Midpoint at NBC News

I can’t believe my time at NBC News this summer is almost over.  Over the past weeks, I have learned more about this business than would have been possible from a textbook or class lecture.  By taking advantage of all NBC and Washington, DC has to offer, I’ve had a chance to see history unfolding and meet a few of my heroes along the way.

I started this internship with the goal of learning the skills necessary to become an investigative journalist – researching, digging, writing, looking at information from new angles, and ultimately producing a piece.  Those expectations have definitely been met.  I have also had the opportunity to learn about additional aspects of the overall news and broadcasting environment; not only have I achieved my initial goals but I have gotten the inside view of some of the ways a news story is   developed.  What makes a topic meaningful and what is its impact?  I now understand that there is a tremendous amount of thought and diligence that moves a story from idea to completion.

My main tasks include researching for spots produced by the investigative group based in D.C., as well as, looking into possible leads for future investigations.  On any given day, I may be locating contact information for possible interview subjects, and speaking with them to hear their stories, sifting through government and court documents, identifying voting records, searching historical newspaper archives, and exploring other news entities and blogs to see what the next story could be. I incorporate all the different methods of navigating Google and databases like Lexis Nexis, Factiva, Proquest, Pacer, etc., that I’ve learned, and now look at them with an investigative mindset.

I’ve also been able to experience the commercial television broadcast atmosphere.  This has exposed me to the many different aspects of what goes on in network news.  I’ve had a chance to listen in on discussions about which spots will appear on Nightly News through the daily conference call between the Washington, New York, and all the other bureaus, and seen changes in the rundown as news breaks over the course of the day.  I’ve sat in the control room as Nightly aired, which provided an opportunity to observe all the different aspects that go into a smooth broadcast.  Seeing which spots appear on Nightly has honed my news judgment about what stories are important to share, along with the public wants and needs to hear.

Aside from experiencing the production side of Nightly News, I have also seen some MSNBC entities working, which has shown me a different side of news broadcasting.  I was able to sit in on Chris Matthews’ prep for his show, and was in the studio with Rachel Maddow when she visited D.C.  I went to the Capitol with an NBC Politics reporter, and was in the press gallery to watch voting when a particular piece of legislation I had been researching all summer was finally presented on the Senate floor.

I’ve also had the opportunity to attend several events where I was able to see and hear from some of the most important figures in American politics, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, and, also most importantly, Ben Affleck!

In the downtime between assisting the investigative team and attending events in D.C., I’ve also been working on my own piece with another intern to be posted on NBCNews.com.  We wrote our own script and are using footage my partner shot from her trip to Israel, we are going to cut the piece ourselves.  This opportunity is an incredible chance to use what I have learned to produce and publish my own piece.

Being in Washington, D.C. during this election season has also given me the opportunity to be part of the excitement that builds in the months preceding a presidential election.  I was outside the Supreme Court building when the health care decision was announced.  It was exciting to be there during the historic moment, surrounded by people who were so passionate about the issue, and seeing the reactions and reporting styles of all different media entities absorbing the news.

Outside the Supreme Court, June 28, 2012   GlobalPost: http://www.globalpost.com/photo/5709810/supreme-court-health-care-decision-reactions-june-28-2012

Another significant moment for me was hearing Bob Woodward speak at the Newsuem during the week of the 40th anniversary of Watergate.  As an aspiring investigative journalist, the development of the Watergate story has been an inspiration.  Hearing Mr. Woodward speak, and even getting to shake his hand, was an incredible experience.  It just added spark to my interest in the field that, as Mr. Woodward said, provides the “first rough draft of history.”

Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as Bob Woodward uncovering the details of the Watergate scandal in the classic film
http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2010/09/all-presidents-men.html

I’m proud of this laundry list of what are just some of my recent experiences, mostly because I took initiative and made them happen myself.  I did not wait around for people to give me work to do, or ideas for events to attend, but actively looked for these opportunities.  I wanted to learn from my internship and feel secure that I have.  By asking questions and absorbing everything I could from NBC’s experienced and knowledgeable professionals, I obtained skills that will be help me succeed in my future academic and professional goals.

 

– Abigail Kagan ’13

Midway and so much still to do!

I am now halfway through my internship at the National Immigration Project. I can’t believe that the summer is flying by so fast, but I am very happy with the vast amount that I am learning.

When I applied for WOW, I wrote that “I hope that working directly with attorneys on research projects and legal issues will help me assess the impact I could have with a legal education.” I think I am well on my way to discovering this about myself. Through the research projects that I have done, I have gained the confidence in my critical thinking and attention to detail skills that I know I would need if I decide to go to law school. I have definitely learned a lot about immigration law and the broad scope of careers that I could have with that degree.

This experience has made me more aware of the immigration issues that this country is grappling with, and I am even more motivated to keep myself informed. During staff meetings in which we discuss immigration law issues and its impact on our clients, I am able to participate a lot more than I was at the beginning of my internship. I have also been discussing law school options with the other intern who is a law student, and one of my supervisors, who is a staff attorney.

I really enjoy working on both the legal and advocacy sides of the NIPNLG. During my internship, I have been involved in many projects, but I am especially proud of creating an alert for the National Immigration Project’s website that raises awareness about the current action in Congress about the Violence Against Women Act. It is important for us to encourage our members and the general public to speak out against legislation that could impact them and those around them.

In another meaningful research project, I assisted in the writing of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the case of Chaidez v. United States. The NIPNLG writes these briefs in order to help immigrants win their cases by providing supporting legal arguments.  For the brief, I compiled a list of resources used by my supervisor to strengthen his supporting legal brief. I am proud of it because I spent a lot of time learning new legal research skills.

I also went to a rally for immigrant rights last week in the Massachusetts State House. As you can see below, it’s very convenient to get there and you could practically throw a rock at it from where the NIPNLG office is located!

The MA State House

Boxes Beyond Boxes

“It’s constitutional!”

A loud cheer erupted from the break room at Partners in Health.  Employees were laughing, hugging, shouting – excitedly calling friends and family.

“It passed! I know – I couldn’t believe it either. Hold on, I’m getting another call…”

The controversial passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was celebrated at PIH.

In the kind of excitement and noise one would expect from a win at a football game, a hundred or so PIH employees celebrated the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; affectionately Obamacare. As an organization that promotes health equity for all, focusing both in the United States and around the world, the idea that access to healthcare would become easier and more accessible for many in the States was a big win.

 

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In preparation for my WOW internship, I had set out a few learning goals for myself during my summer with Partners in Health. I had hoped that I might gain stronger insight on how non-governmental organizations with an international focus operate from far away. Partners in Health operates in twelve countries around the world in addition to hosting several programs in Roxbury, Boston. How was it that they could manage, evaluate, and amend so many programs that were so distant?

Boxes.

The response to PIH’s overwhelming number of programs in such demanding capacity is boxes. The entrance to the PIH office on Comm Ave is always a bit of a fortress as the receptionist’s desk is barricaded by mountains beyond mountains of boxes. In these cardboard boxes are everything that PIH clinics need; EKG machines, clothes, alcohol wipes, ultrasound machines. These boxes, shipped in from around the US, find brief refuge in our Boston office, before being sent off to the site where it is needed. Some of these materials are donated, others are purchased – in either case, the materials are always of high quality and are safely kept away under layers and layers of bubble wrap. There are uses for all materials that line PIH’s hallways, something that I am made aware of as I climb over these piles to get to my work area.

So, why the boxes?

Partners in Health, an NGO that prides itself on transparency and efficiency, is able to host all of its programs by keeping their overhead costs unprecedentedly low. With a whopping 94% of all revenue being rerouted to health-related programs, 6% remain to being distributed for administration and fundraising efforts. That 6% supports the entire Boston office in terms of salary of employees, the office and its ability to run smoothly, as well as PIH’s campaigns online and in person.

 

 

Ratio of PIH’s expenditures by direct programming, administrative costs, and fundraising efforts.

 Having low overhead costs mean that PIH is strapped for space and funding. So in lieu of a warehouse or separate floor to store all of our materials, PIH chooses to store its materials around the office – making sure that the best medical supplies get to the its programs. Low overhead also means a lot of improvisation; mismatched chairs surround the tables in board meetings, clunky computer monitors donated from Harvard sit in rows. It’s all part of keeping the NGO honest and making sure that majority of donations get to the right place – where health infrastructure is in the most disrepair.

 

 

PIH’s income, largely based in fundraising and grant writing, charted against PIH’s expenditures.

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I think one of the interns I work with said it best when asked to describe what exactly the culture of Partners in Health is;

“We’re a bunch of serious development nerds, doing what we love.”

The best thing about any work or internship experience is when you find that the people in the office are just as academically obsessed with the same things you are. That’s what I am finding at Partners in Health. Every individual, both in and out of the office, is so committed, so dedicated to the fight for global health equity that many employees are here from early, early in the morning to very late into the night, simply because they feel so devoted to the work that they do. Volunteers dedicate weekends and evenings towards working on projects, many from home during their spare time. And the more time I spend at Partners in Health the more I feel myself growing, both in my knowledge of development work as well as my commitment to it.

 

One of Partners in Health’s recent campaign to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS treatment.

The rewards employees and volunteers reap from working at PIH is in the knowledge that we are each taking small steps towards global health equity. And in the face of big changes, like the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we cheer with the excitement that the notion that healthcare is a human right is being recognized on a global scale.

My big question of how an NGO like PIH functions so efficiently in so many countries lies in these answers; low overhead, investment of most donations into programs for health infrastructure, and gathering dedicated employees who find engrained in their hearts the need for the prioritization of healthcare for all. In channeling this passion into sustainable programs for the poor, small steps on the path for global health equity are taken.

“Equity is the only acceptable goal… And that’s when I feel most alive, when I’m helping people.”

– Paul Farmer

 http://www.pih.org/news/entry/reflections-from-nepal/

http://www.pih.org/news/entry/revolutionary-cancer-care-in-rwanda/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/opinion/14kidder.html

– Sarah Van Buren ’13

Midway but still learning

 

The Musée de Montmartre and its climbing vines

My first month in the Musée de Montmartre is not what I expected it to be. Not that something which doesn’t meet your expectations is a bad thing. People assume that if something doesn’t fulfill or exceed your projected assumptions or fantasies, then it’s a disappointment, a failure, something that you regret pursuing in the end. But what this first month in the Musée has taught me is that although pipe dreams are what might have launched you into your adventures into the wild, blue yonder, it is what you make of your own reality that is a thousand times more fulfilling.

 

I’m sure people are wondering what these silly pipe dreams of mine were before they were given a sharp blow in the head by reality and stomped unceremoniously into the blackening cracks between the ancient cobblestones of Montmartre. I’m almost embarrassed to admit them—they seem so silly now. I imagined myself floating around the musée with a done up bun and a clipboard, gently caressing the edges of a print by the timeless Toulouse-Lautrec with white gloves. I wanted to be in the halls of the musée and arrange the paintings and prints on the walls according to my own vision. I also wanted to drink absinthe in a smoky room and make my acquaintance with Green Fairy but that would have been during my time outside of the musée.

 

But no. I realized that curating a museum requires an infinite amount of patience, an immutable will that can’t be daunted by an amount of work the size of Montmartre itself, and a particularly acute interest in the era you are working on. I have been translating dozens of documents from French into English and, more nerve rackingly, from English into French. I have been consulting editors and publishing companies for the upcoming catalogue of our exposition “Autour du Chat Noir: Arts et Plaisirs à Montmartre 1880-1910” and it’s been an high-speed volley of phone calls, emails, and running around for confirmations. I’m creating an exhaustive list of all museums who would be interested in the exhibition in Paris and the United States and their curators for invitations to the opening gala. Lastly, and most exhaustingly, I have been waist-deep in the affairs of a certain Gustave Charpentier, a musician and composer of 19th century France who was a seminal figure of the cabarets and dance halls of Montmartre during that era. His family’s donation of his papers and personal affairs is extremely interesting and as disorganized. I’ve been painfully organizing every single piece of the donation into a digital format.

 

And yet, everything about this internship is making me feel as if I’m making a difference and that might be what I’m most proud of. This work is absolutely necessary for the smooth running of the museum and the good of the archives. I had said that one of my goals for this summer had been to improve on my study skills and be more concentrated on one task at a time; I’ve certainly had a lot of practice in this certain area during my time here. I feel myself changing, being more focused on the task at hand and being more precise with my time. They sound rather mundane, but they’re invaluable skills.

 

I might have mislead the reader in the beginning, implying that I have had some sort of epiphany-like discovery of self, that my realization that my world is what I make of it was a chapter that I have already written. But I see it more as a change in philosophy, a hazy projection of my coming time at the museum and a hope for the future. I won’t be so pretentious as to call it a prediction, but I think that this new germ in me will grow into something significant and beautiful, nourished by French wine and a little time amongst hardworking lovers of art.

And maybe a tiny tourist train

National Consumers League Midpoint

           It’s hard to believe I’m already more than halfway done with my time as a public policy intern at the National Consumers League. Through my work at NCL, I am learning a lot about the process to change regulations on the federal level. One way I experience this is through events I have the opportunity to attend. For example, I watched the executive director of NCL testify at the Consumer Product Safety Commission on issues such as the safety of table saws, an issue for which she has been a leading advocate.

testifying before CPSC

           I also attended a hearing where the NCL Executive Director testified before the Aviation Consumer Protection Committee at the Department of Transportation. She argued that airlines violate privacy by collecting personal information on passengers, and consumers consistently suffer due to increasing fees when they have to change the time of their flights or for seat assignments.  After my supervisor testified, we had the opportunity to meet committee member Lisa Madigan, who is my Attorney General from Illinois. Watching experts testify before commissions such as these allowed me to learn about the process through which new regulations are passed, and the power of advocacy groups.

Interns and staff with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

          One of the things I am most proud of is blogs I have written for the National Consumers League’s blog. So far I have written three: one on gender equity bargaining and legislation that limits equality in the labor force; one on student loan relief for college students; and one about the marketing of food to children and its health impacts. The blogs can be read online here. Through my work on these blogs, I had an opportunity to work both on research skills, as well as writing skills. I was able to connect a lot of dots based on articles from news sources, legislation, presentations from many of the events and hearings I attended, and work that organizations like NCL and partner groups do. In the future, I will be able to use these blog postings to show one of the ways in which I contributed to NCL this summer, and as writing samples for futures job opportunities.

            One of my goals was to learn more about issues I am passionate about, including labor and food policy. I have had several opportunities to do so through events, hearings, and research. I attended the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, where leaders in food safety and policy from both the United States and Europe met to discuss and compare current policies for addressing food safety. It became clear that despite the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, which shifts an focus from responding to contamination to  preventing it, the U.S. is still significantly behind Europe in terms of inspection, safety procedures, and clear labeling standards.

            An issue that relates to both food and labor safety that I have had the opportunity to work on is the USDA’s proposed change in poultry inspection, which would privatize inspection—so that instead of government inspectors, companies can hire their own inspectors. Studies have shown that defects are more likely missed when inspectors are company employees, most likely because the company wants to produce more, whether or not the product is safe. In addition, the proposal increases line speed to 175 birds per minute, which breaks down to 3 birds per second. It is nearly impossible to safely inspect at this line speed. Poultry workers have little control because they are only 30% union organized, which means weak contracts and poor security—especially considering many workers may be recent, or undocumented immigrants. This new policy will also not require inspectors to be trained. I learned a lot about this issue through meetings with leaders in labor and food policy, and had the opportunity to take action by handing out fliers at the Folk Festival on the National Mall. I talked to many people about the issue, and encouraged them to make calls to their Senators or Representative in Congress. I think this issue connects with almost everyone because it impacts the safety of our food.

Talking to a family about poultry inspection at the Folk Festival

– Lili Gecker ’13

Shaping young minds; young minds shaping me

I’m halfway through my internship experience already, and I can’t believe it! The youth I’ve been working with are just fantastic, and we’ve been growing closer and closer. There is a total of fifteen youth in the Youth Building Communities program and three interns/counselors. They were split up into three groups of five to one counselor and got to choose a name their crew would be referred to for the duration of the summer. The youth that were assigned to my group choose to be called “team goat.” What “goat” stands for is Greatest Of All Time, I couldn’t help but laugh and be impressed by their creativity. Needless to say, I am very proud to be the sixth member of team goat!

 

This is where all the fun happens!

Every Thursday we take a field trip around Boston, and last week we took a trip to Roller World in Saugus. I hadn’t been skating since I was about sixteen; so almost as young as they are. A few of them stayed with me while I practiced and showed me some pointers. Then, it was time to hit the rink! We skated for over two hours while they whipped around the rink dancing, laughing, and sometimes poking fun at my less than superior skating skills. They called me over to eat because a small group had been saving a seat for me. I always enjoy these times the most because they ask me about my life and try to figure out who this girl is that comes in everyday all the way from Waltham. They seem to be unafraid of the world, excited about whatever it is to come, and they never seem as if they’re worried about tomorrow, because right now is all that matters to them. Sometimes I sit back and wish that adults were more like these twelve year old children, seeing the world through their eyes is a privilege I definitely appreciate.

YBC (youth building communities) also takes part in a community service initiative every Tuesday. This past Tuesday we were working with members of the Emerald

Necklace Conservatory. The kids helped weed the bushes, mulch the floor, and pick up around the park. We split them into two different groups, and got to work. We played a name game with the members before starting the project of the day, which served as a way for everyone to learn everyone’s name. The youth warmed up to the members rather quickly and started gravitating to them while they were working. I was really happy that we got to participate in such a positive program, and give back to the community at the same time.

Tuesdays are also our pool days were the youth are permitted to swim for an hour and a half. During this time, whoever doesn’t want to swim can lounge around or play UNO, the card game. At RTH Uno is a very serious game, none of the youth take it lightly. We actually play elimination rounds and the last person in the game isn’t permitted to play the next round. We do this until we get to a “championship round.” I made it to this round and ended up winning the title of “Uno Champion of RTH.” My title has since been challenged but I’m holding the lead. The youth are exceptionally good at this game, so I don’t know hold long it may last.

– Alyssa Green ’15

Little over with Massachusetts Survivors Outreach!

It is crazy to think that I am over half way with my summer internship. This summer has been a whirlwind of fun, stress and accomplishment. Starting a Non-Profit Organization from the ground up is definitely an experience of its own. The time and effort collecting paper work took over a month to complete but the end result was so satisfying. I can finally say “I helped and created and Non-Profit Organization in Massachusetts.” We are still applying for the 501c3 so that M.A.S.O can be recognized all throughout the United Sates. In order for that to happen, however, we need funding. In my last post, I discussed the fundraisers that we had inline during the summer to help us achieve our full Non-Profit status. “Psychics, Reiki, Massage OH MY!: An Evening of Fun and Healing for a Cause” was a complete success. We raised over $2,000 which pushes us so much closer to our goal.

Flier for Cagney’s Event

The next fundraiser is this Saturday, which I am in charge of. MASO will be hosting a Dance party in Quincy and all proceeds will go towards our Non-Profit status. I have worked late nights to get all of the details finalized in order for this event to be ready. The event will be held at Cagney’s Restaurant in Quincy. The bar has recently been completely renovated and they have a free function room available for charity events. Now that it is only a few days away, I can only sit back and wait for it to finally arrive. I am nervous but I know that I tied all of the loose ends and the night is going to be a great success.

As of recently, I have been put in charge of the hiring process for the fall and spring. My boss told me that I have complete control of the whole process, which even includes hiring the prospective interns. I have only been apart of a this process once before at Brandeis University but, even then, I did not have this much control. I have been reading over countless resumes/cover letters and have finally been able to finalize interview slots for 20 candidates. From that 20, I can only select 9. This has been a very important process for me because it has been the first time ever that I have been put into an area that I have not been fully comfortable and confident in, but have been doing a great job. I guess I can give myself a pat on the back for that.

Volley 4 Victims Filer

The summer is almost over and I have only about a month left with my internship. We have many other fundraisers planned like, Volley 4 Victims, but we have also been making headway with our cause. We have been compiling information on the economic strain within the family court system. I am not allowed to farther discuss the information that we have compiled but overall, the information is crucial and will help victims of domestic violence throughout the United States. This summer has completely flown by. I can’t believe there is only a month left until I am back at Brandeis!

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Leaving South Africa

The summer is coming to an end, and I find myself back at home in the US after having completed an amazing experience interning at the art therapy center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Having completed my internship, I now realize the immense growth that has come along with it. I arrived in South Africa alone, without knowing anyone, and I left with friends, new ideas, and a new culture. The time I spent there seems completely unreal. I alone was in charge of organizing and executing the Holiday Programme. I prepared all the logistics in advance and during the program made sure everything ran smoothly. I then wrote a report that I presented to my supervisor, the director of the organization, which will be sent to all the funders who supported this program. Throughout the duration of it, I was also privileged to see great facilitators at work with a group of mixed adolescents from all over the city.  Some were HIV+, others were orphans, and the rest were living in a condemned building. Seeing these children and the energy they bring, makes you question how and why so many of them have been abused.

Sketch of Mural
Mural painted with the adolescents on the third week of the Holiday Programme

My goals were to learn about art therapy and the ways it can be applied. By watching different counselors and observing several ranges of age groups, I did just that. I also wanted to figure out if this could be a potential career choice and I now realize how much more I connect to art therapy as opposed to art education. Working with these specific children going through such difficult circumstances makes me realize how much work still needs to be done to improve their lives. Two months of work, is not nearly enough to transform their whole living environment, which is what I most want to do for these groups. It made it difficult to come back, knowing that the work with these groups is only beginning, and I still want to be a part of it. As I look to my course schedule, I will have to factor in more psychology courses in order to be better prepared to enter into an art therapy masters program. I want to learn more about art therapy, in order to be as skilled as the facilitators with whom I worked, and come back to Lefika with a degree and be able to lead my own groups.

To a student interested in an internship at Lefika, I have several suggestions. Before coming, be sure to research more about art therapy and the different approaches to it. Almost all of the past interns have come with a masters degree in art therapy, which means that the directors are used to being able to hand over entire projects to interns and have them manage them. This was one of the hardest aspects for me because of the immense responsibility with little supervision. Another suggestion is to try to organize your trip around one of training workshops the center runs and the Holiday Programme. The workshop gave me an introduction to how art therapy is done at Lefika, which prepared me for working with the actual groups; and the Holiday Programme has groups running from 8 AM to 3 PM every day versus regular school sessions of only a few hours of therapy groups each week.

Traveling through Johannesburg is in itself another mission- there is no safe or reliable public transportation and distances in the city are quite far from each other. I managed to get around by making good friends who would pick me up, an amazing host family who really welcomed me, and occasionally calling taxis. You can rent a car, but driving is on the other side of the road and some areas are dangerous to even pass through.

All in all, however, my time spent interning at Lefika La Phodiso and living in Johannesburg were completely unbelievable and unforgettable! I learned so much and am so thankful to have been given such an amazing opportunity! If you have any more questions feel free to ask!!

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim in the United States

To be an American Muslim. Or Muslim the United States. I put the other as an afterthought because it seems like they are very two different things really.

I think that this is one issue that I am grappling with regardless of what I have been accomplishing at this internship. This dilemma has been reinforced particularly today as the Executive Director of AIC, was featured in today’s Washington Post Style section!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/moderate-american-muslim-tries-to-navigate-a-deeply-divided-community/2012/07/10/gJQAq4htbW_story.html

It really is astounding to come to terms with not only the diversity of Muslim-American viewpoints but really how much needs to be done in the community. I am deeply interested in interacting with the Diaspora in the US and reflecting on the openness of the civil society of the US, that has allowed us to be able to accomplish some of the goals that I have worked on.  I am thinking about how these programs could be translated to Muslim-majority countries, like my homeland Pakistan… so in effect I am a Muslim in the US because I am not American, and the work I do is informed by this identity, unlike Muslims who are born American and/or identify as both…

It is 4.5 weeks already at my internship – time flies! It has been crazy, ups and downs, days of ecstatic change, and accomplishments and then days when you feel like nothing can be done or accomplished. In the past 4.5 weeks I have co-curated a show, which has drawn with its related programming over 150 people to the Cultural Center and been reviewed in WGBH Arts and Artscope Magazine!

The artists’ talk was mind opening, and is definitely the type of programming that I am excited to maintain and grow in the traveling arts exhibit initiative.


Which leads me to the next part of my internship responsibilities: planning the art exhibit. I have realized it takes a VERY long time, more than I expected, for long-term initiatives to even hit the ground. The big (and first) component of this initiative was the creation of a viable concept paper and executive summary that could then be converted into a Letter of Interest to send to fundraising targets. I went in thinking this paper would take a week to write; it took about 3 weeks, because so much had to be changed and approved, people had to be contacted, and prospecting done, and research conducted. For example, I want to counter stereotypes of Muslims in the US through art – so we had to find PEW or other research that shows that stereotypes of Muslims exist in the US. Very specific. Also, since a concept paper is a distillation of a larger mission and strategy, it is hard to translate it into 3 pages – we started with a great idea, but we didn’t have a clear mission or strategic focus on how it tied into our greater organizational goals. Being able to navigate and work on this project has been equally fulfilling and I am excited that it is moving forward.

One of my very specific goals was to work at the intersection of culture and civil society, and see how economics and art work in tandem. I believe that by curating shows, and organizing initiatives for this cultural center and organization, and participating in funding prospecting is definitely in the intersection.  I am learning how the different systems work together to make a project successful. While art can be theoretical, it has to be translated to the funders into something practical and pragmatic for it to be able to go forward.

I have also created marketing plan, and am helping with long term initiatives for the arts programming in our space – working on creating a 2012 – 2013 arts and culture calender – which will allow us to be able to identify themes, apply for funding, create and market to target audiences, and also see what Muslim-Americans in the US want us to represent. The skills I am building through developing business plans, marketing plans, marketing materials, fundraising, and working with groups of people who have different strong ideas, being able to navigate a competitive and innovative sphere, and being successful makes me feel so much more positive about myself and my abilities!

I also proposed a series with AIC on programming highlight Minorities in the Muslim world – sexual, religious and ethnic, and to my great delight, they were very enthusiastic about it. So I will also start devoting some time to doing some initial concept planning and prospecting for that! We also have our Muslim holy month starting on July 20th – until the 19th of August and we will have four open to the community iftars (breaking the fast at 8pm) – one in partnership with American Jewish Committee, one South Asian, one Bosnian and one Interfaith, so it promises to be a very exciting and engaging next 4.5 weeks.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13

Mid-Point with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

It is hard to believe that I have already been in Kenya for four weeks and that I will be back at Brandeis in less than a month. My time with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project has been extremely rewarding so far.

 

After completing the arduous selection process I have settled into teaching classes to help the students improve on the SAT, TOEFL and writing. As a prospective law student I plan to take the LSAT this fall. Teaching the skills required to succeed on the critical reading portion of the SAT has improved my ability to perform similar tasks that are required on the LSAT. As I prepare for the LSAT in my free time I encounter difficulties that are similar to those that my student’s face. This has helped me improve as a teacher and a test-taker.

 

Students at work in the classroom

One of my main goals with this internship was to immerse myself in an entirely new culture. I have been able to achieve this with more success than I had previously imagined. Whether it is shopping in the local market or sharing meals with students I feel like I have begun to truly understand and appreciate this unique society. The students in the program actually live at the camp with me for the duration of the program which allows for me to get to know them particularly well. This consistent interaction has been invaluable for me and will undoubtedly help the students’ transition into life in an America when they arrive at college.

 

I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed teaching. I had little experience with teaching before I arrived, but have adjusted quickly. The class is a teacher’s dream. It is made up of fourteen highly intelligent and motivated individuals who participate readily. The students respect each other’s ideas and ask pertinent questions about the lessons. Outside of class the students can often be found with a book in hand going over the notes from the day’s lectures. I have found it enormously gratifying to see the students incorporate methods and ideas from my lectures into their work. It has only been a short time, but this internship has certainly sparked an interest in pursuing teaching for a career. The skills and experience I will acquire from this internship will certainly benefit my future academic and professional endeavors.

 

View from a nearby tea farm

Working with such a small program has given me the opportunity to see everything that goes into a program for improving social justice. I have often written idealistic papers in support of various social justice projects. This internship has given me insight into the realities of this type of program. My experience so far has reinforced my conviction that social justice can be improved through programs like KenSAP.

I am very excited to see what the next few weeks hold. The internship has already gone by too quickly, but I feel like I am making the most of it.  -Alex Kramer ’13

 

Nuclear Accidents, Moldova, and Elton John: My Summer so far with the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine

It’s hard to believe that the summer is half-way over. I have been having a fantastic time, and I feel like I’m really doing something, which, I guess, is the hallmark of a good internship.

Finding the STCU was a home-run for me. I’m interested in the post-Cold War world and nuclear issues (from nuclear weapon security to non-proliferation to nuclear energy), and spending the summer in Kiev working at the STCU covers all of that. From talking to colleagues about East European politics to sitting in on meetings with weapons experts to traveling through Transnistria, I have learned so much.

A big focus of my department at the STCU at the moment is collecting proposals from CIS scientists for suggested projects to mitigate the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. It makes a lot of sense that Japan would contact Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics for such advice. If you just suffered the second worst nuclear accident in history, who else would you call but the country that suffered the worst? The Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 was the world’s worst nuclear accident, covering over a million hectares of Eurasia with radiation. Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Georgia were hit the hardest, and so the scientists from those countries have several decades of experience in the monitoring and rehabilitation of contaminated lands. It’s been very interesting for me to read the proposals, and I’m learning a lot about cleaning up after nuclear accidents.

A few weeks ago I attended the STCU Governing Board meeting in Moldova. In addition to it being a chance to travel to a new country, it was an incredible opportunity to talk to U.S. government officials who are working in careers I am interested in. At the final dinner, I somehow ended up sitting next to a State Department official who followed a similar career path to the one that I wish to take, and next to her was the STCU Executive Director, who had worked for the State Department for 30 years. He had been an ambassador in Eastern Europe in the eighties and nineties and had some neat Cold War stories. I spent an incredible evening talking to them about working for the government and in the Foreign Service.

I think something that I am most proud of is the fact that I have friends in Kiev now. There have been lunches at work where we have laughed so much that the STCU director told us having that much fun at work was not allowed. We spent an amazing night twenty feet from Elton John, Queen, and Adam Lambert in Independence Square at the concert that concluded the Euro2012. The people I have met have been so great, and my summer would have been very different without them.

I take the metro to work every day, and in the beginning of the summer I would go to great lengths to make sure I had something to hold onto, as the metro is very crowded during rush hour. But now I don’t need to hold on to anything, and that ties into the fact that I think one of the greatest things I will gain from this summer will be confidence. I was scared at the beginning and felt very self-conscious walking around Kiev, but now that fear is gone. I think I’ll be able to walk into my next internship or job with a certain degree of self-assurance, with the mindset that I successfully spent eight weeks in Kiev and I’m ready for anything now. – Jennifer Ginsburg ’14

Midpoint at Conflict Kitchen

The summer has been progressing and I have been learning a lot through my time at Conflict Kitchen. I’m finding it very useful to journal in order to track what I learn and be able to reference my thoughts later in discussions.

I have been busy doing research for Conflict Kitchen, which switched to its Cuba iteration in June. My various tasks have included finding articles for the kitchen staff to read so that they are informed about Cuba and revising the food wrapper that features interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States. I have also helped with preparations for future iterations by finding contacts who can help with research and developing questions to interview the contacts. I have also been working at the kitchen and interacting with customers, engaging them in dialogue about Cuban culture and US- Cuba relations.

Cocina Cubana, the Cuban iteration of Conflict Kitchen
The food wrapper for the Cuban iteration

Keeping to my learning goals, I have learned that successful facilitation of cross-cultural education should provide a means for the education to continue. I’ve realized through this internship that there tends to be a backup of knowledge between the information we gather on the country and what we can share while interacting with customers. The interactions with customers can be so short that there is hardly any time to truly engage in dialogue or share an interesting piece of information. I felt like the kitchen should offer some way for people to continue educating themselves, and therefore dispelling stereotypes, after they leave the restaurant.  I suggested that I could develop a recommended reading list of books about Cuba and novels by Cuban authors. My supervisor liked the idea and it became my project. I partnered with the local branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh down the block from the Conflict Kitchen to learn how to make an effective booklist.  The library was excited about the project and agreed to display the featured books and to work with the Conflict Kitchen in the future. This project is the part of my internship of which I am most proud. It has truly been my own project to develop and implement. It has not only allowed me to work towards my learning goals but also taught me new skills. Being able to put together a list of recommended reading will be useful in future jobs that deal with cultural education. Furthermore, developing a partnership with another community organization is important for any non-profit position.

With only a few weeks left of my internship,  I know that I have learned many things and look forward to the remainder of it while finishing research and putting everything in place so the partnership with  the library continues after I leave.

 

-G. Killian, ’14

Learning to Teach: Midway point at the SJDS Biblioteca

It’s funny to remember how before I left for Nicaragua two months seemed like a long time.  Now that I’m here, I’d do anything to have more time.  A week after I arrived, another volunteer came down who was also interested in teaching English.  Together, we have set up English classes and are currently teaching three classes: beginner, intermediate, and advanced that are each offered twice a week.  English classes are provided in the schools in town; however because there is only one teacher for all of the schools the children do not end up getting a lot of English instruction.

Within the past twenty years or so, San Juan del Sur’s primary revenue has shifted from fishing to tourism so now more than ever learning English is an incredibly useful skill for students to have.  In the beginning, the English teacher recommended students for our English class.  Students were recommended based on the fact that they were struggling in school; however as word spread, students brought their friends or others who wished to learn English.

One of my main internship goals was to improve my Spanish.  It’s one thing to stumble over your words when speaking with your host family and another doing it in a classroom full of your students.  This made the first couple of days of teaching a bit overwhelming.  However, I soon realized that it doesn’t matter if I have perfect Spanish because the students are all here to learn English.  Plus some of my students really got a kick out of getting to correct me, their teacher.

We are now starting our fourth week of class, and I can really feel my confidence growing.  At this point, I have no problem speaking Spanish in front of a classroom full of 25 students.  Whether explaining instructions, grammatical rules, or simply asking the students to quiet down, I really feel like I am able to lead a class.  I try to speak English as much as I can with the students, but there are some students who need extra help and often require information to be repeated in Spanish.

Helping a student in the intermediate class

I’m most proud of developing my leadership skills and with the trust I have begun to build with many of the students.  At the beginning of classes, many of them were too shy or embarrassed to admit they needed help but now students have no problem asking their questions.  I have worked very hard to make sure students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom.  Now seeing them feel comfortable joking around or just talking to me is very rewarding.  With each class, I get to know more about each of the students and their individual learning needs.  I only wish that I had more time to spend with them.  Since this is such a small town I often see students outside of the classroom.  I love it when one of them takes the time to shout to me and say hello.

Part of my internship learning goals include improving my communication and leadership skills within a classroom setting and to practice my Spanish language skills.  So far, almost every day has provided an opportunity for me to hone these skills.  Since I am living with a Nicaraguan family and most of my co-workers only speak Spanish, I feel myself getting more and more comfortable with the language.  Considering I intend to use my Spanish language skills in whichever career path I end up choosing, the practice I am getting now is extremely beneficial.

My co-teacher and I have been responsible for creating our own lesson plans in which we try to provide a mix of vocabulary, grammar, and conversational skills that are appropriate for the ability level in each class.  Being an Education major, learning how to construct a lesson plan and thinking about the types of activities that are feasible and effective in the classroom will help me if I choose to pursue a career in teaching.

The independent nature of this internship has given me a lot of freedom to explore my interests and grow as both a teacher and an individual.  As I continue teaching, I look forward to discovering what other surprises and challenges the remainder of the summer will bring.

The verb of the day. During each class, students learn a new verb and practice conjugating it into different sentences.

 

 

Commission Update

The interns from the commission come from all kinds of backgrounds, some are local Rhode Islanders but there are quite a few out of staters or local students some in undergrad RI schools, and Law students. Everyone is very friendly and motivated to work.

My first few weeks were difficult, I had some struggles with my workload at the commission. There seems to be a high expectation of self sufficiency that I had conflicts with, for example Interns are responsible for reviewing cases of discrimination that are filed with the commission as they progress or reach a conclusion. This means that I can either receive a fresh new case that needs investigation or a case that has been going on for years and requires final review for closure. Whatever the case may be along the way interns are responsible for finding out what is missing in order to progress in the case and sending out those requests for information to all parties involved. We write our correspondence using few templates that are saved on USB drives and the rest comes through comes as you go through asking questions and getting exposure to legal language in your interactions with other investigators at the commission.

 

Interns also get access to what are called PDC’s, which refer to pre-determination conferences. PDC’s occur when an investigator is having difficulty reaching a recommendation as to whether or not there is sufficient evidence suggesting the legitimacy of the claims that the complainant alleges. All parties involved are invited to attend a hearing in which they can explain both sides of the story and it is the only time we get to meet the people involved in each case. I really enjoy the PDC’s because it brings each case to life and makes your work feel more validating. At the end of the PDC the commissioner usually stays for a few more minutes to give the interns law advice, for those who might be thinking of attending law school after college. There are about 10 commissioners appointed and so far I’ve met about 7. I find it interesting that some of the results of our involvement in these cases as interns will most likely never reach us seeing as they will outlive our internship stay.

 

The work can be very intimidating at first, but I noticed that the long work days provide interns with lots of practice and soon one gets used to the workload. It’s very reassuring when it comes to thinking of future work experience. For now it’s got me thinking of law school, since the majority of interns at the commission are currently enrolled in law programs.  Here’s a link to the commission website 

here’s also a link about attorney Cordona, an appointed commissioner who advised us about law school.

Midpoint Evaluation at Family Violence Law Center

Working with Family Violence Law Center has certainly been a tremendous experience thus far. Not only have I had the opportunity to learn about California Family Law, but this kind of work inherently includes a constant reminder for personal reflection. When working with individuals in crisis, it is imperative that one puts aside one’s own personal biases or primary reactions. If a client says their partner is physically abusive but they do not want to leave the house they share, it is not my job to tell them that they’re wrong, but rather to safety plan and meet them where they are emotionally. I can offer to help them find a domestic violence shelter or a program that will help them financially to relocate, but ultimately their subsequent actions are solely their decisions. This can be frustrating, but it also fuels a fascinating internal dialogue that I have noticed emerge not only in myself but also in my coworkers: that which we say aloud and that which we wish we could say. Occasionally the two diverge when a client decides to take part of one of our services (restraining orders, counseling).
Answering crisis calls!
My position entails taking them through these first steps towards recovery, by removing the client from contact with their abuser (e.g., restraining orders). In my learning goals, I had included a wish to challenge myself, which I have certainly found here. Each client provides a different unique challenge, with each challenge posing a new entanglement that keeps everyone on their toes. I can see my own growth by virtue of how others in my office treat me. My supervisor has been increasing my workload; other co-workers let me answer the crisis hotline without supervision; they have begun to give me new volunteers to train, who shadow me on the hotline or when doing legal screenings (intakes).
One of our past clients sells tacos to the entire office building every Wednesday. She’s lovely and a wonderful chef!
My coworker/professor of the hotline arts Becki, enjoying tacos!
I am most proud that I can actively feel myself learning how better to help others in traumatic situations. In the past month, I have begun to rely less on advice of other advocates in the office because I am able to problem-solve given the facts available. Clearly I still have a lot to learn, but it’s exciting to be in this relatively fast-paced environment of California family law and I am excited for the opportunity to continue growing in this field.
Ashley Lynette, ’13

Mid-way at Centro Presente

Hi All!!!

I can’t believe it’s been four weeks already since I started my internship at Centro Presente. Time has gone by so fast!!! In these four weeks, however, I have learned so much  and participated in so many activities that I feel I have exceeded my expectation for this internship.  During these four weeks, we have been working in many different events. One of these events was to inform people about the deferred action that President Obama gave to the Dreamers.  The rest of the events have been more concentrated to inform people about the Secure Communities Program implemented in Massachusetts since May 15, 2012.

Two weeks ago, we went to the State House to present the statewide commission to monitor the implementation of Secure Communities.  At this event, we had people from many different organizations in Massachusetts who support the creation of this commission. We had the presence of Somerville Representative Denise Provost, who told the stories of so many children who are being separated from their families because of secure communities and how there is need to stop the implementation of this program in our state. This past Friday, we went to Waltham where we talked to people about the effects of this program and how people can protect from it.

 

My days at Centro Presente have been different every day, something that I really enjoy.  Some days I spend time doing translations and planning events including creating the fliers, contacting people to reserve the place, and calling allies and members to invite them to the events. Other days, I spend time organizing the events that we have for the week.  Occasionally, I am in charge of the reception where I answer the phone and help the people who have appointments for the day.

Something that I feel very proud of is the time I have been teaching English to adults in Centro Presente.  Teaching is something that I thought I would never be able to do, however, when I was asked by the organizer of classes at Centro Presente to teach, I did not hesitate to say yes. This experience has taught me how hard a teacher’s job is since they have to spend so much time outside of teaching time to prepare classes. I think teachers deserve more value than what society gives them.

Reflecting on the goals that I set for this summer, I feel that I have been able to accomplish them thus far. Working with people and listening to their stories, I have been able to give them a different perspective. I think that because I have taken Psychology and Sociology courses, I am more able to listen to people and to find way to assist them in the best way that I find suitable.  Another goal that I have been able to accomplish is to acquire more work experience. Being a full-time intern at Centro Presente has been a way for me to learn what it is like to be in a work setting; experience that I did not have before so I am very thankful to the WOW committee for this opportunity.

I. Moreno, ’13

 

 

Something’s Cooking at the Katz Lab

At the beginning of the summer I began work on an exciting project in the Katz lab at BrandeisUniversityon a specific aspect of taste memory. For the sake of brevity it’ll suffice to say that the project is looking at a well-founded behavior in rodents in which the animals learn that a taste is “safe” over the course of a few days  (interested in knowing more? Click here!). Recently it has been suggested by data in the lab that this behavior can show itself in a faster time course if the behavior is measured using different techniques. At the beginning of summer I began collecting data to verify the claims of the past study, and had figured that this would be a quick task and that by this time I would have started on the next leg of the project. Like many things in life, however, science does not work on the timescale that you expect. We are now halfway through my internship and we are very close, just now, to being confident in the presence of this behavior. But don’t take that as a complaint; even though the timing has showed itself to be longer than expected, I am very proud to know that with the data I gathered and the additional analysis we are on the precipice of finishing and submitting my first data paper. Also, life in the lab has been incredibly enjoyable and very, very rewarding.

Whenever I’m not working with data at my desk, I am getting hands-on experience by shadowing my co-workers to learn and perfect certain techniques that will greatly assist me when it comes time to manage my own project.  These techniques, it should be noted, are incredibly important to my future career plans as the skills I am currently learning are easily transferable to post-college studies and work. Additionally with certain techniques it is difficult to tell if I have actually improved, but I have noticed that I am asking for less confirmation and help as my hands and mind become steadier. It’s impossible to explain the immense amount of gratitude I feel to my labmates as they have walked me through virtually every step with a smile. Because of the experience I’ve had so far, I feel very confident and excited to proceed to the next step of my project.

Here’s an example slice of a brain – the large gash on the right side is the tract made by the stainless steel cannula used to directly infuse pharmaceuticals into the brain.

 

It goes without saying that the atmosphere in the lab is incredibly conducive to learning; each person is willing to help one another in times of need. Recently, a post-doctoral fellow needed help finishing up the final parts of her project before she left the country. Virtually everyone in lab spent their free time helping to make sure that things were completed. As the thought of graduate school and additional research work weigh on my mind, it is a relief to know that a lab can not only exist but thrive with this sort of group mentality.

 

A small sampling of Katz Lab scientists

As we go into the latter half of summer, my days will likely be filled with similar activities as the first half. There are still many techniques to learn and perfect, and as the elusive behavior becomes more and more apparent there will come the next step of writing and submitting the final manuscript. Additionally, with the stronger evidence that the behavior exists, I will be presenting a poster at the Brandeis Summer Science Poster Session in early August. The technical skills I have gained and the knowledge I’ve learned about the research process are both goals that I had wanted to obtain during my internship. With these learning goals already started, there is little doubt in my mind that the next half of my internship will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than the first. – Kevin Monk  ‘ 13

 

SCAMP: Science Camp And Marine Programs (Part I)

Why go to camp, when you can go to SCAMP??  Although this is the chorus to our camp song, it also poses a great question. Why would you go to a normal, run-of-the-mill day camp when you can come exploring the world of science with SCAMP (Science Camp And Marine Programs) at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats.  As one of the program’s counselors and coordinators, I am fortunate that some children seek to find the answer throughout their summers.

Being in my position, the answer is as clear as a tide pool on a nice summer day: SCAMP is awesome!  Where else can you walk through a muddy salt marsh up to your waist? Cruise down the Merrimack river looking at salt marshes?  Crawl through amazing tide pools and touch live animals? Take an adventure on a whale watch? Or even visit a butterfly garden?  As you may have guessed by now, the only answer is SCAMP!

SCAMP is a camp that is composed of hands-on science, live animals, fun games, and craft projects for children aged 6-9. Each four-day session is a fun-filled learning adventure created to increase awareness and inspire stewardship of the natural world.  Also, a child can attend either one or multiple camp sessions, depending on their scientific interests!  This year, we have the following weekly themes: salt marshes, the rocky shore and tide pools, oceans, insects, and birds.

The kids making their own tide pool animals from recyclables!

So far, we have only completed two of the SCAMP weeks (salt marshes and rocky shore) but they have been so much fun for both the counselors and campers!  As a summer camp intern, we have to plan the entire camp schedule and come up with the creative games/activities to keep the kids’ attention on a daily basis (harder than it seems!).  I really love how all of the interns are completely responsible for choosing what constitutes a day at camp.  This is where being a diverse group of college interns really comes into play.  For example, I can use my passion for theater and improv to help the kids make their own puppet shows using puppets we made earlier in the day.  The first week, we made paper horseshoe crab puppets and for week two, we made tide pool animal puppets from recyclables!  The kids are so creative that they can write and act out a play, and the results are rather adorable to watch!  The puppet plays have been so successful already that they will be a weekly activity at SCAMP for this summer and into the future.  It’s amazing how quickly the interns’ ideas are accepted and implemented into the immediate curriculum of SCAMP!

SCAMPers performing their plays with their personalized tide pool animals made from recyclables

 

The most convenient aspects of having a marine science camp at Joppa Flats are its useful location and features.  The Joppa Flats Education Center is complete with a children’s education room, a 110-gallon interactive touch tank, and a bird viewing room that overlooks a beautiful salt marsh of the Merrimack River.  Additionally, the Joppa Flats Education Center is located at the gateway to one of the country’s most productive year-round wildlife viewing areas, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Plum Island estuary.

So far, the campers have just loved their experience with SCAMP.  Although it is mostly fun games/activities, we also make sure to have educational stations and we always have a science lesson behind our games!  Most of my planning time is dedicated to finding the best way to learn while having fun; I love thinking of classic fun games (obstacle courses, relay races, tag, rock-paper-scissors) but building them upon a new, scientific foundation.  Another great aspect of SCAMP is that all of the cool arts and crafts we make are taken home by the campers!  Finally, the great staff-camper ratio lets us all get to know every camper on a personal basis.  This is great because we have options for all the campers so they can all participate in certain activities that fit their personal interests!

There is also a new, one-week program for older children (10-12) called Young Scientists.  This is the first year in which this program is being held, but we’re very excited to start!  This in-depth program is meant to let the kids become actual naturalists and develop an individual project or research question, and spend time in two tide pools (Plum Island and Beverly) to gather two separate data sets.

But what is the real answer why kids should spend their summers at SCAMP?  Well, it has to be our camp mascots, Piper and Pippen, the piping plover chicks (of course, they are stuffed animals).  Each day, two campers take home both Piper and Pippen and can write or draw what they did with the birds in their own journals.  From tanning on the beach to lounging by the pool to watching jeopardy, these birds get to have awesome summers with the campers that display excellent behavior throughout the day!  Piping plovers are federally threatened birds that are protected on Plum Island’s critical habitat at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Although I’m a leader of SCAMP, I absolutely love participating in the activities we create.  I think we do such a great job at planning because we are really just kids at heart (we know what’s fun!).  I’m very excited to continue to meet new kids every week and I just hope that I inspire them to never stop loving the natural world.  For me, that’s something that always continues to grow, even as I get older.

Personally, I have found out that my favorite part of the day is teaching the kids something new.   As leaders, we frequently choose our own mini lesson plans and create a 10-minute station on anything we want!  For example, during camp today (ocean week) I led a discussion on shark anatomy.  It was so fun to teach them something that I am very knowledgeable and passionate about.  I love having the ability to educate them and also let them be a participating audience.  The ability to create a lesson in which my audience is interacting and thus having fun is something that I have greatly improved upon this summer.  I am very proud of the fact that I am an effective educator of biology to both college sophomores (as I am a bio lab TA) and to a 6-year old.  Although the difficulty of biology is vastly different, I approach teaching the two age groups the exact same way; keep the science simple, relatable, and fun.  If I am being silly, enthusiastic, and clearly having a fun time teaching then I guarantee that my students will take something valuable out of my lesson.  As a science student myself, only the teachers that are able to make science fun have had a positive influence on my education.  If I am to be an inspirational science professor someday, then mastering this ability is something that I need to always be working on.

Matthew Eames ’13

SCAMP field trip to tide pools at Rye Beach, NH

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Midpoint of My Summer in the Tea Industry

I have almost finished my summer internship with the Asia Tea Company. This is incredible. I have learned so much from my internship program that I love every day at work. People are so friendly and understanding. They always give me valuable advice and guide me through work carefully. My job is primarily to collect and analyze data about foreign tea markets. During the first weeks, I was not used to the analytical method used by the company. By this time, my number-crunching skill is much better. I have almost mastered the XLSTAT-PRO software besides traditional applications like Excel and STATA. Writing weekly reports has sharpened my writing and analytic skill and increased my understanding of the tea markets.

Vietnamese Sidewalk Tea Culture
Last week, I accompanied my supervisor on a trip to tea manufacturing factories in the provinces of Phu Tho and Yen Bai. These two provinces provide the best tea leaves, from which we can make the best black tea for domestic consumption as well as exportation. I really enjoyed the trip because I was exposed to a whole new different world. I learned how to sort different types of tea and examine tea quality. I also learned to negotiate prices and create network. My boss told all his friends that I am an excellent employee and that I have the potential to become a future CEO. His compliments not only made me so happy, but also helped me attract more attention from managers of tea companies during my time in the highland. After the trip, I have a few good contacts in the tea industry.

The tea hills that I saw on my trip to the province of Phu Tho

I am very proud of being the administrative assistant for the CEO when he meets with foreign partners. I take notes and write an analysis of the meeting afterward. Based on my notes and analysis, the CEO will have more idea about future contracts with his foreign partners. Being his secretary is supposed to be part of my education experience in the summer internship program. But I am very glad to have a chance to show my English proficiency as well as analytic skill, which I gain from my college education in America.

Most Popular Types of Tea in Vietnam

After every day at work, I feel that I learn more about the business world. My number-crunching, analytic, and writing skills have been much improved. I have also gained tremendous knowledge about the Vietnamese tea industry. Being a Market Analyst, I have acquainted myself with foreign markets in the Middle East and North America. Those markets have a great potential for being the primary future markets for Vietnamese tea. Thanks to my trip to tea manufacturing factories in the highland area, I realize how tea is actually made from raw tea leaves. Thus, my understanding of the supply of tea is much better. After this summer, I realize that the business world is not always fun. However, I believe that after my experience in Asia Tea Co., Ltd this summer, I am fully prepared for a career in the tea industry and have acquired many transferable skills that will help me regardless of my ultimate pate. I hope to become the CEO of a tea company in the future and contribute to the development of the Vietnamese tea industry as well as the promotion of Vietnamese tea culture abroad.

 

Seeing Music and Hearing what’s on your mind: Midpoint at The Sold Project

Hello All!

Having fully adjusted to the Thai work ethic of ‘sabai sabai’ (which roughly translates to: chill! relax!) I have quite a few weeks of art class under my belt, and loads to report!

In the developing stages of my project (recap: teaching art as a method of creative emotional expression for at risk youth in northern Thailand), I was told by mentors, peers and fellow travelers to keep my expectations low. Between the vast cultural differences, trials and tribulations of monsoon season in Thailand, and a lack of previous exposure to creative thinking, most people I spoke to before starting off were skeptical that my plans would carry through as expected. That being said, I entered into this project with the lowest expectations I could muster, and I have been beyond rewarded as a result. Not only do the kids leap at the opportunity to start new projects and share their work, but the depth of the meaning and communicative quality of the art is astounding.

The way my internship is scheduled, I get a few hours every day to lead an after school program, unfolding small tips and tricks for translating thoughts and feelings into color and form. So far the kids have completed the first part of the curriculum “Exploring the self”, which included collages on the cover of their ‘artist journals’, using patterns to explain their personalities on their ‘magic wish boxes’ (a small box where they keep written reminders of their wishes, hopes and dreams for a rainy day), and most importantly their symbloist+expressionist self portraits, where they had to combine a portrait like Frida Kahlo (showing ‘things I like’) and Picasso (showing ‘things I feel’). The outcome of this last project was extraordinarily rewarding for both the kids and myself. Many of them talk around after school carrying the portraits around to show their friends and whatever visitors and volunteers stop by. We’ll be sending the portraits over to Sold’s gallery in San Francisco to raise awareness for the project.

Now we’re knee deep into the second area of curriculum ‘Express Yourself!’ Last weekend we learned about different music genres and the ‘colors and shapes’ different kinds of music can generate. The kids were divided into groups and had to paint their feet the ‘colors’ of the music and dance on giant sheets of paper. At the end of the day, every smiling face was covered with paint, but there’s no better evidence of a good art project than a big mess!

In my Wow application, most of my learning goals and hopes for the summer revolved around developing a way to communicate with the children I was working with, and to get my purpose across in a culture to which my lessons are entirely foreign. So far, between my growing connections with the students and staff members, the marvelous work the kids are creating with me and on their own, and the (often heartbreaking) stories that are beginning to unfold themselves, I’ve discovered that cultural barriers don’t stand a chance against the inherent ability to express creative thought. I can’t wait to keep this train going as I think up more ways in which to share the gift of creativity with those who need it most!

This student was in the first dancing group. Their assigned genre was ‘classical’, which many of them found ‘sad’ and ‘like a heartbreak’. The song was WATERMARK by Enya, and most of the kids’ feet featured various shades of blue.

– Zoey Hart ’13

 

Midpoint at United for a Fair Economy

These first few weeks at United for a Fair Economy have been incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Having not really come from a background in economics, one of my main goals was to become more well-rounded and educated on various issues and topics such as progressive taxes, responsible wealth, and the fundamental tasks associated with fundraising and development in order to sustain a non-profit. My supervisor has been really helpful with all this, as she often has great articles and other various readings to share and help educate me on the greater goal of working towards a fair economy. 
I have had the opportunity to work on many very different projects, which has helped to shape the full picture of development and fundraising. I have conducted grant research as we enter a new fiscal year and hope to find some new prospects for potential funding sources.  I am also currently working on the design for a postcard to be sent out to past donors. [Fun fact: 71% of our funds come not from other foundations and organizations, but from individual donors!] That, I thought, is astounding! So if I had to pick one thing I have learned about most it would be the role of stewardship and maintaining positive donor relations, though I have found that it seems one of the trickiest, but most important factors. Thinking about it logically, why would anyone want to donate to an organization if they only heard from the organization when they were asking for money? This brings me back to the current project of creating a postcard. In light of our recent move (see my first blog post), we are making a postcard to simply share our new address and to help maintain our relationships so that things don’t get disrupted with the move. 
Surprisingly, the other UFE interns have been especially helpful in reaching my goals. UFE currently has 10 working interns, all dispersed among UFE’s programs. We recently began organizing weekly “Brown Bag Lunch Intern Meetings” where we gather the entire staff and organize short presentations to sum of the work we’ve been doing. It has definitely been interesting to see how all of our projects tie in together and help to carry out the greater, overall mission of UFE. It’s a really dynamic and fun group of student interns, all energetic and motivated to learn as much as we can in the short span of summer.  We even have started scheduling various members of the staff to come and give presentations on subject matter that might  not otherwise have come up. Check out this blog posted by one of the other interns concerning the Robin Hood Tax. 
Some of our upcoming programs include “writing for the web” where we’ll learn about blogging on behalf of organizations, understanding webinars, and learning more about creating htmls. Each time someone volunteers to present, they get a nice little star burst as a reward (below)! 

I know that I’m learning here because I feel much more confident researching and looking things up on my own. In the beginning I found myself asking a lot of questions and trying to keep all the abbreviations and different projects straight in my head. Now, I can come across articles in the paper, or snippets on the radio and not feel lost among all the jargon. I can grasp concepts quickly, which provides a huge boost in confidence because I can feel my goal of becoming more well-rounded is proving applicable in the real world.

Having worked in other small non-profits in the past, I have come across a lot of great individuals, but what I love about UFE is that everyone is awesome AND really seem thrive in each other’s company. It is a true team effort which clearly establishes an upbeat and healthy work environment. Now that I’ve seen this culture in action, any future jobs are going to have a tough act to beat… especially since the next Intern Outing is getting gelato in the North End!

– Gwen Teutsch ’14

Halfway Through

It’s hard to believe that I’m already halfway through my time at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab at Northeastern University. Although I feel like time is flying, I have also learned a lot since I started. I have become much more involved in the study we are conducting. I have had the chance to understand many of the steps of psychology research, from literature review to running subjects to entering and coding data to data analysis. At first, I only observed my supervisor and other research assistants (RAs) running participants, but now I lead multiple participants through our study daily, asking for assistance only as issues arise. The picture below shows me and another RA practicing the proper way to apply the sensors that we use to measure physiological responses in our participants.  I know that I’machieving my goals here at the LEDlab,  not only because of the fact that I have learned more specific research skills, but also because I have learned more about why psychology research works the way it does. For example, the physiological data that we gather supplements the survey and eye-tracking data by giving us concrete data on how the person’s body is responding to the stimuli. Thus, we do not have to rely only on what the person reports about how they are feeling, because we have evidence of the physical processes at work.

As a psychology major, the chance to have such hands-on experience in conducting a study has been invaluable in making the concepts I have read about in my classes come to life. For example, I remember completing countless problem sets for my Statistics course about hypothetical studies. These problems often required the use of SPSS, a common statistical program used in psychology. As I went through the steps of each problem, I sometimes had a hard time really understanding what to do. Where in the spreadsheet should particular data go? Which statistical test should I perform?  While I certainly do not have all the answers to SPSS, working with others to calculate those statistics for the study that I’ve been working on for weeks makes the concepts “come to life” for me. I think that this new understanding of SPSS will be helpful in future lab experiences and even job interviews, as well as in classes that will require research methods and statistics.

My main personal goal for the summer was to see if I wanted to pursue research or clinical psychology. Speaking with other RAs about their co-op experiences has been illuminating in this regard. Co-op is a Northeastern University program in which “students alternate semesters of academic study with semesters of full-time employment in positions related to their academic or career interests” (Northeastern Co-Op). Many of the other RAs spent their Co-Ops in clinical settings, working in hospitals and mental health centers. Talking to them has given me some insight into what it is like working on the clinical side of things. Talking with them inspired me to look into more experiential learning opportunities in the Brandeis psychology department, especially the Clinical Practicum Program. So, hearing about my colleagues’ co-op experiences has inspired me to look into ways to gain experience working in different sectors of psychology through my university.

– Leah Igdalsky, 2014

Summer Midpoint with Fundacion Paraguaya

Hello WOW bloggers. A month has past since my last post, meaning that I have, amazingly, already passed the half-way point in my internship with Fundacion Paraguaya. I am very fortunate to say that, in this time, I have found my niche in terms of my work; that is, I have really been enjoying what I have been doing on a daily basis. After switching my area of work from the micro-finance office to a department that focuses on business education called “Educacion Emprendora”, I have been learning in ways that reinforce many of the learning goals that I outlined prior to my internship.

At a Paraguayan Business Expo where students from different companies display and sell their products.

Within the “Educacion Emprendedora” program, I am specifically working with Junior Achievement – an international program that helps high school-aged children in groups of approximately 30 start and manage their own businesses for a year. The students work in groups referred to as the “company” to develop a product or service to offer, sell stock within the company to generate capital, purchase any necessary production equipment, develop a business plan, produce their product or service, execute public relations, and finally enter the local economy to sell. The defining characteristic of Junior Achievement is an emphasis on learning by doing; in other words, the students have the chance to put into practice the theory they have learned in the classroom. The program often an exciting experience, and students come to realize an intimate understanding of the issues executives face throughout the year by personally facing the challenges and questions that arise in various areas of the business such as marketing, production, human resources, etc.

To help guide the students in this process, each company receives a detailed program manual outlined with weekly goals as a guideline to complete, attends a day-long business organization session, and can access support from me and my co-workers whenever they have questions.

One of the aspects I have enjoyed most about my work is my ability to travel. On a typical day I will travel to a high school which can be located in or outside of the city of Asuncion. As one of my learning goals was to experience Paraguayan culture, these trips outside the city allow me to compare elements between urban and rural life. Even seemingly mundane elements such as riding the public transit open my view to larger cultural ideas.

A beautiful view crossing the Rio Paraguay while traveling to one of the high schools.

When I arrive at a school, I work with the five elected executives of the highschool’s company and help them realize a detailed business plan. Together we elaborate their company’s fixed costs, costs per unit of production, equilibrium point, sales goals based on earnings per share, and more. By the end of our exercises, the company knows exactly how many units of their goods/service it must sell per month, per week, per day, and per person to reach their goal. While the process sounds complicated, the underlying concept is fundamental in nature; the objective is that each student learns the skill of breaking down seemingly overwhelming and complex goals into smaller, achievable ones, ultimately instilling in him the confidence that he can pursue any professional or personal goal.

One of the company’s goods, decorated sneakers, has been a popular product.

Working within the program has been a learning experience for me as well. First, in addition to refining the above mentioned organizational techniques, I am continuing to deepen my understanding of entrepreneurship and managing a business. Second, one of the most important growth factors for me has been gaining more experience speaking Spanish. Through speaking, listening and interacting in Spanish frequently and in new contexts my comfort and confidence in the language is growing. Third, the most rewarding element of my job is feeling as though I am making a tangible difference in these students’ lives, especially after sessions when the students leave saying “I feel that I have really learned.”  I am humbled to think that I am giving them some confidence, especially in the case where some children come from difficult backgrounds.

To be learning something new everyday is a gift, and I thank the WOW committee for this opportunity. Until next time!

– Brandon Frank ’14

Learning About Homelessness Throughout First Half of Internship

Sign outside of St. Francis House building

The first several weeks of my internship at Boston’s St. Francis House have flown by, and in this short period of time I have learned volumes about homelessness and the criminal justice system. Going into the internship, I was hoping to connect classroom learning about social justice issues to a work setting. Now that I am several weeks into my internship, I feel that I have connected my past knowledge to a “real world” setting, but what I underestimated was the amount to which seeing issues play out in people’s lives would be a form of education for me. My background knowledge has simply been a jumping off point for me to continually explore how individuals experience homelessness and how their experiences are related to a variety of policies. The experiences at my internship have demonstrated the complexities of social justice issues in ways that classroom learning could not have fully conveyed; meeting with individuals who have experienced homelessness and, often times, incarceration and hearing their stories is endlessly informative regarding social policy questions.

This summer I hoped to gain greater direction in my own life in regards to career interests and understanding what skills I possess that could be useful for the workplace. While I am still unsure of what career path might be the best option for me, I have learned that I enjoy working with people and particularly hearing their stories. As a result, I might pursue a field such as counseling or social work, or at least find work that incorporates interaction with people in some capacity. While I enjoy working with people, I also have gained a deeper understanding of policy changes that could greatly impact individuals. Later in the summer I will have an opportunity to take action regarding specific policies through work with the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, so this work should help me discover if activism surrounding policy change is the direction I wish to take in the future.

Conducting a great deal of research at my internship has honed my research skills and grant-seeking skills, which could be applicable to a wide range of non-profit work that I may pursue in the future. My interpersonal skills have also improved this summer; observing my supervisor and counselors interact with St. Francis House guests has enhanced my ability to communicate with and assist populations that I previously had no experience working with. I am proud of my ability to actively listen to others and affirm their experiences while also keeping in mind what guidance they might need. Many of the guests we serve simply need someone to talk to, and I feel that one of my most important roles this summer has been to be a source of support through listening and engaging with people. This could be invaluable experience for any kind of future work I might do, whether it be directly counseling people or simply communicating with others in the workplace.

I have also learned about what it takes to start and run a social enterprise. The bag-making business that I am assisting my supervisor with entails attention to a wide variety of details and logistics. The work takes brainstorming to come up with ideas, and then a great deal of networking, paperwork, meetings, and planning to execute the ins and outs of a business. I have never had exposure to the business world and what it takes to produce, market, and sell a product, so this experience has been eye-opening for me. Here is a photo of what our bag workshop looks like, a workshop that only came together after much planning.

Bag workshop for bag-making business

In future weeks I imagine that I will expand upon the skills I am developing and gain more clarity on what careers might be of interest to me in the future. With several weeks left I look forward to working with people and working on policy change, as well as observing the various services and programs contained within St. Francis House.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

This Summer is Flying Faster Than a New York Minute

From reading the other WOW blogs, it sounds like everyone is having an amazing summer. As for me, I would have to say that my internship has definitely met and exceeded all of my expectations thus far. As an aspiring lawyer, the goal I was most excited about fulfilling this summer was getting an opportunity to experience the actual courtroom proceedings that take place in Manhattan Family Court. I expressed this desire to my supervisor at the onset of my internship and she has been quite accommodating in allowing me to gain exposure to a wide variety of different proceedings. It has been a great learning experience for me to observe courtroom procedure and to pick up on the often subtle nuances that distinguish the more refined lawyers from their peers. I was relatively familiar with how criminal courtrooms are run from previous experience but this internship has allowed me to broaden my perspective and such knowledge will be quite useful when the time comes for me to decide which type of law I would ultimately like to pursue.


Being a Sociology major, another goal that I had for the summer was to gain some real-life experiential learning to contrast with the theoretical knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom. It is one thing to read about how social infrastructures, such as the legal system, can affect people’s lives but it is another thing entirely to experience first-hand the profound impact that even seemingly minute legal decisions can have on a client’s life. I have been fortunate in my short time at LFC to witness a broad spectrum of outcomes: from triumphant victories where families have been reunited to tragic cases where children are separated from their loved ones and placed in less than desirable living arrangements. The capricious nature of judges makes predicting such outcomes almost impossible;  some are uplifting and others are heartbreaking but I’ve learned that, regardless of how invested I am in any particular child’s case, it is best to never take any decision personally. This is a piece of advice that was given to me by one of the veteran attorneys at LFC and I believe it to be absolutely imperative to maintaining one’s sanity in such a potentially overwhelming career. Such is a prime example of why interning at a place like LFC is truly an invaluable experience: having the opportunity to apply the sociological ideology I have acquired at Brandeis to real people’s lives has added a human element to my perspective that simply cannot be conveyed in any textbook.

At this juncture in my internship, what I am most proud of is the interpersonal connections that I have made this summer. I feel like my relative similarity in age and background has allowed me to establish common ground and to build a nice rapport with the clients with whom I have worked.  I think being able to communicate and build relationships with all kinds of people is a fundamental skill that has been augmented significantly by this experience and one that I will be able to apply to both my future career and academic pursuits.

I can hardly believe the summer is halfway over already. I hope everyone enjoys the month or so we have left and I look forward to reading all about the awesome things everyone else is doing in their blogs.

 

A. Bray, 2013

Midpoint at AVODAH

As I reflect on my academic, career, and personal goals created for the summer, I realize how much I have already learned at AVODAH. I started my internship when the organization was having their big NYC event and initially thought that the rest of my summer was going to be as fast paced and interactive as my first few days there. I soon understood that this was not true and was put to work the next week creating surveys, evites, and sending out emails using mail merge. Although this wasn’t as vigorous as helping with the fundraising event, I learned more about the inner workings of AVODAH. The most prominent of what I learned is the amount of time, energy, and commitment required to achieve the transformative results of such a wonderful service program.

My academic goal for the summer was to gain knowledge on how to create social change after participating in a service corps. One of the responsibilities I have as an intern is to read and update many of the Alumni biographies. Through this I recognize how one is able to create social change after a service corp; they continue working with organizations that are dedicated to social justice. Although now the answer seems obvious, it is through this internship that I really understand how those who join AVODAH are able to find their own way of continuing to fight for change.

My career goal was to learn how to utilize certain aspects of the service corp and apply it to social entrepreneurship.  An article that I was given to scan spoke about social entrepreneurship and how it can exist in the non-profit, for-profit, or corporate sectors. I was unaware of the complexity of this career path. While at my internship I discovered another type of job that was appealing to me. Another intern at AVODAH is part of a program called CLIP, which takes students and places them in non- profit internships. The students meet once a week for a panel and discuss how one can use their Jewish identity to create social change. I was able to attend one week where my boss was speaking on the panel. A Brandeis alum was also a speaker, and told us about his job at JP Morgan working with philanthropists to find organizations in order to donate money to. Because of this, I have become more aware that there are other jobs that are just as fitting for me as social entrepreneurship.

 

What was made clearer to me this summer is the strong connection that exists between Jewish values and social justice. Both aspects have played important roles in my life, and to be able to experience this daily is exciting. I am already truly satisfied with all that I have learned up to this point and believe that I contributed to the growing organization in a positive way. Right now I am proud of being able to give meaningful input during our AVODAH meetings. I am more confident in presenting my ideas and realize the importance of detail and organization in any given task. I continue to learn and appreciate the amount of skills I am gaining and am excited for what is to come.

– Danielle Mizrachi ’15

Week One with the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project

Hello from Iten, Kenya. I have finally gotten settled and found a way to get internet access here in Kenya.

The Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project works to send gifted Kenyan students to elite universities in the United States. The program selects a small group of particularly deserving students to guide through the complicated process of standardized testing and college applications. Since being founded in 2004, KenSAP has placed 89 students among the best colleges and universities in the United States including two at Brandeis. Located in Iten, Kenya the area is world renowned by track and field enthusiasts for the distance running it consistently produces. For village of only 4,000 people the area can account for an inordinate percentage of world-class distance runners. As an avid distance runner and member of the Brandeis Track and Field team this area is particularly interesting to me.

My internship with KenSAP has several major responsibilities. Along with two other interns I will be an instructor for classes on standardized tests and writing. The students will take the TOEFL exam in August and the SAT in October. While these are extremely gifted students, English is typically their third language which makes the critical reading section of the SAT a difficult task. The students have studied English in school and speak well, but the intricacies of the SAT are much easier for a native speaker to understand. Luckily, this is the section that I performed best on so it will be easier to help. Interacting with the students on a consistent basis helps them to improve their understanding of English and American culture which is essential to their success in applying to college and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

After a difficult 48 hours of travel I finally arrived in Iten excited to start despite the jet lag and seven hour time difference. The first week was particularly exciting because I was a major participant in the selection of this year’s students. This year, 77 students applied for the program, all of whom received an A on the national high school exam. I had been reviewing applications for about a month before departing for Kenya which prepared me for a busy week. After discussing each applicant with the small group of selectors, we interviewed each candidate. This is obviously a nerve-wracking process for the potential students who are hoping to be given the opportunity of a lifetime. As a soon to be job applicant, it gave me some perspective of what goes on from the other side of the interview. After several days of interviews and deliberations the group was narrowed down to 14 students who will be this year’s KenSAP class. I will begin teaching courses to help the students prepare for the SAT soon.

I am very excited for the possibilities this summer may hold. Having spent the majority of my life in the northeast this immersion into an entirely new culture has already been quite an experience. The feeling of being stared at for being a minority is completely foreign for me and will certainly change my perspective. Teaching the SAT will undoubtedly improve my own critical reading skills which will help me in my own preparations for the LSAT this fall. Overall, I expect this internship to leave me with an unparalleled experience and an enlightened perspective.  – Alex Kramer ‘ 13

Midpoint at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

It is hard to believe that I am already at the midpoint of my internship. My learning goals were to become familiar working in a healthcare setting, to apply my knowledge and further learn about health and illnesses, and to promote a healthy lifestyle through this hands-on experience. I have met an incredible group of people, including healthcare professionals, patients, and families. I am fulfilling the goals I set for myself, and everyday I learn something new.

Life-size food models used for dietary counseling

In addition to the daily tasks of monitoring patients’ development on growth charts, viewing patients’ medical and family history, and assisting in conducting dietary and physical activity counseling, I also performed quite a few exciting tasks. I helped conduct mail-out surveys for patients and families. The survey includes questions that could be very helpful for the Clinic staff members to assess how the they are doing in terms of educating and treating the patients. We would like to see not merely changes in statistics such as patients’ weight and body mass index (BMI), but also improvements in their diet and physical activity. I also designed posters for an upcoming event, BMI Fun Day 2012, which is an interactive four-hour program provided to our patients in a specific age group. The program consists of bike riding activities from a non-profit organization the Bluegrass Cycling Club, how to prepare a food budget, well-balanced meals for school from Culinary Arts students from Sullivan University, and family-oriented team building activities. I am very excited for this program. It will be the BMI Clinic’s first program outside of the hospital, and it will provide opportunities for children and their parents’ to interact with Clinic staff and other healthcare professionals on a more personal level.

BMI Clinic dietitian’s typical lunch – beets, tomatoes with cottage cheese; full of proteins and fiber!

I am monitoring my growth by keeping a daily journal of what I do everyday and recording thoughts and reflection at the end of the day.  I am working with my supervisor on a daily basis, so I discuss with her any questions and ideas that I have. Other clinic staff also check in with me to see how I am doing. I am the most proud of the tasks that I take on outside of the responsibilities that I was originally assigned. I enjoyed doing extra work for the clinic as much as I can, such as making posters for the program, designing pamphlets for the dietitian, and compiling and analyzing data. I feel very accomplished for making every little contribution to the clinic and to the population who are suffering from obesity and other related health problems. So far it has been a pleasure working here. Besides increasing my academic and professional knowledge, I made great connections at the Clinic and at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital at large. I feel like I really fit in here. I can definitely see myself working in a healthcare setting in the near future. – Yan Chu ’13

4th of July at the Embassy in Madrid

A lot has happened during these past weeks. In the Economic Section, I finally finished working on a fundraising project I was helping manage for the Embassy’s annual 4th of July party. The project was a huge success. We raised more that what we needed to cover the party’s expenses. The remaining funds will be used for the Embassy’s Election Night celebration in November. The party was also a huge success. Over 3,500 people attended, and there was live music, performances, and a lot of good food and drinks! The nicest moment of the party was when a combined group of U.S. and Spanish Marines presented both countries’ flags to the Ambassador and his wife.

Photo: US Embassy Madrid

 

Now that the project is finished, I have been assigned new and exciting tasks like writing meeting briefs for the Ambassador and writing reports about economic laws. Meeting briefs are used to orient the Ambassador and give him relevant background and context before an official meeting, informing him about the person and organization. To compose the briefs, I go through press articles, official websites, and use other information resources to research the individual. I have also been working on copyright and intellectual property legislation issues, researching and writing reports for the Embassy’s deputy economic counselor about American and Spanish laws, and cooperation in the field between the countries.

 

Photo: US Embassy Madrid

Last week, I transitioned from the Visa unit to the American Citizen Services (ACS) unit in the Consulate. A lot of the work in ACS is related to law. I am in charge of the emergency telephone line, which is the line that Americans can call if they find themselves in distress. The purpose of the calls are very varied and interesting, and require me to respond in a quick and effective manner, and know a lot about Embassy resources and Spanish law. It has been my responsibility to follow up with a variety of agencies, such as the police or international law organizations, all the while keeping clients up-dated about their inquiries.

Time is going by so fast – I can’t believe I only have one month left! Feel free to ask any questions about my work, the Embassy in general, Spain, or anything else!

– Ivan Ponieman ’13

Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?-Mid point in Joburg!

            This first month in Johannesburg, South Africa has flown. I feel as if I just got here, yet I am already half way done with my internship at Lefika La Phodiso, The Art Therapy Center. Lefika is involved in so many different projects that it is hard to keep track of everything that is being done.

            Each week, I meet with a group of community counselors training to be art therapists. Each of them then leads her own art therapy group, which I have been fortunate enough to visit. Each visit gave me the opportunity to witness a variety of techniques they use to lead their group. For one of the projects, I went to help teach art classes to three and four year old children living in a township. Another group I observed were the adolescents, living in a condemned building. Some of these children do not have parents living with them and there are others who do, but have never emotionally attached to them. These adolescents are going though so much hardship; they are basically taking care of themselves and looking after younger children who live in the building. For this group, art was an extension of their voice. They would go and create images and then discuss what the images meant to them in a group setting. Safety and a hygienic living environment were the two major issues that kept re-emerging. As a result of these meetings, another facilitator and I, have begun a new project to help empower these children to renovate where thir building.

malaika
The sign used at one of the fundraisers organized to raise money to give the children running water

One more project, which completely amazed me, was the work being done at the boarding School for Visually Impaired children. The therapist explained that many of the students’ fine motor skills and senses had never been fully developed, and most of the families were not even aware of their child’s disability or how to take came of him/her. This was very different to the type of art therapy I had seen before where art acted as an expression of one’s feelings; for this project the art therapy consisted of playing and using one’s hands to develop the senses.

Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille typewriter used at the SIbonile School for Visually Impaired
Braille closeup
Braille closeup

These are only a few of the projects I have been a part of so far; each is completely different environment and the facilitator leads the group accordingly. This has allowed me to see the possibilities of how art therapy approaches can be applied, one of my main goals for the summer. As I work and participate with these groups, I have come to realize the immense growth that has come from learning from these amazing therapists and the work they do.

            As of right now, we are in the middle of the Holiday Program, a three-week-long program that involves helping children during the time when they are most at risk, school vacation. I have organized meetings, planned the schedules for different age groups, prepared activates and materials, and was in charge of organizing and finding different volunteers for the duration of it. It has been quite a handful of work, even before the program began. For the first week we worked with a  group of 2-5 year olds, and one of 5-11 year olds, as well as adolescents and some of the guardians, all living in the condemned building I wrote about earlier. The second week will be an open studio where the children can come in and create and will be ensured a proper meal. The third week will consist of a week for adolescents only. They will be coming from the condemned building, an orphanage, an HIV+ clinic, and a children’s home. The theme will be taken from Gauguin’s famous image, Where do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? I greatly anticipate the projects and working with these adolescents.

– Nicole Bortnik ’14

Greetings from the American Islamic Congress!

Hi Everyone – This summer I am interning at the American Islamic Congress’ (AIC) Boston Office. AIC defines itself as a civic minded organization, dedicated to building interfaith and interethnic understanding, as well as supporting and fostering civil and human rights. While the main office is in DC, they have a strong Boston office and cultural center, as well as bureaus in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq.

I am working as the Arts and Culture Program Assistant. This summer, my main responsibility is to spearhead and co-lead the project development of a traveling art exhibit for the AIC scheduled to be launched in 2014. Our aim is to bring 6 – 8 Muslim artists to up to 6 cities on the east coast. We are inspired by the idea of cultural advocacy, (i.e., using arts to make a difference) and letting art counter stereotypes that people have of each other. Our hope is to have a diverse selection of strong artists from the Muslim world who can talk about relevant issues facing them and their communities such as fundamentalism, immigration, gender rights, and democracy. We hope to generate a cross-cultural conversation that allows and fosters positive engagement amongst societies. With this exhibit, we also want to have films and concerts, as well as outreach to high schools, in order to have a significant, 3-dimensional impact. I am involved with helping draft the concept, prospecting for fundraising, engaging partners, networking, coordinating outreach, and planning educational programming, amongst other responsibilities.

My other job is to be the curator for the cultural/gallery space in Boston. I was an Assistant Curator for AIC in Spring 2012 (which is how I got this Summer internship) and this summer allows me to be more engaged with the artists, as well as plan an exciting array of art and cultural exhibits (film and music) exhibits for the 2012 – 2013 year.

My first week has been pretty exciting. I definitely felt like I walked with a purpose my first day in. The location of the internship, at 38 Newbury Street, surrounded by glamour, adds not only the aura of a ‘legit’ operation, but also pressure – because you are competing with so much around you for an audience. As a Muslim-American organization, how can we try to be relevant and have a strong alternative, progressive Muslim voice? I think that is the big issue that this organization is grappling with.

For this summer, I am working with a couple of people in the office but my supervisor is Andrea Dettore, Development Associate – she is a great lover of music and arts programming and is going to guide me through the process of fundraising, and network and partner building for the traveling exhibit.  The final concept will be the result of our joint conversations and expertise.

On Thursday, I was involved in co-curating the most exciting exhibit so far! AIC is partnering with Discover Roxbury, an organization dedicated to the promotion of culture of Roxbury, to feature five American artists of color, who traveled to Egypt before the Arab Spring, and have been inspired by it. Please find pictures for it below!

I co-curated this show with two workers at Discover Roxbury. This was the first time I ever co-curated an exhibit, and this was definitely a learning experience because there were some strong ideas being bounced around and some clashes, but all in all our result was great!

I really hope this summer will allow me to develop skills that I do not currently possess in the field of planning. As an Art/Art History major, theoretically I know about art in general, but I don’t know much about business plans, marketing, and outreach/fundraising. I would love to combine my love of art and knowledge of contemporary Muslim art, and learn how to be successful in this field of cultural management.

Additionally – I would love to find a progressive Muslim voice that is advocating for strong change, and be able to find my own space within it with my multiple identities.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz (May god protect you)

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13

First week at UNITE FOR SIGHT in Ghana

This June and July I am interning/volunteering with Unite For Sight (UFS) in Ghana.

Unite For Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. UFS partners with local eye clinics in three developing countries: Honduras, India, and Ghana. Patients receive free eye care and surgeries funded by UFS so that no patient suffers due to lack of financial resources. In addition to being a leader in providing cost-effective care to the world’s poorest people, UFS’ Global Health University trains and nurtures the next generation of global health leaders.

As a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow, I am to assist the local eye clinics with any of their needs and participate in urban and rural community outreaches. My specific responsibilities include: registering patients (taking down introductory information like name, age, gender), conducting visual acuity screenings (testing the seeing power of each eye, one-at-a-time), distributing eyeglasses alongside the dispensing optician (reading glasses, distance glasses, sunglasses), writing receipts for patients who purchase eyeglasses and/or medications, and entering said patients’ data into the eye clinic’s database for tracking and referral purposes (chief complaint, primary diagnosis, doctor’s prescription, etc). We are also required to fundraise monies for surgeries, collect eyeglasses for the eye clinics to distribute, and complete Global Health & Impact training in preparation for our travels abroad.

I came across Unite for Sight on the “Pre-Health Advising” page of the Brandeis University website two summers ago. I discovered that at least three other Brandeis students had participated in this same program and so I reached out specifically to one of these students and asked for his thoughts. He could say nothing but great things about UFS, and recommended that I apply…and so the rest is history!

My first week with Unite For Sight was not too much of a surprise. I was required to complete the Global Health & Impact training long before I even stepped foot on the plane, so I was already familiar with many of the eye clinics, their staffs, and their global health delivery models. I spent my first week engaging in outreach work with North Western Eye Centre and three other American volunteers. We worked with communities in the Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana and saw anywhere from 50 to 80 patients a day. I quickly learned the difference in diagnosing many of the eye pathologies I encountered in training, (i.e. a corneal scar versus a cataract), and bonded with the team of optometrists, nurses, interns, drivers, and other volunteers.

Unite For Sight: That’s the motto!

Photo Source

I feel more and more Ghanaian everyday…check out my colors!

Photo Source

My learning expectations for this summer are to engage in my coursework through hands-on experiences in the field of public health. As a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, I am expected to fulfill a “hands on experience,” which grants me the opportunity to engage academic material experientially in a setting related to either health or health care. After venturing to and from Ghana, I will have come away with a stronger understanding of the social determinants of health and disease and the impacts of social inequality on health in Ghana, by having become part of a global health organization that initiates sustainable health care frameworks in the developing world.

Want to learn more about Unite For Sight and/or Ghana? Please check out the links below:

http://www.uniteforsight.org/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ghana

– Darrell Byrd ’13

Midpoint at NARAL Pro Choice

Photo source

It’s been a little over a month since the beginning of my work here at NARAL and I’m enjoying it more and more as we get further into the summer. Many of my goals were focused around gaining experience in the non-profit world, making valuable connections, and really taste-testing to see if this is something I’d want to pursue in the future With this in mind, I think I’m progressing well.

For me, politics, as in running for office, doesn’t seem like the medium of change I want to pursue. I want to be part of the most effective way of making change. My supervisor’s job includes both the legislative and political side by lobbying for legislation, working in the statehouse, making valuable connection with senators and representatives, and really being on the front lines of passing effective and necessary legislation. In addition, he spends a lot of time working to get pro-choice candidates elected. These two aspects of change are not only essential for progressive initiatives (working from both the policy and elected official sides) but also are part of a job that I really feel interested in.

My academic goals of learning more about pro-choice legislation, the act of lobbying, what it takes to run a non-profit, and actual reproductive rights have also been coming along. Everyday I feel like I’m learning more and more about the topics themselves, but also how they fit into my life.

In addition, I’m building a lot of skills related to this type of work. I’m becoming familiar with grassroots organizing techniques, constituent relations, working with state legislators and aides, and campaigning. Campaigning has been a really large portion of my skill set because campaigns are complicated and almost take on lives of their own. There is just so much involved. First, one must get a large volunteer base and intern base if they want to run a successful campaign since campaigns rely on manpower. Secondly, they require a lot of organization and planning to run a successful campaign, which includes door knocking, phone banking, and data entry as the main components. All of these activities are not simple. They require a lot more than face value. The hours are long, the jobs can be tedious and intense, and the response isn’t always ideal. But running an effective and credible campaign is extremely important, and I feel very lucky to be able to be part of so many incredible campaigns.

All of these skills will absolutely transfer into both future academic and career pursuits as I’m building a large skill base, getting experience working for a non-profit, and learning empirical knowledge about women’s health and reproductive rights.

One thing I’d like to quickly address is the misconception that NARAL is a pro-abortion organization. In fact, NARAL and it’s employees are routinely called “baby killers” and other things that are just as vulgar and untrue. NARAL works for women to have choice, access to medically accurate information, and a full range of control over their bodies. It does not promote one option over the other, it does not deny that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy; it does not promote abortion as a form of birth control. It works for women to be able to have full control over their own bodies. You don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. It’s as simple as that. But every woman, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, or age, should have full control over her body. Being pro-choice, is not anti-child, anti-family, anti-religion, or anti-anything. It’s being responsible and respectful. There are so many undeniable correlations between access to reproductive rights and increasing education, health, financial independence, and aspiration outcome.

As a young woman, I understand what is at stake in this election – at this time. The fact that reproductive rights are even still in question is an absurdity that boggles my brain daily. I understand that fighting for the right to have control over my body is essential and something that cannot be taken lightly. Even with waning faith in the political system, I understand that voting in this election (both state and federal) are essential in the promotion of my rights as a 21 year old Brandeis student who wants to be able to decide if, when and how I have a family. If you are reading this post, male or female (because this is important for men and fathers as well), remember that this election is really important and regardless of your own personal views, choice is choice – and a constitutional right that is being threatened and must be protected.  Please vote pro-choice in 2012. In my next blog I will be attaching a Massachusetts Voter Guide, which shows which candidates are standing behind this fundamental right.

Sorry for the bleeding heart speech, but I feel if I’m going to be writing about my goals, it’s important to state what it really all comes down to: getting the community together to help protect choice.

For a snapshot on some of the legislation I’m working on, visit these sites:

Photo source

– Rebecca Miller ’13

First Week at NARAL Pro-Choice

Photo credit: Ruth Weld

It’s been a few weeks since I began my work with NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, the state affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America. I have really been enjoying my time here and am sad at how quickly it is going by.

The main mission of this non-profit organization is to create, build, and maintain a grassroots constituency to protect every woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive choices, whatever they may be. NARAL does many things to protect women and their right to choose including mobilizing supporters, working to elect pro-choice candidates, passing pro-choice legislation, conducting research on reproductive topics, and leading initiatives to improve the reproductive health equity within Massachusetts. Given this summer’s extreme importance as an election summer and the significance of reproductive issues within the campaigns, this summer is an exciting and crucial time to be working with NARAL.

My internship is basically divided into two parts; office work and campaign work. My role in the office consists of many different responsibilities like data entry, sitting in on endorsement interviews with candidates for the Massachusetts legislature and various other tasks. I am also responsible for tracking Worcester County state elections and following all the local politics to keep track of our endorsed candidates. In addition, I work as the legislative intern which entails keeping track of NARAL’s priority legislation, writing fact sheets, following policy in the statehouse, and working to prepare for the next legislative session as this one comes to a close in July.

The other main part of my internship is working on the campaigns of the candidates we endorse.  This is really exciting because I get to work on multiple campaigns; meet a lot of incredible people, network, and get important experience being part of a campaign. When I’m on a campaign I’m doing everything from making constituent calls, going door to door, and yes, more data entry.

I became interested in NARAL when I referred to their database for help with a research project, showing the link between the oppression of women and access to birth control and abortions. I was impressed and inspired by their research and policy initiatives. I knew that I wanted to work for a non-profit dealing with social justice and women’s studies, so after researching NARAL’s functions and the opportunities available over winter break, I applied for an internship to test the waters in the non-profit world.

Photo Credit: Ruth Weld

My first week was wonderful. It involved an all day-training with other interns at local non-profits like MassEquality and Women’s Political Caucus. I learned a lot about NARAL itself, but also the goals of small political non-profits and how they work. Later that week, we had one of our biggest canvassing events at Gay Pride Boston 2012. It was an incredible experience. The main goal of the day was to increase our membership. This event was really fun, action-packed, and a great introduction to the internship. It’s also just a really wonderful experience to be surrounded by people who are all coming together to fight for equality.

My learning expectations are based around my desire to further figure out which medium of advocacy for justice I want to pursue. This internship will help me to clarify my career path and allow me the opportunity to test the non-profit world.  As a rising senior, I’m really looking forward to using this internship as a way to further my understanding of my career goals and potentially make vital connections for the future.

Before I close this first post, I think it’s really important to share something I learned within my first week at NARAL. Massachusetts has always been seen as an extremely progressive state and many people are proud to live here. While this is true, sometimes the legacy of Massachusetts being progressive allows us to take a backseat and assume things about our laws. Despite Massachusetts’ extreme leadership in healthcare and commitment to public health, Massachusetts is one of only four states in the entire country that still has an outdated law on the books, from the 19th century, that bans all abortions. In addition, there is another provision that bars all birth control to unmarried couples. These archaic statues have not been enforced for many years especially given federal cases like Roe v. Wade, which is potentially why there has been little to no movement to get rid of them. Yet in the wake of recent attacks on reproductive freedom, Roe v. Wade does seem like it’ll be threatened in the near future. If this becomes the case, and it is overturned, abortion and birth control will become illegal in Massachusetts. We cannot stand for this. One of NARAL Massachusetts’ main legislative priorities is working as hard as possible to get this archaic and unjust legislation repealed as quickly as possible. Be on the lookout for ways you can reach out to your state legislators to make sure this legislation is repealed.

Sorry for the detour! Overall my internship has been incredible and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Check out NARAL:

To see if your legislator is pro-choice, click here.

– Rebecca Miller ’13

 

First week at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH)–Youth Development Internship

 

I have just completed my first week as a youth development intern at the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. On my first day my supervisor took me on a tour of the Mission Hill property and explained to me how their organization is run. We also discussed his background in Non- Profit work and the skills one needs to acquire in order to hold a senior/executive position.

One of my personal objectives for my summer internship was learning about the business aspects of Non-Profits. I’m interested in social services as well as business. This is why I thought it would be beneficial to get some hands on experience at a Non-Profit organization this summer. My supervisor has agreed to go over the budget with me, as well as allow me to sit in on staff meetings so I can see how executive decisions are made. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with someone who is invested in my experience and wants me to get everything I possibly can during my time here.  He told me he would share all he knew with me, and he has been keeping his word. Every morning I report to him and check in, he asks me questions and makes sure I have help completing the necessary objectives for the day.

This sign is near the entrance of the RTH property

 

I work directly with two youth development staff during the day in the Teen Department. I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the good things to come over the summer!and we’ve been creating an agenda for the summer. So far, we’ve scheduled field trips, basketball tournaments, job readiness workshops, and fun activities for the kids to do during the day. I’ve met quite a bit of the youth I’ll be working with throughout the summer and I was surprised to see how quickly they have warmed up to me. The kids in the program (youth building communities) are between the ages of 11 and 14, so this is a critical age for them. I’m very much looking forward to working with them over the summer and building relationships. At first I was a little concerned about the relatively small age difference between the kids in the program and myself. I’m sure to them I seem young, and sometimes teenagers can see this as a reason to see me as one of their peers. Thankfully though, the staff has introduced me to the youth as well as their parents as part of the staff so I haven’t had any issues with my authority thus far.

I’m also finding that it isn’t difficult to connect with the youth, I’ve kept the conversation generally casual and I think they appreciate that. I don’t crowd them but let them come to me instead, and I’ve found that this is a effective way to connect with most of them. The girls seem so much more shy than the boys, so I’ve gone a little out of my way so that everyone knows I’m available to them, while still being approachable. I’m so happy that things have been going as smoothly as they have, and that the staff as well as the youth have welcomed me into their space. Looking forward to all the summer has to offer.

– Alyssa Green, ’14

Moving from New England dialects to Hmong fieldwork

A lot has happened since my last blog entry. Besides working on more acoustic analysis, I made two trips down to Plymouth, New Hampshire to do some of my own interviews. I went with one of the Dartmouth students who I had met before.  He was very helpful in explaining exactly how he does the interviews, and we did the first one together. Then, I stayed at the bakery where we had set up, and he went off to other local spots where he thought he could get useful interviews. It was good for me to step out of my usual comfort zone and ask people who came in if they would be willing to be interviewed. I asked if they had grown up and lived most of their lives in the area, since that was what we were looking for.  If they answered “yes”, I told them a little about the project and asked if they had 8-10 minutes of time for an interview. I was lucky to receive mostly positive responses, and got about 10 interviews on my own within the two days. During the interview, I had them read a word list, reading passage, and sentences, followed by questions on whether they believed there is a New Hampshire or New England dialect. These interviews will be analyzed just like I have been analyzing previously conducted interviews, with Praat. An interesting thing I noticed when finding people to interview was that some people looked scary.  Yet,  I decided to approach them anyway, and they turned out to be the nicest ones. Among the various lessons I have learned, one is the typical, “don’t judge a book by its cover”! I have also refined my interviewing skills based upon this lesson.

The second day I went to interview people, I met a woman who had studied linguistics and who was very interested in the project. I gave her the Dartmouth professor’s business card, and she proceeded to contact him offering to help with the project, which he was very excited about! He appreciated my personable attitude and said that he believed I would do great on the Hmong project, as it seemed like I was very approachable. I felt proud that I could be such a help to the project, and the interviews made me feel as if I was a valuable component; more so than when I was simply doing analysis from home.

During the remainder of my time at home, the professor also gave me books to look through about the Hmong. I had previously read Anne Fadiman’s book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down,” but besides that, did not know much about the community. I have already learned a lot more about them simply through the books. A lot of the material talked about the fact that many Hmong who now live in America feel as if Americans do not understand their culture, and misinterpret many cultural rituals and traditions. One thing I have noticed when reading these books is that it is much easier for me to retain the information when I am studying it for my own use, rather than simply for a test in class. I am excited to learn even more as I actually begin to interview the Hmong people.

“The Mong Oral Tradition” – A few of the books that the Dartmouth professor has provided me with.

 

I just got to Massachusetts yesterday, where I will be spending the remainder of my internship. Before I left, I stopped at Dartmouth to speak with the professor about what exactly I will be doing during my time here, since the work is mostly on my own. He suggested I contact the Brandeis student again who did Hmong field work a few years ago. He also gave me all of her previous Hmong contacts, notes and interviews. I have already contacted her and she told me which places she was most successful, most of which were in Providence, RI, though also one park where she met a lot of Hmong people in Fitchburg, MA. Otherwise, I should begin by researching online to find Hmong organizations in the area, as it very well may have changed a bit since the previous Brandeis student carried out fieldwork here. Once I start conducting interviews, they will include cultural questions as well as certain components that will allow the interviewees to speak Hmong, which we can analyze later to find interesting linguistic elements within the language.

I am nervous because I feel even more on my own now than before, but the professor is more than helpful in answering any questions, and I feel as if I am well prepared. He will check in with me every week to make sure I am doing well with the research, and he will either visit me here at some point, or I will make a trip back to speak with him and possibly even do some more of the New England dialect field work. And whenever I am not busy with Hmong work, there is always more acoustic analysis to be done! The professor has assured me that even if I do not make a life-changing discovery, making more Hmong contacts in the area and carrying out some interviews will be very helpful to him. And personally, I have already learned so much that I know this internship has been and will continue to be beneficial to me! I am learning skills both that I can use in life, and more specific skills that I can use for future linguistics work. Although I am about half way through, I am only beginning this part of the internship, and even though I am nervous I am also so excited to see what will happen!

Me working in my new room! Trying to beat the heat…

– Alexandra Patch ’14

Researching Cantonese-English-Mandarin Language Acquisition

More than halfway into my internship, I have been making good progress on my learning goals for the summer at the Childhood Bilingualism Research Centre. In order to monitor my growth and make sure that I am absorbing as much knowledge as possible here, I have been keeping track of my completed tasks and constantly asking the graduate students at the Center for feedback and comments.

At the moment, I am transcribing video recordings for the Hong Kong Bilingual Child Language Corpus. The corpus is a database of bilingual Cantonese-English child speech recordings, in audio and video formats. I use the linguistic software called CLAN to transcribe and mark down specific features that appear in the child’s speech. For example, an important feature to note is code-switching, which is when the child switches from language to another, in this case from Cantonese to English or vice versa. Moreover, we not only transcribe the speech production of the child subject, but just as importantly, the production of the adults who speak to the child, or in other words, the child’s language input. We can achieve a more complete understanding of the target child’s language attainment by examining both her linguistic input and output.

Transcribing target child Yarona’s (mainly) English conversation — click to expand!

Another project I have been working on is the Mandarin Receptive Vocabulary Test for Hong Kong Children. One of my goals for the summer was to conduct experiments that look at children’s acquisition of vocabulary and sentences to better understand how teachers and curriculum can provide more effective language education for children. My responsibility was to compile the results and calculated the scores of each child who took the MRVT. The test is given to children aged 4-6 to assess their acquisition of Mandarin, a second or third language after Cantonese and English for most children in Hong Kong. In the test, children hear a word spoken in Mandarin and are asked to point to the corresponding picture. Only one out of the four pictures is correct and the other options are carefully selected distractors. There is always one other picture that is similar sounding, and one that is similar in meaning. The results tell us how children are most likely to make mistakes, and indicate areas that parents and teachers can improve upon. Working on this project gave me a lot of insight into my long-term goal which is to pursue a career incorporating linguistics into education, so that children can be exposed to various languages at an early age to become global citizens when they grow up. They will be able to communicate with many people, yet also have a native language that reminds them of their heritage.

Sample question in the MRVT: which picture shows xiang1 jiao1?

Concurrently with the other projects, I am currently working to design a computer-based experiment to study the referential strategy of spatial relations. It is extremely challenging and I get a great deal of independence in researching and designing how the experiment will be set up and run. It requires a lot of creative thinking and research. I am learning about the scientific method and research process. Working at CBRC, I have gained skills that will be essential for me in the future. Specifically, I have gained skills in transcription, and am working at a much faster pace than when I first started.

– Miriam Wong ’14

Halfway through my time with Bible Raps!

As part of my internship with Bible Raps I had the opportunity to spend a week at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton GA, where I once was a camper and counselor myself. Although I have worked for Bible Raps before and since, and will be embarking on the second leg of my “camp tour” next week, I think my experience at camp Ramah Darom best represents my internship so far.

I had two main goals when I began this summer: 1) Get hands-on experience with the day to day tasks of a Jewish musician and a nonprofit organization (both of which I hope to be a part of someday), and 2) Run workshops, perform, and write. In other words, I wanted both the clerical and the creative; at camp I did both. I used constant contact to begin putting together a newsletter, edited, formatted and copied lyrics (like this Torah Rap Map to the rap “Jonah:”

and reached out online to the kids we had performed for.  I also helped with the workshops themselves, including working with the older kids in camp to write songs for their color war, which was a great throw-back for me. (The songs needed to involve their color, theme, region of the world, and be easy enough for everyone to sing, and incorporate Jewish texts, and if this wasn’t difficult enough, be completely in Hebrew. Yikes!). In the workshops, students learn a Jewish text, as well as the basics of writing a rap. (Videos from past workshops can be found here.) Students then split into groups to either make a beat with Matan or write with Matt and I to help. I loved seeing the campers faces after they laid down their tracks: beaming with pride, not just at what they had accomplished, but what they had learned. And I have learned so much; helping someone write is very difficult. There’s a thin line between giving suggestions and putting words in someone’s mouth, and most of these kids have had very little rapping experience. I worked on walking that line and keeping the ball rolling, while making sure the kids owned their work. Matt’s a pro at it, and is helping me improve as well.

I have a few proud moments from this week, some professional and some personal. When Matt handed over the reins to me to lead a workshop myself, I was a bit nervous but felt confident that I knew the ropes, and I did. I was certainly not perfect, and Matt and I went over what I could have done better. But working directly with the campers and facilitating such a unique experience was very rewarding. Later in the week, one of the older campers who we had worked with for color war said to me, “Don’t tell the other guys but you’re my favorite Bible Rapper.”  I smiled and we laughed, but it really meant a lot. This is more than a job, more than an incredible opportunity. For this summer at least, I am a Bible Rapper. I may not be a rapper yet, but I’m part of this amazing team that does so much good and brings so much learning to the world. That’s what I’m the most proud of.

P.S. Here is a video of Matt and Matan performing for some enthusiastic fourth graders!

– Eliana Light ’13

The Temporal Center of My Time at the Trauma Center

It’s been about a month since I first started my internship at the trauma center, and since then I have been exposed to many activities that have allowed me to work on my goals for this summer. Academically, I started the summer knowing I needed more experience doing clinical research in order to properly prepare myself for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology later on. I have been able to measure my progress through the number of studies I have found, analyzed and included in my literature. So far this number has climbed to over 100 articles, and I am sure it will climb higher over the next few weeks.

The trauma center has given me opportunity to interact with professionals across the trauma field, from psychologists to fellow volunteers, to people working the public relations front. I am learning a lot about each of these sectors and how they interact to form a complete organization aimed at preventing, treating, and building resilience to trauma. I have tracked my progress in this area by the amount and length of interactions I have had with the various professionals at the Center.

My personal goals are probably the area where I have met with the most success so far. With such kind people, I see more and more why I love my time at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma alone. For example, last week we held a fund raiser and I was assigned the role of “camera guy.” I knew a little about film, thanks to a class offered at Brandeis University, but I still had trouble with the technology. The ICTP staff’s response was immediate, and they offered not only help but feedback that was constructive and positive. They also drove me part-way back home, even though we finished our day’s work after 10:00 P.M. that night.

 

Photo Credit: Amos Nachoum

I think I am most proud of the fact that I have come to a place that affords me not only the type of career I want to have, but the type of individual I want to be: professional yet humble, conservative with evidence yet open-minded to creative ideas for trauma interventions. I have worked and wished for years for a place where I could find even one of these. Now that I have both, I feel that a serene sense of balance has taken over.

My work at the trauma center has helped me build new skills in storytelling through video, helped me improve my Hebrew, allowed me to work on research skills, honed my filming skills originally learned at at a class at Brandeis, and has bolstered my ability to pitch ideas. My improved Hebrew will also help me with my coursework, as I intend on taking at least one Hebrew course in addition to the amount required. My film skills will help me secure other ways of helping out at future events of the trauma center, and will also help me in searching for jobs that require a variety of skills. Lastly, to build a career in research, or even to give myself a voice in any campus, being able to effectively pitch and communicate my ideas will be an invaluable skill.

 

Photo Credit: Amos Nachoum

– Rocky Reichman ’13

Midway point at the States Attorney’s Office

These past four weeks have really flown by! My responsibilities at the States Attorney’s Office have grown and I feel much more comfortable in the office.  When I walk into the office every morning, I now feel prepared to handle any task that comes my way.  Before I began my internship, one of my main goals was to learn more about the judicial system. That included better understanding the court processes, the inner workings of the states attorney’s office, and the specific role of the victims advocate. I feel that I have already learned so much about each of those things and I hope to learn even more.

While monitoring court proceedings I feel that I understand more and more of what goes on. I now understand the difference between a status conference and a jury draw status conference. I have discovered which court proceedings interest me to watch and which are monotonous. Even though I prefer certain court proceedings to others, one of my responsibilities is to watch whichever one my supervisor needs me to and then I report back to him on the outcome. This has taught me to pay attention and understand the process and outcome. I have also learned a lot from the attorneys who have encouraged questions and taught me a lot about the work they do.  I was even able to sit with one of the attorneys during one court proceeding.

I also better understand the role of the victim’s advocates because that is the department I specifically work with.  One of my main responsibilities is to assist with restitution paperwork, which I now feel very comfortable doing. My supervisor will hand me an assorted pile of papers knowing that I understand what to do with them. I now have enough experience to use the database in a way to find the appropriate paperwork, print it, and then file it.

 

File Cabinets
Restitution Folders!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My supervisor actually calls me his “chief-of-staff”! Every time he says that, I feel proud of my work and that I am really helping him. I enjoy being able to walk into his office, with him knowing that I am capable of doing anything that he hands me.  His confidence in me has shown that I have learned a lot. I feel more confident in my work for him and my overall ability to work in the office.

Confidence is just one skill that has grown since my internship began. I also feel more competent with computer databases and promptly being able to figure out how it works. After using a few different types of databases at this internship I feel confident in my ability to quickly learn and adapt to new programs. I know that is a skill that I can take with me to future jobs and will help me feel comfortable with using any program thrown my way.

My knowledge of the judicial system has also certainly grown, which is something that will benefit me in both academics and with my future career.  I feel as though I understand the difference between civil court and criminal court, which is something I never fully understood before . I am currently working more with the criminal court, but was able to observe some family court proceedings. Through this internship and the opportunities given to me, I have learned that I enjoy family court and civil court much more than criminal court. I have greater interests in the cases that appear in civil court and the attorney-client relationships that ensue. This current internship has shed light onto the different courts and truly helped me better understand what I am interested in for the future.

– Ilana Abramson ’13

Week 1 at the Jewish Eco Seminars

Shalom from Jerusalem! I am just about to finish my first week of interning for the Jewish Eco Seminars and so far it has been a fantastic experience!

The Jewish Eco Seminars engages the Jewish community by educating people about the powerful outcomes of combining ecological innovation, Jewish values, and modern Israel. The organization reaches people in Israel, as well as North and South America. It is one of the branches of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, which works to foster dialogue between the religious leaders and communities in Jerusalem on the topic of environmental issues. The Jewish Eco Seminars provides a great deal of opportunities and information. They offer many programs and trips ranging from exploring Israeli organic farming and learning about the country’s water problems to learning how to build with mud and much more!

Jewish Eco Seminars is based out of a small office (converted apartment) in the Nachlaot neighborhood in Jerusalem – less than a 5 minute walk from the Machane Yehuda Shuk (open market – see photo)! Most of the work that I have been doing this week is inside the office, though, occasionally some of the work involves going out a bit.

At the beginning of the week I was given the option of many possible tasks to work on. They ranged from publicity to research to video editing and more. I chose to spend my week focusing on fundraising because it was something that I’d never experienced before. This week I have been researching potential donors and providing my supervisor with information about them. I look for information such as where people and foundations already donate their money and what their interests are, and from this determine whether I think we may have a connection. Next, we get in touch with the groups who seem interesting and set up a time to meet with them. Before each meeting, we do more research on the group or person so that we will have a complete background knowledge of their previous actions in order to connect on a higher level and better understand them. I have learned so much just in this one week! Next week I plan on continuing some of the fundraising work and also exploring more projects!

On a different note, two years ago, the Jewish Eco Seminars was founded by PresenTense, an organization that helps Jewish innovators to use “their ideas and energy to revitalize the established Jewish community.” I came across Jewish Eco Seminars while speaking with a friend who is involved with PresenTense. I emailed the director expressing interest in interning with them and after a meeting/interview we realized that we were a great match for each other. After college I hope to become a Jewish environmental educator so I quickly realized that this internship would be great for me to gain experience in my field!

If this sounds interesting to you, feel free to like the Jewish Eco Seminars on facebook!

In addition, I’d like to share with you a great video that the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development released last week in conjunction with the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Click here to watch One Home!

– Ariana Berlin ’14

First Week at The Sold Project

Learning to ‘go with the flow’ of nature, urban life, car and cow traffic, and super-relaxed co-workers is not always easy, but I’m up for the challenge! I’ve been following suit of the ancient temples that line the mountains surrounding the cities in Northern Thailand- this peaceful Buddha statue was nestled in a garden of broken relics guarding a temple cave twenty minutes north of Chiang Mai.

Hello All!

After a week of roaming around and getting acclimated to Thai time, weather, food and extremely relaxed atmosphere, I am finally all settled in at my home-stay in Chiang Rai. Before I begin gushing about my experiences, let me give you a short debriefing on The Sold Project, and my own ambitions and responsibilities for the summer.

The Sold Project is an NGO here in Chiang Rai that works to provide scholarships for local children who cannot afford the cost of education. Additionally, Sold has a resource center very close to the main school systems outside of Chiang Rai where children are exposed to extracurricular opportunities in English, computers, writing and local social justice issues. Through scholarship money paid by Sold’s donors and the constant dedication and hard work of the on-site staff, Sold’s scholarship recipients are not only receiving an enriched education, but a ticket out of being sold into human trafficking as a means to support their families. Here’s a page explaining the facts of human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

I was invited to intern at Sold after developing a program for teaching emotional expression through visual art. Though many of the students come from traumatic and abusive backgrounds, Thai culture does not allow for any external indication of negative feelings, anxieties or experiences. My objective for the program this summer is to introduce Sold’s students to the possibility of using art as a vehicle for expressing their feelings in a culturally acceptable manner. If all goes according to plan, by the end of the summer program participants will have an ‘artistic toolbox’ to carry forward and use to express themselves in the future.

Yesterday was my first day on site. Though the day was mainly focused on planning logistics and meeting the Thai staff, it was full of adventure and excitement nonetheless. First, the Thai staff put their heads together to come up with my Thai nickname that would be easy for the kids to say and remember. After quite a few minutes of deliberation, they named me Nam Wan, which is Thai for sweet water. After I’d been initiated we all did some brainstorming for how the program would begin, and deciding which Thai staff member would be giving me morning Thai lessons. We then briefly met the kids at the school.  At the first sight of ‘Phalong’, or foreigners, the kids’ eyes lit up and we immediately became lumbering jungle-gyms for masses of 4 and 5 year old girls.

We walked with the children up to the village where many of them live. The village is small, incredibly rural, and nestled cozily into the mountainous jungle. There are gorgeous butterflies and flowers everywhere- it was hard to believe that the families in these homes would consider selling their children.

This next week I will continue to plan my curriculum and meet the enormous community of creative and artistic travelers that have come to this city and never left. I’m incredibly excited to see how the kids (and community) respond to the art program, and can’t wait to navigate the unexpected twists and turns in the road that are sure to arise!

– Zoey Hart ’13

First Week at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

I just finished my first full week as an intern at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) in Boston, MA, which is a national non-profit organization composed of a network of legal professionals who provide legal assistance and support to immigrant communities and their legal practitioners and advocates. The NIPNLG seeks to promote justice and equality by both defending and advancing the rights of immigrants. We focus on assisting five major categories of immigrant communities: those facing criminal charges with consequences of deportation, survivors of crimes and domestic violence, those facing raids or immigration enforcement action, non-citizens who want complete freedom of political expression, and non-citizens living with HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to provide immigrants and their attorneys the support and guidance they need in defending their rights. The legal process can be very confusing and daunting for non-citizens who cannot afford attorneys’ fees. The organization’s success depends on the dedication of its staff and members who provide crucial technical assistance. Our role is to provide useful information and set up connections between attorneys and immigrants.

My responsibilities will include assisting both the Director of Development and Communications and the Staff Attorneys on various administrative, legal, and development projects throughout the summer. My first project is creating a program book for an upcoming reception at an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference which honors one of our members who has done outstanding work to defend immigrants’ rights within the past year. Click here for the story of one of the immigrants whom he represented and successfully defended. Another component of my experience at the NIPNLG will be communicating with immigrants who are currently detained in prisons all over the country who are looking for a pro bono attorney or legal advice. As we receive these letters, the staff splits them up, and everyone is responsible for responding to detainees with the resources they have requested. Through this ongoing project, I hope to better understand both the legal aspects of immigration and the areas in which our legal system does not support immigrants’ needs and rights.

I found and secured this internship with the tremendous help of a Brandeis professor and colleague of an NIPNLG member. Through this connection, I contacted the Director of Legal Advocacy and set up an interview before I went abroad for the spring semester. Though they usually only take law student interns, they created a unique position for me that both fit their needs and my summer learning goals. I feel very welcomed and needed in the office, and I am very excited to continue to learn about how a small non-profit functions and how it contributes to the greater picture of advancing immigrant rights. I also hope to explore options for graduate school and/or a possible future legal or non-profit career having to do with social justice.

Here is a picture of my desk: I already feel like a contributing member to the important work that the staff does. They really try to include me in the office culture. I look forward to contributing to the NIPNLG’s goals.

– Jonna Cottrell ’13

First Week at Centro Presente

Hi! My name is Ivonne Moreno and I am an intern at Centro Presente located in Somerville, MA. Centro Presente is a member-driven, state-wide, Latin American Immigrant organization dedicated to the self- sufficiency of the Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts.  Centro Presente struggles for immigrant rights and for economic and social justice. Through the integration of community organizing, leadership development and basic services such as youth programs, adult education, and legal services, Centro Presente strives to give its member voice and build community power.

During this summer, I will be working in the legal department at Centro Presente, which provides legal services, educational trainings on immigrants’ rights to the Latino Community and works closely with politicians, religious groups and other community organization. This first week, we have been focusing on organizing the next educational training called “Citizenship Fair”, the main goal of which is to educate Latino immigrants that qualify for citizenship about the process of becoming a US citizen and the importance of voting.  My main responsibility has been getting in touch with immigrants who have come to the Centro and have said to be interested in becoming citizens and invite them to come to the next citizenship fair and how to sign up for the upcoming class to take the citizenship test.

One important event that has a big impact at Centro Presente has been President Obama’s announcement on June 15th giving opportunity to undocumented young people who qualify to obtain a two year permit to stay in the US legally and obtain a work permit to be able to work called deferred action. This announcement has been a joy and an achievement for the immigrant community and especially for those young people who have been in the United States since they were kids and have been unable to get jobs and go to college because of their immigrant status.  This week, we have been receiving a lot of calls from people asking about the deferred action and how they can apply if they qualify. In the weekly meeting staff, the Centro decided to do something like a forum and invite the community to give them all the information we have on the deferred action. I think it is very important to do since they are people who are trying to take advantage of this situation by asking people for money to apply for this permit when there is not even an application process and the ICE has 60 days to organize the application process.

In the weekly staff meeting, I was introduced to the people who work at the Centro Presente and the work they do. I was really impressed by the work they do and how passionate they are about fighting for the rights of the undocumented community. From this short period that I have been at Centro Presente, I feel that I will gain a deep understanding of the US immigration system as well as the many issues that undocumented people face in the United States. It has been great to also have a different working experience that I did not have the opportunity to get before.

– Ivonne Moreno ’13

 

 

Midway point of my internship at WATCH CDC

I am just about halfway done with my internship and it has definitely been a whirlwind.  Some days are slow and I spend my time updating the database, researching housing resources, stuffing donation letters and other basic office activities.  Other days I am very busy meeting with clients who come in to ask questions, look for housing or fill out applications.  My learning goals for this summer were quite basic:  I wanted to learn about the functions of a community based non-profit and develop organizing skills that allow me to serve the needs of community. On a level more applicable to my every day duties at my internship, my goal was to research and learn enough about Massachusetts housing law and the community needs of the people of Waltham in order to serve and assists clients as best as I possibly can. What I have learned and accomplished in those terms can be displayed by a variety of small indicators; like how now when a client who was served a Notice To Quit comes in with questions I can confidently explain the process to them without having to look up the eviction timeline in our resources. Or how it no longer takes me an hour to pre-read a Section 8 application before I feel okay starting to fill it out for a client. I have been viewing each client who walks through the door as a new challenge. Each one poses a challenge for me to help alleviate their housing issues at least a little. So the summer has truly been filled with challenges.

 I have kept a tally sheet next to my desk and have tried to keep track of the number of clients who have come into or contacted the clinic for assistance. The numbers read 24 walk-ins, 12 phone calls and 2 emails.

Some of those are clients who dropped by with a quick question or were looking for a local resource, and others are clients who have come in repeatedly. That is a pretty good number of clients I’ve worked with. What I am even more proud of, however, are the communication skills I’ve gained through working with so many people. Many clients who come in speak little English, but their needs are every bit as large. Sometimes, I have an interpreter with me, but other times it’s just me and my minimal Spanish skills there to communicate and help solve some of their housing issues. On an anecdotal note, I’ve had one older, disabled man named ****** come in two or three times to get help filling out a variety of housing applications due to his limited English ability. He has spent probably a total of 4 hours working with me in my office and we have filled out five different applications and chatted a great deal. After the second time he came in and spent about an hour and a half going over the applications with me, a fellow intern who works in the office next door came in to my office and noted how ****** was here for about 2 hours and she did not understand a word he said to me the entire time, and yet I continued to respond without any hesitation or question. I hadn’t really noticed until she pointed it out, but between his broken English and my sad excuse of Spanish, we had created a vocabulary in order to communicate and form a dialogue. And, somehow we understood each other perfectly.  It is overcoming language barriers such as this that I am most proud of during my internship experience, and I think it is these skills that will resonate most as I continue my career at Brandeis and forge into my future career, whatever that may be.

– Molly Lortie ’13

First Weeks at Ostional Wildlife Refuge

Greetings from Ostional National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica!  I’ve been working here for a few weeks and it’s been a great experience so far.  The Refuge is located in the small town of Ostional, on the northwestern Pacific coast of the country.  This protected area was created in 1983 by the Costa Rican government to preserve a major nesting site of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea).  I found out about this project by emailing a supervisor in charge of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, who put me in touch with one of the researchers in charge of the work in Ostional, who offered me the opportunity to be an intern for the summer here.

The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is distributed worldwide in tropical areas and Ostional is the largest nesting area for this species of sea turtle in Costa Rica.  The Olive Ridley is famous for the phenomenon of mass nesting, called arribadas, although two other species of sea turtles, the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and the Green (Chelonia mydas) sea turtles, also nest here.  The refuge spans 18 kilometers (11 miles) of coastline, extending 200 meters (700 feet) onto land, and 6 kilometers (3 nautical miles) out to sea.

Sunset at Ostional Wildlife Refuge

The majority of my work takes place at night, when the turtles come up on the beach to nest.  To get an idea of what a nesting turtle does, here is a video produced by WWF.  Along with other staff members, I lead groups of volunteers on nightly beach patrols to find nesting turtles and record their location and size, the number of eggs they lay, the size of the nest, the time it takes for the turtle to lay the eggs, among other data.  Finally, we tag the turtle so that we can keep track of her, if she comes back to nest in Ostional.  During the day, we excavate and exhume nests to examine the eggs and determine how many turtles hatched from each nest and what stage of development the unhatched eggs reached before death.  Additionally, we perform a weekly beach clean up and coordinate hiking trips for the volunteers who come to the refuge.  Most of the volunteers do not speak Spanish and many of the workers do not speak English, so my duties include quite a bit of translation.  In my free time, I give English lessons to several of the staff members and their children, as well as enjoy the beautiful beach.

A turtle returning to the ocean during a recent arribada

My first week here consisted mainly of training and getting to know the staff here at Ostional Wildlife Refuge.  I spent about a week being taught how to lead groups on the turtle patrols and about all of the procedures in place here.  I also had a lot of time to get to know the staff here at the refuge.  About a dozen or so people are working here at any given time, including researchers, park rangers, research assistants, and the cook, in addition to the constantly rotating groups of volunteers.  I hope to continue to learn a great deal this summer from the staff here at the refuge.  Most of them have lived in Ostional their whole lives and have a lot to teach me.  I’m also hoping to witness a large arribada as the rainy season continues.  The organization I’m working with is vital to the conservation efforts of this sea turtle species, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work here.

– Sarah Steele ’13

My first week at Shatil

I am interning this summer at an organization named Shatil (seedling in Hebrew). Shatil has three offices throughout Israel: Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva; I am working in the Jerusalem office. Shatil’s mission is to help develop Israeli civil society through support, mentorship, consultation and guidance of various non-profit organizations throughout Israel. In addition to supporting other non-profits, Shatil runs its own projects, such as organizing strikes for workers‘ rights, creating forums for Israeli- Arab co-existence and lobbying the government for socially conscious policy change. While Shatil functions as an umbrella organization for many other NGO’s, it is also under the umbrella of the New Israel Fund (NIF), a philanthropy organization that works to promote democracy and social justice in Israel. Shatil functions as the action arm of the NIF through creating, promoting, and helping to sustain civil society in Israel. In addition to the aforementioned roles, Shatil runs a database for people to find jobs with socially conscious organizations, and many Israelis know Shatil for this function. Shatil’s English webpage can be found here.

 

 

I am interning in the Development Department of Shatil, which works on fund-raising and publicity, and runs some of its own projects concerning the environment, shared society (Israeli-Arab coexistence), Bedouin womens rights, social protests and more. In my role as intern I am expected to write reports to donors, write articles for NIF’s e-newsletter, update the job database, translate documents from Hebrew to English, and work on a research project concerning Shatil’s status on ECOSOC (the UN Economic and Social Council). Additionally, I will attend Shatil events and conferences and meet a variety of activists in Israeli civil society.

Here is a link to the E-Newsletter article that I worked on.

I spent this past semester studying abroad in Morocco, and knew that I really wanted to be in Israel this summer. I looked at a variety of organizations and opportunities, but wasn’t really excited about any of them. Then, while talking to my sister who lives in Israel, she told me to look at Shatil. She knew of Shatil because of their work with social workers (which is what she is) and she knew about my interests in civil society, social justice and the non-profit world. I looked at the website and was really interested, so I sent an email with my resume and a cover letter to Shatil, secured a phone interview (conducted while sitting in a loud café with a terrible connection) and, thankfully, got the internship.

My first week at the internship was interesting. I did not have very much information about my specific day-to-day activities before I came, and was expecting to be sitting in the office a little less than I am. However, the people in the office are all very nice, friendly, and open to answering my millions of questions. They immediately got me set up with everything I need and put me to work right away. They also gave me a short briefing about what exactly Shatil is and does, its relationship with the NIF and other NGO’s, and introduced me to everyone in the office.

This summer I hope to learn about civil society in Israel, and working in the non-profit world. What I like about Shatil is that it is a big organization that is associated with a variety of other organizations.  Therefore, I will learn not only about different departments and functions within the organization, but also inter-organizational relationships as I am exposed to various organizations and projects.

Tamar Schneck ’13

My First Week at NBC News Washington Bureau

I am interning in the investigative department of NBC News in the Washington Bureau.  I will be observing and assisting a group of three producers and two on-air correspondents who create content for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, MSNBC, and the Today show.  I first became interested in investigative journalism through my job at Brandeis as a researcher on the Justice Brandeis Innocence Project at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.  I discovered I have a real passion for digging and exposing injustices, and wanted to immerse myself in the field.  This is why I chose to “study abroad” in Washington, D.C. last semester on the Washington Semester Program, an intensive journalism seminar program through American University.  It provided the perfect opportunity to become fully engaged in all forms of journalism, and allowed me to hear about the possibilities of a career in journalism from many prominent reporters.

I decided to stay in Washington for the summer and continue to explore my interest in investigative journalism.  I applied to the internship program at the NBC News Washington Bureau by sending a cover letter and resume directly to one of NBC’s investigative correspondents, who forwarded my information to an investigative producer.  I interviewed, completed a written test, and was lucky enough to secure an internship.

Source: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838587/

My first week has mainly consisted of orientation, tours, and meeting the people who I will be working with this summer.  It took a while for me to familiarize myself with the computer system, especially one of the programs NBC uses called I-News.  I-News is basically an information sharing network which has everything from incoming feeds on breaking news, to scripts for upcoming segments of Nightly News, to lists of what will be covered by the Washington Bureau each day.  As an intern, I have the opportunity observe a lot of the news covered by the Washington Bureau, including congressional hearings, tapings, and press conferences.  All of these opportunities can be found by searching through I-News, which is why I wanted to understand the program right away.

My main responsibilities as an intern include observing the investigative team and researching.  In just my first week, I’ve researched a possible lead for an investigative piece and observed the editing of a breaking news spot for Nightly News on the John Edwards trial verdict.  The verdict came close to air time, so there was not much time for the spot to be put together.  It was exciting to watch the editing process and observe the decisions which a producer must make under a tight deadline.  I am looking forward to more opportunities throughout the summer to learn from experienced producers and correspondents about investigative journalism, and to be part of the excitement of NBC’s Washington Bureau.

Source: http://blog.signalnoise.com/2008/07/17/television-logos-nbc/

– Abigail Kagan ’13

My First Week at the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab

(Image source)

I began work this week at the Lifespan Emotional Development (LEDLab) at Northeastern University. This psychology lab is headed by Principal Investigator Derek Isaacowitz, a researcher and professor who worked at Brandeis before Northeastern. I chose to spend my summer with this lab because I had wanted to get involved in Professor Isaacowitz’s research on emotion and attention across the lifespan since he was my instructor for Social Psychology during my freshman year. I actually interviewed for a position as a Research Assistant (RA) with this lab while it was still at Brandeis, but had to defer joining for a semester because of prior commitments. I thought I had missed my chance to join the lab when it moved to Northeastern in January 2012. Lucky for me, support from WOW made it possible for me to have my chance to be an RA this summer.

The LEDLab investigates “the links between attention and emotion throughout the adult lifespan…how individuals of different ages manage their emotions, and what role attention plays in emotion regulation and maintenance of well-being” (lab website). In order to study the way that adults of different ages attend to information and how that relates to the emotions that they experience, we make use of an eye tracker. which continuously tracks where a person’s gaze is across the screen. This lets us to know what a person focuses on: is is the emotional expressions on people’s faces or is it irrelevant details of the scene which allow a person to avoid facing emotional content? Believe it or not, this varies among ages. In order to better understand what eye tracking is really like, here is a photo of my lab manager and P.I. using the equipment.

(Image source)

You might wonder why knowing this type of information matters. However, understanding how people relate to emotional content has important practical uses for society. For example, the study I am working on is looking at how people of different ages (younger adults, middle adults and older adults) process health-relevant information differently if the focus is on emotions or information. Professor Isaacowtiz published on this topic in article called “Looking, Feeling and Doing: Are There Age Differences in Attention, Mood and Behavioral Responses to Skin Cancer Information” in the journal Health Psychology earlier this year. I will not go into detail on the findings, since they are a bit complicated to explain here, but they did find a difference in the way older and younger people processed information that was important to their health and well-being. This knowledge is important in knowing how to reach out to people in the most effective manner to protect their health.

My expectations for learning this summer relate to both the particular skill set that I hope to gain, and knowledge about myself and my future career goals. The particular skill set I think I will learn is the nitty-gritty details of psychology research: running human subjects, coding and entering data, analyzing data, and discussing findings. For myself, I think that this summer will help me figure out which path I want to take with psychology: will I want to focus on research, or clinical work? By gaining a deeper understanding of what research really entails, I will be able to make a more informed choice for my future.

– Leah Igdalsky ’14

Tweeting for Social Change: My First Weeks at American Jewish World Service

I remember first hearing about American Jewish World Service (AJWS) when I was fourteen years old and participating in a philanthropy project at my local Jewish Community Center. The organization’s mission and the way it uses Jewish values to inspire Jewish communities to help marginalized people across the globe deeply resonated with me. As I aged and discovered my passion for human rights work and international development, I never forgot about one of the first organizations to inspire me. Therefore, I truly see it as a privilege to be an intern in American Jewish World Service’s communications department this summer.

AJWS’s mission is: “Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.”  Through service projects, educational programs, advocacy, and grants to grassroots partners in the developing world, AJWS works to empower marginalized peoples across the globe and pursue justice.

On the opening day of the Rio +20 conference, 300 indigenous people occupied the dam to spell “Pare Belo Monte,” meaning “Stop Belo Monte”. The Belo Monte Dam, which will be the third biggest in the world, will flood their homelands and destroy wildlife. By posting this on Facebook, I help share their work.

I am fortunate to not only be a WOW intern but to have gotten my internship directly through Hiatt. AJWS partners with Brandeis every year to offer placement for one WOW intern. This year, it was me! I wanted to apply for an internship with AJWS for a while and was thrilled to learn that there was an expedited process for Brandeis students. It’s an amazing opportunity!

AJWS has fourteen total interns this summer. I am the lone intern in the communications department. My responsibilities include content development for the blog, social media work, media monitoring, and video making. Although I am not directly furthering AJWS’ mission, I hope that through the writing and social media work I do this summer I can leave even a small contribution to an incredible cause.

These sunflower seeds were delivered to Capitol Hill and the White House to represent the 18,000 people who signed the Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill. During the delivery, I shared our success through social media.

I see this internship as a unique opportunity to combine my academic passions – global human rights and peace-building – with the writing and social media skills I gained through my extracurricular work. I hope to improve my writing skills, and particularly want to learn how to craft my tone for different audiences. In addition, I am eager to learn about effective outreach and audience retention. I also hope to see how the different components of nonprofit work interact in order to help a larger cause. I am most nervous about working from nine to five and sitting behind a desk all day.  I am excited to experience working in a nonprofit, particularly since it will allow me to discover if this is a good route for me when I graduate Brandeis next spring.

After my first two weeks, I still am growing into my role in the communications department and establishing a routine. I spend the bulk of my day managing the Facebook page, generating content, and researching articles on current events related to AJWS’ work. Unlike other college students, when on Facebook or Twitter, I am not procrastinating, but doing my job! The most meaningful project I have worked on so far was interviewing and recording an event with a leader of one of AJWS’ partners in India. His stories were incredibly moving and displayed the profound struggles, beauty, and potential in India.

Often times, when I am compiling spreadsheets and writing Facebook statues or tweets, it is hard to remember the “why” behind my daily tasks and feel motivated by my work. However, after hearing from about our partner in India’s work firsthand and realizing that I can use my voice to share his stories, I remembered why what I do is of value and how it contributes to the bigger picture. As my internship continues, I aspire to remember to always work with intention and complete awareness of my global partners in the universal struggle for justice.

– Erica Shaps ’13

My First Week at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare in Techny, IL

I was lucky enough to secure a summer internship at The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare in Techny, Illinois. The Center is a small, non-denominational, community-initiated nonprofit and NGO that educates and supports people regarding their right to make well-informed decisions about their healthcare needs regardless of religious beliefs, age, and gender. In addition, The Center offers educational programs on healthcare ethics issues; some topics include: spirituality and end of life issues; conflict resolution; learning to live with pain/suffering; and decision-making. Lecture series and guest speakers frequent The Center regularly. The Center also offers individual counseling for those people who want to talk to someone about a current medical dilemma.

The Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare is located in Techny Towers, Techny, IL.

(Image Source)

I wanted to intern at the Center because it’s mission fits well with my interests. I am a Philosophy major, and I am very interested in ethics – specifically, bioethics. With each person that asks for assistance, the Center has to be able to comfort the person and guide them through whatever problem they are facing. This decision making process is what I am very interested in. In addition, this internship will teach me about healthcare on the local and global scale and how near-future Medicaid and Medicare cuts will affect people and their decisions about healthcare.

To secure the internship, I went to the Center’s website; I was so excited with what I read that I called the Director herself. She took a liking to me, as I did to her, and the rest is history! I also was able to find someone at Brandeis who had this internship a few years earlier, so I talked with her over coffee about her experience.

Another reason why I wanted to intern at The Center is because of the woman who runs it. The Director exudes so much joy, kindness and warmth. After talking with her a few times, I knew I could and would want to learn a lot from her. She is a nun and was a nurse in the Boston area for a while, until she chose to pursue Ethics. Her passion for helping people get through tough medical situations led her to found this nonprofit, which I think is an extremely laudable path to take, if you ask me!

The view behind Techny Towers.

(Image Source)

My internship responsibilities include: clerical work (filing, printing, photo-copying, answering phone calls and email requests, cleaning), learning about the current healthcare climate on both local and global levels from the speakers who will speak to us, and learning how the Director helps people make tough decisions during trying times. She will teach me how she has helped people in all different situations get through whatever medical or financial dilemma they faced. Lastly, one of the employees at The Center will teach me how to apply ethics theories to real life, everyday situations. This is my main goal for this summer- to learn how to apply theoretical ideas to real situations.

My first week was great! I got to meet the Director and the other two interns, who are very nice. I did not realize how small the office would be, but it makes sense now, knowing that it is a nonprofit and that it exists only because of the people who donate money to help support it. A lot of people in the area donate to the Center because they think it serves a real need in a very personal way.

We met with a couple of people who work at the New Trier Township in the Health and Social Services department – a social worker and director of community services – to learn more about all the different social services being offered in the area to people who either do not have health insurance or who are unemployed and have few or no health benefits. We learned how the Township assists these people and how much of a need there is since the state of Illinois, not to mention the entire country, is in dire financial straits.

Also during the first week, we learned how some philosophical ideas tie into viewing healthcare. We discussed theories about how people think it best to approach healthcare decision making. One theory is beneficence, which states that we should always aim to do good and eliminate evil. But when one agrees with the idea of Respect for Autonomy, (s)he thinks we should respect whatever decision the person will make. We also talked about the two different views of Justice – Distributive Justice and Justice “as desert,” or Deserved Justice.

After meeting everyone and learning a lot already, the first week was a great introduction into the internship program and I’m really excited for the coming weeks!

My goals for the summer are to learn how the Director helps people get through tough medical situations by examining her decision making process, to learn more about the current state of healthcare on the local and international level, and to learn how to apply philosophical theories to real life situations.

To learn more about some of the issues within bioethics, look here!

– Emily Breitbart ’13

Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Hello! My name is Harold Salinas. I’m an intern at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). MCAD is the state agency charged with enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws in the areas of employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations, mortgage, and lending. State law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, genetics, military status, and retaliation. In addition to these bases, the Massachusetts fair housing law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of children, public assistance, veteran status, and marital status.

The MCAD has offices in Boston, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester. I’m currently working in the Boston site. Although I do receive training on housing, employment and public accommodation laws, my responsibilities focus mainly on MCAD’s community outreach program. The Commission’s “Spreading Education to End Discrimination” project (“S.E.E.D.”) aims to provide information about civil rights in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and other areas to members of populations that are likely to experience discrimination.

As a S.E.E.D. intern, I have participated in five days – during my first week – of intensive training on discrimination law, the MCAD complaint process, and presentation skills. Following this training, I have started contacting numerous community organizations that serve disenfranchised populations to introduce them to the outreach program and, wherever possible, work with them to plan outreach programs on site. As I succeed in scheduling programs, I will travel to the sites to deliver informational presentations. At each presentation, I will offer participants the opportunity to initiate the complaint process by meeting with him/her one-on-one to complete an intake form following the program.

My first week here has been fantastic and while eight hours of training for a whole week may seem intense, I have learned so much already and I’m excited for the experience I will gain this summer. My impressions overall are very positive. The work environment is friendly but at the same time very serious. The other three interns I work with are well qualified and we all seem to be on the same boat in terms of our obligations here at MCAD. I have begun to establish a good relationship between my supervisor and I. She is a very smart, humble and respected woman, and I’m looking forward to learning so much from her this summer.

I grew up in Boston, and I’m bilingual in Spanish. I’m a passionate advocate for Latinos, African-Americans, and low wage workers. As a Legal Studies minor, my goal is to use this internship opportunity to expand my skills as a public speaker, and learn more about the law and legal proceedings. This position will offer an ideal setting for me to reach my goals.

– Harold Salinas ’14
MCAD

A Week at the Chinese Progressive Assocation

“The Chinese Progressive Association is a grassroots community organization which works for full equality and empowerment of the Chinese community in the Greater Boston area and beyond. Our activities seek to improve the living and working conditions of Chinese Americans and to involve ordinary community members in making decisions that affect our lives.” [Mission].

I just finished my second week at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), a non-profit based in Boston’s Chinatown. The Chinese Progressive Association has been playing a large role in the lives of Chinatown residents since 1977 when it was founded.  CPA wishes to create a grassroots movement, meaning a movement directly led and supported by residents of the community whose lives are affected by issues such as the need for jobs and education, freedom from discrimination, and a clean and safe living environment (click here for a short video on CPA).


CPA signs used at rallies supporting worker’s rights (Photo by Kelly Li)

The summer before my senior year of high school, I interned at another non-profit in the Chinatown area. During that time, I learned about the history of Chinatown and its need for affordable housing and the economic gap in terms of income between most of its residents compared to the median income of Boston residents. Having grown up in the suburbs, generally without much exposure to the Asian Pacific Islander (API) issues that Asian Americans face every day, I believe that summer helped me become more aware of myself as an Asian American in the context of society and sparked my interest in learning more about API issues and how to go about trying to seek social justice. Around then, I learned about the Chinese Progressive Association which promoted not only education on the rights of the Chinatown residents but community activism and action. I knew that getting involved in CPA would be the next step in engaging in these issues.

These last few days have been interesting ones. My first week, I accompanied my supervisor on a “canvassing” trip, which more or less meant knocking on people’s doors, talking to them about a petition. At the moment, CPA is working toward getting a question on the ballot for the next election in order to gauge voter reaction to potential changes in policies related to taxation of the wealthiest Americans, access to affordable housing, and the recent MBTA toll hikes. I also got to sit in on a staff meeting, which gave me a little insight into how a non-profit operates behind the scenes and how decisions are made. However, the most exciting moment of the week was getting to meet photographer Corky Lee and having a chance to sit down and interview him for CPA. Although I had never heard of Corky Lee before coming to CPA (CPA was showcasing a small gallery of his photographs), I found his story and experiences fascinating, not to mention inspiring. Decades ago, he had seen that Asian Americans were not prominent in the media or American history. Today, he is helping raise awareness of Asian Americans and their struggles, cultures, and daily lives through his photography.

I can’t wait to write the interview article!

Gallery of Corky Lee's Photographs in CPA (Photo by Kelly Li)

At the moment, I am in charge of gathering research about the Boston Public Library’s fiscal budget and new Compass Plan in order to help CPA and further their goal of creating a library in Chinatown as its residents have been without a library since the 1950s when urban renewal occurred, causing its demolition. I’ll also be helping CPA with their various summer projects such as the annual Chinatown Bike-A-Thon and their current voter outreach project.

It’s hard to say what I expect for the summer as I’m happy with learning and experiencing anything and everything that I can. I hope to get a better understanding of how non-profits operate as well as more knowledge of the Chinatown community. Besides that, I hope that I can make a meaningful contribution to CPA. I love the idea of being involved in a community that is always evolving and changing, seeing the development up close. I look forward to witnessing firsthand and playing a part in this progress over the next few weeks.

– Kelly Li ’15

La Fundacion Paraguaya

After 20 hours of travel, three flights, two layovers, and one baby to throw up on my shirt, I finally arrived at my apartment in Asuncion, Paraguay. Despite the lengthy trip and an urgent need to shower, I felt profoundly excited and humbled by the thought that all the planning and effort I had committed to this internship was finally coming into fruition; that is, that I was actually here and about to begin this opportunity to learn and work in a different country and language.

I am working for an organization called “Fundacion Paraguaya,” and its mission is to, “promote entrepreneurship, enabling people of limited resources to create jobs and increase their family income.” Fundacion Paraguaya, or la Fundacion as it is referred to here, was formed in 1985 out of the desire of civil leaders to take action to combat the severe poverty that plagued much of the nation – a problem strongly perceived as having been too long neglected by the government.  This non-profit organization has three distinct programs to help families improve their economic situations – Microfinance, Junior Achievement, and the Agriculture school. While the details of each program differ, essentially each one teaches basic business theory and responsible decision-making to enable participants with the skills and confidence needed to start a business. Through training and eventually financial assistance through microloans, the ultimate goal is that each participant can create a sustainable source of income and free themselves from day-to-day struggles (read more).

Due to my interest in economics, I have decided to work within the Microfinance department. In my first few days in the office, I have been reading materials and accompanying co-workers in their activities to improve my understanding of how the program is organized and functions. The most powerful experience so far has been attending a meeting of a group of women entrepreneurs. The 15-20 women who comprise the group have all received business education and microloans from la Fundacion to start their own operations, and are assigned an advisor for guidance. The group requires that each woman have a distinct business, so that in the case that one of the members in unable to repay her microloan that meeting, the other members, working in different markets, are more likely to be able to assist her in repaying her due.

Aside from a practical purpose, the group also functions as a support system as the women share the challenges they face as well as positive moments in their lives.  At this meeting I had the chance to see how the meetings are conducted as well as to speak one-on-one with women about their experiences in the group.  I am still processing all that I have learned from this experience, but it was profoundly humbling – the warmth and friendliness that was tangible among these women was incredible, and I am finding that these aspects seem characteristic of almost all the people I have met in Asuncion in general.

Next week, I will be looking to form my own project for the summer.  Ideally, I would like to follow the model of the micro-franchise program already established at la Fundacion to find a business model that is simple enough to understand quickly, generate income for entrepreneurs, and in some way promote good health for its users. Until next post!

– Brandon Frank ’14

RECENT STUDY: MASS AUDUBON’S JOPPA FLATS CONFIRMS STARFISH NOW “EXTINCT”… INTERNS LEFT IN CONFUSION

Mass Audubon at Joppa Flats

At every team meeting (where we set our team goals) at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats, we create news headlines that describe the recent weeks’ events.  I felt it was rather appropriate to start off my blog with a similar headline.  A starfish? A what? I don’t know what that is.  One of the first things I learned at Joppa Flats is that we call them by their real name—a sea star.  Contrary to urban legend, a starfish is actually not a fish.

Speaking of sea stars, we find these creatures daily in the tide pools at the Sandy Point State Reservation at Plum Island. In only two weeks at work, I have taken multiple school groups out to the nationally protected wildlife refuge in hopes of discovering amazing organisms in their natural habitat.  From kindergarten to high school, hundreds of children come to Joppa Flats daily to learn, discover, and explore.  As an intern for the Audubon Society, it is my job to facilitate this learning and exploration of these young scientists to help them make their own scientific discoveries.

The mission of the Massachusetts Audubon Society is one that I am very proud to uphold this summer.  We dedicate ourselves to protecting the nature of Massachusetts for both people and wildlife.  The wildlife sanctuary at Joppa Flats provides families with clean places for relaxation and recreation, a beautiful backdrop for birding from an observation deck, and a change to learn about the wildlife of the nearby Plum Island (with it’s own marine life touch tanks).  In addition to being the largest conservation organization in New England and being a strong advocator for environmental policies, Mass Audubon provides education programs.  The summer camps provide children with the opportunity to explore and connect with the natural world while developing their interests for the outdoors.

As a summer camp intern, I will be responsible for teaching children aged 6-12 on environmental awareness, conservation, coastal habitats, and local animals.  I will be developing fun science projects using live animals, interactive crafts, and games.  This is such a great opportunity because the kids are able to appreciate science with hands-on activities and obtain a valuable education outside of the classroom!

Even though I am in a teaching position, I am finding that I am learning so many valuable skills.  I also know that I’m going to continue to learn so much about the ecology, marine biology, and the natural world of the New England coast.  I’m already beginning to warn my friends and family that they will never want to go to the beach with me again as I’m sure I’ll never stop blabbering with my extensive knowledge of the local ecology.  In addition to science, I am learning so much about the other interns and even learning plenty about myself along the way.

Not only do I care for the natural environment, my favorite part of the job here at Joppa is the work environment!  Marine biology has always been something that I have loved. I have never been around such a great group of people who also have this passion (and are willing to have conversations with me about it)!  In addition to just being cool and fascinating individuals, the other 8 interns all bring something valuable to our team.  We are all from different schools from several states, have a wide diversity of majors and academic interests, all do a wide variety of sports and clubs, and have a varied taste in music (yes, some of the interns even listen to country music all the time!).  Yet, although we are all unique, we all have the same passion for the environment, education, and science!  Not only are the interns awesome, the summer camp directors/teacher-naturalists that we work with are very welcoming, supportive, insightful, and ENTHUSIASTIC.  They send the interns daily emails explaining how great of a job we are doing, are always accepting new ideas from us, and immediately trusted us with so much responsibility with leading school programs.  My employers lead by example: their enthusiasm and passion for the job is evident throughout the day and it definitely influences my own work ethic.  A perfect example of their characters is that even though they have a very tight budget, they made us write down what gifts they could buy us for $0.25, $0.50, $1, and $5 if we ever need a gift to cheer us up.  It’s nice to have people care about me and truly appreciate all of my hard work.

Most importantly, there are other people my age that live every week like it’s shark week! YES! This internship and my fellow interns are really making me realize that marine biology and education are right career paths for me.  I wouldn’t be realizing this had it not been for Mass Audubon.  I’m very excited to continue to grow this summer and find out more about my love for the marine world and the amazing organization that I am so proud to work for.

Also: LIKE Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center Facebook Page

Matt Eames and Cam Jenkins discuss the safety and discoveries of the tide pools for the school field trip!
Tidepool at Joppa Flats

– Matt Eames ’13

First weeks at the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine

I am interning this summer in Kiev with the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU). The STCU is a State Department program that helps weapons experts from countries of the former Soviet Union to find peaceful employment so they don’t sell their knowledge to unfavorable parties (terrorists, rogue nations). It’s part of a larger State Department program to reduce the threats that have outlived the Cold War.

I am double majoring in Political Science and Russian Studies, and I’m especially interested in nuclear issues, counter-terrorism, and diplomacy, so working at the STCU is perfect. During the school year I knew I wanted to do something involving those issues, and in researching State Department non-proliferation programs I found the STCU. I wrote to the Board of Directors inquiring about an internship, and received a favorable response.

So far my internship has gone quite well. Everyone at the office is very nice. I like the work that I am doing. So far I’m researching funding opportunities (grants, mostly) for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS: a loose confederation of the countries that formed the Soviet Union) scientists. In the near future I will be presenting to scientists on possible funding opportunities, working with scientists on filling out research proposals, and co-editing STCU publications. I will also be traveling to Moldova next week to attend the STCU Board Meeting. That will be a really neat opportunity, as there will be representatives from the US State Department and Department of Energy, from the Canadian government, and from the European Union there to access the STCU’s work. I’m very excited not only to visit Moldova but also for the opportunity to speak to the US government officials.

The whole summer thus far, from living in Kiev to working at the STCU, has been a fantastic learning experience and a most excellent adventure.  Before, when I thought of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD scientists, I primarily thought of nuclear weapons and physics. But, now I realize, as the term “WMD” refers to chemical and biological weapons as well, the scientists the STCU works with come from a much broader range of scientific disciplines. I’ve also learned a great deal about the grant process. Most of the American charitable foundations, like the Gates Foundation or the Packard Foundation, only give grants to US citizens, something I did not realize before. Just being in the office and chatting to colleagues at lunch-time has also been so interesting.

It’s been a lot of fun for me to explore the city. I love history, and Kiev is full of it. One can walk past a church from the 11th century, an imposing, cement example of Soviet architecture, a McDonalds, and a statue of Cossacks galloping by to defend the city, all on the same block.  To compound the adventure, the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, or Euro 2012 as it’s more colloquially known, is taking place in Poland and Ukraine this year. This is a special moment of Ukraine, as it’s the first time a former Soviet republic has hosted a European football championship. The incredible enthusiasm displayed by fans (and really the whole city), is quite something.

This National Geographic article vividly describes the dangers should WMDs fall into the wrong hands (and mentions the work the STCU does and the dangers it tries to prevent).

– Jennifer Ginsberg ’14

First week at FVLC!

Walking through the door on my first day at Family Violence Law Center, I felt a rush of excitement. After months of searching, emailing and seemingly endless games of phone tag, I had finally arrived!
This board tells everyone when people are available in the office. I got my very own magnet! 🙂

Family Violence Law Center strives to end domestic violence and provides a great deal of services to survivors, such as a crisis hotline, legal assistance and emergency aid.   My internship here will consist of a little bit of all three; in addition to working on the crisis hotline answering calls, I will be doing client intakes (essentially vetting clients to determine if they are eligible for our legal assistance). Through the combination of these two tasks, I end up serving as a temporary case manager, helping clients navigate the murky waters of trauma’s aftermath. We have a large comprehensive list of other agencies in the area that provide services that an individual might need- from shelters to the district attorney’s office to self-help family law facilitating centers- so that if we cannot help someone, we can find them someone who can. Pictured below is what we affectionately call our “Bible”:

This packet contains all of the resources we use on a daily basis. It's the best.
And this is a table for all the pamphlets we hand out to clients
Since I had already complete 40 hours of official domestic violence training in Massachusetts, FVLC is allowing me to skip certain aspects of training that new staff members generally have to go through. However, I didn’t realize the extent to which they were going to extend this liberty until the first day. I had just been given my first tour of the office by one of the crisis line advocates when she was told she and my supervisor had a webinar (a seminar via webcam), which would leave the hotlines unattended. She turned to me, an hour into my first day, and said, “Alright, are you ready to answer some calls?”
The wall next to my desk has LOTS of information for quick access.
That beautiful (albeit terrifying) and immediate acknowledgement of trust has proved to be fairly standard procedure. On my second day I was already working on legal intakes with new clients- a task normally preceded by at least 16 hours of training. The office atmosphere is similarly exciting and fast-paced; each client has a different story, a new challenge, a completely unique puzzle that needs to be solved instantly. We are lucky enough to be located in a building that houses the District Attorney’s office, a childcare center, and other organizations whose interests often overlap with ours in a complementary manner (i.e. MISSEY is located downstairs, a non-profit for youth who have been sexually exploited). Everyone seems genuinely pleased to be working together, which adds to the lovely work environment here!
I’m definitely looking forward to what this summer will bring!
– Ashley Lynette ’13

My First Week in the Tea Industry

By this time, I have completed almost two weeks of my internship at the Asia Tea Company Limited. Asia Tea Co., Ltd. is a leading tea manufacturer and exporter in Vietnam, after three months of searching for internships in the tea industry. Asia Tea Co., Ltd. processes and produces fresh tea buds as well as high-quality black tea—the most popular type of tea sold in the world. It exports over 7,000 tons of tea each year to more than twenty nations in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It owns numerous tea plants and factories in the highland region of Vietnam, and employs thousands of workers. The company is unique among Vietnamese tea corporations because it not only aims at making high profits, but also strives to promote Vietnamese tea culture abroad and foster the domestic tea industry.

Asia Tea Co., Ltd. is on the seventeenth floor of the second building from the left.

I spent about three months last year, from October to December, searching for an internship in the Vietnamese tea industry over the summer. Fortunately, last November, I came across the website of Asia Tea Co., Ltd. In December, I submitted my resume for a summer internship position as a Market Analyst. After reviewing my application, the CEO interviewed me via phone. We discussed my interests in economics and tea, and how I would contribute to the company. Several days later, the CEO offered me an internship.

As a Market Analyst at Asia Tea Co., Ltd., I will collect and analyze empirical data about foreign markets, and write weekly reports for the company. I will also build complicated charts about supply-demand and cost-revenue. In the modern business world, quantitative methods and computer skills are extremely important. I hope to master statistical and econometric techniques as well as advanced software applications such as STATA, Excel, and XLSTAT-PRO after the summer. I also want to learn to negotiate contracts in a professional way under the supervision of the CEO.

On the first day of my internship at the company, I was both excited and worried. I did not know how everything would go and how people would think about me. But the friendliness of the CEO and other members of the company impressed me. Everything went so well. The CEO introduced me to the staff and provided me basic information about the operation of the company. During the first two weeks, I primarily learned to use computer software programs, and to collect and analyze empirical data about foreign markets. On the following week, I would work on the project of analyzing a foreign market the CEO chooses.

After the first weeks at the company, I have learned a great deal about the tea industry and the methods of analyzing empirical data in the real world. After the summer, I want to have a deeper understanding of the tea industry in Vietnam, expand my networking contacts in the industry, and learn more about the art of management. In the future, I hope that I can contribute to the development of the Vietnamese tea industry.

– Duc Tran ’13

First Impressions at San Juan del Sur Biblioteca

This week, I began my internship at the SJDS Biblioteca or the library of San Juan del Sur. For this small coastal town in Southern Nicaragua, the library serves as a vital educational resource. With a collection of nearly 12,000 books, computers, and free internet access, the library has become a central space in town for community members to congregate. In addition, the SJDS Biblioteca offers a variety of workshops and classes including sessions on public health, art, and English. One of the most unique aspects of this library is the Mobile Project. Designed to target the poorer, rural communities surrounding the town, the Mobile Project brings books to residents who are unable to come to the library. The Mobile Project also raises money to build bathrooms and provide supplies for schools that lack resources and are in critical need.

Outside the Library of San Juan del Sur

In the fall, as I was searching for a summer internship, I attended a lecture by Dr. Rosa Elena Bello, a major community organizer here in SJDS. She spoke about her efforts to remodel the educational and health care systems for women and children in town. Her work and the challenges that this town faced resonated strongly with me. After talking with her partner, Margaret Gullette, who works here at the Brandeis Women’s Research Center, I was put in touch with the director of the SJDS Biblioteca. After explaining my passion for both education and working with children, I was offered an internship for the summer. Over the next couple months, the two of us began tailoring an internship that would combine both the library’s needs as well as my own.

Upon arriving in town, I was taken to the library to meet other staff members and get a tour. Walking into the center of the library you see an open space with walls lined by bookshelves. In the center are rows of tables and chairs that come the afternoon, are filled with children and adults working on school projects or taking advantage of the library’s free internet access. On the left, is a small room containing four computers and a printer, which are usually reserved for students many of whom do not have a computer of their own.

I spent my first week working on the Mobile Project. Three times a week, staff load up trucks with boxes of books and drive out to rural schools on the outskirts of San Juan del Sur. My first day, I helped the children exchange their books. They would file out of the classrooms a few at a time to return their books from the previous visit. Some brought their library card but many did not so we had to look up their name, double check that they brought back all of their books, and write the information down on their card. After that, they were free to pick out two new books. What I found remarkable is that these children were so excited to have access to these books that very few of them ever forget to bring them back. In fact this library has a higher return rate than most of the libraries in the U.S.!

Feeling more comfortable on my second trip out to the schools I asked to help out with that day’s art activity. Before the children go out to exchange their books, they first have the opportunity to do an art project. For many of these children, our monthly visits are the only time they ever get a chance to participate in any type of crafts. For this month, in honor of Father’s Day we helped each of the children make cards for their fathers. First, I read the entire class a story called, The Ten Best Things About My Father. After that we passed out paper, glue, and markers and walked around to help each of them complete the activity. Classrooms here often contain children ranging in ages so the younger children needed a lot of help. In the end, each of the children had a card that was shaped like a shirt and tie. Inside the card we helped them write a message to their fathers.  The children were particularly excited when I showed them how to decorate their cards by drawing hearts.

In two days, my supervisor and the director of the library will arrive. I will be working with her to create a plan for the English lessons and art activities that I will work on with the children this summer. Along with teaching both art and English classes, I will continue my work with the Mobile project. So far, my excursions to the rural schools have been a wonderful introduction for my summer internship. I already feel more comfortable using my Spanish skills. I also have a greater understanding of the school system here and the ways in which the library supplements the educational opportunities for these children. The library is an integral part of this community and over the next two months I look forward to assisting both the children and the library in any way I can.

– Abigail Simon ’14

A Week in the Musée de Montmartre

I’ve always envied my little sister who, from eight years of age, knew she wanted to study Nefertiti and the ancient Egyptian culture. She’s now is in college, pursuing an archaeology degree. She speaks Arabic and can read hieroglyphs. And she’s dead set on this. I’m not built like my sister. She’s confident about her skills, knows what she wants, and how to get it. For me, my talents and interests lie all over the place. When March rolled around, I was anxious. I’d never had an internship before: who would want me? What I did know is that I love the arts and humanities, and this ultimately led me to an internship at the Musée de Montmartre.

The Eiffel Tower at the end of the day

I had been studying in Paris for an entire academic year, and during that time I took an art history class focusing on French art in the past two centuries. The professor was incredible, animated and devoted to her subject, and her enthusiasm floated like a bright yellow miasma around her perfectly coiffed bob. She helped me realize that I had become attached to art history: it played into all of my interests and skills.

So, I asked my professor if she knew of any art galleries or perhaps even museums that might like an intern for the summer. And what do you know? It turns out she’s the curator for the Musée de Montmartre (as if she wasn’t awesome enough already) and said she’d be glad to have me work for her.

So, today concludes a hectic first week with the Musée de Montmartre and my head is turning from everything that I’ve encountered. Right now, we are in the process of preparing the future exhibition “Autour du Chat Noir à Montmartre, Arts et Plaisirs 1880-1910” which will take place from the Sept 13, 2012 to January 13, 2013. The exhibition will focus around the importance of the Chat Noir (or Black Cat) which was a famous cabaret in the heart of Montmartre frequented by many famous artists and intellectuals during this golden age of Paris.

Moulin de la Galette, a cabaret in the heart of Montmartre

The museum’s goal is to showcase and celebrate the incredible body of work that flourished in area of Montmartre, especially in the 19th century when Paris was the center of the art world. They call it “The Old Montmartre.” My professor (now my internship director) and I spent some time getting acquainted with the history of this artists’ district, which is located just a stone’s throw from the famous Sacré Coeur church that overlooks Paris. I’ve also gone into the reserves to take a look at the daunting tasks I will have to tackle soon. At the moment, my duties include frantic translation of press documents and creation of reports for the Museum (without these, the museum can’t borrow any works of art!). But, in the coming weeks I will be personally handling and cataloguing works of art, two-hundred year old newspapers, and posters made by Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen. I’ll also be researching for future exhibitions, helping with the museology of exhibits, organizing the trades and lending works of art to other museums in the world, and even working on future museum catalogs! My supervisor is really serious about the mission of the museum, to educate the public about the wonderful works produced by Parisian artists during the heyday of Montmartre’s artistic period. And, as usual, I feel her enthusiasm resonating with me.

My premier goal this summer is to center myself and discover what it is I would like to do after Brandeis. As a student with only a vague idea of what the future holds for her, the atmosphere of the museum is bound to help me see if a career in museum work is for me. I have an incredible director who is one of the most driven and fantastic women I’ve ever met. I’m surrounded by the colorful history of Montmartre. And I’m looking forward to working in an area of Paris that sparked the creative powers of hundreds of people; hopefully I’ll be able to profit from that, too.

– Sujin Shin ’13

Massachusetts Survivors Outreach: “Alone We Are Weak…Together We Are Strong”

M.A.S.O Business Card

Hi! My name is Johnny Wilson, a rising senior double majoring in Health: Science, Society Policy and Women and Gender Studies. It has been a week since I started my internship at Massachusetts Survivors Outreach in Quincy Massachusetts. M.A.S.O. is a grass roots organization what specializes in research and holistic healing for victims of domestic violence. Our mission is to aid victims in the healing process by providing holistic services such as Reiki, coaching,and meditation, while blogging about domestic violence in health care. This past week, we have solidified an office space in Quincy on Federal Avenue. M.A.S.O. is working hard on becoming a non-profit organization, but donor funding is currently the main obstacle. So this past week, my fellow interns and I have been working on promoting our first fundraising event of the summer – Psychics, Reiki, Massage OH MY!: An Evening of Fun and Healing for a Cause.

M.A.S.O's First Fundraiser
M.A.S.O's First Fundraiser Banner That I Created

My job responsibilities to this point have been to promote this upcoming event, but once the event is over my responsibilities will consist on doing research, court watching and coaching. M.A.S.O. has a large case load (the actual numbers are confidential), of parents and children who survived the flawed judicial system, designed to protect all victims of abuse.

I found M.A.S.O. through a close friend who was also looking for internships online. She told me about their mission statement and how it correlates with my majors/goals.  One aspect of M.A.S.O. that interests me is that it focuses on health policy and women’s rights within a legal atmosphere, to advocate and support women. Working for M.A.S.O will help me employ all the tools that I have learned in my classes to assist low income victims of domestic violence, which is ideal because my career goals are forced on both law and supporting low-income families within the Boston area.

This past week was also a catch up week for me. I met with the other interns for three days from 2-6pm. During these meetings, we discussed the work each of us has completed, and the goals that we would like to achieve as a group. Some of these goals are to better organize and manage the case load, and find other ways to fundraise to help us to qualify to be a non-profit.  I have also been reading court proceedings to get familiar with legal terms and been researching new health care issues affecting victims of domestic violence.

During this past week I realized that I am helping M.A.S.O. build its foundation; I am a part of something bigger than myself. Major non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross and Mayo both started somewhere. I feel that this summer I will be contributing to a evolving organization that will push for better laws and rights for victims of domestic violence.

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Week 1 at the State’s Attorney’s Office

This summer I am interning at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in Burlington, VT.   The office is already exciting with T.J Donovan, the state’s attorney, running to be the new Attorney General in Vermont.  It is an exciting time to be in this office and hear first hand how the campaign is coming along. Donovan and the other attorneys work hard to represent the state in a variety of criminal cases.  Within the office is also a victims advocate department, which is where I am specifically interning. This department consists of three advocates who work closely with the victims. The advocates help the victims throughout the entire court process, by helping them better understand the process and by providing any support they may need. One major aspect that the advocates help with is compensation, usually in the form of money through restitution. The advocates deal with the paperwork throughout this process and I have been assisting them with it.  The advocates ultimate goal is to support the victims while ensuring that they understand the case process.

Courthouse where my internship is!

I already feel immersed in the office and have been assisting the advocates any way necessary. My first week has been kind of slow because of judicial college week, meaning that all of the judges in the state of Vermont had to go to trainings all week. Although it was a “slow” week in court, victims still showed up in the office and were in need of assistance.  I worked closely with one of the advocates who gave me many tasks and answered any questions that I had.  We discussed that throughout the rest of the summer I will be monitoring court proceedings, helping with restitution claims, and assisting with keeping the case files up to date.

I am excited that I have the rest of the summer to learn more about the court system and the work that goes on in this office.  I was able to obtain this internship through another internship I had last fall.  Through the class “Violence Hits Home: Internship in Domestic Violence” I had an internship at The Second Step, a domestic violence organization in Newton. While interning there I established a relationship with a woman who used to work at the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, who put me in contact with some of the people from the office. I sent a cover letter and resume to them, and after a successful interview I was offered the internship with the victims advocate department. I am extremely thankful that I found this internship because I believe that I want to pursue a career in law with a focus in domestic violence.

I am also glad to be interning in Burlington because I am from Vermont and am interested in the legal processes within Vermont. Certain states might have different laws and programs for the victims, but already I have learned that Vermont has a victims compensation program, which does not exist in every state. Burlington, Vermont is an amazing place to spend the summer with the waterfront, ongoing jazz festival, and overall great charisma. It’s a gorgeous city and I am glad to be spending my time here in an internship that truly interests me.

Gorgeous Lake Champlain

– Ilana Abramson ’13

First Week at the Cambridge Public Health Department

The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) improves the quality of life of Cambridge residents and workers by encouraging healthy behaviors, fostering safe environments, and reducing illness.

I am interning at the CPHD’s Division of Epidemiology and Data Services, whose main objectives are to identify community health problems, evaluate population-based health services, and research innovative solutions to health problems. Epidemiologists study factors that influence population health, which serve as a basis for thinking about solutions to these problems.

I wanted an internship this summer that would allow me to learn more about public health departments and incorporate my interest in socioeconomic roots of illness. I researched internships at hospitals, community health centers, and public health departments. The internship at the Division Epidemiology and Data Services at CPHD interested me the most because the project would allow me to focus on social epidemiology and health initiatives in a city. I initially contacted them last fall for a spring internship, but there were no positions available. I kept in touch, and my perseverance paid off. I worked closely with the manager to find projects that will meet the department’s need for creative thinkers to analyze data while giving me the opportunity to advance my own goals by studying social determinants of health.

The Division of Epidemiology and Data Services recently received a grant to incorporate GIS (Geographic Information System) maps into their surveillance of chronic diseases. Integrating a GIS component would help identify areas of need and give direction for policy efforts. One of the ways in which GIS may be used is to create and map a neighborhood wellness index. This index would be overlaid with socioeconomic status and baseline health maps in order to identify any potential health disparities and spatial patterns in health outcomes and the environment. In my first week, I researched existing neighborhood wellness indexes and what layers of these indexes might be mapped (i.e., walkability, miles of bike lanes, green space, access to healthy food options, fitness stations, etc.). The map below shows how GIS technology can be used to map walkability. In this map, the darker shaded areas in the Seattle area are more walkable than the lighter areas.

King County, WA walkability mapped using GIS

Learn how GIS is used in public health on the World Health Organization’s page on GIS and Public Health Mapping.

Overall, my first week went very well! I liked that I was able to start working on a project right away, and the orientation I had on the first day helped me get better acquainted with the CPHD and the work of the Division. The work I have done so far has been very independent, but my supervisors check in with me often to make sure that I understand the project and answer any questions. I have enjoyed slowly getting to know the other people in the office. The other intern, an MPH student, and I went to a coffee shop on Thursday morning, and I liked hearing about her work and plans for the future. I found it helpful to speak with someone who is a little farther along in the process of working in public health than I am. I have already learned so much about working in a public health setting in this first week, and I expect that I will continue to learn more about epidemiology and the factors that contribute to illness as the summer progresses.

Image Sources:

http://www.cambridgema.gov/citynewsandpublications/news/2011/06/cambridgecelebratesmenshealthmonth1.aspx

http://www.b-sustainable.org/built-environment/walkability-index

– Jennifer Mandelbaum ’14

Interning at St. Francis House

Photo source: http://www.stfrancishouse.org/site/PageServer?pagename=virtual_tour

Having just completed my first week interning at Boston’s St. Francis House, I am extremely excited for opportunities to learn from and contribute to the organization throughout the rest of the summer. St. Francis House is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to the poor and homeless. In addition to serving as a day shelter providing meals and an indoor space for people to stay during the day, it also provides housing, job training, medical care, counseling, and a variety of other services to its guests to further the organization’s mission of “rebuilding lives.” The organization is located in downtown Boston near the Boston Common and Boston’s Chinatown, providing convenient access for those in need of assistance.

I first heard about St. Francis House through the Brandeis Social Justice and Social Policy minor’s compilation of sites where past Brandeis students have interned. I was specifically interested in this organization because of my interest in addressing issues of poverty and homelessness. Discussing the organization with the Brandeis student who had previously interned there prompted me to contact her former supervisor, who then spoke at great length to me about his work and the organization’s mission. After this meeting, which included a tour of the services contained within the building, I was eager to work at St. Francis House.

There are a wide variety of projects that I will be involved with throughout the summer. At the moment, I am collaborating with others to develop a marketing plan for an eco-friendly bag-making business (including bags such as the ones sold on this website). Because some guests, particularly those with criminal records, have difficulty finding employment, a business is being created to employ people eager to work. Additionally, I am doing research related to an entrepreneurial course that St. Francis House plans to offer. This course would work with individuals to develop business plans and entrepreneurial skills, and I am identifying possible colleges to partner with in the hopes of combining education for St. Francis House guests with education for college students.

Repurposed, Environmentally Friendly Bags From Bag Business

In the future I will be doing policy work aimed at reforming the Massachusetts criminal justice system. I also will have an opportunity to visit incarcerated individuals with my supervisor and attend court cases at which my supervisor testifies. In addition, it is likely that I will gain experience writing letters of inquiry to obtain grants for specific projects.

This week I spent a great deal of time with my supervisor in meetings. Given my supervisor’s “open door policy” welcoming guests into his office, there is a large amount of time devoted to meeting with individuals, hearing their stories, and working with them to find solutions to their problems. I found this casework particularly interesting. It was incredible to hear people reflect upon their experiences and see how enormously resilient human nature can be. I also saw how policies directly impact individuals’ lives and can bar them from opportunities such as employment or a place to live, or, on the other hand, offer them crucial monetary or other assistance.

After my first week I have already engaged with problems of homelessness and poverty as well as issues with the Massachusetts criminal justice system, and I anticipate a much deeper understanding of these issues in the future. I am excited to learn more about these issues and also develop skills related to grant writing, research, and working with individuals who are homeless.

– Sarah Schneider ’13

The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma: Week One

My first week in Israel brought with it a hot environment outside, but a warm one inside my internship site. The staff at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma are some of most humble, kind, and compassionate people I have ever met.  And, being from Brandeis, this is saying a lot!

The mission of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma is multifold. Besides offering direct treatment to survivors of trauma, they also implement programs to help individuals and communities build psychological resilience in the face of great trauma. Based in Jerusalem, Israel, the Center’s work extends across the globe. Within Israel, they work with an array of survivors, from survivors of terrorist attacks to medics and soldiers who served in elite combat units. Outside Israel, they help implement programs for children as well as adults survivors, including countries such as Haiti and the United States following Hurricane Katrina. On top of all this, a large part of what they do involves researching intervention strategies.

As an intern at the Center, my primary responsibility is to assist with research in the Child & Adolescence Clinical Services Unit. I am working on my own research project as well as on a special YouTube video the Center is creating. In addition, I also assist with PR activities.

droplet

The process of securing my internship was straightforward. I had worked at the Center before, and was still in touch with my former supervisor. After corresponding via e-mail for a few weeks, we worked out a plan for a main project and supplemental work I could do for this summer. After that, it was only a matter of staying focused on my goals and securing funding. Thanks to WOW, I am here now, doing exactly what I hoped to be doing.

My first week involved very little turbulence. I struggled a bit with jet lag and had to fight to stay awake on at least one afternoon, however my passion for this type of work (and dousing my face with a little cold water) literally washed my fatigue away. Getting a grasp on my Hebrew has been challenging, but day by day I become more comfortable with the language.

The summer has already proved to be an exciting one, and I am still only in its first stretches. I expect to increase my research experience this summer, but also to gain new experiences in combining media with psychology and meeting other volunteers at the Center. Also important, I hope to correspond with several people in the Center, and learn more about this type of profession, psychology in Israel, and what my career options are for the future.

My Resilience Workbook

– Rocky Reichman ’13

United for a Fair Economy: Week One

I arrived at United for a Fair Economy (UFE) safely, but in the midst of pure chaos — I walked into a scene of power tools disassembling furniture, boxes piled high, and various items with bright signs saying, “KEEP!” or “TOSS!” As some of us with housing leases know, June 1st is the big moving day, and this also held true for UFE as they upgraded to a bigger space, a few blocks over on Milk Street in Boston. However chaotic it may have been, there was still this wonderful energy amongst my new co-workers. Everyone was enjoying themselves as they labored through all the burdens associated with moving. Already reflecting on that first day, I can tell that UFE will be a positive environment in which to be working this summer. 
UFE is a national organization whose mission is to “raise awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.” There are five core programs under the umbrella of UFE: Popular Education for Action, Estate & Federal Taxes, Responsible Wealth, Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and the Racial Wealth Divide. Each branch has a goal to make connections with outside resources, then ultimately collaborate with them in order to strengthen the broader movement. Their 2011 annual report nicely summarizes the successes of the past year and goals for the future.

I have been hired as an intern of the Development Team which is heavily focused on organizing fundraising projects and donor communications. As a non-profit organization, UFE relies on grants and donations in order to sustain itself, so much of my work will be focused in researching new, potential funding sources, working on grant writing, communicating with long term donors, and helping to organize fundraisers such as Call-A-Thons and House Parties.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the UFE Board of Directors. Each year there are four meetings between the staff and Board. It was a really interactive meeting that involved many activities such as, getting into groups and writing our own “elevator speeches,” so that if we find ourselves stuck in an elevator, we can successfully encourage someone to make a donation or even join the UFE movement. What I enjoyed most about the day was listening to the directors talk about their experiences with UFE and how they became involved. Membership to the board is unpaid and volunteer-based, which proved just how much these directors care about the cause. I came out of that meeting feeling so empowered really only because they were so excited about their work.

Recently, the director of Development lent me a fantastic book called, The Self Made Myth. It is written by Brian Miller, the executive director of UFE, and Mike Lapham, a project director and cofounder of UFE. So far I am just about halfway through it, but from the dialogue on the very first page, I became hooked. In overview thus far, it is about debunking the “self made myth” that progressive taxes are a form of “punishing success.” Many of the wealthy in the U.S. like to believe that success was earned solely on an individual level — without the help of anyone along the way. However in Chuck Collins’ foreword, he says, “No individual is and island. No one starts a business or creates wealth in a social vacuum. There are things we do together — through our tax dollars and public expenditures — that create fertile ground for wealth creation” (xii). Miller and Lapham’s book is centered upon this myth and presents stories of prosperous business leaders like Warren Buffet and Ben & Jerry’s who recognize that without various public investments and support, they never would have made it to where they are today; for this reason, they support higher taxes for themselves (the wealthy) because it is a way of giving back after all the help they received along the way.

On the UFE webpage, there is an interesting article titled “Eight Reasons You Should Agree with Will Smith on Taxes”. I highly recommend checking it out!

It was really by luck that I came across this internship opportunity. I was totally unsure of what I wanted to do this summer, but back in February I happened to read through the weekly community service e-mail and saw the blurb about UFE looking for a summer intern. It is very unlike anything I have ever done in the past, but that is why I was so drawn in. For years since hearing about the economic crisis in the U.S., I have not once tried to understand the root of the problem. Already working with this staff, their enthusiasm and passion has been contagious. I look forward to learning more and gaining the tools needed so that I can continue the chain of educating others the same way the the staff at UFE has begun educating me.

– Gwen Teutsch ’14

From Brandeis to the Big Apple

This summer I am interning at an organization called Lawyers For Children (LFC), a not-for-profit law firm located in the heart of New York City. LFC’s mission is to provide free legal and social work advocacy to children who are in dire need of such services, such as children who have been abused and/or neglected by their parents, children who are in the midst of custody disputes, children who are in the process of finding adoptive homes, as well as a host of other complex issues. One of the unique aspects about LFC that distinguishes it from similar organizations is the staff’s steadfast dedication to empowering the children whom they represent. One such way that this is evidenced is by LFC’s practice of assigning not only an attorney but also a social worker to each and every client of the firm. This comprehensive approach ensures that each child has both someone who can advocate on their behalf in the legal system and also a knowledgeable liaison who is dedicated to making sure that they receive the social services that many of these children so desperately need. With both a lawyer and a social worker fighting to bring their clients’ wishes to fruition, the children whom LFC represents can be sure that their voices truly are being heard.

 

I first learned of the LFC summer internship program from an email sent out by the Hiatt Career Center in November. After reading about LFC and all of the admirable work that they do, I knew that LFC was the type of organization from which I could learn a great deal so I decided to submit my application. After waiting to hear from them for 3 months I gradually came to the realization that I simply had not been selected for the program. But then in March I got a call from Sue Greenberg at LFC, offering me an interview. The next week I was on a bus to New York City and the rest is history.

 

As a social work intern at LFC, I have been assigned to a social worker who I will, essentially, shadow this summer. This entails me accompanying my supervisor on home visits as well as court appearances.  I will also be responsible for observing client interviews and assisting with the preparation of reports for court. In my capacity as an intern at LFC, I hope to gain a more broad insight into not only the intricacies of the legal system but also the impact that legal decisions can have on actual people’s lives. I am hopeful that attending court proceedings and also participating in the work that goes on outside of court will allow me to learn a great deal about the nexus between the law and real life.

My first week has mostly consisted of orientation events, such as various trainings and social mixers. Everyone at the office seems to be genuinely nice and passionate about their work. I look forward to providing a more detailed update in the coming weeks.

– Aaron Bray ’13

Week 1 at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic

It has been almost two weeks since I started into my internship at the Pediatric High BMI Clinic at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital. Kentucky Children’s Hospital is an integral part of the University of Kentucky (UK) HealthCare, located in the Horse Capital of the World, Lexington, KY. For those of you who may not know, BMI stands for Body Mass Index. The Pediatric High BMI Clinic at UK serves children between the ages of 2 and 18 years who are overweight or obese with a BMI of above the 85th percentile for their age and sex.

University of Kentucky

I spent almost the entire winter break searching for an internship over the summer. I did research on my own and made phone calls and wrote emails to various health-related organizations. Luckily I was informed about the Pediatric High BMI Clinic by a family friend who knows of my interests.. At the end of the winter break, I had the opportunity to meet with the director of the clinic. After discussing my previous related experience and my enthusiastic interests in healthcare, she kindly offered me a summer internship.

Kentucky Children's Hospital logo

My main responsibilities are divided into two parts. I will spend most of my time in the clinic working directly with patients by calculating and recording the anthropometric measurements and by taking surveys from patients and families regarding dietary and physical activity history, past medical history and family history. Under the supervision of the director, I will also assist the work of the clinical staff member and learn the ethics of working in a clinical setting. In addition to working in the clinic, I will also participate in projects, such as creating and maintaining a database for the patients seen at the clinic, and conducting surveys with patients to follow up on their progress after their visits.

The truth is that I was very excited and also a little intimated walking into the clinic on my first day. To my relief, the clinical staff was very friendly and helpful. The physician, nurse coordinator, and registered dietitian each gave me an introduction and a training session. On the first day, I primarily worked with the nurse coordinator. I learned to take accurate height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure measurements on patients. After sending the patients and their families to their examination room, I calculated their BMI values and plotted their weight, stature, and BMI on growth charts, and prepared all of the documents for the physican’s evaluation. From the growth chart the physician can easily compare the patient’s growth to national percentiles and to observe the patient’s growth by age.

Growth chart for girls 2 to 18 years of age

On the following days, I took turns working with the dietitian and the physician. The dietitian shared and discussed with me the patients’ diets and physical activity. Depending on the patient’s condition, the dietitian varied her methods in interacting with the patients. I assisted her in counseling the patients and their families about importance of healthy nutrition and exercise. In several instances, we demonstrated a healthy balanced meal with visual props that resembled real food. While I was working alongside the physician, I observed that she focused more on the patients’ medical problems that accompany their overweight or obese status. I learned more about the comorbidities of obesity such as hypertension, sleep apnea, joint and feet problems.

I feel like I have already learned a lot at the clinic from directly working with patients and healthcare professionals. I am excited to do more hands-on work as I become more familiar with the routine at the clinic. I also look forward to starting on the data analysis and survey projects outside of the clinic. I hope that I can put my knowledge from statistical and science courses at Brandeis to good use. With more understanding of childhood obesity, I hope that I can contribute to fighting this epidemic, one small step at a time.

– Yan Chu ’13

Week One with The Bible Raps Project

When people ask me what I’m doing this summer, I always smile, shake my head, and laugh a little. Not because I don’t want to tell them, but because it’s kind of hard to explain.  A few people have even asked, “So you’re going around the country to wrap Bibles? Like at bookstores?” It’s a logical thing to assume when I say “I’m touring with Bible Raps this summer.”

The Bible Raps Project is a unique teaching tool that uses rap to engage students in Torah stories and Jewish values. It was founded by Matt Barr in 2007, when he found he could get his Hebrew school students excited about learning by rapping with them. Bible Raps has two main components: a song Toolkit and workshops. Matt created a Toolkit revolving around songs that he has written. (Listen to an example from an upcoming album. Each song has a “rap-map” showing how specific lines connect to passages in the Torah and midrashim (commentary). Hundreds of teachers currently use the Toolkit in their classrooms.

Bible Raps also travels around the world creating original raps with students of all ages. Students learn a few Jewish texts about a core topic and then split into groups to write. They then record their song, which is professionally mixed, and film an accompanying video.  In the end they can be proud of the work of art they created.  Students are able to take ownership of their history and pride in their community by rapping the words they have written.  I saw this model at work when I was a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA. In this video, it’s clear to see how excited these girls are. (I was there for the outdoor performance, it was awesome! )

As education coordinator on Hillel Board, I was able to bring Bible Raps to Brandeis for a weekend. They taught about the Toolkit, did some concerts, and then hosted a Brandeis workshop about Tu B’shvat, the “birthday” of the trees. We had so much fun writing and recording, and what we made is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself!  In the middle of it all, I went up to Matt and said, half-jokingly, “Do you need an intern this summer?” To my surprise, he said yes, and after a few months of emails and phone calls, here I am!

Last week I spent a few days at Matt’s home in Philadelphia. Bible Raps doesn’t have a physical office space, but we decided it would be productive to have some in-person training before we take off for the summer. I had no idea that so much goes in to this project: grant writing, managing contacts, fundraising, booking tours, as well as writing and recording, and I got a crash course in all of those things. I learned how to use a Tascam pocket recorder that will be on the road with us.

I also helped begin a “how-to” guide for running the workshop, which will be turned into a fully-fledged user’s manual over the summer.  My other responsibilities this summer include working on a fundraising campaign for the new album, helping with grant writing, and documenting the tour. In two weeks we head out on the road to our first stop at my old camp, Ramah Darom, where we’ll have a whole week of workshopping, performing, and writing. See you from the road!

– Eliana Light ’13

American Diplomacy in Madrid

My name is Ivan and I am a rising junior majoring in Economics and International & Global Studies. This summer I am interning for the United States Department of State Foreign Service at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain. The Foreign Service carries out American foreign policy around the world. Its mission is to promote peace, development, and democracy abroad for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.

I have wanted to intern for the Foreign Service since I was a senior in high school, when I learned about the internship opportunity through the Department of State website. When the application period opened last November, I worked closely with career counselors at Hiatt to make sure that my application reflected strong candidacy. I applied to the internship online and was offered a position in December upon receiving security clearance. After completing extensive paperwork and being interviewed by federal investigators, I successfully received my security clearance and a final offer during early March. The Embassy in Madrid is divided into five different sections: management, economic, political, public affairs, and consular. I am working at the consular and economic sections.

The consular section is divided in the Visas unit and the American Citizen Services unit (ACS). Visas is in charge of processing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas for foreign nationals who wish to travel to the United States. ACS takes care of American citizens in Spain, from processing new passports to going on prison visits and handling abduction cases. I am currently working in Visas assisting consuls in processing an average of 200 daily visa requests. I work with the general public receiving cases, entering passport data, and taking fingerprints.

The economic section works mainly with the Spanish government to handle the current economic crisis, but also works on issues of energy, sustainability, economic development, and elaborates reports on the economy that are later sent to Washington. I am currently working on a fundraising project for the Embassy’s annual 4th of July party. This is the largest and most important event of the Embassy, with around 3,000 attendees ranging from World War II veterans to Spanish government officials and foreign diplomats. I work with an Economic Officer soliciting financial support from both American and Spanish businesses. I organize and update all information using a spreadsheet and personally speak with business executives on behalf of the Embassy about the event and financial support. I also contribute to the daily economic press report that is sent back to the U.S. by reading articles from local newspapers and summarizing them.


So far, my experience at the Embassy has been absolutely wonderful. During the first week, I met with officers from all around the Embassy. These meetings, which ranged from health unit personnel to diplomatic security special agents, were a great opportunity to ask a lot of questions and to understand the bigger picture of how the Embassy carries out its mission. All officers are very nice and approachable, and they really make an effort to integrate interns and answer all of our questions. I had the chance to meet with the chiefs of the Visa and ACS units, the Deputy Chief of Mission, the Consul General, and many other very experienced officers who were highly interesting to talk to. It was also especially interesting talking to the General Services officer, who explained how housing for U.S. diplomats is arranged. With regards to work, I was fully integrated into the staff and was working in a fairly independent manner. I feel I have already gained a lot of valuable and insider knowledge about the Foreign Service and American diplomacy in general. I have also improved my multitasking, data analysis, communication, and customer service skills. Hopefully, I will have a deep understanding of the mission and dynamics of the U.S. Foreign Service and a clear view of what a career as a Foreign Service Officer is like by the end of the internship. I will network across every Section of the Embassy to better understand its functioning and its overall mission in Spain, and will continue to develop my work skills.

Feel free to ask any questions about the Embassy, the Foreign Service, Spain, or anything else!

– Ivan Ponieman ’14