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) 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) 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.

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. 

(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.

(1) Advocating for Culturally-Competent Care

This summer I am continuing my internship at the Color of Health (COH) as the Public Health Research Director. COH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in New York City that seeks to provide access to culturally-competent health education, resources, and initiatives to communities of color in the city. The organization aims to mobilize and empower these communities so that they are able to reach optimal health and wellness. 

I have been working at the organization for a little over a year now and have found the experience to be inspiring, educational, and fulfilling. I was interested in joining an organization that was committed to addressing health inequities among communities of color while prioritizing the populations’ needs. It is clear that the members of the organization understand that when designing and implementing public health initiatives, the most effective outcomes are produced when the community’s needs are truly heard and prioritized. At Brandeis, I study Health: Science, Society, and Policy, Biology, and Anthropology, and I wanted to find an organization that had an interdisciplinary approach to their public health programs. As an Anthropology minor, I find it important that those implementing public health interventions have a connection with the target communities and make them feel heard and validated. The public health initiatives created by COH are uniquely tailored to each impacted community, with the goal being to mobilize, inspire, and advocate for culturally-competent health care. I have really enjoyed watching how each board member takes lead on their projects with such excitement and passion. The connection they have to their communities is evident in their work.

A workbook created by The Color of Health which aims to increase knowledge of routine screenings and improve patient-provider communication

When I began the internship, my mentor gave me the opportunity to choose a project I would be interested in contributing to. During my time at Brandeis, I have become very interested in exploring the social aspects of infectious disease and why disparities exist among populations. This interest aligned well with my mentor’s expertise in sexual health, so I proposed a project aimed at addressing the disparity in the uptake of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (an HIV prevention medication) among Black women. I am now developing a workshop targeted at healthcare providers to raise awareness of the low uptake rates that exist. I will also be expanding upon this project to further understand why disparities exist in healthcare provided to Black Women in regards to sexual health and HIV.

Another role I have as an intern is contributing to the organization’s social media presence. This includes creating posts and sharing relevant information and content about health-related topics that affect communities of color.

This summer, I hope to apply and integrate what my courses at Brandeis have taught me about public health and the role social determinants have in it. My goal is to use what I have learned to implement a public health campaign that will have a sustainable, positive impact on the community. Through this work, I also anticipate that I will gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process as it relates to research in the social sciences. Overall, I believe my experience at COH will continue to strengthen my resilience and build upon my problem-solving skills, as I expect to be met with obstacles throughout my work. I have found this work to be so meaningful and am loving every minute with the organization.

(1) Cracking Cold Cases and the Importance of Small Tasks

This summer I have privilege of working as an undergraduate intern for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO), which serves the largest county in New England. The MDAO works to protect and serve those living in this area. The office engages in investigations, prosecution, and victim advocacy, as well as crime prevention, in order to create a safer county. Part of the reason I was passionate about interning for this specific office is because the work of the MDAO goes beyond prosecution; they work daily to address issues such as domestic violence and elder safety.

As an aspiring lawyer who is passionate about understanding the criminal justice system, I chose this particular field with the hopes of gaining firsthand experience in the realm of government and law, specifically in terms of crime prevention and how the criminal justice system functions. I am lucky enough to say that after my first month with the office, I already feel that I am on my way to achieving this educational goal. Part of the reason I feel I have already learned so much is because of the weekly intern trainings put on by the office. I have attended many of these sessions over the past month, including ones focused on juvenile court, diversion, and legal writing. At each of these sessions, different members of the office–including many Assistant District Attorneys–speak to us about their journey and their work. These sessions have already given me the glimpse into the everyday workings of the criminal justice system that I was looking for.

My work set up!

The MDAO works to combat multiple forms of social injustice, which, as a minority myself, is very important to me. One of the main forms of social injustice that the office addresses is racism, specifically racism within the criminal justice system. Throughout the past month, I have learned about many of the organization’s strategies for addressing racism, one of the best being office-wide trainings on the subject. As an intern, I have had the privilege of participating in two of these trainings, which have further opened my eyes to how racism penetrates the everyday workplace–specifically the criminal justice system.

As an undergraduate intern for the MDAO, I have been placed in the cold case unit. The cold case unit was developed in 2019 by current District Attorney Marian Ryan and works to re-examine uncharged cases across Middlesex County. I am currently responsible for digitizing decades-old cold cases. While this project may seem minuscule, after working on it for a month, I understand why it is so important. Without the digitization of these unsolved cases, the office cannot utilize new technologies to re-examine cases, which is critical to providing answers. Once my project is complete, the office will be able to re-investigate these cases in new ways and hopefully have the same level of success as they did in January 2019 when they solved the 50-year-old murder of a Harvard graduate student. I feel honored to have a part in working to bring justice to these families who still do not have clear answers about what happened to their loved ones.

(1) Lowell Court Service Center: Bridging the Gap to Justice

The Lowell Justice Center in the city’s Canal District. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The Lowell Court Service Centers were created out of an “access-to-justice” study, which found that there exists a significant gap in achieving justice in the family court system due to differences in access to legal aid and knowledge. Lower-income populations that would represent themselves in family court more often encountered difficulties understanding and navigating the courtroom, as well as following proper legal procedure, compared to those with access to lawyers or legal aid. The majority of those that come to the court service centers for help systematically are not able to afford legal representation or guidance, and are consequently placed at a disadvantage in ensuring their own quality of life.

Dysfunction and generational inequalities is what necessitates families to seek help with Family Court, but our current justice system punishes those that inevitably are not able to transcend that dysfunction into proper legal self-representation. Effectively, the system that is set up to solve issues for families is also the system that subliminally punishes them for their issues. The access-to-justice study found that the solution of a center where help was guaranteed for free would alleviate the gap that persists in the justice system in which capital and access to legal aid often does more to help than the justice system itself. 

The court service centers aims to aid lower-income self-representing individuals with the correct petitions, access to language interpreters, and knowledge in how to navigate and work the family court system. I am responsible for helping clients file for domestic violence petitions, child support and custody petitions, restraining orders, eviction defenses, and divorces. Many of these litigants come in with emergency situations in which they need emergency temporary orders, but lack the access to the knowledge or help to receive them. They are dealing with monumental events in their lives, but are unable to effectively navigate a court system that is made to be complex, formulaic and oftentimes unsympathetic to the multifaceted issues litigants face in and around the home. I aid these clients with the legal filing process and inform them on the case process while offering language support and legal knowledge on the way.

The small steps that are leading to the closing of that gap of access to justice are the individuals who are representing themselves in the most efficient way and are ensured justice and fair representation due to the help from the court service centers. The court service centers are free and public alternatives to the high costs of legal aid that deter many lower-income families from ever receiving justice with family court. In this way, the justice system is becoming more equitable as the court service centers strips away the layers of classism and income discrimination that dominate court. Progress will be when the factors of wealth and privilege are stripped of their grip on the justice system, where representation is guaranteed and legal procedures are made understandable and accessible to people of all walks of life. 

(1) Igniting Social Change with Avodah, One Spreadsheet at a Time

Avodah’s tagline is “Sparking Jewish Leaders, Igniting Social Change.” The crux of Avodah–the internship site where I am working this summer–is in that statement. 

Avodah is a nonprofit organization working towards economic, racial, and social justice through their Jewish Service Corps program, Justice Fellowship, and Community Engagement work and workshop curricula. The entire mission of the organization is to provide resources, support, empowerment, and sustainability for young Jewish leaders to engage in social justice work for their long-term futures. Through their three programs, Avodah aims to build Jewish social justice leaders up, while providing the funds and professional development for their Corps Members and Fellows. I am lucky to get to add to their programs during my summer as their Recruitment Intern.

Avodah’s flagship program, the Jewish Service Corps, is where I am helping the recruitment team during my internship this summer. Service Corps is a year-long service program which provides subsidized, communal housing (or as Avodah calls the housing, Bayits, the Hebrew word for home) in different cities in the United States, including New York City, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Chicago, and most recently, San Diego. Corps members are matched with job placements that directly partner with Avodah, which all engage in anti-poverty work in different fields: legal aid, immigration advocacy, health services, housing aid, food support, and many others. A placement that stands out to me is Brave House, an NYC organization that supports young immigrant women who are survivors of gender-based violence. Corps members are integral to these organizations. Rather than being treated like temporary interns or volunteers, they have full-time jobs with their organization, but are placed through Avodah and receive monthly stipends according to their city. 

Picture of four Corps Members reading together, with a text over them that says, “Find your place in justice movements.”

The program is much more than just working at Corps members’ placements, which already has members engaging in social justice work every day for a year. Corps members live with each other in their Bayits and cook, clean, support, and learn with one another. They plan Shabbat meals together, have weekly Bayit meetings, and get to participate in different social justice, adulting, and community workshops with Avodah staff. Currently, Avodah is creating a JOC Bayit, a Bayit specifically for Jews of Color, in order to foster an empowering and safe space for Jews of Color who may not have had safe experiences in Jewish spaces in the past. In sum, Service Corps is a year of working, living, and learning altogether, while simultaneously building the tools for sustainable, long-term social justice activism. 

Avodah’s two other programs, Justice Fellowship and Community Engagement, also provide tools to build long-term activism for people already engaged in social justice work, as well as for community leaders who seek guidance in building Jewish workshop curricula. Avodah’s Fellowship occurs during evenings and weekends, and the Community Engagement work includes resources that can be accessed asynchronously. Regardless of time, Avodah will support and help social justice leaders, as well as leaders-in-the-making.

I was immediately drawn to Avodah for their clear stance on social justice, professional development, and joy along the journey. When I think of social justice work, I often think about activist burnout and compassion-fatigue. I want to engage in this work, but I fear that I may do it in an unsustainable way, which will negatively impact my long-term ability to stay in the activist world. However, Avodah proactively understands this reality for many activists, and they created an entire program to teach young leaders the steps to engage in social justice work sustainably and with excitement, rather than burnout. A significant part of their Service Corps program is to laugh, debrief, and learn with other members, including on topics of Jewish values, money tips, and other meaningful subjects. I can see the incredible work Avodah does to promote joy in social justice, as well as empower young people to change the world.

My tasks this summer include telling everyone I know about Avodah by reaching into my own personal network and getting the word out. I work on the behind-the-scenes of recruitment: building databases of San Diego congregations, sending out surveys to applicants and recording responses in spreadsheets, writing and posting job descriptions on Handshake, and messaging recent alumni on LinkedIn, along with many other tasks that need to get done, but often get pushed to the back-burner. Interns, I’m learning, are the perfect people to take on that back-burner work that makes the entire recruitment process run more smoothly. Without the technical side of recruitment work, people would not know about Avodah, and Avodah would not be able to continue their mission (and tagline) of sparking Jewish leaders and igniting social change. My small steps create the change, one spreadsheet at a time, while I also learn valuable technical skills that will aid me in my future career.

My work station! Pretzels on the side are a need.

I am really excited about continuing my work with Avodah and seeing how my little but very important tasks make solid change within an organization that does such good in the world. And hey, if you know anyone between the ages of 21-26 who wants to engage in social justice work for a year, and wants a job this year (August 2021-August 2022), please let me know! Avodah still has some spots open in this year’s cohort of Corps members.

(1) Growth and Change at Power in Place

I am interning this summer at Power in Place, an organization that celebrates women who have built a strong leadership presence in politics. Its mission is to educate interns about these women by inviting them to share their experiences with young women like myself, encouraging them to consider a future in politics. I chose Power in Place as an organization to intern at because I became interested in addressing gender inequality, and racial inequality and its relationship to politics. As a young black woman, I noticed there weren’t enough of us in political offices and I wanted to expand my overall knowledge and experience with more women and their voices inside the realm of politics.

Haiku/Illustration of Ayanna Pressley

Power in Place is designed to highlight women in politics and to give them the platform they deserve, which can sometimes be overlooked. In order to address this social injustice issue, I have decided to work in the groups of Marketing and Polikus during my summer internship. In Polikus, my responsibilities include composing haikus inspired by the female political officials we highlight in a given week. In the Marketing group, my responsibility and duties are to create a marketplace page on the Power In Place website, as well as to innovate and advertise pro-women in politics branding items with my team.

My work this summer will further the mission of Power in Place since my haikus and my marketplace design will show multiple women of color and women in politics in the best light. Others will be able to interact with and learn from their stories, as well as to see their future selves in a career that involves politics because they are seeing those like them able to do it too.

Small steps that lead to bigger steps at Power in Place would be learning how to communicate well inside a team, as well as being able to collaborate by adding my insight and originality to the groups I am a part of. These lead to a bigger steps because group tasks can be completed and my teammates and I are then allowed to grow as people inside this organization through each taking small parts of ourselves and adding it to our bigger project.

Progress and change to me looks exactly like this because you get to build the stamina and confidence to be able to share your work, interests, and more of yourself, and to learn from others and their interests, work, and topics related to women in politics that are important and affecting the world at hand. Overall, this to me creates progress because I am learning new things that I may have never experienced before or heard of in relation to politics. After our sessions, I am researching more and wanting to learn more about these new topics, which will allow me to grow and expand my knowledge as a person participating inside Power in Place.

First Power in Place Newsletter

(1) Starting at United for a Fair Economy

This year, I’m the summer intern at United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization which fights for a more equitable economy throughout the United States. I knew I wanted to work with UFE as soon as I read their application because of our shared core values and the way those values intermingle with my studies at Brandeis. As an Economics and International and Global Studies double major, I’m equally fascinated by the more quantitative/analytical side of economics and the real-world effects of all those mathematical formulas and theories.

At UFE, we study not just the existence of economic inequities, but also their origins and the practical ways to combat them. UFE began in 1994 under a different name, Share the Wealth. Since then, the organization has grown into a major source for change and has created and met so many goals. Divided into three main branches, UFE works on issues of popular education, responsible wealth, and building inclusive economies.

Under popular education, using healing justice and language justice tools, we host trainings and workshops for leaders of all different kinds of movements to reimagine the economy and how to change it. Those leaders are given all the knowledge and experience they need to go out and train others on topics of economic inequities. Popular education itself is actually an educational technique which far predates UFE, in which participants are all on level ground, sharing experiences and conversation rather than being taught by a single person left in charge. As UFE says, “With popular education, ordinary people define their own problems and apply the lessons of past political successes and failures to their own situation.”

Responsible Wealth is a network of individuals who fall in the top 5% of wealth and/or income in the U.S. and have a vested interest in solving the inequalities and the inequities of our economy, knowing that everyone suffers when our systems aren’t fair. Participants in Responsible Wealth work and speak up for things like progressive taxes and corporate accountability.

Inclusive Economies is a UFE project working in many states, but is largely focused on North Carolina and changing policy there to reflect a fair state-wide economy. Central to Inclusive Economies are Raising Wages NC and the Living Wage Network, and they highlight UFE’s methods for collaboration and community involvement when it comes to movement-building.

So far as the UFE intern, I’ve gotten to explore so many different fields under the amazing guidance of Sara Sargent and Richard Lindayen. I’ve learned about donor relations through the lens of database entry and gotten to work on communications projects in which I research data and history for outgoing media.

In terms of small steps that lead to bigger steps, and the idea of what change looks like, something I’ve learned very early at UFE is the value of the individual. Our full-time staff is only eight people, which is crazy when you think of just how much gets done at UFE every year. It’s very common to hear people say “the personal is political.” I think part of how UFE makes the enormous impact that it does is that it focuses on working with individuals as well as the collective. They’ve seen time and again that conversations and healing done between human beings is often what leads to changes in deeply-rooted inequalities and inequities.

(1) Health and Education for All

Health and Education for All (HAEFA) is a United States-based nonprofit organization that provides on-the-ground healthcare for Rohingya refugees, as well as other disadvantaged populations in Bangladesh. Access to adequate healthcare should be a basic human right. However, it is oftentimes treated as a privilege in many parts of the world. Healthcare is nearly nonexistent in remote areas of Bangladesh. HAEFA’s goal is to address this injustice and establish clinics and mobile health centers in places that lack such services in Bangladesh.

So far, it has successfully treated thousands of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, which is a district in Bangladesh. Additionally, one of the leading causes of death among women in Bangladesh is cervical cancer. Previous government programs to address this issue did not make a large impact. HAEFA developed a screening program that reached people in remote areas by digitizing the process of cervical cancer screening. While the government program was screening 30-40 patients per month, HAEFA’s program was able to screen 100-150 patients per day. Innovative programs such as this are at the forefront of HAEFA’s goals to provide healthcare to disadvantaged populations.

My role at HAEFA this summer is to tell HAEFA’s story and share all the important work they are doing with the world. I am the team lead for the Media Team, which means that I oversee and delegate tasks that have to do with the monthly newsletter, social media posts, and website maintenance. I personally work on the monthly newsletter and am about to begin a complete overhaul of the website alongside other team members. I am also part of the Intern Research Team at HAEFA.

The aforementioned cervical cancer screening program has been uniquely successful, despite initial skepticism from the international medical community. Dr. Abid, the founder of HAEFA, has asked our team to delve into the story behind this program and write an academic research paper about its success story so that others can model similar programs with ours. He hopes to have this paper published sometime this year. By keeping people updated about HAEFA’s work, I hope that my work will allow the organization to continue doing great work via donations and other forms of support. I believe that small steps, such as making social media posts about HAEFA’s activities, can lead to big steps such as the possibility of creating new programs with funding that can be collected as a result of raising awareness about the issues HAEFA is trying to alleviate.

Since its inception in 2013,HAEFA has provided healthcare services to thousands of patients in Bangladesh. Its ability to adapt to different circumstances, such as the Rohingya refugee crisis of 2016, is what makes HAEFA a reputable organization. To me, progress means being able to adapt to new challenges and strategize to solve problems as they arise. HAEFA’s ability to shift its focus to the Rohingya crisis was a huge factor in its success as an organization. While the refugees receive services from HAEFA, it also has continued its work with Bangladeshi garment workers. Additionally, it has created a COVID-19 training program for physicians to be better equipped to handle the challenges of the pandemic.

Maheeb Rabbani

(1) From Picture to Reality: Approving Technologies with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid

For the past few weeks, I have been working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), specifically in the Division of New Technology (DNT). CMS provides health coverage to more than 100 million people through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and other programs. Within the Center, the Division of New Technology is a branch that falls under the Technology, Coding, and Pricing Group, which works to approve new technologies to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid plans for consumers, and has been created to help streamline the process of approving new technologies to be covered by insurance. Some members of my team have called it a hopeful “FDA to CMS pipeline”! 

The main goal of the DNT is to allow beneficiaries (patients) access to new and innovative technologies (e.g.: devices, equipment, etc.) to promote health equity and the overall betterment of health of the U.S. population. As newer and better technologies are developed each year, it is important that all patients have access to these improvements so they see improvements in their health. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries deserve access to the same promising technologies and interventions that are afforded to private healthcare insurance beneficiaries, which is why the DNT’s role in streamlining the approval of technologies under coverage is so vital.

As an intern, I have been studying different government healthcare statutes and regulations, and advising my team at the DNT on ways to incorporate new technologies into written Medicare policy. I’ve been reviewing grants and proposals for new technologies, meeting with manufacturers of these new machineries, and ultimately offering feedback to my team on ways we can incorporate these technologies. The small steps that I take behind the scenes (usually in the form of extensive paperwork and many, many zoom calls) will hopefully lead to their ultimate approval under CMS policy, allowing CMS patients access to them. 

I really wanted to complete an internship with the DNT because I wanted to see the process of how health policy is written and how directly it impacts patients, whether that is by increasing access to improved technologies or by changing policy to remove outdated standards of care. Through my work, I have seen firsthand how different subsections within Medicare work to optimize coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. Many forms of grassroots interventions within medicine and healthcare meant to combat health inequities and disparities are “band-aid” solutions to a larger problem, and I now feel that real progress towards health equity comes in the form of policy changes to address healthcare infrastructure and access. I believe this is encompassed by the DNT’s work to ensure patients have access to technologies that will equip them with better health outcomes. 

My hope is that my work this summer with the DNT will further the DNT’s mission to influence policy surrounding health coverage and access to technologies, in order to ensure that access to new technologies and insurance coverage is more equitable overall. Even the few technologies that I am able to form policy around this summer could be instrumental in shaping the standard of care for CMS beneficiaries in the U.S.

(1) Settling In: My First Month at Jane Doe Inc.

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to be a policy intern at Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (JDI). JDI, along with their 59 member organizations, brings together people committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence and advocates for change through state and federal legislation and funding to improve access to services, resources, and justice for those impacted by violence. JDI advocates for responsive public policy, promotes collaboration, raises public awareness, and supports their member organizations to provide comprehensive prevention and intervention services. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues solely related to sexual and domestic violence; it encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, education, and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues.

I became interested in pursuing an internship at JDI–and in advocacy for those affected by sexual and domestic violence in general–through my job at Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC). At PARC, I serve as both a peer advocate for students impacted by sexual and domestic violence, and as a violence prevention educator. In these positions, I have come to understand how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and perpetuate themselves within our communities, and I have become extremely passionate about creating the sustainable, structural change that is needed within our communities and institutions to disrupt these cycles. Working in these positions, I learned more about the reporting and Title IX processes, and gained an understanding of how institutional and legal systems we have in place can often be re-traumatizing for those impacted by violence. These experiences led me to pursue this internship because I am passionate about supporting those impacted by violence on a wider, structural level through policy and legislation change. I want to actively work to change the structures that we have in place that are perpetuating cycles of violence, and my internship with JDI is allowing me to learn how to advocate for this change on a state-wide level. 

In my capacity as policy intern, I have been supporting the development and execution of JDI’s overall policy agenda for 2021-2022. One of the projects I have been working on is an analysis of JDI’s language access and survivorship survey. JDI hopes to use this data to better understand the experiences of bilingual advocates, and to expose the gaps in state services surrounding language access in order to support bill H.3199, An Act relative to language access and inclusion. This legislation would require state agencies to meet language access needs for those impacted by violence. I have also been involved in updating written testimony to support bill H.2267,  An Act prohibiting non consensual pelvic examinations. One final project I have been working on is analyzing legislation through JDI’s policy framework and developing talking points about whether or not we support the legislation. For example, I have been researching hate crime legislation in Massachusetts and drafting talking points explaining why JDI does not support hate crime legislation that expands hate crime prosecution. 

Attending JDI’s Directors’ and Advocates’ Institute

While at JDI, I have also been able to attend some incredible events during my first few weeks. I attended virtual advocacy days organized by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and was able to meet with the staffers of Massachusetts senators and representatives in order to lobby for policy that would support those impacted by sexual and domestic violence. This past week, I also had the privilege of attending JDI’s Directors’ and Advocates’ Institute, which brought service providers together from across the state of Massachusetts to network and learn from each other. 

I am so excited that the written work that I will be producing–in the form of qualitative research analysis, talking points for legislation, and written testimony–will be used directly to lobby for legislation that supports individuals impacted by sexual and domestic violence. In this way, the work that I will be doing will hopefully lead to concrete policy change that will support those impacted by violence within the intersectional, trauma-informed framework that JDI embodies. I have absolutely loved my internship experience at JDI so far and am beyond excited to see where the next few months take me!

(1) My Internship at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care

Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is that all Americans with serious illness, especially the sickest and most vulnerable, receive comprehensive and person-centered care that is consistent with their goals and values. Their goal is to achieve this by empowering consumers, changing the health delivery system, improving public and private policies, and enhancing providers’ capacities. C-TAC works with a wide range of members in order to create a collaborative network of information, resources, and support to produce transformative results in advanced illness care.

C-TAC works to provide quality health care and resources to communities that are disproportionately affected by health care inequalities. C-TAC is looking at how systemic injustices have plagued the American health care system for generations, and is working to make a visible change. This passion to transform advanced care sparked my interest in C-TAC’s partnership and programs internship. I am interested in working in the field of public health, and I was inspired by C-TAC’s complex outlook on the field. C-TAC is working to ensure that health care is meeting people where they are with the appropriate resources and support. C-TAC examines health care through a social, political, and spiritual lens, which has further expanded my understanding of the layers involved in advanced care planning.

While interning at C-TAC, I am interested in learning about the current policies that C-TAC is working to implement in order to advance equity in the health care system. One facet of C-TAC’s mission is to address health care policies in order to pursue a comprehensive policy agenda. Health care inequity and the racism found in the healthcare system need to be addressed. C-TAC is developing a strategy that is focused on utilizing public policy at both the state and federal level to address inequity issues that impact those with serious illness. 

As an intern at C-TAC, I am connecting with potential coalition members in community-based services, health services, and foundations. I am reaching out to organizations, informing them of the work that C-TAC is doing on different levels and educating them on how membership can further support their organization. Through membership, C-TAC is bringing together a coalition of healthcare organizations and supporters in order to create a unified change in advanced care on an array of different platforms. Through outreach, I have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with different health care organizations, including a volunteer hospice in Anchorage, Alaska, a large hospital in Wisconsin, and different nonprofit foundations nationwide. 

Along with outreach, I am participating in an intern podcast in which we discuss current events including Tweets, LinkedIn posts, and policy updates in the field of advanced care planning and public health. Through these podcasts, we will be creating an open environment to talk about the importance of undergraduates in the field of advanced illness. We have had the opportunity to discuss the intersection of advanced care planning and the LQBTQ+ community, mental health, and social determinants of health. 

I believe that my work with C-TAC this summer will be a small step towards bridging the gaps in the healthcare system. Reforming the healthcare system is not a simple task, and I want to be part of the change towards equality. I truly believe that healthcare and related services should not be a privilege, but rather accessible to everyone. Through my internship at C-TAC, I have the opportunity to connect with potential members, gain a better understanding of the complexities in the field, and help C-TAC get one step closer to fulfilling its mission. Comprehensive change can only happen from a magnitude of different perspectives in order to ensure progress and continue to push for a visible transformation in the health care system. 

(1) Advocating for a strong and diverse judiciary at Alliance for Justice

In April, I knew very little about the judicial system. I knew that sometimes lawyers became judges and that these judges ruled on many court cases each year. I knew that there was a Supreme Court, where nine justices who were(sometimes) very experienced and respected served lifetime appointments and made important decisions that impacted all of us. 

When I’m not in zoom meetings, I try to get some fresh air and work outside!

Then I became an intern at Alliance for Justice (AFJ), and I have learned that the court system is essentially a complex web of judges across the United States who interpret the law and determine individuals’ civil rights in monumental ways. Alliance for Justice works to ensure a “fair and independent justice system” by advocating for highly qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds to be appointed to these courts. While the Supreme Court hears fewer than one hundred cases a year, the federal court of appeals, district courts, and local courts hear hundreds of thousands of cases. That is a lot of decisions that impact a lot of peoples’ lives. Furthermore, all federal court judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve lifetime terms, which gives the sitting president a lot of power.  

While judges are supposed to be nonpartisan, this isn’t always the case. Increasingly, the appointment of judges has become a political tool that prioritizes ideology and political affiliation over qualifications and experience–a trend that puts the civil rights and wellbeing of millions of people in jeopardy. Furthermore, during Trump’s four years in office, only 16% of his judicial appointments were non-white and only 24% were women. The makeup of the federal judiciary, like any field of public servants, must represent the country in race, gender, ethnicity, professional background, sexual orientation, and so much more. To achieve this goal and to reverse the damage that has been done to the courts, AFJ tracks judicial vacancies, advocates for experienced and diverse nominees, and pushes the Biden administration to prioritize federal court appointments. The organization also works to identify highly-qualified lawyers with experience in civil rights, public defense, and other law backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the courts. 

Last week I stopped by a DC statehood rally!

As an outreach intern, I’m lucky to be able to engage in most of the aspects of work that AFJ does. I help build outreach lists for judicial nominee sign-on letters and connect with member organizations to engage them further with our work. I also spend a lot of my time researching our state courts, looking at the makeup of each state’s Supreme Court, learning when judges are up for reelection or retirement, and understanding the media landscapes of various states. The research I do now will inform where AFJ directs their time in 2022 and beyond, to ensure that our state courts, in addition to federal courts, are made up of experienced and diverse judges. Similarly, building outreach lists and connecting with member organizations and allies allows us to put pressure on the administration to appoint judges who represent the people they serve.

As courts at every level make daily decisions on environmental regulations, abortion access, LGBTQIA+ rights, checks on assault weapons, conditions for incarcerated individuals, and so much else, it feels so important to be doing this work. And as we do the work, we can see that the Biden Administration is listening.

(1) First Month as an Intern with Genocide Watch

My work this summer is with Genocide Watch. As a nongovernmental organization, Genocide Watch seeks to prevent genocide, condemn current genocidal actions, and educate about previous genocides. The organization uses a model called “The Ten Stages of Genocide,” created by the founder and president Dr. Gregory Stanton. The model establishes a method for recognizing pre-genocidal behavior in order to implement steps to prevent further atrocities. By looking at government policies and behavior towards minorities in different areas, the organization attempts to correct the injustices suffered by many ethnic minorities to create equality and safety for all.

I work on the Alliance, Advocacy, and Research Teams at Genocide Watch through my role as an intern. As the head organization of the Alliance Against Genocide, Genocide Watch works with the Alliance Against Genocide to aid in its mission of preventing genocide through the creation of an international movement concerned with genocide prevention.

Home page of the Alliance Against Genocide website

My work on the Alliance Team in the past few weeks has been dedicated to updating the Alliance website, including adding pages for new member organizations and changing links and resources so that each page reflects the most up-to-date information from each member organization. Once the website is updated, I will be responsible for communicating with thirteen of the member organizations to coordinate between Genocide Watch and each organization to ensure mutual support on projects and events. This communication is vital to the effectiveness of the Alliance Against Genocide to ensure that each initiative has the greatest success possible.

Within the Advocacy Team,  I work with fellow interns and staff who monitor different countries and populations that are at risk of extermination. In coordination with the other staff, I am in the process of organizing methods to advocate for peace and justice in Central Asia, and for the Rohingya in Myanmar. Additionally, in conjunction with my work on the Alliance Team, I plan to work with Alliance member organizations that focus on the Rohingya to create a louder voice for Rohingya refugees in repatriation talks between India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Finally, I am involved in a number of projects through my work on the Research Team. I am working on a report on Egypt, as well as a presentation on the ecocide in Brazil under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro and its impact on Brazil’s indigenous population. I also plan to work on a project to document atrocities committed by the United States against Native Americans to be used for pedagogical purposes.

My bio on the staff page on the Genocide Watch website

While my work this summer will not completely end and prevent genocide, I know that my work helps further Genocide Watch’s mission to “predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide and other forms of mass murder.” I see my responsibilities as small, yet necessary, steps that aid in the prevention of genocide. I am optimistic that all of these tasks will create an impact, no matter how small, in ensuring justice for all.

(1) Investigating Food Value Chains

This summer, I’m interning for Oxfam America in the Private Sector Department and Food Systems Department. Oxfam is a global organization that works in over 90 countries to end the injustice of poverty. To address the root causes of poverty, they focus on issues of food, water, and land access, human rights, gender justice, climate justice, and labor inequalities through technical support to partners, advocacy work, and humanitarian relief. Their slogan, “The power of people against poverty,” shows how united the organization stands in their mission to fight the intersecting issues of poverty.

I was inspired to join Oxfam because they fight for so many causes that I’m passionate about, specifically gender justice and food system reform. The work that Oxfam does is rooted in the idea that the many forms of justice are intertwined, and we can’t address poverty without also simultaneously looking at different forms of injustice. I admire Oxfam’s ability to fight poverty through programs that provide immediate support, such as hunger alleviation and emergency humanitarian efforts, while also promoting structural changes that address the root causes of poverty.

The work that I’m doing for Oxfam this summer is on food value chains, which includes the stakeholders involved in the production, processing, and manufacturing stages in the supply chain. This work highlights inequalities–e.g., the domination of agricultural conglomerates that limit the power of small farmers, the emission rates of corporations, the marginalization of rural women workers–that occur within some of the largest food and beverage corporations. Food companies have a lot of power in controlling our food choices, making it crucial to examine their global impact and the inequalities built into their structure.

Oxfam has a campaign called “Behind the Brands” that assesses the impact of some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies (the “big ten”) through a scorecard evaluation project which is available to consumers on this page. This campaign aims to investigate the practices of global corporations, while educating consumers about the practices of food companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Kellogg’s that we support every day. The Behind the Brands campaign’s framework has the following dimensions: fair economies, equal human rights, climate justice, and gender justice. As part of Behind the Brands 2030, Oxfam seeks to amplify the voices of the people in their value chain, address inequality, and harness the power of the private sector.

As part of the Behind the Brands team, I’m working on multiple projects and leading one to research and document the disclosure efforts of the Behind the Brand companies and traders. Supplier disclosure is one way that food and beverage companies can be transparent with their sourcing efforts. I am working on a spreadsheet that tracks sourcing details about each company, with information on the agricultural commodities they use (like palm oil and sugar), where they source the commodity from, any supplier lists they have published, the date of disclosure, and commitments they have made to increase transparency and sustainability efforts. The work that I’m doing is contributing to their growing research that will support future initiatives in the countries that they work with. Once they have a research knowledge base on where companies source their commodities, they can perform their outreach work to the companies to advocate for them to take measures that will promote equitable food value chains through sustainability, gender, human rights, and other commitments.

This project is showing me how much power is concentrated in companies, and the potential that organizations like Oxfam have to fix structural issues within companies to bring about justice for marginalized workers, the land, the economy, and the future.

(1) Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition

 

 

 

 

 

I am working with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) to support their work with the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition. MLRI provides statewide advocacy and leadership to advance laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. They engage in multi-forum advocacy, meaning they work through impact litigation, legislative advocacy, advocacy with state agencies, and community lawyering. The focus on their child welfare advocacy is to ensure that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) meets its mandate to do all that is possible to strengthen struggling families so that children can stay safely at home rather than being separated from their families and placed in foster care. When children must be separated from their parents, they advocate for policies to ensure that they are placed with their relatives rather than strangers, in family settings rather than institutional settings unless their treatment needs require institutional care, and that they be reunified with their parents as soon as safely possible.

Every aspect of their child welfare advocacy has a racial impact because Black and LatinX are disproportionately involved in the Massachusetts child welfare system, as they are in child welfare systems across the country. I am specifically working to support MLRI’s work with other child welfare advocates in the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition, which MLRI co-founded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition is currently working to oppose proposals to expand mandated reporting in Massachusetts, to increase child welfare data transparency, to improve educational access for children in DCF congregate care, and to increase housing and educational options for youth who age out of DCF foster care without permanent families.

I will support the coalition by attending the full coalition meetings and steering committee meetings, writing the coalition’s weekly newsletter, and supporting the activities of the Family Connections work group. I will be taking notes at many of these meetings and conducting research about communities of care and mutual aid networks in New York City to see how they could be a model for Massachusetts. My research project will further the coalition’s mission by gathering information that will inform its legislative advocacy. My research project is a small step that may fuel future conversations that coalition members have with each other, legislators, and the public as they look toward reimagining child welfare in the state. When it comes to social justice, progress often looks slow and is not always linear.

Within the context of my internship, progress looks like having conversations that center children and their families, especially those who are disproportionality effected by the child welfare system. My hope is that the voices of child welfare advocates and impacted families can be heard more so that Massachusetts can learn how to better support families who may be struggling.

Within the span of about a month, I have learned so much. I have gone from knowing little to none about child welfare to understanding various problems in the system and learning how legislative advocacy can help alleviate them for now–and ultimately eliminate them. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to learn more throughout the rest of the experience.

WOW Blog Post 1- Getting Started at Ariadne Labs

This summer, I have the incredible opportunity of interning at Ariadne Labs’ Serious Illness Care Program. Ariadne Labs is located in Boston, MA and it is an organization made up of 150+ physicians, researchers, and analysts who pride themselves on improving outcomes of patients in health systems. Their work is oriented around quality improvement using universal guides to provide clinicians in order to minimize errors in care. They utilize a system known as the Ariadne Arc to design, test, and spread scalable solutions in health care.

Ariadne Labs Arc - Ariadne Labs

  For example, these solutions include a conversation guide for Serious Illness Care clinicians, a surgical checklist for the operating room, and a BetterBirth checklist to improve the efficiency of the birthing process. 

My specific tasks through this internship will change every 2-3 weeks, however for this first stretch, I am working on sorting qualitative and quantitative data from the implementation of years past. A major focal point of this organization is measuring whether the implementation of programs has benefitted the health systems that use them and improve patient outcomes in the long run. In 2018 and 2019, Ariadne Labs implemented the Serious Illness Conversation Guide to 22 different health systems and trained clinicians to engage in better conversation with their patients through the guide. My job is to help measure whether this implementation was successful for these health systems and gauge whether there was a lasting impact of improved conversation between clinicians and patients. Specifically, I am tasked to sort the 200+ pages of data into a meaningful way to produce a manuscript of our implementation outcomes. So far I have successfully sorted through almost half of the data and will work towards finishing the other half by early July. The impact of my work will allow the organization to gauge whether our guide is able to be used in healthcare settings and if any changes need to be made to the implementation process.

Second, I am also a member of the Patient Guide project team where, upon approval from the Institutional Review Board, I will be able to take notes and even facilitate interviews with Serious Illness patients and families on the “What Matters Most Workbook”. The purpose and impact of this project are to ensure that clinicians are aiming towards patient-centered care and listening to the goals and values of each patient before jumping to treatment options for serious illness. As of now, I am in charge of formatting the workbook so it can be more user-friendly and ensure there are no technical issues with filling out all the important information which is the basis for each interview.

As I embark upon this journey of improving patient outcomes one step at a time, I have three goals in mind. I would like to tackle the issues in health care delivery and how to create scalable solutions to combat inequalities. I hope to prepare for patient interaction as I work my way up to medical school and beyond. This opportunity positions me to prepare for conversations with patients surrounding their medications and diagnoses and generate a human-centered design process for this patient guide. I hope to be more aware of methods of conducting clinical research and tying it to creating notable solutions in healthcare while expanding my network of healthcare professionals. Lastly, contributing to the development of the quality of life for patients battling serious illness would be a tangible goal that I could attain by being a part of this transformative research initiative.

— Ayush Thacker, Experiential Learning Fellow 2021

WOW post #1 – At Home Laboratory

20 Month Old Macaque DTI Brain Image

It has been a great first month of summer working remotely with the Takahashi Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. The main focus of this lab is to explore the development of the human brain across infancy through out young adulthood and compare this development to that of other species. The specific project that I am working on with my post-doctorate student is tracking the development of a white matter track called the Arcuate Fasciculus in baby humans, macaques, and chimpanzees using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). In humans, this track is responsible for our speech abilities. Since other primates such as macaques (which are your typical monkey) and chimpanzees are unable to talk, it was believed that they do not possess this track. However, recent research has shown that these primates may actually have a homologous track to the arcuate. This is exactly why the project that I am working on is being performed in the first place – this information is so new that any finding we find will be extremely useful to the field of developmental neuroscience. Whether our data is consistent or inconsistent with the prior research findings, it is going to be valuable and publish-worthy information.

The specific role that I have in this larger project is quite fascinating, especially since I get to do a great deal of the tracking work by myself. A typical day for me includes using the software TrackVis to isolate this white matter track in baby macaque data and then clean it up using several filters so that it is easier to compare and extract numerical diffusion data from in the future. I was given a rather large data set which I have the responsibility to complete, so I am certainly busy these days. This data is going to be used in our analysis of the arcuate in macaques and then compared to data we extract from baby humans and chimpanzees in order to make a final conclusion about whether this track appears truly homologous and how it develops across species. I also have weekly lab meetings with my post-doc student where we discuss any new lab matters and anything else ranging from new scientific articles to anthropological discussions. My post-doctorate student completed a degree in anthropology before switching over to the dark side that is neuroscience, so our lab meetings often get off topic to other interesting matters. Although I am slightly upset that I am not working in person this summer, my lab is deciding on possibly meeting in person once a month for lab meeting to mix things up a bit.

Since I will be starting my senior thesis this summer, my main goal is to get most of my data sets completed so that I can begin to simultaneously do the lab work needed for my post-doctorate student as well as the lab work I need to do for my thesis. I am also very excited to be participating in the Brandeis summer poster fair and am looking forward to creating a poster detailing the research that I am participating in. I am not sure what findings we will extract from our data, but I am definitely excited to analyze it and begin making some conclusions.

An Introduction to My Journey at Harvey Klinger Literary Agency

The home page of the Harvey Klinger Literary Agency website.

Reading through the queries in my inbox, I’m reminded of my younger self. I wrote these exact letters six years ago, when I attempted to write and publish my second novel. Dreaming of being a writer, I not only worked on writing as a craft, but also began teaching myself everything I would need to know about the industry. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing as both—enough that I now find myself here, working as an intern for Andrea Somberg, an agent working for Harvey Klinger Literary Agency in New York City.

Last fall, when applying to spring and summer internships, I had no idea where I wanted to end up or what kind of work I wanted to do. My interests spanned teaching, community organizing and activism, research, curation and conservation, art, and of course, writing. However, I hadn’t taken my writing seriously in a year or two. But I took the chance to apply to a handful of internships in writing, editing, and publishing, and I’m glad I did.

Each morning, I wake up and log into the email account used by the interns, and I open up the folder filled with queries—of historical fiction, fantasy, young adult fiction, memoirs, self-help books, you name it—for me to read through. My very first day on the job, reading the hopeful letters and fresh book ideas of potential authors, I was struck with a sense of excitement. As a writer, I understood the gravity of the words written and felt a fellowship to these people. As a reader, I felt amazed at reading stories never told before and honored to be one of the first to read them. As an anthropology major, I felt joy at being able to witness so many stories from different cultural, geographical, ethnic, racial, gendered, and queered perspectives, to watch the world unfold before me in so many people’s eyes and writing.

At the same time, I understand the responsibility I hold in this position, because I get to have a say in the stories and voices we hear— this means I am able to push forward stories that increase meaningful representation and tell beautiful, unique stories, and weed out stories riddled with queerphobia, racism, misogyny, and the like. This also means, however, that I am responsible for sending rejection emails to writers I decide to pass on, and as a writer, I know both the disappointment and immense growth that comes from such rejection.

Of course, most queries we interns place into the folder of possible queries for Andrea to review will also end up getting rejected by her. But every once in a while, there’s a story that captures her attention. 

One day, she emailed me saying that she had requested to represent one of the books I had read the queries of and flagged for her to read. Although the part I play in reading and relaying may be small, moments like those make it feel larger than life.

As I approach nearly a month through the internship, I imagine what my younger self would think if they knew I was where I am now, working in what is no less than my dream internship, and I plan for the future of this summer, and of my life career. I will continue to learn all I can about writing, to network and gain insight into the writing industry, and to pursue my dreams of being a writer and making a difference in the industry, and one day, I may find myself in Andrea’s place, representing the newest voices in the literary world, or maybe I will find myself in the place of the authors sending queries and eventually getting published.

Community Servings 1st Blog Post

Community Servings is one of the leading organizations that is part of the coalition of Food is Medicine Massachusetts (FIMMA). Community Servings connects the healthcare field with the importance of food. By providing medically tailored, nutritious, scratch-made meals to chronically ill individuals and their families, Community Servings works to assure that individuals in the Boston area have access to the nutritious foods they need to be healthy. Through a collective work of meal delivery programs, nutrition education, and policy advocacy, Community Servings is helping lead the collective organizations in Boston which are all working to enhance the role of nutrition in healthcare. 

FIMMA is a multi sector state-wide coalition of organizations that are working to connect the food system with the healthcare system. Through various interventions, FIMMA works to create a healthcare system where providers can identify food insecure individuals and connect them with the appropriate Food is Medicine intervention. Community Servings is a leading organization within the coalition, which results in much of the work that I am doing  being connected to FIMMA at large. 

A main project that I am tasked with this summer is leading the Consumer Advocacy Project where I am developing a strategy for enhanced engagement with FIMMA consumers. Though FIMMA understands the importance of connecting with their constituents and allowing the community to lead in the offered services, not much work has been done on these grounds to accomplish this goal. Through the work that I am doing, I will be aiming to lift the voices of FIMMA consumers. To accomplish this project, I’m learning about past strategies, successes, failures, and areas for improvement and with this information, I will be devising new strategies and leading them. In this effort, I will develop relationships with organizations who are willing to help lead this effort, and having direct outreach to the constituents. 

Along with leading that effort, I’ll be helping Community Servings specifically engage with the community — both those who use their services and those who don’t. In this regard, I have been working on compiling resources necessary for events that connect the community to organizations. This involves creating informative flyers, organizing games, garnering interest in FIMMA, and receiving feedback on FIMMA services.

As a student at Brandeis majoring in HSSP, I’ve been learning a lot about the healthcare system. I have recently taken Food, Justice, and Health with Professor Shostak which has further inspired me to work with both the food system and the healthcare system. I am passionate about the role of nutrition in health, and it’s been great to be a part of FIMMA and work with Community Servings for that reason. I knew that I wanted to use what I was learning in my classes regarding food and the healthcare system towards actual work, and being able to do that enhances the learning experience. Through this experience, I am hoping to further develop an understanding of how my passions — both academic and personal — can fit into a career setting. As this internship experience is filled with my passions and interests in the work setting, it has already been allowing me to do just that.

Just Getting Started

My name is Sonali Anderson. I am a rising senior at Brandeis University majoring in Business and Environmental Studies, and I am working with an organization called Business Climate Leaders “BCL”. BCL is a non-profit syndicate group that mobilizes large American businesses to take climate action through nonpartisan climate advocacy. I have the amazing opportunity to help this organization further its efforts within climate justice through engagement within different business sectors. Our shared goal is to help large industries recognize their own contribution to climate change and the importance of advocating for carbon price dividend legislation. In return, we all can make a healthier environment across the nation.

During my time with BCL, I have been tasked with helping this organization within the health sector launch their “Health Professionals Declaration”. This is a document for medical professionals (doctors, veterinarians, nurses, etc.) that brings awareness to this particular industry’s contribution to carbon emissions along with how they individually can make a change by advocating for carbon price dividend legislation within their very own practice. I have learned that this is BCL’s standard first step approach when beginning to engage with a new sector. My responsibilities have been meeting/engaging with as many nurses, dentists, public health professionals, etc that are within the BCL network to sign HCP Declaration. Also, I have been strategizing ways in which this Declaration publication and messaging can be viewed by larger groups who have connections within this specific sector via social media platforms such as (LinkedIn and Facebook) as well. Specifically, in helping with social media outreach, I devised a plan in which it highlights different approaches BCL can implement to increase the amount of recognition of their efforts. This plan is flexible so it can be applied to any other new sector BCL takes on! From my work in completing this initial project, I have helped BCL amass over 1000 Health Professional signatories to the “Health Professionals Declaration”. Ultimately, this has allowed the awareness of BCL in regards to carbon legislation advocacy to increase within this sector.

There are many different sectors in this work ranging from energy and power to food and beverage. As a double major in Business and Environmental Studies, I hope to have a specific focus on the Retail/Fashion industry in relation to making their operations more sustainable. By engaging with this specific sector, through an approach I can begin to further the impact of my work by additionally learning and suggesting ways in which these large companies can reduce their carbon footprint within manufacturing, production, and distribution.

Creative Internship at the Griffin Museum of Photography – Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund in the Arts (WOW Program)

This summer, I am a Marketing Intern at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA. In this position, I am part of a team responsible for creating engagement strategies as well as audiovisual and graphic content to promote the museum’s programs and exhibitions on various social media platforms. As a multimedia geek with a profound interest for photography and the visual arts, my goal is to generate genuine interest in artists, cultural organizations, and their work.

Front view of the museum with one on our public art exhibitions in collaboration with Photoville Fence

After working as a Multimedia Support Specialist and Production Assistant at Brandeis’ media lab (Sound and Image Media Studios), I am employing many of the creative and technical skills I acquired at Brandeis in a professional creative environment. Working as an all-in-one video editor, sound producer, and motion graphics designer, I am having the opportunity to merge my multimedia and marketing skills to help bridge the digital gap between cultural enterprises, their work, and the general public. I believe that by taking advantage of the possibilities digital media has to offer, museums can reach new audiences and expand the reach of their cultural impact by presenting their work through a different lens.   

Two of the projects that I most enjoyed working on this summer were two artist statements that I transformed into promotional videos for the ongoing exhibitions at the main gallery: At the Edge of the Fens by Jacqueline Walters and Now is Always by Vaune TrachtmanFor this task, I had to get in touch with the artists, have them record a voiceover of their artist statements, and come up with a creative interpretation of their exhibitions using a limited set of photographs. Most of my work is done with different Adobe Creative Cloud products that I practiced at SIMS in our many staff trainings, team and personal projects. I create graphics in Photoshop and Illustrator, which then I animate on After Effects and assemble together on Adobe PremierePro. I have also been exploring Adobe Dimension to add a 3D element to my design practice, as well as Adobe Audition and LogicPro to compose my own music as an alternative to using royalty-free sounds off the internet. I like my multimedia work to have a character of its own. I hope that by delivering eye-catching multimedia work while remaining honest to the artists and organization voice and missions, I can help strengthen bonds with their target consumers and expand the scope of their audiences. 

Throughout the course of this internship I want to keep improving my multimedia and design skills. Thanks to the Steven M. Bunson ’82 Internship Fund in the Arts, I have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of what it is like to work in a fast-paced creative environment where deadlines are tight and content needs to be created on a daily basis. Although most of my work focuses on advertising and multimedia production, I would like to learn more about administrative tasks, such as programming and exhibitions.  I would also like to dive deeper into the museum’s archives and get a glimpse of what working as an art curator feels like. I am grateful to be doing an internship that allows me to be creative and get inspired by other artists on a daily basis. It is something that inspires me not only to be more knowledgeable of the current trends in the world of photography and the visual arts, but it also inspires me to pursue something that I am very passionate about. The Griffin Museum summer internship program has been incredibly beneficial as it is allowing me to prepare for my upcoming curatorial internship at the Rose Art Museum next academic year – something I wouldn’t have been able to do without the help of World of Work and the Hiatt Career Center.

 

Giving Women A Seat At The Table: Lessons From My Internship at Emerge MA


This summer, I have the privilege of interning with
Emerge MA, an organization dedicated to recruiting and training Democratic women to run for public office. Over the past couple of weeks, I have learned a great deal about sacrifice, dedication, and the realities of public service. Since its establishment in 2002, Emerge has trained over 4,000 women, and more than 700 of its alumni have been elected to public office – including 418 in 2018 alone. Emerge MA runs several intensive training programs targeting potential candidates and campaign managers. The signature program is a 70-hour training over six months that gives women critical knowledge of field operations, endorsements, fundraising, and communications. Through its programming, Emerge has created a network of successful and inspiring women, with which I have the pleasure of working.

My internship responsibilities include researching Emerge MA Alum, designing graphics, corresponding with Emerge MA members, engaging with the Emerge MA alum Facebook group, and drafting emails. One project I am working on right now is a graphic congratulating all of the Emerge MA alum who ran or are running for office in 2021. As I progress in the internship, I hope to gain more face time with some of the other women in Emerge MA’s network. 

Though my internship is virtual, Emerge MA has ensured that I still feel part of the community. For instance, the Executive Director has set up a virtual office space over Zoom so she and I can work together. Though Zoom fatigue is real, I have immensely enjoyed having a space that fosters communication and collaboration. As the only summer intern, I have had the privilege of building a strong bond with the Executive Director, my direct supervisor. During our Zoom sessions, the Executive Director, an elected official herself, has given great insight into being both young and a woman in local politics.   

I can tell that my summer internship at Emerge MA will be professionally and personally impactful. After reflecting on my past summer internships, I realized that I have only worked for male candidates. As a young woman passionate about civic engagement, I am desperate to see more women serving in elected office. As an Emerge MA intern, I feel like I am helping to create space for women to achieve in the realm of politics and government. Numerous studies have indicated that women are less likely to think they are qualified to hold political office, even if they are. I am thrilled to be part of an organization that empowers women to jump-start their campaigns by giving them the resources and training necessary.

My internship has also bolstered my own political ambitions. Since high school, I have toyed with running for office one day in order to create positive change in my community. However, serving in elected office can sometimes feel impossible – a coveted position reserved only for a select privileged few. Interning at Emerge MA has demystified elected office – showing me – through the success of its diverse alums – that anyone can run, including myself. I am excited for the rest of my summer and hope to continue to learn pertinent skills that will enhance my professional political career. 

 

My Summer Goals with Health Innovation Capital

This summer, I am working virtually as a legal and administrative intern with Health Innovation Capital (HIC), a Chicago-based venture capital impact investor targeting the unmet innovation needs of pediatric patients within oncology, infectious diseases, and select rare/orphan designations. We are among the only independent U.S. Impact venture capital firms that maintains such an integrated investment thesis, impact strategy, and return model. Our mission is stated as follows, “HIC is committed to ensuring that the health innovation and impact investing that the firm pursues improves the quality of life and outcomes for the most vulnerable and at-risk patient populations. We evolved from the belief that there is no silver bullet to creating a sustainable, medicinally relevant, commercially viable and investor worthy medical innovation company that is patient and outcomes driven to the core.”

While HIC follows the format of a typical venture capital fund, (fundraising through limited partners and investing in growing businesses) we have a focus on impact. To ensure that all patients have access to care regardless of income, location, or another factor, HIC has established a not-for-profit organization that partners with centers of excellence around the world and donates an estimated 10% of the general partner carry allocation or 2% of the firm’s overall performance back to these centers of excellence.

As this is only the firm’s first fund, it could be considered a startup. Therefore, I have been involved in helping set up and choose many of the business administration tools our whole fund will be using such as our Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM), our fund administrator, and our data room provider. Through meetings with different representatives taking notes, comparing and contrasting functionality, and discussing with the general partners we have made decisions and hope to get all three fully set up by the end of next week. I also have helped create and organize our company’s digital filing system and created Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for sharing and saving data, which has streamlined communication and organization for us. On the legal side, I have had the opportunity to help read and even write up employment agreements for some of the fund’s new hires. Not only this, but I have created and sent out many non-disclosure agreements to be executed by those with who we begin to do business. This has not only taught me how to better read and understand contracts and legalese but has helped the partners and general counsel by speeding up business processes.

My learning goals for the rest of the summer are to continue working in lockstep with the general partners to continue gaining experience in the field of venture capital and transaction law. I will continue to work with legal counsel and the general partners to help revise and finalize different legal documentation such as term sheets and private placement memorandums with the final goal of being able to create and execute them independently. I will also undergo training on how to evaluate new investments and learn, from the ground-up with senior partner mentorship, how a sector-specific venture investor identifies, evaluates, and executes investments in a diverse set of companies. On occasion, I may also support a General Partner and HIC portfolio company’s executives (CEOs, COOs, etc.) to employ a revised investment and operating model to drive investor returns.

 

 

1st WOW Blog Post

This summer I am working as a research intern for the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard School of Public Health. The goal of this program is to improve the lives of people in all buildings and indoor spaces by conducting and conveying research regarding public health and building science. I am responsible for three projects this month. The first one is creating the layout for a website for an extensive three-part research regarding the impact of green buildings on cognitive function. The second project that I am a part of is called the “healthy homes app” where I am able to work with a very innovative and diverse team. The purpose of this project is to create a mobile application in order to raise awareness of the existence of and harm related to indoor air pollutants on human health. We are trying to develop a digital solution to reduce the effects of indoor air pollutants. In order to do this, effective background research is necessary which is what I have been focusing on. The third project that I have dedicated my time to is translating various scientific papers in order to make it more accessible to the public. I truly believe that all the work I do this summer will contribute to helping the program rapidly make progress in the world of research and bringing real- world change. 

As my background is in Environmental Studies, this internship directly aligns with my interest and the type of higher education I plan to pursue in the future. I am very passionate about sustainability and have started developing greater interest when it comes to the built environment and its impact on people. My work to help conduct more research regarding this subject and translating the findings to make it more accessible to the general public is definitely a substantial learning opportunity. Throughout this internship, my goal is to learn more about the correlation between the built environment and the impacts on human health.

Blog Post 1 – Working as an Undergraduate Research Intern

This summer, I am grateful to be working as an Undergraduate Research Intern for the Mind and Heart Lab at The Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital located in Providence, Rhode Island.  I am working with the research team under the supervision of the Principal Investigator Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, Ph.D., FAHA.  The team consists of the Principal Investigator, Project Manager, Research Assistant, Data Systems Analyst, Study Psychologist, and one other Undergraduate Research Intern in addition to myself.  The research team is focused on studying the processes by which the mind can affect cardiovascular physiology and health.  In the past, they have focused on exploring the role of mindfulness training for medicine adherence for heart failure outpatients.

Currently, the team is working on the Broken Heart Study II which is focused on exploring the triggers responsible for Takotsubo syndrome.  Takotsubo syndrome (TS), also known as Broken Heart Syndrome, is characterized by acute, reversible systolic heart failure which affects primarily older, postmenopausal women.  Takotsubo is not particularly fatal, however, there can be long-term effects on the left ventricle function.  There are gaps in the information that is known about the causes and triggers of Takotsubo for many of the patients affected by this disease.  It is thought that emotional and physical triggers are likely causes of Takotsubo, but there is still much to be understood.  In addition to this study, I have been able to contribute to 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 hypothesized that due to the increased stressors of the pandemic, the incidence of Takotsubo would be higher during the pandemic year compared to the non-pandemic year.  We discovered that there were increased cases of TS during the pandemic year even with a large decrease in all-cause admissions to the Rhode Island Hospital System. This trend is something that we wish to continue to explore across a larger area to see if these trends are similar along the East Coast.

” This ongoing NHLBI-funded project is designed to study the triggers of Takotsubo syndrome (aka Broken Heart Syndrome), determine whether people with this condition are unusually responsive to stress, and whether a greater response to stress puts patients at risk of another episode.” https://mindandheartlab.org

My goals for this summer include gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of clinical research and experience working with a research team by taking part in meeting weekly with the entire research team as well as meeting biweekly for mentorship meetings (lab meetings) with Dr. Salmoirago-Blotcher.  I wish to gain invaluable research experience which I believe will prepare me for graduation, future work, and applying to medical school.  I hope to gain the basic principles of data abstraction and analysis which are crucial in epidemiology research.  In addition, I hope to become more confident in my statistics and epidemiology skills and become an impactful part of the research team.   I would like to form lasting connections with the members of the research team through our meetings and project partnerships. Finally, I will try to stay connected with the research team members even after my summer internship ends.

(1) Advocating for Healthcare Consumers

This summer, I am working as a Health Policy Intern with the National Consumers League (NCL). NCL is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that represents the interests of consumers in a number of policy areas, including healthcare and prescription drugs, fraud, labor, and food safety. I chose to work at NCL because I believe that it is important that we ensure consumers are protected from high costs and bad practices when they seek medical care. Any effort to fix our broken healthcare system must put patients at the center. NCL seeks to address injustices of all kinds that are committed against consumers. These can range from direct scams to broken systems that profit off of consumers’ suffering.

In terms of health policy, NCL works to fix injustices related to anti-vaccine misinformation, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that fail to pass drug rebate savings onto consumers, unregulated CBD, and prescription drug access, among many other initiatives. To address these injustices, NCL uses many different strategies: pushing for specific bills and policies to lawmakers and government officials; engaging in coalition-building with other stakeholders to advocate for issues; and providing educational resources directly to consumers, as with their medication adherence program Script Your Future, and their website with information on the unregulated CBD market 4safecbd.org, among others. 

I have been responsible for a variety of different projects including writing statements in support of or opposition to multiple bills, conducting research on health policy issues, creating profiles on key members of Congress, and updating NCL’s health policy positions for their website. One of the statements that I helped to write was in support of the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act, a bill making its way through Congress that would eliminate copays for all vaccines covered under Medicare Part D. Currently, vaccines are covered with no out-of-pocket costs under private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare Part B. Unfortunately, the vaccines covered under Medicare Part D come with copays often totaling over $100. I was very happy to be able to advocate for increased vaccine access, an issue that I believe is very important for our society, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through NCL’s efforts in support of this bill, I have seen how bills are passed behind the scenes. I have valued the opportunity to sit in on meetings with other advocacy groups, stakeholders, and congressional staff as we attempt to ensure that this bill becomes law. All of these smaller actions are what push policy through government. Additionally, while small fixes like those provided in the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act are not nearly enough to fix America’s horribly broken healthcare system, they certainly have the potential to improve people’s lives and create a healthier society for all of us. And even the big, sweeping changes that so many of us desire require behind-the-scenes policy and advocacy work to successfully implement them.

Post #1: Sapphire Internship

Hello, my name is Amelia Trahan and I am a recipient of the social justice WOW grant. Just a little something about myself; I am now going into my sophomore year at Brandeis and plan on studying English with a minor in AAPI studies. With the help of this grant, I can proceed with my remote internship with Sapphire, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to uplifting black and brown voices and experiences through the creative arts.

Sapphire Hues Press Logo

Understanding black individuals’ stories through an abstract perspective such a poetry or visual art (i.e., photography) has been such a wonderful and enlightening experience so far! Since starting my role as a project development assistant, I have completed multiple tasks that have benefited the organization and myself as I gain new knowledge and skills every day. One of the many tasks that I have as the project development assistant for Sapphire is to upload and maintain our social media presence which is best known on Instagram as @sapphirehuespress. This account is primarily used to promote the press section of the organization; this includes our published works such as our literary magazines and artbooks. We use our social media platforms to push sales for these publications and also to gather aspiring artists whose work can be highlighted in these art books and magazines.

Recently I have gained more experience with software such as Canva which helps to design the posts I must make. For example, this month the submissions for our upcoming art book, “Black And”, have opened up, so I have had to make a post using Canva. Designing these posts has been delightful and I cannot wait to make more!

Google Meeting with Salena!

Due to Covid, my internship is completely online this summer and therefore meetings and interactions take place online as well. I usually have a weekly meeting with one of the founders of the organization and director Salena Deane. During these meetings, we usually discuss our game plan for the week, which recently has included sifting through submissions together and deciding which to accept or reject.

Looking through the submissions we receive for this upcoming artbook is definitely my favorite thing to do, especially when I am doing it with Salena. There is never a dull moment when analyzing them, and I never get tired of the genuine curiosity and admiration I have for each piece I see.

One of my goals for learning this summer is to widen my knowledge and experience with a variety of software used for design and publishing. Recently, I have been achieving this goal one day at a time by taking online courses built to certify me in software such as Adobe InDesign, Canva, and also web content writing. I hope to be certified in all of these by the end of the summer and use them as additional skills when on the prospect for career-boosting activities.

I have no doubt that by the time this internship is over, I will have gained some expertise that will be necessary in order to excel in my desired career path.

(1) Fundraising At SuitUp

SuitUp is a New York City-based education nonprofit that serves students around the country and the world by providing business planning competitions that pair underserved student groups with corporate partners looking to host employee volunteer events. The corporate partners serve as coaches for students as they navigate in groups to solve a business challenge in a way that exposes them to career opportunities and career readiness strategies. The beauty of this partnership is that it creates mentors for students who may not otherwise have them and effectively uses the skill sets of America’s corporate employees to inspire the future workforce. Mainly through competitions but through other volunteering initiatives as well, SuitUp has the goal of making sure that all students are exposed to the college and career paths of their choosing.

For me, at first glance, it was clear that today more than ever was a time to get involved in an organization like this. Recent racial justice initiatives on the individual level and the corporate level prove that this equity work can no longer wait. If we all want a better tomorrow, students from a young age need to be given the tools for success, not just the bare minimum. The education system has its flaws, and organizations like SuitUp seek to use the power of volunteering and philanthropy to begin to fill these gaps.

As somebody who grew up in the New York City public school system, I always knew about the education gap and disparities in education. But my understanding and vocabulary to describe my passion for educational equity didn’t come until I began university. At Brandeis, I also realized that my volunteer work in New York City public schools and even the public schools that surround Brandeis was showing me where these inequities start. I could also see why there is such a lack of economic and racial diversity at some of the best colleges in the country. If K-12 schools can’t even find the funding to provide necessary academic support to their English language learners and special education students, how will they achieve the goals written into state standards on college and career readiness?

SuitUp believes that all companies have a plethora of reasons to participate in these events, and students deserve these opportunists and more. However, sometimes the cost of each event does not cover what we need to carry out our programing as successfully as possible. Therefore, SuitUp hosts an annual gala. That brings me to my role as the Events and Fundraising intern working under SuitUp’s Executive Director. My job, as well as the job of the other intern on my team, is to plan ahead for the gala this fall. Within the first few weeks, I have created marketing collateral and communicated with the guest list, reached out to vendors to secure sponsors and gifts, and led a team of corporate executives to strategize marketing in preparation for our gala. These projects have taught me so much. Most importantly, I have learned that social progress takes detailed-oriented teamwork. SuitUp excels at this and is teaching it to its summer 2021 interns.

Blog post #1 — Yuezhu Chen

This summer, I work as a Research Assistant for Kogan Communications, where I report to the owner of the firm, Dr. Kogan, every workday. Our research topic is mainly about the Civil Rights Movement; the most consequential moral movement of the last century, and how civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis contributed to the movement and to American society.

During the first several days of work, I mainly conducted research on some clips of the Civil Rights Movement that John Lewis was actively involved in. For example, I tried to find detailed information as much as possible for the First Freedom Ride. The First Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961, when 13 freedom riders (7 blacks, including John Lewis, and 6 whites) left Washington, D.C., on two buses, aiming at New Orleans. The intention of the ride was to test the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boynton vs. Virginia (1960) which ruled segregation in interstate buses unconstitutional. One of my jobs was to conduct research on the ride and write a detailed chronology — where the riders were each day; if they were attacked, the reaction from the governmental officials and the public, etc.

During the research, I found several websites and books that depict Freedom Rides in detail. One of the most notable books is John Lewis’s memoir, Walking with the Wind in which Lewis narrates his experiences during the Movement along with his physical and mental feelings. While closely reading the book, I not only understand the courage of the freedom riders but also the importance and greatness of non-violence means of fighting. I listened to the interviews that John Lewis had in the 21st century where he not only talked about the Movement but also juxtaposed it with recent events. The role that John Lewis played in the Freedom Rides and the Movement was notable, and his experiences and leadership could serve as a model for present civil rights activists. In addition to John Lewis’s memoir, I hope I could have more narratives on the practice of nonviolence. 

John Lewis, left, and Jim Zwerg, a Fisk student, checks out their injuries after been beaten by a mob after they arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, May 20, 1961. (cr: USA Today)

Conducting research on the historical events triggered by racial segregation also has significance today. The Civil Rights Movement shows how structural racism was handled in the U.S., which is also a learning goal of mine doing the research. The leadership of John Lewis is also inspiring for people of color, like me, who want to fight for racial equality in the country.

Other than the Freedom Rides, I also conduct research on China and USSR’s propaganda to the Civil Rights Movement in the Cold War era when the triangular relationship of three countries (U.S., China, and the USSR)  was subtle but sensitive. My native proficiency in Chinese also enables me to analyze the primary sources in Chinese, thereby get more access to a variety of materials. In the recent future, I hope I can deepen my understanding of how international relationships influenced the Civil Rights Movement through research.

Work documents snapshot

 

So Far, So Good and SO MUCH Fun!

Greetings from Jerusalem! I am interning for the Hillel at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for their English language Beit Midrash (Jewish text study house), working under and with the head rabbi of the program, Rabbi Udren. So far in June my job has been mostly to work with the rest of the Hillel team to promote fundraising (shameless plug) for next year to get money for programs to rebuild the community after the worst of the pandemic left campus empty. We have done most of this fundraising by calling potential donors and sending messages on WhatsApp. We meet in the office twice a week and make phone calls and documenting the response we get from the people we talk to. So far our efforts have raised $35,000 of our $60,000 goal which is the most successful phone drive the program has had to date!

In July my job will switch to focusing on the social media presence of the University Hillel; I will be in charge of posting to their Facebook and Instagram as well as finding ways to further promote those two platforms to increase their presence and popularity both for the community and as a way to promote Rabbi Udren’s weekly Torah learning podcast, Sparks From the Fire (yes, another shameless plug!). I have already put some effort into this task while I was in quarantine, which has given me a head start and an insight to the problems that the accounts have. The objective is to, by the end of my time there, recreate the schedule and guidelines for posting on those two platforms in a way that can be continued by the rabbi when I leave and to increase the reach of the podcast to people all over the world. I have even been given the illustrious title of Social Media Director for the program! The title only came with pride and a sense of appreciation, not a raise.

From the internship I hope to gain experience and insight into working for a Jewish nonprofit and to make connections that can aid me in my professional life. Furthermore, I have been given the opportunity to learn Jewish texts at a Yeshiva (house of study) two mornings a week, which has served to deepen my spiritual connection to Judaism as well as given me more experience studying Jewish texts, which has been imperative for my professional development.

While I do go into the office several times a week, most of my work as the Social Media Director can and is done remotely, from the comfort of whatever park I am exploring on a given day. I have been able to interact with many Israelis which has taught me one thing: I need to learn more Hebrew. I am hoping that with enough time and practice here that I will finally realize all of the lessons that my Hebrew professors have been trying to instill in me for three years now. I’m sorry, Sara and Guy.

(My view from the office)

Harrison Carter

(1) Power in Place: Settings of Inspiration

Power in Place is a nonprofit organization focused on highlighting women in American politics through academic writing, interviews, podcasts, visual art, spoken word poems, and other forms of advocacy. PiP was founded in 2015 by professional photographer Katrina Hajagos in response to the lack of women–especially women of color–in political office. Only 23.7% of women hold a congressional office and only 37% of those women are women of color. The goal of PiP is to emphasize the lack of women in politics and to inspire the next generation of young women to find their voice and their place in American politics.

As a woman and a woman of color myself, I have often wondered how I could best serve my adoptive country. I was not born on American soil, so the presidency is out of the question. I could pursue a place in office in politics or continue my education into law school. Either way, I want a place in politics. As I entered my junior year at Brandeis, I looked for ways I could begin to enter the realm of politics, and the nonprofit Power in Place was perfect for me. Power in Place allows me to begin understanding politics in the field, and helps me develop skills in research, writing, and management.

As of 2021, Power in Place has 120 student collaborators from all over the country. There are 17 sections (or “teams”) of the organization that an intern can choose from. Sections include grant-writing, website design and accessibility, podcasting, in-house graphic design, and more. In addition to being assigned a team, students will individually choose an elected official from their home state to interview and conduct a photoshoot.

Initial rough outline of research on the suffragette movement

I was designated as a project manager for the virtual time capsule team and as a member of the graphic design team. The virtual time capsule is a long-term summer project where collaborators are working to create a virtual artistic timeline that tells the story of the suffragette and feminist movements starting in its early stages of the 1800s to the modern day fight for women’s equality in the 21st century. As the project manager for this team, I will be conducting and overseeing research, holding team meetings, and serving as a liaison for our boss, Katrina. So far we have conducted research on the women’s suffrage movement starting in the 1800s and on the early days of second-wave feminism in the 1960s.

The graphic design team is focused on helping out all other teams with any art or graphics needed. For example, our boss is looking to have a new logo created for Power in Place. Our team has been working on making a new logo that is more modern-looking and representative of the organization. In addition, the team is creating “baseball cards” for the highlighted women we are interviewing and for historical figures.

 

Post 3: Don’t Give Up When Your Work Gets Tough

A screenshot from our final zoom call together 🙁

From the beginning of my internship, I never expected to have an astronomical impact on the youth I’m working with. In the time I have been with Transition H.O.P.E., my impact has been my ability to be a positive role model, mentor, and overall influence to at least one of the teenagers in the program. I was lucky enough to connect and develop a strong friendship with one of the young girls I worked with. I’m grateful for the fact that this could be the impact I have on the program I worked for because that impact has more value than any of the logistical or administrative work I did for my boss over the last few months.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the work I do because this summer was incredibly unpredictable and COVID has been the primary cause of that. Therefore, if I could go back in time and tell myself absolutely anything, it’s that COVID-19 will play a much bigger role in the work I do than I think, and will undoubtedly make my work more difficult. The pandemic will dramatically affect the lives of black and brown folx, especially those who come from low-income backgrounds for years to come; and we are just only seeing the beginning of the consequences of COVID. The most outward disproportionate effect I see in the context of the work I did was my students adjusting to online school. A lot students already struggled in school without the imminent stress of COVID due to their own personal impediments they face on a daily basis. You can tell that these students, and probably millions across the world, will not be able to survive academically in this pandemic, thus perpetuating the cycle in a system that is objectively designed for them to fail. Words can’t express accurately enough how frustrating it is to feel this way as I ended my time in my internship.

Finally, If I could leave one piece of advice for working with system-involved youth it’s this: don’t give up. Something I struggled with a lot during my time in my internship is that I would find myself frustrated with the youth because they wouldn’t want to do certain things that were essential to the function of the program as well as would be incredibly beneficial to their personal wellbeing. Even though there were plenty of times where they probably expected me to give up on them, or be upset with them, I didn’t. I refused to do it. The kids are used to being a part of a school system that has given up on them or a community that has given up on them, and it is so important to be a person in their life that will not give up. If you are not comfortable constantly struggling to achieve your goals or to “get through” to the youth you are working with, then it simply is not for you.

Continuing my Virtual Internship Experience

Two months into interning remotely, this virtual experience has taught me a lot about how to be a proactive, productive intern. Going into an office holds people accountable and responsible for showing up on time, keeping themselves busy, and asking for help when help or guidance is needed. By removing this boundary, I am holding myself accountable for mimicking a normal workday to the best of my ability. Given that most of my communication with the agency is done over email, it also means that I have to actively speak up when I have a question, concern, or comment. I am responsible for finishing tasks in a timely manner and staying focused on the tasks at hand. Therefore, in this regard, I am very grateful that my virtual work experience has taught me how to stay on track and hold myself responsible because I don’t have the luxury of communicating effortlessly in an office, face to face.

Under a completely different light, I have enjoyed the flexibility of designing my own workdays and not operating under a strict schedule. It’s kind of relaxing to wake up without worrying about a long commute and being able to read the stories I’m covering outside in the sun. It’s almost nice not having to stay cooped up in an office chair inside all day, but instead, having the luxury of accomplishing my work wherever I want.

My typical workspace

My experience with World of Work has differed from my typical university/academic life because the experience has been a lot more self-motivated and independent. In a university setting, it is usually clearly defined what a professor is looking for in an assignment and what a student is expected to complete. This is less defined with my internship. It also adds a unique layer knowing that you are not crafting an assignment in order to get a good grade. My ambitions are more focused on me doing well because I want to do well and because I care about the organization, and less about attaining that satisfactory A.

Therefore, as a result of this internship, I have gained and developed many skills that will help further both my academic and professional career. I feel more confident in my ability to take initiative and solve problems without so much guidance. Due to this experience, I have also grown to trust my own creativity and know that even though I am just an intern, my ideas and suggestions can still be valuable to the wider organization.

From how to write good coverage to how to tell when a novel is worthwhile, I have also gained a lot of intel and tools on how to succeed within the literary agent industry. This will impact my role as a student because I think that I have become a stronger writer because of this experience and I have strengthened my editing abilities, all skills that will help me succeed in the classroom.

Post 3: The value of working from behind—What does my work mean to Ashoka?

Our virtual farewell meeting

My internship with Ashoka came to an end last week, and I’m already missing it! It’s hard to describe how grateful I am for the experience because it has meant so much to me in so many different ways: I got to see people helping each other altruistically and wholeheartedly; I gained so many insights regarding the field of nonprofit and social entrepreneurship; I learned how to communicate better and work productively; and I grew so much as a person. There are just too many things I can share, but in this blog, I want to focus on what my project and my work means to Ashoka.

The reason I want to talk about this particular topic is that, from the first sight, it doesn’t seem like my work has much to do with the impact Ashoka is making. In fact, I’ve also questioned the value of my work multiple times throughout the internship. However, in the end, I did see the significance of my project. I want to use this as an example to remind future interns to not get frustrated when you don’t see the meaning of your work at first.

As I mentioned in my first post, Ashoka is a global organization with offices in many countries. In Ashoka, collaboration between different offices is very common. For example, the Changemaker Companies (the department I worked in) often collaborates with the Paris office on developing and managing partnerships. However, since Ashoka is so big, people in different offices may not be familiar with each other’s work, so they often need to spend extra time at the beginning of each collaboration, which can slow down the progress of the actual project. That’s why many key departm­­­­ents of Ashoka all have their own space on this platform called Confluence, where people in other offices can learn about their work and download relevant resources. So, my project was to build such a space for the Changemaker Companies so that in the future, Ashokans from other offices could feel more knowledgeable about our work before collaborating with us.

Besides developing the Confluence space, my project al­­­­­­so involved rebuilding Changemaker Companies’ public and private SharePoint folder. Each department in Ashoka has its own SharePoint folder so that people in the same team could work on one deck together. People also kept all their past documents and decks in the folder. However, since everyone has access to edit the folder, Changemaker Companies’ SharePoint folder ended up being really messy and disorganized with a lot of overlapping and outdated documents. My job was to design a structure for the folder and reorganize all the documents so that it’s easier for people to locate materials. I also created a systematizing plan for tracking all the changes and updates made to the documents so that the administrator can better manage the folder in the future.

As you can probably tell, all of my work was internal-facing and none of it was associated with Ashoka’s external programs (the ones that are “actually” making impacts). However, no one can deny the significance of working on internal development, as it’s the backbone of every well-functioning organization. If all of Ashoka’s external programs and partnerships are the leaves of a tree, its internal development/management must be the trunk and branches.

In the field of non-profit/social justice–in fact, in every field–it’s impossible for everyone to work on the front line. We may only see the people on the front line and look up to them and think it’s glorious, but we must not forget the contribution of people working behind who deserve the same amount of respect and glory. Therefore, future interns, if you got assigned a task of a nature similar to mine, don’t complain or give it up right away. Take a moment to think about it; it might just be the trunk of any tree, the foundation of any impact.

Post 3: Social Justice and the importance of research

I truly enjoyed working with Dr. Yule and her team at Boston Medical Center this past summer. Last summer, I was an intern at MGH in one the psychology labs and it was not the experience I was looking for or expected. I now realize that my experience last summer was not representative of research and after my internship this summer, I am considering a career in research. Not all research experiences are the same, and not all work environments are the same, and it is something I wish I knew before I started this summer and before I generalized research experiences. But the reality is that you can’t know what a work environment will be like until you’re already there, in my case, doing the research.

While in this position this summer, I gained a deeper understanding of social justice work. Social justice is all about distributing resources fairly and treating everyone equitably. But sadly, when we take a look at today’s world, this isn’t happening in many places. I also learned the causes and consequences of social injustices from talks with psychiatrists, mental health counselors, coworkers, and from the research we were doing. We all need to work as a team to work towards dismantling all these barriers around health disparities, and this is exactly what Dr. Yule and her team are aiming for.

Before starting this position, I did not see how social justice was relevant to research, but as I began to work on projects with my coworkers, I realized that social justice work takes many forms. Many of these health issues that I talk about in this blog and in my previous blogs are often overlooked. It is the reason why social justice work is crucial in underserved populations to aid the growth of communities. The projects I worked on show how important research is during the times that we are living in, especially on evidence-based treatments. Despite how research has shown their efficiency, some providers are reluctant to use them. Research also demonstrates how important it is to address minority populations who lack access to health care, which could be due to structural racism. As a result, we see language barriers in place and people living in high crime and poverty neighborhoods, among other factors.

Earlier this year, my primary investigator received a grant from an ongoing initiative that the NIH has called “Helping to End Addiction Long Term.” This is an effort designed to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. It is also an effort to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction, and to enhance pain management. As part of this project, I worked on a task that included assisting with implementing screening for substance use disorders in behavioral health by identifying which screening tools and questionnaires have been translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole, and assisting with Spanish translation. Translating the screening tools into these languages is due to the hospital having a lot of Spanish and Haitian Creole-speaking patients. If we don’t have screening tools available in their language, we cannot help these patients and they are more likely to go untreated. This creates a barrier for them when accessing care that they wouldn’t otherwise face if they were native English speakers. This is why we need to work together to help them overcome these barriers to treatment. Once we are done with project, other researchers will be able to use the translations and other patients will be able to be treated.

A “Thank you” e-card signed by Dr. Yule and her team

I also worked on a systematic literature search focused on screening for substance use in behavioral health clinics. It is important to identify individuals with psychiatric disorders who have a co-occurring substance use disorder to address the disorders that are coexistent in treatment. While there is already a policy-level mandate to systematically screen patients for substance use disorders and deliver brief intervention to treatment and referral to treatment, the majority of the efforts have been concentrated in primary care. Substance misuse is at a higher rate in behavioral health populations, and therefore it is an entry point in getting people who might have a substance use disorder. A decision needs to be made because many people that need to be screened are not being screened. This gives the opportunity for clinicians to intervene early and be able to help their patients before it takes a toll on their patient’s overall health.

I also hope that this systematic review is able to inform other researchers about the importance of implementing screening in settings outside of primary care. We are also using another systematic review on treatment outcomes in adolescent girls to get a better sense of what is out there, in order to inform future research to provide better gender-specific treatments in the future. Lastly, the Department of Public Health will be able to make better informed decisions in terms of policies for medication management in residential treatment programs through another project we worked on and presented to them. All this work impacts social justice reform because, with systematic screening, we will be able to help patients who fall through the cracks in health care, and with systematic screening in place, it won’t be possible that someone who truly needs help will be left out.

Some advice I would give to someone else who wants to pursue an internship or career in my organization is that you have to be self-motivated. Also, if you can try to pick a good team, do so. Don’t be afraid to contact people if you have a question. Some people are always hesitant to do this. However, it’s good to ask if you are ever in that position how they did this or how did they get there. People do like to share their experiences.

Signing off from Seaside Sustainability

Through my work with Seaside Sustainability this summer, I met a lot of my goals, but not in the ways I imagined. I wanted to learn about non-profit work, which I imagined doing through event planning and development work. Instead, I got an interesting look at how this organization itself ran during this time, especially their internship program. It was interesting to me how autonomous this was and how well they have their remote infrastructure set up with their use of Trello and G-Suite.

I was hoping to get a better idea of what type of environmental work specifically I would most enjoy doing in a non-profit. However, I found it difficult to clarify my career interests in this internship, in part because I didn’t have the chance to work with many professionals in the field, since at Seaside I was working almost entirely with other interns. However, a major thing I did clarify about my career interest this summer is the type of organization I would most like to work for in the future. In the beginning of the summer, I also interned with an organization called Envision Frederick County, which is an organization that works on civic engagement and not just environmental issues, but I got to help them with some environmental programming. One reason I really enjoyed that experience was because their mission really aligned with my passions and worldview with regards to social activism. On the other hand, Seaside, although they are an environmental organization and they do a lot of great work, doesn’t have the social justice focus I feel really strongly about. Therefore, I learned that in the future I should search for any organization that has a mission I feel passionately about and a strategy that makes sense to me and that might benefit from my expertise, even if it’s not an environmental organization. 

For other students interested in environmental work who are looking for an internship, I would also recommend broadening your search to outside of environmental organizations. Depending on what specifically you want to do, lots of different organizations can help you gain skills that you can use in environmental work in the future. As for advice for future Seaside Sustainability interns specifically, I’d say don’t be afraid to ask questions. That advice goes for anything, but especially at Seaside, there is not a lot of orientation or explanation before you are given responsibilities, so if you get confused, ask the project manager or your intern manager if you don’t know who to ask.

Even though this summer didn’t go as I imagined, I am proud of what I accomplished. I advocated for myself when I didn’t have enough work and wasn’t getting enough out of my first work assignments. I’m also proud of the blog posts I wrote. I really enjoyed this project because I got to write about what I find important. However, I did face challenges throughout the summer and it was at times hard to stay motivated through all the turbulence happening around the world. Therefore, I am most proud of the resilience and grit I demonstrated to myself by finding ways to learn and grow though the difficult circumstances.

Post 3: Signing off

My last day of working with Answer the Call was this past Wednesday, July 29th. The World of Work experience was a unique experience, considering my position allowed me to work remotely from the comfort of my own home! Prior to COVID, I (as well as many others) expected to enter a physical office space and interact with co workers on a face-to-face basis. With COVID-19, everyone’s creativity skills kicked in, as we all had to adapt pretty quickly to working remotely.

In terms of social justice work, I feel that I have learned how to work with families who are usually forgotten, as well as keeping the memories of their loved ones alive. The families that Answer the Call deals with lost a loved one due to a Line of Duty Death, whether it may be fighting a fire to 9/11 to COVID-19. Assisting the families of fallen first responders holds a special place in my heart as these men and women put their lives on the line to protect the City of New York. The tragic event of 9/11 is still in conversation today. Many of the families that Answer the Call serves lost loved ones who were first responders on that gruesome day.  

Answer the Call has had an impact on me in many positive ways. Being able to work with colleagues who were very supportive and understanding with COVID was an amazing experience. Each and every single project that I was assigned was explained in great length, which was super beneficial. Furthermore, being able to work alongside my colleagues and raise funds for families of fallen first responders was truly an amazing experience that I will never forget. The families of Answer the Call were told that their loved ones would ever be forgotten, and Answer the Call honors this promise each and every day. 

In terms of advice to choose an internship or career, I would recommend that you should conduct vast amounts of research on the organization that you want to intern with. Being able to establish a connection or an interest with an organization is a vital factor. Reaching out and introducing yourself ahead of time is a great way to have your foot in the door. I established my early connection with Answer the Call back in August of 2019 when I sent an email about a fundraiser they were hosting for 9/11. That conversation then led to the discussion of potential internships, and here I am today, writing my final blog post for my WOW fellowship! 

Working with the families of fallen first responders is an honor. Being able to honor those that sacrificed so much is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The family members of those who have fallen sacrificed so much, and Answer the Call has been able to assist hundreds of families with the support they need. I would like to thank Answer the Call and the Brandeis WOW Fellowship program for making this wonderful experience happen. 

Signing off,

Joshua Feld 

 

FYI, this link is from an interview I conducted during the internship.

Meet Our 2020 TCS NYC Marathon Team: Mary Sullivan

 

 

Post 3: Wrapping up the Summer at the CARE Lab

Interning at the CARE Lab this summer has been a really educational experience for me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work there. The two goals I set for myself in my initial post were both very much met—the first was to gain career related skills and experience, especially first-hand through my own research project and by working on other ongoing research projects, and the second was to hone my collaboration skills and work with (and learn from) experts in the field I plan to pursue. For the former, I have already begun an independent project looking at the relationship between distress intolerance, affect, and cognitive control. Through this process, I’ve been getting first-hand experience in how to brainstorm and plan a project, conduct literature reviews, formulate aims and hypotheses, and more. I’m still in the early stages but will be continuing through the rest of the summer and into the fall semester. Additionally, I’m still working on the cognitive control training study (which is where the data for my independent project comes from) and have almost finished aggregating data; I just have two more cognitive tasks to comb through and then it’s on to more analyses! It’s been really interesting to be able to learn by doing during this internship, rather than learning the theory or general how-to from a course. As for the collaborative goal, I’ve been meeting regularly with my supervisor to discuss the work I’m doing, next steps, professional development, etc., which has been really helpful and has certainly fulfilled that for me.

My work at the CARE Lab has made me more interested in impulsivity and cognitive control, especially in a clinical population like the one at McLean.  This is likely an area that I would pursue in a lab when I apply for graduate school, so it’s been awesome to begin to refine what part of the field I want to research later on. I’ve also come to realize that I enjoy statistics and data analysis more than I thought I did; I never disliked it, but I’ve learned that it’s actually something I’m good at and want to do more of. I’ve been doing a lot of coding in R this summer which has been really fun for me, and because of all of this I’ve decided to take Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) Application this fall semester to learn another statistical coding language. But overall, working at the lab has confirmed my interest in getting a PhD in clinical psychology and going into the field.

One piece of advice I would give to someone pursuing an internship at the CARE Lab, or the BHP at McLean in general, is don’t be afraid to ask for more to do! There are always  many tasks that need to be done, and it’s good to take the initiative to ask for more rather than sit and wait for a task to be given to you after you’ve finished whatever you were doing. I would also say that it would be helpful to come into the internship with some level of statistics knowledge, as that will make performing data analyses easier. In terms of advice for someone pursuing in internship in  psychology research, I would recommend getting experience in both a clinical setting and a non-clinical setting, as while they are related, they have different focuses.

Out of everything I’ve done this summer, I’m most proud of the analysis work I’ve done for the cognitive control training study, as it has earned me the ability to be a co-author on the journal article once we start the writing process. This means that, depending on when the paper is submitted/published, I’ll have the opportunity to be published before I graduate, or right after I graduate, which will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Post 3: Wrapping Up My Internship at the Valera Lab

As I mentioned in my first blog of the summer, I had two primary goals coming into my internship at the Valera Lab: to learn more about the neurobiological manifestations of traumatic brain injury, and to learn how to work in a collaborative environment with other researchers. In regards to the first goal, I would say that I did not learn as much about the neurobiological manifestations of traumatic brain injury as I helped to conduct the study whose results will show the manifestations, and the study is still in progress. However, I gained an understanding of how traumatic brain injury caused by intimate partner violence affects women on an everyday basis from interviewing the women. In regards to the second goal, I most definitely learned how to work in a collaborative environment with other researchers and enjoyed it so much, too. I have found that I prefer to work with people rather than work alone, and even though I never met my co-workers in person, I am going to miss working with them so much. Hopefully once COVID is over I will be able to meet them! Here is the photo from my first blog post, of the clinical research coordinator Annie, my co-intern Sarah, and myself. Not pictured is my other co-intern, Olivia, and the lab director, Dr. Eve Valera.

This internship has brought me clarity in regards to what I want to pursue next. I have previously considered going into research, but now I can actually see myself becoming a neuropsychological researcher. I would love to research the neuropsychology and behavior of people who commit acts such as terrorism or sexual assault. 

From interviewing study participants, I have felt much more confident in my ability to be compassionate in listening to and validating people. Along with that, I learned how to process the difficult experiences that I hear and facilitate conversations in a trauma-informed manner. I have also learned how to write in a scientific convention! It is not as common-sense as you may think, it is often very formulaic and strictly-structured. However, once you learn the conventions, scientific writing becomes much easier.

If you are interested in an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, I highly suggest finding a lab whose work you are genuinely interested in and reaching out to the lab director. I ended up in this internship because while I was conducting a literature review in my prior research position, I came across Dr. Valera’s moving work and reached out to her – and here I am now. I think that the same goes for any research institution similar to MGH / Harvard Med. These positions are never handed to anyone, you will need to work for it by expressing your interests and excitement to learn about the lab’s work. 

It is hard to say what I am most proud of from this summer, but if I had to pick one thing it would be my co-intern and I’s independent research project and accepted abstract on transgender individuals experiences of traumatic brain injury caused by intimate partner violence. There is plenty of information and studies suggesting that transgender individuals experience health issues at rates disproportionate to cisgender individuals, however there is virtually no research done on their health specifically. I believe that this incoming generation of researchers will finally give sexual, racial, ethnic, and all other minority groups with unique health issues special attention. Along with the staff that conducts research, the content of the research itself deserves diversification proportionate to the greater population.

Thank you so much to Brandeis University’s World of Work (WOW) Program for helping make this impactful and educational experience possible.

— Maddy Pliskin

Post 3

Working in the social justice field has been one of my career goals for the past couple of years. As the days pass by, I learn that one must be committed and dedicated to this work, regardless of the targeted group of people or type of services. Take the Black Lives Matter movements for example. Portland has been protesting for 73 days in a row and counting. People are still donating and becoming allies. People who engage in social justice work, especially people of color, are the reason we have progressed as a society throughout the decades. Granted, there are several issues we still need to tackle. Most importantly, people who engage in social justice work are not here to receive recognition or a paycheck. They are here to make change.

That being said, a lot of people entering this field come as interns or volunteers. I am amazed at the dedication that people have to continue pushing an important agenda towards changing immigration laws. The people I worked with at my internship were often volunteers that cared enough about their community to continue working towards the nonprofit organization’s goal.

George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests erupt around the ...

When starting my internship, I was aware that I was a novice and had no previous experience working for a nonprofit or working in the immigration field. Every day, I was eager to learn something new and wasn’t hard on myself for not knowing the simplest things. In other words, I don’t wish I would have known more about the immigration field before starting my internship and I don’t believe it was a setback at all. I was here to learn and my supervisors were aware of that. However, one thing I wish I would have learned was how to make the best out of your internship, such as building relationships and networking. 

One thing I would like to say about anyone who wants to pursue an internship or career in this field is that the work is very rewarding. It is a type of job that makes you get up from bed on a Monday morning. I’m aware some young adults choose their careers very carefully and are afraid of choosing the wrong career because they don’t want to be “stuck” with this job for the rest of their life. However, if I were to be committed to entering this field, I would be more than happy. Though my internship was only temporary and short-term, it taught me life-long skills and knowledge that will help me navigate any post-grad plans and career plans. 

Not only am I thankful for my internship, but also to WOW for providing me the support to start my post-grad career goals.  This is only the beginning for me.

Post 3: Social Justice and Being Bold in Psychology

People typically think social justice work refers to hands-on activities, helping others or serving as an activist at protests or working on campaigns. Yes, these are important social justice roles, but there is a wider range of methods to promote and stimulate social change. Previously, I struggled with understanding how conducting psychological research was really a form of social justice because it is difficult to internalize that you are making a positive difference when just sitting at a computer, reading and writing. However, I chose to work as a research intern for Rogers Behavioral Health because I realized that disseminating effective treatments truly works to further social justice because most people do not know of evidence-based treatments for mental disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or trichotillomania. The website for Brandeis’ Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion explains that, “Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are psychologically and physically safe and secure.” (Bell, 2013, p. 21). Assisting in the writing of chapters that explicate research (often using common language) on evidence-based treatments enables me to help distribute the resource of knowledge to the general population. Yes, there are still many barriers to achieving social justice in the field of mental health treatment, but disseminating knowledge is a first step that I am proud to take part in.  

Venn diagram illustrating social justice in the field of psychology

My supervisor, Dr. Martin Franklin, has many responsibilities as the Clinical Director of Rogers Behavioral Health in Philadelphia, as well as in his private practice and other career endeavors. From conducting research and treating patients to presenting at conferences and going on book tours to promote his writing, Dr. Franklin is always busy working to help individuals and the world of psychology as a whole. Therefore, my work as a research intern assists him in various aspects of the research process, such as reading through previous studies and chapters, as well as writing literature reviews. Since I am completing these often time-consuming tasks, Dr. Franklin can spend more time on his other responsibilities.  

Dr. Franklin’s latest book: “Treating OCD in Children and Adolescents”

Reporting to a busy supervisor often requires a great amount of independence, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. I always complete my work on my own and Dr. Franklin trusts me to get my work done in a timely manner. He is not the type of person to give many hard deadlines or keep me on a rigid schedule, which I appreciate, but it definitely requires independence and confidence in my work ethic and abilities. I did not anticipate this high level of independence as an intern, but I am happy about it. Independence often breeds confidence, which are both important skills to develop. I would advise others pursuing careers in my field to be bold.  Boldness can involve reaching out and introducing yourself to someone in a high-level position, or asking questions, or taking on challenges in stride, and acting confident, even if you have not fully internalized this confidence yet. “Fake it til you make it” is a popular saying that has some truth behind it, but I prefer to say, “be bold til you make it.” Pushing yourself to be brave and step out of your comfort zone is not “fake” — it is being bold in order to achieve success.

Post 3: Until Next Time, UFE!


I wish I would have known how much I would miss United for a Fair Economy as my internship comes to an end. As I complete my last days at UFE, I am grateful to reflect on my experience. I initially thought that as a remote intern, I would not be able to get the full experience that I would have otherwise gained if I was physically there, but it has been the complete opposite. I got to learn tremendously from the staff, and experience UFE culture and what it’s like to work at nonprofit. My experience with UFE this summer has been special and meaningful.

The staff and I during team building!

One of the many meaningful things I’ve learned and experienced with UFE is how important it is to have a healthy work and life balance. UFE values personal health and taking time off to rehabilitate. This value has helped me transform the way I approach working to including more healthy practices that have helped me become more productive. Additionally, I’ve learned that it is your passion that drives your work. Working for social justice can get tough and even frustrating, but as long as you have a passion for social justice, you can get through all the hard times. UFE has a work environment that embraces challenges together, and it’s very collaborative. Working at UFE has shown me what to look for in workplace culture in a potential post-college job, and made me consider working full time at nonprofits. I have also expanded my interest in social justice and started to plan out the rest of my academic journey at Brandeis.

thank you note sent from UFE!

Additionally, I learned that there is not one primary solution to achieving social justice. There are multiple solutions, and as an agent for change, it’s essential I find the path I am most passionate about and do my best to help with the mission. For example, United for a Fair Economy looks at economic justice holistically. Each staff member contributes their expertise to the organization’s mission through education, development, and communications. I have even been able to share my passion for education equity and its relation to a fair economy through UFE. I’ve also learned how valuable and important it is to have a set of unwavering values in a nonprofit. I noticed that a lot of the work, like communication with donors and applying to foundations for funds, all comes down to “do they have the same values?” and I think that is part of the beauty of working at UFE. It’s definitely mission-driven.

Specifically, being the development intern, I learned a lot about resource mobilization and how a lot of it comes down to tracking all data and building relationships with donors. The bulk of my work has been working in the database and updating donor information. I’ve also done foundation research, made thank you calls to donors, and organized donor-advised funds. It is essential to always to build good relationships with donors and to seek out new relationships. In nonprofits, it’s important to be extremely organized and always seeking out funding from foundations. I am grateful to learn about how to finance nonprofits.

A gift from UFE!

My advice for working in social justice and working at UFE is to keep learning and develop self-efficacy. UFE is a unique workplace that encourages learning together and asking questions. Each staff member has a story, a path, and work that is inspirational and can teach you a lot and help you form your own path. I had the opportunity to sit in a lobbying meeting with Mike Lapham for the second stimulus package. That was a great learning experience to understand negotiation. And from speaking to Jeannette, I got to learn about the power of strength and self-efficacy and how that can lead to success. Always be willing to do what’s right, even if the task is a little daunting.

Thank you, UFE, for an incredible summer! (PS: Check out their State of the Dream Report !)

Post 3 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

I set out into the summer with what I thought were some fairly broad and undefined learning goals: I wanted to gain experience doing machine learning, and I wanted to experience a professional environment, particularly a software development-oriented one.

Although the remote nature of my internship did not allow me to become as intimately acquainted with office life as I would have liked, I was still able to learn a lot about what day-to-day interactions are like, what working as a team in this kind of setting is like, and, most importantly, about machine learning. Being given the opportunity to push my own boundaries regarding this particular skill was really rewarding, as these are industry skills that will greatly benefit me going forward.

This internship provided clarity in terms of my career interests. I have been interested in software development for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to see how my academic interests would transfer to the real world. I have learned how to interact with both peers and supervisors in a professional setting, which will greatly benefit me in the near future, as I progress along my professional journey.

To a student intern who was interested in obtaining a position with my host organization, I would advise them that even if things seem like they’re moving fast at first, it’s only a matter of time before your level of relative unfamiliarity wears off. Once I figured out my place and role on the team, I was able to quickly move forward with my personal project, which furthered my understanding of what I was supposed to do. 

To someone interested in a computer science internship, I would advise them to keep their head above the water. The field itself moves fast, and changes can be both imperceptible and sudden at the same time. There is enormous demand for computer science jobs and interns, so if you pay attention and are competent, plenty of incredible opportunities will come your way. 

This summer, I’m most proud of the contributions I’ve made at Image Insight. I had hoped to bring new insights and methods of analysis by reinventing their wheels, and I think I’ve done precisely that. One regret I have is that I was not able to fully finish one component of my assignment using machine learning, and had to implement a statistical approach to overcome this roadblock. Yet, by and large, this has been a summer of exploration and of learning. I’m very proud of my learning and contributions, and excited to take this experience with me moving forward.

Me working outside

Post 3: Final Thoughts :)

I have learned that in the world of work, organization is everything. Working for IfNotNow, I was able to be successful because of its existing structures and the order those structures helped maintain. For example, my supervisor is the northeast field organizer, so she was already prepared to direct people in different cities to coordinate with the national organizers. This consistent communication between local and national leaders of IfNotNow made my job more organized because I knew how to make sure that what people in IfNotNow Boston did for the campaign would fulfill the national goals. This organization also ties to social justice work because without consistent communication, our goals and strategy could have easily gotten muddled in the fast pace at which political issues, specifically issues around annexation, move. We often had to come up with different contingency plans depending on what was happening in Israel, the West Bank, and the United States. Organized communication is key when dealing with sensitive, intense social justice issues. 

I think the great thing about grassroots organizing is that everyone who gets involved, in whatever capacity, is important. I was the leader of the Boston hive’s (a hive is just another word for chapter) anti-annexation campaign and I think having me as a specific person to be the area’s point person was positively impactful. If people had questions about how to get involved or what sort of resources they could offer, I was the one to whom they would be directed. This made it easier for the campaign to move along locally, and having one main coordinator helped keep the hive in line with the national campaign. 

I wish that when I started I knew how much a social justice campaign can make a difference! Looking back on the summer, what IfNotNow did had a huge impact on how American politicians are thinking about conditioning aid and how Jewish Americans are thinking about annexation. Even though our constituent meetings felt small, seeing headlines about how the elected officials we had talked to were in favor of our demands felt huge. Those moments were validating because I knew that our work was significant. I think if I had known what a gratifying feeling those moments would bring then I probably would’ve stressed less about what kind of impact my work this summer would have.   

I would tell someone who wants to pursue an internship or career in Jewish social justice organizing that it is imperative to put up proper boundaries. I mean this in a few different ways. First, with remote organizing, I would recommend sticking to a strict schedule that allows you to separate your time between work and fun. Part of this includes making a clean space where you can work, and not checking your email after a certain hour of the day. Second, when organizing within small communities, it is important to make sure that, if you’re organizing with people you have personal relationships with, you check in with them and talk about where the professional relationship ends and the friendship begins. This way, we can have better conversations with our communities about important issues such as annexation, while keeping our personal relationships intact when discussing potential emotionally taxing topics. 

The logo of IfNotNow

Overall, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work for IfNotNow and see how a social justice organization works. I hope to continue to explore this field, and now I have a new outlook to continue that journey. 

 

Post 3: Ending My Summer with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

Over the course of this summer, I went from having very little idea what I wanted my life to look like post-graduation to having a relatively clear plan for the next few years. All of the staff within the DA’s office has been enormously helpful in helping get me here. One piece of advice that stuck with me came from an ADA who said that she only recommends going to law school if having a JD is the only thing standing in the way between you and what you ultimately want to do. I expected I would likely end up going to law school, but I also knew that this isn’t a path I would want to embark on without a very specific vision for what came after. Now, I feel much more confident taking these next steps.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 fundamentally changed every aspect of the world of work, likely forever. I am extremely grateful for the readiness of my supervisors and the rest of the staff to completely restructure the program and ensure we still had a great experience. Like many, I have found my work style is not very compatible with working from home. This was one of the most significant challenges. However, by establishing a routine around my work schedule, I was able to stay productive. Once again, through discovering the ways I don’t work best, I have a better idea of what I am looking for in a career going forward. I look forward to someday being able to go into the office and meet everyone in person.

Another challenge I encountered lay in the content of the work. Much of what the MDAO does, by definition, requires confronting some of the most difficult aspects of the human experience. With crime often comes immense violence, pain, and loss for those involved, and for a highly empathetic person, this world can be really difficult to immerse oneself in every day. It sounds a bit cliché, but I have increasingly come to realize that fundamentally caring about people isn’t a weakness in this line of work. Far from it. This attribute, especially in social justice work, can make an individual a more effective agent in helping work toward a more just system for everyone.

I cannot recommend the MDAO’s internship program highly enough. I think any junior or senior considering going into the legal field would benefit immensely from the experience and connections it creates. The staff is extremely supportive and happy to offer advice and guidance. This is not the kind of internship where you will be in charge of coffee runs; everyone I have done work for has ensured that the tasks they gave me are meaningful and that I see how they fit into the bigger picture.

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Here’s a link to the docket and filings for Ryan, et al v. ICE, et al, District Attorney Ryan and her fellow plaintiffs’ lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I was lucky enough to get to listen to oral arguments for the case in the First Circuit Supreme Judicial Court!

This is a slide from a training, “Identifying Racial Elements in our Prosecutions.” We have had weekly trainings on systemic racism that have included very productive discussions.