My dream come true: A summer at Columbia University’s UEIL Lab

 

Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging Laboratory (UEIL) is part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University and it is also one of the biggest labs in its field of ultrasound. https://ueil.bme.columbia.edu/ It has approximately 30 people from different educational levels in its employ. The UEIL works on developing novel, ultrasound-based techniques for both imaging and therapeutic applications. The main areas of focus at the time include drug delivery to the brain by opening the blood-brain barrier (BBB) using focused ultrasound, mapping the mechanical and electromechanical properties of the heart, harmonic motion imaging, pulse wave imaging, and neuromodulation.

During this internship, I will start by processing images of the skull microstructure. Figure 1 is a binary image of the skull microstructure that I created. This internship requires me to become proficient in Matlab, read research papers in order to understand preexisting information and form questions that are relevant to the goal of this research. The goal of my project is to extract valuable information for the skull microstructure such as its porosity, the number of pores and their size, and its density.

Figure 1: Binary image

When we are dealing with Focused Ultrasound in the brain either for imaging or therapeutic purposes, the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is the skull. The reason is that it makes it difficult to pass the ultrasonic wave through. Studying the skull microstructure will enable us to see how it impacts the wave propagation. This information helps the focused ultrasound work more precisely, something crucial in terms of BBB opening or ultrasound therapy in the brain.

This internship will help me to achieve the goals I have set for myself. In the world of science, programming is the most essential tool to conduct research. An important goal for me is to learn how to analyze data in Matlab. In order to do that, I will have to also learn the different methods of collecting data and the use of appropriate controls. Another reason I decided to do an internship in a research lab is that I believe it will help me decide if I want to pursue this career. Two months might be a short time period, but it will certainly get me a bit closer in setting my future goals even through this online interaction. 

Lastly, working on a team has always been a way for me to be more productive and to gain inspiration. However, this internship will require me to work independently, solve challenging questions, while also coming up with new questions to solve. Through weekly progress meetings, the other interns and I will have the opportunity to learn details about each other’s projects, gain a better understanding of the bigger picture, and have all the support we need. Overall, this internship will help me achieve my main goal which is allowing myself to struggle and find ways to overcome those challenges on my own.

 

 

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

This summer I am working for the organization BarnArts Center for the Arts. BarnArts is a nonprofit arts organization located in Barnard, Vermont. Its mission is to bring the arts to rural Vermont. Under normal circumstances, its programming includes a summer Thursday Night Music Series, indoor and outdoor plays, a Summer Youth Theater Camp, and a 5k race-fundraiser around Barnard lake.

The Thursday Night Music Series takes place at a local farm. It features musicians from Vermont as well as out of state, hosting a number of different types of genres including world music. This year the music series has been able to operate at low capacity, featuring only instate bands.
The Summer Youth Theater Camp and race-fundraiser have also been able to function in modified ways. This year the race-fundraiser, Race Around the Lake, occurred at a social distance. Every racer ran by themselves within a week’s time frame, recording their own finishes.

As their intern working remotely my main role has been to promote events, as well as, communicate the changes to the structure of the programming during the summer. In my first week, I created an Instagram account for the organization. I also helped make a survey for BranArts patrons, inquiring about their thoughts on attending programming during the COVID-19 outbreak and what precautions they wanted to see in place. BarnArts added the survey to the first Instagram post and website. My other posts on Instagram have been about upcoming events including the Summer Youth Theater Camp and Race Around the Lake. Because Race Around the Lake was socially distant, Instagram promoted the event. I even created a photo contest centered around the race. The results of the contest will be up next week!!
Aside from being the guru of social media, I have also been responsible for promoting the organization in other ways. One of my main responsibilities has been editing and creating promotional videos for various art grants. This requires splicing together footage from previous music performances. Next week, we are releasing one video, I created, on the BarnArts Instagram which features musicians from last year’s Thursday Night Music series in order to promote this year’s series. Stay tuned! The main impact my digital media work will have is to build the organization’s outreach.
The third project I am working on presently is planning a Social Justice Event. After the events in April BarnArts has wanted to get more involved in the BLM movement and promote musicians of color. As an intern, my responsibilities have included finding and contacting musicians, poets, and speakers for the event. My supervisor is also working separately on a lullaby project with the organization GlobaLocal. This project goal is to bring together immigrant Vermont musicians with nonimmigrant Vermont musicians to create multilingual lullabies. I am responsible for helping find and contact performers who would be interested in the project. My main impact of the two projects will be to create more opportunities for diverse artists in Vermont to share their art.

My academic goal for the summer is I want to familiarize myself more with the Vermont music scene, who the famous artists are, and who is up and coming. By organizing and running the 18-week community series I will get exposure to many different groups. As a result, by the end of the summer, I will have a greater understanding of the Vermont music scene.

My career goal is I want to improve upon my fundraising and grant writing skills. One of my jobs as an intern will be fundraising as well as researching and writing grants. As a result of the feedback, I will receive from Chloe on my grant and fundraising work, my fundraising and grant writing skills will improve over the course of the summer. My personal goal is I want to connect and form friendships with multiple types of people. During their summer music series, BarnArts hosts up to 600 people. They also have various employees that run their farm stand and organic kitchen. While it is unknown if we will be able to meet in large groups during the summer, I hope these concerts will give me the chance to meet people and form friendships especially with those that work at the farm. Some of these goals will need to be modified as the internship is now virtual because of COVID-19.

I have learned a lot so far about the art world in rural Vermont and look forward to continuing my work with BarnArts over the summer!

Post 1 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

This past fall semester, I took an Intro to Artificial Intelligence course which ignited my interest in AI and machine learning. One particular notion that fascinated me was the idea of how machine learning is an “enabling technology.” Just as the invention of programmable computers replaced the need to make a new circuit – drastically decreasing software development time – machine learning has this same potential to help software engineers do their jobs more efficiently. It was an exciting class, and after it ended I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet in the real-world.
This summer, my internship will give me the opportunity to apply many of the machine learning techniques that I have studied this past year. I’m interning for Image Insight Inc., a company whose mission is to provide low-cost radiation detection to the general public. Radiation is prevalent in many aspects of our lives at various levels, and high levels of radiation are dangerous and hazardous. The technology we’re developing can aid users at a multitude of levels, including the military, first responders, and people who receive radioactive treatments.
While many advancements have been made, there are still some problems that need refining in order for this technology to be utilized at its highest potential. For example, different cameras detect varying levels of radiation, and consistently standardizing what a normal level of background radiation looks like is difficult even between identical cameras.
This summer, I will use a machine learning approach to solve this problem as well as several issues from the nature of radioactive randomness. Solving these problems will allow for smoother transitions from device to device. In 2015, there were reportedly over 24,000 different types of
android phones on the market so it’s not realistic to individually tailor a solution for every single kind of phone on the market. Instead, new approaches and fresh techniques may be just what we need to broaden the scope of this technology to make it more accessible in the market.
This summer, I’m excited to have my first professional experience in a software development and machine learning setting. I hope to make a valuable contribution based on what I’ve learned in class, and see how it applies to Image Insight’s needs. I’m also looking forward to learning how to navigate a professional environment, even if I have to do it over conference call. Originally, the internship was planned to be onsite, and due to COVID-19 I will be working remotely. Luckily, I’ve already met the rest of my team and have begun working with them. I look forward to learning a lot and am very excited about what the rest of the summer has to offer.

Week 1 at The Quad Manhattan

About The Quad

This summer, I am working as a Psychosocial Intern at The Quad Manhattan, a summer camp based in New York City (now online). The Quad was founded as a learning space for twice exceptional (2e) children, a term that Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman defines in his book Twice Exceptional

Twice exceptional individuals demonstrate exceptional levels of capacity, competence, commitment, or creativity in one or more domains coupled with one or more learning difficulties. This combination of exceptionalities results in a unique set of circumstances. Their exceptional potentialities may dominate, hiding their disability; their disability may dominate, hiding their exceptional potentialities; each may mask the other so that neither is recognized or addressed. (7)

The Quad’s mission is to provide a space where gifted children with learning disabilities can gain the skills they need while still being challenged in a range of creative activities. Many of the learning deficits found in our campers are related to language and academic development, as well as social skills. Therefore, we tailor our support and approach to each child’s unique set of strengths difficulties.

My Responsibilities

An image of my core age group via The Quad Manhattan.

As an intern, my job is to support campers during times of confusion and encourage them when they are inspired. This summer, I will be working with a team of educators, fellow interns, and psychologists to create learning plans for a core group of campers. My group is Core 1, which is for children aged 6-8.

I am currently in a two-week training period to grasp strategies for learning and behavioral interventions and techniques derived from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Although I will not be providing therapy, I will look for signs that indicate children need help during camp activities to make sure their needs are met and to avoid distress.

I have been assigned two campers within my core group with whom I will work more closely to develop a rapport and solutions to problems that arise. Throughout the summer, I will keep records of these campers’ progress in a case study, which I will complete with the help of my supervisors.

The Quad in a virtual setting

Due to the COVID-19, things will look a bit different this summer with our new online format and the added stresses of a pandemic. In training, we have been discussing the potential impact and foresee that while our campers may face fewer social challenges, they may also face a new set of complications arising from technology (i.e. glitching, leaving the Zoom call, playing video games off-screen). There may also be children whose family members have been infected with COVID-19 or impacted by the systemic racism that remains pervasive in our country, whether it be at the hands of the police, the healthcare system, or both.

While we cannot singlehandedly solve these larger societal problems, we will provide support and outlets for our campers so that they can process and decompress in a safe environment. The Quad’s long-term goal is to give the children the tools they need to thrive in a general education setting and in life beyond schooling.

Summer goals & excitement

My personal goals for the summer are to learn and implement new skills of my own, such as the various intervention techniques I am studying; learning how to map a child’s progress and structure a case study; making connections with other students and professionals in my field; getting a taste for the worlds of social work and school psychology; and finally, learning how to properly support kids who are struggling and finding solutions to support their unique needs.

After days of reading about my campers, I can’t wait to meet them when camp begins and to get to know them throughout the summer!

Post 1: My first month with the National Consumers League

Since early June, I have been working with the Health Policy department at the National Consumers League. NCL aims to “protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad” through a variety of programs and branches. I work with the department on a variety of issues, especially related right now to COVID-19. We’ve been working on several different projects surrounding vaccine hesitancy and opioid usage during the pandemic, among others. I chose to work with this particular section of NCL because I believe that right now, health and health care should be a priority of every American and every American government official. The current pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s become obvious that the people most impacted by the coronavirus are Black and BIPOC communities. The COVID-19 issue is a racial issue, a health issue, an economic issue, and ultimately a social justice issue. It appears that health and health care have not been made a priority by the U.S. government, so it’s important to have groups like NCL that are looking out for consumers and their best interests at this time. 

I’ve been working with NCL for almost a month now. In this time, I’ve written a blog on vaccine hesitancy and the unique challenge of COVID-19, done research on health-related issues that NCL is working on, and have assisted in multiple Zoom webinars either hosted by NCL or including remarks by NCL’s executive director, Sally Greenberg. I also helped in the steering committee that determined the winners of NCL’s “Script your future” challenge, who will be announced in the next couple of weeks!

Through this work, I’ve come to learn the way that the National Consumer’s League addresses the issues that they prioritize. For example, when it comes to vaccine hesitancy, NCL submits comments to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, who will then submit their official comments to the CDC. This will inform both organizations what NCL thinks about the impending coronavirus vaccine, and how they should approach immunization. NCL’s opinions are important since they directly voice the concerns and prioritizes of consumers around the nation. 

Over the course of the next month, I’d like to take on as much work as possible to help NCL further their goals. Since the government directly controls the “victories” in this particular area (health and health care), celebrations can be few and far between. I would like to help my department be as best informed about these issues as possible. My next area of research will be on state reopenings and their subsequent spikes in cases. We’ll be tracking three states in particular, and looking at how their case spikes are leading to more shutdowns. To me, these small steps mean ensuring that NCL has all of the tools necessary to ensure that the American public is well informed about the virus and all of its implications. I think the biggest “victory” would be to see another aid package pushed through the government, and a safe and effective vaccine developed. These are obviously huge goals that would be huge accomplishments, but I believe that with bipartisan support and prioritization of the health of the American people, they would eventually be possible.  

(This is not a health-related image, but here’s just one of the many “offices” I’ve adapted since starting my internship! While I wish I could be working in person, it’s been nice to be remote and be able to work anywhere. I’m lucky that my house and neighborhood have some great outdoor spaces to be in).

Post 1: Interning for The Right to Immigration Institute

Hello. My name is Wenjing Wynne Qin and I’m a rising senior at Brandeis University. This summer, I am interning for The Right to Immigration Institute in Waltham. The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) is an independent 501(c)(3) organization that trains and supervises students and community leaders to represent immigrants in immigration proceedings, trials, and appeals, and immigrant communities in human rights causes, including but not limited to housing, employment, health care, education, hate crimes, and domestic violence.

I was originally fascinated by the ambition of TRII to provide a platform for undergraduates to participate in the legal system. After learning from students who work for TRII, I made my decision to apply for this internship because of my personal connection to its mission and my confidence that I could maximize my utility as an intern. This has been a tremendously difficult time, especially for the immigrant community, who will likely be disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, any kind of help I can give to alleviate the burdens they are suffering from would be my primary goal for this internship.

During the pandemic, with all the courts delaying opening, many of the cases the institute was working on were frozen. Therefore, I have not been doing what I expected to do originally, including getting first-hand experience observing immigration lawyers dealing with immigration cases. Instead, I have been helping more with the general operation of the institute in relation to fundraising and administration.

The specific work I have been doing so far mainly involves research, including how minority–i.e., immigrants–communities have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, and on the recent lawmaking change proposals of regulations regarding asylum. For the purpose of my research, I have attended several virtual trainings hosted by Hollaback. I tried to identify how Asian-Americans are being affected by hate crimes stimulated and further perpetuated by the pandemic, and what those discriminations look like. This research will be used by the institute to better understand how racial minorities have been affected by the pandemic. 

Slides from anti-harassment training

I have also been assigned the task of conducting research on the recent rule-making change proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. And, I have been doing research on future asylum seekers who would be negatively affected by the rule change, in order to help the Institute prepare its response. My research results will be used to form critical comments on the rule change and be reported back to the Department of Homeland Security.

 

Training slide from Defending Asylums in Court training

Because of the pandemic, everything has been out of the schedule, and there have been some communication problems here and there between me and my supervisors, I am trying my best to keep the schedule going forward. And, hopefully, I can be more involved in client-specific cases in the near future. There have been recent cases the institute is handling in regard to immigrants’ housing problems, and I plan to get involved in cases like this when any new case comes in.

Post 1: Political Activism with the Sierra Club – My First Weeks as an Intern

For the past several years, I’ve known that I wanted to work as a professional environmentalist. More than anything, I love being outdoors and find significant value in spending time in natural spaces. The idea that human behavior is driving climate change, and permanently altering the face of our planet – destroying ecosystems, exterminating wildlife, depleting natural resources, and making our communities unlivable – is deeply disturbing to me. However, I quickly discovered that protecting the environment for the sake of nature alone is impossible, and often problematic. Social issues including economic and racial injustices, access to healthcare and housing, and political participation are intimately connected to the environmental challenges our world is facing. Marginalized and oppressed populations are systematically exposed to greater environmental harm, have less access to environmental benefits, and as the effects of climate change worsen, they disproportionately bear the burden of our degraded world. Combating these injustices requires wide-scale political change, and the passage of progressive policies that simultaneously protect the environment and human rights.

Sierra Club is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the country, with nearly 100,000 members and volunteers in Massachusetts alone. They create environmental educational opportunities, promote access to nature by running outdoors trips for their members, and engage in political activism for issues relating to environmental justice. Most importantly, their mission is to “protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment,” centering human rights and social justice in their activism.

This summer, I’m working for the political arm of the Sierra Club, at their Massachusetts chapter, based in Boston. Their team and its members engage in political advocacy through several mechanisms, including organizing rallies, lobbying in the State House, phone banking and canvassing, and endorsing local politicians who reflect their values. As a political intern, I was assigned to work on the Erika Uyterhoeven campaign, a Sierra Club-endorsed candidate who is running for State Representative in the 27th Middlesex District, representing Somerville.

Erika Uyterhoeven’s endorsements, including Sierra Club. (This is a graphic I designed for a fundraising campaign).

Erika is a young, first-time candidate for elected office who is running on a progressive platform of structural reform, fighting for affordable housing, single-payer healthcare, fully-funded public education, a transparent democracy, and–most directly relevant to the Sierra Club–a Green New Deal for Massachusetts. She believes in a government that works for the many, not the few–referring to the powerful corporate interests that control our political systems and create social and economic injustices that leave marginalized and low-income populations behind. She is a grassroots activist for environmental causes, and her values and legislative aspirations closely reflect those of the Sierra Club. Therefore, as an emissary for the Sierra Club on her campaign, my role is to provide her with additional resources to help her win, ensuring that a progressive, environmentally-conscious candidate is elected.

My remote summer workspace

Due to the fact that State Representative races are typically small-scale and low-budget, Erika’s campaign staff is limited, and she relies heavily on volunteers and political organizations to assist with the leg-work of campaigning. This means that I am fortunate enough to play a fairly large role in the day-to-day work of the campaign. My tasks have included curating her social media strategy, organizing fundraisers and volunteer recruitment, engaging in phone banking (the primary form of voter contact, due to the constraints of COVID), drafting policy platforms, creating content for the campaign’s website, applying for additional endorsements, and participating in daily organizing calls with the campaign staff. The diversity of work I have been assigned, in several different policy areas, has already given me a well-rounded understanding of the dynamic challenges faced by a candidate for public office.

I have been given an opportunity to have hands-on exposure to environmental and political advocacy, and I have been made to feel as though my work will have a tangible impact on electing a candidate whose platform I truly believe in. Although the fast pace of politics has definitely involved a steep learning curve, I am grateful for the experiences this campaign has offered me, and I am learning that the seemingly minor tasks I am doing day-to-day are substantive contributions towards creating policy change.

Post 1: Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont’s Office

This summer I am working in the Office of Governor Ned Lamont in Constituent Services and External Affairs.

I started my internship about 2-3 weeks ago. Since we are not allowed in the building the experience is a little less than what I was expecting to get. Normally, we would have physical letters to go through, and proclamations to create, however, there is nowhere for anyone to mail in to and no machines to print proclamations. Therefore, we just sort emails all day.

A lot of people have many concerns during this time, ranging from COVID to police brutality. So far I’ve learned to respond to several types of emails on my own, one of them being people who have yet to receive their unemployment checks. I get about 100 emails to go through a week and if there are any I feel like I can’t respond to, my supervisor and I go over them together and he gives me further instructions. I’m actually getting to a point where he wants me to start drafting responses for myself and having him look over it. I just have to get used to the language used by the office and learn a lot more solutions.

One example of that is creating a “case”. This is when a constituent has emailed us with a problem significant enough for a course of action. I then would have to go online and create this case where I’m sending the email directly to a person who can solve this constituent’s problem. That said, our mission is to get through as many emails as possible so that we can help people with their problems in these rough times. Here is a website we send constituents for updates.

My goal by the end of this summer program is to familiarize myself with the different components of local government. When I went for my training back in December, the people in the office taught me so much about the local government it was crazy. I had no idea how oblivious I was to what my local government does due to the fact that everyone always has an eye on federal politics. However, I believe that if people want the machine that is the government to start working in their favor, they must master local politics. When I say master I mean become educated about its components and then utilizing them: emailing the governor, going to open sessions, protesting in the lobby, etc.

I chose to look for an internship in my city because, hopefully, when I become a lawyer, I want to work back home where I can help my people. This internship will not only get my foot in the door but it will give me a lot of the knowledge I need to eventually be able to make a change in my community. My supervisor is also pretty nice, he gives me a lot of room to ask questions and he works with me a lot to make sure I’m situated.

Post 1: My Internship at Wilson, Brock & Irby, Law LLC

Hello! My name is Roland Blanding, and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University. On campus, I am the president of the Men of Color Alliance, and the issues facing communities of color are of tremendous importance to me. One of my goals is to find a way to reverse the displacement of gentrification and find innovative ways of building mixed-income residential neighborhoods. I want to break the generational pattern of poverty by giving diverse communities access to home equity. Given that mission, I pursued and began my internship at Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC in my hometown of Atlanta under Larry Dingle, one of the most prominent black lawyers in Georgia.

Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC is a small law firm specializing in commercial real estate. They are based in Atlanta, but operate through the entirety of the state of Georgia. Their work ranges from massive infrastructure and commercial development contracts with the city of Atlanta to volunteer representation for small business owners and homeowners that would not usually be able to afford their fees. One of the reasons that the firm initially stuck out to me was their commitment to help service organizations find venues. For example, Mr. Dingle represented the Community Food Bank in their suit to open a new facility a few miles away from my home. Much of the work consists of understanding the intersections of government and businesses. This means conferencing with commercial clients, meeting with city officials, and drafting contracts that allow both parties to benefit. The goal of these conferences is often to rezone property, for example, from residential to commercial to allow the construction of a multifamily unit within the inner city. Conversely, for some especially unique tasks, like building a cell tower in the middle of the town—which would typically violate several building height limits—the firm requests to open a lease with the city, because municipal governments are immune from their own zoning rules. Every case is fresh and brings a new set of challenges.

This summer, my goals are to prepare for the LSAT and familiarize myself with case law, especially in the state of Georgia. Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC gives me unique access to their library of cases at the district, state, and federal level that revolve around contracts, real estate, zoning, and land use. My day to day consists of video conferencing with the partners at the firm to review case law and the cases they are actively working on. I also manage the delivery of documents to and from the offices of officials in city hall and participate in conference calls with clients. Working at a law firm during coronavirus has been unique compared to last year because a lot of the work that lawyers do is in person, face-to-face. As a result, almost all the operations in the firm are being carried out through video conferences, to maintain the health and safety of the firm as well as their clients.

Post 1: Interning at the CARE Lab

My internship at the Cognition and Affect Research and Education (CARE) lab actually began in January, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue what started off as a spring position into the summer. The lab operates within the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program (BHP), which is an intensive day program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA for those seeking treatment for various mental health issues, including mood, anxiety, thought, and personality disorders. It uses a behavioral therapy approach that provides comprehensive, skills-based treatment aimed at reducing a patient’s symptoms, improving their functioning, and transitioning to outpatient treatment, with the average length of treatment being three to ten business days.

The BHP

Besides the program itself, the BHP conducts extensive research (of which the CARE Lab is a large part) to improve the understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders. It uses an integrative approach where research informs clinical practice, and clinical practice informs research. The program’s research focus includes predicting who will respond best to treatment, understanding why the treatment works, and developing new and innovative interventions based on that information. Patient data is collected through daily computerized self-report measures and a diagnostic interview, and this information is used to inform individualized case conceptualization and treatment planning, as well as assess treatment outcome, symptom severity, and more. The CARE Lab, which is more specifically where my internship is taking place, conducts research to identify cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying emotional disorders, translate those findings into new treatments, and implement those treatments in real-world clinical settings.

One of the projects I’m most involved with this summer is a cognitive control training (CCT) study for urgency. Urgency is the tendency to respond impulsively to strong emotions, and it’s closely tied to cognitive control, or the ability to resist impulses and make decisions based on one’s goals. The main aim of the study is to investigate whether a CCT intervention, involving brief computer tasks to improve memory and self-control, is feasible in a clinical setting and accepted by patients, as well as whether it improves cognitive control and impulsivity. While I was in-person during the spring semester, I was running participants through the study sessions, but over the summer I have already started to help with some preliminary analyses and aggregation of data in R and SPSS, which helps move the study toward the full analysis stage.

Another thing I’ll be working on this summer is my own independent project. It will likely evolve over time, but as of now, it will be looking at the relationships between distress tolerance, current emotional state, and cognitive performance. I’ll use data collected from the CCT study (both self-report and task data) to investigate whether distress tolerance and current emotional state independently or jointly relate to one’s performance on cognitive tasks involving working memory, response inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Currently I am just at the beginning stages of it, doing reviews of the literature to see what’s already been studied, but as the summer progresses, I’ll progress in this project too.

In terms of my goals for the summer, I have two main ones. First, I plan to get a PhD in clinical psychology and eventually become a clinical neuropsychologist, so I hope to gain career related skills and experience, especially first-hand through my own research project. Second, I want to hone my collaboration skills and work with, and learn from, experts in the field I plan to pursue. I have one-on-one meetings with my supervisor and will also attend lab meetings, so that, combined with the actual content of my internship, will give me plenty of opportunities to achieve both of these goals.

– Jenna Sandler

Post 1: Building an “Everyone a Changemaker World” with Ashoka

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” This quote from Martin Luther King has inspired me so many times throughout my life and is the reason why I chose to participate in the field of social justice.

This summer, I am interning with a nonprofit organization called Ashoka. Compare to other organizations, Ashoka has a rather unique mission and theory of change, that is, to build an “everyone a changemaker world,” and all of their programs and work revolve around this. Through establishing programs in more than ninety countries, Ashoka tries to accomplish its mission from three main approaches:

  1. Finding and supporting social entrepreneurs around the world by providing financial help, connections and consulting; Ashoka enables these entrepreneurs to make changes and address social issues such as unequal education and women’s rights.
  2. Partnering with major corporations, helping to evolve their organization model, culture and governance through various workshops, assessments and training. The goal of this is to make companies a powerful source of social change.
  3. Assisting the next generation to have critical skills regarding initiating social changes and social innovations through various programs such as Ashoka University and Ashoka Youth Venture.

I was drawn to Ashoka almost immediately when I saw it during my job search. To build an “everyone’s a changemaker world,” a world where all citizens are powerful contributors to positive changes, is something I’ve always envisioned but didn’t know how to realize. I chose to intern with Ashoka because I was impressed by the diversity of their programs and the scope of their impact. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations focusing on addressing one specific issue, and I definitely do recognize and appreciate the significance of them, but I’ve never seen any organization like Ashoka. Many may think Ashoka is being too ambitious, but in my perspective, great ambition is the first step toward great change.

Ashoka’s internship programs are very well-developed. Firstly, the interns working under the same branch or department of the organization will be put into a team, and they will be assigned a supervisor. You may think that since there’s a team, the team must be working on one project together, but that’s not the case in Ashoka, and that’s what I love about the organization. Even though the team meets several times weekly to share progress, everyone in the team actually got assigned their individual projects.

The project I’m working on in Ashoka is called knowledge management, that is, to develop a space for my department on Confluence, the internal platform Ashoka is using. The process of developing the space involves designing a structure for the layout of materials, organizing all the existing internal decks, and building out individual pages. Since Ashoka is a global organization with offices around the world, internal communication between different offices becomes especially important. With that being said, the purpose of the space I’m building is to provide a knowledge base where all materials are organized and shared logically, and the staffs can utilize the space to work more efficiently and effectively together. Even though my project is not associated with any of Asoka’s external facing programs, I do think there’s a significance to working on internal development, as it’s the backbone of every well-functioning organization.

Though due to the Covid-19 crisis, my internship in Ashoka was entirely remote, I have learned so many important skills and gained so many inspirations in the past four weeks. I believe the knowledge and lessons acquired here are broadly applicable to every aspect of my life and will benefit me enormously in the future.

Post 1: Helping Veterans Find Jobs Regardless of COVID

Recalling the moment when I submitted my resume at a virtual career fair, I realize that more than three months have passed. After I secured my internship opportunity, I tried to envision my tasks in the future, but the fact is that since the start of this internship, my experience has been truly unexpected and interesting.

The organization I am working for is Brave For Veterans Inc. It is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to contribute to veterans’ well-being by helping them secure self-sustaining employment. Brave closely collaborates with the state government, research institutions and other organizations to identify and provide career resources and services. Brave is also planning to launch business projects that gather funding to better support its own sustainability and fulfillment of its mission.

When I applied for this position at Brave, I was unsure about whether I could be offered the chance to work. However, I was pretty sure about why I wanted to give it a try. I have always wanted to apply what I learn to making an impact on society. Not only are veterans honorable individuals who I would like to support, but I can also relate the work at Brave to my major, which is economics. Researching the employment market can be meaningful and educational to me. In fact, as the virus continues to cause job losses across the country, finding employment has become a growing challenge for many, and it can be especially hard for veterans. Therefore, I hope what I am doing now with my colleagues at Brave can be helpful in this special time.

Screenshot from the current website

Currently, Brave is taking actions and trying to restructure its strategies according to the situations that are continuing to change due to the virus. We are looking at various data and statistics to predict the future and prepare for it. One thing we see is that as the economy starts to reopen, there will likely be an increasing demand of labor from the employers, but the competition in the labor market can be fierce. Many branches of Brave are working to further our mission in different areas of focus, including legislation, research, and communications etc.

My main task is to connect with potential employers that may be interested in hiring veterans, learn about their needs, and identify mutual benefits, while marketing the employment services that Brave provides. Through my work, I hope to help Brave form long-term strategic affiliations with employers.  My other task at the moment is, as Brave plans to rebuild its current website as a major platform for resources and promotional materials, I will help select information that will be posted on the website to maximize the marketing effect, which includes information about employers and strategic partners. We hope that this can assist in Brave’s core mission of helping veterans secure jobs.

Post 1: My Internship at United for a Fair Economy

This summer, I am interning at United for a Fair Economy. United for a Fair Economy is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that supports social movements working towards a resilient, sustainable, and equitable economy. United for a Fair Economy addresses the social issues of economic inequality and the uneven wealth distribution that deepens the racial divide, tears communities apart, and corrupts democracy. The organization uses popular economics education, trainings, and creative communications to address these issues. United for a Fair Economy works closely with communities and specifically uses three programs to help support their mission: Economics for Everyone workshops, the Responsible Wealth Project, and the Inclusive Economy Project. Economics for Everyone workshops use the popular education methodology to engage movement leaders to democratically and collectively develop political analysis. The Responsible Wealth project engages business leaders, investors and people who fall within the top five percent of income/wealth in the U.S. to advocate for tax fairness policies. The Inclusive Economy project uses the Living Wage Network to connect and uplift employers who pay a living wage, and Raising Wages NC–a coalition of working people, unions, community organizations, faith leaders, and policy advocates–to help advocate for raising the minimum wage to a living wage for vulnerable communities. 

I choose to work at United for a Fair Economy because I agree with the mission and understand the importance of economic inequality and its detrimental relationship towards upward mobility. Having experienced how economic injustice and unfair policies negatively impact lives,  I am passionate about economic justice and would like to continue to work towards social justice in the nonprofit sector. I value education, community building, and political advocacy as important pathways too. I found UFE to be a model nonprofit organization that holds the same values that I do. I admire the organization’s work and how they put great emphasis on working with communities. I believe that through an internship with United for a Fair Economy, I can learn more about the development and planning it takes to work towards economic justice. 

Jeannette Huezo, the Executive Director & Popular Educator, and I during our meeting!

This summer, I am the development intern working closely with the fundraising and operations associate, Morgan Cowie-Haskell, and the resource mobilization director, Sara Sargent. I am primarily tasked with managing the database and tracking donations, making thank-you calls to donors, writing blog posts, and assisting with website updates. My work this summer will help further the organization’s mission because, as a nonprofit organization, donations and visibility are extremely important to operations. As I help increase visibility for UFE and help with database and donations, I help UFE better organize their operations and fundings. 

I enjoy working alongside all the team members and learning more about the workplace environment. I am excited to continue working with United for a Fair Economy this summer!

 

The team and I during our bi-weekly staff meeting!

Thank you Brandeis University’s World of Work fellowship for allowing me to do this work!

-Jermeelah

Post 1: Interning at Speech Pathology Private Practice

I am interning for My Speech Matters, a speech therapy private practice for adults and children. I have aspirations to become a speech pathologist and would like to get insight into the working of a private practice and how they cater to NYC students. However, those who might have access to these things are still slighted. According to “NYC’s Special Education Crisis” written by Kevin Mahnken for The 74 Million, 50,000 NYC students were denied “students were denied special education services to which they were legally entitled in the 2016–17 school year.” Mahnken goes on to note that this is ¼ of city children who ultimately did not participate in the programs they were meant to take part in.

IEPs, or Individualized Educational Programs, is a document developed for each U.S. public school child who needs special education. Mahnken continues to give figures on just how many schools have IEPs and implement strategy from initial consultation. They note that 180,000 of NYC’s 1.1 million schools have IEPs. However, 23% of those are partially receiving those services and 4% were not receiving them at all. Though these numbers have grown compared to previous years, they have not grown enough. 

At My Speech Matters licensed, speech therapists have extended knowledge in the field and provide speech services to students attending DOE schools and private schools. While this does not completely correct the insufficient care that some may be receiving inside of their schools, it does work to acknowledge the need for a better IEP program overall. Parents are not directly involved in in-school sessions between students and therapists. These sessions may also be group sessions in which students may not be catered to individually.

The questions of why isn’t every student who is in need of the services being evaluated properly through IEPs, and why are some students not getting the services they need are still present. There is also worry about the quality and timeliness of the services that students who are “fully receiving” services recommended through IEP receive. In the 2016-2017 school year “4,500 students had to wait more than 60 days — roughly one-fifth of a 10-month school year — for an IEP meeting after an initial evaluation.” Students who have learning impediments such as ADHD, autism, deafness, and speech related conditions miss out on the services that can be significantly aiding in their learning. 

In recent news, amidst the pandemic, schools have naturally curtailed many services as the transition to virtual classroom learning in its initial stages are presented to be arcane and challenging. Special education programs have bared the brunt of these cutbacks. It is important to acknowledge that many students do not have access to technology at home as they would in the classroom. Just how services like occupational therapy and speech therapy will now be provided remotely has been under consideration. According to Alex Zimmerman in “NYC Gives the OK to shrink special education services amid coronavirus upheaval” for Chalkbeat some were concerned as to how meticulous educators will be about special education programs granted they were not obliged to replicate the classroom setting. 

Some child sessions with My Speech Matters are essentially, outside-of-the-school sessions for students whose schools do not have in-house speech therapists. Most of the IEPs that these young children come to sessions with are watered down, and do not genuinely reflect the unique needs of the students. We can look towards the overwhelming need for supplemental educational services and underwhelming, unmatched supply. During these times My Speech Matters has been giving teletherapy sessions to all, and while they may not look 100% like in person sessions, they work to continue this need despite the shutting down of schools.

I have been able to sit in on many of these sessions with children who attend public NYC schools and take notes on the session basics, cataloging any questions that I may have. Issues with technology will always be an issue, but the sessions I observe work to further the organization’s implied mission of bringing the appropriate services to those who rightfully need them. 

My Speech Matters is continuing to have speech therapy sessions through telecommunication.
My Speech Matters is continuing to have speech therapy sessions through telecommunication.

I will continue to observe these sessions which have been supplemented by collecting information on parent groups, and school speech pathologists in the area in hopes of piecing together my introduction into this internship. These are only small steps. The real change will come once the DOE takes IEPs seriously and once the services provided are all encompassing and do not turn away students based on bias or perceived lack of need.

Post 1: Virtually Building a Hospital in Bukwo, Uganda

This summer I am interning at Love4Bukwo Regional Hospital in Bukwo, Uganda. For years, the people of Bukwo have had to travel more than two hours into Kenya to seek out healthcare in hospitals. However, sometimes they would be unable to make it all the way to the hospital. The founders of Love4Bukwo have made it their mission to create a hospital bringing accessible services and healthcare workers directly to the town. No longer would the people of Bukwo be required to (sometimes unsuccessfully) drive two hours on treacherous unpaved roads. They would instead they would have immediate access to hospital health services in their own backyard.

Love4Bukwo Regional Hospital

I chose to intern at this organization for a few reasons. I am a rising senior majoring in International and Global Studies as well as Health: Science, Society, and Policy, and combining international work and community healthcare was very important to me. Another reason I chose to work with this organization is that after graduation I hope to be a Community Health Volunteer with the Peace Corps. Working with Love4Bukwo would allow me to combine my two courses of study and provide me with valuable work experiences applicable to being in the Peace Corps.

My main project is to work on developing an extensive set of policies and procedures for the hospital to use when it is fully operational. However, there are many issues that need to be addressed for the hospital to be operational, so I am assisting however I can virtually. Already, I have contributed to the application for the USAID Limited Excess Property Program, a program designed to support overseas development and humanitarian aid programs. As individuals in Bukwo have been working to continue construction onsite, I have begun posting daily updates about the work they are doing there.

Although I am unfortunately not in Bukwo this summer as planned, the work that I am doing will greatly impact the organization. While COVID has greatly affected life globally, it has been particularly difficult for the people of Bukwo, as they typically rely on having open borders with Kenya to get resources from their neighboring country. Facility construction on site had to be halted for an extended period due to the closed border because of COVID. Right now, my job is to work on projects that can be implemented virtually while also helping out wherever my supervisors need help.

The video is from a volunteer able to travel and help with the hospital.

Building a fully operational hospital is difficult. Contributing to the development of building a fully operational hospital thousands of miles away definitely has its difficulties. However, I know that the work that I am doing for Love4Bukwo will be beneficial for when the hospital opens, as it will address many socioeconomic issues in Bukwo. Progress takes a long time and Love4Bukwo knows it, but complications like COVID will not stop the hospital from opening. Love4Bukwo Regional Hospital is focused on the long-term effects of opening the hospital and the lives that will change with having access to healthcare in town.

Post 1: My Internship at The Valera Lab

This past year I was a Lurie Undergraduate Fellow in Disability Policy Research at the Heller School where I was mentored in research practices and studied the relationship between opioid use and traumatic brain injury (TBI). While conducting a literature review, I encountered fascinating articles written by Dr. Eve Valera at The Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. The Valera Lab’s impactful work resonated with me as I have a pre-conceived notion that the field of academic and clinical research is driven by producing papers and garnering recognition, however this lab goes out of their way to ensure that their work directly helps the population that they are researching. After discovering that the lab is located nearby in Charlestown, MA, I reached out to Dr. Valera in hopes to join her lab’s very important work. Shortly thereafter, I was offered the position of a research intern for summer 2020 and gratefully accepted this amazing opportunity.

The Valera Lab, affiliated with the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, studies TBIs caused by intimate partner violence. This lab utilizes MRIs, blood tests, and other biological indicators as primary data. However, in light of COVID, the lab has switched its typical activities to an online interview protocol, and I assist in conducting interviews with women who have sustained TBIs as a result of IPV. These interviews consist of surveys regarding alcohol and drug use, traumatic brain injury, relationship history, and intimate partner violence. Furthermore, I also administer computerized neurocognitive examinations and balance testing. My work conducting interviews will allow for greater understanding of the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral manifestations of IPV in women.

I work with the P.I., Dr. Eve Valera, the clinical research coordinator, and two other student interns, one of which joined at the same time as me. Everyone in the lab feels so passionately about the study of traumatic brain injuries caused by intimate partner violence. There is a diverse pool of knowledge and experience in the field between the five of us. As of now, we have spent a great deal of time practicing the administration of study screener interviews and running the protocol of the study. I do all of my practicing and training with the other new intern, Sarah. It has been lovely to train alongside someone else my age who is also excited about what we are studying. Although I am very sad that I do not get to spend time with my lab, especially my co-intern Sarah, I feel grateful that we are still able to form connections and share this experience. Here is a photo of a Zoom meeting with Sarah, myself, and the clinical research coordinator, Annie!

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting with my co-intern Sarah, the clinical research coordinator, Annie, and myself.

Coming into this internship I had two primary goals. First, to learn more about the neurobiological manifestations of traumatic brain injury. Second, I hope to learn how to work in a collaborative environment with other researchers, as in my prior research internship I was the only person working under my research mentor.

I am so excited to continue this awesome work and to see what I accomplish this summer. I would like to thank Brandeis University’s World of Work fellowship for allowing me to do this work.

– Maddy Pliskin

Post 1: Compassionate and Creative Counsel at the Legal Aid Society

The Legal Aid Society is a nonprofit organization that offers legal assistance to indigent clients in the city of New York through myriad practice areas. LAS works to help clients through direct legal representation, legal advocacy, and partnerships with many internal and external social services. Speaking more abstractly, LAS represents, in my opinion, the best of what legal aid can be: a holistic approach to counsel that puts the client in the best position to not only win their case, but to feel supported in other aspects of their life during, and often after, the period in which their case is being fought. This means that clients are connected to any number of social services they may need, including medical, physiological, housing, and  monetary support. Lawyers may call to just check up on the client–and really listen. Employees constantly push each other to be the best advocates they can be, through trainings, talk, and honest conversation. This holistic and compassionate approach to counsel is what I love about LAS, and why I was so excited to intern here!

I am working for the Immigration Unit at LAS. The first two weeks were spent in trainings, which really shows how dedicated the organization is to ensuring that every part of the organization is operating to the best of its ability. We got crash courses in all types of immigration-related topics, as well as trainings on case management and ethical lawyering.

I have two supervising lawyers who give me all different sorts of assignments. Like you’d expect, some of my time is spent filling out paperwork. It is less tedious than it sounds, as that means I get to call clients and ask for information, which is great practice. This also allows me opportunities to check up on them, which I enjoy. I am also working on a creative video project for an asylum case. This includes corresponding with the client and her family, editing the video, and writing a memo to document the legal precedent for such evidence. I am also interviewing a client for a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) petition, a special type of protective immigrant status, and writing her affidavit. Additionally, I am working to compile evidence to demonstrate how the Chinese government contributes to the negative treatment of citizens with mental health issues. As a side project, I work to help clients answer their unemployment-related questions, and I will soon be working on DACA applications. Other than that, it is just small tasks here and there.

Like any nonprofit, LAS is very “all hands on deck.” In that way, every task I do helps the organization run as smoothly as possible. I definitely don’t feel like my work is getting lost in the mix. Everything I do feels like it has a direct and concrete purpose.  I hope I am furthering the mission of the organization by showing clients compassion, patience, and care during our interactions.

Progress doesn’t look like any one thing. Progress takes form in getting a client on Medicaid, or gaining enough trust to have them open up about really painful things. Progress takes form in the constant email chains on the LAS server where advocates push each other to be better. Progress is also a Supreme Court decision like that of DACA. Progress means combating negative changes to immigration laws, and in doing so creating a better future for all immigrants and native-born Americans.

To anyone reading who is able, I urge you to submit a comment ( by July 15th) to tell the Administration that the newly proposed asylum regulations, aimed to dismantle asylum as we know it, are disgusting and despicable. To learn more, look here, and to comment, look here.

Post 1: My Internship at Ecomingling

Eco:Mingling, the non-profit start-up organization I am interning for this summer, is a Sustainability Accelerator. This means that the organization both creates and cultivates environmentally-focused coalitions. These coalitions are formed by uniting environmentally-driven businesses, organizations, grass-roots movements, educational facilities, municipalities, and academics by focusing them all on one collective sustainable initiative. By uniting stakeholders from different backgrounds, Ecomingling is able to create the right conditions for sustainable change. Located in Tel Aviv, Israel, but rapidly expanding to the rest of the country, Ecomingling encourages connection and interactivity in a way that makes Israel’s sustainability sector much greater than the sum of its parts. Click here to visit the Ecomingling website!

Ecomingling’s current project is the creation and maintenance of Israel’s first and only anti-plastic coalition, called the Israeli Plastic Pollution Prevention Coalition (IPPPC). Because Ecomingling is a start-up and the establishment of this coalition is Ecomingling’s first major project, there is endless work that needs to be done. My principal responsibility has been creating and upholding all social media for both Ecomingling and the coalition itself. Click here to visit the Israeli Plastic Pollution Prevention Coalition website!

My largest project thus far has been creating and working on two separate Facebook pages: one for Ecomingling and the other for the Israeli Plastic Pollution Prevention Coalition. One aspect of this task is organizing the layouts of each page. This aspect of the job includes, but is not limited to, the creation and publication of cover photos and profile pictures, choosing which tabs to display and filling in the relevant information, drafting and posting the “About” sections, linking “Call to Action” buttons on each pages’ home screens, and much more. 

Another responsibility of managing the social media campaigns for both Ecomingling and the coalition is researching, drafting, and posting all content that is published on both pages. One aspect of this job is choosing the correct graphic to include in each post. Here are some images that I have included in the posts/ have helped to create:

I have created many Excel Spreadsheets to organize the schedules and information regarding both pages. For instance, I have a spreadsheet schedule for each Facebook page that includes the date, time, text (in Hebrew and in English), and hashtags for every post. I have another schedule spreadsheet that contains all the research I have compiled of various Facebook groups and pages that Ecomingling or the IPPPC can post in to promote their page visibilities. I have another spreadsheet that contains a list of all of the coalition member organizations, along with the contact information (name, email address, and phone number) for each of their social media coordinators. I use other spreadsheets to track when coalition members post on behalf of the coalition and to schedule the coalition’s “Spotlight” posts, in which we highlight the particularly unique or beneficial work being done by a coalition member. Overall, this job includes a lot of planning ahead and endless communication with various individuals involved with either Ecomingling or the IPPPC.

I know that my work on establishing, sustaining and enhancing the social media presence of both Ecomingling and the IPPPC will significantly impact both groups in a positive way. We live in a time where businesses must use social media to build their reputation, remain accessible to their clients, and showcase everything they have to offer. 

One of my goals this summer is to hone my written communication skills. Operating two social media campaigns has forced me to challenge my typical writing habits and thus enhance my writing skills in a new way. Another goal I have is to learn more about environmental start-up organizations. I have already witnessed and learned so much about the various aspects and challenges of running a start-up organization and I look forward to learning even more. I am also particularly interested in the environmental aspect of this organization, and I hope to learn more about what it means to be a true environmentalist throughout the course of this internship. 

Post 1: First few weeks

I have been working at Ms. (Ms. Magazine) for three weeks now, and I’ve been really enjoying the opportunities the internship has presented thus far. Ms. is based in Los Angeles, but of course, my internship is remote. It’s been interesting to work on the East Coast but with an organization in Pacific time; I’ve had to learn how to restructure my day to make sure that I am online during relevant hours. While doing that, I am still trying to maintain home life with my family and non-work activities. 

Ms. is a national publication founded by Gloria Steinem in 1972. In 2001, ownership of the publication was transferred to the Feminist Majority Foundation. The Ms. Classroom program makes Ms. a prominent resource on college campuses, and the online and print magazine strives to provide in-depth reporting on feminist issues and information. 

My work consists primarily of writing and editing for the online publication. Since starting the internship, two articles of mine have been published. The first was titled “100 Years of Women Voting Means Defending the Right to Vote for All.” In the course of writing and researching for it, I was able to explore both historical and current issues, and my academics in American studies and journalism really helped me in writing and researching the piece. My second piece was the first issue of a bi-weekly column I’m co-writing with another intern. The column is called “Tools of the Patriarchy,” and the first issue was on naming (how women traditionally take their husband’s last names after marriage). Co-writing has been a great experience so far and writing this column has allowed me to do some in-depth research on patriarchal systems/tools while learning about cooperative teamwork in a really hands-on way. 

In addition to writing my own pieces (and co-writing pieces), a large part of my responsibilities involve editing pieces for the online publication. I really enjoying editing tasks; as editing others’ work helps me improve my own writing skills. It’s also helpful to act as a contributor to the larger team effort of putting a publication together. As the internship progresses, my work will also involve fact-checking for the print magazine, working on Ms. social media, learning more about journalism in general and gaining professional skills to that end. 

My academic goal for the internship is to gain hands-on experience in American journalism to apply to my studies as an American studies major and a journalism minor. My career goal for the internship is to gain experience in a professional journalistic environment, something I already feel that I am experiencing only a few weeks in.

Even remote, the internship is a serious endeavor (in the best way possible). I have been able to imagine what a full-time career in journalism would look like and it makes me excited to pursue a career in this field. Finally, my personal goal for this internship is to improve my own journalistic and non-fiction writing and to gain experience writing with an activist lens. Already, I am making great strides towards this goal with the editing work I am doing and the feedback I have received. I’m also learning so much about feminism and how to appropriately incorporate that into my writing. 

Post 1: Building a Better System for Survivors at Jane Doe, Inc.

This summer, I have the privilege of remotely interning with Jane Doe, Inc. in Boston, MA. Jane Doe, Inc. is a non-profit that seeks to create change by addressing root causes of domestic and sexual violence, as well as promoting justice, safety, and healing for survivors. JDI has three strategies in tackling the injustice of gender-based violence: advocacy, collaboration, and innovation. JDI advocates for state and federal legislation and funding that benefit the lives of SA/DV survivors, as well as for public and private systems to improve access to services, resources, and justice. Right now, they especially focus on protections for incarcerated survivors in MA during COVID-19, and intersecting economic and racial justice for marginalized communities in the Greater Boston area. JDI also promotes collaboration between member organizations to create innovative solutions and improve the lives of survivors. JDI works alongside partners like the ACLU of Massachusetts and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. This coalition works towards common goals to break down institutional barriers that survivors face. Some preventative projects that JDI has worked on with partners include the #ReimagineManhood campaign, the #MeToo initiative, and #RESPECTfully in collaboration with Mass.gov. 

During my walks around the city, I usually end up at one of my favorite spots: Quincy Market!

Like other WOW Social Justice Fellows, I was interested in joining an organization that was committed to promoting solutions for issues between society and individuals. At Brandeis, I am majoring in Politics and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and minoring in Legal Studies. I wanted to find an organization that covered the intersection of my academic course of study: advocating for women’s rights within legal, public policy, and social justice fields. JDI is a perfect combination of all my academic and personal interests. They also go beyond these areas to cover all the complex intersections of attaining gender equality, such as race, economics, housing, immigration, and others. The inclusive environment of my (virtual) workspace is incredibly uplifting. As an Arab-Muslim woman, working in this type of professional setting was highly important to me during my internship search. 

Here’s my workspace for the summer. Remote work calls for lots of natural light and a good view!

Throughout the first month of my internship, I have been working on numerous projects within a variety of departments. With the support of the rest of the team, I plan to dedicate my time and energy to working on two main projects while at JDI. One is researching and crafting an op-ed on the sexual abuse to prison pipeline and the necessity to reallocate Massachusetts state funding towards decarceration. I am also developing a panel event  on multiple truths in sexual assault survivors’ identities and voting decisions in the 2020 elections. This event arose from my frustration regarding the political injustice and degradation of survivors in conversations around the upcoming elections. Before coming to JDI, I had no idea how to craft substantial change on this issue. Now, within my role, I am working to host this virtually later in the summer to validate survivors’ experiences at the polls and beyond. Alongside these projects, I collaborate with other members of the JDI staff on smaller-scale projects, which are more long-term and work towards permanent progress. These include tracking domestic violence-related homicides in Massachusetts, writing personal narratives for each victim with the Director of Communications & Development, and updating JDI’s Civic Engagement Toolkit with the Policy and Advocacy Team. 

Stocking up on Modern Pastry’s cannolis!

Although my internship this summer is remote due to COVID-19, being a WOW fellow has enabled me to experience this incredible opportunity while living in Boston’s North End! When I’m not working indoors, I’m out taste-sampling cannolis at various bakeries, shopping at Italian grocers, and taking long walks around the city. To settle the age-old debate: yes, Modern Pastry’s cannolis are better than Mike’s.

Post 1: Barriers to Combating Intimate Partner Violence During COVID-19 Are Even More Prevalent in Jewish Communities

“Domestic violence is a sign of anger issues.”

“The safest thing to do in an abusive relationship is just to leave.”

“Violence and abuse don’t happen in loving relationships.” 

These statements are some of the countless beliefs held by many people about intimate partner violence. In fact, domestic violence is about power and control, not anger. The most lethal time in an abusive relationship is when one party tries to leave. And violence can occur even when two partners truly love and care for one another.  

Dinah is a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 that trains volunteer attorneys to work with Jewish clientele to handle myriad legal matters associated with intimate partner violence. Dinah educates communities on how to be a better first responder to domestic violence and advocates to leaders inside and outside of synagogues to best support community members in need.

There are many different types of domestic violence, and intimate partner violence is only one of them. This abuse can take many shapes such as physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and spiritual abuse.  While there are many organizations around the world that focus on helping victims of intimate partner violence, very few provide a particular intervention method designed for Jewish women suffering the effects of such violence. In addition, The Jewish community in general experiences domestic violence at the same rate as the national average (about 25%), but Jewish survivors stay in relationships 5-7 years longer than the average. This is partially due to the fact that Jewish women are “the least likely of any ethnic or religious group to utilize available resources or implement self-help remedies such as women’s shelters, support groups or social services,” according to Adam H. Koblenz writing in the Maryland Law Journal. 

The America that we see ravaged by COVID-19 is uncharted territory for everyone, including organizations, both Jewish and secular, that work to prevent domestic violence. Across America, many family courts and supreme courts are open, but they conduct most cases remotely and in general are hearing limited cases. Jewish law requires divorced couples to get a get, or a Jewish marital divorce contract, but many Batei Dinim (Jewish legal courts) are putting gittim on hold until the pandemic is over. In my short time working for Dinah so far this summer, I have gained a greater understanding of how COVID-19 further complicates the issue of domestic violence in both the religious and secular worlds. I am currently working on the organization’s social media presence and creating programming about healthy relationship practices for middle school and high school students.

Anyone from any walk of life can experience intimate partner violence, but Jewish women often face unique challenges when seeking help. Jewish tradition dictates that the social and religious realms belong to the man, whereas the hearth and home are the realms of women, and thus women are to perform the tasks that maintain the family’s health and happiness, and to support the growth of the children. There are so many more barriers to leaving abusive relationships in both religious and secular Jewish communities, including laws surrounding Shalom Bayit or peace in the home, Get refusal, and Mesirah or getting other Jews in trouble and stigmas such as lashon harah, or being labeled as a shonda. With these barriers in mind, Dinah works to ensure that no Jew is alone when facing domestic violence. 

Post 1: Working with System-Involved High School Students in Boston

This summer, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work for the H.O.P.E. (High Expectations, Opportunities, Purposeful Pathways, and Encouragement) Institute with the Boston Mayor’s Office Director of Strategic Initiatives, Janelle Ridley. This is just one of the many incredible projects for Black and Brown youth in Boston that Ridley has spearheaded.  This program, implemented by the Office of Public Safety, is still in its nascency. However, it makes a major impact on at-risk youth in the Boston area. All forty program participants are referred to us by the Boston District Attorney’s Office. This program works with youth who individually are identifying challenges and barriers that they see as stumbling blocks along their journey. Each student works both independently and collectively to bring forth solutions and strategies based on their personal circumstances. These particular youth, who are faced with challenges, traumas, and conditions, are directly effected by environmental and generational disparities and systemic oppression. This program gives disadvantaged youth a special opportunity they may not otherwise receive. 

Through this program, each student will gain both professional and academic skills, in addition to their personal development. The H.O.P.E. Institute has partnered with faculty and staff from seven Boston-area institutions (including the Heller School at Brandeis) that will create and lead workshops such as learning about the social determinants of health, ethics and morals, and community building through storytelling. 

By the end of the program, students will be given the opportunity to become research assistants and lived-expert interns with the colleges they worked with all summer. Finally, the students will receive training from the Northeastern University Center for Sport and Society in the Mentoring in Violence Prevention (MVP) Curriculum. The primary goal of the H.O.P.E. Institute and the Office of Public Safety  is to institute violence intervention and prevention programs and policies in Boston neighborhoods, and this program is starting where it can make the most impact: with the youth. They’ll be able to share what they learned and give back to their communities in an effective manner once they’ve completed the program. 

As an intern, I assist with the overall development and oversight of the program alongside my boss. I meet with the other interns, my boss, and our partners weekly to discuss plans for the program while ensuring that they meet the standards we’ve set. I also designed the podcasting project the students will conduct throughout the duration of the program. Furthermore, I assist with scheduling, planning, and coordination among all parties involved, since communication is essential to a large operation like this. Finally, I help in any way I can. For example, a project I was tasked with recently was creating an informational flyer to present to the District Attorney’s Office that could be distributed to the parents of the program participants. At the end of the day, whatever my boss needs me to do for the program, I take care of it. 

The informational flyer I created that was presented to the Boston District Attorney’s Office!

I wanted to work for this program this summer because it is making a legitimate change in the world. Even if it is on a small scale, and just in Boston, you never know what the participants of the Hope Institute will do after the program is over. They might become doctors, lawyers, Nobel Prize winners, or scientists. The possibilities are endless. What I love about this program’s mission is that it’s giving the students a chance at something bigger than their neighborhoods in Boston. I’ve quickly learned over the last few weeks that the willingness to cooperate is the first step that leads to change on a larger-scale. There are many offices, organizations, and universities that are involved in making this project successful. Every party’s full effort and desire to make a difference will undoubtedly lead to the change the program sets out to make. What does that change look like? In this particular setting, you’ll see it by the end of the summer or in a few years when the program participants are accomplishing great things in this world.

Post 3: Flexibility and Fun. My Takeaways from NCL.

My experience at the National Consumers League was incredibly eye-opening. It allowed me to gain a practical, tangible sense of what advocacy looks like, which was a priority of mine when I accepted the internship. As someone who entered college with the hopes of making a career out of social change, it is often difficult to pinpoint what kinds of jobs are available to me. My own interests are varied, and the concept of social justice work has always seemed broad and vague to me. Advocacy work always sounded intriguing to me, but it wasn’t until I worked at an advocacy group that I truly learned how such work operates and contributes to the greater machine of progressive action.

Working at an advocacy non-profit in DC gave me an invaluable perspective on how organizations like NCL interact with both like-minded organizations and the diverse political entities in the city. It also gave me a fascinating insight into the flexible roles that individuals play at non-profits. My own work at NCL was diverse and well-rounded- a perfect reflection of the organization itself. The majority of my work centered around programmatic duties for LifeSmarts, NCL’s consumer literacy competition for highschoolers. For LifeSmarts, I prepared a variety of resources- including study materials, question banks and exams for the 2020 final competition- for the upcoming school year.

Besides this work, the staff and director invited interns to participate in events and projects across the organization’s diverse range of issues. I attended NCL’s Health Advisory Council’s panel on immunization, a USDA dietary guideline hearing, several Congressional committee meetings and the historic passage of a $15 minimum wage bill in the House. I developed valuable skills that translate across industries by writing white papers, press releases and blog posts for NCL on issues ranging from cryptocurrency to fuel economy standards. With NCL’s Child Labor Coalition, I was also able to give lobbying on Capitol Hill a try, which opened my eyes to another exciting component of advocacy work.

After working at two non-profits, I am learning the value of open-mindedness and flexibility. In the hectic world of social justice work, new issues and assignments can pop up out of the blue. Staff often assisted co-workers with projects and jumped in to fill gaps or meet the organizations needs. My colleagues at NCL came from diverse backgrounds personally and emotionally, but all of them shared a passion for the work they were doing and a diligent, can-do attitude. Approaching my senior year, I feel prepared to take on the world of social justice work with the skills I gained at NCL and eager, open attitude to compliment them.

That’s a Wrap!

And that’s a wrap! As I type these words, I’m back on the beautiful Brandeis campus, having left NYC and said goodbye to Film Comment. Walking out on my last day (Monday), I felt a real sense of melancholy. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say the three months working for Film at Lincoln Center made up the best summer of my life.

But did I achieve my learning goals? Well, I’m not sure. I certainly learned a lot about the nuts-and-bolts of putting together a film publication. I made connections with a ton of people in the field I want to go into. I spent more time fighting with the Rotten Tomatoes website than I ever expected. But it’s not like after finishing this internship, I was immediately offered a paid gig as a film critic (not that that’s what I was expecting, but hey, it would’ve been nice).

Then again, I am headed right back to Lincoln Center in a few weeks. I recently secured press credentials to cover the New York Film Festival, which means I’ll be able to see two week’s worth of this fall’s hotly anticipated movies starting in mid-September. It’ll be my second year attending and writing about the festival, and I’m really looking forward to it! Of course, this is also a great opportunity to follow-up on all the connections I made this summer, and get coffee with my former bosses.

Also, on my last day, I was able to assist one of my bosses with writing the weekly news roundup. I can’t take credit for the whole article, but I wrote a bunch of the blurbs. Check it out!

I’m not sure there’s a specific thing I can point to this summer that I can say I’m most proud of – instead, some time around July I reached this kind-of New York flow that I’m really happy with. Juggling friends, an internship, a second job, and making time for my own writing was no easy feat, and I was a bit overwhelmed at the start of the summer. But by August, I was used to the revolving door my life had become. It’s a lifestyle I hope to continue at Brandeis.

In terms of advice for future interns or aspiring critics, I would say to be patient. Working at a place like Film Comment is like dipping your toes into a much bigger pond, and you can’t just jump into the deep end. For every day of archival monotony, there’s a day when you get a glimpse of an interesting upcoming article. Leaving this summer, I want to be a critic more than ever, and I feel like I have a better understanding of what that looks like on a day-to-day basis. I couldn’t ask for much more.

– Jonah Koslofsky

Reflecting on a summer at the Jewish Museum

I had a wonderful time at the Jewish Museum this summer. I learned so much about how the Museum runs and really felt like I was a part of the community there. As a public programs intern, I frequently interacted with the museum’s visitors. Before the internship began, I was nervous that I would find this aspect of the internship intimidating. However, communicating with the public during different programs I assisted with became one of my favorite parts of my internship. I loved feeling like a voice for the Museum and getting direct feedback on events hosted at the Museum.

One of the events I worked at was a day-long adult art class. This course focused on the self-portraits musician Leonard Cohen made throughout his lifetime, highlighted in the main summer exhibition at the Museum, Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything. In the class, we asked participants to create their own self portraits in a similar marriage of language and visuals to what Cohen used. One of my proudest moments during my internship was helping during this studio program. I had a lot of fun flexing my studio art background in my otherwise art history-focused internship. Additionally, it was really exciting to see the participants create such wonderful self portraits. I had no idea about the adult studio programming at the Museum before my internship, and I found it to be a really special aspect of the Museum’s community. At the end of the class, we hung up the portraits made by the participants in the hall and had a small critique. It’s a really special moment to see a piece displayed at a Museum then walk upstairs, in the same building, and see work made that day in response to the piece.

Working with the Museum’s public programming staff this summer has opened my eyes to all of the career opportunities available in the museum world. In school, it can seem that the only way to be involved in the museum world is by being a curator and having a strictly art historical background. However, many of the people I met in the education department have studio art backgrounds. There are so many ways to help people engage with art and it was a great opportunity to see that firsthand this summer. Even as an art history major, I find that going into museums can be intimidating sometimes. Working in the education department opened my eyes to the different ways we can connect to art and have a meaningful experience. I know I will take this knowledge with me in my future internships and, hopefully one day, a career in a museum.

I encourage anyone interested in an internship at the Jewish Museum, or any museum, to get out there and look at art! Go to museums and sit in front of work, draw work, attend events at museums you are close to — there are truly so many ways to interact with art and be involved in an art community. If you find it stressful to walk around an exhibition at a large museum, that is okay! There are a multitude of ways to engage with art every day, everywhere. Even something as small as photographing a mural on a wall in a city is a way with the art community around you and think about art in a new way. The art world is a big place with many different opportunities to be involved. Be open-minded and apply for different kinds of positions within museums and outside of museums, you never know what you might discover.

Last week at Hariri Imaging Lab

After eight weeks at the Hariri Imaging Lab, I think I can say that I was able to meet my defined learning goals. My goals shifted as time went on, but overall remained similar to what I originally set out to achieve. My academic goal to further understand the respiratory system most definitely was achieved. I learned the anatomy of the lungs and bronchioles, gained a deeper understanding of the alveoli, and saw many stages of different diseases in the lung. After observing many sign outs and running analyses on digital biopsy slides, I can even point out certain features of the lung at the cellular level! A second goal of mine was to be exposed to the life of an MD/PhD. I was able to see how the research conducted in the lab directly applies to the process of prevention and diagnoses of disease in the clinical setting. I think that interning in this translational medicine lab gave me good insight to the field, but I also think that it is only one of the many different types of research out there. Lastly, I wanted to gain confidence as a woman in science. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the doctors and researchers that I interacted with were women. Thus, I was able to learn first-hand the experiences of being a woman in science and medicine, as well as gain multiple perspectives on my future career path.

3D printed lungs!

I have learned so much from this internship about myself and my future career. I have learned that I, without a doubt, want to be a medical doctor and apply to medical school this upcoming year. I consistently found the tasks we did and the topics we discussed that related to the diagnosis process or regarding lung diseases to be extremely interesting. I also learned that I do not want to solely be a researcher- I like the integration between being a researcher and a doctor. During my gap year, I plan on doing more experiential learning so that I can decide if I would like to apply for an MD/PhD program or just an MD program. Additionally, I discovered I would like to work in a field that has a lot of human interaction. Although I interact with the other members of the lab each day, a career with more human/patient interaction would be more enjoyable for me.
After this internship, I feel as though I have a more open mindset about research. Before this internship, I had never worked in a research lab and thought of it as intimidating. I expected the environment to be very structured and intense, however, this lab environment was collaborative, and the research team worked efficiently both individually and as team members. I think if I had known this earlier, I would have tried to work or intern in a lab earlier. This experience has taught me that labs offer a great setting to learn and to feel comfortable with asking questions.
Something that I am proud of from my internship this summer is my increase in self-confidence and adaptability. I am someone who prefers schedules and clear guidelines. Many of the tasks that I was working on this summer were new to me and came with minimal instruction. At first, I was nervous about not being told exactly what to do. However, over the time of the internship, I learned that the lack of instruction increased my creativity and growth. This exposure made me more confident in my abilities. I am glad I interned at the Hariri Imaging Lab because I am better prepared for my next challenge.

  • Ashley Bass

Surpassing Expectations

My summer internship at the New England Aquarium has wildly surpassed all my expectations and goals. When I first applied as a Marine Mammal Research and Education Intern, I had a broad understanding of what I would be able to accomplish in a single summer.

Dross Breaching

Contrasting the lack of Brandeis’s marine science curriculum, I originally hoped to academically broaden my marine science knowledge. During the last few months in a fieldwork setting, I have learned so much about whale behavior, physiology, as well as threats that they face every day from humans. After these few months I have a much more holistic understanding of the impact that anthropogenic activity has on marine life.

I also hoped to gain techniques and skills in the field that I could use in future research. I have become proficient in recording information such as weather data or distinguishing different behaviors of various marine mammals. This internship has taught me how to multi-task while consuming large amounts of observational data, overall teaching me how to better observe as a field researcher.

Taking a Humpback Vertebrae around the boat to Discuss Conservation

Finally, I hoped to progress in my articulation of environmental conservation. On the boat, I dealt with passengers from all over the world, with varying degrees of English proficiency, age, and understanding of marine science. When I discussed environmental conservation, such as the threats of Red Tide or Entanglement, I learned how to simplify complicated biological and environmental terminology into information that was digestible by a broad audience.

This internship helped solidify that I want to pursue a career in environmental conservation and marine science. I learned that I was incredibly passionate about marine conservation, and loved working in a flexible, dynamic, hands-on environment. I loved working outside conducting fieldwork, solidifying that I want to pursue a career where I can eventually conduct my own research. During our internship, we did a short research presentation about the impacts of marine debris on marine mammals, finding that many feeding behaviors that humpback whales exhibit in their feeding grounds (such as lunge-feeding) put them at direct risk for ingesting marine debris. I am incredibly passionate about the animals that I saw and am considering using the data I collected this summer to write a thesis for my senior year. I don’t know exactly the path that I want to take after I graduate, but I do believe that I want to take a year off in between graduate school to conduct research and broaden my field experience with marine-science.

Clamp Lunge Feeding

To any future interns that apply to the New England Aquarium, or specifically as a Whale Watch Intern, I recommend to fully take advantage of the amazing opportunities around you. The NEAq is an amazing institution that provides amazing resources, from career planning to monthly lectures about recent research. You have unbelievable access to so much information about the marine world, don’t be afraid to explore the aquarium or talk to people outside of your department. The naturalists that I got to work with on the boats are all amazing individuals; never be afraid to ask questions and take advantage of the amazing learning opportunity you have in front of you. Finally, allow yourself to become adaptable! Working with wild animals outdoors on boats with 300+ people means that no day is “normal”. Be ready for every day to be different and to expect the unexpected!

My amazing co-interns and naturalists!

 

Hornbill Upside Down!

I am genuinely sad to leave my summer internship. As the last few weeks wound down, it felt that the whales were exhibiting some crazy new behavior every day and I saw animals like Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin that I hadn’t seen previously in the summer. I was very proud to watch my own progress in identifying individual humpbacks from each other throughout the summer. Towards the end of the season, I was able to identify various humpbacks from simply their tail pattern or dorsal without the help of a camera.

My last day was bittersweet, but it was one of the most magical days on the water – with a fitting rainbow and crazy surface activity in the distance. However, I am thrilled to say that I was invited back in the fall! During the fall semester, I will help train the new fall interns and intern on the boat sporadically.

  • Kate Laemmle
Final Day: A lone Flipper Slap by Quote

Post #3 – Reflecting on a Summer with the National Park Service

As my internship comes to a close, I feel like my time here has really been coming together. I am currently working on one last project that I hope will leave a lasting impression on the islands after I am gone. I have co-developed a project called Bivalve Quest with a co-worker of mine that would allow visitors to participate in the collection of scientific data. There is little existing data about the distribution and abundance of shellfish (such as clams and oysters) on the Boston Harbor Islands’ shores, so we want to get a better picture of the marine ecology. This project allows us to educate and engage guests in marine science while also generating useful scientific data. I am particularly proud of this achievement, as my work will go on to make a difference in studying the diversity of Boston Harbor’s shellfish.

As for the research project documenting marine species on and around the Harbor Islands, this is also going swimmingly. With the PhD candidate from UMass Boston that I have been working closely with, we have been doing in depth exploration of the subtidal areas around the islands – literally! Donning snorkeling gear, we headed out into the chilly waters to search for crabs, algae, and other marine species. A highlight was finding an eelgrass bed, which provide a safe haven for many juvenile fish but are threatened by destructive fishing and boating practices. I spotted a small baby flounder only about 2 inches long, but it darted away before I could manage to get a photograph.

I have been able to bond with my co-workers here at the Natural Resource team as well as the recurring volunteers that I work with nearly every week. Together with five seasonal staff and another intern, I have made a new group of friends that I can rely on and have gotten close to. I will miss the Natural Resource team once I am gone.

Hanging out with the Natural Resource team and a group of volunteers after a long day of invasive plant management!

With only a couple of weeks left before I complete my internship, it has been quite a ride. I’ve gotten a real taste of what it is like to be an employee of the National Park Service. I’ve been involved in many different projects and felt like the work I have done over the past three months is meaningful and actually making a difference. Overall, this has given me some great insight into what to look for in the future. I have gained invaluable experience in the field this summer and know that I want to continue to work hands-on with nature. My work on the shores and in the water has only strengthened my love for the oceans and marine species, and I have learned so much about the ecology of our local harbor. I have even gained some leadership skills while working with teens from the Live Blue Ambassadors program at the aquarium, assisting and teaching them about marine invasive species. Overall, this is a summer that I will never forget and has helped light up my path for my life after graduation.

Post 3: Wrapping up at Tahirih Justice Center Baltimore

Overall, working at Tahirih was an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve gotten exposure to how a small-scale office functions, experienced frustration with getting through the government’s red tape and complex, shifting policies, and learned hands-on how to apply trauma-informed techniques working with mostly female clients affected by domestic or gender-based violence. I was definitely confronted with the experience of burnout, which is present in a lot of social justice work but particularly in an office that serves many victims of traumatizing sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. I was appreciative that Tahirih gives its employees tools for coping with burnout and practicing self-care; we even had a day where the entire staff left the office early to go to an aromatherapy shop together. I gained valuable exposure not just to legal work but also to individuals who can help mentor me in future paths: staff attorneys who practice immigration and family law, as well as fellow intern law students with varying kinds of masters degrees and experiences.

Flyer of resources I created for immigrant clients to prepare for encounters with ICE in Maryland.

My most impactful project of the summer was the Know Your Rights resources flyer I created and a Family Preparedness Plan toolkit. I hope that the office will be able to use these resources to give clients the information they need to defend themselves against immigration enforcement in Maryland. I even shared these resources with Tahirih’s DC office, which will be able to use them as templates for their locations across the country. The most personally rewarding experience was working one-on-one with a client on their VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) declaration. It emotionally impacted me to hear a client’s story firsthand, and to be able to use their story to help them get immigration status and a path to safety. Additionally, listening to the client’s story made me especially appreciative of Tahirih’s unique comprehensive model that gives its clients services in immigration law, family law, and social services. It is now difficult to imagine individuals reliving their trauma in the immigration system without the additional support of social services such as those that Tahirih offers.

Something I wish I had known before I started, which is something to keep in mind going into any kind of work with immigrant or victim clients (particularly domestic/gender-based violence victims), is to be conscious of the emotional toll this kind of work takes and how to cope with it. Anyone hearing these clients’ stories on a regular basis is vulnerable to experiencing second-hand trauma, and it is important to practice self-care by taking appropriate breaks, working from home as needed, getting enough sleep and finding activities at home that are calming. I wish I had known more about my own personal limits and what kind of self-care works for me prior to the internship, but I was appreciative that the staff members were supportive in helping me figure it out and making my schedule extremely flexible.

Working at Tahirih was an extremely positive and rewarding experience in which I learned about working with vulnerable immigrant individuals in a healthy, emotionally-supportive environment.

Post 3: Where to begin if I am interested in law?

The World of Work (WOW) fellowship supported me to pursue my summer internship at the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, an office that promotes justice. During my time in the Asset Forfeiture Unit, I observed people helping each other wholeheartedly, respectfully and closely. I was able to get comfortable with and involved in my working environment quickly. With my supervisor and team members’ assistance, I learned how to get work done productively and efficiently. I was able to help draft various types of legal documents such as complaints, motions to dismiss, and motions for default judgment. I was able to conduct legal research to find current statutes, languages of the statutes, and case law via LexisNexis, West Law, Google Scholar, and Hein Online, among others. I also assisted my supervisor with data reconciliation for transparency purposes. This experience as a whole has been very beneficial to me.

In this blog, I will give some advice to people who want to pursue careers in law but have zero relevant experience in related fields. Please note that I cannot speak for other interns in Middlesex DA’S office because we all were assigned to different places. Some are in district courts, some are in superior courts. Some are in the Woburn main office, just like me, but in different units. I can only speak as an intern for the Asset Forfeiture Unit. However, I do have various experiences working in different legal fields.

In summer 2018, I was an intern in an intellectual property litigation team in Allbright Law Offices in Shanghai, China, and dealt with civil disputes over trademark, copyrights, and other matters of intellectual property rights. In spring 2019, I worked for Senator Mike Barret of the Middlesex 3rd District in the Massachusetts State House and dealt with mainly legislative matters. In summer 2019, I am now working in the asset forfeiture group, which is part of the Special Investigation Unit in the Middlesex DA’s office. For those who want to pursue law as their future career, there are some tips based on my personal experiences. I will start by comparing my work in a law firm, the State House, and the DA’s office.

I. The Law Practice

Working in a law firm is very similar to working in the DA’s Office, as both require dealing with civil litigation–the former in intellectual property and the latter in forfeiture prosecutions that are related to crimes. Under this big umbrella, both trained me to be a “typical” paralegal. This means I was expected to do basic things that all paralegals know how to do, including tracking and maintaining client files, listing and analyzing case evidence and information, conducting legal research, and drafting legal documents.

II. The Legislative Experience

Working as a legislative intern, on the contrary, does not require one to know how to draft legal documents such as a motion to vacate, nor require one to be familiar with litigation or prosecution at all. The tasks for me were more administrative and legislative, and I was mostly assisting the senator’s staff with data entry, special projects, and constituent services. I sometimes researched policy issues related to the senator’s legislative proprieties. I regularly attend legislative hearings and events. However, I spent more time on administrative work than anything else. As a college intern, my ability to contribute to changing the language of bills was limited. Although I was eager to make a big impact on legislation, it was merely impossible.

III. The Legislative Experience vs. the Law Practice

In conclusion, for those who like politics or handling administrative matters, the State House is a good choice. There, you will learn about various things including, the structure of the government, how to select committees and what their roles are in passing bills, what the tensions are between the House and the Senate, and where the fiscal year budget comes from. For those who are more interested in law practice, I’d say either a law firm or a DA’s office would teach you a lot.

IV. The Law Firm vs. the DA’s Office

Then, what’s the biggest difference between working in a law firm and working in the DA’s office? How do I know which one fits me better? My answer is that as long as you like what you do, you have good supervisors, and there are adequate training and/or resources that allow you to acquire knowledge, then, it is a good one. I loved both topics of intellectual properties and crimes (all forfeitures in the DA’s office are related to crimes), and I was lucky to have a great supervisor each time. A big thank you to my current supervisor Paris Daskalakis, who has always been knowledgeable, supportive, and well organized. Both of my teams were small (2-4 people per team), which allowed efficient communications and cooperation among team members to happen easily. For those of you who are interested in law practice, try to do some research about the places you are applying for to see what their mission is, to figure out what a typical day is like, and to learn about the people who work there. For me, a  good working environment is more important than what field of law it is.

Most importantly, no matter what field of law you want to pursue, you always should have a fire in your belly that drives you and motivates you to serve people. I think that commitment and dedication are needed in all legal fields. And always seek justice, no matter which side you are on (i.e. the prosecutor v. the defense attorney). You should do the right thing to help people.

(The photo was taken by me in the early afternoon of the 17th of July, 2019 in front of the Waltham District Court. The court had fire hazards that day.)

– Carrie Sheng

Post 3: Wrapping up My Internship

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

(Photo: Testing out the equipment and study we created in VR)

Good quotes are a double-edged sword. On the one hand they summarize in a concise way everything that you want your audience to understand, on the other hand, they prove to you again that their short truth could have saved you months of emotional struggle and complications. And yet, that is the biggest gift I have learned from my time in Germany: that although I know what overcoming challenge is, and how every start can be hard, experiencing that journey myself, that emotional rollercoaster from hardship to success, is one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences.

As this internship comes to an end – I enjoy looking at it to understand the process I have experienced. The goals I had initially set for myself for the summer were to help me clarify my direction – and that was definitely accomplished. After long hours of coding and figuring out the correct technology for our experiment to finally finished the pilot study and finding significant results, I recognized three main career points that I learned:

  • Having Inspiring Co-Workers Makes A World of a Difference

I have been incredibly inspired by the awareness, intelligence, and care that the people around me in the lab have. This is not only prevalent in their incredible work, collaborations and projects, but also in their global awareness and care about issues that I would love to see more Americans talk about (healthcare, employment agreements, environmental action, etc). The result is a work culture that is fun and therefore more productive, but also one that impacts your attitude after work and your daily interactions.

  • I Need Direct Customer Interaction

I recognized this summer that direct customer interaction is something that I really value and care about. I want to see the smile when I hand someone a product they care about, I want to share the passion of producing a result that actually improves someone’s life, I want to be able to deliver happiness and satisfaction through shared human emotion. In a laboratory setting or when coding, the feeling of personal accomplishment is huge, but the direct-to-customer interaction is lacking. When I got to running subjects and talking with the people doing the pilot study my energy was so much higher and my motivation skyrocketed. I believe this internship helped me refocus my search for the type of work position I want in the future.

  • Embracing the Intersection of Disciplines

The project I am working on is a dream for me: combining VR and an audio simulation study. The pilot we conducted with a few subjects showed really interesting trends and made us think of new hypotheses to test. Although I did not have enough time to see the full project through, it is something that I am so grateful for being able to work on and I really hope to see more of this intersection between disciplines work in the future.


(Photos: Ehrenfeld wall art, Hamburg Speicherstadt)

In summary, when looking back I am incredibly grateful for the lab for embracing me into their “family” and being my guides for the duration of my time here. Their support has given me power to continue taking steps forward and to embrace the learning process. After finding positive trends and results from the initial pilot data (which is really exciting) I completely trust the team here to lead the project forward with the professionalism, humbleness, and hard work that they do. I believe the best advice I would give a student coming here would be to reach out for help and challenges when necessary and be open to recognizing where you need assistance and learning to maximize your own productivity. This is similar advice that I have seen across the software and technology field, internships are supposed to be a view into the real – world post university, where your own initiative will determine your success and work satisfaction.

I am ready to go back to Brandeis University with these new ideas – and to apply the energy, European mindset, and perspective I have been exposed to here while in Germany. There are so many small moments when abroad that cause you to appreciate how varied human society is; how fortunate I am to be in a place like Boston where I can grow, be challenged, and feel at home all at the same time.

Post 3: Leaving Project Healthcare

One shift in the emergency room, a woman came in wailing. She was clutching her stomach in excruciating pain and discomfort. I ended up by her side, walking her through breathing exercises while holding her hand and shoulder.

Another shift, a patient was very frustrated that nobody spoke Russian in the hospital. She was agitated, screaming in her language to everyone who walked nearby. I ended up by her side too, having a lively emotional conversation using hand motions and drawings.

A third time, I saw a man screaming in anguish over the sight of his amputated finger being stitched up. I ended up by his side as well, asking about his past as a professional world traveling bicyclist. He later squeezed my hand and thanked me for understanding what he needed.

I will never forget these experiences that strengthened my ability to connect with the patients who need it most. I have grown immensely into a strong caregiver able to listen with compassion and sensitivity. Building these skills was the most important goal for me this summer as I believe empathy is as critical a part of medicine as a diagnosis.  Every day in the hospital, I saw firsthand that empathy has strong positive effects on a patient’s overall care.

In the modern Hippocratic oath, physicians swear to “remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug”. I am privileged to have had five hours a day with the purpose of providing this warmth, sympathy, and understanding. In the hospital, volunteers and first year providers have a very obvious drive to advocate for and understand patients. I look up to the physicians who maintain this passion after years of practice, and I strive to be like them in my future.

I encourage future Project Healthcare volunteers to notice who holds on to this passion and learn from them. Use this time to build your own lifelong interpersonal and bedside manner skills. Take the time to understand this diverse populations’ backgrounds and values and use this knowledge to advocate. I encourage you, and everyone interested in healthcare, to step out of your comfort zone and speak up for those who need it most.

As I leave this internship, I am taking with me a stronger understanding of how I can best help in my future. Project Healthcare has solidified my passion to advocate for equitable access to healthcare. With this in mind, although I have not narrowed down a specific career path, I have decided to work with medically underserved populations in my future. I found that I can always work on strengthening my understanding of other backgrounds and values and that doing so is key to being able to make a difference. In this way, I will continue to strive to implement change in underrepresented communities in whichever profession I pursue. Later this week, I will return my Bellevue ID, endlessly grateful for the people I have met and the lessons I have learned.

Added to My Scrapbook

I finished my internship this week! I can’t believe it is over already. At the same time, it feels like I’ve been working there forever. I learned so much and was introduced to so many new things and people. I even got to lay my eyes on Ariana Grande–in the flesh! That was definitely a highlight of the summer.  

Annie Leibovitz’s photo of Ariana Grande for this summer’s cover of Vogue.
Annie Leibovitz just has a signature look. It’s hard to describe, but looks so cool!

Working this internship allowed me to finally see what the film and photography industry is like, and I’m happy to say I still want to be a part of it. I wish there had been more photoshoots to assist on because I find myself missing the creative side of the art, but I still really enjoyed the feeling of importance as part of the production team. Being responsible for getting everything necessary to the set is a huge weight but super rewarding when done well. 

I set out wanting to gain a clear understanding of the step-by-step process of set production. I also wanted to establish and build some professional relationships with my coworkers, supervisors, and anyone else I met along the way. I wanted to gain more confidence in myself and in the work I was doing. Throughout the weeks, the assignments and projects I was tasked with allowed me to tweak my skills and made me a better intern with each day that passed. I liked the intense and faced-paced environment. At times, I thought I was swamped in work. Each time I finished my workload, I would soon realize I had merely been in the eye of the storm.

I am definitely proud of sticking through this internship and living as a New Yorker. I’m sure I’ve picked up some habits and will return to campus with the ability to walk a mile a minute, but it’s been a great experience. I can’t get over the fact that just days before starting this position, I was in a completely different country! I definitely miss home sometimes, but it feels great to be making solid steps toward my career. 

Trying to land an internship in the film industry? Do what I did and submit a million applications. Tighten your resume. Build your portfolio. Apply early! Don’t listen to the people telling you that getting a job is next to impossible. Have you seen the end credits of a movie? There are plenty of jobs, you just have to be first and among the best of the applicants. It’s super cool that Annie’s team thought I was worthy enough to be in her presence. After leaving the office, I now have the skills to prove it. 

Huuuuge thank you to Annie Leibovitz and her staff! An even bigger thank you to the Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund and the WOW team for helping me experience this amazing summer!

 

Post 3: Where do I go from here?

I’m excited! I’m sad! I’m overwhelmed! I’m motivated! I’m feeling a lot of emotions as my internship comes to a close, knowing that the people I have been spending so much time working and growing with this summer will soon be dispersed all over the country. The work continues— but so do college schedules— and I am left with the same question I had when we began: where do I go from here?

On paper, the amount of things my reinvestment team and I were able to accomplish this summer is impressive: we were able to host a successful fundraiser and raise almost $2,300 for some amazing organizations (obliterating our initial fundraising goal!); we crafted a resource for students looking to start their own reinvestment campaigns; and we supported community organizations who have been dedicated to reinvestment work in Boston much longer than any of us have been in college (gaining knowledge and building relationships in the process). 

Photo taken by Sarah Jacqz

What have I gained from this? An in-depth knowledge of businesses willing to donate to silent auctions in Boston, for sure. But more importantly, a more nuanced view of how social justice work occurs and how it transforms. My first blog post talked about how progress is both concrete and conceptual. Coming out of this summer, I’ve learned more about my role as an organizer, and how to deal with the fact that I am one tiny person interacting with issues that constantly threaten to engulf me. 

Many times this summer I’ve felt as if I am a camera lens, zooming in and out to capture a picture that refuses to focus. As we organized our fundraiser, I was constantly doing work that was up front: calling venues, marking down contacts, and sending out emails for outreach. At the same time, my mind would wander to the ultimate vision we were trying to build by reinvestment: an economy that is regenerative, that nurtures instead of extracts, that uproots preconceived notions that isolate us, and encourages us to look forward. And it was a vague vision! If I sound like I have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s because I don’t. But the entire summer I continued on, doing concrete tasks in hopes of laying the foundation for a larger goal.

Photo taken by Sarah Jacqz

So… where do I go from here? How can I continue working towards the larger vision I’ve caught glimpses of this summer, without losing it all in the senior year frenzy? How can I balance zooming in on the important tasks of my life (like homework), and still find time to unfocus and try to capture the conceptual vision of progress. The first step, I think, is to continue building relationships. None of the work this summer would have been impactful for me if I wasn’t surrounded by incredible student organizers, whom I have been so lucky to learn from and to talk through my learnings with. The second step is to continue envisioning the way that life can be different from what it is now. Although society continues to tell me, a student, that I can’t change the way things are, I can! I have agency, I have a personal stake in this cause, and I have the guidance and support from others in the movement. The third step is to stop making step-by-step plans! Transformation is multi-faceted and can’t be organized in a linear way. And it doesn’t always give a good conclusion either.

This whole blog post is a half-formed thought, but I am leaving this internship full and inspired. Where do I go from here? Anywhere. I know I will find ways to enact the future I want to see wherever I end up.

Post 3: How does research apply to real life?

One of the most important memories I have when I go through my internship’s research assistant guide is under the FAQ section. Apart from the usual FAQ, this is a section filled with the questions our assistant usually encounters when we are trying to enroll the participant at the OB/Gyn clinical site. Women are a population with more vulnerabilities, and it is understandable that they want to know about the risk of participating in a study and talking about their personal experiences. One of the questions is related to how participants can benefit from the study. The way we usually phrase the answer is, “It is unfortunate that the study cannot really benefit the participants directly except the gift cards that we can offer. However, the study aims to benefit the whole society by gaining a general understanding of Chinese families living in the United States.” Research studies on human beings are not expected to be immediate, since society formed itself over hundreds and thousands of years. It is only normal that people want to see the direct effects of the study that they participated in, but it is our job to let them take a glance at scientific research and help them understand how important a piece of data can contribute to the whole study.

There was one time when I was walking one of the participants through the consent from and talking about the goal of the study.  She responded that she knew this is a study to improve the general wellbeing of immigrant women who live in Boston and that is the reason she really wanted to participate. I was so moved when I heard that, and I wish we could start some efficient program after we have a better understanding of this community.

Another aspect of this research that I really appreciated is the rapport we built with the mothers and expecting mothers. We conducted phone interviews with participants and, surprisingly, they usually open up with any topics that they are interested in when we are going through the interview packet. Some of them talk about how difficult it was when they first moved to the United States, and some of them talk about fun anecdotes that happened between them and their family. It is really satisfying when they show their appreciation of the time I spend talking to them and listening to their stories, and I will say that is actually a part of the social support our group wants to offer.

After we know the participants gave birth to their babies, we also send them hand-written congratulations cards to show that we really care about them in person, not only in the contributions they can offer as eligible participants. It is always a pleasurable time talking with the mothers about their updates in the new chapter of their life and learning more about their babies.

 

To wrap up the experiences I have had as a research assistant with social science studies, I am so lucky to work with a study that involves a direct connection with the participant. I realized how important it is to balance the position as a researcher and as a person who sincerely cares about the participant, which is really helpful for my future research experiences. If you care about them, they care about you.

Post 3: What I Learned From PEAR

The summer went by so fast! Now I am approaching the final week of my internship at PEAR. This is such a fun organization and I wish I could stay longer. Although the workplace environment is much less official and standard than I expected–locating in a house-like building at the bottom of the McLean campus–I really like the office culture here. People feel at home in the office and are close to each other. The senior staff members are easy-going and open-minded. We have brown bag lunch every Friday where people working in the office all have lunch together and chat. We shared a lot of laughter during this time. This friendly vibe helps me gain a sense of belonging and gives me the bravery to speak up and share any ideas I have that come up at the moment. Through my eight weeks working at PEAR, office culture has become one of the most important considerations when I choose my future job.

Three turkeys hanging out in front of our office.

Through my time at PEAR, I realize that funding is one of the biggest issues for most of the non-profit organization and social justice work in the world. Take educational injustice as an example. Some non-profit organizations conducting research on educational injustice have to wrap up their research project quickly as soon as they are able to create a report. They often do not get to the point of getting their research work published into the field because the budget is running. Many schools and after-school programs are not able to provide engaging social-emotional learning curricula and STEM education because of the limited educational materials and facilities. Some educational institutes have to give up sets of curricula because they cannot afford some materials required to run them. When I was designing the Clover social-emotional learning curriculum for non-profit programs, I took a lot of practical factors into consideration. I try to minimize the technology components and replace the teaching tool kit with more affordable ones without compromising the quality of the curriculum. I hope this could increase affordability of the Clover curriculum and allow more schools in low-income communities to implement the Clover curriculum set developed by PEAR.

At PEAR, I have developed a twelve session social-emotional learning curriculum manual from scratch, and now it is almost ready to be piloted. After spending seven weeks doing research, brainstorming, editing and formatting the curriculum, it seems like my baby now. I could not have achieved what I created this summer without collaboration with my supervisor, my fellow interns and other staffs in the office. I learned that collaboration is such an important piece at work. In most workplace settings, people are expected to work independently and be responsible for their own tasks. Everyone is busy working on their tasks and people don’t have the responsibility to help you. This dynamic is very different from that in a school setting. I find it harder to reach out for help at work than in a school setting where professors, mentors, and advisors are paid to help students and my fellow schoolmates get used to helping each other because we share similar goal or interest. It took me some time to learn how to appropriately reach out, speak up and get both my concerns and interesting ideas noticed in the work setting.

Another important lesson I learned was that I should build my work upon my strength. People have different personalities and working styles. Some of your colleagues might be more active or talkative, more humorous and come up with ideas faster than you, and that is OK. That doesn’t mean you are doing worse. You have your own strengths. You might be more organized, more meticulous, or better at creating things on paper. You are good as long as you are contributing in some way and always report your progress in time so that your supervisor is aware of what you have contributed. Don’t wait on presenting your progress until the last minute.

Our expressive art break after spending hours staring at the computer.

Now my internship at PEAR is coming to the end but I am not ready to say goodbye. I am grateful to everyone at PEAR and the WOW program for making this wonderful summer experience happen.

Post 3: A WOW-Filled Summer

The Legal Aid Society provides pro-bono legal representation to impoverished citizens of all five boroughs of New York City.

This week wraps up my eight-week internship in the Immigration Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society. In my eight weeks, I have completed around 280 hours of immigration work, assisted with around 50 cases, conducted a total of 35 DACA meetings, sent dozens of emails, and thumbed through at least a hundred files. As a result, I have experienced and learned so much.

It has been an absolute privilege to be a part of the Legal Aid Society community this summer. In my eight weeks with the organization, I have been able to work alongside, gain feedback from, and interact with selfless and intelligent attorneys and paralegals. I have completed work that has fulfilled me personally and professionally. Furthermore, I have learned so much about immigration law and about how to mediate between the emotional burden of such work and taking care of myself. 

Ironically, I am thankful that I was able to gain this insight during one of the worst periods in our modern-day immigration history. My time with the Legal Aid Society overlapped with many of the recent attacks on immigrants, including the confusion over adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, ICE raids, and President Trump’s new plan to bar Central Americans from receiving asylum. Despite this and the ensuing stress, I have witnessed the unit’s attorneys, staff members, volunteers, and interns continue to work tenaciously to provide the best support to immigrants in need. I now realize that I ultimately want to work with an organization and among individuals who exhibit that unwavering commitment to helping others–even in the face of resistance. Furthermore, I want to be an individual who promotes and inspires these characteristics, as well. 

A view of Central Park
As someone new to the bustling life of the city, Central Park is one of my favorite places to go to rejuvenate.

I weigh the value of my internship through the time spent and the work done here. But, beyond that, I prioritize the implications of how my time and work have shaped how I view myself and my surroundings. The biggest take-away from my internship is not the fact that I can fax, copy, and scan like a pro. Nor is it my expanded knowledge of immigration law and legal advocacy. It’s not even how much I have been able to directly assist immigrants. It’s the fact that, having gained all these newfound skills, I now feel confident enough, strong enough, and inspired enough to sustainably and skillfully pursue a career in such a critical field.

Times Square at sunset.

My advice to anyone who wants to pursue an internship with the Legal Aid Society or in legal advocacy is to take care of yourself and to bask in the opportunity to engage with individuals of different cultures and backgrounds. But my broader advice to anyone pursuing an internship in any field is to assess how the tasks you are doing, the community you belong to, and the people you are interacting with enhance your own feelings of competency and belonging. The world is a profoundly better place when its inhabitants are pursuing their passions, evolving with their work, and enjoying what they are doing. Any new experience or internship is an opportunity to test out the waters in a field that might meet this criteria. Each new opportunity, no matter how favorable its outcome, is a step in the ongoing, evolving process of finding what fulfills you. 

My internship was a step forward in this process, and I am grateful to have cultivated an even greater passion for legal advocacy.

Having the funds to live in NYC this summer allowed me to pursue an internship with the Legal Aid Society. It also allowed me to live near two of my siblings–as are pictured here.

I am so thankful to the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit for allowing me to participate in such a meaningful and amazing internship. I am also appreciative of the Hiatt Career Center, the World of Work (WOW) Social Justice grant, and my WOW adviser Kim Airasian for providing me with the funds and the support to pursue an internship in NYC with the Legal Aid Society this summer.

-Alison Hagani ’22

Post 3: Reflecting on RepresentWomen

I helped write content for RepresentWomen during my time there as an intern. I wrote articles that went on the website and the Medium blog, and I also promoted them on social media. I think that my articles helped get RepresentWomen’s messages across by making arguments for increased women’s representation, providing information about fair voting systems, and helping people understand why these reforms are important and relevant to their own lives. 

I also got an article published in The Fulcrum, a new media outlet that focuses on reporting on democracy reforms. The article will go live on August 6, and is about the Fair Representation Act. The piece will hopefully get more people on board with the legislation by explaining how it will increase women’s representation.

I wrote articles for the Civically Re-engaged Women blog as well, to promote their Seneca Falls Revisited Conference. This event will commemorate the first women’s rights convention in the United States and bring together women leaders from across the country to discuss women’s participation in society and politics. 

Hopefully my writing impacts the organization by getting people’s attention and showing them why what RepresentWomen stands for is important. Words have power, and when used correctly, they can get people to care about and mobilize around an issue. 

I learned that in the world of social justice work, organizations can have a lot of admirable ambition but not always have the capacity to achieve everything they want to. They instead have to make priorities. If I hear about a project that’s lower priority for the organization but is of interest to me, I can try to be proactive by asking how I can help or getting started on it on my own. 

For example, sometimes I would hear about an idea for an article or blog post during a meeting, and then before I could get specific guidelines, the topic would change to another task. Even though less time was spent talking about the writing project, I knew my work would still be appreciated if I took the initiative to get started on it and let other people focus on projects that were priorities to them.

I wish I had known when I started that I would need to make a bigger effort to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I very quickly fell into the habit of picking up tasks that were focused on writing because I knew that was something I enjoyed and could do. If I had known how easy it would be for me to get stuck in that rut, I would have pushed myself harder to ask for different types of tasks earlier on. 

The advice I would give to someone pursuing an internship at a nonprofit is to always ask for more to do instead of waiting to be given something to do. Delegating tasks takes a lot of time, and in a small organization, like the one I worked at, there is not a lot of that to spare. Don’t worry about “bothering” people by asking them for more to do, because you will be helping them in the long run by allowing them to use your time, skills, and effort in the most efficient way possible. 

Post 3: The End of My Journey at the Bronx ASC

This summer truly flew by. It’s crazy to think that this is my last post and my last week at the Bronx Adolescent Skills Center as my journey comes to a close. After all of my experiences this summer, looking back on my first-day jitters and my journey to learning how to participate in an office setting makes me laugh. I knew I would learn a significant amount about the world of work as a mature adult by diving head-first into a professional office environment. As I expected, I came to understand the effect of the chain of command as well as what is appropriate dress and behavior in the office, but I also learned about the field of Psychology, my major, what a potential career would look like, and what my interests are within the field.

The artwork on the ASC wall painted by current students.

But I have discovered that, as much as the ASC is an office, it is equally a home–not only for the students, but for the staff as well. The staff and students uphold their roles as support systems for each other every day in the office. Though the relationship between the staff and students is professional, I would also say the relationship is that of a family. The duality of these relationships is what makes the ASC so incredible, especially in my eyes.

My perception of the students and staff at the ASC as a family has changed the perception of social justice work that I held at the beginning of this summer. I entered the ASC understanding the social injustice that exists in this world with a motivation to fight and raise awareness while remaining detached from its effects, but since working at the ASC, I view social justice through a completely different lens.

Just two days before my internship ended, I entered the ASC office to find one of the students that I have been counseling as a peer waiting to talk to me. My supervisor explained to me that today was his father’s birthday and that it marks eleven years since his father passed away. When I met with the student, he explained that his father was shot in an attempt to protect him from being taken away. He was only seven. The student walked me through his thoughts, feelings, and emotions on this day when he mentioned that his father left him a note. A few years prior to his death, the student’s father wrote him a letter to be opened when he is eighteen, and this year, on his father’s birthday, he is eighteen.

As I listened to the traumas of so many students my age, I began to understand on a personal level how unjust this world actually is. My perception of social justice has changed through shattering the invisible barrier that has sheltered me from the effects of injustice. This is why the work that I have done at the ASC this summer–providing educational and vocational opportunities to students in low-income areas–means so much to me: it has opened my eyes towards the power of social justice.

Artwork on the streets of the Bronx outside my office.

I am incredibly grateful to have spent my summer working alongside the very intelligent, caring, and giving people at the Bronx ASC, as well as working with the students who inspire me to be a better version of myself every day. I will never forget this summer and everything that I have learned.

Lauren Lindman ’22

Post 3: White Coats for People of Color – Combating Racism in Healthcare

There are a few things in life that are truly black and white. Recently, a lot of issues surrounding racial identities have stirred the pot in terms of political affairs and the idea of what constitutes racism has dominated headlines. Growing up, I used to think racism and racists could be easily defined. It was simply good or bad, and anything that was racist would immediately be called out or challenged. It was part of the charm of living in an era with advanced technology and educational opportunities. It is unclear when I started to muddle the line between what is racism and what isn’t and began to see how prevalent it truly is in our society today.  Before my time at Project Healthcare, the process of delivering and receiving healthcare was much simpler for me. The last ten weeks have presented some of the most rewarding, challenging, and personally gratifying learning experiences that have completely changed my perspective on healthcare and how health is determined. 

Humans have a desire to have clearly defined boundaries and place things under categories. It is this same desire that lets us feed into the system that chooses to use our differences against us rather than embracing them. We set ourselves up to have implicit biases that inform our interactions with different people. Being aware of the biases we all hold is especially important for people working in health-related professions. 

To say that race could mean the difference between life or death is not an exaggeration. Because of systemic factors such as residential segregation, and past and present policies, members of ethnic minorities are at a higher risk of chronic health conditions. These same groups are less likely to receive the same level of preventive or equitable care as their white counterparts. Before this summer, these facts were just statistics. It was difficult for me to imagine how this could be true. Spending hours observing provider-patient interaction in the Emergency Department has made me realize how racism still persists in our system, even though everyone I have spoken to wants to see the opposite. 

A case study during a weekly Social Emergency Medicine course discussing a patient’s immigration status and implications for their healthcare.

 One of the biggest barriers to remedying the issues of race in our healthcare is a lack of concession in a healthcare setting. In the words of Dr. Kamini Doobay, a physician in Bellevue’s ED and a board member on NYC Coalition to Dismantle Racism, “We can’t attack something without acknowledging it. By not acknowledging the issue, we are perpetuating it”. Racism is a difficult and uncomfortable topic. Even saying the “R-word” makes people uneasy. We avoid holding each other accountable by not talking about racism;  instead thinking avoiding the issue helps solve it.         

Working with one of the most diverse patient populations in the state, it can be difficult to maintain a conscious level of cultural sensitivity for every individual. The healthcare providers I worked with this summer were some of the most empathetic and softhearted individuals I have ever met, yet many of them exercised unconscious changes in their stature and conversation that differed the treatment of patients of color versus white patients, which certainly had an impact on the quality of care individual patients received.  A lot of patients who came into the ED held strongly negative preconceived notions of the doctors that were treating them because of either previous experiences with healthcare providers, or the notion that their doctor is white so only prefers white patients. A common theme throughout the entirety of my summer was a desire for patients to see more providers of color. While changing the representative demographic of current and potentially future healthcare providers is an issue for the larger larger health system to deal with, taking the small effort to build bridges with patients of color and exercise cultural sensitivity will be extremely beneficial at the individual provider-patient interaction. 

         

Without a stethoscope around my neck or a white coat on, I appeared to be removed from the system that perpetuates racism, unknowingly or not. Patients felt comfortable telling me things they wouldn’t share with their doctor or nurse that were absolutely important for their overall well-being. Nearing the end of this experience, I am having a difficult time reconciling the idea that earning the qualifications necessary to help people with their health issues could change the perception of me as a person who genuinely cares about a patients well-being into an untrustworthy figure, even though the latter is false.         

Project Healthcare has given me countless memories and experiences to reflect on. From seeing brain surgery on my first day to the inside of a lung, my fondest memories are those spent speaking with patients and hearing their life experiences. Having the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life is an incredible one, and something that I encourage every individual to seek out. Working with the other Project Healthcare interns as well as the providers in the Emergency Department, I am confident our small acts to combat racism in healthcare will not prove to be futile. A future with equitable healthcare is absolutely possible, but requires that all participants are actively holding each other accountable to create tangible change.

       

Project Healthcare interns bonding and getting some sun after a lunchtime picnic.

Post 3: A Thank You to the MCAD

At my cubicle with my two monitors, which was such a great way to work! Most of my work is confidential and cannot be shared with people who are not parties to the case, hence the pretty bare desk. This photo was taken by Angela, one of the amazing training interns.

Now that my internship is nearly over, I can say that every day at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has been unique. On behalf of the Housing Unit I have sent out hundreds of notices for position statements, rebuttals, evidence, and just about everything an investigator could need to help finish a case. I have reviewed several reasonable accommodation policies for housing authorities and condo associations so no one is unfairly denied an accommodation again. I have talked to dozens and dozens of people who felt discriminated against and wanted to file a complaint. In some cases, I wrote up those complaints for them.

There is always the important work of making sure that all of our actions are reflected in our data systems. Inaccurate data systems can absolutely derail an investigation and cause headaches down the road, so logging information is the most important step you can never forget. I co-authored the quarterly report and helped make sure that HUD paid the MCAD for the cases we investigated. Over the course of the summer, I saw how HUD’s shrunken budget made them unable to take on any new investigations, and our intakes grew and grew. What I have learned about the world of work is that your days will always vary. 

I’m told by my supervisors that I have been a huge help to the department and I am going to choose to believe them. Interns matter and the work we do is important. Many offices, including the MCAD, rely on interns to help keep the ship moving. I am incredibly grateful to have worked in a place that made sure I understood the value of the work I was doing. I oversaw so many case records, did so much writing, and answered so many complainants. I might never see the final results of my work, but I was undeniably a part of so many people’s journey through the MCAD. I am now armed with knowledge I would never have learned otherwise, and I will not stop fighting for fair housing. 

I did not take this internship to be thanked, but hearing it does makes me feel like I am doing something right. One woman began to choke up at the end of a forty minute call as she told me she did not know what was going to happen and she did not know why her landlord was being mean to her, but she thanked me for listening and said it felt nice to be heard. We won’t always be able to tell people what they want to hear, and the law won’t always be on their side, but you can treat people fairly and with the respect they were denied. You need to make them feel heard.

My advice for someone who wants to pursue an internship at the MCAD or in the field would be to listen more than you talk. Ask questions when you are unsure because I promise it prevents mistakes in the future. Ask questions when you are curious. Spend time with people working in other parts of the organization and see what they do. 

Most importantly, never forget who you are serving. Social justice work can burn you out and it happens to everyone. What helps is to remember the mission and remember you are not alone. Your work matters, it makes a difference, and you can do it. 

Post 3: Reflecting on My Time at the New York Attorney General’s Office

Overall, my time at the New York Attorney General’s office has been nothing short of amazing.  I have learned so much and had many new and exciting experiences. One thing that I learned about social justice work, especially in a people-facing role, is the importance of patience. For example, an older women came to our office and I was assigned to help with her intake. I sat down with her and explained what services we provided. She was very unhappy with her situation and talked about how nobody was helping her.  She was upset with her credit card company and was extremely skeptical that our office could help her. However, I walked her carefully through what the next steps were. I spent extra time handling her intake and talking to her about the case and also about her children and her job. I saw her slowly start to relax, and by the time the intake was complete she was optimistic. This experience, and many similar ones, taught me that sometimes being a good listener and giving people a little more time makes a world of a difference. It also showed me that you need a lot of patience because a lot of the people coming in are dealing with extremely difficult situations and may be very frustrated.

A photo of me (on the left), Attorney General Letitia James(middle) and fellow intern Kim Paradisis (right)

During my time at the New York Attorney General’s Office, I worked on dozens of mediation cases and I also assisted in legal research and outreach. Since my office was small, I was able to interact with everybody and was able to assist in many different areas. In some of the work I did, I saw an immediate impact. While I can’t give specifics, I saw research turn into legal memos and subpoenas. It felt good knowing the work I was doing was respected in my office. One thing that I wish I had known when I started my internship was how long cases take to resolve. I thought I would close out a few cases a week, but the reality of the process made resulted in only two cases during my internship. I was able to do dozens of intakes, but I didn’t know that for many of those cases I wouldn’t be able to see them all of the way through.

A picture of me and some of the Harlem Regional Office interns with former New York Attorney General and current New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood!

Lastly, if you would like to pursue an internship at the New York Attorney General’s Office, I have a few pieces of advice. Firstly, take advantage of all of the amazing opportunities the Summer Law Internship Program (SLIP) provides. The opportunities include speaker events, networking opportunities, and fun summer activities. Secondly, I would recommend that you work in a small regional office or a small bureau. This way, you can interact with everyone at your office and you will play a more vital role. And finally, if work isn’t coming to you and you don’t know what to do, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisors if they have anything for you to do. Make yourself available and show your office that you are there to help.

NYU School of Medicine Journey Comes to An End

August 2 was the last day of my summer at NYU School of Medicine where we presented our research analysis studies. While I am upset my internship has come to an end, I have gained a vast amount of knowledge beneficial for my future endeavors. Before my internship, I had goals to expand on my research data analysis skills and I have done so as an intern,  a member of the Database for Research on Education in Academic Medicine (DREAM) Team. 

In the DREAM Team, I collaborated with a multidisciplinary research team on education of physicians and healthcare professionals. I also analyzed quantitative datasets of patient surveys between a patient’s first visit vs. the second visit with residents in the USP Program using SPSS and R. The USP Program evaluates providers in Bellevue Hospital Center and Gouveneur Health from the perspective of a patient. Actors portray as a standardized patient with a certain medical concern and fill out a checklist evaluating the provider’s performance, patient experience, and functionality of the medical team. The conditions that are reviewed are: asthma, back pain, fatigue, hepatitis B, shoulder & knee pain, well visit. Often providers receive the same case twice over the time period they are with NYU Bellevue and Gouveneur. Actors evaluate their experience with the provider and at the Hospital Clinic. The goal is to see an improvement in performance from the provider and the clinic between the first visit and the second visit. My project was to analyze the USP data per case for providers who received two visits for certain domains: Communication, Patient Activation, Patient Satisfaction.

One additional project I worked on was evaluating OBGYN residents’ performance on Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) by conducting statistical analysis via R and SPSS. OSCE’s are an examination in the Simulation Center (NYSIM) between a learner and a standardized patient (typically an actor) The learner is assessed on their performance and the learner receives feedback via performance-based assessments. OSCE cases cover a variety of situations providers face in the hospital daily. I conducted data abstraction, cleaning, restructuring, merging various datasets, developing infrastructure within the database and calculated summary scores of communication domain. 

Throughout my experience at PrMEIR Scholar Summer Intensive Program, I have developed strong research skills in the field of medicine using my programming knowledge. I have also built a strong network of peers and mentors at NYU School of Medicine. As I embark on my last year of university, I have gained a lot of advice and skills on how to go about finding a career within my interests of Medicine and Computer Science. Working at NYU School of Medicine, I enjoyed the work environment and would love to seek an opportunity in Software Engineering Research in the Department of Medicine. 

If I were to advise students commencing on an internship, I would say to try to find an internship you know integrates your passions and interests. You should work in an environment that allows you to showcase your skills, but also teaches you new techniques in your field of study useful for your future career interests. Also, it is important to make connections in your internship, so you have mentors to help you with your future goals. My summer at NYU School of Medicine PrMEIR Program has come to an end; however, the knowledge and mentors I have attained during my time at this program will stay with me.

The Internship Is Ending, but the Learning Is Just Beginning

Before starting my internship at the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, I had hoped to deepen my critical thinking about psychology, social justice, and the systems in society that contribute to the perpetuation of interpersonal violence. I had hoped to develop a better understanding of the complexities of domestic violence as well as how it is impacted by systems of oppression and share that information with others. I wanted to increase my self-awareness, empathy, and insight into how I can work to prevent violence on a larger scale as well as on a personal level in my own relationships.

My internship without question gave me the opportunities to learn and grow in these areas. I was able to listen to and talk with seasoned advocates who passed on some of their wisdom and helped me understand domestic violence and the issues connected with it in ways I had never thought about before. It also made me realize even more just how much there is to learn. Learning is an ongoing process that we all must continually engage with. My work this summer showed me that we must challenge ourselves on our preconceived notions and understand how our identities impact our views of the world and the work that we do.

Another goal for this summer was to confirm that going into non-profit work is the path I want to pursue after college. By seeing first-hand how a non-profit organization functions, I learned the processes involved in providing support services with the goal of creating a positive impact. I gained insight into what it is like to work in a non-profit by forming relationships with DCCADV employees, especially my wonderful supervisor. Participating in different areas of work in the organization has helped me discover what specific aspects of social work appeal to me and where my strengths lie.

I have discovered that it is important to me to meet face-to-face with the people I am trying to work with and serve. Policy, training, and outreach are so important on their own and in collaboration with direct service efforts. I have gained a deeper understanding of how these elements work and how to integrate them into an organization that provides resources and services to different populations. Previously I did not have much experience with the policy and outreach side of advocacy so through this internship, I have figured out that going forward, I want to continue doing direct service work but while incorporating the larger scale strategies I have learned here. I will be more informed about the dynamics between the different aspects of this work so that not only will I be engaging in intervention work, but in prevention and community engagement as well.

I am extremely grateful to DCCADV and my supervisor Leanne Brotsky for allowing me to take a small part in the operations of their organization for the past three months. I have been so inspired seeing the passion, intelligence, and courage every person who works here has. I’m sorry that my time here is ending, but I’m so happy to have had this opportunity. Thank you for your incredible work and leadership.

 

Post 3: Final Thoughts

I did achieve my learning goals, which remained consistent throughout my internship. Going into this internship my goals were to advance my professional network and receive feedback that will help me be a better colleague. I wanted to try something new and expand upon my existing skill set. 

My internship was incredibly helpful in clarifying my career interests. For someone who is interested in advocacy, I would advise them to be open minded. There are lots of different agencies in both the private and public sector, and experience is the best tool. 

Nonprofits are complex and have many different departments. Understanding that you want to work for an agency is simply the first step in determining your career goals. Throughout my various internships, I have worked with development, social media, community services and with a marketing team. I would urge a student looking for advice to reach out to members of different departments. Not only will it help you decide what you want, but it expands your professional network. The more people at an organization that are willing to vouch for you or write a recommendation, the better. 

Specifically for the field of Jewish nonprofits, I would advise someone to ask those in your office what brought them to the field. In such a niche field, I have found that professionals frequently have interesting stories and helpful guidance. Meet with anyone that will meet with you and consider all advice, even if it is unsolicited. Many organizations work together, be nice to everyone. Of course, kindness is always a good idea. In a niche field, you want your reputation to be positive.

I would advise someone interested in the non profit or advocacy field to thoroughly research an agency prior to applying for a position. While it is valuable to leave your comfort zone, it is important to check that you support the organization’s mission. Familiarize yourself with the founding and history of the organization. Read about when they have realized press statements and what their positions are. It feels incredibly fulfilling to feel you are making a difference but doing so when you disagree with the organization’s goals is detrimental to success. 

Photo from my first day at AJC when we lobbied Congress. Throughout my internship, I prepared briefing papers for visits to Congress.

I am proud of the work I accomplished this summer and the skills I gained. One major project was regarding African nations’ relationship with Israel in the United Nations. For decades, countries in Africa have frequently voted against Israel in the United Nations. My job was to write briefing papers which described the relationship between Israel and various African countries. From there, I analyzed why different proposed solutions and ways to amend these relationships. This was an extensive research assignment and I am proud of my contribution. 

As a rising senior, this is likely my last summer internship as I enter the professional workforce. The skills I have gained through my internships, and the work I did this summer prepared me for my next steps. I feel prepared because I have a better knowledge of what I want to do. I also feel confident that I have professionals who can help me achieve my goals.

The Show Must Go On

Like every dazzling production, mine has finally come to its close. In a few weeks, the curtains will be drawn, the lights dimmed, and I will be onto my next premiere. Yet, all the knowledge that this tale has taught me will live on in every show I do. 

Past Speakeasy production posters line the walls behind me!

If I could extend my run with Speakeasy Stage Company as their Production Management Intern, I most certainly would. They have exceeded my expectations in their support of my theatrical education. Not only have I learned everything, and more, I wanted to in technical theatre, but my eyes have been opened to the office setting of a theatre and all that is required as an administrator. I am grateful for all the theatre professionals I have met and the doors they have opened for me in my career path. This internship has solidified my already established belief that I am meant to be a theatre artist and have the growing abilities to succeed as such. 

That’s me- on a cupcake!

While I am saddened to leave Speakeasy and return to Brandeis, I am comforted by the awareness that my work as an intern will continue to influence the company after I am gone. When I could, I wrote guides for future interns so they would more easily understand tasks they were given. I created timelines, spreadsheets, and checklists galore for this coming season’s shows. Every week, I read and analyzed two plays which were then voted on as possible future productions. (And let me tell you, there are some fantastic new works coming!) An intern’s work has value, even if on the surface they seem to be the lowest on the totem pole. Speakeasy’s staff is well aware of their interns’ work. One staff meeting, they surprised us with cupcakes- complete with headshots of each intern. 

The 2nd show in our upcoming season is about getting into college!

It was nice to be recognized by Brandeis for my hard work, too! Kristin and Jackie from Hiatt stopped by Speakeasy’s office one morning to meet my supervisors -both of whom are wonderful teachers – and speak to me about my experience. If you want to hear more about working in a professional theatre, you can check out the video interview here . 

In the booth! (In a theatre, the booth is where the lighting and sound operators and the stage manager sit and run the show!

Whatever area of theatre you are interested in, it is important to understand as many other jobs within the stage as you can. Not only does this establish an appreciation for those around you, all of whom are working together to put on a show, but it also creates more job opportunities for yourself in theatre. The world of performance is an incredibly competitive field so the more you can do within that field, the more chances of success you will be given. However, success doesn’t just come from knowing how to complete a job. Everyone appreciates a positive attitude and strong work ethic. If you and your competitor can both do the same job equally well, the company will choose the harder working, more positive applicant, especially if they already know them. Get to know as many people as possible and help them out. The show will always go on, but it is your choice whether you give yourself the best chance to be included.

Want to see our next show? It  opens Sep 13!

I will never forget the kindness and generosity of the people I have met at Speakeasy. Everyone was always willing to explain something new to me, seemingly knowing that they were once in my shoes. I know that Speakeasy’s show will go on and am grateful to have been a part of it- even if for one sweltering hot summer.

THANK YOU SPEAKEASY! 

If you want to see upcoming Speakeasy shows, click here!

 

Post 3: Wrapping Up

This experience has been so many things for me in so many different ways, but in this post I will attempt to convey as best I can some of my main takeaways from the summer. This internship has opened my eyes in ways I could have imagined, but never expected.

Working with Restore Justice was my first formal experience with an internship in an established organization. The biggest thing that struck me right away was the passion and pride that these individuals had for the work that they do. Criminal justice reform is not a very popular public issue, especially in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Corrections is notoriously non-compliant and disorganized, and does not take kindly to groups that want to hold it accountable. Additionally, the population group that we work with is one that historically has been brushed under the rug. Because of the stigma attached to individuals who are incarcerated, coupled with the demographics of incarcerated persons leaning more towards people of color and people of lower socio-economic status, it is very easy for the public to be unsympathetic. Many think that these people have given up their chance to be treated with dignity and respect, and that they made the choice to become marked as a criminal and thus don’t deserve sympathy.

It is also very easy for people to choose to ignore the violations of rights that occur in prisons, both before, during, and after sentencing and incarceration. Simply put, people don’t care if it doesn’t affect them. This allows a great majority of individuals to turn a blind eye to what is happening, and the conceptualization of prisons as punitive instead of rehabilitative further drives this lack of empathy that the public expresses. Because of this, there is very limited opportunity to get enough public traction as well as legislative support to pass the policies that we want to see passed.

Against these odds and many more, the people at Restore Justice continue to see hope. They have helped me learn to celebrate any victory, no matter how small, because they see the bigger picture. They have also helped me understand the importance of narrowing focus in passing policy, but also in any work around social justice. Time and time again, I have heard my coworkers express the sentiment that, although they want to help everyone right now, they understand that it is more important to fight one step at a time, and that doing anything for even one person makes a world of a difference.

I am incredibly grateful to have been introduced to this community of people, and have met some truly incredible individuals. Being able to speak with men that have been incarcerated, are currently incarcerated, and family members of those men has been eye-opening and humbling. The hope that they retain in the face of being tossed aside by society and the passion they have for helping others that have been in their situation is astounding. It has made me a better person, helped me to see that there is a good in all of us, and that nobody should be defined by the worst mistake they have made.

I have made some incredibly meaningful connections and had truly insightful conversations. I have appreciated this experience in many ways, but most of all for the opportunity it has provided me to form my own understanding of this complex issue and all the players involved. Growing up with a father who works for the Bureau of Prisons in the federal system has given me one kind of narrative about the criminal justice system in the United States, and that narrative is extremely complicated in and of itself. But this internship experience has given me another narrative and opened up even more avenues and possible belief systems for me. I have been able to take each piece of information I have gathered and formulate my own thoughts and opinions on this incredibly complex issue.

Although I still have questions to explore and situations to unpack, this internship experience has given me clarity on one important idea: we are all people, and no matter what choices we make, we all have the potential to see the good in each other. We are all humans and we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. That’s the bottom line. Thank you to Restore Justice Illinois for giving me this opportunity, and more importantly, for fostering relationships that I will take with me the rest of my life.

This is Derrick Jordan. I had an incredible visit with him at Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, IL on August 1. Thank you, Derrick!

Post 3: Social Justice and Starfish

This summer I learned that doing social justice/ public interest work is NOT going home at the end of the day with the work being done and the injustices being solved. Rather, it’s going home every night knowing that these same injustices will still be a problem when you wake up in the morning, but still waking up and going to work each day in order to make some sort of a difference. Thinking of social justice work and my work at Legal Aid this summer reminded me of a story called “The Starfish Thrower,”originally written by Loren Eiseley, which has gone through many adaptations. The story goes like this:

An old man was walking along a beach the day after a storm. Along the shoreline, thousands of starfish had washed up on shore and were now baking in the hot sun. The old man began walking down the beach looking at the starfish when he soon came across a young girl. The girl was picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the sea. The old man stopped the young girl and asked “Young Lady, what are you doing? There are thousands of starfish along this beach. You can’t possibly make a difference and save all of them.” The young girl paused. She then bent down and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean. She then said, “Well, it made a difference to that one.”

This story above is what choosing to do social justice work is like. This summer at Legal Aid, I got to see this first hand. My previous internships were computer science-based and had definite end goals like publish this program, write this piece of code, build this webpage, etc. At the conclusion of the internship, my work would be done, and whatever problem or task I was given at the beginning of the internship would be solved. At Legal Aid, that’s not the case. The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia aims to “Make Justice Real” for those living in poverty in DC. This has also been one of my goals all summer. However, with a goal like that, there is no definite end. Social justice work like this has no definite ending or even an accurate measure of progress.

As my internship comes to a close in the next two weeks, I can’t say that I’ve made a significant difference in the larger problem of injustices facing those in DC, but I can say I have made all of the difference to at least some people facing them. My work at Legal Aid this summer has allowed me to assist individuals in being able to stay in their family homes, retain their home-health aide hours after they had been reduced, gain custody of their children, and so much more.

At Legal Aid this summer I have not only been able to do social justice work, but to do it in a city that is close to my heart. This summer, I feel like I’ve had a unique impact on my organization by being a native Washingtonian. The city I grew up in is very important to me and I like showing my unique perspective to others who might only see DC in one way. So much so that in my last two weeks I’m even leading a tour of one of the areas of DC that my middle school was located in, and I’m super excited to share my knowledge with everyone.

Here’s to a sweet last two weeks of my internship.

-Rolonda Donelson

Post 3: A Summer of Cultural Survival and Connection

Throughout my time at Cultural Survival, I have learned a lot about the realities of day-to-day work at a non-profit organization. One thing that has been reassuring to realize is that there are so many kinds of jobs one can have and still support social justice work, depending on your interests, strengths, and preferences. If you would rather work with numbers and money, you can. If you prefer to do event planning, you can do that too. 

Bazaar in Newburyport, MA July 20-21

Since Cultural Survival is a fairly small organization, with less than ten full-time staff working in the Cambridge office where I worked, I got to observe how each person was in charge of a different section of the organization on a daily basis. But there are also times where everyone came together as well. The bazaars, which occur in the summer and winter, are events where numerous indigenous artists from around the world fly into New England to sell their work. They are big, all day events, so it’s essentially all hands on deck. Even people who don’t do much work to prepare for the bazaars during the rest of the year still go and help out and do whatever needs to be done those few days. The bazaars are a real team effort.

Bazaar in Newburyport, MA July 20-21

During my internship, it has been an honor to be able to dedicate my time to researching and learning about all different groups of indigenous peoples and individuals doing advocacy work to benefit their particular part of the world. I then got to report back on what I learned and write articles about these news stories. I also got to lend a hand at the bazaar in Newburyport (on a 100 degree day no less), helping to set up and helping the vendors with whatever they needed, and making sure everyone got the water and breaks they needed. 

As a result of this internship, I have realized that I prefer doing work where I get to interact with people more, with more of a local focus. I enjoyed the work I did all summer, but the most meaningful moments for me were definitely attending and testifying at the hearing for the bill that would ban Native American mascots in Massachusetts public schools, and working at the bazaar and helping out the vendors. In the future, I definitely see myself pursuing more opportunities that allow me to work hands-on with people in my local area.

The advice I would give to other people interested in this field of indigenous human rights advocacy, and human rights advocacy in general, is to be open to any and all opportunities for connection with other people who share similar passions. There is a lot to learn from people who have been doing this kind of work for years, and they are usually also the people who would love to share a connection with you. I think another good rule of thumb is to focus on centering and lifting up the voices of people who are more marginalized than you. And only then, when the circumstances are appropriate, go ahead and don’t be afraid to speak up and use your own voice to support marginalized peoples.

The End :)

It’s already come to the end of my summer internship at Blueport Commerce and I have to say, I’m definitely going to miss it. Through the people I worked with, the technology I used and the great work atmosphere I was a part of, I have learned a lot and I am grateful to have received this opportunity.

My first learning goal for the summer was to learn a new programming language. Through debugging and implementing automated tests written in c# and built on Selenium as well as repairing defects to an MVC web application, I was able to dive into this new object-oriented programming language.  Along with C#, I was able to work with SQL and Powershell by writing stored procedures for automated tests as well as creating tools to help debug these tests.  Through C#, SQL and Powershell, I also learned the essentials of software testing and automation techniques. I knew that testing code was vital to programming but it was nice to dive into it and use advanced testing tools.

Team Product Demo! (with ice cream 🙂 )

My second learning goal was to connect with more people in this field. I think this internship has greatly strengthened my professional relationships. Blueport has a strong collaborative atmosphere so I had the opportunity to work with a variety of mentors which allowed me to learn the best practices in coding and agile development. Along with this, I was able to learn about my colleague’s career paths and how they came into this field. It was nice to hear that everyone’s path was different. In fact, many people had not taken computer science during their undergraduate experience! Hearing about everyone’s experiences exposed me to more possibilities for my career path.

Also, I can say, impostor syndrome is real and at school. I have always felt like maybe I’m not meant to major in computer science. However, having real-world experience has definitely made me feel more secure in my major and has clarified my career interests in software engineering.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself this summer as well as the importance of soft skills in any career field. I used to be scared of asking questions and being the person who didn’t exactly know what they were doing but working at Blueport has shown me that no one has all the answers and everyone is learning from each other. All that matters is that you have the willingness to learn and try. I guess one piece of advice that I would give to students interested in interning at a software company is to not be overwhelmed by everything you don’t know at first because through practice and asking questions, something that you once thought was impossible will soon be easy to you. Companies are always looking for a fresh and unique perspective and you have the capability to bring that to the table!

Paint night!!

I am really proud of what I have accomplished and I am excited to continue to use what I have learned. To everyone at Blueport, thank you for an amazing summer and everything it taught me! With the daily stand-up meetings, the monthly events, playing card games at lunch and especially the office dogs, I had an amazing time! 🙂

Finn visited us at work!

Post 3: A Model Nonprofit

It isn’t easy to be a nonprofit organization. The state and the federal government have many layers of administrative requirements, deadlines, and qualifications. It is all with good intentions, but the bureaucratic maze is a challenge for many well-intentioned people who want only to do good in the world. During my time at United for a Fair Economy, I saw this dynamic play out and witnessed practices crucial to making the nonprofit structure workable.

United for a Fair Economy is a nonprofit organization with a pretty large staff capacity and a broad range of things that they do. While I was there, I experienced an audit, preparation for a 25th anniversary celebration, a fundraising push at the end of the fiscal year, and social media publicity to keep supporters informed of the work that was being accomplished. While this work is what took up most of my time, it was second to the economic and racial justice work that is the core of UFE.

At the same time that I was entering donation records into the database and asking Massachusetts businesses to sponsor our upcoming event, UFE was also hosting popular economics education trainings for movement organizers, fighting for $15 minimum wage in North Carolina, and mobilizing wealthy people to support just economic practices. In many nonprofits and as nonprofits grow, these two tracks become siloed into departments or individual staff positions that seem to be lightyears apart. At UFE, we incorporated three practices that prevented that siloing from happening.

Firstly, UFE values collaboration. No project proposal, organizing graphic, or appeal letter will make it out the doors without the input of multiple people in the office. From the conceptualization to the final edit, ideas are bounced around the room during lunch conversations or over Zoom meetings with the staff who work in multiple different regions of the US. It is crucial that throughout this process the folks that work in development are aware of and feel part of the community work that is at the heart of the organization’s mission. Equally important is that the education team knows how their work is being presented to donors and is part of the vision in keeping their work sustainable.

Secondly, it is important that all aspects of the work is framed in a way that values its equal importance to the organization. An example of this is demonstrated in the term, “wealth reclamation” this term is used to think about fundraising and donor relations which can be a very large component of nonprofit organizations. It helps us think about fundraising as returning wealth to the communities where it belongs which is a curtail aspect in an organization with a mission of economic justice.

Lastly, the mission of the organization must be reflected internally. At UFE, this means including healing justice in the nonprofit work environment, and respecting the lives and wellbeing of the people who make UFE’s work possible on a daily basis. It also means holding themselves accountable to their value of language justice.

Jeannette Huezo, the Executive Director of UFE, and I at the end of my internship.

During my time at UFE I worked as a development intern, but at no time did I feel like I was doing less interesting or important work. By integrating these aspects into more organizations, maybe we can make my experience a reality in the taxing nonprofit world. I know that my experience was unique, but it doesn’t need to be.

Madeline Bisgyer ’20

Post 3: My Adventures in Cynicism and Caring

Empathy (noun): the action of understanding, being aware of, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another (Merriam Webster). Empathize (verb), empathically (adverb), empathic (adjective). Four different versions of the same word all trying to tap into a surprisingly complex human emotion. We are taught to empathize from a very young age, from children’s books detailing what people are feeling to at-length discussions in elementary school. Although people are designed to be around others, I believe that empathy can be taught. It is an ever-flowing feeling that can be absorbed, ignored, and expanded. After working in this hospital for the past ten weeks, I have seen every variation and level of empathy, from the nurse that will go above and beyond his duties to ensure a patient gets home safely to the social worker that curses out patients after they leave the office. I have seen residents roll their eyes when the same patient walks in twice in one day and cab drivers that are willing to take patients fifty blocks home for no pay.

A picture of the Bellevue gate while they were filming the TV show “New Amsterdam” at the hospital!

I always thought empathy was a given in the healthcare profession, something that innately went along with the job description. It turns out, it is far more complex than that. The first time we actively discussed empathy in this job was when we were given the scary statistic that the moment you enter your third year of medical school, your empathy starts to decline. This both made sense but also changed the way I watched medical professionals interact with patients. I still saw the diagnosis, the procedures, and the tests, but I was watching how they employed their empathy. Were they going through the motions or actually taking the time to understand the patient? And of course, like any difficult questions, the answer was mixed. On days when there were thirty patients and only two doctors, the team had to move like a machine; there physically was not enough time to sit and hear the complete story of the patient. And there were times when physicians would see and internalize the pain a patient was feeling, trying their hardest to alleviate this suffering through both care and treatment. But the hardest part about all of these interactions is that I began to feel myself experience the same see-sawing of emotions.

I went into the summer as a naïve, hopeful, and optimistic volunteer. I could not see the faults of patients, only how the healthcare system was harming the well-being of those it served. I could not see the never-ending demands of this job or the ways in which healthcare providers worked to maintain some level of sanity. I could see pain, suffering, and a lack of caring, all of which I vowed to alleviate in some capacity. And for some patients, I hope I did just this. Being the wide-eyed volunteer allowed me to sit with patients for hours on end, trying to absorb some of their pain. It gave me the ability to listen to their stories and give them the attention they so rarely received. But it also started to change how I view healthcare.

One of the diagrams presented to us while we were discussing empathy.

Although I have only been working at this hospital for two months, I already feel myself burning out. Empathizing is tiring. It forces you to feel things, good and bad, but it also drains you out. I came in with endless enthusiasm, empathy, and patience, but then began to realize that this was not a sustainable lifestyle. If I went into every interaction, exam, and procedure with the same level of empathy as before, I would burn out to no end. But where is the line? Where is the balance between understanding patients and taking care of yourself? How can healthcare providers protect their empathy while maintaining efficiency? Is our healthcare system even set up to answer these questions? These are the things that I have been thinking about from the moment I first saw a physician get angry with a patient, or when no one would explain what was happening to the trauma victim.

Working in a public hospital is by no means an easy feat; rather, it pushes you to the edge of your sanity and caring. Understanding that this is all a balancing an act–an immense game of juggling emotions, feelings, and treatment–has been my biggest takeaway from this entire summer. Knowing that I too will inevitably feel some level of burnout in my time in the healthcare profession is scary yet empowering, because I am ready for what is to come. I am ready to push myself to feel and control when I can no longer do so. I am ready to throw myself into situations with the same level of zest I have done this summer. And most importantly, I am ready to take what I have learned and carry it with me for the rest of my life.

Post 3: Reflections

This summer I interned at Partners for Justice, a non-profit organization that operates within the Delaware Public Defender’s Office. The work of this organization is centered around advocacy on behalf of our clients who face issues with access to housing, public benefits, employment, medical care and other civil legal needs. While we can imagine what it must be like to navigate these complicated bureaucracies with little to no agency, most do not experience this often frustrating and tiresome process first-hand. This summer, I was able to see the connection between involvement in criminal legal issues and civil legal issues. I was able to witness the detrimental collateral consequences that dig our clients further into poverty.

Through working directly with clients who are not only facing criminal charges, but civil legal issues as well, I learned the importance of early intervention, holistic defense and patience. Far too often, our involvement with our clients came too late–they already had lost their home, already had lost their benefits or already had been arrested. That is why early intervention is key to prevent further consequences of being poor and slipping deeper into financial and social instability.

While all of our clients are facing criminal charges, most are forced to deal with civil legal issues as well. This is why a holistic defense–one which serves clients on their drug possession charge as well as their housing eviction–combines criminal and civil law to best serve our clients. When dealing with a legal system that emphasizes punishment and control over justice, happy outcomes are rare and come only after weeks, months or even years of advocacy. This is where patience comes in. However, this constant advocacy is necessary for any change to be possible.

During my summer internship, I had opportunities to make direct impact in our clients’ lives, as well as a more general impact on the Partners for Justice organization. I was able to work on several different projects as well as working directly with clients in the public defender’s office. I conducted research on various housing options, expungement proceedings and mental health treatment in the Delaware area, as well as research into retrieving property from police custody. This helped inform the full-time advocates so they could better serve their clients. My client work included helping develop re-entry plans for people exiting prison as well as helping various clients receive essential benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Some of my most impactful work included interviewing people for biographical information who were seeking a public defender to examine their case and to assess other civil legal issues they might be facing.

Much of this work is centered around resources. With a lack of affordable housing, job opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, or quality mental health treatment, resources can often be challenging to find. At the beginning of this internship, I found myself often lost with where to go for help with clients. However, as the summer progressed, I was able to learn in great detail about where and how to find the best resources for our clients. By developing relationships with community partners, I was able to better refer clients to community resources.

For anyone who wants to pursue a career in public defense work or civil legal aid, I’d advise them to be persistent and to try not to get dismayed by the constant injustices in the legal system. This work is often entrenched in complicated bureaucracies. It is important to be persistent when advocating for a client because any meaningful change will not come easily. This work can often be depressing, frustrating and disheartening. However, with 80% of people without access to affordable legal representation, this work is more important than ever. We must not let the everyday injustices stop us from working towards a common goal of equity and justice.

Post 3: The 30,000 Foot View From DC, and Other Lessons

I have learned so much this summer–about judicial nominations, of course, but also about working in advocacy and all of the options that are available to me. Social justice work is more layered and diverse than I had ever dreamed of. I could never have imagined I’d meet so many people at different organizations who were all working on judicial nominations, for example. Being in DC has given me the opportunity to learn that I both don’t need to have it figured out yet, and that I can take everything I’ve done and still do so much more.

At Alliance for Justice, I got to work with a great, outgoing team that exemplified everything I would want in a workplace. We brainstormed out loud in our alcove in the office, we proofread each others’ emails, and my fellow interns and I were encouraged to ask questions and speak up in meetings. These small things helped me learn about the kind of professional environment I will thrive in after graduation. For me, that was incredibly important, especially because it wasn’t at all what I was looking for when I started my summer internship search.

Myself and my wonderful Outreach team on the steps of the Supreme Court!

I was also encouraged to network and grab coffees with people I met who were interesting, which has so far been one of the best and most educational parts of my summer. Networking wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing before this summer, especially as a student; it was intimidating to ask someone for their time when there wasn’t anything I could give back in return. However, these were the conversations that I’ll remember for the rest of my life because they helped me define what kind of social justice work I feel most impactful in. All this time, I’d wanted to work in policy in DC, only to learn through these chats that what I need is to be much, much closer to the communities I’m working with. A 30,000 foot view is way too far away for me (at least for now), but I’m glad I had the chance to figure that out.

I also implemented a series of brown bag lunches for our interns that happened almost weekly, where we learned about the different parts of our organization and also got tips on going to graduate school or law school, professional development, and social media management. These were not just mini-lectures or debriefs; they gave all of us interns a chance to speak, informally, with the staff at our organization. They helped to foster a sense of community and opened the door for one-on-one talks.

A room of people seated at a bookstore, with an interview happening at the front.
A full room at our conversation with Dean Strang, whose book stoked my interest in early radical labor organizing!

My advice for people who think they want to do nonprofit social justice advocacy is to open every door. There are so many different ways to engage with this work and all of them are vastly different. It isn’t about picking an issue or a job title as much as it is doing something that you enjoy and do well. You will have the biggest impact where you feel committed to the work you’re doing and happy to be doing it.

This was another site of learning for me, as I enjoy running events and building organizational relationships, yet I was seeking out opportunities to sit back and do research. More than anything, I’ve learned that I don’t need to have it quite figured out anytime soon; now’s the time for trying it all out and seeing what fits best. This summer was the next step on an unpredictable path and I can’t wait to see where I go.

Renee posing with a bust of Louis D Brandeis
Me and Louis Dembitz Brandeis himself at the Supreme Court!

Finishing Up in the Lab

As my internship with the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University comes to a close, I have many positive reflections to look back on. In a very tangible way, I can see how much I learned. In a short time, I was able to begin to understand the details of Kidney transplant rejection research, when prior to this summer, I had extremely limited knowledge in the field. My goals for the summer were to take advantage of the opportunity and to learn as much as possible. I understood and did the procedure of staining tissue biopsies with antibodies to analyze the tissue. I learned the intricate anatomy of the kidney, the glomeruli, tubules, interstitium, nephrons, cytokeratin, and was able to recognize them under a microscope. I went to different conferences and seminars to learn about cutting edge biotechnology machines. I went to a seminar about the history and current regulations within medical research morality and standards (which was fascinating). I also heard the department head of the Harvard nephrology department give a talk on kidney function.

One thing that I am most proud of is that I developed the skill of being quite fearless about asking questions. In my work environment, I could have easily been embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t know a lot of things. I could have been bashful in asking questions, knowing that the doctors I was surrounded by have delved into their specialized sections of pathological study for years, and felt way out of my league. I certainly did recognize my newness to the field of study. It was very humbling, and I actually saw it as a perfect opportunity to be completely unembarrassed, ask any question I wanted, even knowing if they were more introductory questions in an expert’s eyes. There was always more I could ask and more I could learn, so I tried to take advantage of that in the best way possible. One day in the last few weeks, I actually sat in my supervisor’s office for a few hours, just me and her, and we got into a long detailed discussion about her research, writing all over her whiteboard, discussing it (as you can see in the picture here). It was totally wonderful.

I learned something about my medical aspirations and desires this summer as well. I had a very positive experience in the pathology department and learned so much, but I did discover that I am drawn to patient interaction. I kept finding myself going from the science (cross sections of tissue) and asking ‘how exactly does this translate to the patient’? ‘How can we best treat the patient?’ and ‘How did the patient respond?’. I am a ‘people’ person and I think that my career in medicine will somehow be intricately connected to seeing patients throughout the day, rather than only doing research or only looking at the tissues of patients.

Along with my internship work experience, I also had a nice time on evenings and weekends, seeing friends and family and exploring NYC. This summer internship has been a wonderful experience of learning and fun, and I am so grateful to the World of Work (WOW) Brandeis internship fellowship for making the experience possible.

Post 3: Ending my Internship with New American Pathways

This summer has been extremely rewarding and I feel as though I have gotten a valuable look into the financial side of running NGOs as well as a better understanding of what my life would look like if I decided to pursue a career working for NGOs. While I am grateful for this opportunity and enjoyed my internship, I discovered that I prefer the policy side of NGOs rather than the administrative side. I like doing research and I like having hands-on experience with the work organizations are based around. 

I have realized that social justice work is hard, and trying, especially within a state like Georgia. Additionally, I have realized that social justice work in the South is necessary and that I would love to base my career within this region. While the purple politics of Georgia yields interesting discourse, I want to dedicate my life to shifting that scale further into blue, without changing the socioeconomic demographics of the state too greatly. I don’t want Georgia to become the Massachusetts of the South, praised a liberal haven, but with mass gentrification and wage inequality. I would love to get involved with labor organizing here and will likely spend my post-college life doing research into NGOs that deal with this cause.

During my internship at New American Pathways, I have worked largely on organizing donors, asking local businesses to donate, and helping to write grants for the organization. Most of my work has been focused on the upcoming fundraising gala: Red, White, and NEW, which hopes to raise $250K in revenue to go towards New American Pathway’s many programs and initiatives supporting refugees. So far, we have at least 50 donations and at least 30 sponsors lined up for the event. I will help make sure the event runs smoothly and will enjoy seeing the results of my hard work.  

If I was to give advice to someone working with a refugee organization, I would say that you need to be empathetic above all else and that you should only pursue this field if you are willing to put a lot of work into it. Otherwise, you will not be successful instituting change. If someone was going into the financial side of an NGO, my advice to them would be to make sure they are truly interested in finance, grants, and talking to donors. I wish I had known I was not going to be pursuing as much policy work, which in hindsight I wish I asked about during the interview process. It was beneficial to experience the administrative and finance side of an NGO. In the future, I look forward to expanding my focus on policy change and research.

Post 3: Lessons from a Summer at UFE

As summer comes to a close, I’m thankful for the opportunity to reflect on my time at United for a Fair Economy. I like to think that I’ve done some important work at UFE this summer. When I first started my internship search, I thought I wanted to intern at a larger organization. As I reflect on my internship, however, I’ve come to realize that I’ve done important work in my time at UFE that I likely wouldn’t have been able to do at a larger organization. At a small non-profit, every member of the team, from the executive director to the summer interns, is integral and does important work. I had the opportunity to help plan the 25th anniversary event, researching several different online silent auction platforms and choosing the best one, monitoring ticket sales and sponsorships, and helping scope out the Old South Church, the location for the event.

This summer, I’ve also been able to learn a lot about how non-profits are financed. A few weeks ago, I went to the offices of Philanthropy Massachusetts with UFE’s grant writer. We looked for new funders for UFE, and since then it’s been my responsibility to research these funders, enter all relevant information into the database, and mark prospective funders. UFE is currently seeking out funding for a popular education project, as well as for general operations, and my work will help UFE’s grant writer know where to focus her efforts to increase UFE’s chances of getting funding. 

As cheesy as it sounds, when I started my internship, I wish I knew how much I’ll miss working at UFE. I anticipated growing tired of the 9-to-5 routine, but I haven’t yet. The work at UFE varies from day-to-day; while there are always daily tasks to complete (e.g. donation processing, responding to emails), I’ve had the opportunity to work on several longer-term projects, like organizing the thousands of photos on UFE’s server and planning the silent auction. It’s nice to be a part of longer-term projects like this, as I’m more motivated by long-term goals than short-term goals. Prior to this internship, I’d never considered working at a non-profit after graduation. After interning at UFE, however, I’ve realized that this career path is a good fit for me. I’m motivated by mission-driven work, and I’ve enjoyed learning more about development and communications. I can see myself working at a non-profit sometime in the future. 

Me, Madeline, and the rest of the UFE crew at a screening of The Lion King.

The most important piece of advice I’ve received in my time at UFE is to maintain a good work-life balance. In mission-driven work, where most employees are incredibly passionate about their jobs, it’s not always easy to recognize when it’s time to step away and enjoy some needed leisure time. I’ve been lucky in that UFE prioritizes the work-life balance of its employees. Everyone is encouraged to take time off when they need it, to use up all their vacation time, and to put their health and well-being first. Even with an employer that encourages maintaining a good work-life balance, it’s still necessary for everyone who works in the social justice field to engage in self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone; for me, many parts of my morning routine are small acts of self-care. On the train ride into work, I take time to read, listen to a podcast, or just look out the window. I have a twenty minute walk from North Station to my office in the Financial District, and I like to change up the route I take occasionally to see as much of Boston as possible. Since my office is right next to the Greenway, I make sure to go for a short walk when I need a break from the office. 

Post 3: What’s in your backyard?

The kind of social justice work the Main South CDC tackles is providing opportunities of housing, business, and programming to low- to moderate-income families of all races and ethnicities in the Main South neighborhood. The Main South CDC’s programming addresses the need for recreation, health/fitness, financial literacy, and early childhood development. The Main South CDC ensures programming is free, which prevents money from acting as a barrier for families. The Main South CDC partners with many Worcester-based organizations; therefore, if it does not offer a specific service they will try to connect you to one. There are many methods of fighting inequality to gain social justice. 

I played a role in ensuring the success of the programming–such as concerts and Summer Saturdays–through coordination and promotion. Without promotion, community members could have been blind to the blessings happening in what seems like their own backyard, because before this internship I certainly was. It is an amazing feeling to witness when all the preparation and behind-the-scenes work results in a great turnout. The Main South CDC’s staff is incredibly hard working and busy, so I am glad I was able to provide a helping hand and alleviate the load, if even by a little. 

Unexpectedly, I had a nice balance of work inside the office and outdoors. My office responsibilities included creating flyers, sending emails, posting on social media, and making direct calls to residents. My outdoor responsibilities included posting flyers on bulletins in Main South housing, setting up University Park for concerts, cleaning and packing up at the end of concerts, and engaging in in-person discussions with residents and business owners. Whether by signage or conversation, it all requires a skill of communication to get your message across in the most clear, precise, and professional form. Accent and language barriers can make communication difficult at times, which causes it to be the type of career where being bilingual or multilingual is essential. It is definitely a community-focused organization, so you must be comfortable communicating with community members. Additionally, by learning the demographic of the community, you will be able to organize events and programming that speaks to the demographic. 

This summer I grasped the importance of being an active community member. An active community member is someone who engages and participates in the improvement of their community, attending community events, neighborhood meetings, volunteering, etc. I did not know there are over fifty neighborhood meetings in Worcester each month, two of which are hosted by Casey Starr, my supervisor and the Director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC. Attending these meetings gave me the space to share my thoughts and concerns about the neighborhood while hearing from others as well. There is city staff, such as Worcester police and Inspectional Services, consistently present at meetings to address what is being said. 

I was lucky enough to have this experience to learn how to be an active community member, but for those who do not have such an opportunity, my simple advice on how to become one begins with learning about what is going on in your backyard. I am absolutely grateful for the Main South Community Development Corporation and all they do for the Main South neighborhood. A special thanks to Casey Starr, Julia Dowling, and the rest of the CDC family.

 

Final Thoughts on My State Department Internship

As I enter the last week of my internship at the State Department, the original goals that I outlined during my WOW application provide a good sense of how my summer in Washington D.C. has helped me to grow, personally and professionally. The academic goal that I had set for myself was to improve my research skills. During my initial interview, the deputy director of my office suggested research would be one element of my internship, and I was intrigued by the idea of improving upon that skill in a professional setting. While my internship was not research-heavy in the way that I was anticipating, one of my last projects was to write a report on the kafala work sponsorship program that exists in many countries in the Middle East. At what was almost the last minute, my original academic goal was met, and I grappled with the struggles of research outside of an academic institution where there is not a convenient library database to pull articles from.

My career and personal goals were more successful, which were to network with State Department employees and to see how I enjoy living in Washington D.C. Between getting to know the interesting people in my office and meeting employees in other offices and bureaus, I am ending this summer with an expanded network of professionals who I have been lucky enough to already receive advice from and who I know I will be able to reach out to in the future with career questions. I also loved my time in D.C. this summer! It feels like there is a never-ending list of things to do every weekend, which includes all of the fantastic Smithsonian museums that are always free. Two of the Smithsonian museums require getting (free) tickets in advance, and I have been lucky to attend these more exclusive museums. I visited the Holocaust Museum with a couple of my friends from Brandeis, and I visited the African American Museum of History and Culture when the closing event for the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was held there. After this summer, I am strongly considering returning to D.C. after graduation, since this summer has shown me how much I enjoy living here.

A photo of the reception at the African American Museum of History and Culture that I attended!

This internship hasn’t necessarily clarified my career interests, but it has helped me realize how many different paths there can be to reach the same end goal. I know I want to help people and I would love to work in women’s empowerment, and I’ve been able to learn more about the ways those goals can be accomplished within and outside the State Department. For any other students who are interested in my internship or in working for the State Department, I would recommend exploring the many different ways that exist to get involved with State, which make you a more competitive applicant for a summer internship. I applied to be a Virtual Student Federal Service intern during the 2017-2018 school year, and I was able to assist the U.S. Embassy to Libya with their alumni outreach. I also participated in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which is a State Department funded program that brings high school students overseas to begin studying a critical language. While NSLI-Y is only open to high school students, the Critical Language Scholarship is the college equivalent, and I strongly believe that nothing is as impactful as practical experiences overseas to familiarize yourself with whichever region of the world that you’re most passionate about.

The experience that I’m most proud of this summer started as the project that I felt most unqualified to handle. I was tasked with helping to organize the swearing-in ceremony for the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. That responsibility included drafting a speech for Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to give when he attends the swearing-in ceremony. Unfortunately, the swearing-in ceremony’s date was recently changed so I will not be able to attend and I’m sure Secretary Pompeo’s official speechwriters will change what I drafted. However, preparing a swearing-in ceremony for a high-ranking official in the Department and writing words that might be spoken by Secretary Pompeo was definitely one of the highlights of my internship.

Overall, I’m so appreciative of the opportunity that I’ve had this summer! Between the people I’ve met, the experience of working in the main State Department building, and the lessons I’ve learned, this summer has been incredibly informative and enjoyable.

Post 3: Wrapping Up My Summer at Avodah

One of many beautiful buildings I get to admire on the way to my internship.

It’s hard to believe that my time at Avodah is coming to an end. It feels like just yesterday my eyes were glued to Google Maps on my phone, trying to find Avodah’s building. Now, over two months later, I can confidently walk through downtown Manhattan while glancing at all the different buildings, food trucks, and sculptures it has to offer. My confidence and comfort has also increased in the workspace, allowing me to take on projects with more ease and independence.

In all aspects of my internship, I’ve realized self-sufficiency and ease do not come effortlessly. There are learning experiences, tutorials, and other hurdles to overcome to get to a certain level of confidence. When one of my supervisors, Amanda Lindner–Avodah’s Director of Communications–approached me about creating a social media status about Avodah’s Fellows, I was initially nervous. When I was tasked with editing Corps Member videos using WeVideo, I felt slightly discouraged with the website. However, I realized apprehensive feelings, asking questions, and encountering stumbles along the way are important. In fact, these aspects of the internship were the most valuable because it is where I grew and learned the most.

There’s always more to learn. Through being exposed to social justice work, I’ve realized one cannot expect immediate results. Social justice is not a field for results-driven individuals. It takes hard work, patience, and much energy to see change. That is why social justice and the people who work towards it are so special. There’s no easy fix to the criminal justice system, access to education, or immigration issues, yet people will spend years dedicating their lives to these issues. 

Most of the work that I completed contributed to larger projects. For example, I interviewed a current corps member about her recent bat mitzvah. This included coming up with questions, transcribing her answers, and then cutting down her responses to be more concise. My work would later be used to create a social media post about the bat mitzvah. On a larger scale, Avodah’s Instagram presence has grown 29% from last year. Although my contribution may be small, I hope the daily tasks I complete have been assisting in Avodah’s social media popularity. 

My intern friend, Nusaira, and I took pictures at the photo booth at Avodah’s NYC Service Corps graduation.

No matter the circumstances, change is always going to take some getting used to. There were some aspects that were hard for me, but these experiences helped me in thinking about possible career paths. As much as I tried to pay attention to the computer screen for several hours at a time, let’s just say that there are some things in life that you can’t be amazing at. I know now that working at a computer for most of the day is not something I can see myself doing. Through this experience, I’ve learned it’s okay to chat with an intern friend, take a walk, or blow some bubbles you find in the supply closet. There were many new obstacles this summer, but I’m proud of how I handled them and the work I’ve accomplished. 

Jolie Suchin ’22

Final Thoughts: A Russian Studies Intern in DC

This internship has definitely helped clarify my career interests as I now know that I really enjoy working in a think tank environment (especially AEI) because the notion of coming to work every day just to think about researching, analyzing or solving big problems in the world is a pretty appealing job description. I also learned that with limited guidance, as long as I take the proper time to reframe things in my own words, I can be very successful in the long run.

Case in point, I had little to no guidance at the beginning of my internship (which also happened to be when I saw the most of my scholar). In other words, for the first two weeks (before he left for his three-week trip), most of our interactions revolved around him critiquing the Daily Packets of political analysis that I was handing in, which continued to be subpar, because I had no idea what I was doing at that point in time. But, improving at anything is an iterative process, and this experience was exactly that. While he was away, I took his criticism to heart and used it to shape the rest of my work going forward, being mindful of where I had messed up earlier. To cap this process off, I wrote a 30-page intern on-boarding manual which I presented to him upon his return from his travels. I would definitely say I am most proud of the manual because it was the result of several iterations of synthesizing my scholar’s comments into one comprehensive guide for future interns.

My learning goals definitely changed from what I had originally set out to achieve since I did not end up speaking nearly as much Russian at work as I would have hoped since my scholar was seldom in the office and the Research Assistant who supervised me was equally busy.  Luckily, I was able to practice in the evenings since there was a girl from Moscow living at the International Student’s House, so while I did not meet my language practice goals head on, at least they were not neglected completely. Case in point, midway through the summer, I refocused my efforts on honing my reading comprehension skills in Russian.

For students interested in an internship at AEI be prepared to be thrust into an extremely intellectual environment. You will join a cohort of bright and talented peers from some of the best colleges and universities in the US, each person impressive in their own right. If you are willing to work hard, accept criticism and learn from it, you’ll be golden. As far as advice goes for those in my field, to the select few who would like to follow in my footsteps, if you can acquire a good command of the Russian language and familiarize yourself with the major American and Russian writers and thinkers who are writing about Russia, you will put yourself on the path to success.

 

 

 

 

Post 3: What I Have Learned From the World of Work

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I have from my time at the Massachusetts Sierra Club is that being able to spend your time working for a cause that you believe in is a privilege in itself. My supervisor has drilled into our heads time and time again that not everyone is in a position to accept a job that brings them fulfillment. Oftentimes, a major component of social justice work entails supporting underserved communities. Furthermore, many (though not all) of the people who work for organizations in social justice causes do not share the same backgrounds as those they are committing their work to. 

In my opinion, this shows that one of the most important character traits to carry in social justice work is to remain sensitive to the fact that your opinions should be subject to change based upon feedback from members of the community you are serving. This all being said, I should note that there are of course cases in which social justice work can be done within the community it is trying to benefit, but even then, there is an aspect of giving oneself up for the greater cause. 

When it comes to the general world of work, this internship with the Sierra Club has shown me that different offices can have wildly varied expectations of the amount of time and effort you put into your work. At the Sierra Club, I found that my supervisor was not too fussy about the specific hours I worked, nor the number of hours. She cared far more about how much we were putting in and getting out of the internship in terms of our level of commitment to our projects. She trusted us to get our work done, and when we didn’t, that was on us. 

This is extremely different from how my past jobs and internships have been. In every other job I have held, we had to clock in and clock out at a certain time despite whether or not we were attentive to our work that entire timespan. I had far fewer collaborative projects, and less general freedom overall. While that method may work for some, I really appreciated our supervisor’s methods in this respect. I believe that her expectations for us fostered a lot of self-motivation and personal commitment, which are essential components when it comes to incorporating passion into your work life.

 If I could give my pre-summer at Sierra Club self or someone else embarking on their internship a piece of advice, I would say understand that people are, at the end of the day, only human. Though your boss or supervisor may be far more established than you are, there is something innovative and valuable that you can bring to the table as a young person in the workforce. Though I do think there is a line of professionalism that should not be crossed, the world of social justice needs to move forward and if everyone with new ideas remains silent, we will remain complacent. 

Post 1: Fighting for Asylum Seekers and Migrants

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: My Journey at a Nonprofit

 

My coworkers and boss during our lunch break

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: The Mechanism for Social Justice

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

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

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

Quad in the JFK building

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

Innovating Medical Education and Research

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

#DCStatehood

Post 2: Lessons from the Field

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

Sunset Whale Watching

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

Clamp Lunge Feeding

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

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

Mola mola (They’re super weird)

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

Fan (One of my favorite whales!)

– Kate Laemmle ’20

 

 

Welcome to Cologne Germany – My Summer Journey

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

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

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

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

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

 

– Shai Dinnar ’20

After a Couple More Weeks

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

OCT imaging of my finger!

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

 

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

  • Ashley Bass