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.

______________________________

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.

Post 3: Wrapping up My Internship at TRII

Reflecting on my experience as a research intern for TRII, what have I confirmed about social justice work is the difficulty of doing nonprofit work in the field of immigration law. In this field, the majority of the attorneys are working pro bono, while the regulations are changing rapidly, and there is a massive surplus of immigrant clients. Especially during the COVID-19 period, government regulation regarding the asylum application was tightened up to an extreme level. For example, my current research task is focused on how COVID-19 has created a public health issue for asylum-seekers.

This is only one of many examples showing the vulnerability of the immigrant community. The workload of social justice groups has been increasing, while the working capability of ours has also been affected negatively by the pandemic. For example, since the outbreak, TRII has shifted much of its focus to the housing crisis in immigrant communities. Many of the undocumented immigrants are facing the risk of being kicked out of the house by their landlords.

My experience as an intern for TRII has been a positive one, but my contribution has also been limited by multiple factors. First, doing everything virtually has limited my interaction with clients and coworkers in the workplace. With all the courts delaying opening, many of the cases the institute was working on were frozen. Therefore, I have not been doing what I originally expected to do, including getting in-person experience observing lawyers dealing with immigration cases. Second, because I am not a professionally-accredited immigration case representative, my participation in specific cases has been limited. Without the pandemic, I would possibly have been able to shadow more client meetings. But, with the pandemic going on, I could not directly help as many clients as I intended.

If I were to give advice to people who are interested in immigration law or social work in general, I think whoever wants to get involved in this field should be aware of the difficulties and frustration you would encounter. The reality and the future of the field are not the brightest looking forward, but this is also where the help is most needed. With more restricted legislation and funding, representing clients and winning cases is becoming more difficult. In order to get the best out of the internship experience, you should be careful when choosing what kind of organization for your internship. Nonprofit organizations in the field of immigration law focus on different aspects of immigration laws. For example, some organizations specialize in public health and some specialize in women’s rights. Therefore, choose an organization that best matches with your interests.

As I am wrapping up my internship, this experience makes me believe that I want to continue to work in the field of public and social policy. I am planning on going to law school, and when I become a lawyer, I can better serve social justice causes in communities that need the most help.

Post 3: Learning about Justice from the Sierra Club

While working remotely for Sierra Club’s Massachusetts Chapter this summer has been a challenging, often isolating experience, the internship has also been incredibly rewarding. I applied to Sierra Club’s political internship program in late January, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, with the hopes of better understanding how policy-making intersects with environmental justice and activism. In the first weeks of work, after being assigned to Erika Uyterhoeven’s State Representative campaign in Somerville, I really struggled with being confined to staring at my computer screen, in my house, an hour away from her district, while the rest of the campaign staff got their hands dirty building a grassroots movement. I had envisioned myself working in Sierra Club’s office or the Massachusetts State House, helping candidates and elected officials create and pass the critical environmental policies we need for a sustainable and livable future. Instead, I was sitting in my bedroom making phone calls and writing emails for a campaign fifty miles away.

Campaign volunteers making calls for Erika. (I’m in the bottom row, second from right)

However, I quickly became invested in Erika’s platform and, despite my challenges, began truly enjoying the work I was doing. Erika is a lifelong activist and community organizer who has spent her career fighting for affordable housing, vibrant public education, healthcare for all, racial and economic justice, and–most relevant to my interests–a bold and substantial approach to mitigating climate change. As I spent my days calling voters and volunteers, drafting social media and digital content, fundraising, conducting policy research, and writing about the need for a progressive voice in Somerville, I learned that I was a part of something bigger.

Although my days were exhausting, and it sometimes felt like I was doing inconsequential “busy-work,” I came to realize that the time I was putting in was actively contributing to building a better world. Social justice work is making change, and while I would prefer it to be a quick and painless process, pursuing justice takes time, energy, and a movement of people. By fighting so hard to elect Erika, a candidate whose values I believe in, I played a small role in making real change. If she is elected, I know she will fight for justice, give a voice to the oppressed, and work tirelessly to solve the challenges that our state, country, and world are facing. As a part of her movement, I also have a part in the outcomes she will create.

In reality, the work I was doing was not insignificant. Over the course of the summer, I made close to two thousand phone calls for the campaign, having hundreds of conversations with voters and advocating for Erika and the values she represents. I was named the campaign’s “Social Media Coordinator,” responsible for brainstorming, drafting, and curating daily posts on each of Erika’s platforms. These posts included fundraising asks, volunteer recruitment, sharing press releases, and announcing policy positions. I also created content for her webpage, wrote emails, applied for endorsements, and helped manage campaign databases.

The diversity of tasks I was assigned also gave me numerous opportunities to learn, as I was exposed to the complex and dynamic challenges of building a grassroots campaign. Each day was different, and while I was primarily interested in finding solutions to environmental issues, I was required to read about, research, and understand all of the policy areas that make up Erika’s campaign. Environmentalism cannot happen in a vacuum. Rather than simply protecting the planet and its biodiversity, we must also protect people and human rights. I grew to understand that environmental justice cannot be achieved if it is only focused on the environment and not also on the other issues our communities are facing. By working on this campaign, I learned a lot about what it means to pursue social justice.

Although this summer provided me with huge opportunities for personal and professional growth, I wish I had begun with a better perspective of the emotional burden of social justice work. The effort required to build a movement and advocate for your beliefs, especially when all of this is done virtually, during a pandemic, can make change feel impossible and hard work feel fruitless. However, by advocating for Erika, a Sierra Club endorsed candidate fighting for environmental justice, I am also fighting for environmental justice. This justice may be realized gradually, but without the movement of people behind it, change cannot happen.

Post 3: As my internship comes to an end, the world keeps on moving…

Faces of some of the many very hard working lawyers, social workers, paralegals, and interns at the monthly immigration unit meeting.

I’ve only been privy to some of the goings-on at a single nonprofit, so I certainly cannot speak for the world of work as a whole, nor for social justice work in general. However, I have learned quite a bit about what it looks like to operate within a legal nonprofit that, despite its considerable resources, brainpower, and passion, still has to work within the confines of a system that is pitted against its clients. I’d imagine this can be said for a lot of organizations similar to Legal Aid. Social justice work cannot exist without injustice. The impetus for the work is necessitated by a lack of that which nobody should have to fight for: basic respect, compassion, and protection by one’s fellow citizens and the government. Social justice work, from where I stand and from the little exposure I have had, seems to be about working simultaneously within and outside of the systems at play to ensure the humanization of the clients. 

I’ve been asked to write about what impact I’ve had on the organization in the time I’ve been there. I always struggle with this question. It’s not how I like to think. But, I’d say, in the short run, I’ve opened up space for the lawyers I have worked with to focus on tasks that only they are capable of doing. In the long run, I hope I will make the jobs of those at the organization a bit easier by mending the world they have to navigate with their client in some way. And it’s not an easy world.

One thing I’ve only begun to understand is how much let-down there is in this line of work. I was the person who discovered, due to some clerical error in the nebulous vacuum that is USCIS ( United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), that the visas we were preparing for a family of seven were going to take six years longer than expected. I discovered that a DACA client I was working with was actually ineligible for this status. I read the emails of a staff attorney desperately trying to get the casket of a young client she had worked with back to his mother.

There are barriers at every turn, yet there are also tremendous rewards. I’ve reassured many people, signed them up for benefits, listened to and documented their stories, and hopefully have made them feel heard. The other night I was interviewing the son of a woman who had suffered domestic violence, to hear his perspective. He’s fifteen. I explained that this would be the last time we would speak because I was an intern, but that his mommy ( he calls her mommy 😊) would be in very good hands. He looked at me and said “Oh nooooo, don’t go!” in a playful but earnest tone. In that moment, to have some confirmation that he and his mommy felt helped and heard was amazing. You can’t help everyone. So many things are out of one’s control; even the most senior of lawyers say that. But to know that there are concrete ways to make life better for some people helps to soften the blows and invite in hope. 

My advice for someone interested in this internship is to just give it a try. Call someone, e-mail someone, apply. It doesn’t have to be something you are 100% certain you will like. That defeats the purpose. A friend called me to talk about nonprofit work because he thought he might be interested (Like I’m some expert! No way!) and I had very few concrete answers for him. That’s when you stop thinking, and just start doing. Something. There is no other way to learn, especially in the nonprofit world.

If you’re interested in immigration, a great place to start is TRII (The Right to Immigration Institute). I’m still trying to connect more with the Waltham community, and this is a sound way of doing that and getting some truly hands-on experience not afforded to many undergraduates.

Blog post 3 – The journey coming to an end

It has been a great 2 months working for Nobee and the journey is coming to an end. This makes a great time to look back and reflect on what I contributed and achieved with my internship.

My goals at the beginning were to learn real programming skills, build projects, and get hands on experience with the software development cycle. At Nobee, I built an actual Ruby on Rails project and adding/modifying various functionalities to an existing one. From that, I believe I got quite good hands-on technical experience with Ruby on Rails. Furthermore, by joining in with the discussion and brainstorm, I was exposed to the internal operations and the communication process of a fast-paced startup. Overall, I would say my defined learning goals were met.

This internship has given me a glimpse into the life of a software engineer. There were some stressful times around deliverable deadline but, in all generality, the job is really interesting and has a decent work balance (this source says most work 40 hours work week but sometimes software engineers have to work evenings and weekends to solve problems). I have been enjoying learning a new programming language and solving problems. Therefore, this internship has definitely confirmed my interest and career choice as a software engineer. Also, this year and the current pandemic situation also provided a prospect of a remote software engineer job. It is by no means perfect and definitely an adjustment than working on-site. However, it is shown that working remotely as a software engineer could totally be viable.

Working remotely

All in all, I enjoyed my experience working for Nobee. The team comprises of smart and energetic young people and communication is dynamic and comfortable. My supervisor was super helpful, really devoted to help me solve my problems. My advice for future interns at Nobee as well as interns in general relates to communication. If you are running into a difficult problem or unclear instructions, the best thing to do is to discuss with your supervisor. The process of talking and explaining the problem to the supervisor is already the first step to tackle the problem. On top of that, sometimes a simple hint from the supervisor can connect that final dot in your thought process. My advice is not to hesitate to contact your supervisor/project manager and further discuss the problem while of course, making sure that they are available and happy to help.

Post 3: Wrapping up in the Governor’s Virtual Office

As for goals, I wasn’t able to accomplish the major ones, however, that is only due to the virus. Because of the virus, we are not able to work within the actual office in the state capital. It would have been there that I would have been able to meet a lot of cool people and made a lot of connections. That aside, I would still call his summer a success simply because of the fact that I spent my time working to help the constituent of this state. I would not really say that my goals changed.

This internship did not so much clarify but reassure my career choice. The constituent work is not as close to legal work as I would like but it’s still within government and we still do great work. Therefore, I figure if I enjoy this, then when I get a step closer to working in the field of my career, I will be even happier to be there. That said, during my time in this workplace I have discovered that I am adaptable. In the beginning, there was some trouble with getting my account set up. On top of that, when I did get my email, I found that I was not able to access the app that the rest of the team was working on. However, I stuck with it working through Gmail with my supervisor. There were also various processes that I had to learn in order to help constituents such as creating a case and often times drafting responses myself to send out in emails. I also learned that I need to work a little more on my communication skills. In that, my experience was sort of similar to the last half of the spring semester. Working online is just a bit more inconvenient than being in the environment and actively participating in your work.

If I had to give advice to someone who wanted an internship here I would highly recommend it. First off, everyone in the office is so nice. Rory was always there to help me when I needed despite everything through the virus. Jamal gave me great advice when I went to the office over winter break for some training. Secondly, it was a great experience in the sense that you learn so much about local government. Everyone pays so much attention to national politics but in reality, they know little to none about who is running their immediate everyday life. On the flip side to that, you learn a lot about how the local government works in response to the constituents who do take advantage of their power.

This summer I am most proud that I put my foot in the door. This internship is the first that has anything to do with my career choice. That in itself makes it all worth it, even if I did not get the full effect. I also met some very nice people that I hope to continue connecting with over the years to come.

This is a picture of the number of emails I have to go through. http://www.ctcapitolreport.com is the website we use to stay updated about things happening around the state.

When a journey comes to an end…

This summer working on the Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging Laboratory of Columbia University (UEIL) has been an amazing experience. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to make my summer during this strange time a productive one. I have certainly achieved a lot more things than I hoped for. Helping in the development of such an interesting research was truly an incredible way to invest my time and energy in, while at the same time improve myself as a scientist.

One of the reasons I wanted to pursue an internship this summer was that I wanted to experience working in a lab setting, in order to decide if that could be a viable career path for me. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was not able to physically be in the lab. Consequently, I did not get the chance to perform experiments in person or practice using lab equipment. Despite these difficulties, I had the opportunity to study how to analyze data and I became proficient in MATLAB. I learned how to write my own algorithms, which most of the time is a rather creative job.

During this internship, I was required to work on my own, which taught me some crucial skills about working independently, but made me realize that I really enjoy being part of a team and collaborating with other people. This summer, I also cultivated my ability to set goals and manage my time accordingly in order to achieve them. Through this experience, I learned more about myself and my abilities, but I’m set on a course to challenge myself even more.

To anyone interested in pursuing an internship at the UIEL lab in the future, I would say that you should be ready to work hard and dedicate a lot of their time into this research.  Another piece of advice I would like to pass on is the importance of finding a balance between struggling by trying to work through the difficulties on your own and asking for help. By forcing yourself into a situation where you have to think a problem through by yourself, you’re enhancing your critical thinking skills and challenging yourself. That way you learn to research and think outside the box when it comes to finding solutions to your problems. Some more advice I would like to share, is that you should make sure you are interested in the research of the lab you choose to work with because researching and studying about the lab’s research will take most of your time as an intern.

I am beyond thrilled to have worked for the UEIL lab and I am proud of my accomplishments this summer. Contributing to the prestigious research of this lab was something I was not expecting to be able to achieve in such a short amount of time. All those months of preparation, learning MATLAB on my own, and studying research papers were worth every second of my time.

Wrapping Up My Internship

Over the last few months, I continuously worked to help move forward the research on the mysteries of space dust near the Andromeda Galaxy, with the additional goal of learning more astronomy and programming. Throughout the summer, I consistently accomplished new goals, both research-related and personal. As I progressed my goals evolved, allowing me to continue challenging myself while learning along the way. My communications with my supervisor helped me adapt and change course when needed in order to best meet my goals.

 

This internship gave me first-hand experience with the effort and challenges associated with conducting research full-time. As my supervisor explained to me several times, unlike assigned homework, there is not always a correct answer associated with the problem. Research requires an open mind and a willingness to explore every detail with intense concentration and focus. Completing this internship entirely remotely was an added challenge to this project, however I learned more about myself due to this situation. Although I enjoyed this internship and found this work very interesting, I learned that I work much better when working in a team. My productivity definitely increases when I’m able to work through issues and bounce ideas off of my peers.

 

If I could give advice to a future student looking into completing a similar internship, I would first ask them what they are interested in and why. It is very important to understand exactly what piques their curiosity in order for them to maintain passion for their work. Showing up to work every day with a desire to continue unlocking the mysteries associated with their project will allow them to push forward even when the going gets tough. When they are stumped and not sure how to continue, their interest in the subject will help them prevail and think critically about the proper ways in which to move forward. Additionally, it is very important that they have a willingness to accept constructive criticism and an ability to learn from their mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes during research, but those that can find and learn from them are the most successful. Finally, I would explain that being an open and reliable team member will help everyone accomplish more together, as they will create a successful give and take relationship.

 

Through all of the difficult and stressful parts of the internship, the most rewarding part was the recognition from my supervisor about my gradual, but huge increase in ability to work independently and produce quality results. The learning curve for this internship was very steep, but as I continued working each part began clicking more quickly. As a result of my perseverance my work and subsequently my confidence improved. Looking back at the beginning of my internship to now, the entire process of struggling and learning left me with a a feeling of gratification.

(needs image) Post 3: Social Justice at MCSW

I was afforded the opportunity to explore my passion for social justice this summer because of the World of Work fellowship. Although policy has a substantial impact on the everyday lives of many, it is common knowledge that this field is not as lucrative as other disciplines. For this reason, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, much like other government commissions, doesn’t have the resources needed to hire interns like myself. Instead, they rely on unpaid interns to carry out their operations year-round. Social justice work is pivotal and necessary, yet, it is often overlooked and taken for granted. Furthermore, such work arises out of a great need for change, like every great movement, followed by a turning point in legislation and then society.

Social justice acknowledges that the scales of life are imbalanced and tipped in favor of a Eurocentric and male majority, largely leaving out women, people of color, and impoverished individuals. As a result, many in these communities succumb to the systemic injustices of legislation, institutions, and perceptions that oppose those who are marginalized. The most memorable social justice movements have countered societal norms, like the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage movement, Brown v. Board of Education, and Obamacare just to name a few.

In the time I’ve been with the MCSW, I truly feel as though I have contributed meaningful work on the issues of maternal health, economic equality, and topics concerning women of color. I have been given a number of assignments aimed to track the progress of health-centered legislation, specifically maternal health and menstrual equity. Most recently, I wrote a letter on behalf of the MCSW to Senator Karen Spilka for the support of bill S.1332, widely known as the Midwifery Bill. The goal of this legislation is to expand and provide better avenues for holistic, out-of-hospital birth for families across Massachusetts.

In the same manner, I wrote in support of An Act to Ensure Gender Parity and Racial and Ethnic Diversity on Public Boards and Commissions, a bill that would require all commissions to reflect the diversity of our commonwealth, in addition to ensuring equitable representation in public boards, Moreover,  I’ve been able to provide administrative support by organizing data and researching a variety of issues. One of them was creating a memo about women in Massachusetts that experience domestic abuse, and trying to come up with ways for the MCSW to support organizations dedicated to this work.

Before starting at the commission, I wish I would’ve known more about the legislative process on a state level and federal level. I found myself having to familiarize myself with new terminology, the process of passing a bill, and other caveats of policy work. Irrespective of that, I had the chance to learn about policy at a very peculiar time as COVID-19 rapidly altered the world. I was able to witness how priorities shifted to the extremely neglected needs of our most vulnerable populations. While this proactivity was necessary and needed, it exposed the extent of neglect our leaders and institutions have subjected these communities to, and there is much more work to be done.

Post 3: Finishing Summer at Love4Bukwo

My site in Bukwo

The summer is over, and now it is time to start thinking about the upcoming school year and the additional challenges that COVID is bringing to my final year on campus. Coronavirus is definitely a challenge that has thrown a curveball for everybody. Originally, I had plans to be over 9000 miles away from my home in Arizona in Bukwo, Uganda. Circumstances led me to conduct my internship virtually from home this summer.

World of Work (WOW) is an extraordinary program that provides students with opportunities to participate in a wide variety of fields during the summer. Without WOW and Hiatt, I never could have imagined working with Love4Bukwo this summer. Love4Bukwo is a nonprofit that is creating accessible healthcare for the people of the small town of Bukwo, Uganda. The organization is built upon reducing socioeconomic inequalities facing the Ugandan community. As Love4Bukwo focuses on providing equitable healthcare to community members, their foundation is bringing justice to the people of Bukwo and the inequalities they face through healthcare.

Love4Bukwo is still working to create a fully functional hospital as they have run into complications throughout their journey. As I was involved with this origination virtually, I was tasked with working on various projects. I participated and helped the organization with a wide variety of assignments. I helped my organization write a USAID grant, and worked on several different aspects of creating policies for the hospital. Working to create policies for the hospital, is essential as it creates a foundation for how the hospital will run and function upon opening.

Having the chance to work directly with an organization like Love4Bukwo was an extraordinary opportunity this summer. Something that I quickly realized while working with my internship was how elaborate it is to create a hospital. The amount of behind the scene work that goes into creating policies and procedures to ensure an operational hospital was astounding. I had no idea the amount of work going into addressing inequalities in small rural under-developed communities in the Global South. Working to address the healthcare inequalities that the people of this town face is such a large-scale project that the founders of Love4Bukwo have taken on. They have already built the facility and are working on expansions from around the world. They have to create policies and procedures, transport equipment, and medicine to the site, while also still hiring staff and physicians.

When I was searching for an internship for the summer last spring, I had no idea where to begin. But I found the best way to find an intriguing opportunity of the summer is to look at where you want to be in the future and selectively apply to programs that focus towards that goal. The best thing to do is really utilize networks and ask peers and colleagues for help. The connections that you build now will help you to be able to effectively reach out for new opportunities later down the road.

Post 3: Looking Back at My Internship

The world of work is volatile and invigorating. In these unprecedented times, the world of digital work can be seen as limited, and in many respects it is. Communicating with colleagues becomes a bit more difficult, but this forces you to become creative. In the same vein, you have to be creative with social justice work.

Though I was not hands-on with every social justice initiative I saw at my job, I made note of many of them. Social justice work makes you sit with injustices and inequities, sometimes knowing that you may not have to find solutions all on your own. What you can do is try to understand why they exist and validate that they do exist.

When I started to learn more about IEPs (individualized education programs), I realized that the root of the issue of how they are administered in schools cannot be squarely blamed on just one person or one thing. The public education system and the massive amount of students it houses makes it difficult for IEP evaluations to be individualized and truly reflective of every last student.

Through my role, I was able to see the difficulties of having digital speech therapy. There are some inconsistencies with technology that cause distractions that you would not necessarily find in in-person meetings. It exposes areas in therapy that can be further developed to accommodate more people. 

Before I started my internship at My Speech Matters,  it would have been helpful to have known a bit more about the standard strategies that speech therapists use with children, in particular. The reason why I would have liked to know more about them would be to compare how well they work virtually. I did, however, have an opportunity to learn more about a wide range of strategies after observing several sessions over time. Learning how to assuage a child’s temper or gauge their attention over the computer requires adjustments. As mentioned earlier, they may be dealing with sensory overload in their environments or not accustomed to remote sessions. I would have appreciated knowing how different things needed to be handled given varying circumstances.

Lastly, to anyone looking to pursue a career in the speech pathology field, I would say it is as fulfilling as your mission. I believe that if you have a passion for helping individuals to work towards achieving social-emotional skills and goals, then the speech pathology field would be fulfilling. It is also a field in which imbalances in care and implementation of strategy are present. I always wonder who does and does not have access to speech pathology resources and ask why.

Working at My Speech Matters this summer has given me insight into my career in the sense that it has allowed me to envision the space I want to cultivate and provide for my community. It has been an invaluable experience in the sense that I have been exposed to many things that the field is working on and many ways that the field can do better. As I go through introspection about how things will progress in the field by the time I enter it, I still know that many things will need work.

The Final Countdown

“My brain is like two supercomputers working together to process one million zillion signals.” –Anonymous Student

end of summer reflections

As I near the end of my internship with The Quad Manhattan, I am reflecting on my initial goals: To learn and implement new skills of my own; learn how to map a child’s progress and structure a case study; make connections with other students and professionals in my field; get a taste for the worlds of social work and school psychology; and learn how to properly support kids who are struggling.

Over these past two months, I have learned and implemented many strategies to help my students calm down and remain engaged throughout the day. In this sense, I definitely got to work with children in more of a psychological capacity. The case study, rather than being an academic paper as I’d expected, was an end of summer report geared toward the parents. I’m glad that I gained real-world experience communicating with parents and writing something that will help my students’ success in the coming year. 

I was also pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to shadow occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists during their sessions with my students, which helped me observer how these services worked in practice. I gained further experience as an educator as well, leading a psycho-social lesson on turn-taking for my Core group. Overall, as an intern, I did more teamwork than I thought I’d do, especially with the online format. It was really helpful to have that support from my core team, and I feel like I made a lot of great connections with other students, educators, and therapists. I definitely got closer with my kids than I thought possible over Zoom and will be sad to leave them.

A drawing that I made over Zoom with my student during choice time.

Working with The Quad Manhattan solidified my interest in social work and opened me up more to the possibility of working in a school. I would still like to do social work, but I am considering a school social work track, as I really enjoyed working with educators. This internship also pushed me more toward the idea of taking a gap year before getting my Master’s in Social Work (MSW). I learned that while taking classes is valuable, real-world experience is more fulfilling for me and just as important for someone in my field.

My takeaway is that if you’re going into counseling or social work, you don’t need to work in a lab at Harvard (unless you really want to); you need to gain real-world experience by interacting with your target population. You will never know what to expect until you meet the people you intend to serve. If you’re interested in being a Psychosocial Intern at The Quad Manhattan, don’t do anything else in addition to this internship. It’s a full-time job and you will need down time in order to give your students the support that they need. If you end up at The Quad Manhattan, be ready to adjust your students’ goals no matter how robust they seem, and remain open to suggestions from your peers.

I enjoyed so many aspects of my experience with The Quad Manhattan, but I’m proudest of what my students were able to accomplish this summer and the role I played in helping them. My hope is that my work will leave a lasting positive impact on their well-being, and that I can continue to help others in similar ways.

Reflecting On My Internship Experience with Ecomingling

Interning with Ecomingling helped me achieve academic, career, and personal goals. Before the start of my internship, I outlined some of the goals I had hoped to accomplish throughout the course of the summer. These goals included enhancing my environmental knowledge, constructing a clearer understanding of the types of organizations and occupations that exist in the environmental sector, and honing my written and verbal communication skills. I feel proud and grateful to have satisfied each of these goals throughout the course of my internship!

My internship definitely allowed me to clarify my career interests. As previously stated, one of my pre-defined goals was to broaden my understanding of the environmental field as a whole. Ecomingling’s central project currently is the establishment and development of Israel’s first and only anti-plastic coalition, consisting of 10 Israeli NGOs, organizations, and businesses. Forming relationships with and learning about each of these members furthered my understanding of the environmental sector as a whole, and thus, helped me to clarify potential career interests. 

Each of these coalition members are vital to the well-being and growth of the coalition as a whole. Therefore, a lot of my internship duties required me to be in communication with each of these coalition members. Through this communication, I spoke with various environmental leaders in Israel and  was able to establish professional relationships with many interesting people and organizations. In addition to communicating with the coalition board members, I also connected with the various social media campaign managers of each coalition member organization. The relationships I formed with the other social media campaign managers taught me a lot- not only about social media management, but also about the different moving pieces of the entire environmental sector in Israel! 

Just a couple days ago, I was lucky enough to virtually meet with an incoming intern who will take over my role with Ecomingling. Speaking with him felt very significant because I conceptualized and verbalized everything that I learned this summer. After explaining the general internship duties, I also gave him a small piece of advice: ensure that you are genuinely interested in the “why” of Ecomingling. I explained to him that I believed my internship was so successful because I cared deeply about the “why” of Ecomingling- its mission to accelerate sustainability across the globe. I told him that being empowered by the larger picture propelled me in my work and motivated me to do it well. He agreed with me and explained that he felt the same way, which made me feel both comfortable and excited to leave my job in the hands of such a capable and enthusiastic newcomer. 

I am very proud of so much of the work I accomplished this summer: creating Facebook pages, drafting and publishing thoughtful and interesting posts, researching how differing national plastic policies affect those nations’ marine debris, researching where Ecomingling should expand internationally, communicating well and learning from various individuals in the environmental sector, establishing positive relationships with other Ecomingling employees, and so much more. However, I am most proud of one thing: working for an organization that helps make the world a better place. Ecomingling strives to make the earth sustainable and healthy for all living things and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to their mission. 

Here is an image of a post I made to a Facebook group with over 270,000 people. It received 25 comments! 

Here is an image of the spreadsheet I use to plan out the posts I make to Facebook. 

Click here for a link to the Ecomingling facebook page!

Click here for a link to the Israeli Plastic Pollution Prevention Coalition Facebook page, which is the coalition created and developed by Ecomingling!

Final post!

I most definitely feel that I achieved my defined learning goals this summer. My academic goal was to “gain hands-on experience in journalism and thus apply my studies as a journalism and American studies student to real life.” In fact, I feel that I achieved this goal far more than I expected to. I did not anticipate how much I would get to write about and explore American history and I believe that in actually applying the past to current events and situations, I gained really valuable insight and perspective on many of the issues I’ve studied the last two years. 

My career goal for the internship was “to gain professional experience working in a national magazine setting and to come out of the internship having published more of my own writing.” I’ve published 11 articles, and have been really lucky to be able to stay on in the fall as a contributor for Ms.— so that number will continue to grow! While I didn’t get to experience an in-office work environment, I do still feel that I learned about general policies and practices within the field (such as how to pitch a story, how to edit, how to learn particular style guidelines, etc.).

Finally, my personal goal for the internship was “to improve my own journalistic and nonfiction writing and gain experience writing with an activist lens.” Thanks to my wonderful supervisor, I feel that my writing skills have greatly improved since the beginning, which I am really proud of. I also got the chance to work as a feminist, and in the process, learned a lot about journalistic ethics and professional writing in general.

Surprisingly (to me at least), I don’t feel that my learning goals have changed. I think I went into this experience with really clear insight and I worked hard to reach those aims. Thanks to the generally well-thought internship, and my supervisor’s support, I feel that I really did accomplish what I set out to do.

Undoubtedly this internship has helped me clarify my career goals and interests. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in journalism before going in but coming out, I feel even more confident and is now considering branching out into more news reporting. All of my journalism experiences so far have been with magazines, mostly digital magazines. I have really loved the pace and style required for this kind of journalism as well as the wide range of genres I can write in. That being said, my few forays into more “newsy” reporting (such as this article) have piqued my interest. I definitely would like to explore this field further.

I would highly recommend spending the summer as an editorial intern with Ms. Magazine. Most importantly, my supervisor was endlessly supportive, thoughtful and helpful to me and the other interns. She took time to get to know each of us (even in a remote setting!) and once she did, made an effort to give us assignments she knew we would care about and learn from.

In terms of more general advice about interning in journalism, I would say take initiative. If you have an idea for an article, don’t hold it in. Pitching ideas to my boss this summer was an excellent experience and practice for the future (more advice— learn how to pitch really well!). It was also really exciting because I was always so invested and eager to write pieces that were entirely my idea from the start.  

The article I am most proud of is this article. 

I got to do two longer interviews for the piece and learned a lot about synthesizing research and interviews into a cohesive and flowing strong story. In general, I am just really proud of the ways I pushed myself out of my comfort zone these past few months. My very first piece was one that I pitched, which was exciting in itself, and I made an active effort throughout the internship to try different things and learn as much as possible. I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity, in part because I was able to grow in this way and challenge myself while loving every minute of it.

Post 3: Looking back — An Amazing Summer

Almost three months have passed since I started my internship at BRAVE for Veterans, Inc. I witnessed the change in myself. At the beginning of my internship, I knew little about my supervisor, the field of veteran service, and the employment market for veterans. Though I still have a lot to learn, I am surely much more familiar with my work than before. While gaining new skills from my learning experience, I have been helping BRAVE research into the latest circumstances of veteran employment and also potential employers planning to hire veterans.

What I didn’t know at the start was that I actually learned a lot from my supervisor, Mr. Leroy Ashwood. By working closely with him, I found out that he is more than a successful social entrepreneur. He has a deep passion for his career advocating for veterans and a genuine attitude towards people regardless of their background, which he considered essential to his work. He showed me important qualities of a dedicated social worker, and I will keep them in mind.

Having attended virtual conferences and listened to podcasts about veteran service, I was amazed by the tight community of veterans and their family members. Building and maintaining connections are especially important.

I’ve been looking into the statistics provided by the Department of Labor focusing on the unemployment rate of veterans. This is part of the research for the upcoming project that helps veterans find jobs. With the latest July data just released, I learned that the overall unemployment rate of veterans last month is about ten percent, which is significantly higher than the percentage of July 2019. The virus really makes a lot of veterans lose their jobs. As I divided the data by different age groups, I found out that veterans aged 18 to 24 have an especially high unemployment rate, with 18.3% unemployed. Young veterans struggle to settle down at the start of their career.

I also looked into employers interested in hiring veterans. I then made sheets and tables including useful information, along with reports analyzing and summarizing the data. I am sure this will be the basis for the talent search project that will provide support to veterans looking for well-paid jobs.

Statistics about Veteran Unemployment Rate

Looking back at my experience so far, I wish I had known that I can be more proactive and give some constructive feedback about the projects I will be working on, instead of simply following instructions. I think this would be a good way for me to dedicate more effort to my internship and therefore gain more knowledge and skills from it. I also wish I had realized earlier that it’s important to have a fixed schedule when I take online classes and work at the same time. That would have helped me remove unnecessary distractions and become more efficient. If I had a chance to give advice to others who want to work at BRAVE or in the veteran service industry, I would say the key to nonprofit work is usually your determination or how much you care about what you are doing.

Post 3: That’s a Wrap! My World of Work with JDI

As summer comes to a close and I begin packing my things to leave Boston, there is much to reflect on with my experience interning at Jane Doe Inc. These last three months have highlighted my capacity for an all-virtual internship I didn’t know I had in me before! I have met so many amazing people that have dedicated their lives to sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and advocacy, expanded on my personal internship workload, and connected with various professional networks. 

The world of work during a global pandemic has challenged all my pre-existing notions of how an organization operates under pressure. During this time, professional spaces like JDI have needed to transform and accommodate their company staff virtually to comply with public health and safety measures. At the beginning of summer, I viewed the adjustment to my remote workspace as temporary, one that might take me a few weeks to settle into. In hindsight, this wasn’t the case. Adjusting to the new “normal” of a virtual work environment is something I, along with everyone else, did consistently throughout the summer. It is something we will all continue to do in the coming  year. Every day I worked, I was choosing to adapt and challenge my ideas of a conventional workspace. This has led to heightened open-mindedness about what work could look like in the future. As I enter into my second half of college and consider more seriously my prospects and goals for after school, my capability and understanding for a virtual work environment will definitely be factored in.

Behind the scenes planning for the Multiple Truths Event. I created a 9-Week Plan for myself and my coworkers at the beginning of summer to outline our work up until the day of the event!

My internship with JDI emphasized the values of social justice and responsibility above all. With a focus on sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and advocacy, I learned a great deal about the field. Social justice work means amplifying the voices, stories, and demands of those who don’t have a seat at the table (or who are not even allowed in the room). It entails active listening, understanding your own positions of privilege and power, and using your platform to equalize the playing field as much as you possibly can. I’ve tried to incorporate all of this and then some into my work at JDI, which consisted primarily of planning and holding a virtual event panel. “Multiple Truths: Survivorship in the 2020 Elections” was held on August 6 via Zoom Webinar, and after months of preparation with the rest of the JDI staff, I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion with four brilliant, incredibly experienced leaders and activists. What started with a small idea in the back of my brain turned into a space that had over two hundred registrants and hosted over one hundred real-time attendees, accessibility features (including an ASL interpreter) and the most powerful voices and stories I have ever heard. The event was also recorded and will be posted to JDI’s social media channels for all to view!

A snapshot of the virtual event! Pictured is me, the four panelists, and an ASL interpreter.

I hope this becomes a project an intern takes on every summer and the space created for sexual assault survivors continues to grow and flourish. Interning for an organization that focuses on domestic violence/sexual assault work strengthens my belief of how important it is to contribute to this work. It is also constant work; the fight for sexual assault survivors and amplifying their voices and stories never ends. Thus, my advice to someone who wants to pursue an internship with JDI or anywhere else that does prevention work is that pacing yourself is a must. This work can be heavy at times, and I encourage you to do what feels safe and best for you first and foremost. JDI is an organization that values hard work and collaboration, but also emphasizes maintaining boundaries, respecting others’ limits, and practicing self-care.

Thanks to the Hiatt WOW Fellowship, Boston has been my home while interning this summer! After work hours, I had time to go to museums (like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) that reopened and follow social distancing/safety guidelines.

I’m so thankful to have been a part of this organization and to contribute in the ways I did in the last few months. I cannot recommend interning with JDI enough, and I will definitely miss it! 

If you would like to learn more about Jane Doe Inc. or find out how to get involved, click here.

Reflecting on my Internship Experience

While reflecting on my learning goals from the beginning of the summer, I believe that I have satisfied them. Not only has my writing improved as the summer went on, but I also believe that my ability to read with an editor’s, critiquing eye has enhanced. Compared to the beginning of the summer, I now write my coverage much more quickly and in a concise manner. At the beginning of my internship, I had a hard time condensing an entire story to a two-page synopsis. This skill has improved greatly to the point that I think that I have become a more concise writer who is able to express her ideas directly and to the point. In regard to my editing skills, I have learned the difference between reading for pleasure and reading for problems. When you are reading with the intention to find lapses, holes, and problems within the story, it shifts the way you read and understand. I have learned that if I actively read a story with the hope to make it better for the next person that reads it, I have the creativity and eye to find things that I would have previously glossed over. Therefore, I have learned a great deal from my internship. On top of fine-tuning my reading and editing skills, I have learned what kind of stories and writers are out there and what makes a story unique and noteworthy.

In regard to my career interests, this internship has taught me that publishing is a field that I would love to pursue. I thought I knew for sure that I wanted to stick with books, but this internship has also exposed me to the world of screenplays, film, and tv shows. These are fields that I have discovered that I am equally interested in. In the workplace, I now feel more confident in my writing knowing that esteemed writers have read my comments and agreed with them. This will make me a more successful worker. It has given me a boost of confidence knowing that my writing and ideas are valid and fit in within an established workplace.

To anyone interested in an internship in this industry/field, I would give the advice of not being intimidated by the size and length of some of the projects. It can be intimidating to receive a 500-page book and expect to read the whole thing quickly while also brainstorming comments. In this scenario, it’s important to accept that it’s okay to read quickly, jotting down significant notes and plot moments as you go.  I would also give the advice of trusting your own ideas because an author might find value in them.

example comments

As a final reflection on my internship, I am most proud of the fact that some authors read and agreed with my suggestions. I am proud that my ideas could come to fruition in a finalized project while knowing that I played a role in that very publication.

Post 2: Reflecting on the Importance of Civic Engagement in Legislation Reform

Interning for TRII has provided me with an opportunity to observe and participate in civic engagement. I mentioned in my first blog that I was assigned the task of conducting research on recent changes to the law proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. I have also been doing research on future asylum seekers who would be negatively affected by the rule change. Based on this research, I have been helping the Institute to prepare its comments on the rule change. After I completed my individual research and finished my own comments, I was assigned to organize a writing workshop on behalf of TRII to mobilize more people to write and submit their comments by the deadline to support asylum seekers.

FB event I created

This is truly an experience where I was able to utilize the network I developed at Brandeis and the organizational skills developed from running the Brandeis debate team: I organized and prepared resources essential to writing professional and effective comments, and I reached out to hundreds of people at Brandeis and beyond. The event ended up drawing people from across the state who did not know about the proposal. Watching them learn about the issue and submit their comments was fulfilling and inspiring.

Helping to organize this event reminded me of what I learned about civic engagement in my classes Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Legislative Framework with Professor Breen and Deconstructing War, Building Peace class with Professor Gordon. Although those classes share different content, they both emphasized the importance of civic engagement in terms of legislative reform at the national and international levels. The mobilization of the public is key to frame the policies that fit the best interests of the public. And, from my intern experience, I observed that probably the most severe obstacle toward that is to get people involved in the first place. Many people didn’t know about the proposal, or they lacked the knowledge to post a valid comment. It becomes especially difficult when the government only allows a limited time period to accept comments from the public. Therefore, it becomes really important for third party players, such as non-profits, to use effective means to mobilize the public.

Pamphlet I created to help people to submit their comments

For the upcoming project, I was assigned to help mobilize the public to comment on a draft report formed by the Commission on Unalienable Human Rights established by Mike Pompeo. The report, after being finalized, will have a significant influence on U.S. foreign policy on the matter of human rights. The public has only fourteen days to make comments on it, and I am looking forward to helping organize more workshop events in the future to help raise awareness. Although the internship was initially supposed to be more legal-issue oriented, considering the effects of the pandemic, I find that doing advocacy work is meaningful and helpful as well. For the rest of my internship, I still wish to participate in specific immigration cases if I am given the opportunity.

Blog post #2

During my time at Brandeis, I have learned to have a deeper appreciation for the values of community and lifelong learning. The university believes that “[e]very individual has a vested interest in the well-being of the community, and, therefore, an obligation to stay informed, to make positive contributions, and to offer assistance to those who need our help.” With Answer the Call, I have been able to do just that: be part of a community, a family. The families I work with all have a bond that could never be broken, being that they want to honor their loved ones who sacrificed their lives for others. 

I’ll never forget my first tour of Brandeis. The sense of community and camaraderie on campus was very high on that fall Sunday afternoon. Then, a year later, arriving on campus, I was able to experience the friendships and bonds built amongst friends and professors. Just like in the first responder community, these bonds can never be broken. 

Lifelong learning has various components to it. Whether you are learning in or out of the classroom, enriching your mind with education and new experiences can increase your intelligence. In regards to lifelong learning, Brandeis believes that “[e]ach of us is both teacher and student; we regard each moment as an opportunity to share a learning experience with others, and we accept challenges for the advancement of the community as a whole.”

Both of these components are significant because they help broaden my understanding in terms of how to assist with families who have lost their loved ones in a Line of Duty Death, as well as how to honor their legacies. Families that lose their loved ones will need a lot of support, whether that be financial or social support. Being able to witness this with Answer the Call has been such a wonderful opportunity, and I have recently extended my internship to early August, instead of ending next Monday! The organization itself creates a bond between the six hundred families it serves, as well as those that are current first responders and want to raise awareness about the organization. We also see actors such as Pete Davidson promoting the organization by frequently discussing it in various interviews. 

With this internship being virtual, I have been able to connect with colleagues and families via Zoom and other telecommunication methods. Answer the Call has been nothing but helpful in terms of working with my schedule, as well as adapting to the virtual workspace. With this, projects and assignments that were supposed to be in person transitioned to a virtual work space.  

Just like at Brandeis, the events created by Answer the Call staff provide families with the opportunity to have some fun, while also connecting with other families who have been through similar experiences. The bonds of these families can never be broken, and I am proud to be part of establishing these connections with the families of those who have lost their loved ones in the line of duty.

Post 2: Halfway through my internship at the Valera Lab

I can’t believe I am more than halfway through my summer internship at the Valera Lab. Although it is virtual, I still have been gaining understanding of conducting clinical research and being able to help conduct it myself, too. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am sad that I am not able to work in person with the lab staff, especially my wonderful co-interns Sarah and Olivia. However, we have managed to bond during training and conducting our own independent research project which explores the prevalence of intimate partner violence in transgender women.

I have been incredibly impressed by the lab’s ability to completely re-focus their efforts due to the pandemic. We adapted the in-person protocol to be administered online, and the transition was seamless due to efforts of the lab staff. Instead of using blood marker, hair cortisol, balance, and neurocognitive tests as primary data, we are now using qualitative accounts in conjunction with remotely administered neurocognitive and balance tests. I have enjoyed doing the work but must say that it has gotten very difficult to work from home. It is very easy to get distracted and feel motivated when you are not in a work environment. However, I have been doing the best that I can.

The World of Work is much more exciting than academic life. I believe that learning happens best in a practical, applied experience, and I have gained so much by being in this environment. I have also learned much about working with people while working at the Valera Lab. Through interviewing study participants about their abusive relationships, I have learned how to be compassionate and sympathetic, while maintaining a professional demeanor.

This internship has greatly impacted the trajectory of my academic and professional careers. Before beginning my work at the Valera Lab, I didn’t seriously consider clinical research as a potential career. However, from this experience, I have felt extremely interested in pursuing a career in neuropsychiatric research. I believe that research of this manner makes an impact on the population being studied, and my dream is to highlight and utilize the social justice underpinnings of scientific and public health research.

During this experience, there have been moments where I found myself wishing that I studied psychology and neuroscience, as an academic background like this would enrich my learning in lab. However, I believe that everything happens for a reason – if I hadn’t studied biology and public health, I may not be in this research position right now. And as an incoming junior, I still have time to take neuropsychology classes at Brandeis. I am hopeful that going into those classes with the background that I already have from conducting neuropsychiatric research will give me unique viewpoints and advantages.

MRI Technique Enables Visualization of Brain in Motion ...

Again, I would like to thank Brandeis University’s World of Work (WOW) program for allowing me to do this very impactful and meaningful work.

– Maddy Pliskin

Post 2: Impressions of Working Virtually

Working virtually this summer, for me, has been somewhat bittersweet. On one hand, since my internship had to be adjusted to fit a more remote setting, I lost some of the duties and experiences that I would have had in-person. For example, one of my original tasks was going to be running participants through study sessions for two ongoing impulsivity studies – the cognitive control training study I mentioned in my last post, along with another study using a mobile EEG headband – but that part of my summer wasn’t transferable to being online. I was also going to learn how to do EEG cap recordings, which I had been looking forward to, but again, that is something very hands-on and so unfortunately had to be cut. I also work alone in my room now, which is a lot different than what I’m used to; when I was doing this internship during the spring semester, I was in a room with other interns and research assistants and was able to talk and interact with them throughout the day. Now there’s very little of that outside of our weekly lab meetings, which is a bit of a bummer.

An example of what an EEG cap can look like

On the other hand, having to work virtually has actually expedited some opportunities that I may not have had until much later. For example, for the cognitive control training study, my supervisor had originally wanted to collect data for 15-20 more participants than what we have as our current sample size, but given the uncertain circumstances of Covid-19, he decided to wrap up the study early. This meant that it has now moved into the analysis stage earlier than was initially planned; it also means that it’s almost time to start writing up the article to be submitted to a journal. I’ve been working on a lot of the preliminary results/analysis for this study, and because of the all of the work I’ve done (and continue to do), I will be a co-author on that article, which is a really exciting outcome of having to work virtually this summer.

The World of Work has differed from university/academic life in that the former is much more hands-on. Since I’m majoring in psychology, the content of my courses is relevant both to my future career, as well as any field-related experiences (like this internship) that I have along the way. However, there’s only so much one can learn and understand without actually doing; the best way to gain knowledge about the World of Work is to actually work in it, and that’s exactly what my internship is allowing me to do. I have a foundation of psychology knowledge from my classes (abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, personality, research methods, and more) that has allowed me to jump right into being a research assistant in a clinical population. However, I’m learning so much that I would never have been able to learn just sitting in a classroom, like how to collaborate with experts, how a psychiatric hospital functions, how research works in a clinical population, etc. Beyond that, in the World of Work, I’m part of something much bigger than myself. University/academic life is highly individual, so working in the CARE lab has shown me just how collaborative my field actually is.

In terms of skill-building, three main ones that I’m building are understanding the process of writing an academic journal article, how to conduct my own independent research, and how to analyze data, all of which are transferable to different situations. For academics, the skills will allow me to do better research when it comes to writing literature reviews or just general research papers for any of my classes. For future career plans, the skills are highly relevant to what I will be doing in grad school when I go to get a clinical psychology PhD, and what I will be doing as a job after I graduate. Overall, my internship thus far has been a really invaluable experience, and I’m excited to see what else is in store for me to learn this summer!

Skillbuilding in a Virtual Internship

Before I knew that my internship was going to be virtual, I was looking forward to spending the summer in Gloucester. It’s somewhere I’ve never spent a lot of time and I was excited about being independent (I was planning on living alone in an AirBnB) and meeting new people. But I was also nervous about it. So when it was official that I would be staying home in California with my parents, I was disappointed to miss out on this opportunity to grow, but tried to stay positive by remembering that I’ll still have all the comforts of home this summer. I don’t have to worry about living alone or getting to know a new place, and I don’t have to cook myself dinner. I’ll have to look for growth in other ways! 

Working virtually has come with some challenges. The hardest thing about working virtually has been that I’m not in an office around co-workers, and it’s been hard to stay motivated in this work environment. I thought it would be more like school, since I mostly work independently on homework. However, this job doesn’t have many deadlines for work products, so I just have to get in my hours and try to finish my work as soon as I can. This is difficult when I’m at home alone. 

I also found that I didn’t have enough work to keep me busy with the two projects that my supervisor assigned me initially, so I asked to be put on another assignment. I will now be working on the marketing team as well. In this project, I am tasked with writing at least one blog post a week, which has been really helpful to have a specific assignment with a deadline, plus I can write more blog posts if I want and have extra time. The blogs will be published on the new Seaside Sustainability website which will be ready soon. I also will be helping another person with the monthly newsletter, which will be a great chance to work with other people. Here’s an example of last month’s newsletter.

This internship isn’t how I imagined, but I am meeting my goals in new ways and gaining skills I didn’t anticipate. I haven’t been able to work on events like I had hoped, but I am learning to be flexible and figure out how to make the most of the situation. One skill that I’ve been practicing that I didn’t expect is self-advocacy. In the first few weeks, I wasn’t getting what I needed from the first projects I was assigned. I spoke to my advisor about how I could do more work to help the organization and gain more of the skills I wanted. This practice of speaking up to negotiate better situations is an important skill anywhere, especially in future jobs.

Post 2: Flexibility

Ever since  high school, I have preferred classes that have unique structures. Whether it was studying abroad for a semester of 10th grade, or designing an independent study project to serve as an elective during 12th grade, I was constantly seeking educational experiences outside of a typical classroom. However, these alternative educational opportunities required extra work and flexibility on my part to not only create a project or raise money for the experience, but also to overcome obstacles that my school placed in my way, including persuading various administrators to approve my ventures.

I chose to apply early decision to Brandeis, partially because I understood that Brandeis encourages alternative educational opportunities, as opposed to putting up boundaries to hinder access, like what I experienced during high school. The ease of alternative educational opportunities has been one of my favorite aspects of my Brandeis experience. From taking courses with unique structures, such as Sociology of Empowerment and Psychology of Love, to serving as a teaching assistant, to studying abroad on a program with interactive experiences peppered into it, I have obtained academic credits in multiple creative ways. These experiences have taught me the importance of flexibility within a structure, which reflects Dr. Philip Kendall’s phrase, “flexibility within fidelity.”

For example, in Sociology of Empowerment, my professor followed a syllabus – like most other professors – that included readings, assignments, and guest speakers. However, he also included multiple class sessions where students would choose readings to be assigned and/or lead class sessions relating to the theme of the course. One of my fellow students assigned us to listen to a podcast that shined light on racial injustices and for us to watch the movie 13th. I organized our class to have a bystander training led by Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, & Resource Center. This not only helps the class become more relevant to the students, but also it helps students develop independent and creative thinking.  

Employing flexibility within a structure is also a crucial factor of treatment and research at Rogers Behavioral Health, the organization for which I am working as an intern this summer. Rogers produces research and provides evidence-based treatments, but they do not keep to a strict structure when administering the treatments in order to maintain their “individualized approach [which] empowers patients, helping them gain control of their symptoms so they can develop effective lifelong coping skills” (https://rogersbh.org/what-we-treat/ocd-anxiety). They act flexibly based on each patient’s needs and they meet each patient where they are in order to treat them most effectively. This flexibility in treatment includes, but is not limited to, going outside the office with patients to conduct therapy, involving a family member, friend, or teacher in a patient’s therapeutic journey, or creating unique exposures (behavioral exercises to systematically reduce patients’ anxiety of whatever stimuli they fear). As part of the Rogers team, I am currently working with Dr. Martin Franklin on writing about flexibility within fidelity in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults. This chapter will serve as a chapter in Dr. Philip Kendall’s book.  

At Brandeis, I have learned how to think flexibly while remaining in a structure. Now I can implement this skill in my research, and I will hopefully be able to also implement this in my future career as a clinical psychologist.

Dr. Franklin and I working flexibly together in our research meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New learning curves

Hello world!

To be honest, working virtually is difficult.  When working at an in-person internship I received more help as my advisors were only an office away. In addition, I had more pressure to stay motivated as everyone else was focused on their work around me. Finally, there was a clear separation between work and home, and as a result, there were fewer distractions like my bed or my family.

However, I feel that one of the values of this virtual internship is preparing me to work from home in the future. This internship highlights the fact that working from home requires more effort: one creates one’s own schedule, there isn’t the same social aspect to one’s job, and there are more distractions. This knowledge is extremely beneficial as more and more professions, especially after COVID, will be based at home and freelancing will become more common.

The World of Work has differed from my university life in many ways. First of all the idea of deadlines is completely different. In university, deadlines appear almost arbitrary. Assignment deadlines appear to be placed randomly, many times inconveniently, throughout the semester. At the BarnArts internship, deadlines are focused around events. Most of the promotion work I have been doing has three or four projects due around the time of an event. 

Secondly, Brandeis is centered around acquiring knowledge while WOW is about utilizing your knowledge. At Brandeis, we spend hours in lectures absorbing new knowledge and learning skills on how to research and acquire new knowledge. At BarnArts, I spend most of the time utilizing my knowledge and skills I have gained in life in order to complete the tasks assigned to me.  

Thirdly, the social dynamics are completely different. At university, there is a clear hierarchy between the professor and the student, and with that comes an immense amount of respect. Given the distance between students and professors naturally, closer bonds are formed between students on campus. At my internship, there is less of a strong hierarchy between me and my supervisor. Part of the reason for this is that there is less of an age difference between my supervisor and me, only nine years difference. In addition, there is a more laid back atmosphere at the organization compared to the university setting. This is contributed to its small size as there are only three employees and the fact that it is located in Vermont. 

I have learned many important digital tools during this internship. I have become a pro at iMovie. While this is basic movie editing programming, I hope that it will provide a basis for other more advanced movie editing platforms in the future when I have more money and space on my computer. I also have become very adept at social media platforms and the basics of marketing. In addition, I have become more courageous and outspoken in the working sphere. I am more willing to email my boss first and ask for work instead of just having her assign me tasks. Finally, I am getting more comfortable with reaching out to our performer base. One of my jobs is to communicate with musicians who are performing at our events.  I was intimidated at first to do this but over time it has become easier. 

Mikahely. Malagasy musician who I’ve been helping expand their bio.

While virtual internship brings with it a new learning curve it has strengthened my digital skills immensely and prepared me to work from home in the future if need be.

Post 2: Pencils, history, and Avodah

Do you have a pencil nearby? Take a look at it.

What Makes a No. 2 Pencil Different?
It’s probably orange or yellow, with a friendly pink eraser and a sharp black tip. It’s one of the most ordinary objects imaginable. And yet, it’s also a bit of a miracle. Assuming the rubber in that eraser is not synthetic, it contains material from rubber trees, which are grown in tropical regions with heavy rainfall and high temperatures. Much like maple trees, rubber trees are “tapped” for their sap, which in this case is latex. The wood in the pencil usually comes from softwoods (like cedars) that grow thousands of miles away from the rubber trees. Pencil lead is made by pulverizing chunks of graphite and clay, then mixing the resulting powder with water in a big rotating drum for up to three days. That’s not even getting into the complexities of the metal band connecting the pencil with the eraser, or the manufacturing of the bright paint coating the wood.

All of this is to say, the modern world is almost unimaginably complex, and even something as basic and a pencil relies upon the specialized knowledge of countless people around the world. As a history major, I would say I’ve spent less time than most people would assume studying names and dates (although those are also important) and more time studying the growth of all these systems we take for granted. Not so much the pencil system, admittedly, but the development of methods of governing, taxation, child-rearing, religion, science and many other aspects of our world. I find studying history to be an incredibly humbling experience, a little like the off-kilter feeling you get when you look at a night sky full of stars. It’s the realization that you are a very small part of something very big, something you will never be able to understand all of but might, with any luck, someday understand a little piece of.

For seven weeks, I’ve been lucky to be a Development Intern at Avodah; I’ve met so many wonderful people, and learned a huge amount about the nonprofit world. One especially interesting part of the job is being able to sit in on all-staff meetings and see the nitty gritty of how a nonprofit functions. Development, communications, recruitment, operations, technology – seeing all these different departments work together to form a greater whole really does remind me of the kind of systems I studied in class. My tasks as an intern include researching prospective major donors, updating the Salesforce database, and writing newsletters, among other things. So much of the satisfaction I’ve derived from all of this has come from seeing how the small contributions I make can be used by others in the organization to work towards Avodah’s goals. No matter what I go on to do, I think this realization of the importance of a sense of shared workplace community and purpose will be relevant.

Since I started my internship, I’ve noticed myself perceiving the world differently. When I walk down the street and see a billboard, a car, a volunteer group picking up litter, I find myself thinking about all the teams of people behind what’s visible on the surface, and all the planning and coordination that had to happen for what I see to become a reality. When I’m looking at the world through this lens, even a humble pencil is a remarkable testament to the power of human collaboration.

Post 2: The Importance of the School to Prison Pipeline

The work I’m doing with Transition H.O.P.E. is directly related to the coursework in a legal studies class I took this most recent semester. This class was taught by Professor Rosalind Kabrhel and it’s titled “Juvenile Justice: From Cradle to Custody.” I believe this is the first course of this nature taught in the legal studies department at Brandeis. Across the country, the faults of the criminal justice system are becoming an increasingly discussed topic since we’ve seen the issue of mass incarceration becoming a controversial issue in politics. In this course, we discussed, in-depth, the school-to-prison pipeline and how early on it is decided on behalf of children what path they are destined to go down. The population of youth that are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system, in a negative way, are youth who are involved with the Department of Children & Families (DCF), who are homeless or living in low income neighborhoods, who have family members who are already incarcerated or come from single-parent households, or who do not have the option to attend school in high-performing districts. The list goes on and on and on.

Alongside the history of how youth of color are disproportionately reprimanded and criminalized in their daily lives, I was also lucky enough to learn about the psychological damage to youth who have had interactions with the police, DCF, and/or or the Department of Youth Services (which is the Boston-specific department that works with juveniles involved in the justice system). I learned in this course about the trauma and triggering factors that negatively affect a specific population of youth every day. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many sources out there legitimately trying to help them. These youth are instead incarcerated until they they are no longer deemed a “threat to society.”

Learning this information directly helped me prepare for the work I am doing now. As I discussed in my last blog post, the youth I work with are system-involved. I’m sure that most people see them as “troubled kids” who can’t be helped, but I fully understand that most of the time they are misunderstood and simply victims of their own circumstances. “Juvenile Justice” has played such an important and significant role in better understanding the youth I am working with. However, at the end of the day, reading endless articles and books is nothing in comparison to actually having a direct interaction with the people you are trying to help. I’m grateful that the class I took set me up with enough understanding so I could better position myself to be an effective source of help for the program’s participants (but trust me, I’m still learning every day.) Along with a great deal of help from my boss, that class completely informed my approach on how to talk about school or personal lives with these youth. It helped me avoid potentially triggering youth and gave me a better clue as to the potential backgrounds they might have. 

The main project I’m working on for Transition H.O.P.E. is compiling the life stories of the program participants in order to put together a magazine. This magazine will eventually be used in college classrooms as an informative tool for students who are studying topics like social work, criminal justice, and psychology, so they can have a direct source of knowledge that isn’t a peer-reviewed article or a book by someone who has actually never directly worked with such populations.

Even though this will be used as an informative tool for college students, it also acts as a method of “narrative exposure therapy” for the students. Sharing their life stories through a creative outlet gives them the opportunity to not only experience a sense of catharsis but to be their own advocates in hopes that the people who read the magazine can join them in the attempt to change the systems that have hurt them and their respective communities. This project is similar to a book I read for “Juvenile Justice” titled It’s Not About Grit, which conducted youth-led storytelling through writing and video.

A sneak peek into one of the pages for the magazine I’m working on!

What I love about this project, tentatively titled the “SEED Magazine,” is that the students will also be able to receive residual income. All profits from the magazine go directly to the program participants as compensation for sharing their stories. This is important because by purchasing the magazine, the reader is reinvesting their money into the communities they’re studying and reading. Reinvestment in the communities hurt by decades of systemic and institutional racism and violence is equally important as educating yourself on the issues in the first place.

Midsummer Reflections

Camp: Week 2

“I’m in a loving, caring zone.”

– Anonymous Camper

I am now on Week 4 of working with The Quad, and Week 2 of virtual camp! Getting to know my campers has been so exciting, and I’m having such a great time working with these amazing kids. Over the past two weeks, I have noticed both some benefits and some difficulties of working with children over Zoom: There is less of a concern for physical behavior, yet only having access to campers through a screen makes it much easier to lose them. While the kids are enjoying really fun activities, they can also get distracted by their screens, disappear from view, or leave the meeting altogether if they are bored or frustrated. This makes it harder for us to problem solve and means that the parents are more involved in camp than usual. More often than not, we’re able to take our campers to breakout rooms to decompress if they’re having trouble.

An Inside-Out themed Zones of Regulation chart that we used in our core lesson plan this week.

So far, we have learned new strategies like the Zones of Regulation and tried new things in our classes, such as online drawing and Dungeons and Dragons. In contrast to my university schedule, which would have a later start, my Quad schedule consists of camp from 8 A.M.-2 P.M. and various psychosocial and intern meetings in the afternoons.

I’ll admit that waking up at 7 A.M. every morning has been an adjustment, but overall, having a regular work schedule feels healthier and more rewarding. As a Brandeisian, I would normally be taking four classes, working two jobs, and leading two clubs, but as an intern, I am able to pour all of my cognitive resources into my work with The Quad. Even though it’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibilities, I feel at ease knowing that I have the time to give it my all and a strong team supporting me along the way.

The Tacosaur, a possible Core 1 mascot.

As we approach midsummer conferences with parents, I am reflecting on all of the skills that this experience has taught me so far. I have learned strategies for helping children regulate their emotions, how to phrase things in a way that makes them feel validated, and how to come up with feasible goals. I have gotten to sit in on speech and occupational therapy, witnessing my campers’ progress and meeting the professionals who work with them. I have learned to look past diagnoses and focus on kids’ abilities. And perhaps most importantly, I have learned to rely on and work with my core team of interns and educators to make sure we’re doing the best for our campers.

All of these skills will prepare me for future jobs in the mental health field, and for any collaboration I may have with educators. The Quad has made me think in new ways, and I hope that for the rest of the summer, my campers will continue to learn as much from me as I have from them.

Post 2 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

Looking back at the first half of the summer, it’s crazy how fast time seems to fly. It seems like my internship started yesterday and feels like it has only been a week or two since I came home from school in mid-March. Yet, in the span of these few short months, I’ve learned a lot about working.

At first, I had mixed feelings about having a virtual internship. I wondered if it would be possible for me to get all my work done without constant live access to my supervisor. I asked myself if I would really be able to experience what work is like as a software engineer without the actual work environment and the human interactions around me?

As the summer progressed, I found myself answering these questions without the need for physical interaction. Don’t get me wrong. I would prefer the live interaction, but I was able to experience much of the day-to-day interaction of a cohesive team without actually being physically in-person, including large group calls, progress updates, and screen sharing code. Developing technology requires teamwork, and I have begun to learn how to collaborate virtually as a software engineer. Our work ends up being located in the cloud regardless of whether we gather in person or through Zoom.

Halfway through the summer I have also experienced significant differences between the work environment and academic life. At school, professors are generally much more prepared to handle mistakes one might encounter, having anticipated their occurrence and frame of reference. Furthermore, in the classes I’ve taken so far, the path set for us by the professor is also one they have experienced and determined.

In contrast, in the real-world there is no rubric that will give an exact output or desired set of parameters. Multiple times during my internship, when stranded with a foreign error message, I had to go diagnose the root of the problem myself by drudging through thousands of lines of documentation that my supervisor and I had’t written to find the root of a single problem. This is not exactly the work that is the most intriguing and inspiring to do, but it is required to achieve our goals. I have also experienced times during the first few weeks of my internship when problems were not as well defined. Grappling with these more vague problems has been an interesting challenge, and they have taught me to work through ambiguity.

I have built a lot of valuable skills this summer, most importantly a much deeper understanding of machine learning. Although I felt reasonably comfortable going into my summer role, this internship has both pushed me to learn much more and expand my boundaries beyond where I previously felt comfortable. Now, with a much higher level of understanding, I am beginning to see the forest through the trees. This skill will be immensely useful, as machine learning and artificial intelligence are growing fields, and my developing talent and experience will be in very high demand in the near future. 

Post 2: Developing Remote Relationships in the Time of COVID

Moving from my hometown of seventeen years to Brandeis, over eight hundred miles away, was a source of anxiety coming into my freshman year. I felt conflicted about going from a place that I had known my whole life to an entirely new environment, but I knew it would be a source of limitless potential and new learning opportunities. I imagine many people have felt this way coming into their first year of college. I worried about meeting new people and slowly releasing the connections I had built at home. Established friends, teachers, and the like played significant roles in my life and, as for many people, acted as my support network.

Having a year under my belt now and reflecting on these unpredictable first two semesters, I found myself having many of the same fears and anxieties that I had then reoccurring today. I recently had a discussion with a close friend from Brandeis who shared these thoughts and feelings with me. While discussing making new connections and friends in the upcoming semester, they reminded me of how we met. They recalled how in the first meeting our economics class, I introduced myself to five or six people who were sitting around me, themself included. I had no memory of this occurrence and still struggle to remember anything like it happening. But from that point I had made the connection with them and, completely unknowingly, began what would evolve into an intimate and important friendship for me in my first semester.

In recalling this memory, I began to think of how difficult it has been to make connections and communicate extemporaneously in the remote environment we’re all working in. I believe it is fundamental that, in order to have a positive personal relationship with work, you must have positive relationships within the workplace, both professionally and personally. The barrier to entry in a new environment is especially low in a remote workplace. I’ve found that to be somewhat of a challenge, but fortunately the team I’m working with is a small, tight-knit bunch that communicates well.

Despite this, I find myself lacking the sort of personal enrichment and fellowship that one develops in a working team. In the last few weeks, I’ve committed myself to applying the same approach I took in that first economics class. I have begun reaching out to my colleagues and engaging deeper with them through friendly and personal discussions. I’ve found that we share similar hobbies and passions, but especially, due to the nature of our work, we think about similar issues. This experience has been a reminder to me that developing new relationships takes only a first step, even in a remote environment. While not all attempts will blossom into a fruitful friendship, at the very least I will have reached out to another person, which is an experience I believe we can all benefit from, especially in this unique time.

Post 2: Investigating Cold Cases with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

In the spring semester of 2019, I took LGLS 142B: Law & Psychology with Professor Rosalind Kabrhel. I learned a great deal not only about the law, but also about the factors that shape public perception of the justice system, its legal actors, and the civilians who become involved with it. In Law & Psychology, we explored the intersection of the media and the law in depth, a topic that has always been of particular interest to me. I have also been long fascinated with “cold cases” — crimes that have remained unsolved for a long period of time with no new evidence, and have thus been considered low priority to the investigating agencies. These cases, however, are not considered low priority to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, which launched an entire unit dedicated to investigating them (see Middlesex DA Marian Ryan creates cold case unit”). Under District Attorney Marian Ryan, the office has brought justice to the victims and families of a number of the county’s oldest unsolved cases, including:

A clipping from a September 28, 1969 article in the Lowell Sun about McCabe’s murder

Confidentiality is imperative in this job, and disclosing specifics can threaten the integrity of the investigations and the privacy of the individuals involved. One of my current projects concerns media coverage and unsolved homicides. After poring over decades worth of coverage, I have been reminded of what we discussed in Prof. Kabrhel’s course. The news media has often been referred to as the “fourth branch” of the U.S. government, and its impact on the workings of the criminal justice system cannot be overstated. While the media is an absolutely essential agent in maintaining our democracy, and it helps to hold our elected officials accountable to the people they serve, it can also create bias within the public. In jury trials for cases that the media has covered extensively, it is very difficult to satisfy a defendant’s 6th Amendment right to an impartial jury. News coverage also often includes evidence that will not be admissible in court, impeding jurors’ ability to rule based on only the evidence presented to them in the courtroom. A change of venue often helps in these cases, but when a case has received national attention, the challenge is greater.

One thing I have been thinking about a great deal, however, is the way the news media’s portrayal of the victims of homicide comes into play. In my research, I came across an article from the 1970s potentially linking the disappearances/murders of three girls in the area. While the point of the following description is to convey how serial killers select victims based on vulnerability, the article also paints a rather clear portrait of the victims: 

“[Victim #1] was a chronic runaway, a drug addict, a hitchhiker, and a child. [Victim #2]... was a chronic runaway and a child. And [Victim #3]...was a child known to talk to strangers.”

The terms used convey value-based assessments about the victims. When a victim has a history of running away, both the investigators and the public can easily write it off. People fear less for their own safety when they feel the crime could not have affected them personally, but rather was the byproduct of the victim’s decisions and character. These portrayals detract from the sympathy felt toward the victim and their family, which unfortunately can matter immensely in how an investigation is prioritized. Public pressure to solve the case diminishes and justice is never served. This effect can be seen in a later submission by a member of the public concerning the wrongful death suit Victim #1’s parents filed. The commentator harshly criticizes the parents for taking legal action because their daughter had a history of running away (and thus they did not immediately report her as missing). 

In my research, I also read an article about a victim whose family pleaded for anyone with information that might help solve the case to come forward, as the victim’s grandmother is terminally ill and her only wish is to find out what happened to her granddaughter. Homicide is more than just true crime podcasts and documentaries — it wreaks havoc on real peoples’ lives. The Cold Case unit plays a key role in furthering the MDAO’s mission to deliver justice to all those impacted by crime. Its successes not only mean that the person responsible is held accountable and no longer poses a threat to public safety, but also that a victim’s loved ones are provided answers that they have often waited decades for.

Post 2: Learning and Understanding the Impacts of Socioeconomic Burdens in a Community

It was not until I got to Brandeis until I started to consciously think about socioeconomic issues surrounding different communities. Before my studies as a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major (Public Health), I understood the basic concepts of first- and third-world countries, developed- and developing-communities. While at Brandeis I took classes introducing me to a wide array of global health issues affecting communities in the world. I learned about the impact that Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programs and clean cookstove initiatives can have on low-income developing communities.  I knew since before I arrived at Brandeis that I was privileged to be raised with opportunities that kids my age in Uganda would never dream of having.

My internship with Love4Bukwo Hospital is at a point of organizational development with which they are not at a fully operational point. Although Love4Bukwo is already built and the structure of the hospital has already been created there is still much to do. Working at my internship I have been primarily tasked with working to create policies that will be implemented upon the opening of the fully functional hospital. As I have researched and curated policies administered at the hospital, I have been able to understand how my work will directly impact the people of Bukwo.

At the beginning of my internship, I researched the socioeconomic conditions that people of Bukwo faced. This allowed me to really understand what it is like living there. Through previous courses on campus, I began slowly understanding what sort of socioeconomic differences are typically found in third world developing countries, specifically in Africa. While researching those that affect Bukwo, I learned how these burdens affect the citizens of this rural town.

Before Love4Bukwo began working on building a hospital, on top of dealing with communicable disease burdens prevalent to Africa or the Global South (i.e. Malaria and HIV/AIDS) the people of Bukwo had no way to readily treat health issues they may run into. The organization that I am working with is bringing healthcare to these individuals. Once operational, mothers will no longer be reliant on uneducated neighbors to treat labor complications, workers will no longer have to sacrifice their work for being injured and not treated, community members will no longer be dying during transportation to a nearby hospital sometimes over two hours away in Kenya.

Love4Bukwo Hospital is creating a means to bring first-world solutions to a developing low-income third-world community. The Love4Bukwo organization is not the ultimate solution to address all of the issues facing community members of Bukwo, Uganda. However, being a part of this organization and creating a solution to address even just some of the socioeconomic burdens that face the individuals in Bukwo is satisfying. I know that the research that I do virtually during my time with Love4Bukwo will change the lives of many individuals in the town once the hospital is up and functional. I am happy that although I was unable to travel and experience the culture and what it is like to live in Bukwo over the summer that I am still able to be a part of the initiative that fuels the organization: bringing affordable and accessible healthcare to the people of Bukwo.

Blog post 2 – Virtual internship

The COVID situation has brought unprecedented circumstances and seemed surreal for many of us. One of the changes includes working my internship virtually. So how exactly is a virtual internship different from a regular internship? I’ll share my own experience, comparing with that of my internship last year at AIAcademy?

Virtual internship means building your own schedule. To many, that could feel liberating to not follow a rigid schedule and do what you want with your time. Personally, I find more value in a predictable constant schedule. With all these distractions at our fingertips, it is super easy to burn a couple of hours watching Netflix or playing video games. To that my solution is (the same as during the academic year) to build a schedule on Google Calendar and try to follow it as strictly as possible. So far that has been working out quite well 😀

One difficulty to a virtual internship is the limitation of communications with one’s supervisor and peers. In an on-site setting, it is as simple as turning your chair 90 degree to ask a question, have your supervisor look through your code and try fixes. Now, if I were to ask my supervisor for technical help, I would have to schedule a meeting and have him look through my shared screen and tell me what fixes he might implement. However, even facing these differences, I think communications amongst the team are being done quite effectively and effciently at Nobee using Zoom. Clearly, working remotely has notable distinctions compared to working on-site. Still, I appreciate the opportunity to be able to work remotely and highly reduce my chances of contracting the virus.

During my internship at Nobee, I focus on building my back-end web developing skills with Ruby on Rails. I’m hoping by building functions for Nobee’s website, my Ruby on Rails skills will be sharpened. Getting through the beginning is always the hardest, but once one gets a hang of a language or a library, it’s becomes a lot quicker to learn it further. I’m hoping that Ruby on Rails will enhance my resume and skillset and better equip me for the daunting job search. There are currently 8,888 job search results from Indeed when I searched for “Ruby on Rails” in the United States (305 were entry level)! Given the economic impact of the pandemic and not prime recruiting period, it seems Ruby on Rails is quite in-demand in the job market and possessing this skill will be a great advantage. Also, working at Nobee has opened  a new path for me in my tech career – backend web developing that I am enjoying more and more every day and I look forward to making it my Computer Science specialty.

Academic vs. Professional Life

I think one of the most challenging things about working remotely is building relationships with the people I am working with. In a normal workplace environment, and particularly in a college internship, in which building relationships is so important— I think a lot of time is spent on connecting with supervisors and getting advice, networking, etc. At the beginning of this internship, I really struggled with how to connect with both my supervisor and my fellow interns, all of whom seemed, just from the early introductions, really smart, talented and generally very cool people that I knew I wanted to get to know. It was definitely a struggle to try and get to know them all through Slack messages and emails and I spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not I was making a good impression or demonstrating my abilities to the fullest extent.

Now we are all a bit more settled into the internship and I feel that I actually have been able to connect with many of my colleagues, even in this “virtual state.” As a writer, or someone that intends to pursue writing moving forward in my career, I’ve always sort of envisioned that career path as a very independent and “solo” one. This internship has really taught me that writing, especially in this “virtual existence,” it’s important to form relationships and work closely with people. I’ve been able to learn about my own research and writing process by working with other interns, my editor who has already taught me so much about writing and journalism and my work has gotten into the Ms. weekly or daily emails (bottom row):

 

The world of work has differed from academic life in a lot of ways. One, I feel that my writing is valued in a very different way. When I file a piece with my editor, I am not getting graded or even evaluated in the same way as I would when I submit a paper to a teacher. I feel like I am really able to express my own ideas and push myself to write in the most engaging and informative way possible. When writing essays for class, I usually shape my writing and ideas to fit the prompt, class discussion and the teacher’s writing preferences. In this professional format, I have a lot more freedom (though still structured guidance). However, I do think that experiencing the world of work not in person limits my impressions of what a real job in an editorial or journalistic field would look or feel like. Most of my day still “belongs” to me, so I have a lot more flexibility and space than I would if I was in an office. While I’m undoubtedly enjoying the work immensely, I do wonder how the experience would be different or more immersive in person. 

One skill I’m building is interviewing with professional journalistic conduct. I was lucky enough to be able to write a long-form feature piece on underrepresented playwrights during COVID-19, and for the piece, I got to conduct two interviews with really incredible people. The piece came out on the 15th and it was one of the most interesting and fun pieces I have written, in large part because of how much I got to engage with the interviewees. I’m also able to work with writers who are more established and experienced than I, and I’m able to learn a lot about professional conduct from them. I think being able to interact with and engage with people you do not know in a professional manner is a really valuable skill. Not only for my future career, which will hopefully involve a lot of interviews, but also in terms of forming relationships with teachers, future employers and anyone I would meet in a professional environment. It’s interesting how making a phone call to someone you do not know, for me at least, can be really intimidating. Learning how to make those calls and send emails in ways that are polite, professional, but also most likely to get a positive response, is really important for a career in journalism.

UEI Lab: The journey continues…

This internship has been a great experience during a very challenging time. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to the prestigious research of the Ultrasound Elasticity Imaging Laboratory (UEIL) of Columbia University. I am thankful that I was able to pursue an online internship this summer, especially considering that most internships were cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. So far, this experience was drastically different than I had imagined. It taught me how to think like a researcher and it gave me an idea of what it’s really like to work in a lab. Additionally, this online experience enhanced independent work, which was something I wanted to get more comfortable with, since I never had the opportunity to work outside of a team setting.

Real life problems (especially in science) don’t always have solutions and it usually takes years to discover a method or a drug that works the desired way. Being part of an overall research but doing something very specific was an interesting experience for me. In college, the knowledge we acquire is organized and packaged within a well thought out curriculum. The questions that we encounter, for the most part, have been already answered.  In research, there is an infinite amount of unanswered questions for scientists to explore. One of the things I found hard was to select which question I was going to investigate as well as working towards this goal, while at the same time being on track with everyone else in the lab.

While working, I had the opportunity to observe the lab meetings and listen to the progress of various individual projects from people with a higher education level than mine, something that really opened up my mind. Even without being able to physically be in the lab, I have learned many valuable things the past four weeks. Most importantly, I acquired programming skills, which are a fundamental knowledge for every science field. For example, programming (Matlab and R) will surely be a useful skill to have for future internships and jobs, or master and PhD programs. Pretty early on, I realized that in a lab setting, while trying to answer the bigger question, secondary questions will arise, and you are expected to come up with your own answers through your research. This was something that I found very challenging, but it helped me be more independent, the importance of which I cannot emphasize enough. I was also asked to present my work weekly, which helped me develop my presentation skills, taught me how to organize and convey my thoughts, and how to use feedback and constructive criticism to progress. Those meetings also kept me on track with my goals for the summer.  So far, I have gained very useful skills from this experience, which I hope I will further improve in the remaining time in the lab. I am looking forward to continue exploring my abilities and learning throughout this summer.

Post 2: Lessons I take into my Internship with United for a Fair Economy

I moved to Brandeis University from the inner city of Chicago, IL. I lived in Chicago my entire life with my friends and family and never lived outside of the city. When I first arrived in Waltham, Massachusetts for Brandeis University, the new environment was completely different. There was an immediate culture shock. I was adapting to the Brandeis community, the Waltham community, and everything that made Brandeis so different from home. The new city, diversities, and classes all were overwhelming at first, but given the new environment and how overwhelming it felt, the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in my time at Brandeis University was that cultivating relationships with my community members is key to being successful and comfortable in new environments. I’ve learned that when I take my time to share my story and learn the stories of others, we can cultivate a relationship of open communication where both parties are comfortable to continue to ask questions and be our authentic selves. Being comfortable with each other, we can learn how to communicate with one another and have the best opportunity for learning.

My supervisor, Morgan, and I during our weekly meeting!

This lesson is significant to me because it teaches me how to adapt to new environments without succumbing to intimidation. Learning what connects me to each and every person in my communities has been helpful to maintaining relationships where parties can potentially help each other out. I’ve found that peoples’ stories are significant to who they are and how they form their perspectives, so when I take the time to understand them, I further my understanding of communities globally, which help my goal of promoting social justice. These connections are essential to encouraging curiosity and asking questions so that learning doesn’t always end in the classroom. In this way, I’ve found that when communicating and being yourself, you can discover what connects you to each and every person and create a comfortable learning environment. 

This lesson informs my thinking about United for a Fair Economy’s work. When advocating and mobilizing communities for social justice, it is essential to understand the community members involved. I can see that relationship-building is a priority in the workplace and in United for a Fair Economy’s projects. The work is most efficient when the project participants trust one another and the team trusts one another too. 

This informs my approach to my internship because it taught me to prioritize meeting all of the staff to understand who they are, what work they do, and how our goals can intertwine. In this way, I have a connection to every person in the workspace and  I feel comfortable reaching out with questions and inquiries. I really enjoy the relationship-building aspect of my internship, because I am learning so much from them all!

Post 2: Resource Mobilization Theory and IfNotNow

As a sociology major and social justice & social policy minor, I am interested in studying why people get involved in social movements, the exigence for such organizing, and what makes organizers effective. This last semester I took Gowri Vijayakumar’s class on the sociology of social movements where I was able to explore these ideas and questions. One thing I learned in that class that feels relevant to my work with IfNotNow is the idea of resource mobilization.

This is sociologist I cite, Aldon Morris

The theory of resource mobilization is best stated by scholar Aldon Morris in his study “Black Southern Student Sit-In Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organizing.” He states, “social movements have no distinct inner logic and are not fundamentally different from institutionalized behavior. Organizations, institutions, pre-existing communication networks, and rational actors are all seen as important resources playing crucial roles in the emergence and outcome of collective action” (Morris 1981). In other words, social movements do not hold a fundamental difference in logical structure from other large social factions, so pre-existing structures can be mobilized by activists. He goes on to make the point that because outside people can provide resources (namely time, money, and participants), these resources can benefit the social movement.

Morris’ theory feels significant to me because it acknowledges that social movements do not have to start from the ground up. Rather, there are structures in place that can help the social movement build. Resource mobilization is strategic; it forces activists to ask each other, how can we efficiently move our agenda and utilize what resources we already possess in our favor?

As I enter my seventh week working for IfNotNow, I realize that this theory has informed my thinking around this organizing work. For example, when IfNotNow began in 2014, there were chapters, known as swarms, that started in communities that already had bustling Jewish communities. There were already Jewish people in these places who were interested in doing anti-occupation work, so it made the formation of the movement and subsequent swarms easier. Additionally, Morris’ theory makes me wonder how Jewish organizing groups can foster relationships with Palestinian organizations who also doing anti-occupation work. Primarily, resource mobilization theory prompts me to think about how IfNotNow can use its resources to help center Palestinian struggle and liberation.

Resource mobilization theory also informs the specific work I am doing this summer with IfNotNow Boston. First, knowing that there are people and structures in place already, such as synagogues, Jewish youth movements, and other activist groups, makes the work feel less daunting. When we need people in the movement to help out with phone banking, constituent meetings, or an action, we know there is a pool of people who are willing to commit their time and energy to do whatever task. Having connections to the existing Jewish community of greater Boston, there is a plethora of people who can help provide us with extra support when we may need it. Having a group of people who are in the IfNotNow Boston swarm makes me feel confident that our anti-annexation and anti-occupation work is strategic and meaningful.

Post 2: I Finally Talked on our Staff Call!

One of the biggest lessons I learned during my time at Brandeis is to challenge myself beyond what I believe I’m capable of. I think this applies to my classes, making friends, joining clubs, and connecting with professors and other adults on campus. In high school, I was often content to do the bare minimum I needed to do well and school was never all that exciting to me. Transitioning to college, I realized that every experience is only as powerful as you make it out to be. During my time at Brandeis, I came to understand that I have the ability to bring positive meaning into my life through the challenges that I push myself to complete. 

Some of our health team highlights this week!

I think that this has really applied to my internship with the National Consumers League thus far. I’ve helped on countless projects that I never would have otherwise and have learned so much more about public health than I anticipated. Every new request from my supervisor has been a new challenge for me and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I turn my work into her. Recently, my supervisor, Nissa, was out of town over the long weekend in July. Usually, on Mondays, we have a staff call where we share what each department is doing during the week and what they want to highlight for the upcoming work week. Nissa usually reads these on the staff call as I listen in the background. While she was away, she asked me to share the health team highlights for her on the call. I was really nervous accepting the request since I’d never really spoken on the staff call before and most of them don’t know who I am. I spent the whole weekend anxiously waiting for her to send me the highlights to copy and paste into the company document, and then double and triple checked that everything was in the right place. With the support of the assistant to the executive director, Adrienne, I had everything prepared and ready to go. The staff call went very smoothly and everyone complimented how well I did! Even though this isn’t really a big deal, just reading words off of my computer screen, I still felt really happy that I could help Nissa while she was on vacation and introduce myself in a positive way to the entire staff. 

The work that NCL does is challenging, to say the least. The health department has a unique position right now because of the COVID pandemic, so there are a lot more nuanced problems than there would usually be. The issues that we focus on, especially vaccine hesitancy, medication adherence, and health-related fraud are intensely amplified by the present conditions and lack of guidance from the current administration. We also just started working on how the opioid epidemic is impacted by COVID, which has proven to be a challenge too. Instead of doing the bare minimum for these problems, I know that now more than ever I need to push myself as much as possible to ensure that these issues are given attention by the public, government, and other NGOs. I need to do my best to support NCL in any way possible and encourage myself to stay focused. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the sheer weight of these problems, but I also know how critical it is that they’re paid attention to. With so many different areas that need work, it can be hard to feel motivated to keep at it. For me, this is the biggest challenge. I’m excited to push myself during the last two weeks of my internship and do everything I can to ensure that the health department is getting the most up-to-date research, statistics, and information possible. I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks bring!

Post 2: Virtual Government Work

First off, I have to say I’m very disappointed I did not get a chance to work in the state capital this summer. Working in the building was one of the main highlights of the job being as that I could have met so much people and began to network. The days that I did go (over winter break for training) I started to get a sense of what its like and everyone was so nice. I was looking forward to working with and getting to know these people. Not to mention the random masses of protestors coming in and out before and after session. Now it feels no different than when we were doing classes online. I was more okay with that change but I find it hard being home and having to do work. However, on the other hand, I still feel as though we are doing good work, which is fine with me. I go through hundreds of emails a week trying to help constituents with their problems and at least that feels good. I just don’t feel as though I’m getting the experience I signed up for.

I believe this isn’t that different from university life. Im expected to turn in some said amount of work by a certain time. The only differences are the obvious ones: Im working for my boss not my professor, the work I’m doing is to help others and not myself.

One good skill I’m gaining or honing in on out of this is responsibility. Honestly, the only other professional setting I have worked in besides maybe campus is my job at CVS. Obviously my responsibilities at CVS are dramatically different than working at the governors office, so I feel as though I have gained a whole new aspect of responsibility. Im no longer the kid who sits at the register all day but now I am one of the workers in the office and I share nearly equal responsibility with everyone, with the exception of my supervisor of course. However, we ALL sort emails and etc., he is just better trained so a lot of my decisions have to go through him. Another skill I have learned is another form of code switching. In my neighborhood we use a lot of slang and it does tend to carry over places, however, there is no room for it here. The language required to address constituents has to be very specific given that we are representing the governor himself, which can be difficult some times because as I mentioned before, I have to run everything by my supervisor first. However, he has mentioned to me before that my email drafts are getting better and that I should be able to work on my own at some point.

http://www.ctcapitolreport.com

The hyper link above is the website we use to stay updated about events going on around the state, as it is our job to know these things if a constituent was to come asking.

Post 2: The Importance Brandeis Places on Bystander Training

There are many types of relationships a student may develop throughout their college career, including with roommates, friends, professors, teaching assistants, themselves, and romantic relationships with others. People in healthy relationships treat each other with respect, feel secure and comfortable with each other, aren’t controlling, abusive, or violent with each other, resolve conflicts satisfactorily, enjoy time spent together, and support one another, among other things.

Brandeis has many resources for students that lay the groundwork for the growth of healthy relationships at the university. There is SSIS, the Student Sexuality Information Service, which leads a mandatory session during orientation to talk about sexual health and appropriate sexual conduct. SSIS holds office hours, information sessions, and workshops promoting sexual health. There is also STAR, Students Talking About Relationships, which provides a face-to-face peer counseling resource for the Brandeis community. All STAR counselors are trained by professionals on topics including general counseling skills, campus resources and procedures, domestic and dating violence, rape crisis and sexual assault, pregnancy options and STD/STIs, alcohol and drugs, eating disorders and body image, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender topics, religion, mental health, and suicide and self-harm. In addition to peer-counseling, STAR hosts events related to mental health, self-care and stress relief.

In addition to STAR and SSIS, there is PARC, the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center. PARC at Brandeis University is a confidential, student-centered resource serving all members of the Brandeis community who have been impacted by violence. This organization is particularly well-known due to the fact that they post flyers detailing their clubs mission on bathroom stalls all over the school. PARC offers a variety of ways to engage with students with programming focused on both the prevention of and response to violence. One of those methods is bystander training. Whether it is a Greek life or a community service organization, an athletics team or an a capella group, every student involved in student activities must attend a bystander training with PARC. Bystander intervention training is one of the most effective ways to empower students, staff, and faculty to address and prevent harassment on college campuses, and to strategically leverage students as change agents.

With Dinah this summer, I have been developing bystander training through a Jewish lens with the goal of sharing this program with Jewish organizations across the Philadelphia area. The program includes true/false questions about domestic violence, discussing and naming different types of abuse (including physical, sexual, financial, emotional/psychological, verbal, and spiritual/religious), and talking about domestic violence as a learned behavior. Additionally, the program includes talking about domestic violence and the threat it poses to victims in the Jewish community through terminology like Lashon Harah, Agunah, Mesirah, and Shalom Bayit. This bystander training will make all of these communities safer whether they are youth groups, synagogues, overnight camps, or Jewish life clubs at universities.

I feel incredibly lucky to attend a school that prioritizes sexual health, peer counseling, and sexual violence prevention to the extent that Brandeis University does. I have since learned that safer communities are communities that invest in programming in order to educate their constituents and recognize the unique role their identities play in this particular issue.

Post 2: Applying My Knowledge and Skills to Help Veterans

Several weeks have passed since my last post, and my internship at Brave for Veterans has been getting more and more challenging. However, once I found out that I possessed the skills necessary to complete my tasks, my confidence grew. My experience has also been more and more rewarding in terms of what I learned.

After the initial phase of making adjustments and preparations, I have begun to research potential employers that Brave can connect with and that plan to hire service members. I am primarily focusing on the list of companies in Business Roundtable, an organization consisting of CEOs of U.S. corporations vital to the economy, as they tend to create more job opportunities during re-opening. This is part of the project that Brave is planning to launch, in which Brave will charge a fee for providing talent search service to employers.

I constantly apply what I learned at Brandeis to assist with my internship. My role requires that I be familiar with the different branches within Brave. My supervisor recently sent me an Excel sheet containing financial projections about the coming years, which was complex and full of statistics. I realized that analyzing and interpreting data using Excel was what I did in my physics lab, in which I needed to write a report after each experiment. I collected data with my partners and used Excel to extract valid information. This helped with my data analysis skills and made me feel more comfortable with this kind of task in a working environment.

Because I will have to look into the employment market as part of my internship, many of my tasks are related to economics. Though I am not directly involved in making projections about future available job opportunities, I frequently encounter basic economics concepts that I was introduced to in my microeconomics class during my communications with my supervisor and in virtual meetings. For example, when making plans for the talent search project, we will look at the demand and supply of the workforce, which will impact employee wages and influence the price that we are going to charge those employers for our talent search service.

As I begin the process of identifying potential employers, I need to do a lot of online searches about these companies. I not only search for their hiring strategies about service members, but I also want to identify mutual benefits between them and Brave, as these will support a long-term collaboration. I keep asking myself questions during the process and filling the informational gaps by looking at more sources. This is clearly a task requiring integrated skills, but the habit of inquiry comes from my learning experience at Brandeis. I found the history class I took last semester quite educational in this respect, as I examined many historical sources and searched for answers to things I was confused about.

Browsing employers’ websites about hiring service members

Finding My Own Way

Over the last eight weeks, I learned so much not only about the topic of my project, but also how to best manage my time and succeed while working remotely. Almost every day, simple questions arise that could easily and quickly be answered in person. Yet in this remote setting, the challenges of ascertaining answers take extra time away from moving forward with the project. As an example, towards the beginning of this internship I had a question about how to use a certain feature on SAOImage DS9, an astronomical imaging and data visualization application. Instead of receiving an immediate answer from a collaborator in my group as I would in an in-person setting, I needed to wait two days to get a reply from the help desk. The constant back and forth with my supervisor and several help desks results in slowed progress, however it also pushes me to search and learn more about these topics. Although at times working remotely can prove to be frustrating, I have learned that patience and perseverance go a long way towards helping me achieve my goals.

As a result of the World of Work Fellowship, I am able to participate in this fascinating astronomical research. This position is my first time working as part of a research team, which has been unlike any experience, school or work, that I have had before. During the school year, so much time is focused on attending classes, finishing assignments on time, studying for exams, and getting extra help when needed that the whole process becomes monotonous and predictable. On the other hand, working as a researcher on an entirely new project provides unique experiences and allows room for exploration. Instead of reading from a textbook to learn assigned material, I need to find many different sources to piece together enough valuable information for my specific topic so that I can proceed with certainty and know that I’m doing each step correctly. This interesting process ensures that every day I learn about new concepts and accomplish new pieces of the project.

At the start of this internship I set out with several goals intended to help me academically and towards future career plans. One of the most important skills I built during this project is my ability to continue searching for solutions to a question until I reach a suitable answer. Developing this skill is invaluable towards future successes. Additionally, I have learned a lot about astronomy and data analysis skills. Furthermore, throughout this internship I exclusively coded in Python, enhancing my programming abilities as well as expanding my knowledge of programming languages. As I continue in my studies at Brandeis the experience I gained will help me in my pursuit of science, scientific research, and the learning process. Additionally, learning to forge my own way using resources that I also need to identify has expanded the way I think and will influence all that I do in the future both academically and in extra-curricular activities.

Post 2: Complete Understanding isn’t the Objective

One thing that I was cognizant of before coming to Brandeis, but which has been reinforced over and over inside and outside of the classroom at the university, is that there are a lot of things that I don’t understand. My time at Brandeis has further instilled in me two very important things: one, that I must harness my resources to gain as much of an understanding of the world around me as possible, and two, that there are some things, despite all the resources in the world, I will never understand. That second truth is incredibly important in all kinds of work, but especially the kind of work in which you are interacting with people from different cultures and backgrounds than yourself. 

I do see this changing, but I think that people often feel that the only way to create change is to understand, through and through, the experiences of other people. In my mind, that is fundamentally damaging because it keeps people racing toward some unattainable goal in which they are the hero of their own story of triumph over the unknown. What it stops them from doing is accepting right off the bat that they will never understand in full the reality of someone else, and moving forward from that to a place of collaboration. Through all of my courses, but especially my classes that centered around the American healthcare system, the juvenile justice system and the global health mechanism, I’ve learned time and time again that saying “I understand” when one actually doesn’t is a step in the wrong direction. 

We have weekly intern check-ins at my internship, and we have heard from a few of the staff attorneys about their careers and their time in the field. We heard from one woman whose perspective I really appreciated. She said something along the lines of, “I will never experience the things my clients have experienced, our realities are completely different, and that is okay.” While I don’t have the experience or the involvement that she has, from where I stand, I agree. There are many aspects of the realities of the immigrant clients I engage with that I cannot control, and even fewer that I can fully understand. It is my obligation to do the best I can to listen, to be compassionate, and to center every conversation around them and their experiences. It is also my obligation to not minimize them or their experiences by saying that I understand. That is not the goal. And I see that belief echoed throughout the organization. 

An email with a client I have been interviewing. I try to be friendly and conversational without watering down her experiences. I believe saying “I understand” is a harmful way of watering down someone’s lived experience. I try to use words like “story” instead of “affidavit,” because what we are dealing with is someone’s life, not a series of facts.

In terms of my own conduct, I do a combination of things to honor what I have just laid out. I read everything I can get my hands on so I can contextualize the experiences of those I work with. I just read The Dispossessed; A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexico Border and Beyond by John Washington, which I recommend. Being able to contextualize and being able to understand are two different things. I try to choose my words wisely, always lend my ears, and never think or express to the individuals I work with that an understanding of their reality is something I can master. And that’s okay. I’m glad I am not fooling myself, wasting my time and hurting others by believing that I understand. 

Interning Amidst COVID-19

The global pandemic is affecting everyone’s lives in deep and personal ways. One of the many ways in which COVID-19 has influenced my life is through my summer internship, which was originally set to be in person. However, along with so many other facets of life, virtual became the new normal and my new expectation. 

Overall, I am really enjoying my internship with Ecomingling. I have learned integral personal, communicative, and environmental skills, I have (virtually) met some very inspiring people, and I have furthered my understanding and relationship to the environmental sector as a whole. On top of all of that, I feel very grateful that I have a summer internship at all, given today’s current climate. 

That being said, there is something missing from a fully remote experience. There is something so distinct and human and gratifying about sitting side-by-side, making eye contact, and conversing with people who are in the same physical room as you. This is something that is missing from my internship. This is something that is missing from so much of our daily lives today. 

However, given that this aspect of our lives is currently non-negotiable, I am so happy to have the opportunity to intern with Ecomingling this summer! Being a part of the World of Work is quite different from typical university life. One particular difference I have noticed between the two is the expectations that exist surrounding work. In typical academic life, there is a predetermined number and type of assignments, often made clear and accessible to me and the other students at the start of the semester. Often, these assignments come with detailed instructions, expected deadlines are set, and grades are given by the professor once the work has been submitted. 

However, my internship work is much more flexible than this. It bends and shifts based on Ecomingling’s constantly and rapidly changing needs. I was not given a list at the start of my internship with all the assignments to complete by the end of the three months. Also, I am not given a letter grade based off of my work; rather, my supervisor provides me with tailored, constant feedback. The shifting work of my internship reflects the busy and complex nature of existing in the “real world” with “real people”. 

My internship with Ecomingling has helped me build many skills that will be transferable to other aspects of my life. For instance, my internship has given me a taste of what the “real world” looks like. By gaining experience with this start-up, I have learned about the necessity to have a drive and a passion for whatever you are involved with. I have learned that although teamwork and collaboration are sometimes challenging, the overall output is much higher when working with others. I have learned that running a start-up is messy and complicated, but that is precisely what makes it exciting and worthwhile.

Furthermore, I have enhanced my written and verbal communication skills, I have bolstered my social media and digital marketing literacy, I have increased my ability to do meaningful research, and most importantly, I have furthered my environmental awareness, knowledge, and passion. I am learning all of these skills and more with Ecomingling. I know these skills will be valuable to me throughout the rest of my life- in the academic world, in my future career(s), and beyond. 

Click here to view the Israeli Plastic Pollution Prevention Coalition Facebook page I created and have been managing (a coalition created and managed by Ecomingling)!

Click here to view the Ecomingling Facebook page I have been managing!

Here is an example of an image I used as the graphic for a Facebook post, in which I provided a link to download a brochure about plastic!

Post 2: Structural racism and COVID-19

Webinar given by Dr. Ayana Jordan

In many of the classes that I have taken in the department of Health: Science, Society and policy at Brandeis, we have talked a lot about the social determinants of health, structural racism, health disparities and how it affects people’s health. Many people of color in the U.S. have a scarcity of resources, live in poverty, are an underserved community and are at higher risk of developing health problems given their environment. Therefore, they are also less likely to get the support or help to overcome it.

Now with COVID-19, hospitals aren’t having regular in-person appointments unless it is absolutely necessary and so patients have their appointments over the phone. So, as we see the rise of telemedicine, we also see a rise in disparities. At the beginning of last month, my primary investigator sent out an email to our research team recommending us to watch a webinar called “COVID-19 is Terrible, But I’m More Likely to Die from Structural Racism” by Dr. Ayana Jordan. At some point in her webinar she said, “Tell me your zip code and I will tell you your life expectancy,” which really stood out to me.

If you think about this and look at the child opportunity index,  you will see how Latinos and black children are the ones that mostly live in low opportunity areas and where there are high crime rates. What does this mean? It means that they live in poor neighborhoods where they don’t have access to a nearby hospital, or access to grocery stores to buy healthy food or even access to a good school. They just don’t have key resources like knowledge, money, power, prestige and beneficial social connections that can be used in numerous situations in different ways. But more importantly, these resources can be used a protective factors.

We all know how social conditions are linked to health outcomes. They live in this cycle that is never ending, and it’s all due to structural racism. Dr. Jordan also talked about how black people are more likely to get infected by Covid-19 due to structural racism because many of them hold jobs where they are not able to social distance and have jobs that are considered essential. Another factor is housing, meaning they may live in overcrowded conditions.

There are also natural barriers to social distancing, and one of them is lack of internet. She mentioned how everyone is talking about how you can view your doctor through technology, but many people don’t have access to internet. One of the projects I have been working on with the outpatient psychiatry clinic is calling patients with existing appointments to help them set up their upcoming video appointment. Only 66% of black people are able to have Telehealth appointments compared to 80% of white people. And all these injustices are inherently based on racist policies that dictate how people in the black race are able to grow, live, work and age, and people in power aren’t doing anything to help.

Post 2: Environmental Justice on the Campaign Trail

A fundamental idea in my environmental studies education at Brandeis is that environmental issues do not occur in a vacuum. Rather, they are intimately connected to our world’s social, economic, and political challenges. Too often, environmental advocacy approaches climate change and habitat degradation solely through the lens of biodiversity loss, or the potential for extinction of plant and animal life. While this is important to consider, and we must make an effort to conserve and protect our planet’s valuable wildlife, environmental movements must also take human rights and social justice into account.

In the Fall of 2020, I took a Brandeis course titled “Nature, Culture, Power” (ANTH 151b), taught by Professor Richard Schroeder. This class offered an overview of a niche field of anthropology–political ecology–which studies how political and historical dynamics inform human relationships with nature. Each week introduced a different topic of political ecology, reinforced by case studies. One of these cases assessed conservation in protected areas, including national parks and nature preserves, specifically questioning how the protection of wildlife can interfere with human rights. We read about and debated the controversial “shoot to kill” policies in Kruger National Park in South Africa, in which the government encouraged conservation officials to shoot individuals caught poaching endangered species. Traditionally, environmentalists would argue that the wellbeing of wildlife in the national parks should not be compromised. Poaching often only occurs when political and economic circumstances restrict the livelihood opportunities afforded to local populations.

I was exposed to a similar dynamic the following semester while studying abroad in Cambodia. During the program, my classmates and I took a field trip to the rural providence of Preah Vihear, where we visited a nature preserve in Cambodia’s rainforest. While interviewing park rangers, we learned that armed conflicts sometimes broke out between conservation officials and local populations. Due to civil war, colonialism, and oppressive governance, local communities are restricted to low-paying agricultural professions and many families live in debt. Therefore, trapping and poaching wildlife, which can be sold for large profits to alleviate their economic hardships, is a common strategy, despite its illegality. Environmental activists advocating for the protection of Cambodia’s rainforest habitats and its native wildlife loudly oppose the local populations’ poaching from the parklands. However, with limited economic opportunity, conservation becomes more ethically complicated. It is impossible to make environmental policies without considering the socio-economic factors that lead to poaching.

This balance between environmental protection and social justice that I have studied in the classroom and in the field directly informs the work I am doing with Sierra Club this summer. As a political intern working for Erika Uyterhoeven, a progressive candidate for State Representative in Somerville, I have had the opportunity to organize for her campaign by recruiting volunteers, fundraising, and helping to craft aspects of her campaign strategy.

One of her top priorities, if elected to office, is the passage of a Green New Deal for Massachusetts. The Green New Deal is a broad piece of legislation that involves transitioning Massachusetts to 100% renewable energy, expanding access to clean public transportation, building green, affordable housing units, and creating new, union jobs in sustainable industries. While it primarily focuses on mitigating and reducing the impacts of climate change, the Green New Deal is holistic, ensuring that public health, economic justice, and human rights are centered as well. Advocates for the Green New Deal recognize that environmentalism and the conservation of wildlife and their habitats do not go far enough on their own. Environmental policy must take into account environmental racism and the disproportionate impact that climate change will have on communities of color, Native peoples, low-income populations, and migrants. Simply passing policies that protect our planet without protecting people fails to recognize the underlying political and economic causes of the climate crisis we are now facing. While policy makers must take decisive action to defend ecosystems and the species that inhabit them, this cannot come at the expense of people’s livelihoods and wellbeing, especially for our most vulnerable populations.

Learning about instances where environmental stewardship and human rights were at odds with one another has informed my experience this summer by highlighting the importance of advocating for candidates and policies that find a balance between these issues. Sierra Club and Erika’s campaign have deepened my understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment with social justice.

Post 2: Key Lessons on Time Management at Jane Doe Inc.

My excitement to come to Brandeis involved many different factors, but one of the biggest was this: I was beyond ready to write more essays.

You read that right! I went to a very STEM-focused high school, so my four years involved numerous chemistry lab reports, physics and calc problem sets, and biology tests. Being someone interested in the social sciences and humanities, I knew lab research and test-taking was something I wanted to avoid as much as possible in college. And avoid it I have. Most of my classes at Brandeis have involved term papers and oral presentations. However, my transition to papers was not glamorous. I may not have to sit in a classroom for two hours and take a test, sure, but there is definitely a time constraint. Brandeis students are all too familiar with the “last minute” papers: the ones that, admittedly, should take you three weeks to research and write and are 20% of your final grade, but end up getting written five hours before they are due with the strongest espresso drink the Starbucks in Farber can offer.

Before Brandeis, I had always prided myself on my time management skills, but now I recognize that is not one-and-done. Mastering time management is a constant process, and it’s a skill we’re always working to develop and retain during our four years. Very quickly, I also realized that consistent and effective time management is not something that gets utilized just in academia. All our teachers and professors are right when they say managing the way you spend your time in college prepares you for life after. Even though I still have two more years at Brandeis, my internship this summer has given me a taste of what time management in a professional setting really looks like.

The event flyer, which will center around the question above: “What do the 2020 elections mean for survivors of sexual assault, particularly those that are young and/or first-time voters?”

With Jane Doe Inc., every day is a busy day, and no one day looks the same as they next! My work ranges from helping the outreach and communications coordinator create social media posts to refining de-carceration write-ups for the Policy Team to turn into talking points for JDI’s member organizations. I’ve learned to pace myself, set goals to stay on track, and keep myself accountable to the work. Acquiring time management skills during a global pandemic is especially hard, with our workspaces and co-workers all contained to a computer screen. One great tool JDI uses to aid in this process is Asana, which is an app designed to help organizations and teams organize, track, and manage their work. I’m able to separate my projects from one another, and upload tasks, assign them to people, and give them specific due dates. This has been incredibly helpful in developing and planning for my biggest project of the summer. 

One of our incredible speakers: Monika Johnson Hostler, who belongs to the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Titled “Multiple Truths: Survivorship in the 2020 Elections,” this virtual panel event will address the intersection of sexual assault and elections and highlight sexual assault survivors’ identities and voting decisions in the 2020 elections. Coordinating an event completely virtually has transformed the way I thought about time management. At JDI, time management involves updating your coworkers on your progress and asking for help when you need it. Streamlining the planning process by involving as many helping parties as possible has been crucial for the event. Now, just four weeks away, we have a full panel of speakers whose discussion I will be moderating. The event will also incorporate accessibility features such as an ASL interpreter for the full duration and closed-captioning in English and real time for the virtual audience. From a mere idea to nearly a full-fledged event soon to be held (August 6th! Mark your calendars and register here!), time management was one of the most important elements in bringing it together.

I will be moderating the panel and hopefully shed perspective on the targeted audience: young people and college students!

While I emphasize the importance of time management within my internship’s workspace, I’ve also learned this skill extends to after internship hours as well. Setting boundaries for myself is critical. This means avoiding checking my work email after I have clocked out for the day and finding ways to spend my time in the afternoons after work in a way that is personally fulfilling. Most recently, I have been turning this time into catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while, finding new farmer’s markets, and enjoying the best views Boston has to offer.

Getting Oriented with Seaside Sustainability

On July 1st I started interning with Seaside Sustainability, a small environmental nonprofit based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Their mission is to “passionately create sustainable oceans & communities by educating through action.” They accomplish this through work in environmental education, legislation, and technology. 

So far I’m working on two projects. The first is a data collection project that is a requirement for all Seaside interns. I am collecting contact information for teachers and administrators for every elementary, middle, and high school in the country, as well as information about their STEM programs. This will help Seaside expand the National Stem Honors Society program, which “is a chapter-based program that supports academic achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

I’ve also been working on the sustainability calculator project. The final goal for the project is to produce a web page on which people can answer a quiz about their lifestyle and a calculator outputs their CO2 emissions, waste production, and water consumption. A similar calculator can be found on footprintnetwork.org. However, the footprintnetwork calculator only calculates your CO2 production, while the Seaside calculator will have additional measures. So far I’ve been helping to formulate questions and do research mostly for the water section of the project. I chose to work on this project because my academic goal for the summer is to improve and practice my analytical and research skills. 

I have only been working for a week and I hope to be able to work on additional projects soon. At Seaside Sustainability, interns are encouraged to take on new roles and projects throughout the program. This will be a great opportunity for me to adapt quickly and gain confidence in changing circumstances. A personal goal of mine for this summer is to become more comfortable in new roles and environments.

One of my career goals is to learn more about nonprofit management and organization, such as how nonprofits fund their work, organize internally, and engage their constituencies to accomplish their mission. I still want to get involved in more event planning, development, and fundraising, but so far I have gotten a look at some of the internal structure of the organization. Seaside uses Trello to organize work in the internship program, which is an online project management tool that allows people to work on projects in teams, and have lots of instructions available virtually. In addition, the projects are managed by interns. It seems the internship program is able to run pretty autonomously. Here’s a picture of my personal Trello board, which was all set up for me when I started my internship, and made my onboarding process quite independent.

I’m meeting with my internship manager for the second time tomorrow to discuss what other projects I could get involved with. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll be able to learn and accomplish this summer!

Post 1: My First Month at Avodah

Apply to the Jewish Service Corps [Avodah]

This summer, I am thrilled to be interning with Avodah. Avodah is a nonprofit that aims to develop Jewish social justice leaders through programs like the Jewish Service Corps, the Avodah Fellowship, and a wide variety of community engagement. Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps allows young people to contribute to leading anti-poverty nonprofits across America while living communally. Much like Brandeis, Avodah exists at the intersection of Judaism and social justice, emphasizing the importance of concepts like tikkun olam in today’s world. These elements combine to form a truly unique and valuable environment for young aspiring social and economic justice advocates. 

Salesforce - WikipediaAt Avodah, I am the Development Intern, which means I work with the development team to nurture relationships with current and potential donors. My primary task is to research potential major donors in order to ascertain whether they would be interested in supporting Avodah’s mission. Additionally, I update Avodah’s synagogue database, compile comments from former corps members and fellows for future use, and I’m also helping create a newsletter that will be sent out to major donors in late July. While I only started the internship a few short weeks ago, I’ve already become much more comfortable with Salesforce, a software I use to research donors and update records. I’ve also learned about NOZA, a very useful database that helps with prospect research. I’m lucky that the bulk of my work is not dependent on in-person interaction; I am able to do so much remotely, and I’ve been continually impressed at how streamlined and organized Avodah has made my internship is despite the obvious difficulties caused by COVID. 

Development is an absolutely essential component of any nonprofit. After all, without funding there’s no way for nonprofits to do all their incredible work! I was interested in this internship because I am deeply concerned about America’s ever-widening economic inequality, and because I love doing research. Development for an organization like Avodah seemed like the perfect way to combine those interests. What I couldn’t have predicted was how warm and friendly absolutely everyone at Avodah would be, and how fascinating it would be to observe how a major nonprofit functions. 

While it’s early days yet, something I’ve already learned at Avodah is how incredibly complex a nonprofit is. Seeing all the teams of people that have to coordinate (now though Zoom calls, no less!) and use their particular talents to contribute to a greater whole is pretty amazing. This dynamic, I think, reflects a greater truth about social justice work in general: it’s the result of the collaboration of many individuals doing their part, not a burden to be shouldered by any one individual. Sometimes the problems in the world can seem overwhelming, but this more realistic, down-to-earth view of what progress looks like is heartening to me. To do real good in the world, you don’t have to be some superhero from a Hollywood movie; there are countless hardworking people around the world using their particular skills to contribute to a brighter future. 

 

Post 1: My internship at Boston Medical Center

This summer, I am a research assistant for Dr. Amy Yule in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center. Dr. Yule works with youth ages 14 to 26, alongside their families, with substance use disorders and co-occurring psychiatric illness. Apart from clinical care, she is also involved in clinical research. I chose to work with her this summer because I am interested in learning about conducting research in a clinical setting and because the work that I am doing is related to substance use disorders. As of now, I am working on various projects, including identifying which screening tools and questionnaires have been translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole, assisting with Spanish translation. My work will improve screening for substance use disorders in behavioral health.

The screening tools are also part of the National Institute of Health HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) initiative. This is an effort led by the NIH to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. I am also working on a systematic literature search focused on screening for substance use in behavioral health clinics and assisting with a systematic review of substance use disorder treatment outcomes among adolescent girls.

Boston Medical Center is driven by a commitment to care for everyone by providing traditional medical care and offering programs that enhance overall health. This supports the mission of the hospital, which is to provide exceptional care. Physicians know that research is crucial not only for the information they learn about what treatments work better than others, but also for what they can learn about risk factors, long-term effects of treatment, populations trends, and outcomes. This all ties in with work that I am doing this summer.

The hospital has many Spanish and Haitian Creole patients who may go untreated or misdiagnosed because they don’t speak English and are not able to fill out screening tools that are not available in their language. As a result, they don’t have access to health care like English speakers do. It is the main reason why we’re working to decrease health disparities between non-English speakers and English speakers. Additionally, there is no gender-specific treatment that explores options for adolescent girls. Since this is an area in the field that is lacking, we are trying to dive into the literature and find ways to bridge this gap. By translating screening tools and questionnaires into Spanish, we will be able to diagnose and treat more patients.

There are many small steps we are taking that will lead to bigger steps. For example, by translating the screening tools–part of the systematic process of validating the tools–into Spanish, other researchers will be able to use them after we are finished with our ongoing HEAL project. We are currently working on a systematic review that we will use to get a better sense of what is out there, which will inform future research that may eventually lead to the discovery of better gender-specific treatments. With these efforts, the Department of Public Health will also be able to make more informed decisions in terms of policies for medication management in residential treatment programs.

For us, progress will be having other people give us feedback on the screening tools and, once they are validated, using them to treat more patients.

– Maria Estevez

Blog post #1

Since May 11, 2020, I have started my internship with the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund (also known as Answer the Call), which is a non profit organization based out of New York City. With Answer the Call, the mission of the organization is to support the families of New York City Police Officers, Firefighters, Port Authority Police, and EMS Personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. In terms of supporting families of fallen first responders, the organization works to provide financial assistance and a support network for families to connect and honor their loved ones who were killed in the line of duty serving the City of New York. Answer the Call serves nearly 600 families. Personally, I chose this organization because of its values of honoring those who served our city and put their lives on the line for my safety. Furthermore, I have been exploring the potential career of going into law enforcement. It’s a calling for many, not just a regular 9-5 job. Just from my time with the organization, I have been able to see first hand (virtually) how the families are connected and stay connected to honor their loved ones. The organization has helped hundreds of families since the start of it which was during the mid 1980’s. 

Josh Feld wearing mask
Recent nationwide fundraising effort in which donors would receive a mask for donating to Answer the Call

In terms of social justice issues that the organization is addressing, the organization honors the lives of fallen first responders and their families in numerous ways. Members of the New York City Police Department, Fire Department, Port Authority Police and EMS put their lives on the line everyday and some sadly have not had the opportunity to come home at the end of the day. This is known as a LODD or Line of Duty Death. The organization works with family members who lost loved ones in the line of duty to ensure they are receiving support via events, social groups and financial support. As of 2020, Answer the Call currently serves nearly six hundred families. First responders are usually forgotten about after a crisis as they are tasked to hold many different roles when responding to an emergency. 

With Answer the Call, my tasks vary based on the needs of the organization. Annually, Answer the Call hosts an in-person gala which honors fallen first responders and raises funds for the organization, but due to the extenuating circumstances of COVID-19 the organization is exploring virtual methods of hosting the gala. Some of my day to day tasks include researching various vendors to host different parts of the gala, creating agendas, and interviewing potential partners. Furthermore, Answer the Call also hosts an annual golf tournament up in Westchester, New York. The golf enthusiast came out in me as I am an avid golf player. For this, I have been tasked to collaborate with various vendors, and work on prizes. 

With COVID-19, Answer the Call has been nothing but helpful during the transition to a virtual workspace. Collaborating online is obviously different but weekly meetings helps me to build bonds with my colleagues. I’m looking forward to working with the families and the team down at Answer the Call

 

Post 1: My Experience With Social Justice Organizing (So Far)

This summer I am working for IfNotNow, a movement led by young Jews to stop Jewish-American support for the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine. There were many things that brought me to this work, but the sense of duty to justice, Jewish and Palestinian people, and the global community helped me realize it is imperative for me, a Jewish woman, to do this work. The phrase, “no one is free while others are oppressed” emulates what is at stake for me and these communities.

Like I said, IfNotNow works to end Jewish American support for the occupation, but my work this summer has centered around the upcoming annexation of the West Bank. This annexation, illegal under international law, codifies the existing conditions that Palestinians live under. Under occupation, or “de facto” annexation, Palestinians have limited access to water and electricity, must go through excessive checkpoints to leave or enter their towns, are subject to land grabs from the Israeli government, and are forcibly removed from their homes which are destroyed for settlements. To address these injustices, IfNotNow works to educate within the Jewish American community about these issues to encourage action against annexation- de facto and permanent.

This summer I am leading IfNotNow Boston’s anti-annexation campaign. Thus far I’ve been responsible for coordinating constituent meetings with elected officials, running call-in campaigns, and organizing Jewish youth groups.

Last Friday I coordinated a constituent meeting where my fellow IfNotNow members and I discussed the upcoming annexation of the West Bank with Rep. Pressley and her team.

A recent highlight is that I helped facilitate a constituent meeting with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who actually showed up to our zoom meeting. To fulfill my responsibilities, I’m usually sending emails or talking with my someone from my cohort, made up of people leading electoral and political education work.

This is my workspace- my porch.

We are hoping to influence congress and our local Jewish communities to support conditional aid to Israel, as it has historically been effective in preventing Israel from extending human rights crises. We also hope to bring information about the realities on the ground to the Jewish public because often, people just don’t know what is happening. Through education, we are furthering our mission of ending Jewish-American support for the occupation by creating an active opposition to it. Through advocating for consequences to the Israeli government to Congress and the Senate, we’re looking at furthering our mission through legislative change.

The small steps to justice look like full email inboxes, having one on one conversations with fellow organizers, and lots of zoom calls. But the progress looks like a vibrant Jewish community that stands for freedom and dignity for Israelis and Palestinians. I am excited to continue my work into this summer and as annexation creeps closer and closer. Having begun my first foray into the non-profit world I am determined to keep fighting and learning how to be the best advocate and organizer I can be.

-Miranda Sullivan

Understanding the Behind the Scenes Work of a Literary Agent

Four weeks ago, I started my internship at Ken Sherman and Associates, a literary agency located in Los Angeles. While I originally anticipated completing the internship in-person, the internship was inevitably modified to be done remotely. Nonetheless, it has been an enriching, insightful, and fun learning experience.

The literary agency handles film, television, and book writers (fiction and nonfiction). Writers submit a diverse range of manuscripts that come in many different genres. If the work leaves an impression on the agent, he will work as a middleman between the writer and publisher by finding a publisher that is suitable to the manuscript. The literary agency also handles film and television rights to books and life rights. This includes the estates of deceased writers. Some of the clients at the literary agency can be found here.

As an intern at Ken Sherman and Associates, I read submitted materials and offer my opinions on the given manuscripts. These write-ups are called coverage and include a logline, synopsis, and comments section. I begin the coverage with a logline, which is a sentence summarizing the story without giving away the punchline of the story. Then I write a synopsis. This consists of a two page write up of me telling how the writer has written in my own words. I summarize the overall story, highlighting main plot points and characters. Finally, in the comments section, I offer my personal opinions and suggestions about the story. I comment on what I liked, what works and what doesn’t work, and how to fix what doesn’t work. I’ll also include what I would add to the story and think about if it would be good as a studio film, TV, stage play, TV series, Netflix series, etc. So far this summer, I have written coverage for six manuscripts, ranging from novels, poetry, and short stories. The genres have included drama, young adult fiction, and mysteries. Hopefully, I will impact the greater organization by giving the literary agent a framework to work off of before he decides to commit to a project or bring on a new client.

In terms of my learning goals for the summer, I hope to further develop my writing skills and become a more creative thinker when it comes to analyzing stories and determining the areas in which stories can improve. I hope to gain a better understanding of the literary agency industry and explore the different mediums it includes from novels to TV series. Ultimately, by writing coverage and analyzing stories, I aim to strengthen my interests and knowledge of this industry along with gathering the tools and skills to succeed. This includes writing useful, insightful coverage that will both help the literary agent and the writer deepen her story. The fact that my suggestions could have a real impact on a story and that my comments are heard are acknowledged by accomplished writers is a very fulfilling, unique responsibility to have on my hands.

Post 1 – First month at Nobee

During my sophomore year when I took Software Entrepreneurship, I got a chance to meet Danny Nguyen and heard about his company Nobee. Nobee seeks to connect landlords to tenants without going through brokers and as a result saving both the landlord and the tenant from exorbitant brokerage fees. Having been troubled with broker fees myself while on my search of off-campus housing, I think Nobee would be absolutely useful not only for me but everyone else during their search for housing. For that reason, I would like to be a part of Nobee to help realize their goal to help eliminate broker fees once and for all. And so, I applied and gladly accepted their internship offer.

Nobee Inc., a startup based in Boston, is currently building and maintaining a web application on Ruby on Rails platform. The team is made up of a few software engineers and a few people on the business side, all are Brandeis and Northeastern grads. While working remotely does present some problems regarding communications and planning, Nobee still works together like a well-oiled machine.

Looking for a new place to call home? Check out Nobee at https://www.rentnobee.com/

 

My main responsibility at Nobee is to conduct research on the functionalities of the deployed app on a few different metrics. Essentially, I make sure that everything is running smoothly, the connections to the servers are quick and reliable, and should there be any issue or blockage, I research a possible solution. I am also working on a side project in Ruby on Rails, aiming to create a responsive application that can handle adding, editing, and deleting content in real time.

My goals at the beginning were to learn practical programming skills, build functional projects, and get hands-on experience on the software developing cycle and the housing market. While the work can be demanding, it is absolutely worth it being part of this energetic and hardworking team. I look forward to my remaining time working at Nobee!!

Post 1: Interning with The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I was in what should have been a fatal car crash caused by a driver operating under the influence of alcohol (OUI). Between 2016 and 2019, I made seven court appearances to testify in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ prosecution of the driver. During this time, I worked with Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs), Victim-Witness Advocates (VWAs), and support staff in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO). A jury ultimately found the defendant guilty. The entire experience was a major source of physical and emotional trauma. Though being asked to relive the event and its aftermath in front of a room full of strangers was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do, I also saw how the criminal justice system can aid in victims’ healing. It was through this experience that I learned firsthand the impact those working in it can have on individuals’ lives. 

Less than a year later, I applied for and was offered a summer internship with the very same agency. I first learned of the program my sophomore year in a conversation with one of their ADAs. This fall I spoke with a representative/Brandeis alumni at Hiatt’s Government & Public Service Fair. 

The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office prosecutes over 34,000 cases a year in the 54 cities and towns that make up the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ largest county. Its staff investigates and prosecutes each case to the fullest extent, and tirelessly advocates for the victims impacted by crime. However, the office is equally focused on crime prevention and intervention, partnering with social service agencies, medical professionals, and law enforcement officials to promote community safety. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that my role in meeting these goals will be entirely done remotely, I am confident that I will continue to get valuable insight and experience. 

I began doing work a month earlier than the official program began. This proved a fantastic opportunity to (virtually) meet a variety of different people within the office. I have been working with the IT department doing data entry and receiving training in disposition paperwork. I have been helping one of the district courts, submitting evidence discovery requests to police departments and distributing the files to the defense. I did research for how to best implement High-Risk Domestic Violence trainings virtually for police departments. I am still in the process of reviewing thousands of minutes of audio evidence for a trial court case and compiling logs and notes on the files. I was able to gain all of this experience remotely in less than a month.

Criminal justice reform is extremely important to me. The degree to which our nation’s legal system disproportionately involves and incarcerates people of color is a social injustice I am committed to helping correct. This social injustice begins to affect members of vulnerable populations during childhood. This summer I will primarily be working with the Juvenile and Young Adult Diversion Program and Community Partnerships division. One of my primary responsibilities will be following up by phone with the young people participating in the diversion program on how they are doing complying with the terms of their plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Diversion programs are completely voluntary alternatives to prosecution for young offenders. Successful completion will leave the participant with no criminal record.

Data has shown that while some young people do commit crimes that warrant a secure setting, most of the cases involving juveniles are for relatively minor, nonviolent offenses. Early involvement in the justice system can be devastating to an individual’s life outcomes, labelling them a “delinquent” before they even set foot in the real world. Conviction can jeopardize someone’s ability to go to college by making them ineligible for financial aid and can make it difficult for them to get a job when the time comes. It also does nothing to improve the young person’s situation; they likely ended up involved due to circumstances beyond their control, including under-treatment for mental health conditions. 

My apartment in Waltham has also become my office for the summer.

In addition, I have been working with Middlesex County’s nine Domestic Violence High-Risk Assessment and Rapid Response Teams (HRTs), virtually “sitting in” on meetings. An HRT uses risk-assessment tools to identify cases where evidence points to an increased likelihood of victim lethality. After identifying these situations, a team composed of District and Superior Court ADAs, VWAs, community partners, and law enforcement officials collaborate to monitor the situations, share case information, and implement specific intervention plans designed to decrease danger to the victim. It is important to note that while the office recognizes that “survivor” has increasingly been used in place of victim to recognize the courage and strength of those impacted, using this term in relation to criminal law would minimize the potential future risk the abuser poses that the system is working to mitigate.

I am also currently finishing up a memo on cultural competency. Cultural competency is the ability to connect effectively in cross-cultural situations where one encounters another person who has different life experiences, identities, beliefs, and values. The point is not to ignore the differences between ourselves and others, but rather to recognize and appreciate that these differences exist and consider how they might affect interactions with that person.

The process of correcting injustice within our criminal justice system will not happen overnight. However, intervening and engaging youth with programming designed to prevent future offenses and help them start adult life with a clean record is a significant step in the right direction. Domestic violence also disproportionately affects our most marginalized populations, and the criminal justice system has a history of failing many of these victims. The system is meant to protect all members of its community. I am encouraged by the office’s commitment to realizing this goal. One thing that has stuck with me throughout this process is the degree to which one never hears successful prosecution referred to as “winning.” The office’s job is not to “win” cases; those that work in it do not take potentially depriving someone of their liberty lightly. Everyone I have encountered views the office’s only goal as achieving the most just possible outcome in each case, which often is not a guilty finding.

Here is a link to some of the MDAO’s Domestic Violence programming.

The Mysteries of Space Dust

Have you ever looked up at the sky during a very clear night and wondered what is really out there? The expansiveness of the universe continually boggles my mind. In the hopes of learning more about the star dust from whence we all came I decided to search for an astronomy internship for the summer. I was fortunate enough to land a research project under Professor Daniel Wang in the Astronomy Department at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

For this internship I am studying the dust attenuation curve, which determines the amount of interstellar absorption and scattering of light as a function of wavelength, in the central region of the nearby Andromeda galaxy. The determination of the attenuation curve is critical for astronomers to probe the intrinsic properties of galaxies, as well as interstellar dust. Existing studies have shown evidence that the attenuation curve is steeper in this galaxy than in the Milky Way. Additionally, the strong 2175 Angstrom attenuation bump appears to vary among different dusty clumps in the region. In order to better understand these important characteristics of the attenuation properties and their spatial variation, we have obtained spectroscopic data from the Hubble Space Telescope STIS observations of two prominent dusty clumps. Results from this study compared with previous multi-wavelength data will further our knowledge with regard to what causes the steep slope of the attenuation curve in the region, and how the variation of the curve depends on the properties and environments of the clumps. This research is important for us to use the central region as a laboratory to explore how high-energy activity in a galactic nucleus affects its environment.

Thus far, I started processing the Hubble Space Telescope data to extract spectra, and soon I hope to confront them with models to better understand the dust properties in the extreme nuclear environment of the galaxy. My work focuses on the dusty clumps within the blue box, as seen in the figure above. While working on this project I have learned a great deal about astronomy, data analysis, programming, and the patience required for conducting research. Every day my goal is to accomplish a few small things so that over time these successes will add up towards a significant result.

 

Post 1: My first few weeks at RAICES

The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal and Education Services (RAICES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Services provided by RAICES include affirmative, defensive, and litigation services to low-income immigrants and social services such as case management, resettlement assistance, a national hotline to connect migrants with local community resources, and transit support for recently released migrants. RAICES works tirelessly not only providing services to those who do not have access to them but also advocating for immigrant rights through campaigns, protests, and lobbying tactics. 

My role as a community outreach intern is to assist in the development of outreach strategies and engagement plans for community partnerships and community members, to assist staff in scheduling community events, and to develop packages for outreach events. Additionally, I took the initiative to join the lobbying committee at RAICES for one of their local campaigns that aims to end the 287(g) agreement that enables local county sheriffs to act as ICE agents, which leads to racial profiling and lack of trust between the community and police officers. Through our organizing tactics, we hope to influence the judges and commissioners who are in charge of renewing programs like the 287(g) agreement that are a threat to the undocumented community. 

RAICES’ mission is to promote justice for immigrants. Currently, there are racist programs in place like the 287(g) agreement that harm the immigrant community. Though the judges and commissioners are the ones that have the power to end it upon its renewal date, we do our part by lobbying and getting the media’s attention. RAICES took it upon themselves to invite the conservative county judge, Judge Whitley, out for lunch last year and have a civil conversation about why he should suspend the program. Though he turned his back against the immigrant community and voted to extend the program, RAICES fought back by bringing in community members at the commissioners court and speaking on why the program should end. Attached below is a picture of three young women who spoke at the commissioners court on why the judges should end the 287(g) program. 

Abolishing ICE out of the county jails is a small step towards abolishing ICE as a whole. In fact, abolishing ICE also ties in with defunding the police, which is another movement that has gained support recently after police brutality has increased throughout the past few years. Black and brown communities, like the ones I am advocating for, are in danger under law enforcement. Instead of protecting the community, they are harming them and killing them through racial profiling, hyper-surveillance, abusive stops, problematic searches, and unwarranted detention. I’ve worked this summer and will continue to work to accomplish my organization’s mission by amplifying immigrants’ needs, which are often basic human rights. Progress for the RAICES community looks like starting programs that aid the community and suspending programs that harm the community. The DACA program renewal on June 18 was an example of success for the immigrant community. Although we won the DACA renewal battle, we still have a long fight ahead of us. The battle does not end here. 

Post 1: Disseminating Research to Fuel Effective Treatment

I am a remote research assistant for Rogers Behavioral Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Rogers is a national “not-for-profit provider of behavioral health services and is nationally recognized for its specialized psychiatry … services” (Rogers’ Website).  Rogers has 18 locations that work to fulfill their mission: to provide evidence-based treatment to children and adults who are suffering from mood disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorders.  In addition to providing intensive therapy and partial hospitalization, Rogers also produces research.  As a research assistant, I work to disseminate information about how to help people with mental disorders–a population that society often stigmatizes and overlooks.  Most published health research concerns physical health, while mental health is usually ignored.  Mental health is equally as important as physical health, so I strive to further research methods of improving mental well-being. 

Schomerus et. al (2018) distinguishes the difference between the social stigma versus the structural stigma of mental illness.  Their research suggests that social stigma decreases individuals’ likelihood to take the “initial steps of help-seeking when persons have not yet fully identified” with a specific psychiatric disorder.  The structural stigma serves as an additional barrier to overcoming mental illness by decreasing the availability and distribution of treatment.  Schomerus et. al (2018)’s research also indicates that spreading knowledge about mental health treatments will help reduce the stigma.  Therefore, my research on treatments for mental disorders will help reduce stigmas attached to people who have these disorders.  

The studies I am analyzing include data indicating the benefits of evidence-based therapy.  Publicizing the efficacy of evidence-based treatments helps counter the common misconception that medication is the sole solution for mental illness, in addition to helping decrease the negative stigma.  As a researcher and future therapist, I want to work to help individuals who are struggling, but I also want to actively serve as an advocate for equality and to reduce stigmas.  

I am working directly under Dr. Martin Franklin, the Clinical Director of the Philadelphia Rogers center.  This is my third summer working with Dr. Franklin.  Last summer, I worked with him on a meta-analysis regarding treatments for pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which was published in Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry in January 2020.  This summer, we are further publicizing evidence-based treatments by writing chapters in manuals and books.  The chapters Dr. Franklin and I write will be included in completed works, alongside chapters written by psychologists worldwide.  

One of our two chapters involves OCD treatments for adults.  OCD refers to when an individual has an intrusive thought that causes anxiety (an obsession), and then the individual takes some sort of action that decreases this anxiety (a compulsion).  The compulsion causes temporary relief, but ultimately will result in the obsession and then the compulsion happening again.  Thus, the OCD cycle repeats itself.  Obsessions and compulsions are irrational, and often the individual experiencing them realizes this irrationality, but cannot break the cycle.  This disorder is very impairing and regularly misrepresented in popular media.

The second chapter we are writing, “Treating Trichotillomania and Trichophagia,” will be in a book titled Applied Behavior Analysis: A Comprehensive Handbook.  Trichotillomania is considered a related disorder to OCD, but trichotillomania involves hair pulling from the head and/or various other body parts.  Pulling can be automatic or intentional, but it is repetitive in all forms of the disorder.  Pulling also is “not triggered by obsessions or preoccupations … [but] may be preceded or accompanied by various emotional states, such as feelings of anxiety or boredom … [or] preceded by an increasing sense of tension or may lead to gratification, pleasure, or a sense of relief” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition).  Trichotillomania is mentally impairing and in some cases, physically impairing too.  One physically impairing form of trichotillomania is trichophagia, which is characterized by eating the hair after one pulls it out. 

Writing these chapters will help educate therapists and laypeople about the research-based treatments for people who have OCD and trichotillomania, and the completed works that these chapters are in will spread treatment options for a variety of other mental disorders.  Education fuels effective treatment, which is the main pillar of Rogers’ mission, as well as one of my personal goals as I pursue a career in psychology.