the moderating effects of social support and resilience on the association between social status and acculturation, and depressed mood and stress. to examine the associations between social status, acculturation, and maternal specific outcomes, including maternal self-efficacy and fetal attachment among women during pregnancy. We already collected data from 60 participants by interviewing them through phone and by asking them to fill out the questionnaires.

Emily said this is MY office :DDDD

For the first week, we were basically focusing on the on-boarding process of the hospital. Emily walked me through the protocol of WELLS and showed me the place to lock all the information that needs to be kept confidential. Through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) training, I got a thorough understanding of the history and the importance of the IRB (Institutional Review Board) approving process, which made me respect more about how precise psychology research can be. I attended the first lab meeting, and learned more about my coworkers and more projects we were working on in the lab. It was really fun to learn about all the interesting findings in the process.

For the second week, I started working on transcribing and translating the interviews of the participants. The work was more difficult than I thought because it required 100% accuracy from the audio, so I needed to go back to the audio again and again. It was really interesting to listen to the experiences shared by the moms who are expecting because you find yourself starting to be compassionate with them when you are doing the work. This experience made me more excited to go to the site and start the real enrollment. Before the enrollment, Emily and another RA Ge helped me go through the script of screening the participants at the site and shared their own experiences about how to address sensitive questions.

The next step for me is to be more familiar with the scripts and going to the site to enroll the participants. The first two weeks went really well and I think I like working as a research staff in a hospital setting.

Post 1: Summer at RepresentWomen

The organization I am working at this summer is a nonprofit called RepresentWomen. A branch of FairVote, this group does advocacy and research focused on systemic reforms that will help more women get elected to public office. I chose this field because I believe that for the United States to be a representative democracy, its government must reflect the experiences, demographics, and values of all of its people.

RepresentWomen is addressing the fact that women, and especially women of color, are underrepresented at all levels of U.S. government. Their strategy is to focus on rules and systems reforms, such as the implementation of ranked choice voting, gender quotas, and multi-member districts. RepresentWomen also does research, like the Gender Parity Index (GPI) and International Report, to track the progress of women’s representation and to figure out which reforms are most effective.

So far, I have taken on the tasks of updating and redesigning the “Women’s Representation by the Numbers” graphic and scaling it for different social media:

I also make other graphics occasionally, such as for the RepresentWomen Twitter page and for a summary/handout I compiled on the International Report.

I also post from the RepresentWomen Twitter account when I am in the office.

I also helped Cynthia, my boss, write and edit a chapter she will be contributing to a book. I wrote about the disadvantages women face when running for office that stem from sexism in the media and in campaign finance.

In celebration of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, RepresentWomen is helping run this year’s Seneca Falls Revisited, which will feature a number of fascinating speakers and guests. I was assigned to write blog posts about a number of these individuals and will be interviewing as many of them as possible. They will be released online leading up to the convention. I have also been helping to update some of the research, including in the International Report, a report of multi-member districts, and soon the GPI.

I will be working on creating audio content in the form of a podcast, largely by interviewing members of RepresentWomen’s board, but also others. For example, I am in the process of setting up an interview with the hosts of Pantsuit Politics. I also will hopefully have the opportunity to use my editing skills to create video content.

I think my work will help further RepresentWomen’s mission by turning their messages into content that people can understand. Everyone takes in information differently, and the more ways I can show people that these reforms to our electoral systems are crucial to the United States being a representative democracy, the more people will support RepresentWomen’s cause. Progress very broadly looks like more women in government, but before we can get there we have to see districts adopting ranked choice voting, political parties and PACs changing their recruitment and funding strategies, and the introduction of gender quotas into U.S. politics. There is a lot that needs to be done, but that also means there are a lot of possible solutions at hand.

Post 1: Bellevue Beginnings – A Tale in Humanity

As I walk the seven blocks to the hospital each morning, I pass the same faces time and time again: the Vietnam veteran sitting under an awning of subway station asking for money and prayers, the man sleeping on a box across from the hospital, and the double amputee bumming cigarettes while holding all of his belongings in a single black duffle bag. Consistency is a foreign topic when it comes to emergency medicine, and these faces have become the only thing I can expect to see on my way to work. Although this is hard to admit, my interactions with these people involve nothing more than averted eye contact and a quick side-step, followed by my own anger for this instinctive reaction. I have been conditioned by society to ignore and even fear these people. But the moment they step into the hospital, everything changes.

Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the United States, steeped in history and medicine. It was the first hospital to treat tuberculosis, open a psych ward, and in recent news, take care of an Ebola patient. With over 100,000 ER visits and 460,000 outpatient visits each year, this hospital sees all sides of New York–the good, the bad, and the ugly. But arguably one of the most impressive things about this hospital are the patients: 80% of the patients in Bellevue are from medically underserved communities, and 25% of the patients are either currently experiencing homelessness or have experienced homelessness in the past twelve months. This hospital treats everyone who walks in their door with the same quality of care from the woman sleeping in a shelter to a visiting diplomat.

Homelessness is truly an invisible epidemic, one that Bellevue works so hard to treat with every IV placed or meal provided. Patients have come to rely on this hospital for primary care, a roof to get out of the rain, or just a familiar face. Bellevue has garnered the reputation around the city as the hospital with all of the crazy people, but what people forget are the hordes of healthcare professionals, social workers, and administrators who are dedicated to providing a level of care no other hospital does. Despite this mission, the emergency department is not immune to societal stigmas and assumptions about the “frequent flyer” experiencing homelessness who comes to the ED (Emergency Department) three times a week for a hot meal. Regardless, these are the patients who I will never forget.

One of the oldest gates in front of Bellevue Hospital, dating back to 1890!

As a volunteer and patient advocate in the Emergency Department, I won’t bore you with the details of the grunt work I perform, but my main role is to speak with patients, listen to their stories, and ensure that they receive the care they deserve. What this means is that I blindly approach patients with a smile and hope that they are not in too much pain to speak with me. I have been used as a punching bag (figuratively), a shoulder to cry on, and a confidant. In fact, as I am writing this blog post, a patient whom I have seen in the ED three times over the past two weeks just walked by the window of the café I am in! But it is these interactions that have changed how I view homelessness.

First day in the hospital while getting a tour of the OR! This is by far the most comfortable outfit I ever get to wear!

Remember the Vietnam veteran outside the subway? Well, the moment that he steps into the hospital, he is no longer just a face, he is a story. He is the man I spent three hours with trying to navigate our healthcare system, find the only pharmacy in all of NYC that can fill his prescriptions, and help him obtain a metro card. He is the man who tells me about his travels when he was my age and his first love. He is the man who tells me he would rather be sleeping in a park right now than in this hospital any longer. He is the man who I know I will see again both in and out of the hospital. But in the moment, he is the man to whom I can provide a smile, a conversation, and small moment of clarity in this crazy, complex system.

The intersection between homelessness and emergency medicine is a never-ending cycle that bounces people between the street, the hospital, the shelter and back again. It is well understood that one’s health is dictated by more than just access to healthcare. Ideally, providing someone with stable housing will improve overall quality of life, decrease health costs, and break this cycle. Although this is well understood within the healthcare industry, it is much harder to carry out than providing basic healthcare. Bellevue is working alongside different hospitals and organizations to address this epidemic through housing-first initiatives, which work to find stable housing for patients alongside treating their major health concerns. Working within Bellevue has shown me the impacts of homelessness far beyond the street. I am slowly beginning to understand the system, and hopefully my small contribution to this organization will be just enough to bring joy to one person’s day.

Post 1: The Strive Towards Innovation

This summer, I am an intern at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), a social service organization that ensures the accessibility of resources and opportunities for over 60,000 Asian Americans. Its mission is to promote economic and social empowerment among Asians, immigrants, and underprivileged communities. CPC has over 30 locations and over 50 (and counting!) programs that continue to serve the community, including education to provide adults with opportunities to learn English, family support such as health services, and community empowerment programs used to help individuals plan their career paths.

As a disadvantaged Asian American, I chose this particular field of internship due to its support of Asian Americans. As an active leader in the Brandeis Asian American Student Association, I have a strong determination to improve the injustices that Asian Americans face. There are many Asian families who do not have access to government-funded programs due to the misconception that Asians are the “model minority,” and therefore do not need help. However, companies like CPC support Asian Americans with the understanding that Asians, too, need resources, and I want to be one of the collaborators in reducing the inequalities Asian Americans encounter daily and to better improve CPC’s Education and Career Services Program.

At CPC, my responsibilities are proposing fundraising initiatives and organizing events to increase its sponsorship so that this nonprofit organization has the financial means to continue executing its mission: to assist other Asian Americans in need. The additional donations will help fund CPC’s underfunded programs and contribute toward the new programs. For instance, due to CPC’s lack of inclusion of technology, I determined the need to design a program to further strengthen the education curriculum and expand CPC’s Business Exploration Student Track (BEST) to include a greater focus on technology. In addition, other projects I will take charge of include marketing CPC’s mission to other companies and developing strategies to create lasting mentors for the students.

The small changes in hiring interns and workers with different perspectives lead to greater changes to improve CPC’s assistance to other Asian Americans. As an intern, my small steps of discovering new challenges and problems that this nonprofit does not address will lead me to propose nuanced ideas on how to further develop this company. In terms of CPC, progress occurs when there is an initiative taking place to improve the current programs and develop new projects, extend the audience CPC reaches, and increase sponsorship from different companies. In general, progress occurs when there are assessments made by the company to determine where the improvements should be made and the implementation of these evaluations. Progress even begins when there is a nuanced version of completing an activity or the incorporation of a new rule. The simple act of changing the way someone accomplishes a task or goal will slowly lead to larger changes being made in the upcoming years and, hopefully, the advancement of a company.

For more information on CPC, please visit https://www.cpc-nyc.org.

Post 1: A Good Work Environment Makes a Difference

If an organization is able to live up to its core values even in the busiest of times, you know they are doing something right. United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is doing something right. I couldn’t think of a softer landing into a 9-5 office job than my last two weeks. I flew into the organization at a busy time: it is the end of the fiscal year and the team had just held a training and retreat in the weeks before Zach, a fellow intern, and I began. Despite the hubbub, the office feels like a community. People care that others take time for themselves, they check in on each other, share stories about life outside the office, and the work that we do is done in collaboration.

This atmosphere is important because United for a Fair Economy is an organization built on a long-term vision of challenging the inequitable concentration of wealth in the US, with an eye to the race, gender, and power dynamics at the core of this inequality. UFE understands that this long-term vision can only be accomplished if the people at the forefront of these issues and movements care for themselves and each other. The organization does this by training community organizers in healing and transformative justice techniques, but it also does this by integrating these practices into the ethos of the organization. For me, this was a breath of fresh air.

Zach and I after a skills and goals art project.

Healing justice is a newer addition to the work of UFE, but in September, United for a Fair Economy will be celebrating 25 years of movement-building for economic justice. They do this work through popular economic education, training of movement leaders, creative communications such as infographics and accessible publications on the racial wealth divide, a Responsible Wealth program that mobilizes the wealthy to advocate for economic mobility, and more. I am excited to spend my summer with such a driven, value-based organization that has been successful in turning that vision into tangible skills and action to move efforts forward in a broad, long-listing way.

Our to-do list and inspiration board getting updated by Sara.

I was drawn to UFE because of my studies and movement work in the area of economic justice, not only because it aligned with my personal and academic interests, but because the economic analysis and the broader picture have been missing from much of the individual campaign work that I have been involved in. The work that I will be doing this summer will largely be development work: helping to process donations, preparing for the anniversary celebration, and doing grant research, among other things. I am learning a lot about how an organization like UFE functions, which comes with valuable skills that I will take with me into other work environments. By interning at United for a Fair Economy I am able to support the work of an organization that is invaluable in a national effort for economic justice, an organization that I believe in.

Post 1: Hope Happens Here – Beginning My Journey with Vibrant

Hope Happens Here. I didn’t truly understand the meaning of this slogan until I first stepped into the Bronx Adolescent Skills Center (ASC) of Vibrant Emotional Health. Vibrant provides services to support all people who experience mental and emotional stress in every aspect of life. In addition to Vibrant’s various programs to emotionally support the community, this organization runs the largest national suicide lifeline promoted through the song “1-800-273-8255” by Logic, a famous and talented rapper.

Underneath the umbrella of Vibrant, the Adolescent Skills Center is a home base for students ages 16-21 with emotional or behavioral issues that prevent their educational or vocational success. The clinically-trained staff at the ASC provides numerous resources to support students emotionally, mentally, and academically.

In the few weeks that I have spent as an intern at the ASC so far, my entire perception of mental health has changed. I began my journey by reading through the charts of all the current students either pursuing their high school equivalency diploma or utilizing the vocational services at the ASC in order to get a job. I learned about what seem to be the infinite diagnoses of the DSM-5, as well as the emotional distress and disadvantages of so many people my age.

Within my first week at Vibrant, I shadowed an intake interview with a young girl–almost two years younger than me–who is battling PTSD from being stabbed in what she described as a “gang retaliation” incident. There is no experience more harrowing than learning about the trauma of someone that is so similar to you, and yet, so different.

Though mental health is a concept that is difficult for anyone to master, you can imagine how difficult it must be for a young student from a low-income, high-crime neighborhood to manage their emotional trauma, academics, and career paths simultaneously. On the most basic level, students in low-income areas of New York City are not provided the same educational or vocational opportunities as students in other areas. Vibrant’s ASC battles this social injustice head-on every day.

Pictured: A mural painted in the hallway leading to the ASC office

With each morning that I step into the ASC office, I am stepping outside of my comfort zone just the right amount to encourage and inspire the ASC students as a role model, a friendly face, and a support system as a peer. My personal contribution to the fight for the prosperity of our students is advising three specific students as a peer advocate. I look forward to spending my summer learning the stories of my students and understanding how I can best encourage them to continue on their paths to success.

Mental health, as I understood previously, is a complicated concept. However, since I started my journey at the ASC, I am learning that mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes and that it can completely control–and in some instances damage–a person’s entire life. In tackling the overwhelming concept of mental health, I expect to have many uncomfortable yet inspiring experiences, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

-Lauren Lindman ’22

Post 1: What is Environmental Justice?

Since coming to Brandeis, the need for environmental justice has become increasingly apparent to me not only through my studies, but through conversations with friends, and in passing thoughts. Yet, the reality remains that I do not have a solid definition for what environmental justice means, nor do I know my role in how to best support those suffering most from environmental injustices.

When I embarked on my search for summer internships, I was confident that I wanted to find an organization where I could develop my understanding of what environmental injustices look like, and how to become an ally rather than a bystander. When I came across the Sierra Club’s mission statement, I was immediately drawn to the last line in particular: “to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.”

A key aspect of the Sierra Club’s objective is to take a stance on both conservation and preservation, and on human rights. While Sierra Club continues to hold outdoor activities, emphasizing the physical and mental health benefits of getting outside, the organization is equally as eager to involve itself in campaigns regarding zero waste and green transportation.

My supervisor, Aileen Kelly, made clear that in recent years, the Sierra Club has received criticism for attending events such as the Women’s March and for participating in rallies for immigrant rights and abortion rights. “They tell us to pick a lane,” she recounts, and follows by announcing to the group that in order to be an ally for people facing environmental injustices, you have to recognize the plethora of other injustices these very same communities face. You have to educate yourself on who will be most impacted by the effects of climate change in the imminent future, and you have to create lasting relationships with people outside of your immediate circles to do so.

One thing that has struck me thus far about nonprofit work is that a lot of it is in constant flow. The Sierra Club’s Massachusetts chapter includes only five full time staff members, and therefore they rely on volunteers and interns to help out. In these past three weeks, I have been assigned an array of projects ranging from researching the amount of solar on rooftops in various communities, helping to launch a letter to the editor campaign on the topic of protected land, and event planning.

Moreover, the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club allows the interns to attend hearings at the statehouse and the staff has been extraordinarily kind in allowing each of us time to sit down and speak with people throughout the office who work on specific areas of individual interest.

I am grateful and excited to learn more about how to be an ally for those facing environmental injustices in my time to come at the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club. And, just as importantly, I will now go forth in my pursuits knowing that no good can come from staying in your lane.

Post 1: How Bellevue Project Healthcare is Breaking Down Barriers

Bellevue Hospital, famously known for its psychiatric ward and colloquially termed as the “loony-bin” by many New York city residents, has an interesting and complicated story. Commonly used in popular culture to derive eerie and gothic backdrops such as in The Godfather, Bellevue has a number of misconceptions surrounding it. Inextricably linked with New York’s history, Bellevue has been a pioneer in the medical field and has served the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. It has been home to a number of medical firsts and has trained physicians from Columbia Medical School to NYU Langone. Bellevue has impacted countless lives from immigrant families to patients who were turned away by other hospitals. Guided by its “no one be turned away” philosophy, Bellevue has been a haven to some of the most critical patients in New York. For me, Bellevue is home to Project Healthcare.

Project Healthcare provides a comprehensive look at emergency medicine to expose non-medical students to an immersive clinical setting. The program’s biggest goal is to empower students to make well-informed decisions regarding their career. Furthermore, the program aims to curate future healthcare professionals who are well versed in the social determinants of health in order to effectively treat and prevent large-scale health issues. The Bellevue Emergency Department serves a unique and underserved population in Manhattan to reduce healthcare disparities in the state. The hospital treats the highest percentage of  incarcerated, impoverished, homeless, and minority individuals each year, nearly 80% of the state’s underserved population.

Taken after a FDNY ambulance ride along with EMTs Bruno and Danny. We celebrated a busy, yet relatively easy night with quesadillas near midtown.

Project Healthcare interns adhere to a strict schedule of clinical rotations throughout various departments in the hospital. Our primary responsibilities lie in the Emergency Room where we assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers with tasks such as EKGs, listening to patients needs and concerns, and monitoring the quality of their stay in the hospital. One shift in the ER, a patient came in with his thumb partially amputated as a result of an on-site construction accident. I spent the majority of this shift speaking to him about his children, tattoos and favorite netflix TV shows to distract him from the hand surgeon suturing his thumb back together. Though the patient was in a great deal of pain, gentle reminders to breathe and the distraction of our conversation improved his experience, as well as aided the physician in his primary goal. Experiences like these have helped me further my personal goal of refining my interpersonal skills in highly stressful situations.  

Project Healthcare interns learning how to run EKGs during our Stop the Bleed! seminar.

In July, Project Healthcare interns will host a community health fair. My health fair topic is aimed at increasing awareness of Breast and Cervical cancer in order to educate the community on the importance of self-examination, early screenings and yearly physicals. My group has adopted a holistic approach to our topic and will provide resources for nutritious food and clinics that can be utilized by the unique patient population at Bellevue. The hope for the annual health fair is to empower underserved patients to make their health a priority and to bridge barriers in accessing health care services.  

Every Tuesday,  I survey a variety of Public Health topics as part of a social medicine course. The lecture series analyzes a variety of real-life situations seen in EDs all over the country to determine the sociological reasons for why they could have arisen. Weekly meetings and discussing case-studies is inherent to the healthcare field. The Social Emergency Medicine course is led by a variety of guest speakers from NYU and Bellevue faculty, staff, administrators, residents and medical students. These meetings are one of my favorite parts of this program and I strongly believe more healthcare providers should become versed in Public Health topics in order to improve the United States’ healthcare system as a whole. For example, the healthcare system has one of the largest  impacts on our environment. By simply educating providers and administrators on the impact of their practices, cognizant steps can be taken to reduce waste and emissions in order to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

Dr. Kelly Duran during her seminar: Homelessness in the ED. This figure is representative of the number of homeless people in the US on a single night in January 2018.

I frequently think about the kind of healthcare provider I want to be. Developing cultural competency is of the utmost importance to me. I want to be able to provide unbiased and accurate care to patients of all backgrounds and identities. Knowing where a patient comes from is incredibly important for addressing their health concerns and bettering their quality of life on a larger scale. Through my experiences in Bellevue’s ED, it is clear to my peers and me how health is socially constructed beyond simple biological factors.

My participation in this program has exposed me to populations that have been systematically neglected and fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system. My hope is to learn how to build bridges with this population and learn how to proactively create an inclusive and accessible environment for patients of all identities. This optimism is shared with my Project Healthcare peers, who are just a subset of the future healthcare providers. Developing cultural competency and learning how to sensitively interact with patients who come from different backgrounds early on is essential for breaking the cycle of systemically neglectful care that has been impervious to our system from the get-go.

Similar to the breaking down the misconceptions surrounding Bellevue Hospital, it is important to realize when stereotypes and misnomers are at play during patient care. Often times, there is more to the story than the first glance. Simple courtesies and an effort to get to know a patient’s personal history does wonders for their care and experience as a whole. Recognizing when unjustified biases are at play will bring the medical community closer to addressing health inequity and strengthening ties with their patients—something I encounter nearly everyday in my position at Bellevue.

 

Post 1: Pushing the Agenda Forward For Wage-Earning Women

The Women’s Bureau was Mandated by Congress in 1920!

The Women’s Bureau is a voice for working women. The Bureau was created by Congress in 1920 to promote the welfare of wage-earning women. The Women’s Bureau has been meeting its mandate by identifying, researching and analyzing the topics working women care about most; pioneering innovative policies and programs to address them; and enhancing education and outreach efforts to raise awareness on key issues affecting women in the workforce. Their two main goals are to reduce barriers that inhibit or prevent women’s access to – and retention in – better jobs, and to ensure women’s fair treatment in the workplace.

My coursework as a legal studies student has exposed me to a wide range of controversies regarding the discriminatory treatment of distinct interest and minority groups. As I dived deeper into my studies and independently read books about systematic workplace discrimination, I developed a profound interest in employment law. Soon thereafter, I realized my passions not only consist of advocating for improved conditions and equal opportunity, but also some day sharing my knowledge and advocacy skills with minority and low-income workers so they can acknowledge a situation of discrimination and subsequently self-advocate. Education and advocacy are entangled, and crucial to banish discrimination in the workplace and achieve economic stability and security. Hence, my goals coincide with the mission of the Women’s Bureau because they publish educational materials that are both concise and comprehensible to the average worker and employer.

Moreover, they empower women by aiding them with the proper tools to self-advocate in the face of discrimination or inequality. Additionally, the Bureau hosts multiple community outreach events and focus groups to understand the impact of modern cultural dynamics on issues concerning women.

I am responsible for assisting on specific project initiatives by drafting policy memorandums to underscore issues concerning women in the labor force, including maternity, childbirth, and postpartum policies and rights. I help compile research and data on current sociocultural and economic issues to support policy initiatives, refine methodology, and expand upon the outlined agenda. Additionally, I attend legislative hearings, interagency workgroups, and community events to understand regional constituent concerns and provide information on upcoming initiatives. I am also expected to collaborate with other regional offices to formulate solutions for community-specific issues.

I have recently been asked to look into issues concerning lactation spaces in the workplace by observing federal buildings, hospitals, and private businesses. By conducting this research and analysis, I am able to discern best practices in lactation spaces that should be implemented to help new moms feel supported during their breastfeeding experience. After addressing these best practices and my research with other regional office coordinators, we were able to refine the objective and ultimate goal of my project. My work will hopefully help the Bureau encourage management and other personnel to create effective and comfortable lactation spaces for nursing moms. Additionally, by devising a best practices/educational fact-sheet for supervisors, I hope that this will encourage dialogue and more training surrounding lactation rights provided under the law.

I look forward to continuing my work on this project and also helping the Bureau in some other areas of focus, such as occupational licensure reciprocity in various states. I hope the preliminary research and analysis I conduct this summer will help the Bureau continue to advocate for change and push the agenda forward long after my internship is over!

Post 1: Starting Project Healthcare

As an undergraduate struggling to decide on a path in healthcare, I wondered if I would ever get the exposure I needed to make an informed career decision. I opportunely found Bellevue Project Healthcare, a program that gives me the unique chance to gain authentic healthcare experiences at Bellevue Hospital in NYC.

Through this program, I advocate for patients by talking with them, interpreting, making calls on their behalf, and monitoring their lengths of stays. Additionally, I have responsibilities like assisting with EKGs, making up stretchers, stocking supplies, and transporting patients. Lastly, I will soon have the chance to engage with NYC communities by organizing a community health fair, and presenting a project to NYU/Bellevue faculty.

I am assigned to random shifts at the hospital that mimic the true intensity of healthcare:

My PHC Schedule

In this schedule, I have shifts in different departments within the hospital: adult emergency, social work, urgent care departments and more. Along with these clinical rotations, we also have weekly educational meetings where we learn about and discuss prevalent social and medical issues in the community.

Post-shift relaxing view near the hospital

Before starting the program, I was drawn to Bellevue’s powerful mission to “provide the highest quality of care to New York’s neediest populations and to deliver health care to every patient with dignity, cultural sensitivity and compassion, regardless of ability to pay” (https://med.nyu.edu/idevelop/resources/Mandates2012.pdf). Having worked for only two weeks, I have already come to understand the strong impact this statement has on New York communities. More than 80 percent of the patients in this hospital come from the city’s medically underserved populations, especially homeless people and prisoners. I was inspired by the fact that the health and safety of these populations always come first regardless of any other factors like being uninsured or undocumented. What truly drew me in to Bellevue Project Healthcare was that I am not only shadowing the various positions I may be interested in, but I am also gaining invaluable insight on Bellevue’s diverse and unique patient population through talking to and advocating for them.

In the few shifts I have already had, I see that even as volunteers, Project Healthcare participants have an impact. Through conversations, I have made patients much more comfortable, discovered new symptoms patients did not think were important to share with physicians, and eased tensions or misunderstandings. I learned that just acknowledgement of an issue goes a long way when it comes to advocating for patients, and that many of them just want someone to listen and validate their concerns. I feel privileged to be able to make even the slightest difference in these patients’ hospital visits by advocating for them in any way I can.

Project Healthcare participants in my orientation group

My goals in continuing this program are to begin building my healthcare career, and to develop valuable lifelong interpersonal and bedside manner skills. I hope to become well-versed in my understanding of policy as well as diversity in healthcare. Using this knowledge, I will identify areas of academic focus and tailor my curriculum to facilitate growth in my career. I believe that gaining this knowledge will reaffirm my passion for my minor of Hispanic Studies,  as I will further understand the influence of cultural barriers in health. I will further deepen my understanding of the importance of making sure patients feel understood and respected. Developing these skills is the most important goal for me this summer because I strongly believe that they are crucial in healthcare, and that empathy is a critical part of healthcare as a diagnosis.

Chapter 1: The start of a great learning experience.

With nervousness, anticipation and excitement, I finally started my summer internship at Blueport Commerce! At first, I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve never had real-world experience related to computer science and I didn’t know if what I’ve learned so far at Brandeis would be enough. However, with the warm welcome I received and the great support my manager has been giving me, the apprehension is slowly drifting away.     

A welcome card which all the employees signed before I joined!

Blueport Commerce is a leading cloud e-commerce platform for furniture, used by the largest retailers in North America. They are located in Boston, MA and are a small company with 51-200 employees. Their main mission is to help furniture retailers grow sales online and in stores as well as provide a better shopping experience for their customers. My main tasks this summer are to implement automated tests with the QA automation team and get exposure to Blueport’s agile work environment and collaborative atmosphere.

So far I have just been getting introduced to what QA is and how test automation works. I have already learned so many new things by working with git and bitbucket, realizing the importance of an agile work environment and engaging myself in the day-to-day tasks of a real company. The QA team is very important in preventing bugs and defects in the product, so I am glad I get the chance to impact the company in a helpful way.

One of my favorite things about Blueport is the people and how friendly and collaborative everyone is. When I first joined, my team took me out for pizza and everyone else also introduced themselves and made me feel welcome. Many people also bring their dogs to work which of course is such a pleasant surprise 🙂

One of my academic goals for this summer is to learn a new programming language and implement a product feature that uses this language. I will achieve this while working with the QA automation team. The engineers at Blueport commerce use C# in their projects so this will be a great opportunity to code in a language I have never worked with before.

Another goal of mine is to strengthen my professional relationships. The people I have met at Blueport have all been very friendly and positive. I am excited to get to know them more by asking about their experiences and career paths. Along with this, a few more interns are joining the company next week so it will also be nice to get the chance to work with other people with a similar path in mind.

I hope to continue to work towards these goals throughout the summer and make full use of the opportunity given to me. Stay tuned for chapter 2!

Post 1: The Start of My Summer at United For a Fair Economy

 

A view of 184 High Street (the building on the right), the location of UFE’s office

This summer, I’m interning with United for a Fair Economy (UFE). My discovery of UFE was pretty serendipitous; I was browsing the list of WOW Social Justice internships and came across the posting for this internship. Even though I have relatively little prior experience working for economic justice, as a student from a working-class background, UFE’s mission is incredibly important to me. My grandparents worked on dairy farms, in paper mills, and in shoe factories. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any organizations like UFE aiding them in the fight for fair pay, progressive taxation, and a more equitable economy. I hope that by interning at UFE I’m able to advance the cause of economic justice and help workers like my parents and grandparents.

According to their website, UFE “challenges the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide and tears communities apart.” UFE takes a multi-pronged approach to the fight for economic justice; their three main programs are Economics for Everyone, the Responsible Wealth Project (RWP), and the Inclusive Economies Network. Economics for Everyone uses popular education to equip people with tools they can use to identify and fight economic injustices. One of UFE’s most important popular education initiatives is the Training of Trainers Institute, which is held biannually and is targeted at organizers working against economic injustices. I haven’t yet gone to a Training of Trainers, but I hope to attend one at the Highlander Center in Tennessee this fall.

In addition to holding trainings, UFE also publishes infographics, reports, and books. One of their most important reports is the State of the Dream Report, an annual report that deals with a topical issue and its relationship to economic justice. The 2019 State of the Dream Report details how the US disaster response system fails economically disadvantaged people and worsens economic inequality.

The Responsible Wealth Project connects high-income earners to fight for economic justice. In the past, members of the Responsible Wealth Project have lobbied for more progressive individual income tax rates, fought for the preservation of the federal estate tax, and filed more than 100 shareholder resolutions to hold corporations accountable.

Unlike Economics for Everyone and the RWP–both of which are based in Boston–the Inclusive Economies Network is based in Durham, North Carolina, and is fighting to increase the state minimum wage to $15/hour. 

The cover of UFE’s 2019 State of the Dream Report

As a development intern at UFE, a large part of my job so far has been processing donations, entering donor information into the UFE database, and brainstorming ideas for UFE’s 25th anniversary celebration (on Friday, September 13th from 6-9 pm at Old South Church in Boston!). I’m especially grateful for the opportunities to learn more about nonprofit finances, as I’m interested in working at a nonprofit in the future. UFE is unique among nonprofits in that it receives a very large share of its money from individual donors, and not from grants.

Learning more about UFE’s finances has really underscored the importance of cultivating and maintaining donor relationships, especially for an organization that relies mainly on individual donations. My role in cultivating and maintaining donor relationships is the primary way in which I have furthered UFE’s mission so far. A donor who feels valued is far more likely to contribute to again, and a healthy, growing donor base is needed to run a successful nonprofit. 

Overall, my first week at UFE was pretty great. I’ve been really impressed with how accessible and thoughtful the UFE staff have been. Madeline (the other UFE WOW intern) and I had meetings with most of the team members during the first week, and they were all incredibly welcoming and willing to answer any questions we had about their work. They take their mission to fight economic injustice incredibly seriously, but they’re also able to have fun and not overwork themselves. If my future workplace looks like UFE, I’ll be more than satisfied. 

A Summer in Showbiz

 

        While many spend their summers outside in the sun, I have been crafting in dark alleys, balancing on scaffoldings, and sprinting through the streets of Boston. Why? ‘Cause that’s showbiz.

Eddie Shields, on right, is a Brandeis alum!

       As the Production Management intern for the Speakeasy Stage Company, there is never a moment of downtime. I have become an Olympic multitasker. Sometimes I’m in the office reading scripts, mailing checks or organizing Equity files. Other times, days are spent bouncing between the two theatres next door, each home to multiple stages that we rent, juggling props, moving set pieces, or delivering equipment. When I’m working on one assignment, my mind is already preparing for the sixth projects down the line. While this work is exhausting, I have never been more alive.

Inside the office, posters of past productions color the walls.

     My first week was spent primarily in the office space. The walls are covered with posters from past productions, adding color to our fifth floor room. (I walk those flights at least four times a day…) The staff, which consists of a core team of eight, each specializing in a different area, sat beside their own intern for a meeting among departments. We discussed agendas, upcoming events, possible issues, etc. Marketing explained how we would ‘brand ourselves’ in the lobby. Going off of that point, Development mentioned that we would need guides to lead audiences into the theatre. Stumped on who would take the organization of this on, I wearily raised my hand to suggest interns as the solution. People were impressed with this comment, especially it being my first day and that I was assisting a department other than my own. This moment, along with many others, exemplifies that ‘theatre is a team sport’ whether onstage or in an office.

Under that rug is black ‘spike’ tape to mark where it should go onstage. I colored the tape with white pencil to make it look like its from a sketchbook, fitting the ‘cartoon’ theme of the show.

     This first week, I made a cartoonist’s sketchbook. I, by no means, am a visual artist. Yet, I did not actually have to draw. The sketchbook was for the current playing production, Fun Home. The show is based on an established cartoonist’s graphic memoir. In the musical, the lead character is said cartoonist. She speaks and sings the story as she is illustrating it. However, no actress could ever pull off drawing the same cartoons as in the actual graphic memoir. Therefore, I printed images from the original memoir in extremely low ink. Then, I glued the images into a sketchbook in the order of when they are drawn in the show. I did a set of cartoons for every performance, allowing the actress to trace the images on stage every night. I made the most essential prop of the production.

Set of ‘Fun Home’

     The following two weeks were spent in the theatres for both summer productions, The View Upstairs and Fun Home. I assisted in building sets, dressing spaces with curtains, furniture and props, and cleaning the house (the audience seats). I learned so much about set construction that I feel I could be a contractor’s right hand woman. Building sets is the area I have the least experience in but in which I learned the most. I was directly involved in bringing the theatre to life for each unique story.

Set of ‘The View Upstairs’

     My goals for the summer are to develop a deeper understanding of the professional theatre world, foster relationships with theatre professionals and to grow and mature as a person. I have certainly made a dent in all three areas and am excited to continue.

 

 

 

Amy Ollove ’21

Beyond Imaginations

A week after my last day at CiRA, I finally could settle down a little to write this last WOW blog post. Knowing that I would never be able to include everything that I have experienced in writings, I decided to write down some of the most important personal growths and a few pieces of advice for future WOWers.

Personally, the summer was extremely special and precious to me. The internship turned out to be invaluable in terms of building up not only scientific knowledge but also personal connections. It was far beyond accomplishing everything that I wrote in the WOW application.

Coincidentally, however, this was an unusual summer for the local people in Japan as well. As I wrote in my last blog post, the natural disasters and record-breaking weather conditions made the summer memorable in many senses.

Two Quick Shots from the Gion Festival (Yoiyama, Atomatsuri)I Went There with Some of the Hotta Lab Members


Chance is always there for those who are prepared. I have heard this sentence countless times since I was little. However, the CiRA internship validated it for me for the first time. Looking back, I could clearly see that I would not have gained so much, especially in terms of building personal connections with local professionals, if I do not have either the proficiency in Japanese language and culture or the previous educational and laboratory experience.  Every past effort not only prepared me for this opportunity but also enabled me to fully utilize it.

In the past eight weeks, I have met so many interesting people that I would have never encountered in my daily life. I also had a lot of intriguing conversations with scientists as well as science communicators. Besides the intensive bench works, I was able to get involved in some of the scientific communication works at Kyoto University.

Past Issues Focusing on Research News at KU

Published Twice a Year by the Office of Global Communications at KU

Before the internship, I thought it would be so nice if there was a career that could combine my skills in science, journalism, communication, and languages. Meanwhile, I also found it almost impossible to find a job opportunity like that because such a combination of interests is too rare to be considered or even imagined. Nonetheless, the staff from the International Public Communication Office at CiRA and the Office of Global Communications at Kyoto University opened the door for me and showed me the possibility of having a career like what I dreamed about before.

I am extremely grateful to the Hotta Lab members as well as all the people I have met at and outside of CiRA in the past two months. It is hard to say goodbye to everything and everyone here, but there is always a finale for every story regardless of how beautiful it was. To be honest, I have no idea when and how this summer will impact my future at the moment, but I believe that the experience is and will be life-changing.

Sunset View from the Rooftop of a Ryokan (Japanese Hotel) by Kamo River                                                                                       Taken Before My Farewell Party


After six-year of dreaming and struggling, the actual experience I had in the past two months was, however, still far beyond all expectations and imaginations. Although over 100 pages of lab notes and over 600 raw data files that I have accumulated during the internship period might be able to illustrate something, nothing would possibly represent the experience as a whole. These are the memories and growth that could become part of the foundation of my life and provide me with the enormous courage to further pursue my dream.

So, catch the opportunity and go for a real-life challenge!