WOW post #3: Coming to an End

Me alongside my poster at SciFest.

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

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

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

Ron and Jessica Liebowitz listening to me explain my project.

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

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

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

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

AP Gov: Unit 1 Flashcards | Quizlet

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

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

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

(3) My experience at HAEFA

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Leadership is about Communication and Organization

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

Justice Anita Earls at the judges bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) My Learnings At SuitUp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Last Update On UFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Reflecting on My Time at C-TAC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois Approves Pediatric Palliative Care Benefit

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) “The Movement Lives On”

Image created by Jolecia

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

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

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

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

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

Power In Place Pipster 2021 Highlight Page

(3) Final Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) My Summer Experience at Oxfam America

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Be Patient!

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

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Blending Academic and Activist Experience

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

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

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

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

Finishing Up the Summer at Ariadne Labs

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

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

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

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

–Ayush Thacker, Experiential Learning Fellow 2021

(3) Reflections: A People-Powered World

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wind in Your Sails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mid-Summer Check In

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

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

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

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

 

So Long and Thanks for All the Fun

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

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

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

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

So long, Jerusalem and see you soon!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intern Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the World of Work to the World of Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post #3: Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture of Amelia after completing tasks for her virtual internship!

WoW Blog Post #3

I met my academic learning goal of writing ten statistical programs in R. I integrated Google Analytics with RStudio and analyzed the website data using my programming skills. This data mining allowed me to evaluate the long term trends of the traffic and engagement on the website. I also wrote several programs in the statistical program STATA when analyzing the EdTech industry as a whole and collecting key information about company competitors. 

 I met my personal goal of having twenty virtual meetings with colleagues. Each week there were three meetings on Microsoft Teams where I learned how to sharpen my professional communication skills and plan the next steps with other members of the team. In addition, I had some one-on-one meetings with individual team members to discuss the progress of projects we were working on. 

 I did not meet my professional goal of gaining one hundred followers on each of the company’s social media platforms. Working at an early stage startup often means that the needs of the company can change drastically over time. At the beginning of the summer, it seemed as though social media management would be one of my responsibilities but later it became clear that more work needed to be done on market research. Hence, my goal changed to writing ten statistical programs in STATA to gain insights about the competitor landscape; I met this goal.

I would say this internship helped clarify my career interests significantly. I learned that I am highly interested in working in roles related to statistics and data science. Additionally, I am now more aware that I work better when I have periodic meetings with team members to discuss progress on our projects. These meetings give the projects more structure and allow people to give valuable feedback.

 If I were to give advice to a student interested in interning at my host organization, I would tell them to strive to ask more questions to their colleagues. When you run into a difficult problem, it is often very helpful to message your colleagues and ask for their thoughts. They will often point you into the right direction. Additionally, it is important to ask questions to your supervisor about assigned tasks in order to ensure you have a better understanding of their expectations. 

If I were to give advice to a student interested in interning in the EdTech industry, I would recommend using and familiarizing themselves with the current most popular EdTech tools. This helped me gain a deeper understanding of the industry and become aware of the technology-related problems faced by students, parents, teachers, and administrators. EdTech is a rapidly changing field and it is important to understand the users’ perspective when it comes to analyzing the industry, engineering the product, marketing, etc. 

This summer I am most proud of how my data analysis skills improved because these are skills that have many real-world applications . At the start of the summer, I did not have a very good grasp on using STATA but during the course of this internship I taught myself how to conduct Monte Carlo simulations and other techniques. Generally, I became more familiar with R, STATA, Excel, etc. and discovered new functions for these tools. 

 

Finding Your Voice as An Intern and An Applicant – Gabriella Lieberman

Emerge MA alum running in 2021

Interning at Emerge MA was one of the most impactful experiences in my life. While my work was not campaign-focused, as I originally thought it would be, the internship taught me a great deal about what I bring to the table as an intern. My supervisor and the Board of Directors cultivated an environment in which I was encouraged to propose and executive my initiatives as well as take credit for my ideas. For instance, when I proposed a new social media campaign to highlight Emerge MA’s alumni working as campaign managers, my supervisor loved it and encouraged me to see it to fruition. Though social media is not my strong suit, it was very empowering to see an initiative all the way through. 

In addition, Emerge MA showed me the beauty and rigors of public service. It is not every day that I have the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of politically empowered women ready to tackle the issues their communities face. Emerge MA imbues a culture of dedication, selflessness, and perseverance. The lesson of perseverance could not have come at a better time for me. The application process this summer was especially brutal, and after having been rejected from plenty of organizations, I had very little self-confidence in my abilities as an intern. Though I was fortunate enough to be accepted into several programs in May, I could not shake the feeling that I was not worthy enough. Emerge MA changed that. Public service, especially on the local and state level, is both rewarding and incredibly difficult. There are many sacrifices people must be willing to make to serve in elected office. My supervisor, the board of directors, and the alumnae have withstood a lot – including losing an election. However, no matter what, these powerful people continued to show up and serve their communities in any way they could. 

I now can recognize that rejections are not embarrassing but a part of life. So, instead of hiding from my rejections, I take them as an opportunity to learn. Whenever I get rejected from an internship or job, I take the time to ask for feedback. Feedback is a great way not only to learn how I can be a better applicant for next time but to get some closure. I would recommend asking for feedback – especially if you are interested in re-applying for the position because it shows maturity and personal strength. 

Another piece of advice I would give to future applicants is that it is okay not to know something. I began this summer with the quest of finding the key to my future success, a concrete roadmap, if you will, of my life. I am proud to end my summer internship at Emerge MA with more questions than answers. This may sound like I failed my mission, but in reality, I am doing myself a favor. I believe that by embracing the complexity of choosing a career path and the inevitably of change, I am setting myself up for greater success. 

Community Servings Internship Reflection

As my internship nears its end, I think about all that I learned in relation to all that I was hoping to learn. I believe that this internship has allowed me to learn in ways that I was hoping to that, but also in ways that I was not expecting. 

Coming into this internship with Community Servings, I was hoping to be able to use my academic background to enhance the internship experience. I took “Food, Justice, and Health,” with Professor Shostak where we learned about all things related to food insecurity, health impacts, and organizational efforts to combat this. We learned about the Food is Medicine Massachusetts Coalition, and I was excited to be able to use what I’ve learned about the coalition as I take part in it through the leading organization. I can definitely say that all that I learned in the class enhanced my learning experience by giving me a framework to build off. Through the experience, though, I was also inspired academically in new ways. I realized that I would really like to take more science based classes in my future at Brandeis and get more insight into the facts that we know to be true. This internship allowed me to both use my current academic knowledge to enhance the experience, while also inspire my future academic endeavors. 

With the framework of the class as a background, I knew just how important it is to have the community be part of leading any service that is done. I knew that this was an area where FIMMA could improve upon. At large, FIMMA does great work to better the health of those who are food insecure. However, most of it does not engage the community in a way that allows them to be part of the leadership team. Coming into the internship, I knew that I wanted to learn what was necessary to make that change. Throughout the summer, I have done much work to try and ensure that when I end the internship, there will be a foundation set up for the community to be future leaders. I am happy that this goal has been accomplished. After hours of CBO Task Force meetings, lots of outreach, and many proposed strategies, I am happy that a Community Advisory Panel is finally in the making. The panel will consist of numerous community members from different organizations in the CBO Task Force. Through this panel, the community is going to be given a space to lead. 

This internship has allowed me to clarify my career interests further. I would say that I am certainly someone who is still exploring their options, and is unsure of what the future may hold in terms of careers. However, this has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and awareness around what I may want from a career, and what I may not want as much. It has allowed me to understand that I will definitely want something where the work is more direct, and personal. I specifically felt passionate about understanding that my work was leading to collaboration with community members within FIMMA. It has inspired me to consider something that is more hands-on, where the overarching work of the career involves interacting with those who are given any type of service.

To anyone who may also be passionate about the issue of food insecurity / health, I would definitely advise to get involved in any way that you can. Bringing your passions into any experience allows it to really be the most beneficial for all parties involved. Regardless of the specific internship opportunity, if your passions and specific wants are clear to yourself it will allow for the experience to be that much more meaningful. 

Reflecting on My Internship and What is To Come

My internship with Dr. Salmoirago-Blotcher and her research team has been such a wonderful and rewarding experience where I have gained invaluable skills that I will use in my future pursuit toward medical school and a career in medicine.  Through the guidance of WOW, I set goals for my internship which I have been able to achieve in a number of ways.  My first goal was to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of clinical research which I have achieved through weekly meetings with the research team and mentorship meetings with the PI.  I have also been trained in Good Clinical Practice and Basic Human Subjects Protection where I learned the importance of safety measures, standard operating procedures, and consent documents when working with human study participants.  My second goal was to gain an understanding of the principles of data abstraction and analysis which are crucial to know how to do in the field of research.  I have done so by learning data abstraction, how to use REDCap, and analyzing data for a retrospective analysis.  My final goal was to form lasting connections with the members of the research team and to stay connected even after my internship has ended.  I am proud to announce that I have been extended an offer to apply for the student research assistant position for their lab beginning in September.

My internship has opened my eyes to the field of clinical research and affirmed my interest in going into the field of medicine. I learned that I really enjoy problem-solving and I have also discovered that when I put my mind to it, I can accomplish most tasks that are thrown my way, even if I have not attempted them before. This internship has also solidified my interest in gaining clinical experience with patients, as I hope to begin working with participants in the study in the coming months as the research assistant.  Some advice that I would give to students interested in pursuing an internship in a similar environment to myself is to do your best to make those connections that will help you to stand out.  It is quite difficult to find internships in the medical field and so it is extremely important to make a good first impression.  In addition, it is good to try things that push you out of your comfort zone, as you will gain experiences that you may have never tried.  For example, I was worried about doing data analysis and abstraction, however, I now have experience working with data and can use that in future assignments.

Blog post by Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, PhD https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/what-broken-heart-syndrome

Upon concluding my internship, I am proud of many achievements that I have accomplished working with the research team at the Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.  However, if I had to choose, I would have to say that I am most proud of coauthoring an abstract submission investigating if the incidence of Takotsubo cases has increased during the pandemic period (March 2020 – February 2021) compared to the year prior (March 2019 – February 2020).  We will not know if the abstract is accepted until the end of August or the beginning of September, but I am hopeful that more research will come out of this exploration.

The End of My Internship With EMA

While I still have several more weeks of my internship, I know the bittersweet ending is surely nearing as I am now working on my final tasks.

Reflecting on my experience, I now understand a crucial thing about the entrepreneurial environment: the only constant is complication. No matter how simple, small or inconsequential a Salesforce or Excel task may have seemed at a first glance, it always took longer than I could ever have expected. Due to the fact that every system and process was uncharted territory for EMA, everything required multiple iterations and everything took time.  Naturally, this changed how much I ended up completing versus how much I expected to complete. However, this does not mean I didn’t learn as much as I expected to. If anything, it forced me to find alternative solutions, rethink my approaches, and ask my advisors more specific questions than I would have had to if all went according to plan. I gained a far deeper understanding of the different software I worked with, and in this sense my internship was a huge success. I will surely be more confident going into a technical business role than before my internship.

 

The one goal I was unable to accomplish was being able to interact and speak with attorneys from EMA’s network. I did not have opportunities to speak with lawyers about litigating; however, I was able to speak with EMA’s in-house attorney and gain some insight into what it is like as a startup business attorney.

Overall, I would say I am most proud of myself for rolling with the punches. I was given tasks that I had no idea where to even begin looking, but I eventually figured out each task. I had to stretch my resourcefulness as far as it could go, and along the way I gained a working understanding of a software I had no prior experience with. I have finally gained the confidence that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, all I have to do is find a starting place.

This internship has clarified my career interests because I now know the kind of work I do enjoy and the work I don’t enjoy. For example, I absolutely loved discussing the pros and cons of one system versus another with my advisors. I really enjoyed talking about the customer experience and how we can tailor their website to be even more appealing. On the other hand, I wasn’t as fond of repetitive tasks like creating dozens of new entry fields. I learned that I derive a lot of satisfaction from working with people and brainstorming solutions to problems. This knowledge about myself will surely be useful when choosing what jobs to apply for and which ones to pass on.

EMA falls into two categories: a startup business and a litigation-based business. For any future startup interns, I have several pieces of advice:

  • Your job description may say one thing, but you will need to wear many hats. Embrace the learning experience rather than fear the different kinds of thinking you may need to do.
  • Simple is elegant. Extraneous pieces and details of a system will only serve to complicate your task as well as the business’ operations. Make a product or system as simple as you possibly can to suit their goals.

I also have some advice to any future EMA interns:

  • Work closely with the in-house lawyers. While your tasks might seem much more on the business side, EMA is a litigation-based business so much of the business tasks are only there to best fit the needs of the lawyers in preparing client documents and litigating for clients.
  • Your supervisors are very experienced and knowledgeable; don’t be afraid to ask them any questions that you are curious about.
  • Visit their website to get a better idea of who they are and what they do. Their business isn’t simple so learning more about them will give you a much clearer understanding of what they may ask you to do.

Final thoughts on the Summer

This summer, I met most of my learning goals with Health Innovation Capital. I had initially hoped to garner whether or not law school was the right path for me in reaching my ultimate goals. Thankfully, this experience has confirmed for me that it is the right choice. I have greatly enjoyed meeting with our counsel, discussing legal issues, working on contracts, and more. I hope to continue to pursue my passions by attending law school in the future. This internship has given me some invaluable experience which could help me in meeting this goal. I had also hoped to become more proficient in understanding legalese and language when reading contracts. I now have a better grip on the way that professional contracts are written and structured, along with an understanding of how to go about writing them and referencing necessary information like statutes and laws. I have absolutely achieved this goal as well, with a much more comprehensive understanding of how contracts work and understanding their purpose. Overall, my goals did not really have to change. While there may have been some challenges in other aspects of the remote work environment, the content of my work and their interaction with my goals was met.

As previously mentioned, this internship has confirmed my anticipated career path. It is my overarching goal to become an agent and represent athletes in both club and endorsement settings. While contract work is obviously key, and the work I did this summer was invaluable with them, I also learned how to approach meetings with potential clients, administrators, etc. This skill set was something I honestly had not used much in the past. However, I was able to build and refine these skills over the summer, which also could be invaluable if I am fortunate enough to achieve my goals. Aside from this, I realized that I am very good at independent work. Once given a task, I take it and run. I am not afraid to ask for help, however, and when I get stuck, I have no problem approaching a superior.

Some advice I would give to a student look at a potential internship with HIC would be to prepare to work hard and be given more responsibility than one might expect for an undergraduate intern in the venture capital space. HIC is small, and therefore you will be utilized to your fullest potential. I unlocked skills I didn’t even realize I had, but the challenge of HIC made them come to life. I also recommend catching up on the Healthcare industry and exploring ESG as they are an impact fund. For those interested in venture capital in general, I’d say to be prepared for a super fast-paced environment. Companies move quickly and there is big money involved in the space. Be prepared to work late hours and be challenged, but it will be worth it.

Overall, this summer, I am most proud of my adaptability. I mentioned in a previous blog post how remote work was a challenge. However, I made it my own and was able to adapt to the new workforce. While I struggled at first, my ability to make the best of it made me proud, as I have also had challenges in being adaptable when it came to working with others. I overcame it however and had a great summer.

(2) Helping the people, not working with the system

Coming to Brandeis, I had ambitions to join the work of the United Nations and similar international organizations because of my belief in their missions to provide a more cohesive and progressive global political atmosphere. Throughout my classes in the international and global studies department, as well as the politics department, I have since changed my viewpoint on these organizations. I now interpret them as being soldiers for neo-globalization that subtly call for the exploitation and marginalization of previously colonized countries.

Through research and readings, it is apparent to me that the current structure of our international organizations places the capitalistic endeavors of Western states and countries with large amounts of capital or resources over the concerns and cultural sensitivity of the global south. While human rights issues are rightfully being brought up in many Western states, it is these same Western states that are forcing the global south to undergo structural changes to become more “progressive” when the effects of these changes really only ever economically benefit the aforementioned Western states. Along with the hyper-criminalization of the leaders of underdeveloped states, I believe, these changes work more toward creating an unbalanced world focused primarily on the exploitation of resources and consumption.

I have found that, while these organizations say that their intentions are for the betterment of the global community, corruption and bureaucracy appears to have a stronger grip. The need for consensus without an already equal world translates to veto powers and certain states becoming major decision makers in a way that makes the function of diplomacy in the way we know it almost futile. 

Consequently, such findings have led me to look for work and organizations that have a principle of improving itself and allowing change in their goals for a more just world. Organizations need to have not only a goal of achieving social justice, but have it built into their system to consistently improve upon itself and dismantle the power hierarchies that may persist through its structure. Stagnancy is what leads so many good-meaning organizations to becoming perpetrators of power imbalances and contributing to the system of problems itself rather than dismantling it. 

Through my Brandeis experience, I have been led to look for organizations that work to directly aid marginalized people as they navigate systems that subliminally exploit them for their labor or resources and subject them to further subjugation. I enjoy the work of my internship for this reason, as the Court Service Center acts as a liaison that addresses the direct concerns and issues of people who cannot access the justice system due to lack of money or resources. The Court Service Center interacts with real people who have real issues that are always reduced in priority or importance because the person behind the issue does not have money. Consequently, in my internship, I look to consistently provide extra support and a sense of understanding on top of legal aid for these people who are unable to navigate a complex family court system, and hopefully work towards achieving better family dynamics. 

(3) Constant Change is Inherent to the Social Justice World

I have learned that the world of social justice work is full of people who wholly aim to help, but are faced with systems and bureaucracy that stall progress for marginalized groups. Within these social justice organizations, and particularly ones affiliated with the government, there comes a whole array of bureaucratic issues that limit the scope and depth of how help is distributed to those who need it. Issues ranging from current restrictive laws, to budgeting problems, to a misunderstanding or ignorance of the plight of minorities all severely hurt the social justice world. Each and every day, there are more people who face discrimination, marginalization and require aid to deal with their life’s issues, but frequently there is a backlog of people who are still receiving help. The social justice world therefore is full of constant issues that need solving and that require new and progressive ways to solve them. 

I have learned the importance of a work-life balance and the significance of training yourself everyday to be as open and helpful to the widest array of people. Social justice work inherently asks for those who aid to not discriminate in who receives their help. The more professional and bureaucratic those who help become as they rise in status, the more classist and unintentionally hierarchical they also become. This inability to understand and fully be compassionate to those who need the help seeps into the inner mechanics of social justice organizations, consequently hurting the process of social justice as it transforms into a function that works with the systems of oppression. Therefore, it is so incredibly important to go through constant training and ensure that there is personal growth in the ways in which social justice organizations are helping marginalized people. They must be able to evolve, expand, and invest in progression, which may mean changing their old practices of seeking or providing aid for marginalized people. 

The advice I would give to someone else pursuing an internship in the social justice field or family court system is one that I try to implement myself: to not become desensitized to the slowness of current social justice organizations and to consistently seek ways and organizations that contribute to new forms of social justice work. Additionally, to expand my own knowledge of languages, barriers to access to justice, and subtle systematic micro-aggressions so as to be the best representative for litigants and those marginalized.

I can see how easy it is to find a position with a social justice organization and simply just trust the organization’s intentions. But through this internship, I have become much more aware of the success that comes from doing the work to find gaps in justice and providing comprehensive and compassionate aid as an inherent personal aspect of my career, regardless of where I am. I have seen through my supervisors just how important it is to understand the litigant, to not judge people, and to constantly stay educated on what else a litigant may need.

Through this internship, I see how it is the direct aid—the help that asks the individual what exactly they need—that is so important to social justice work and what I personally look for when joining the social justice world. 

WoW Blog Post #1 – Software Startup

I am working as a marketing intern for The Commons XR. The company is located in San Diego, California but I am working remotely in Massachusetts. The company communicates via a Slack channel and email. I meet with the Product Development employees twice a week over Microsoft Teams, and there is a company-wide standup every week. Currently, the type of work I am doing is writing market research reports. This includes a marketing strategy plan, customer segment information, and focus group questions. The company’s mission is to build a VR learning platform that prevents students from falling behind in the classroom by giving instructors real-time analytics about students who are not engaged with the material. Below is the company logo:

I am responsible for a market research project where I input psychographic, demographic, and other information about each of the target customer segments. I researched this information using tools such as Google Scholar, Google Trends, etc. This work will impact the marketing strategy that the company uses in the future. The marketing channels, copy, images, etc. will be chosen based on the market segment details. This market research report also gives changes that need to be made to the company website in order to appeal to each market segment. 

 

In addition, I must write the questions for each market segment in the upcoming focus groups and product testing. I had to use and study the company’s product in order to brainstorm these questions and researched how to conduct focus groups using books and websites. These focus groups will give the company more insight into each customer segment and the pricing strategy. It will also give the company information needed to iterate and improve upon the existing product. The feedback loop from focus groups and customer interviews are very important for software startups such as The Commons XR.

 

I am also working on a marketing strategy plan which includes SWOT analysis, customer analysis, competitor analysis, and business initiatives (e.g. social media marketing plan, paid ads strategy, etc.). I used tools such as CrunchBase to research some of this information. This plan will give the company guidelines this summer to increase web traffic, social media engagement, web engagement, email list sign ups, and leads. 

 

One of my goals for this summer is to learn how to increase the follower count on each of the company’s social media platforms by one hundred followers. Later in the summer, the company will execute the social media marketing and branding strategy; I will learn to post engaging content specific for each platform and raise brand awareness. 

 

Another goal is to write ten statistical programs in R to analyze the website traffic in Google Analytics and/or the ad metrics in Google Adwords. R can be integrated with Google Analytics in order to forecast long-term value of marketing campaigns. 

 

My third goal is to have twenty video meetings with other company members in order to improve professional communication skills and streamline tasks.

Philip Bonmassar

(1) Finding hope and passion after a tumultuous internship start

After a fifth email to my original internship placement in late May confirming my start date, I realized that I needed to create a new plan. This summer, I initially planned for my WOW grant to support an internship at a civil society organization that I am very passionate about called the Palestine-Israel Journal. I was so excited that WOW gave me a chance to be a part of the journal for the summer. Unfortunately, when the internship fell through, and I needed to find a new organization to support my WOW grant.

I tried to secure another internship at similar small social justice organizations in Israel-Palestine, but sadly (in part due to the hectic political climate in Israel and lack of support for civil society organizations), I was not able to fulfill my plan to work at a small civil society NGO. Finally, in early July, I received an internship offer from an organization called Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). I’ve been working at ALLMEP for the past two weeks!

ALLMEP is an international organization that supports grassroots, people-to-people peacebuilding, and civil society organizations in Israel-Palestine. ALLMEP supports these organizations in myriad ways. The non-Israel-Palestine based international staff mainly advocates to their respective governments for funding for grassroots peacebuilding projects in the region. The regional staff mostly supports and grows the 100+ member organizations (civil society organizations that participate in people-to-people peacebuilding).

Even though I wanted to work for a smaller civil society organization based in the region, I think it’s appropriate that I am now working for an advocacy organization that tries to strengthen and expand those smaller civil society organizations. In my tumultuous internship search, I saw firsthand the problem that ALLMEP tries to fix: that the civil society organizations in Israel-Palestine are gravely under-supported.

In the past two weeks at ALLMEP, I have been responsible for various tasks related to U.S. advocacy. I have been asked to compile literature reviews, one-pagers for congressional advocacy efforts (like a myths and facts document responding to critiques about peacebuilding) and write blog posts to highlight the work of ALLMEP’s member organizations. Hopefully, my work with ALLMEP will help all parties in the region and especially American representatives prioritize people-to-people peace building organizations over the peace process among elites. I also am excited for the chance I will have this upcoming month to work directly with and help strengthen member organizations in the region.

On the first day of my internship, an ALLMEP employee told me that establishing an International Fund for Middle East Peace is “endgame.” Modeled after the International Fund for Ireland (which many have credited for the Good Friday agreements), the International Fund for Middle East Peace would drastically increase the support and amount of people-to-people peacebuilding organizations. All of the blog posts, congressional meetings, and op-eds that ALLMEP produces are, in some way, aimed at establishing this fund. I am excited to help be a part of bringing this fund closer to fruition.

WoW Blog Post #2

Working remotely has strengths and weaknesses relative to in-person work. A large advantage of in-person work is that you can ask questions to your coworkers and receive the answer immediately or relatively soon by simply visiting their office or workspace. However, when working remotely, you may only be able to send them an email and then you might have to wait longer for their answer. On the other hand, our company uses Slack as a communication platform so I am able to get answers much faster since Slack notifies my coworkers instantly if their names are mentioned. Overall, I enjoy this internship because there are several weekly meetings where you have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about what other coworkers are working on.

 

World of Work has differed from academic life because it is less predictable. Academic courses have a structured syllabus with the list of exams, projects, meeting times, papers, etc. However, the tasks and nature of my internship can change significantly from day to day depending on the needs of the startup. People who work in startups frequently have many different roles since resources are often scarce. One day I am working on updating the website and increasing my knowledge of PHP and the next day I am researching social media influencers in the EdTech space for each market segment. 

 

In addition, my internship is more reliant on other people compared with academic life. In courses, most of the time is spent doing assignments and studying alone (although working with others is sometimes permitted). However, my role for this internship relies on other coworkers. For example, it is necessary to have one-on-one meetings with a coworker to brainstorm ideas on how to move the project forward. 

 

This summer, I have been improving my skills with the statistical programming language R. I learned how to integrate R with Google Analytics and get more in-depth information about website metrics and Google ad campaigns. This will be transferable to a future career in data analysis because R is a very important programming language in this field. Additionally, Google Analytics is a crucial skill for any business with a website.  In terms of academics, R is a widely used language in many economics and statistics courses such as Econometrics and is often used for research purposes. 

 

Another skill I have been working on this summer is academic literature review. In an effort to learn more about the EdTech industry and the company’s target customers, I have searched for related papers on Google Scholar, Library OneSearch, and ResearchGate. I read these studies and learned how they could be applicable to the company’s objectives.  This will be transferable academically because literature review is important when writing a paper for a class as well as when conducting academic research for a professor. In terms of a future career, reading academic studies is a useful skill because it reinforces statistical concepts such as Chi-Squared Tests, Analysis of Variance, etc. since these tests are used in the literature. 

(3) The Meaning of Internships: What They Don’t Tell You

I have always thought that internships were strictly about building my resume. Without work experience on this one sheet of paper, how would I be able to find work after graduation? After interning this summer with Avodah, however, I now realize that internships mean so much more than just the LinkedIn “I’m thrilled to announce…” post. The real meaning gets lost in all the internship hoopla.

During my junior year at Brandeis, I took a class all about internships and making a lasting impression on your organization. The instructor, Jon Schlesinger (who is also the Interim Director of Hiatt) shared something with the class that has stayed in my mind ever since. He said to us, “You should always learn more than you do at your internship.” 

That comment completely shifted my perspective on internships. There I was, thinking that internships were just about how to get ahead in college and secure a full-time job for after senior year. I saw how difficult it actually was to find an internship, and because of the competitive nature of summer internships, I always assumed that when I finally got one, the only thing that I would get out of it was a ticket to the next level. I could not even see an internship as a learning experience because I was so blinded by the fear of not getting one at all. 

That’s a big issue, especially when talking about social justice and building equality for all students as they try to gain work experience. 

However, once I started my internship at Avodah, I began to see how my course instructor’s comment made a lot of sense. I was hired as a recruitment intern at Avodah, but my supervisor (Avodah’s Director of Recruitment), Emily, did not expect me to be a professional recruiter on my first day. Rather, she recognized an internship for what it should be: a give and take between the intern and the organization. Throughout my interview with her on my first day—and honestly, throughout my entire internship—she asked me what wanted to gain out of my experience at Avodah, and based on my answers, she crafted my work schedule to benefit my growth. I was not simply another set of hands to do the work that no one else “more important” had time for. I was not used exclusively for their benefit. They wanted me to learn and become confident in my skills, which transferred over to more enthusiasm and excitement each day at work.

When I look back on these past eight weeks, I realize how lucky I was to be a part of an organization that valued me as an equal employee. I told Emily that I wanted to learn the technical side of recruiting, specifically the interface of Salesforce, so she put me on a project that directly challenged me with that software. I also realized that I have a knack for writing persuasive email campaigns for potential program applicants (after a few trial and error drafts), which I can now speak on in future job interviews. I was also able to bond with my colleagues about our favorite novels, go-to hype music, and vacation plans.

One of my applicant email campaigns!

Most importantly, I learned about the possibilities for my future career. Interning gave me an inside look at what it would be like to actually have a full-time job. That prospect is scary before you actually experience it! I learned what a typical day as a recruiter looks like, but also what a typical day looks like as an employee experience specialist, or as a CEO of a nonprofit, or as an organization’s accountant. Being in a work environment this summer allowed me to stop imagining my post-graduation career as a deep dark hole, and instead helped me see my tangible potential in the working world. 

That’s the goal of an internship.

I wish I had known that my internship experience was only for me, not for anyone who might find my resume on their desk or my LinkedIn connections. My internship was about figuring it all out, not about having it all together before I even started. Why did I feel like I had to have learned it all before I began? 

Internship sites with swag >>

I am very proud of the work I did and the impact I had at Avodah. The culture of this nonprofit organization filled me with joy and lasting meaning. Whether or not I end up recruiting in my future, working at a nonprofit, or drafting email campaigns, I know that my opportunity to learn and grow takes precedent over the fear of failure or uncertainty in the world of work.

Blog Post #3 End-of-Internship Summary

My personal goal for this internship was to deepen my understanding of the struggle for racial justice in the United States, which I have achieved. During my internship, I conducted in-depth research on several important events in the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Freedom Rides, Nashville Student Movement, and the March on Washington. When I looked at the pictures of the Freedom Riders being beaten by the white supremacists, I not only learned history, but also sympathized with the Riders. In the meantime, I found that history is always repeating itself. Recently during the pandemic, Asian Americans were randomly attacked on the street — like the Freedom Riders, they did nothing but were beaten because they had the “wrong” skin color in society.

My academic goal, enhancing my understanding of the Cold War, was also fulfilled by researching the international influence of the Civil Rights Movement. I conducted research on China in order to find how the Chinese government published the Civil Rights Movement. I also discovered that Chairman Mao, the most influential figure in early China, once met with civil rights leader Robert F. Williams and offered his support for the Movement. Through the encounter of this special relationship between Chinese government and the Movement, I also learned international relations from a unique perspective. In terms of my career goal, this internship overall helped me comprehend American history more deeply, and how legislative changes were made under the pressure of civil rights movements; although my research actually reveals how slow legislative changes could be.

(Photo description: Chairman Mao signed Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong “the Little Red Book” for Robert Williams on the national day of People’s Republic of China in 1966. CR: Wikipedia)

For students who would like to apply for a research assistant internship, particularly in humanities, the first thing is to learn basic research skills. Those skills could be how to use Brandeis OneSearch, using the Brandeis library database to search for useful websites, how to get access to the books in the library, or how to submit a request for a book that is not possessed by Brandeis library. Although your UWS instructors have taught you that, it is important to remember those seemingly “useless” skills. Next, you should be familiar with the basic search engines on each website; they all look familiar and have the same techniques. You should grasp the key words of your question and find other specific information about the topic that could limit the search. For example, when I am looking for primary sources for a historical event, I often frame the publishing date to several years around the time of the event. What is more, being a research assistant requires people to be meticulous. Attention to detail is necessary for many jobs, so it will not harm if you start to train yourself to be meticulous; watch every word, every space, every punctuation in your writing and be used to double-check carefully. 

Settling In At Ariadne Labs

My first six weeks at Ariadne Labs have flown by rapidly and I am acclimated to the day-to-day operations in a virtual environment. Interning at a research lab virtually has its caveats but it has been an overall positive experience. Some positives include the convenience of being at home and not having to prepare for a commute. In addition, it adds a sneak peek into the coworker’s daily lives outside of work which we would not get in an in-person setting. On the other hand, the element of technical difficulties arises as well as the lack of an office-type atmosphere. In the remote world, we are often isolated from the outside until there are team or group meetings in our homes whereas in-person work would involve more than meetings, there would be team building events, meals, or even the daily passing by conversations with coworkers which adds to the experience of an internship.

Ariadne Labs Serious Illness Care Team

The World of Work has a plethora of similarities and differences to academic life. A similarity includes the aspect of learning in both settings. As an intern, a bulk of the work for me has been actively learning about the healthcare industry through team meetings, reading articles and participating in journal clubs with other interns. Through the journal club, the interns and I analyzed the team’s research studies, which is similar to the journal clubs we conduct in Biology Lab and Genetics and Genomics at Brandeis. However, a difference is that at Ariadne, we collect questions to ask the authors of the paper and understand their methods and next steps in research which we may not be able to do in an academic setting. Another difference is that the World of Work involves some professionals that have been working for even longer than I have been on Earth, so it is pertinent to reach out to them and gain insight on their journey to where they are currently. Ariadne has a weekly series called “The Path to Ariadne” where employees from all areas of work present their story of how they ended up at the organization with an opportunity to further connect and ask questions on their experiences. 

As part of this internship, I have adapted skills that are applicable to academics and my professional life following academic studies. One skill includes using Miro, a virtual whiteboard during convenings for visual facilitating and organization. Miro is a revolutionary application to virtual spaces for staying organized with the lack of planning on office boards. Another skill I have learned is the process of coding qualitative interviews in order to find the general themes and takeaways to use in future manuscripts. The process of coding entails two researchers side by side utilizing a system to categorize pieces of qualitative information and if the two researchers both categorize the excerpt using the same theme, that data is trusted and can be used  in a manuscript. Using software such as NVivo and Dedoose makes it easier to categorize and come to conclusions among researchers. Lastly, through manuscript work, a skill that I have developed is synthesizing data from applications and interviews to create tables and visuals to use in a potential manuscript. All of these skills can carry over into academic and professional work as I navigate the field of medicine and evidence-based research through visual facilitating, qualitative coding, and quantitative figure creating.

Overall, the World of Work is similar to the academic world in some ways. However, the ways that the two worlds are different provide the opportunity to apply the skills that I learn in the World of Work to the academic and professional world, as well. 

–Ayush Thacker, Experiential Learning Fellow

 

WOW Post #2: Mid-Summer

Infant Human Diffusion Tensor Image

It’s a little bit past mid-summer which means we WOW fellows are also close to mid-way through our internships. Being fully remote had its advantages and disadvantages, one of which was feeling like the summer has flown by. I believe that working online can be repetitive which is one of the reasons as to why it feels like time is moving extra fast. Other than this, I don’t mind working remotely. It gives me flexibility to work around my busy schedule and be able to work my other two jobs in addition to my research. However, remote research is a bit different than remote academic life. I personally did not enjoy online courses as much as in person courses because I felt like it was harder to pay attention and get work done. However, I do not feel the same about remote work. It absolutely can still be difficult to pay attention when doing my research alone in my room, but the weekly meetings I have with my post doctorate student at the end of the week motivate me to get my work done. In addition, knowing that I’m doing important and impactful work encourages me to keep up with the schedule that I make for myself.

Over this summer, I am able to strengthen many scientific skills and grow as a researcher. These skills include reasoning, critical analysis, and communication. I have been enrolled in courses at Brandeis where I had to learn these skills through reading and writing papers and creating poster presentations, but it is much more exciting when the work I am doing is related to my personal interests. Reading scientific articles about the arcuate fasciculus doesn’t appear to get old for me.

In addition to gathering the data needed for my lab’s project, I am also preparing to begin gathering data for my senior thesis. It is especially exciting in our lab right now since we are beginning to extract data from baby humans and we will finally have primate data sets to compare. We have already found some interesting observations, but these will need to be further evaluated before they can be reported. I will also be using the data I have collected so far in my SciFest poster presentation that is coming up in the first week of August.

Overall, the experience I am gaining this summer thus far is greater than I have anticipated. I knew I would be learning a great deal about how research is conducted, but I did not think I would be so closely involved in the project, let alone soon leading my own. I am looking forward to what the end of the summer brings. Make sure to look at my last blog post to compare the images of two different primates and see if you can spot any similarities or differences!

Elan’s Mid-Summer Progress

Conducting my internship virtually has certainly introduced both benefits and hurdles, but overall I am extremely happy in the company where I am working. One of the hardest things about remote work is that, naturally, all communication and interactions has to be virtual. I have found this to restrict group problem solving; I can’t just pop into the office of a colleague or supervisor to ask them quick questions about the project, and I also try to avoid spamming their phone with emails every minute of the day. As a result, I end up having to condense a lot of my questions and comments into our periodic conversations. Also, being virtual means conversations have to be scheduled. Consequently, conversation about non-work related topics is slightly less organic.

That being said, virtual work has offered me a great work-life balance. Rather than being evaluated based on daily hourly dedication, I am evaluated on pace of completion. Although this distinction seems subtle at first, it does make a great deal of a difference in practical matters. In a normal office setting, it is considered odd and often unacceptable to simply not show up any given day. On the other hand, working virtually enables me to do a lot of work on one day and none on a day in which I have other matters to tend to. Orienting my internship in this way enables me to be both happier and more productive.

In addition, my internship has undoubtedly furthered me towards my goals to strengthen both technical and social skills. In academic contexts, I have total control over the direction of my papers, essays and projects. The success and failure is based purely on my planning  and execution of  tasks. This is not the case in my internship. My supervisors, my coworkers, and I all have our own opinions of how a project should proceed, so the outcome of any given project is driven far more on the ability of the group to coordinate their ideas and efforts, as opposed my own motivation of for any task I have for school. With this comes an entirely different set of skills. Rather than being able to quickly process information and arrive at a conclusion, much time is spent on articulating ideas and balancing concessions.

Additionally, I am finally becoming functional in Salesforce and Excel’s Power Query. It has taken a lot of trial and error, exploration, and informational videos, but I am now able to comfortably navigate and solve business problems on EMA‘s digital platforms. Given the nature of work in business and law, the technical and social skills I am learning will be crucial in any kind of work environment I may encounter in my future career.

(2) Breaking the Barriers of Healthcare Inequalities

While at Brandeis, I have had the opportunity to take classes that have helped me launch my professional journey and will continue to help me in the future. In the classroom, I have learned how to think critically about health inequalities and disparities. In Professor Siri Suh’s “Health, Community, Society: The Sociology of Health and Illness” course, we examined social determinants of health and the relationship between health and medical care. We also discussed the complexities involved through social, political, and economic lenses.

In order to address inequalities in health care and health outcomes, our society must identify and address the “causes of causes,” which include looking at the conditions that shape and give rise to disease. Professor Suh emphasized that these inequalities are mainly along the lines of race, gender, and class. We discussed how policy solutions are to address the “root causes” of these inequalities by looking at poverty and inadequate access to basic health care. Policy solutions could include education, adequate incomes, gainful employment, as well as affordable and adequate housing. In order to fully address health care inequalities, our society must go beyond the surface level of the issues at hand.

This class gave me the sociological perspective I need to be able to think critically about advanced care planning. As I continue to learn about the incredible advancements in the field of public health, it is crucial to be informed of the gaps that still need to be filled. Individuals are struggling to receive comprehensive care and access to the resources needed in end-of-life care. The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) is working to ensure everyone has a seat at the table when discussing and creating advanced care planning policy. I have had the opportunity to have conversations with a wide array of organizations including the Greater Illinois Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition, Eternally (a telehealth advanced care planning organization), and Hawaii Pacific Health. These conversations continue to address inequalities and disparities by ensuring that all individuals have a voice in and access to advanced care planning. C-TAC is working with an array of organizations in order to put their best foot forward in terms of the policy that is being addressed on both the state and federal level. 

Each week, my intern team creates a podcast titled “A C-TAC Intern Roundtable: A Review of News from the Field.” As interns at C-TAC, our team has been discussing the importance of telehealth in advanced care planning and end-of-life care. Telehealth has given many individuals the opportunity to have conversations about end-of-life planning that may not have been accessible before. But while many people have access to the tools needed for telehealth, many individuals do not, especially in underserved communities. C-TAC is working to address the root causes of these inequalities by pushing policy to create a space where everyone has a seat at the table. 

C-TAC is working to establish multi-faceted solutions in advanced care planning with an ultimate goal of equality in comprehensive health care. C-TAC is working to address these problems from different  perspectives including policy work targeting health equity, interfaith workgroups, and state/community organizing. The knowledge I have gained from my classes at Brandeis has expanded and supported my knowledge of the C-TAC mission to change the health care delivery system.

(2) Considering Social Determinants of Health in Health Advocacy

Through my education at Brandeis as a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, one topic that I have learned quite a lot about is the social determinants of health. Social determinants of health are the elements present in our society and environments that contribute to someone’s health. They are not controlled by individual behavior, and are largely out of the control of any single person. Social determinants of health can range from somebody’s income, to their race, or to what zip code they live in.

Social Determinants of Health, Health Equity, and Vision Loss | subsection title | section title | site titleIn real-world situations, they may manifest in several ways. A family without much money may not be able to afford healthy foods. Someone living in a poorer neighborhood may not have access to green space and parks. A Black person living in America has to deal with the daily stresses of racism. All of these social factors can have a tremendous impact on our health that is largely out of our personal control. The concept and impact of social determinants of health have been an integral part of many of my HSSP courses, and they have informed my thinking and reasoning in other courses and in the ways that I see the world. 

The idea of social determinants of health is an important lens for viewing the world of public health because it is very beneficial to understand that such a large component of our health is not a matter of personal choice. While we can make individual decisions that impact our well-being, many of the public health problems plaguing our society exist outside of this context. In order to solve our public health crises, we must fix the structural societal problems that contribute to them. 

The concept of social determinants of health informs the health policy advocacy work of my organization, the National Consumers League, in almost everything we do. For example, when advocating for safe, effective, and affordable prescription drugs, there must be an understanding that people need to live in a neighborhood where they can easily stop by their local pharmacy, or even have their drugs delivered. It also involves understanding that rich Americans do not need to worry about affording the drugs that they need like poor and middle class Americans do.

Likewise, when advocating for increased vaccine confidence and uptake, we must understand that people living in certain environments do not hear from trusted medical information sources nearly as much as people who live in other places. There are also people who worry about the cost of a vaccine, whether a direct payment, or the indirect cost of missing work to travel to a faraway vaccination site. To encourage vaccination, we must consider the many social factors that may be contributing to peoples’ hesitancy to get vaccinated.

What I have learned about social determinants of health during my time at Brandeis informs my thinking about every issue in public health and health policy that comes up during my internship, and I never miss a chance to mention to those who I am working with about the importance of considering them. I recently wrote a blog that was published on the National Consumers League’s website about treating gun violence as a public health crisis. While writing this blog, I had the concept of social determinants of health at the front of my mind. Everyone dealing with public health issues would be wise to take a greater consideration of social determinants of health.

(2) Equitable Access to Justice

In my time taking classes and being affiliated with groups such as the Right to Immigration Institute and the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative, I have learned the importance of having equitable access to justice. Ever since I started taking classes in the Politics, Legal Studies and African and African-American Studies departments, a common theme that I have noticed is that inequities in resources, services, education, and healthcare, among other things, lead to systemic injustices. One of my main career goals is to combat such injustices and work to dismantle oppressive systems that disproportionately work against marginalized communities that lack the tools and resources to make substantive changes.

As an aspiring law school student, equitable access to justice has always been significant to me. I believe that no one should have to struggle to have their basic needs met. In the United States and across the world, countless people have little to no access to food, shelter, healthcare, education, and many other basic necessities in the ever-changing world that we live in. I believe that Brandeis has given me the tools and resources to be able to pursue a career that combats inequities in access to justice.

While working at Health and Education for All (HAEFA), I am constantly thinking about how I can contribute to the organization’s goal of providing equitable access to justice in the form of healthcare. I talk to people working at all levels of the organization and try to understand the operations in Rohingya refugee camps, as well as other remote areas in Bangladesh where healthcare is scarce.

I am currently working on a research paper alongside other interns and HAEFA team members to tell the story of their successful cervical cancer screening program. I spoke directly with the founder of the organization to brainstorm ways in which we can tell HAEFA’s success story so that other organizations can model our program in remote areas of Africa and Asia where access to healthcare is limited. Together with the research team, we decided to write and publish a short research paper by the end of the summer. The paper would address the issue of cervical cancer screening across the world and discuss how HAEFA was able to use technology in remote areas of Bangladesh to screen patients from vulnerable populations. Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women in many parts of the world. Having access to a successful screening program would save countless lives.

Thinking about this project in terms of access to justice in the form of healthcare has been very effective. In doing so, we are not only trying to show the world how our program is successful, but we are also attempting to demonstrate how it was so successful so that others can follow our formula. Brandeis University’s focus on social justice has allowed me to think critically about how to approach different assignments throughout this internship. I hope that once the research paper is published, it will allow other organizations to mirror all the incredible work HAEFA has done thus far.

(2) The Intersection Between LGLS 116B and the MDAO Internship Program

This past semester I took Legal Studies 116B: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Constitutional Debates. This course, taught by Professor Daniel Breen, explored the history and politics of civil rights and civil liberties within the United States. The course investigated an array of legal topics including privacy, equal protection, and racial discrimination. The course involved reading many landmark Supreme Court cases such as Baker v. Carr, Grutter v. Bollinger and Schenck v. United States. The most important lesson I learned from this course is the impact that past Supreme Court decisions have on the rulings of present-day cases. I learned this not only through lectures but by writing papers in which I would justify certain verdicts with backings from past Supreme Court rulings.

An example of a case read in the course

Learning about the longstanding importance of the verdicts of these cases holds much significance for me. As a student with a passion for history and politics, and with hopes to head to law school after Brandeis, realizing how important and enduring court rulings are reminds me why this is the career path I have chosen. This class taught me that case rulings are important for more than just one person because they set the precedent for future verdicts.

I am grateful that I took this class the semester before my internship with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) began, as the lessons I gained from this class are helping me to navigate both my own tasks at my internship as well as the organization’s work as a whole. At many of our intern training sessions, the district attorney and various assistant district attorneys have talked to us about how important the work of the office is because the office has the ability to dictate the remainder of one’s life.

For example, the office has the power to put a person in jail or prison which, no matter how long the sentence length, can affect the incarcerated person’s life and the life of their family too. The MDAO has expressed to the interns that this decision is not something they take lightly. As part of expressing to the interns the weight of being held pretrial and sentence length, the program will be taking the interns on a tour of the Billerica House of Corrections (with the option of attendance over zoom or in person) at the end of the internship program. Billerica is a jail that serves Middlesex County and offers many different opportunities for prisoners during their time in incarceration. This opportunity is extremely unique and demonstrates how well thought-out the MDAO intern program is. They want us to understand the weight our decisions will have because, similar to court rulings, placing someone in prison or jail is an enduring decision that can affect many.

Although this tour has yet to happen, I am looking forward to the opportunity of expanding my knowledge of the government and the weight that legal decisions carry. The discussions about the importance of our work is something I try to remember everyday as I approach my daily tasks. I remind myself that no matter how big or small my assignment of that day is, it carries weight with it because it has the potential to change and influence the lives of many.

(2) Interrogating the Judicial Selection Process as an Anthropologist

As an undergraduate at Brandeis, and especially as an Anthropology and Gender Studies major, my classes focus on interrogating larger systems that influence our society and shape our relationships. In anthropology, we discuss the “possessive investment in whiteness,” which is an institutionalized frame of mind that empowers society to structure institutions and practices to benefit white people. The possessive investment in whiteness creates the false perception that being white is the norm. By creating an “us/them” dichotomy between white people and non-white people, the United States is able to exploit and harm non-white groups through deeply rooted systems of oppression.

We see the possessive investment in whiteness everywhere, from legacy admissions to the communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis to the lack of Black and Latina women running Fortune 500 companies. All of these disparities are the result of social systems that directly benefit white people and harm non-white people. While I have always known these truths to some extent, I’d never been taught how to conceptualize them until now. Being able to name these systems of oppression has been instrumental in my understanding of Alliance for Justice’s (AFJ) work to diversify the state and federal judiciary. 

The current racial diversity of the U.S. federal judiciary; graphic created by the American Constitution Society with data collected from Federal Judicial Center.

During my internship, I’ve come to understand that, like all aspects of our bureaucratic system, the judicial selection process is a prime example of a possessive investment in whiteness. Traditionally, nominees are judged in part based on their past experiences, whether it be as a lawyer, a local or state judge, past clerkships, or other jobs. Even when not explicitly named, peoples’ opportunities to obtain these different experiences are often dictated by race, class, and connections. If a prospective judge is able to gain these qualifications, they are recommended to the White House by U.S. senators, or occasionally U.S. congresspeople. However, only 23% of the current U.S. Congress is non-white, with Hispanics making up only 9% of the U.S. House and Asian American and Pacific Islanders making up only 3%, despite accounting for 19% and 6% of the U.S. population respectively. Once selected by the president (who, if we look at history, has been a white man forty-five out of forty-six times), nominees must sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a group selected from a senate body that has only had 11 black senators in its 230+ year history. Currently, only eleven out of the one hundred sitting senators identify as a racial or ethnic minority. When a judicial nominee of color sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee, rarely are they addressing people who look like them or hold similar life experiences. 

The entire political and judicial process, going all the way back to Jim Crow-era voter disenfranchisement, works to enable white leadership and suppress people of color from sitting on the federal judiciary or running our nation’s government. This intentional suppression of minority representation has concrete effects on judicial decisions today. In a conversation with AFJ, Justice Halim Dhanidina (a judge on the California Court of Appeals) noted that people who hold marginalized identities are more easily able to recognize when others are being discriminated against. These perspectives are critical in our federal court system, but our nation’s possessive investment in whiteness encumbers individuals with these experiences from being appointed. Through the frameworks I’ve been taught at Brandeis, I am able to scrutinize these systems and am even more energized to push back against them.

The Jumpstart That Began My Journey

One opportunity.

One opportunity is all it takes to help you find your path.

What do you want to be? This question has always haunted me. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer, rather there were too many options. Park ranger, movie star, deep-sea diver, the possibilities were truly endless. However, it was when I took Professor Doherty’s Hollywood and American Culture course that I realized I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, particularly film.

So, I was faced with a new challenge. Although settled on a path, I didn’t have a means of travel. I couldn’t begin my journey because nobody would give me the green light. It was frustrating not having a connection that could escort me down a smooth road.

I guess I wouldn’t have appreciated the opportunity as much as I do now if that was the case.

Only after sending around countless cover letters did I decide to cold call my future boss. To my surprise, he picked up on the first ring. After a fast-paced chat, he sent me a sample script. “The job is yours if you impress me with this script coverage.”

I received my first script coverage assignment soon after.

If there is an internship you want or a job that looks fascinating, don’t be afraid to chase it. Sending that email or making that phone call may seem daunting, but that extra step of showing your interest could be all the difference in making you standout as a candidate.

Now in my internship, the best word I could choose to describe my experience is dynamic, never boring. While my primary task is to write script coverages, I also conduct industry-based research and help with the agency’s communications. The virtuality of the role makes it all the more important to connect with my fellow interns and the rest of the team. I am planning a company-wide virtual hang-out. My initiative aims to humanize remote working. When individuals are given the space to learn more about one another, the harsh boundaries of remoteness seem to fade away.

Yet, my initiative wouldn’t come to life if not for my boss. He is a very personable, supportive boss who wants the best for his interns. I have written script coverages for a variety of different literature: movie scripts, self-help books, whimsical fantasy novels, scary sci-fi manuscripts, memoirs, and so many others. No matter the coverage, he is intent on hearing my thoughts on the read and whether he should invest in the author. Perhaps my understanding of summer internships is flawed, but I never thought a mere college intern’s thoughts mattered. I was shocked for my opinion to not only be heard but valued. I feel like I am actively contributing to the company.

However, this contribution goes beyond the company. The pieces I read are from real people who have amazing stories that deserve to be told. This role has allowed me to support creatives who have found their voice. The next manuscript I read could be the movie that changes your life, the book that encourages you to take the next step, or a clip that inspires you to make a change. These works have the power to impact your life and I am humbled to play a small part in making sure they get to you.

 

Don’t Let Fear or Assumptions Hold You Back

For a long time, I was under the false understanding that an internship only seemed impressive if I was working for an extremely well-known company. Like working for a larger, established organization would be the way to be taken seriously in the entertainment industry. I’m not sure where this idea spurred from. Maybe it was my high school career counselor saying nobody can make it in the industry, perhaps it was the waves of voices that told me majoring in English was an employment death wish or it very well could have been my self-doubt.

All are wrong.

I wish I could have told my first-year self how vital internships are to a college experience. Because of this negativity, I was reluctant to work for companies that were smaller and less known.

A simple selfie among my local library’s stacks. My manuscript reading spot and where I can relax.

In doing so, I was depriving myself of tremendous opportunities to explore an area of work that excites me. By taking my internship with a smaller literary agency, I have overcome these negative emotions that were holding me back. Script coverages, research, negotiations, client meetings, the tasks I get to learn vary from day today. A smaller company allows me to wear more hats and appreciate different parts of the business. This freedom to pursue multiple roles gave me space to fall in love with what I’m doing this summer and is molding my future career plans.

So, if you have a passion for something, step out of your comfort zone and try and pursue it on a professional level. Don’t let anybody, including yourself, hold you back from an opportunity that could make you happy. Don’t wait as long as I did to take the next steps to find your path.

I have learned a lot over this summer. This summer, in particular, I have learned the importance of communication. Due to the virtual nature of this role, clear and concise communication has become immensely important. I have learned to give and receive constructive feedback, enjoy creatively brainstorming research strategies with my fellow interns, and help writers find their voice. Overall, my internship has been rewarding in the work I have completed, the relationships I have made, and the fresh perspective I have on my future career goals.

Through my work, I have grown to value internships because they provide real-world experience. They allow you a glimpse into the working world of a career you may want to pursue. The learning experience will help you grow on a professional and personal level. My parents have always said that every experience is a learning one. Every person has the power to teach you something you don’t already know. Keep an open mind and heart when applying to and working in an internship. You never know who or what will change your life forever.

(2) The Importance of Working Together

One thing I have learned at Brandeis—especially this past year—has been the importance and joy of working in a group setting with my peers. Given the virtual nature of the school year, I think many professors felt that it was important to create group assignments for students to develop relationships. Before the pandemic, however, this was still a foundation of my learning experience at Brandeis and helped me develop important skills in working with others to complete a goal. Aside from formal group assignments, working with friends and peers to ask questions about assignments or lectures has been a vital way for me to succeed in my assignments and get the most out of a class.

At my internship with Genocide Watch this summer, almost all of my work is done in collaboration with at least one other intern. I am currently working on a Timestream presentation (similar to a PowerPoint) on the ecocide in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro with two other interns—who have been fantastic to collaborate with—in order to learn more about a new issue that we were not familiar with at the start. Having them on my team has been incredibly helpful, not just in learning about the atrocities, but also learning the Timestream platform (which is not very user-friendly). Once this project is finished, it will be posted here. I am also in the planning stages of a project that will be done in collaboration with a few of the other interns to map atrocities committed by the U.S. government against indigenous populations.

Alliance Team meeting on Tuesday discussing outreach to possible new Alliance members

Outside of that formal group setting, I get to work on three different teams: Advocacy, Alliance, and Research. Each team has a group meeting every week where everyone shares what they have been working on and what their goals are for the next week. These meetings are incredibly helpful, not only to keep myself accountable (it is incredibly helpful in a virtual internship to have other people to keep you accountable to finish projects), but to also have a space to ask questions and get inspired by the incredible work that my fellow interns are pursuing. I have also developed a number of relationships with my fellow interns and often work with them, in an unofficial capacity, to read over each other’s work and ask each other questions. This has been extremely helpful, not only from a work perspective, but also to get to know the other interns, which can be difficult when working virtually.

The importance of working with others in the context of genocide prevention has been obvious from the beginning at my internship. Genocide Watch knows that it cannot successfully prevent genocide on its own. We work with many other organizations in the Alliance Against Genocide and with governments to ensure that our work has the greatest possible impact. The ability to work with others in a productive and meaningful way is a vital skill in life to ensure meaningful work in the context of social justice. I know that developing this skill both at Genocide Watch and at Brandeis will be significant in my future professional endeavors.

(2) Community Building with the BEJI

Community is not something that can simply be taught; it must be practiced. At Brandeis, we see community take real form through the actions of professors and students alike in cultivating spaces for sharing, growth, and togetherness. In a year of online classes and social distancing during the pandemic, Brandeis was able to maintain and foster a warm community for its students both in and outside of the classroom. Whether it was professors sharing family recipes with our class to enjoy over break, or pairing students up as check-in buddies amid early days of quarantine, our classrooms shifted and evolved to find new ways to be together. This community nourished and sustained me in ways that were of great significance. As I began to look for summer work, I knew it would be important to find an organization that held the same views on community as I hold personally.

Community-building at Brandeis begins before students even arrive on campus through the help of orientation leaders. And the community-building done at Brandeis has long-lasting impacts as can be seen through its expansive alumni networks, and the effort folks put in to remain involved with campus culture after graduation. We see communities built in the classroom that take on legs to lead groups out far beyond those academic settings. Challenging Brandeis and holding the university accountable have been major results of community-organized efforts for campus-based changes. Community looks different everywhere. But through intentional planning and self-reflection, community has the capacity to be generative in ways individualist and fixed mindsets never could.

Working with the BEJI this summer has meant merging the needs of several communities in order to conduct successful programming for our students and community partners. Bridging the ideas and needs of undergraduate students, graduate students, professors, and faculty into one comprehensive curriculum is no small task. Beyond this, our thirteen-week long workshop is a course taught by Brandeis students and offered to previously incarcerated adults. The diversity of thought and lived experience present in these classrooms demand a level of community-building that my time at Brandeis has well prepared me for cultivating. Taking what I have learned about community from Brandeis has both informed my thinking about my organization and has altered my approach to this internship.

I was at first apprehensive about the services offered by the BEJI. There are real considerations to be made about the efficacy and ethics behind bringing those privileged with access to higher education into learning spaces with those for whom education has been temporarily denied to them due to incarceration. What would this mean for how we would facilitate courses? How would we best be able to know and respond to the needs of our students? As I pondered these questions, I felt encouraged by the virtues of community as demonstrated to me by Brandeis. Community has a large and rather abstract definition. There is strength to this vagueness in that it allows wide-open space for creativity and construction. As I dove into this work, I informed my decisions through the lens of what I thought would best bring about community. 

The act of building community within the BEJI has taken on many forms. Sometimes it’s as small as the ice breaker we lead every session with or the question we discuss in breakout rooms. Though subtle, this act of interpersonal communication is the very work of community-building that initially grew my confidence to participate in college classrooms. In practicing openness and vulnerability with our students, we have created a brave space in which productive and difficult learning can progress effectively.

More explicit examples of the community include the weekly pedagogy conversations I introduced to our team meetings. Attended by our entire team, I saw these meetings as a crucial place to introduce mindful community action. Each week, a member of the team shares out resources ahead of time on a certain topic of pedagogy that relates to identity and incarceration. We then all engage these materials and come prepared to celebrate our facilitator and converse on the topic. These conversations redefine our commitment to our work and solidify the community investment we have in making change. 

I like to think about community as a network of overlapping lines and arcs. There are no hard edges or dead ends in the paths the communities grow on. In the development of the BEJI this summer, my own community has grown massively. It is my intention to continue this work of community growth and reflection throughout my time with the BEJI, and I believe that doing so will result in an overgrowth of compassion and connection amongst the wonderful folks that make our BEJI community what it is.

(2) Fighting Interlocking Forms of Injustice

As a Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy double major, I’ve taken a plethora of Brandeis classes that have shown me how systemic injustice is. Although injustice manifests in every street corner and neighborhood of our country, every person is impacted differently as a result of how they are situated within intersecting contexts of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. I’ve found myself drawn to the concept of the social determinants of health and the importance of understanding how one’s identity and where they live can greatly impact their health and life chances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how social, racial, political, and economic forces are shaping our health outcomes. At the start of the pandemic, some referred to it as the “Great Equalizer” because they believed that everyone was equally susceptible to the virus. However, this reality could not be further from the truth. We have seen that Black and Brown people have died at much higher rates than White people due to where they work, underlying health conditions, and race-based disparities that limit access to health care and other resources. We are all in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat.

Understanding the root causes of systemic forms of oppression is essential in order to bring about social justice for all. As I’ve been at Brandeis, I’ve noticed my classes becoming more focused on intersectionality across issues, rather than taking a single-issue approach. In my “Sociology of Empowerment” course, we read an article that has stayed with me beyond the duration of the course. The article, “If We Don’t Solve Racial Injustice, We’ll Never Solve the Climate Crisis,” draws parallels between racial and climate injustice to say that they are rooted in the same systemic oppression. As a result, communities of color often face the disproportionate impact of climate change, and therefore face unequal health outcomes as a result. One powerful quote from the article reads: “…being dominated and exploited to serve a wealthy white few is something Black people share with the planet.” Climate justice is racial justice. This article makes it clear that we can’t bring about climate justice without bringing about racial justice, and realizing the links between the two. Social justice movements are often viewed in silos, which is holding us back from achieving an intersectional form of justice.

From my time at Oxfam America so far, it has become increasingly clear how an organization can fight oppression through an approach that focuses on interlocking forms of oppression. Oxfam addresses the injustice of poverty by working on land rights, women’s rights, climate change, and human rights. There is collaboration between these teams, and they work to address the root causes of poverty simultaneously. For instance, the gender team in my department does research on how women laborers are being impacted by climate change and land grabs by corporations. Without linking these issues, there is so much that gets left out of the story.

While taking on various projects, I try to stay grounded in an approach that draws parallels between issues. Oxfam’s work is intersectional and truly speaks to how we can’t achieve justice by solely focusing on one form of oppression at a time. Since oppression is systemic and intersectional, the best way to promote social justice is to fight for systemic and intersectional solutions in a way that advocates for those who are most marginalized.

(2) Community Engagement and Empowerment in Public Health

At the beginning of each semester, the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conducts a training for the coordinators of the Waltham Group. The training I received during the spring semester of my sophomore year was only a few days before my interview with the Color of Health (COH). This session was led by Dr. Allyson Livingstone, the previous director of DEI Education, Training, and Development. Dr. Livingstone discussed topics including community engagement and community mobilization. The purpose of this training is to provide students with the tools and skills to help move toward equitable outcomes for those in our community, as well as those in the ones we serve. The lessons I learned about community engagement and mobilization have been extremely relevant and valuable for my work at the COH.

One thing I learned in this training that has been reinforced in my anthropology and HSSP classes is that community engagement in public health is imperative for successful initiatives. Public health project agendas are primarily determined and set by outside organizations, and the community members these initiatives are trying to serve are often marginalized and left out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most. Community engagement is a process that seeks to better engage all members and groups affiliated with an issue being addressed. Doing so will achieve more long-term and sustainable outcomes as the processes are sensitive to the context of the community. Each person who is affected by the issue that impacts their community should be involved in the decision-making process.

Similarly to community engagement, community mobilization engages the larger population in a community-wide effort to address a health or social issue. In addition to creating a space for collaborative efforts, community mobilization empowers individuals and groups to take action and lead efforts to facilitate the change they want to see. This may include mobilizing resources, disseminating information, and fostering cooperation across the community. 

The goal of the COH is to mobilize the communities of color in NYC to take control of their health and to feel empowered in doing this. Health empowerment encourages people to gain greater control over the decisions affecting their lives and health through education and motivation. This can be a great way to enhance health and improve community health in a sustainable way. Prioritizing community engagement and community mobilization is something I think about consistently when contributing to the development of public health programs in the organization. As someone who is not a member of the communities we serve, I prioritize ensuring effective communication with the populations to maximize our impact.

Health education series about managing diabetes at home.

Community mobilization informs my work at the COH as it makes me wonder how we can better use our resources to bring members of the community together to share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Additionally, we center our programs around health education and discussing how community members can manage their health at home and what they can do to feel empowered when seeking care.

Each time I meet with my supervisor to discuss my project regarding increasing the uptake rate of HIV PrEP among Black women, I ask and think about how we can make our work more inclusive in order to improve engagement. This includes providing a space where people can make their voices heard and can engage in dialogue to feel connected and empower each other. 

(2) JDI’s Intersectional Approach to Anti-Violence Work

One concept that I have learned at Brandeis that has made an incredible impact on my approach to anti-violence and anti-oppression work–and shapes the work that I am doing as a part of my internship at Jane Doe Inc. (JDI)–is Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how the multiple identities that an individual holds can impact their lived experiences. In her article Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color, Crenshaw describes intersectionality as the experience of being situated between multiple forms of discrimination or domination through holding more than one marginalized identity. Specifically, Crenshaw discusses “the various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color.” In this example, Crenshaw describes how violence against women of color is shaped not just by race or gender, but rather by the combination of the two. This intersection makes the violence that women of color experience different and unique from violence against white women or Black men.

Crenshaw’s framework not only shows us why those with intersecting identities are experiencing violence at disproportionate rates, but it also shows us that anti-violence work needs to be approached with an intersectional framework in order to better address the needs of those that are experiencing the most violence. Crenshaw makes it clear that to mitigate violence, we need intersectional intervention strategies that address not only the needs of white women, but specifically the needs of those that are experiencing violence because of the intersections of their identities. 

During my time at Brandeis, I have been deeply involved in various social justice and social equity projects, both through my involvement in student groups and through my positions at the Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center. As I have gained more experience with anti-violence and anti-oppression work, I have come to realize how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and sustain themselves within our society, and cause interpersonal, structural, and institutional violence. My work in anti-violence movements has taught me that all oppressions are linked, and that in order to challenge the violence that is occurring, we must approach it from an intersectional perspective.

In viewing sexual and domestic violence within this intersectional framework and as a tool of oppression that perpetuates the inequality in our community, I see my involvement in mitigating sexual and domestic violence as also disrupting other forms of oppression, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism. 

JDI’s 2021-2022 Policy Framework

One of the reasons that I am so interested in JDI’s work specifically is that they approach disrupting institutionalized violence from this intersectional perspective. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues isolated to sexual and domestic violence, but rather encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, and education and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because they understand that in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from an organization that approaches anti-violence work from this perspective.

(1) Celebrating LGBTQ Pride in Education

I currently work for Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity as an LGBTQ student support intern. I chose this internship because my professional goal is to assist students with marginalized identities in navigating academic and social settings. Much of my student-facing experiences have been centered in supporting more racial and socioeconomic-based inequities within education. This new position will further shape my thinking around intersectional educational inequity and addressing bias based on gender and sexuality, in order to evolve how we support our queer students in educational spaces.

This office investigates issues of harassment and bias, in addition to providing training and counseling around issues of equity. As part of my role, I assist in data collection for our training modules and maintain our social media platforms (Instagram and Discord server). Our social channels are sources for student engagement through which we create space for LGBTQ youth to express their experiences and socialize in monthly check-ins and the end-of-summer Back to School Kick off.

A major moment for us was celebrating LGBTQ pride month and attending the Trans Resistance March in June. The outward expression and unapologetic pride reflected by the number of staff, faculty and students in attendance from Boston Public Schools spoke to the inclusive environment we seek to establish and maintain.

One BPS assistant principal’s key takeaway was that, ultimately, our individual political beliefs should never permeate or even be introduced in our classrooms. She notes, “Our students’ lives are not political. Your personal politics leave when you enter the school building.” I find this significant in how we reimagine education and schooling as a space for all students to learn and grow both academically and personally. Our office works to remind students that they have the right to exist as their full selves as they evolve, and our job as educators is to support and nurture this evolution. We emphasize class culture as a facilitator of support beyond the symbolism of rainbow flags or other superficial signs of support. Rather, we invest in supporting inclusive pedagogical practices. This looks like actively disinvesting in gendered spaces and creating spaces that encourage students to reconsider gender outside of a binary. A basic example of this is in our sexual health curriculum and our adjustments in language and content that move away from boy/girl distinctions, and instead introduce non-binary, intersex and LGBTQ history.

More optimistic future goals will be to move away from strictly gendered bathrooms and provide more agender bathrooms, and changing spaces throughout schools. I find that Boston Public Schools continues to think critically about the protection of LGBTQ employees and students through their district-wide and school policies. Much of the work we do is based off of the feedback we get from students in individual conversations, and our community discussions about how we can better serve our students’ needs as school leaders, administrators, and furthermore as an office .

A Virtual Welcoming to the Writing Industry

A week ago, I had a Zoom call with my boss, literary agent Andrea Somberg, so that we could finally meet each other face-to-face— or as close to it as possible. During the call, I asked her questions about the writing industry, such as the best ways to network and seek education, how she became a literary agent and her daily tasks as one, and more. She gave me the opportunity to develop a realistic idea of what it would be like for me to be in publishing as a career.

The World of Work has differed from academic life in university by requiring me to seek out more specific career goals and as a result develop specialized tasks and workloads, whereas the university has prepared me to have skills and knowledge applicable to a greater variety of academic and career options. Skills I am building as a result of this internship, for instance, include a greater ability to judge and select quality writing, not just based on technical skill, but also on subject matter and agent/industry interest. Learning to understand the role I play between writers and readers has been key to my on-the-job education and development.

Andrea Somberg’s literary agent profile on the Harvey Klinger website

The Zoom call with Andrea also allowed me to add a more human aspect to my job, and put a face and voice to a name, so that the work I do feels more personable as I continue to intern virtually this summer.

Working virtually this summer has brought with it the common conveniences of remote working, such as avoiding commutes, more flexible worktimes, creating my own relaxing work environment, and the ability to travel without missing out on my responsibilities. Of course, it also removes the everyday social interaction in the workplace that not only makes networking easier, but also adds an element of excitement to the work routine.

As the internship continues, however, I am looking forward to making the best of the virtual arrangements, and continuing to develop my skills as a literary agent intern as well as networking connections with my boss, and possibly present and future coworkers.

Blog Post #2

Working remotely requires a more efficient and straightforward way of communication which I have acquired during the first week of my internship. Because I only report to one supervisor, who also has other research projects going on and other assistants to supervise, sometimes he cannot respond to my messages immediately. In order to avoid wasting time waiting for him to tell me the next task, I always let him know about 15 to 30 minutes in advance before I finish my current task. In this case, my supervisor will have time to arrange my next task. If I feel that the current task will take more time than usual to finish, I will also let him know about my progress.

Although some people find working from home really comfortable, I think a remote internship is actually more exhausted both physically and mentally. Although this internship is my first remote job, this is not my first time working with a laptop during 90% of the working hours. Sitting in a chair for at least 5 hours a day makes my back ache, and I had to go to a chiropractor for treatment. What is more, I am not fond of video chatting and zoom meetings — I prefer in-person conversation. At first, it was a little depressing for me to stay in front of my laptop all day and barely talk to anyone in person. Then, I quickly adjusted myself with regular grocery-shopping and in-door dining, conforming with COVID regulations.

Despite the fact that many research assistant jobs are very similar to the research we do when writing a research paper, there are some notable differences between a research job and schoolwork. All of the research papers I have written have word limits, but my current job on researching the Freedom Rides does not have a “limit.” I need to dig into the historical event as detailed as possible.

My academic life has not been vacant for the summer. As an international student, I must take INT 92G (Summer Internship) in order to be legally working off-campus. The course requires all students to complete a number of tasks to get credit. At the first glance, taking an “internship” class during the summer would seem boring and exhausting, but I found some of the readings really helpful, especially in coping with remote work. An article from the New York Times, Struggling to Disconnect from Our Digital Lives, offers a great perspective on how to deal with being dominant with electronic devices and online work. As working from home has been gradually considered into many companies’ long-term policies, this internship could help me adapt to the new work style and be ready for the uncertain working styles in the future.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I conduct research on the Civil Rights Movement and the life of Congressman John Lewis. Beyond the American history knowledge I learn from this internship, I also realize the present significance of the Movement and better comprehend the struggle of African-Americans.

(CR: New York Times)

When the New York Times reported that the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus was arrested on Friday for protesting against the languishing of John Lewis Voting Rights Act, I felt that I was not reading a piece of news, but witnessing the effort that present activists spend to continue fighting for the systematic inequality that I have spent time researching. Learning and researching historical events is not only a skill but also a way of gaining another perspective to comprehend American politics and present-day racial struggle in the country, which could be helpful for my future career in the legal field.

Post #2: A Sapphire Summer!

Hello All! Although my internship is fully virtual this summer, it is and continues to be great! To look on the bright side, I am safe with my family and have a good amount of time to spend with them, which might not have been possible if the internship was in person. Additionally, I have gained many technical skills to complete my internship tasks at a satisfactory level, including communication through multiple social media platforms. Overall, I feel happy to continue to do this internship virtually.

The World of Work, like the rest of the Brandeis faculty and staff, has been very supportive this summer, especially with its virtual aspect. Both advisors and mentors have made me feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings during my internship, from dropping in a friendly check-in email to virtual conversations through Zoom! It is good to know that I have a team of wonderful people who I can reach out to whenever I need a helping hand.

Like I said before, I have gained many skills while working for the Sapphire organization, and continue to strengthen them every day. For example, I am on the verge of mastering Adobe Software named InDesign, which is primarily used for illustration and advertisement purposes, along with the creation of long documents. Knowledge on how to use this software is crucial while I hold an active position in the organization, seeing as they will be using this software to create our publications such as our literary magazines and artbooks. I am very excited to start putting together our upcoming art book, “Black And…” which will highlight creations made by black and brown artists and writers. This artbook will be hosting a variety of art, including poems, prose, visual art, etc.

Another wonderful aspect of this internship is its flexibility. We usually meet once or twice a week virtually and discuss various information that consists of tasks for the creation of the artbook and keeping our social media platforms up-to-date while also engaging with our followers. Most of the time, I have 2-3 tasks assigned to me each week to complete, which to me is great because it is a large amount of time and I also really enjoy doing what I have been assigned.

With school starting back up in August, I just hope I can still carve out time and dedicate myself to the work that the Sapphire organization is doing to uplift black and brown voices through the creative arts. This is a thought that weighs heavy on my mind, but I have no doubt that I and the Sapphire team can figure something out. On the bright side, school is starting back up! As much as I dread the exams and essays, I miss my Brandeis campus and cannot wait to be back there in the fall.

 

(2) Social Networks are Key in Sociology and in Recruitment Strategies

As a Sociology and Anthropology double major, as well as a double minor in Creativity, the Arts, & Social Transformation (CAST) and Social Justice & Social Policy (SJSP) at Brandeis, I am constantly examining the power of people and social networks in my classes. My classmates, professors and I discuss the systems and patterns of society that make up human lived experience, and how different experiences and histories of oppression, connection, and privilege create unequal opportunities for communities around the world. 

In these discussions, we often speak about social justice, and how different social movements, both grassroots and political, have reshaped human history and have combated against violence. When engaging in social justice work, and especially in social movements, belief in the movement and passion for equality drive people to seek action. Oftentimes, it is also one’s social network and connections with people who are already involved in a movement that propels them to fight for social change. 

In the Brandeis class “Protest, Politics, and Change: Social Movements,” which I took during the spring of my junior year, we read from a book that discussed this very topic. Our relationships with our personal networks truly shape how we act and behave, and it is often a person that initially guides us towards social change, rather than an overwhelming belief and passion for a movement.

This is a challenging thing to recognize since we want to believe that our agency and lived experience propels us to seek social justice, which is true, but the networks around us have a strong influence on our decisions as well. This may come in the form of a friend taking you to your first protest, going with a group of your friends to join a Waltham Group at Brandeis, or in my case, seeing my cousin work at the sexual violence prevention center at Brandeis—the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center or PARC—and wanting to join that team of people. It was that team of people that got me through the door at PARC, but it is my developed passion for sexual violence prevention that has kept me in the room, working towards anti-violence practices on college campuses.

You may be wondering: what do social networks and social justice have to do with being a recruitment intern at Avodah? 

In my short time working at Avodah and seeing the recruitment process, one aspect of the process that really sticks out to me is the need for relationship building, networking, and the utilization of current networks. Avodah’s recruitment strategy utilizes the technique of “word-of-mouth” advertising. The majority of people who participate in the Service Corps program, as well as people who are connected to Avodah, have heard about Avodah from someone they know, or have known someone who did the Service Corps program. Yes, I also message people on LinkedIn and Handshake and send out emails to connectors around the Jewish community, but the recruitment team asks staff to really dive into their own personal networks and refer people to our program. 

Visit https://avodah.net/stories/ to read the stories of past Corps Members, and how Avodah shifted their social justice trajectory.

Why is this technique so much more effective than other forms of recruitment? Well, it is exactly about what I shared earlier: social networks and relationships with the people around us guide our decisions and passion for social movements. People may not be as inclined to join the Service Corps if they do not know about someone else’s experience participating in the program. People may be way more excited to join Avodah if they know someone they trust and admire who has raved about the experience of working with an Avodah placement and living communally with members their age. Sometimes we just need someone to get us in the door, and recruitment at Avodah recognizes that.

Social justice work can be exhausting and time-consuming, but also extremely rewarding. And when you have a community and support around you, the work feels much less daunting and more enjoyable with the right social network. Avodah offers young people the opportunity to expand their networks with like-minded people, encourage the continuation of social justice work, and influence more and more social justice leaders.

Virtual Internships can be tough. Working from home can blur the lines of the work-life balance – causing employees and interns to work longer hours than expected. The disruption of the work-life balance has been a widespread issue for individuals working from home since the start of the pandemic. According to an article in The Conversation, individuals in the US working from home extended their workday by over two hours. I have definitely fallen into that trap. There have been many times when I caught myself doing work past my allotted hours. However, I am really lucky to intern for an organization that places emphasis on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Being an organization of women who juggle multiple jobs, my supervisor has modeled the need to establish respectable work-life boundaries in order to minimize burnout and enjoy life outside the workplace. 

It is with this mindset that I have decided to take advantage of my virtual internship and travel during the summer. From my portable office (a.k.a. my laptop) I have conducted my internship from New York City; Boca Raton, Florida; Maryland; Pennsylvania; Cape Cod, and, as of recently, Madrid, Spain. Though I definitely miss interacting with my colleagues in an in-person setting, I admit that I have enjoyed being able to do my internship while also visiting friends and family who I have not seen in over a year. 

My work set-up while in Madrid, Spain.

Due to the 6-hour time difference between Madrid and Boston, my supervisor and I have had to come up with creative ways to make sure that we have ample opportunities to connect. Every night, my supervisor uploads my work for the next day onto a Google TasksBoard.  I focus on the work she has assigned until we Zoom in the afternoon at a reasonable time for both of us. These Zoom meetings have helped alleviate the feelings of isolation which can be common when doing a virtual internship. While interning with a time difference may not be possible for every intern or organization, I am lucky to have a supervisor who has been extremely accommodating; going above and beyond to ensure that I can build my network and establish relationships with women who can provide guidance and assistance to my career. 

While my newfound graphic design, marketing, and communication skills will be useful as a club leader on campus, the idea of maintaining a work-life balance will likely be the most beneficial skill I have learned this summer, and the hardest one to adapt into my daily life back at Brandeis. Despite its importance, the practice of work-life balance goes out the window on college campuses. During the academic year, my struggle to find the balance between work and leisure has led to instances of burnout. One thing I hope to take away from this internship is to make space in my schedule for non-academic interests such as cooking, hiking, reading, or grabbing food at Sherman with friends. I implore other Brandeis students to follow my lead and begin to invest not only in their grades but also in themselves.

My summer internship at the Griffin Museum of Photography has undoubtedly been an amazing learning experience. While I had previous knowledge and professional experience on a variety of design and multimedia endeavors before my internship, having my work featured through a reputable arts organization has had many repercussions on how I see and relate to my own work. Firstly, I definitely put more pressure on myself to improve and learn new skills to deliver multimedia content of professional quality. I often say to myself that even though I create content behind the scenes, my work is ultimately meant to be seen and judged by others. This definitely entails some sort of reaction, feedback, and criticism, as well as the need to meet the expectations of the people I work with at the museum, our audience’s, and my own. This has pushed me to understand that different content needs different approaches, both aesthetically and marketing-wise. I have developed a deeper understanding of user-engagement insights, something that has led me to find ways to maximize user interaction through my creative work. Through my internship, I have learned strategies and new skills that have helped me deliver content that gets the point across yet is dynamic and fun to watch.   

Secondly, I have come upon the challenge of finding that sweet spot between cultivating my own voice as a multimedia creator while working to elevate the work of the artists and art organizations. I like to think of myself as a multimedia mediator with one mission in mind: Employing my creative skills to bridge the gap between cultural enterprises, their work, and the general public. I have learned that by taking advantage of digital media, organizations can expand their influence and communicate with their audiences more dynamically and authentically. At my internship, I have learned the dynamics of working in a fast-paced creative environment in which deadlines are tight and content is produced on a daily basis. As for the future, I want to keep learning more motion graphics so I can take my design practice to the next level. Learning in-depth 3D graphics would be an amazing challenge. All the skills I have learned and improved at my internship are just additions to my creative toolkit that I can employ for different projects, whether in my life as an arts student or as a creative professional.

Probably, the most important thing I have learned during this internship is that when you pursue something you are truly passionate about, you will go that extra mile it takes to get people to notice you and put in the extra effort it takes to get where you want to be. I have learned that working in the creative industry is competitive and hard, yet I do not believe that people should conform or be scared to pursue a creative career just because of the constant discouraging message around the arts. I believe the opposite. Society should encourage creativity and the arts so we can change our perception around what it means to be a creative professional. 

At my internship, I have had the opportunity to network and learn that a creative career can have many forms. There is not one set-in-stone way to be an artist or a creative professional. The photographers and artists I have met during my time at the Griffin have all sorts of businesses, galleries, and personal endeavors that they cultivate with passion and hard work. Probably, my biggest learning experience throughout this process has been to realize that as a creative person, you are the only one in charge of creating the life you want for yourself.

 

(2) Learning About Organizational Structure

During my time at Brandeis, mostly in my business classes, I have learned about hierarchy and organizational structure. I have learned about titles and what those mean to people. I have found that the classic organizational structure, while effective at overseeing projects, does not always treat the individual as a valued human that has equal importance to the organization. I have learned that an organization’s structure has a time and place and is hard to eliminate altogether. These systems assign pay, responsibility, and much more. They also create a workflow that divides tasks in an efficient and goal-oriented fashion.

Yet these same setups can create tension among coworkers. Competition arises, as does frustration, when somebody on a team underperforms. Yes, I have learned this in my classes, but I have also learned this by working on teams in and out of the classroom. When a leader arises, it is appreciated but creates fear that some folks may get less credit than the leader or leaders. Structures are not always equitable even when they mean that the task will get done and even get done well. Theoretically, a group project in a class can often be done by one person, but that is not the point of the project. With that, I have learned that when organizations, professors, or even social circles build structures, the end goal must not be the entire focus. It should also impact everyone involved.

Slack messages showing a supportive team!

When I was looking for an internship, I wanted to find a group of people that equally prioritized productivity and the people working for the company. At my initial interview, my boss described the structure of SuitUp as divisional but everyone chips in when needed. I liked that this was project-driven, which meant everyone on a team felt valued, and also that the work got done. I had read this article from Indeed before my internship and I found that it explained many structures very well and why some work and others do not. I have found that my boss was right—everyone, including interns, feel valued and important at SuitUp. In brainstorming meetings, company meetings, and even external calls, no one person dominates the conversation. Wins are group wins, and when we mess up, everyone takes responsibility and moves on.

Despite having managers, there is a very flat-feeling hierarchy. This is empowering certainly to interns, but I imagine it is for the full-time team as well. There is a divide and conquer mentality, and when we need support—even across teams—we ask. This has resulted in a very supportive family-oriented team (see picture – names blurred for privacy). I have realized that, like the Indeed article says, this is hard to scale. I am curious to see how this goes as SuitUp grows and the need for more leadership structures does as well. I am walking away from this experience noticing more than ever that intentionality with structures matters, as does the upkeep as teams change.

(2) Disability & Pride Justice In Politics

One relevant topic I learned about and became interested in at Brandeis after taking “Polling the American Public” was about gender inequality in relation to politics. Our class discussions about gender inequality emphasized the need for more women in politics. As a young black woman, I noticed there weren’t enough people who looked like me in office and political positions of power. Through this I was also able to think about other groups of people that were left out or not recognized as much when it came to politics. Politics to me is a discussion and distribution of resources that can shift depending on the power dynamics in place. Though it involves a system of elected officials and leaders, power is distributed, and the leader’s background can significantly influence the way decisions are made for members of a given community. 

Image from Access Your Life

July marks Disability Pride Month, and similar to my inside and out-of-class experiences that explored groups of people that were not always given the spotlight they deserved inside of politics, I decided to look into elected officials, leaders, and activists who were disabled and identified with Pride and were still having to navigate these identities when engaging with politics. 

Bringing this month and its purpose into perspective influenced my focus on the necessity of different perspectives. These perspectives aren’t always seen as the norm in politics, and it’s important that they are brought to light inside of the political realm and the greater society as a whole. By doing this work, I was allowed to see political leaders who I had never encountered and the great work they were doing in and outside of the communities they lived in. I was also able to participate in activities such as word searches, speaker seminars, discussions, and deconstructing the norm of what politics is and the possibility of what it can become. 

This internship experience and the work we are engaging with this summer will help me to determine future career possibilities as a young woman of color interested in politics. Through the speaker seminars and interviews with women, disabled individuals, and people who identify with Pride inside of the internship, I am broadening my horizons into the different realms and depths of politics.

Overall, this informs my approach to my internship and the work we are engaging with over the course of the summer. Outside of my time here, I am intrigued and feel encouraged to engage with all kinds of people inside of politics. This is important to me because I am a person who values diversity and accepting people of all backgrounds and the differences they come with. This experience encourages me to dive deeper into a career in this realm, since I will be exploring the inequalities inside of politics in terms of different forms of representation and challenging the old, outdated, and original norms and expectations that come with holding office and being seen as a leader inside of your community. This demonstrates that leadership comes in a variety of forms and is not a monolith. 

Power In Place Newsletter #5

(2) From Class to Office

This school year has certainly been like no other. We went from our physical textbooks to reading pdfs online, waking up an hour before class to ten minutes before zoom, and we said our hellos and goodbyes to our friends, unsure if they’d be our last.

I spent most of the semester in my room studying and attending class, or at the Gosman gym. My schedule became eat, sleep, train, repeat. I began to feel the pangs of burnout, frustration, and tiredness. One of the skills I’ve picked up during my time at Brandeis is the skill of de-stressing. Our lives as college students and part-time workers are already busy enough, but many of us also have extracurriculars, run clubs, or work an on-campus job in addition to our school work. I was so busy trying to balance my academics and varsity training that I almost forgot to relax, to de-stress.

I recruited my roommate, who was kind enough to destress with me after classes. We’d go on walks, go to the dining hall and eat full meals together, and take electronic breaks together. It became our routine until the end of the semester.

My internship is fully remote with over 120 student collaborators in four different time zones. I knew I would have no problem addressing the workload, but I knew my areas of improvement would need to be in de-stressing and putting the computer down. Starting out in the internship, I found myself working almost two full-time jobs in the first week, and I thought to myself, “If I continue at this rate, I might not make it.” In addition to my full-time internship, I was also training for the USA Fencing National Championships, and as soon as I was done with my assignments for the day I would go straight to the gym with little to no break.

As challenging as it was, I had to learn to shut the computer off at 6pm. Regardless of time zones, assignments to be continued, or sending one last email, things had to be wrapped up. Otherwise, I’d be overwhelmed.

Politics is already a fast-paced and 24/7 environment and there is little time for breaks, let alone full-on stops. We see politicians campaign for a year hitting major cities every week while they barely have time for their own families. Judges are spending all of their time writing and asking questions for their next cases. Wide-eyed recent law graduate are doing endless research for their first case.

The skill to de-stress and rest is a crucial one.

Power in Place is focused on highlighting the stories of women in American politics through photojournalism. Projects such as photography and other artistic mediums as forms of storytelling and advocacy are things that take time and require patience. It’s an interesting combination of detailed work in a fast-paced arena. Working in the best of both worlds really does emphasize the important of de-stressing.

As our long term projects continue, we also bring in external speakers, one of whom was a campaign coach. In her presentation to us, one of her biggest tips to potential candidates was compartmentalization and de-stressing. Running a campaign is challenging, and as often as they make their campaigns about the potential constituents, they should also make time for themselves.

Navigating Research in The Virtual Environment

Prior to the pandemic, my summers were filled with will long days in the sun, instructing and corralling small children, and were 99% offline.  Many things have changed from my time as a camp counselor to my position as an undergraduate research intern.  These changes include no longer working with children, but rather learning from a team of experienced and skilled researchers. However, as you may recognize, one of the largest changes this summer is I am working fully remote, inside, and on my screen for my position.  This change took some adjusting, as I was no longer assuming the camp counselor role, one that I enjoyed for many years.  However, to my surprise, it only took a little bit of time to get used to the new working environment as it was very similar to balancing my schedule during the semester with my courses.   Working virtually this summer has thankfully been quite easy, as all of the team members are respectful, engaging, and proficient at using zoom.   The virtual environment has its setbacks, as we are not able to be together in person for collaborations as we normally would.  However, this has created a working environment where I have been able to learn from my supervisors and colleagues and easily engage with members of the study team that I may not otherwise be able to talk to due to distance.

The World of Work has differed from my university and academic life as I am working with researchers who are devoted to their specific field of study.  Specifically, I am engaging with professionals that are extremely driven and care deeply about the work that they are studying.  Working with the research team has given me exposure to a specialty area of research that is different from that of my academic career thus far.  At Brandeis, we are exposed to a breadth of academics, and within the sciences, we are given the broad scope of a given topic i.e. genetics, epidemiology, biology laboratory, etc.  This being said, through my thorough academic background from Brandeis I felt prepared to engage in a level of work with the researchers where I am able to actively communicate about the research topics and aid the researchers.  Through this internship, I have and continue to gain a deeper understanding of cardiovascular research and Takotsubo Syndrome.

New NIH Policy on Good Clinical Practice Takes Effect January 1 — MICHR
Figure 1. Competency Domains for the Clinical Research Professional

Through my internship this summer, I have gained certifications for Basic Human Protection as well as Good Clinical Practice useful for any future research aspirations.  Such certifications enable me to engage with the work that the research team is doing like data analysis, and patient records, and if I were to work with human participants, I am certified to do so.  In addition, to the certifications for good research practices, I have accumulated more experience reading and authoring scientific articles and data abstraction and analysis.  I have also gained an understanding of recruitment strategies and learned the importance of standard operating procedures when running a research study.  All of these skills will prove useful as I continue on my path to medicine.

https://mindandheartlab.org/research

Summer Update with Health Innovation Capital

As this is now my second summer doing a virtual internship, I did have some expectations going in, especially having a full school year online in between. However, I have noticed drastic changes in the way this remote internship works, and to be honest, I am not sure my past experiences had set certain expectations, or if this internship is very demanding. Either way, I have confirmed that I prefer in-person work over remote work . There are many challenges of virtual work such as keeping a schedule and sticking to it, along with setting boundaries. My company is small, but we have people around the country. Here is our team. Many of my co-workers have other jobs and educational responsibilities, so it is hard to find time for all of us to meet and due to the different time zones, meetings are scheduled fairly late. While I’ve learned to adapt and draw lines, it was hard at first to set those boundaries and have my day end at a reasonable time. I’ve also discovered that cabin fever is exponentially more real in the summer and staying in the house all day and not getting out into the world takes its toll. Zoom fatigue is very real too.

The world of work also differs greatly from academic life, even online. During the semester, we are mostly free aside from class and extracurricular time constraints. I mostly do work on my schedule and I am really in control of how to use time most of the day. Work has proven to be far different. I’m mostly told where to be and my whole day is nearly scheduled out with projects and meetings. I also have to work around the schedules of others and take a lot more direction than I’m used to in academic life. School feels far more independent surprisingly – I know what I have to do, and I make the time to complete my homework, tasks, studying, etc. At work, things are very structured for me, and I’m told what to do more often than not.

This internship so far has taught me great professionalism in communicating with prospective business partners. This is absolutely transferable to almost any industry, as cold calling and sales skills are great to have. I also have learned new skills in being attentive and paying attention to details. In my perspective industry, contract law, you must read with great care and notice the little things, otherwise, you could make a big error. I have gotten better at noticing small issues and making my work perfect, the first time. I’ve also learned how to schedule demos and properly choose business administration tools such as CRMs, data rooms, and other necessary software which help the company run. I am better at asking necessary questions, garnering information, and making decisions that are right for us. I hope to soon get into more legal work which will improve my skills and give me more exposure in those areas.

(2) The Challenges of Advocacy

Throughout sociology and social policy classes at Brandeis, as well as other advocacy experiences, I’ve learned that progress is slow and not always linear. In democracies, progress is often slow because of the amount of voices and opinions being debated. Although having more voices can make change slow, I still see this kind of collaboration as positive. The more voices and arguments you hear, the more informed you can become on an issue.

My classes at Brandeis have centered on the importance of discussions with people holding different viewpoints and life experiences. This learning is significant for me as someone who wants to go into a career related to advocacy work. Advocates for any social issue must gather lots of people and information to share with the public and legislators to explain to them the problem they would like to solve, as well as possible solutions. 

Social problems do not have quick fixes because many of them are intersecting and are fueled by longstanding systems and ideologies that some people do not want to reform or abolish. At Brandeis, I took a class on social movements where I learned about their complexities. Social movements and their advocacy may not always be straightforward because people within movements may have different ideas for solving the social issues they are focused on. For example, some people may favor legislative advocacy while others are more interested in solving problems without government intervention. 

These ideas about progress and advocacy have informed my thinking about the work of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). I now understand the need for the multi-pronged approach that lawyers at MLRI use to help low-income and BIPOC families that have been hurt by social institutions. MLRI’s homepage explains that they work on “impact litigation, policy advocacy, coalition building, community lawyering, and public information.” This approach allows MLRI’s team of advocates and lawyers to make reforms by advocating for policy changes to legislators while also pursuing litigation directly targeted at social institutions themselves when they have showed clear violations that are hurting the people they are supposed to help. 

These ideas I have learned about advocacy inform my work with the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition by putting me into the mindset that collaboration is the best way to handle the current and future issues of child welfare in the state. However, progress takes a long time as advocates need to prepare arguments and data, and must have many meetings with each other and legislators in order to make a substantial positive impact. 

Massachusetts Legislature Homepage

Collaboration can be especially difficult when it comes to legislative advocacy because of the way politics work. Although legislators are elected officials, they do not always understand the depth and scope of the problems that their constituents want them to fix. It then becomes the job of impacted individuals or advocates to provide the necessary information to legislators to prove to them that the problems exist, and to present possible legislative solutions. The media can also help spread information about the work of coalitions and advocates, like in this article where the attorney I work with at my internship is quoted.

As my internship continues, I am becoming increasingly excited about the work the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition is doing to help families impacted by the child welfare system. The child welfare system can be very messy and complicated, but I am grateful to be working with such outstanding advocates who are working their hardest to change the system for the better. 

Virtually Perfect

It has now been four weeks since I was given the illustrious title of Social Media Director for the Hebrew University Beit Midrash and I am starting to feel a sense of normalcy or routine in my time here in Israel. My job is very different from any other position I have held so far. The greatest contributor to that difference is my boss himself, Rabbi Yonatan Udren. Rabbi Udren is the best and most supportive boss I could have hoped for and is the driving force in everything I am getting out of this internship on a professional level. I am not exaggerating when I say that in one hour of working with Rabbi Udren on the program’s summer fundraiser I received more compliments and affirmation from a supervisor than I had received in the rest of my seven years of working  combined. All of the feedback, praise, and guidance I have gotten from Rabbi Udren has made this the most enjoyable work I have ever done, and I truly feel like I am an important and valued member of the office.

The work I am doing for the Beit Midrash is the most interpersonal and interdependent experience I have ever had. I came in with a limited skill set and was trained to adapt that skill set to the various websites and organizations tools that nonprofits use, like Donorperfect, in order to help support what everyone else in the office is doing. At the same time I am reaching out to and talking with people who know the program I am working for but not me. It has really helped me to break out of what was left of my metaphorical “shell”. Everything done in the office is backed up by at least two other people so I am learning to work on a professional team and complete projects in a way that schooling has never been dynamic enough to teach me.

I am learning how to be part of a professional team project which is always applicable to the workforce but more specifically and importantly to me, I am leaning to use all of the tools, both virtual and behavioral, that are necessary to keep a Jewish nonprofit running. As someone who wants to work as a rabbi and will almost certainly spend time in the world of Jewish nonprofits, this work experience is directly applicable and is teaching me how to succeed in that future job before I even know what that position is because all of the skills that I am learning are universal and transferable to any situation. And on a more personal level, Rabbi Udren and I have been using weekly meetings and over-text check-ins to help me work through the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Franklin Covey. Rabbi Udren recommended the book to me when I first told him about myself two months ago and the lessons in personal growth, management, and interpersonal connections that I can learn from the book have already started to help me develop myself professionally.

(1) The Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative

Our newly designed program logo

This summer, I am interning for the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. The BEJI is a new initiative dedicated to engaging in liberatory practices, fostering educational access for those who have been exposed to or interacted with incarceration. Centered in a collegiate setting, this unique initiative joins the facilitation and methodological skills of Brandeis professors with the innovative and interdisciplinary minds of undergraduate and graduate students. The program currently offers a series of workshops directed at adults and adolescents who have been impacted by the justice system and incarceration.

Through a series of courses and workshops taught by graduate and undergraduate students, the BEJI creates new pathways to education for those for whom the right to education has been denied or delayed. In the coming months, new pilot programs will seek to increase campus awareness of the need for justice reform, and expand services to youth involved in incarceration. 

My work this summer is directly related to the facilitation of our Partakers Empowerment Program and internal research on educational praxis and initiative advancement. The Partakers Empowerment Program is a thirteen-week course offered to adults who were previously incarcerated. Covering six learning modules, the class engages material spanning from financial literacy and professionalism to health and wellness, education, technology, and civic engagement. My unique participation in this program is to serve as the teaching assistant to the educational workshops. Together with my team, we have created a curriculum that addresses the specific needs of those previously incarcerated who are interested in education.

Part of what has been so rewarding about this program is continuously adapting our curriculum to better reflect the needs of our students from cohort to cohort. Now in our second iteration, my role has expanded from gathering educational resources and preparing them to facilitating lesson plans and prompting internal conversations about best practices for meaningful learning with our students.

In addition to this work, I am actively conducting research on how to make our program as successful and accessible as possible. Some of this work includes literature reviews on programs similar to ours and the construction of a new orientation program to be offered to onboarded volunteers this fall. These are small steps that will have a large impact on how our program is run and ensuring we do so in an accountable manner.

A portion of our first newsletter

In order to expand the equitable and accessible goals of our program, I am also part of the teams at the BEJI who are building a website and newsletter for the initiative. Again, these are crucial steps towards making our programs and resources available to a wider audience. The images I have included in this blog are from our most recent newsletter. The logo featured in this post is brand new and is one I was responsible for creating. I am so excited to see the effect this newsletter will have in drawing students, faculty, and Boston community members alike to the BEJI.

The BEJI offers a dynamic and robust series of programs. What I have loved most about interning here is how these programs make my day-to-day responsibilities just as nuanced and engaging. As an education major, I recognize the inequities that exist in our education system. It is my belief that while making a change in this field, we must center and work from those who have been most marginalized by the world of education. For people who have experienced incarceration, access to education has been challenged. The carceral continuum, as it stands, actively interrupts and prematurely ends people’s access to education. The BEJI recognizes the power of education and is deeply invested in providing pathways to education for reentering citizens. It is because of the alignment between the BEJI’s mission statement and my own ethos on education that interning with the BEJI has been so fulfilling academically and personally.

(1) FREE THE PEOPLE, FREE THE LAND

This summer, I have the ability to do a social justice internship with People’s Programs Oakland. People’s Programs is a grassroots Black socialist political organization that is fighting to make sure that all members of the community in Oakland–especially in West Oakland–are being served. The organization is growing and expanding the services they offer in order to aid more people. One of the policies I stand by most strongly is making sure to take care of the most marginalized people in order to free or care for all. People’s Program’s motto is “Free the People, Free the Land,” and that is why I feel as if our politics align. I have been able to support them with their free breakfast program, community learning program, and assisting with the start of their mobile clinic. I am now working on the logistics of their first community event, which will be an open mic night.

So far, we have been able to serve the homeless communities with hot meals, hygienic supplies, and items that we receive in donations, along with a free grocery program and the mobile clinic. Since COVID is alive and well, I have been doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for the organization. Some of my tasks consist of reordering items for our inventory, scheduling and conducting interviews with people who would like to become volunteers, and creating flyers to promote events, among other activities.

I am enjoying acquiring skills that I never thought would be needed in a grassroots organization. For example, I now have a new way to organize my schedule that includes space and time for recovering. When doing work that is grounded in liberation, you can encounter a lot of opposing views and barriers when resources are needed. However, with the mentorship of my coworkers, I have come to realize that the work we do needs to be done with or without us, so it is important to be able to care for your mental and physical state at all costs.

In addition to the work I’ve been doing to assist them, I am a member of their political education program. I appreciate the way they emphasize the importance of reading and engaging with the work that has already been done. This is an area of my work that I feel strong in since I am currently in school. In the last year, I have done related reading because of my engagement with Black Feminist Thought in academia.

One of the practices that I have embraced would be grounding myself in the workday by making a daily list to keep me on track and help me to prioritize my non-negotiables. I have been making sure to eat right and fuel my body with knowledge and power through the work I do to help the core team. Then, to round out my day, I enjoy sending a quick progress checklist to my manager to update her on the work I completed.