Post 4: Reflecting on my experience in Berlin

During my time here I have been asked many times about the purpose of my stay. Explaining that I am an intern often invites questions like “Why here?” and “Is this a requirement for your studies?” So I had to ask myself the same questions. Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time working independently and have had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and the decisions I have made. Naturally, I experienced many moments of doubt and frustration where I felt the work I was doing was minor and fruitless. In these moments, I had to remind myself that nothing is achieved overnight and small steps can lead to major change. If I am asked now, towards the end of my internship, if I made the right choice, I would undoubtedly say yes!

I came here with certain expectations that were not met professionally, but I feel I have grown in other ways. I learned to become much more mobile, adaptable and patient. I learned that not everything can be accomplished quickly, especially when working with others. I also learned how to work on my own with a lot of freedom.

To be frank, I have yet to discover the magic of time management and what it would be like to actually work within a timeline or stick to a deadline (hence I am submitting this post late!). But navigating that has also been part of the adventure. I was certain that I am not the type of person that would ever work a conventional nine to five, but I have found that there are disadvantages to working remotely in a freelancing type of way as well.  I realized the freedom I was allowed at my work space required me to become a lot more self-disciplined and that freedom was at times restricting because I was unable to use my time wisely and productively.

My view working in Monbijou Park last week

On a personal level, when I decided that I would move to Berlin and work with my internship remotely, I had no idea what to expect and I was thinking that my work life and my social/personal life would be very different. However, the type of work I am doing with refugees has opened my eyes to so many different ways of viewing and experiencing German society as a whole. Whether in a big city or a small town, it has been fascinating to observe the different groups of people who live here and the ways that their lives collide.

The city has also offered me great opportunities to network and meet people from all over the world who are involved in similar work. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to hear from refugees in Berlin and to listen to their stories and think about the different integration methods in a big city versus smaller communities.

Working remotely has proven challenging yet rewarding. I look forward to the adventures yet to come and the experiences not yet lived.

PS: if you ever find yourself in Berlin and want to find co-working spaces here are a few of my favorite places  where hipsterism is at its best:


St. Oberholz

Post 3: What Progress Looks Like

The last couple of weeks have been milestone weeks! Eighty-four businesses have signed on stating they are in support of a fully-electric bus fleet, thirteen neighborhood associations in Portland have signed on, and we had our first happy hour event about electric buses last night at a local brewery! Momentum is picking up, and at a meeting that we had with TriMet yesterday morning, I discovered we might really be getting somewhere. A twenty-two-year, detailed plan for TriMet to transition to a fully-electric fleet may still need revisions, but it will be proposed to the TriMet committee and board in upcoming weeks.

While there are a few complications and logistics that need maneuvering, it’s really encouraging to see a plan, and to see people who work with TriMet and people who don’t–mostly environmentalists–responding to public support around electric buses and creating an in-depth proposal. Now, more than ever, it’s important for me to reach out to the community and communicate between Portlanders (individuals, business owners, neighborhood associations, and other leaders who care about clean air in Portland) and TriMet that this plan is something we must agree to and then follow through with.

Here is a picture from the happy hour event last night. This is the Multnomah County Commissioner, Jessica Vega Pederson, talking about the urgency  of electric buses in Portland

For me, there’s a large spectrum of what progress looks like. Getting a single bus-line business to sign on is progress, but adding up all of the small grassroots work and events and sharing it with TriMet is what might lead to the bigger successes that I’m looking to achieve down the road. And, frequently, change doesn’t come right away and it definitely won’t stop once this campaign is achieved. Getting TriMet to ditch diesel and go electric will hopefully just be a small stepping stone leading to other big things that, when combined altogether, will have the biggest outcome. Since it takes legal action to get private organizations that are major contributors to our diesel pollution to reduce their emissions, it is best to push for a public organization that really cares about how the city views them. These organizations will see TriMet following what the public is pushing for, and hopefully that will result in changing practices for them as well. The local change we are hoping to create could thus factor into  national change and possibly global change. But everything starts small.

It’s important to have big goals and big dreams and hope to achieve things that some might think are impossible, but it’s also important to recognize that some big changes need to start small. You cannot expect that you will make progress and change right away, and sometimes you have to be patient.

Post 2: The Fire in the Belly

“Get tough. Have the fire in the belly.” That was an ADA’s response when I asked him what makes a good lawyer. It’s about being a fierce advocate for what you believe in and having a commitment to getting to the truth of things in an effort to be as fair as possible.

In criminal proceedings, a heavy burden falls upon the prosecutor. They must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle of law is enshrined in the Constitution, helping to form the foundations of our judicial system in which a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Every day at the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, I get to both observe and assist Assistant District Attorneys as they seek to satisfy their burden. It’s a difficult job because not all parts of the incident will be introduced in court, and preparing for a case requires extensive preparation and communication with the defense. Being a prosecutor is, at its best, about uncovering the truth, which reminds me of Brandeis University’s motto, “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.”

Some court rooms are used for arraignments, while others are reserved for trials or dangerousness hearings.

Over the course of my internship, I have realized how much the law shapes the society that we live in. It can be frustrating to see the same defendants appear in the courthouse again and again, or to go through a defendant’s discovery folder for a case and see that their record is several pages long and usually is motivated by addiction or gang affiliation. This further proves that early prevention and diversion programs, such as the community outreach that I help with, can change the trajectory of a person’s life. While free will (and the personal responsibility that accompanies it) is of course the single most important factor that determines whether or not someone commits a crime, there are many systemic issues and injustices that contribute to such a heavy caseload for ADAs, the most pressing of which is the opioid epidemic in this country.

The ADAs that I have had the privilege of interning for face the uphill battle of uncovering the truth and seeking justice with hard work, determination, and steadfast support of one another. This internship is extremely hands-on, so I have pushed myself to take the initiative to reach out to ADAs and seek out projects that give me exposure to court proceedings. The courthouse is a new world that I have had to learn to navigate and understand. The legal profession is like its own language, so asking for clarification is now something that I am extremely comfortable doing because that is the key to understanding my surroundings. Everyone involved in a trial is in the courthouse at the same time, meaning that being able to read the room and navigate the nuances of a particular situation is essential. Law is an obsession with accuracy of language. Lawyers use the power of expression as a means of advocacy. In order to be a good lawyer, you have to be committed and prepared. You have to have the fire in the belly.

Post 5: The Personal is Political

Hello everyone!

I cannot believe that five weeks have gone by already. How time has flown! Working at Ancient Song Doula Services for the past two months has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in my life.

Going into this summer, I was fearful that I would not gain as much from working here compared to all that I learned last year. Quickly I realized, however, that with such important work, the responsibilities are constantly growing and evolving and so is the learning.

My work this year has been centered around tackling current events and political reform as we have gotten closer to the reimbursement of doula services through Medicaid insurance, which has been a long awaited goal. , If done correctly, this reform can assure accessibility to undeserved communities. With progress and change around the corner, it is important to keep the momentum going. This does placed added pressure on community-based services who have been at the forefront of the birth justice movement since the begining.

Here is a flyer I created on our upcoming Decolonize Birth Conference!

Because Ancient Song is such a lean organization, every role is vital. Returning to the organization or a second summer appeared to make everyone else’s job a lot easier as responsibilities were better distributed. In my second year, I continued to learn and grow as a professional. In particular, I strengthened my organization and prioritization skills. I am able increase my productivity when I organize my tasks according to what is most urgent. I continue to work at how to confidently I communicate with my coworkers/supervisors letting them know when I feel something needs to change in the work space.

Before starting this work, I wish I would have understood how personal this work is for me. I thought I could separate the personal from the political, but the two are very much intertwined and layered within each other. This is what makes social justice work sometimes taxing on your body and mental health. You have a constant urge and feeling as though you are not doing enough or you could be doing more, especially with such a small team. Reminding myself that I am doing the best that I can while giving myself constructive feedback is something I find myself constantly doing.

Last year at Ancient Song, I found that it was difficult for me to say no whenever I was asked to take on additional responsibilities or stay additional hours, and I found that this became very taxing on my physical and mental health. This is why I would recommend to anyone who pursues this work to prioritize themselves and their well being over anything. This is an important lesson for professional development in general.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always be prepared to pitch yourself to folks who may come into the work space, as you may not know the connections they have or the network of people and organizations with which they are linked. I’ve found that this year at Ancient Song, I have met so many amazing people within the birth justice world. I am always introducing myself and what I do and this often leads to sharing contact information.

Overall, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to work at Ancient Song Doula Services, and I am looking forward to what future summers may offer!

Post 3: The Ripple Effect

Outside the courthouse

Change: “to make or become different.” When we contemplate the meaning of change within a context of social justice, it broadens not only to making something different, but ideally improving or enhancing. However, change–the results of compounded efforts over time–does not imply universal progress; just as it can build, it can equally oppress and recede. Nevertheless, with an intention of betterment, change can be a sequence of positive events that occur as the result of structured and defined goals. Embodying this at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, our ultimate goal is to provide free representation to low income and marginalized communities in the greater Boston area, responding in a way that addresses the poverty-inducing sins of systemic racial, social and economic inequalities.

I can recall a conversation I had the other day with a clinical instructor and director at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. We discussed her experiences working at HLAB, and some of the most significant injustices she’s witnessed at the courts during her time. One issue that stood out over others was the disparity of representation among tenants and landlords in the housing courts. While ninety-three percent of tenants are unrepresented during trials at the housing court, seventy percent of landlords are represented.

The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse

The other week, I was able to witness this great discrepancy firsthand. Assisting counsel members at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse for an event known as “Attorney for the Day,” I helped direct and prepare unrepresented tenants for their court cases. In supplement to the assistance I was able to provide, I had the opportunity to sit in and observe ongoing cases in the courtrooms. The number of tenants who were unrepresented in court was overwhelming. As I sat on the bench in courtroom 12, alongside individuals who faced the very real possibility of being evicted or losing their homes, I could only imagine how daunting it would be to partake in a court case without legal guidance and representation. In observing these cases, the advantages that represented landlords had over their unrepresented tenants was extremely evident. Without proper legal guidance or representation in court, the justice system will always be skewed to favor the party who has the privilege of legal representation. In this, the systemic racial, social, and economic inequalities that poverty is the result of will only be preserved.

The nonprofit legal work that the Bureau and other organizations do is integral to activating and sustaining social change. Targeting our social justice issues at the roots of the problem, from a systemic legal standpoint, is crucial for change to occur. But how can we measure and quantify change? How can we be certain that the work we are doing is making an impact? At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a multitude of clients have walked through our doors in search of legal aid. While the outcomes of these cases differ notably from each other, if HLAB is able to provide representation, guidance or even support, I believe we are making progress towards change and a justice system that provides equal opportunities for all. Quality legal representation should not be a luxury afforded by only the privileged, but a service accessible to everyone. By exerting the mission of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, we will influence positive change and create a ripple effect; influencing continued efforts for change and ultimately a justice system that works equally for the justice of all.

Post 4: Adaptability

I have learned a myriad of skills at my position this summer. Most of these skills are technical skills which are useful in the realm of public health policy. One specific subset of skills that I know I will be utilizing elsewhere is the different methods of organizing and displaying vast quantities of qualitative data.
At Brandeis, I learned how to analyze data is a quick, simple and categorical way. If one question had to be answered, perform this function and you will arrive at the answer. If you wish to convey something else, then this other function will do the trick. If other parameters exist, create new models and test them again. However, in the work I am doing at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, this is not enough. I have to engage with the data in a different way. Often, the data I use needs to not only be analyzed but also presented in a way that is understandable to the general public. It is not enough for me to know that a certain average means something, but the data has to show this in a graph or chart that other people can understand. While at the beginning I thought I understood how to do this, I learned so much more throughout this experience. More specifically, I began to realize that non-numerical data is hard to show. It can not be summarized easily and it must be clear and concise enough for the average person to understand it. This became especially apparent to me through one specific project I was asked to do.
A project I am working on right now aims to organize and categorize food policies in five boroughs by government entities. While the research aspect of this was difficult, I have struggled more with how to organize the over 500 entries we have acquired. Working with my boss, we brainstormed a few ways that this could become an interactive and visually appealing database. We finally settled on using a google software called Mindmup. MindMup makes use of a mapping tool called “mind maps” which organize data as “nodes” or offshoots of other data points. This program has allowed us to begin compiling and creating an NYC database of food policies that will eventually be accessible everywhere.
Before settling on MindMup, I learned about other ways to organize information that I can hopefully put to use in the future. This sort of skill set will be useful in every policy related job as compiling large amounts of information for public consumption is often necessary.
This experience also taught me how adaptable I can be. I started creating our database using a different program that I found to not be conducive to what I wanted to do. I was able to walk back to my boss’s office, explain to him the problems and troubleshoot with him and ultimately choose a new format. I repeated this multiple times and settling on MindMup became both exciting and rewarding. Learning this about myself is useful and I will definitely use my adaptability as a tool in future endeavors.

Post 3: Food as a Social Determinant of Health

Learning about social determinants of health at Brandeis informed the work I am doing at this internship. I am working a lot with poverty and food insecurity and its relation to poor health outcomes. Being able to understand this in the context of determinants of health allows me to understand how to best approach research problems.

For example, on one project I was asked to research policies in New York that affect food in any way. While I was first inclined to merely look at policies with the word ‘food’ in the title, I began to realize that so much more went into this task. I started looking for policies that addressed negative health outcomes associated with poor nutrition, such as diabetes and heart disease. I found that food was an upstream variable that was creating poor outcomes and consequently policies to remedy them.

The topics I learn in class I often thing I will not use again. Especially in my social science classes I am often skeptical or do not fully appreciate the value of the topics I am learning. I am very grateful that I had this knowledge for my internship. It enabled me to understand the policies I was working with.

Another aspect that I appreciated was seeing something I learned in school come to life. I knew that social determinants of health effected the health outcomes of individuals but this showed it to me. I saw briefs on policies about providing language assistance to individuals applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the New York City Human Resources Administration. Often, these individuals would either go hungry or buy less nutritious food because they did not know how to get onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, providing them with translations enabled them to provide for themselves in a way they could not before. This is important because if this one seemingly small factor had not been addressed these individuals and their families could become sick. This results in an undue burden on the American Health Care System. By stopping and mitigating this upstream effect, this Human Resources Administration of the the City of New York was able to save the health and lives of many while saving taxpayers’ dollars. I not only learned about this in school but this summer I was able to see it and to experience its use in public health and public policy.

Incorporating my classwork into my internship was not only interesting but it was necessary. It created a solution to a problem that I did not yet know occurred and enabled me to present my best work. Without the information I remembered from my HSSP class, I would not have thought to approach this task in this way. I understand the work that my organization does in a new light. Rather than treating negative health outcomes, we work to mitigate upstream factors by focusing on social determinants of health. This creates a solution that will have long-term impacts.

A sample policy:

Post 3: Big Change from Small Places

When attempting to create real change to better environmental and social equality, the Sierra Club tackles every level of the issue. The biggest priority of the Lonestar Chapter is shutting down fossil fuels in the state, and there has been (perhaps surprisingly) a great deal of progress and success here. The Sierra Club has been enforcing clean energy building codes and consistently shutting down coal plants over the past several years, each one providing a major win for the fight to obtain cleaner air for all. Many of the environmental goals of the organization are motivated by the public’s health and well being, which is harmed by the countless pollutants companies spew into our air and water everyday. These actions hurt wildlife, the ecosystem, our atmosphere, and the climate that future generations to come will have to deal with. Many if not all of the Sierra Club’s actions align with the 17 sustainable development goals that the United Nations released in 2015, with the goal of achieving them by 2030.

Rio Grande River Valley

When examining how progress is achieved, the Sierra Club’s small steps always start at the grassroots level. This mostly includes local outreach, education, and protesting. One current hot topic for our organization is the campaign “Save Rio Grande Valley from Liquified Natural Gas” or Save RGV from LNG for short. There is a prospective pipeline for liquified natural gas (which needless to say is extremely harmful for the environment if there were any leaks or accidents) in Southeast Texas, and the Sierra Club has been pushing to stop it in its tracks.

This issue isn’t solely environmental, however. The pipeline would run through the lands of many indigenous groups who have lived there for generations. They have been some of the most active in voicing their unease about the project. Thanks to the momentum of this grassroots campaign, the issue has been getting more and more public attention in the media. The next step is to go for the “bad players” involved, which in this particular case would be those funding the pipeline. Societe Generale is a French company supplying money for this as well as other pipelines in South Texas, and the Sierra Club has been directly calling them out in an attempt to continue to increase awareness.  

Map of South Texas Counties Affected

Big steps in general to achieve environmental justice are rooted in either corporate players who could be swayed to view the environmental aspects with more care, or more often legislators who can pass bills to enforce real change. These legislative changes are usually difficult to accomplish at the state level here in Texas, but the Sierra Club lobbies nonetheless and has a PAC fund.

On a more broad scale, the Sierra Club has been trying to change the demographic makeup of its organization and members. The organization historically has been primarily white, middle to upper class members and the current staff is trying to diversify the communities involved so that all marginalized communities’ voices can be heard. After all, the earth belongs to all of us, so we all have to protect it.

Post 2: Going Downtown to Protect Local Democracy

In my first semester of sophomore year at Brandeis I took the course Global Pandemics: History, Society, and Policy. This class, while teaching me much about the horrifying diseases and plagues around the world, also gave me a stronger take away: to always think about the different perspectives of any issue. When talking about global health, we often take a global perspective with organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the World Bank. Furthermore, “best practices” lead the way when determining what actions to take on an issue. However, we must learn to also consider cultural, economic, social, spiritual, and geographical factors when looking at issues. I also learned to ask who has the power to enact change versus who should have that power.

Applied to my internship, I realized that environmental issues need a global perspective in order to address the fact that climate change is real. But sadly, there are deniers all around the world, usually with special interests in mind such as selling oil and coal. Environmental justice also needs more fine-tuned, local perspectives. The class Global Pandemics helped me realize that the biggest actions unfortunately ultimately come from the system which holds the power and money, but progressive change starts with the people’s voice. The Sierra Club is advocating for marginalized groups affected by the destructive actions of special interest groups.

These concepts strongly resonated with me when I got the opportunity to attend an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) meeting in downtown Austin with the Sierra Club communications director. The meeting topic was centered around protecting the power of local democracies, and how the term “preemption” has changed connotations over the years. What once was the state fighting federal government power (such as in states legalizing medical marijuana or raising the minimum wage) has turned into state governments overstepping bounds on municipal governments.

Local elected officials know the needs of their community better than any other level of government representation. Local governments put in place policies that will benefit their people and local businesses such as increasing paid time off, ensuring equal pay for women, or turning their area into a sanctuary city. State governments recently have been trying to strip municipal governments of these powers, which is effectively destroying the power of not just local officials but also the people.

Democracy itself is being threatened by a tiered power structure. This leads to obvious social justice implications and effects on local communities not being protected by the leaders who know them best, because instead state officials will often make policy decisions based with corporate interest groups in mind since that is where the money is located, and unfortunately in America money too often equates to power. We must learn to listen to the people’s voices, or else we will begin to lose sight of the principles on which this country was founded.

World Health Organization Infographic – Environmental Impacts on Health

Post 2: Small Steps to a Big Outcome

The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute focuses on bringing healthy and affordable food to all areas of New York. One way they do this is by mapping out food deserts in Upper Manhattan. This project consists of many different small steps which all lead to a larger goal. Though each step may feel small, taken together the project will produce a lot of change.

Food deserts are areas that do not have access to healthy or affordable healthy foods. This often means that the predominant form of food that these citizens eat is processed. This could mean packaged food but is also often fast foods and the like which are not nutritious. This ultimately leads to poor health outcomes down the line. To ensure that we do not have to

pay for costly medical procedures in the future, we should pay up front now in the form of ensuring that everyone can eat in a healthy way. Another problem with food deserts is that they are self-sustaining. This means that they create communities that prefer packaged and processed food instead of whole foods and fresh vegetables. Therefore, we must go into communities in an educational way that teaches people what to buy and how to use it. Engaging the community and centering programming on youth is an often used and successful tactic

To begin, a list of food stores in Upper Manhattan had to be created. These thousands of locations were then found on google maps and linked to a spreadsheet. Each location is linked to a 2007 snapshot and a 2017 snapshot. Then, it is coded to reflect the type of food retailer it is, any changes that have occurred and current status. While each step feels small and the coding takes a while, it is all very important. One intern may only be able to accomplish a few hundred entries but after a while this becomes a few thousand and then, as we progress, we are able to use GIS mapping to show our results.

It is sometimes hard to feel motivated when you don’t feel like you are making progress. However, the small steps are always important and it often takes time to see their true impact. At our site, we often are motivated by the ability to use GIS because it is a cool and novel technology to many of us. Knowing that in the end this will become a tool to bring healthier foods to disadvantaged communities also creates incentive to keep building the database. It is also disheartening to think that I may not be here when this project is complete. Since it is so large and the data quantities so vast, the project could take years to complete. However, I still know that the effort I am putting in makes a difference just as the effort of the person who completes the project will. Every step of the way is important and even though each step might feel arduous, the final product will make everything worth it.

Navigating Landlord Tenant Court and Housing Law in D.C.

It’s hard to believe that my summer internship is almost over. It’s been a jam packed summer full of learning moments. I’ve become familiar with not only my host organization but also the city of DC, as well. From navigating the metro to exploring the museums there is always something to do.  Washington DC is a great place to be as an intern. There are many events geared towards interns. My cohort of interns have been to multiple events hosted by the Washington Lawyers Committee that explores law and politics. Recently we went to a panel featuring D.C. judges entitled “Poverty From the Bench”. We heard judges discuss poverty and how it affects our judicial system. They also shared how they try to make rulings that are not biased. It was inspiring to hear these judges speak.

As an undergraduate intern, in the housing unit at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, I have  interacted with members of the client community in person and over the phone. As part of my internship, I spend two days of the week working at our courthouse project. The courthouse project provides clients with same day representation on their first court appearances in their housing cases. These cases tend to be eviction cases. In D.C. if a landlord wants to evict a tenant, they have to go through the courts in order to do so. I believe that this is a good process due to the fact that tenants have the right to fight against the eviction. However, I have learned that in practice there are many problems with the landlord tenant court proceedings.

A very important statistic that I learned early on in my internship is that 90% of landlords have lawyers in these proceedings, while only 10% of tenants are represented. This creates a power differential between landlords and tenants. Often times, tenants that are unrepresented get intimated by their landlords’ lawyers and consent to a move-out agreement even though they  frequently do not have anywhere else to live. There is a book by Matthew Desmond that goes into detail about eviction statistics entitled “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”.

Photo From the Evicted Exhibit

There is currently an exhibit dedicated to this book and eviction work at the National Building Museum. Ironically, the museum is directly across the street from the landlord Tenant Courthouse in D.C.. As part of our internship program, I went to this exhibit with my fellow interns. It was truly an eye opening experience for me. I don’t think I ever knew just how bad evictions were not only in D.C. but across the country as a whole. The exhibition contained a section that talked about the Right To Counsel. Right To Counsel (RTC) is a movement that supports individuals having guaranteed representation in civil matters. While the sixth amendment of the constitution grants us a right to an attorney in criminal matters, it does not apply to civil matters such as housing cases.

Photo From the Evicted Exhibit

The Legal Aid Society of D.C’s Courthouse project is  a part of this movement. Housing lawyers are down at the courthouse five days a week to serve as “AOD” (Attorney of the Day) to help represent as many clients as possible. Unfortunately, there are to many cases on the docket and not enough attorneys. The average number of eviction cases on any given day is roughly 160. Of those cases, approximately half are deemed defaults which means that the tenant did not show up for court. This is very disheartening and something that the attorneys I work with are hoping will change. Being able to work down at the courthouse has been inspiring and motivating. It has led me to believe that my desire to go to law school is very much what I want to do in the future. I want to be able to help provide legal services to those that are underrepresented. I believe that everyone should have a right to counsel in cases that can have an affect on their well being such as eviction cases.


Learning more about the Farm and Sanctuary

Hello again! It’s been a while since I last posted but my internship is halfway over and I have learned so much in the past few weeks. Besides the daily routine of cleaning animal enclosures and preparing diets, I have had the chance of learning about a lot of other different aspects of wildlife care, education, and conservation.

I spoke last time about my part in an internship project. I decided to focus on designing and building new enclosures for some of our species here on the farm. Our American kestrel needed a new enclosure design because we had moved some of our animals around into more suitable enclosures. I got the chance to research and design all the new perches and the layout of the interior of the enclosure and then with some help, built them. I learned that the falcons needed flat perches to rest on as well as rounded perches that mimicked what they would find in nature. Our kestrel at the sanctuary had a prior wing injury so she has limited flight and needed a lot of low lying perches in order for her to climb around. With all this new research about enclosure designs, I have come to appreciate how difficult it is to keep captive wildlife and be able to care for them so that they are able to live comfortably.

Left: A picture of the kestrel enclosure I designed. Right: The American Kestrel, photo courtesy of Mass Audubon.

One amazing opportunity that this internship allows for is the chance to handle some of the animals at the wildlife sanctuary. All the interns that come through Drumlin’s Wildlife Care get a chance to do some

Handling one of our screech owls who was molting. Below is an audio recording of an Eastern screech owl’s call. Audio courtesy of National Audubon Society.

raptor handling under the supervision of our amazing Wildlife Program Coordinator, Flavio. Raptor handling entails being able to take a bird of prey or a raptor out of their enclosure and keep them on a gloved hand for educational presentations and then bring them back into their respective enclosures. I have been able to work with one of our broad-winged hawks and a screech owl here at the sanctuary. These birds have all been trained to be handled in such a manner and we always handle the animals with their safety and level of stress in mind.

In our downtime, interns also get the chance to learn more about Drumlin Farm as an institution and all the different fields of study and professions that go into the everyday management at Drumlin Farm. We got the chance to meet with Senior Naturalist, Tia and Visitor Education Manager, Sandy.

Talking with Tia, we learned about the efforts of conservation, especially in the lens of keeping invasive species in check. We helped clear out black swallow-wort, an invasive species native to Europe, in a small field on the farm. Tia explained how the swallow-wort plants were outcompeting and reducing the number of local species in the area. Swallow-worts are especially detrimental to monarch butterflies as female butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed which looks remarkably similar to the black swallow-wort, but monarch caterpillars cannot feed on black swallow-wort, leading to declining monarch populations.

A picture of Black Swallow-wort, an invasive species.

We also met with Drumlin Farm’s Visitor Education Manager, Sandy. Sandy walked us through the daily programs that happen on the farm and what a schedule for teachers that work with the farm looks like. Visitor education programs often showcase conservation and biodiversity efforts that the visitors do not immediately see. There are programs about different bird wings, the different weasel species of America and, of course, animal exhibition shows in which a teacher will take out one of our wildlife species and talk about that animal’s habitat, eating habits and their importance to the New England ecosystem. It was a very enlightening experience and Sandy even hinted at having the interns do some animal showcasing in the future as well!

Being able to see all the different parts of how the wildlife sanctuary work and how the farm functions has been extremely educational and I’ve had so much fun learning and gaining experience working in this field.

Post 5: Slow Work Is Still Meaningful

My time as an intern for the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute has been an amazing experience overall. Not only do I feel that I learned a lot from this opportunity, but I know that I have contributed to the work at the institute in a meaningful way.
The research I did this summer felt tedious and monotonous at times. There were days where I sat at my computer for hours and did not think I got a lot done. I would sympathize with the other interns, discussing how we had never-ending piles of work and what seemed to be small results. One project in particular took up the middle three weeks of my internship. I, along with the other interns and colleagues at the institute, developed a survey to be administered in the Harlem community. The ultimate goal was to create a long-term understanding of the food services offered and opinions on the demographic shifts in the community. This was difficult and tiring to see through from start to finish. However, it was all worth it when last week the director sent out the first draft of the report on our research. Seeing our work in writing made me realize what an impact we are having. More importantly, this report is being sent to other organizations and to funders who will use it as a guide to understanding our progress.
Social justice work can be hard and it can be tiring. It can seem like you are not getting anywhere, but this internship has taught me that even if it feels slow, you are still making progress. The impact that I have had on this organization is through my work on this project and so many others. I have enabled them to create further programs with my support of their research. Additionally, they have given me experience in fields I did not even know existed. This internship exposed me to the good and the bad parts of public health and helped me grow in my field.
If I could give advice to someone starting this or a similar internship, it would be to use your support system. For me, this was the other interns in my office, as well as my bosses to whom I reported. When I was confused or lost or needed motivation, they were always there for me. Furthermore, by helping them I was able to show myself my own capabilities. Also, I was worried at first that I did not know enough or was not capable of all of the tasks for this internship. If I could, I would go back and tell myself that although that is true, I will learn everything I need and that there isn’t a challenge I could not accomplish, whether it be alone or with the help of a coworker.
This internship and this summer have helped me grow in immeasurable ways and I know will put me on the path to a great career and a great future.
A link to the research the institute has done:

Post 5: Skills for the Future — What I’ve Learned Working at the Hartford Public Defender’s Office

Through my work with the Hartford Public Defender’s office over the past two summers, I have learned a great deal about my passion for the field of law as well as many of the issues in the criminal justice system. Because my job is very hands-on and involves contact with clients on a daily basis, many of the skills I have learned relates to communication. The clients we serve come from all walks of life and from a variety of different backgrounds. I believe knowing how to properly communicate with every client to make sure they feel comfortable, respected, and supported is a very important part of a public defender’s job.

Me (if you look closely) sitting on the bench in one of our courtrooms

While interning this summer, I got the chance to work alongside many of the lawyers at our office. One lawyer in particular that I had the privilege to shadow on many occasions taught me a lot about how to work with clients who suffer from severe mental health problems. Because she also comes from a background working in a mental health-related profession, she has many skills that help her to more effectively communicate with her clients. For instance, when talking to a client who is very worked up, anxious, and unstable from the process of being arrested and in lockup, she is able to speak with them in a calming manner that allows them the chance to calm themselves and act more rationally. She not only helps the client to feel a bit of relief when in an extremely stressful situation, but it also helps them to avoid presenting to the court in a more erratic state, which can be important when the judge is considering bond or other important decisions. I hope that in my future career as a lawyer or even just in my daily life I can use the skills I have learned from her as well as the many others I work with to be a better advocate and person overall.

View of Hartford from my morning commute

While it can be difficult to articulate exactly what I have learned about myself and my skills in the workplace, I believe that I have learned a lot about my interests in the field of law and criminal justice as well as what it means to be a working, professional adult. When I first began this internship last summer, I had few ideas about what I wanted to do for a future career. I had also never had experience working in a professional setting. During my time here at the public defender’s office, I have been able to find my passion for working with others and the field of law. It has allowed me to combine my interests in people, my background in psychology, and my fascination with crime in one place. I now have a much clearer idea of the potential careers I hope to pursue, such as working in criminal law, family law, and other social service agencies. Additionally, it has opened my eyes to the multitude of backgrounds people come from and the discrepancies of how people live in my city. Furthermore, this internship has made me excited about my future and the many different paths I can take down the road.

Post 5: Something I wish I knew before my internship

Before this internship, I did not know what I should do after graduation. I started this internship with a hope to try out whether I liked research and whether I can do research. As I have spent seven weeks in this internship, there is a clearer path before me, and I am more determined about the path I choose.

Before this summer, I did not have a lot of experience in psychology laboratory or clinical psychology. I had passion for clinical psychology, but I was overwhelmed by everyone telling me how difficult it was to pursue a career in clinical psychology. I was anxious and lost as I did not know what I should do and what I can do. When I applied for this position, I was not sure whether I wanted to be a researcher or not, but the only way of knowing was by doing it.

It turned out that my anxiety and worries were relieved once I started trying. Part of my anxiety came from the fact that I was not doing anything instead of being worried, and an internship is a great way of trying out which path is suitable for you. I have noticed that many people my age, including me before this internship, are stressed about the unclear future and afraid of trying. Many of us are too eager to point out a clear future. The fact we often overlook is that very few people have a linear career path, and that uncertainty is in the nature of life. It is okay to be unsure of what to do in the future, and the key is to try. If you do not know which field is the one that you want to devote the rest of your life to, try all that you are interested in. There are so many possibilities in front of us, and we are so young that we have the privilege to explore them all. In the meantime, it is okay to find this not to be the right path for you, because career paths are frequently not linear but full of trials and failure.

In my case, I intended to join the field of economics or business up until the end of my sophomore year. After I realized that I could not fit into this field, I decided to see if psychology worked for me. My internship during this summer has confirmed my passion for clinical psychology. The arduous laboratory work can be boring to many people, but I find it interesting and feel motivated by the high-end purpose behind it. It is important for me to be happy with my job and feel like I am making a difference in the world. Every week, I need to process, scan, and store data collected from patients, but I can overcome this tedious work and stay motivated when I see how the patients are getting better every week. Being around people who share passion for the field is helpful. It is not as difficult as I thought once I started working on it, and once there are peers working hard along with you. The supervisors also gave valuable advice and made the path ahead clearer for me, as they are ahead of us along the way and have been through what we are struggling with now.      

Post 5: Self-Advocacy in Women’s Health

Themes from the women’s health workshop

On Wednesday, after a month and a half of planning, I walked into a room of thirteen women sipping tea and chatting around a large table waiting for a workshop on women’s health to begin. I’m interested in women’s health and health education because I believe it is so essential for women to understand how their bodies work and to be able to express any concerns to their doctor. So many times, women place the wellbeing of their children and families ahead of their own, and, with our clients who are trying to support their families in a life-altering transition, it can be even more apparent.

I’d noticed in the first few weeks at my internship that my clients did not volunteer information readily and that very pointed questions and relationship-building were needed to hear their concerns. Most providers start appointments by saying, “How are you doing today?” Clients reply, “Good,” and providers move on. When this happens, clients aren’t able to share their worries or problems. Since there is little access to women’s healthcare in Afghanistan, and speaking about reproductive health is culturally taboo, many of our clients did not know what was normal or abnormal, nor did they have the tools to self-advocate and ask their providers questions. So, I initiated and planned a women’s health workshop with a local OBGYN to provide some of our clients with the knowledge and tools to self-advocate at their appointments and understand the various tests and cancer screening procedures.

While the workshop was meant to be 30-45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A, it ended up being cut off after 2 hours! At first, the women were nervous, but as the doctor spoke, they began to smile, nod, and those that could write feverishly took notes. The doctor shared information about routine pregnancy care and labs; cervical, breast and colon cancer screenings; menstruation patterns; and controlling or augmenting fertility. She stressed the importance of women’s healthcare for reasons other than pregnancy as well, since so much focus is put on the health of women during pregnancy and for the sake of their children and not necessarily for their own benefit.

The doctor did an amazing job presenting the information in a straightforward way and encouraging the women to share their thoughts and ask questions. She used anatomical diagrams to help explain the female reproductive systems so that everyone could understand what their bodies looked like. The doctor stressed that because providers and patients don’t speak the same language or come from the same culture, doctors aren’t always able to communicate well with them. She shared that she doesn’t always ask the right questions of them and that sometimes she makes mistakes, so it’s crucial for them to tell her how they’re feeling and self-advocate. This openness allowed the women to feel comfortable sharing their worries and questions on everything from missed periods, to colonoscopies, to questioning why American women had such high breast cancer rates. The biggest revelation for the group was when they found out that men’s sperm is truly what causes the sex of babies, so having only girls was not the “fault” of the women. Jaws dropped, and several women yelled, “They lied to us!” through their interpreters.

The most rewarding part of the workshop for me was seeing the women’s faces as they processed the information and seeing their confidence grow as they asked and even answered questions for other women in the group. One workshop participant commented that while it was so important for the women to learn this information, that we should also hold a workshop for the husbands because they needed to know this information too! I know that this information will be handed down to daughters and other women in the community so others will also be able to understand their bodies and advocate for themselves at OBGYN visits. But, I also felt sad because as my internship comes to an end, I will have to say goodbye to the women and families with whom I have built relationships. There are still so many loose threads I wish I could help fix before I have to say goodbye.

I am so thankful to have witnessed the strength and determination of these women and their families adjusting to life in a new country. My advice for someone beginning a position like mine would be to listen and absorb as much information as possible. Being able to go with the flow and be all-hands-on-deck when a crisis arises is extremely important. Most importantly, being thankful for the relationships you build with people from around the world, as there is so much to learn from others.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are mine alone and not indicative of those of IRC.

Post 5: BridgeYear and Beyond

My experience at BridgeYear turned out to be exactly what I wanted when I decided to apply to startups in the education sector. I am very interested in the EdTech industry, and I wanted exposure to the education system, the different organizations in the industry, and to expand my network. In addition, I love learning about startups and have usually only worked at larger firms before. I wanted to witness the type of work, resilience, and mindset it took to start a venture, and be a part of that growth. I was able to experience working in a smaller team in which I had significant projects and responsibilities that extensively and rapidly developed my skills. It also provided immense personal growth, as I received constant, actionable feedback and was given opportunities to take initiative. BridgeYear gave me a memorable internship, and has made me feel more confident and prepared moving forward.

During my time here, I learned about many facets of the organization, a large part of which is the nonprofit and social justice aspect. I am able to work on projects to grow the organization, while also having direct interactions with the students we are targeting. This is highly rewarding, but also taught me different elements of the issue while going through the processes with each student. In addition, I learned about the workings of a nonprofit in terms of the organizational structure, how the board functions, the finances, and how it differs from for-profit companies.

At BridgeYear, I was mainly responsible for communications. Some of my work for the organization is showcased through the redesigned website and the social media strategy. This has helped to strengthen the brand and mission, spread awareness, and attract more donors and supporters. I also had the opportunity to be part of projects that were implemented for the first time at BridgeYear, including coordinating the Volunteer Build Day event and creating the first impact report. This was extremely exciting, as I learned and developed numerous skills, but was also able to offer my perspectives and opinions.

Team bonding at an Escape Room

One of the most important things I learned during this internship is the extent to which someone must be passionate about the work they do. This is crucial for any type of work and industry, as one needs to reflect on what drives them to perform their best. However, it is especially true for nonprofits and entrepreneurs. Working at a nonprofit requires great passion for the mission, as it revolves around helping a community and raising funds, rather than making a profit. Passion and grit were things I often heard about in classes or read in articles as what you needed to create and sustain a startup. I was able to witness this firsthand at BridgeYear by seeing the mission-driven mindsets, diligence, and drive of the cofounders and the team. This internship has been an amazing learning experience, and has made me excited for what is to come in the future.

Post 5: My Fifth Week At The Quad Manhattan

One important lesson I have learned during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that in order to be successful in a social justice field, you have to have perseverance and be willing to be flexible. During the past five weeks, I have been faced with challenges that came completely out of left field. Whether it was working with the kids or sometimes with my fellow staff members, I had to keep a thick skin and always be willing to reach out for help and go the extra mile. I believe that these skills are important in any social justice environment.

It was this flexibility and perseverance that allowed me to have a large impact on The Quad Manhattan this summer. As the summer progressed, I proved myself and was given more responsibility. I have three kids that I am “tracking” and have been given most of the responsibility of taking care of them throughout the day. In addition to overseeing these three kids, I have helped out extra with the camper’s theatre classes. Whenever possible, I have worked with the theatre specialist and used my past theatre experience and psychology education to tailor the theatre lessons to my kids. I truly think that by being at The Quad Manhattan I have increased the experience of all the campers in my group.

Food made by campers during cooking class

One thing I know now that I wish I had known when I started this internship was that it is okay to stand up for yourself when you are placed in an uncomfortable situation. As I began to prove myself this summer, I was placed in harder and harder situations with both the kids and the staff until I reached a point where I just hadn’t received enough training to continue on by myself. At first I tried to just tough it out, but eventually it became apparent that if I didn’t reach out and ask for help I would be doing a disservice to both myself and the kids. I was hired as an intern whose job it was to learn and use what I learned to help the campers, not as a paid teacher who was expected to run the classroom. Once I reached out, I was given more tools to succeed, and I felt much more confident in dealing with these difficult situations.

A piece of advice I would give to someone else doing this internship next summer would be to make sure to make time for yourself. It has been very easy to let work overwhelm my life this summer. I found myself in a terrible cycle of going to work, eating dinner, sleeping, and then going back to work, and I quickly became burnt out. Luckily, I realized this a couple of weeks into the internship and made much-needed changes to my routine. I started organizing going out after work with other interns, seeing as much theatre as possible, and even just making sure I watched an hour of television without doing any work before going to bed. These tiny changes helped keep me from becoming drained and improved both my personal health and my ability to do my job.

I love working with these kids and have been putting everything I have into making sure they have the best experience possible and take away as many skills and strategies as they can. Even though there have been ups and downs, I am very glad that I chose to take this internship at The Quad Manhattan this summer. I have learned so much and have been exposed to so many new theories and ways of thinking and can’t wait to take this experience and work towards what is next.

Post 5: My Advice Navigating the Internship Application Process

For anyone who studies International/Global Studies (IGS), when considering summer internships, the options may seem overwhelming because the world is your oyster. This can be beneficial because all across the globe, there are great organizations with which to intern. However, it also makes the decision of where to intern difficult due to the wide array of choices in programs and locations.

Here I will speak a bit about the process of navigating my past two summer internships. In my opinion, the first thing one should think about when considering a summer internship is their preference regarding a domestic or international internship. Several things to think about include the ease/difficulty of going abroad, where the impact of the work is most relevant, and how the connections made during the internship can play a role after graduation. After weighing these factors, I decided that spending my summers based in the U.S. working towards global issues would be the most beneficial.

I applied for a summer internship at the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) in Boston last summer, which I had heard about when the executive director, Sam Vaghar (’08) gave a presentation about the organization on campus. I was accepted for the internship and spent the duration of last summer there. I had such a positive experience; each and every day was exciting, characterized by creating new partnerships and meeting leaders from organizations all around the world. I saw the impact of my work in planning the ninth annual Millennium Campus Conference and taking the lead on outreach and registration.

Hannah with other MCN interns, Summer 2017


When looking ahead towards summer 2018, I was hoping to explore what public diplomacy looks like in the realm of official foreign policy by interning for the federal government. With the idea of joining the Foreign Service in the back of my mind, I thought it would be the best use of my summer to intern in Washington, D.C. at the Department of State and learn as much as possible about a career representing the U.S. abroad. I created an account on, which is the website used to apply for all U.S. government positions. On several occasions I consulted the site, looking for openings for student internship positions at the State Department, and in September I decided to apply. I then received notice that I qualified for an interview, which went well, and was offered a position in November in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

I arrived in D.C. to start my internship at the end of May. The time has gone by so quickly and I can’t believe I only have two weeks remaining. I have learned so much about working at the Department of State and am so grateful for the experience!

Bye for now!
-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 5: My Summer at JVS

Although I am only able to intern at JVS for ten short weeks, I have been able to have many invaluable experiences through my work both with clients and career coaches. I have been able to meet with clients and help their job search in concrete ways. Every week, I assisted with the Refugee Services intake, during which we met with new clients and determined their needs in terms of English classes, child care, and job searching efforts. I helped conduct job searches to find the best fit for a specific client. I am able to assist clients in creating their resumes and cover letters and submit job applications, which often lead to job interviews and offers. I work to prepare clients for those job interviews so that they feel more confident about the process.

Additionally, partway through my internship, I was assigned my own child care clients. Since then, I have had the opportunity to understand what it is like to manage your own caseload and clients. I am often assigned my clients as soon as they register for JVS and it is my job to help them locate a child care facility that will allow them to attend classes at JVS and obtain a stable job. I conduct the search, contact the child care providers, and set up appointments for center visits and to obtain vouchers. Also, I meet with my clients to prepare the myriad of forms necessary and inform them of the rules regarding maintaining their voucher.

One of my goals going into my internship at JVS was to learn more about how nonprofits actually work, and their successes and the challenges. I saw firsthand how important the services provided at nonprofits like JVS are to those who we are trying to serve. When approaching social justice issues, in class or out, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the size of a given challenge that may appear insurmountable. It seems that issues such as the immigration crisis, poverty, or hunger are so daunting that you don’t even know where to start.

At JVS, I have learned that often it is the small actions that matter. Instead of focusing on changing laws or popular opinion, which seem like near-impossible tasks, JVS focuses on making positive change in the lives of individuals those laws and popular opinion are affecting. We work with individual clients to give them the skills and support they need to establish themselves in a new place. We offer classes to help our clients better their English skills along with certain subject-related skills. We coach them one-on-one to help them locate, apply for, and secure a job to help them provide for themselves. We assist them with searching for and obtaining child care that will allow them to pursue their career. We help one client at a time to establish meaningful lives in the United States after having to leave their home country. Although progress may seem slow, JVS serves roughly 17,000 people a year. This experience has taught me that no matter how small the action, your social justice work is meaningful. At the time it seems as though you have only made a small difference in one person’s life, but over time you realize that these small actions are what make up a movement.

Post 5: Final Week at the ACLU of Utah

ACLU of Utah legal observers at the March For Our Lives town hall; Courtesy of ACLU of Utah Facebook page

After reading the most recent New York Times article on ACLU litigation, social justice has become more controversial than ever. From working at the ACLU of Utah office over the summer, I have learned that social justice does not always agree with the political agenda of representatives and specialty groups. When I first started, I only understood the logic and reasons behind supporting social justice movements and causes. Now I realize that many people view social justice as a one-party cause. While attending a March for Our Lives town hall—where the ACLU of Utah was represented—I was happily surprised to see members from both sides of the argument participate in civil conversation and yes, dissent, in order to find common ground. Although these moments are tense, I realized that it is possible to create a dialogue with people you never thought imaginable. Social justice is about human advocacy that should permeate throughout political spectrums.

Throughout my internship, I have observed and participated in meetings on topics like criminal justice, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, immigration, disability rights, media strategy, and so much more. I have worked independently on research about gay straight alliances (GSA), judicial bypass statutes, and social media strategy that will be used in upcoming advocacy and litigation work. Most recently, I accompanied the legislative and policy counsel, Marina Lowe, on an appearance to the Utah capitol to sit in on interim judicial and legislative sessions. I even got to see my representatives! Being able to both observe debates between Utah representatives on various topics and contribute to those debates with the ACLU of Utah makes me feel empowered about my role to change policy in my hometown.

But of course not everything came easily. I wish I had known more about the arduous process behind pushing for positive legislation or initiating events and meetings. Everyone in the office works very hard to accomplish goals that protect and enhance the Bill of Rights. Because I feel passionate about the issues that the ACLU of Utah advocates for, learning to be patient setting up meetings with other organizations and taking the time to complete thorough research was a skill that I was eager to enhance. For anyone who wants to pursue an internship at any ACLU location, one piece of advice I’d give is to show passion for an issue that you believe in. Stay up to date on pertinent legislation and inquire about the legal careers of people around you. Even though I have to say goodbye to the ACLU of Utah office over the school year, I fully plan on contributing as a volunteer when I’m home.

Thank you ACLU of Utah team for having me!   

Post 5: Final Weeks at 826 National

I have spent this summer immersed in 826 National’s innovative approach to supporting young people’s education, and I will leave this internship more motivated than ever to cultivate education practices that ensure all our young people can meet their full potentials.

Despite the fact that the 826 mission revolves around supporting students, I have spent virtually no time working hands-on with students. Instead, my internship has focused on the behind-the-scenes end of nonprofit management. I have learned a staggering amount about the day-to-day processes that are required to support the vast network of 826 chapters. Many of my projects have supported the annual 826 National Staff Development Conference, which hosts more than one hundred staff members from across the country. Other tasks have been focused on expanding the resources available on 826 Digital, a free online resource for educators looking to take their writing curriculum to the next level.

This summer, I have learned that nonprofit work is not always easy, and that it takes a particularly patient, inspired type of person to do this work the way it should be done. Because of that, I have met some truly incredible humans this summer. The people who work at 826 National really believe in the power of this organization, and it’s easy to understand why when you see the writing that our students produce:

Our students are witty:
“Because they’re spicy. They’re rebellious. They don’t play by your rules. If you double-cross a jalapeño, you get the seeds.”
-Calvin, Grade 8, 826michigan

They’re eloquent:
“If writing was a medicine, there would be universal healing.”
-Jennifer, Grade 5, 826LA

They’re wise beyond their years:
“One of the worst things in the world must be when your mother’s ridiculous advice turns out to be right.”
-Cole, Grade 9, 826 Valencia

So while 826 National staff may not be working with students directly, reading through student writing — which I spent a good portion of my internship doing — makes every challenge worth it. That’s my first piece of advice to others looking to intern with a nonprofit like 826 National: the work will be hard, so find what makes the challenge worth it, and surround yourself with that as often as possible.

Get to know your fellow interns, too!

My second piece of advice is to get to know the people you are working with, and to start doing so as early as possible. The wonderful thing about this kind of work is that people don’t end up in these positions unless they have a deep passion for the mission. Every single person in my office had a different journey to their position at 826 National, but all of their paths reflect an incredible drive for social justice work. Building relationships with others in the office can give you some insight into the extensive number of jobs that exist in this world, but it’s also a great reminder that there isn’t one “right” way to build a meaningful career. There are a million potential paths, and college really only shows you a few. You’ll never know what might be out there unless you chat everybody up!

Which brings me to my last piece of advice: ask all the questions! In addition to asking about others in your office, ask what more you can do. Seek out opportunities to make your impact, because the best ones won’t just fall in your lap. Ask how your organization supports itself financially. Ask what your supervisor’s dream is for the organization. Ask to learn about everything that seems interesting, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your intern position. Remember that even though you are there to provide a service, you are also there to learn everything you possibly can about the real working world in the short time you are there.

Well, that’s my last post for the summer! Thank you to World of Work and the Hiatt Career Center for making this internship possible, and to 826 National for making this experience a dream. I am so grateful to have spent this summer learning under the 826 team.

-Katie Reinhold ’19

Post 5: Navigating the Professional World, Not Yet as an Adult

A few months ago when I was shopping for business professional clothing, I vividly remember standing in front of the mirror staring at myself in a suit, blazer and all, thinking, “I look ridiculous.” The mere idea of seeing myself in the professional world seemed silly and unrealistic. Now, with less than a month remaining of my work in Congresswoman Clark’s office, I have begun to feel comfortable imagining myself in the “adult world.” Over the past few weeks I have experienced a job I don’t hate, I learned that I can handle a 9 to 5 job, and even after weeks of sometimes monotonous work there are still things I get excited about every day.

The Capitol at night

The way a government internship works is that there are different “hot topics” that are the buzz of that week or month. For my time on the Hill so far, those topics have included separation of families at the border, Trump’s tariffs, the Russia investigation, the farm bill, and more. Every time there is movement on those relevant issues, you see a small difference being made and you feel a part of it. Something that drew me to D.C is that no matter what your role is, you feel as if you are part of something larger than yourself.

Social justice is something that has been important to me, even before I could put a label on it. When I was little I would tell people when I grew up I wanted to be a superhero because I wanted to make a difference. Now I go to a university where social justice is a literal pillar and runs through everything Brandeis does. Through my government internship this summer, I feel as if I have experienced social justice through a new lens. Something I have learned is that if you agree with whoever you work for, social justice jobs are inevitably rewarding. Every time a constituent calls and thanks us for our hard work, every time a project is completed, an amendment we were rooting for passes, or your member does something that you are excited about, you can’t help but think how proud and honored you are to work in this office.

At the same time, however, this work can go unnoticed, underrated, and under-appreciated. Many times, social justice work is usually a behind-the scenes-movement that is necessary, but also forgotten. Constituents call and question what we are doing about this or that and forget about all that we have done for the issues they called about only a week ago. Because of that, I don’t think jobs driven by social justice are for everyone, but for me, there is still that little kid inside with a towel around her neck flying behind her like a cape, hoping there is an opportunity to make a difference.

The view from outside my office, behind Longworth House Office Building

For anyone considering or planning on doing a Hill internship, it’s important to know that your experience is what you make of it. Working in a congressional office allows you to take on a possibly difficult, possibly intimidating position, and gain confidence in ensuring you are doing work you care about. The more you are willing to take on, the more you are willing to try new things, go to hearings, do things you have never done before, the more you will get out of the opportunity. Being a “Hilltern” is unlike any other job I’ve ever had, but the amount that I have gained and learned so far has been incredible. I would highly recommend this internship for someone who is trying to challenge themselves in the policy/politics world.

While mistakes might be made–you will probably get lost countless times in the tunnels, and there will be moments when you have no idea what you are doing–this job also brings times when you will feel absolute pride in the work you are a part of, and that is why it is worth it.

Post 4: Skills I gained at Interfaith Worker Justice

During the 2 months that I worked at Interfaith Worker Justice, I learnt a lot first-hand about social justice causes.

My supervisor Sarah, my intern colleague Audrey, and I worked as a team to organize. I do not remember learning how to be an activist in any other internship that I have had so for.

I learnt a great deal about networking for the action itself through unions, faith and labor organizations, worker centers, guilds and NGOs. Constantly joining meetings, panels, protests and congregations, I saw the power of networking in activism; strengthening the working people.

I worked in the office. I made phone calls to the activists that were on our list or to the public to inform them about a ballot campaign, a task or a question. I crafted e-mails to invite activists and supporters to our events or to try to find sponsorship for catering and decorating for our annual breakfast. I learnt a great deal about communication.

I worked out of the office collecting signatures for our campaign “Raise Up Massachusetts.” I had a lot of disappointing moments at first, hearing discouraging comments or harsh reactions from people refusing to talk, but I slowly learnt to be more professional and let go of all the negative reactions. I learnt a great deal about canvassing and professionalism in canvassing.

I met with community and religious leaders and union representatives to mobilize and organize for campaigns, events and actions.  I learnt a great deal about community building.

On top learning about the job, I learnt a great deal about myself as well. Once again, I saw that when I love what I am doing, I will give it a lot of attention and do the best I can. Once again, I reminded myself that I hope to be in a politically, fulfilling career to be happy in life.

All these skills Interfaith Worker Justice taught me will be a plus for me for my entire life. If I choose this field as a career option, obviously, I will benefit from these skills. If I do not end up choosing it as a career, however, I will still benefit from these skills in the volunteer jobs I will have.

– Ece Esikara

Post 5 – What I learned at NCL

Members of the NCL team expressing the League's support for one fair wage through posters.
This photo was taken last week at a rally for raising the tipped wage. I attended the rally with NCL colleagues and got a chance to see Jane Fonda.

My experience at National Consumers League has been fantastic. I’ve learned so many tactics  advocates use to create change and I am grateful for the chance I had to take part in pro-consumer movements.

Hard work, patience, and having an open mind are all essential to social justice. In some cases I haven’t worked as hard as I should, but interning at the League inspired me to put full effort into my work, something I hope will continue in the fall at Brandeis.

Everyone I work with knows just as well as I do that you cannot wait for change to happen to you, you have to make change happen yourself. We are constantly looking for ways to help consumers. When we work harder, we cause more change and help more people.

Even if we work as hard as possible, things still might not happen as quickly as we want. That’s why patience is essential. Whether we are waiting for the next election or working on a years-long project, social justice efforts require a big time commitment.

Before you can change anyone’s mind, you have to know what they think in the first place. Good activists patiently listen to people, even those with opposing views. Open-mindedness is an important part of listening to others.

Rather than stubbornly rejecting everyone who disagrees with you, you should understand their perspective first. Often, immediately or totalling changing something about the world is practically impossible, but compromises would be more easy to create.

Last week, as I left a rally for raising the tipped wage in the capital with other interns and NCL’s executive director, we all stopped to listen to protesters, even though we were hurriedly heading to the museum of African-American History and Culture for a visit.

The protesters brought up important points about D.C.’s initiative to raise the tipped wage. While some of their arguments didn’t make sense, many of them had merits. Yet, a few D.C. council members didn’t see it that way. Some of the offices and members of the “One Fair Wage” movement dismissed restaurant workers’ worries without acknowledging that these were the same people they were meant to serve and help.

I’m proud of the impact I made at NCL. I wrote many questions that will teach kids life skills through NCL’s trivia competition, LifeSmarts. I also brightened up my coworkers’ days with lots of baked goods and worked as hard as I could on all the assignments I was given.

If I had known anything before I started, it would be that NCL is an amazing place to work, but also that I needed to advocate for myself, not just consumers.

I was worried about working in a place where I didn’t know anybody, but the League has such a fun environment that not knowing anyone didn’t matter. I also realized after the past weeks that I could take on more work if I just asked around for it.

My two supervisors didn’t always have much to assign me, but plenty of people in the office did. Working with other colleagues brought me out of my comfort zone and gave me more to do. I just had to learn to seek work out.

I would tell anyone who wants to work at NCL to be hardworking, patient, and open-minded, but I would also tell them to be unafraid of where consumer advocacy and social justice take you. Having an impact is nothing to be afraid of. I wish more people knew that.

Spherical fried zucchini donuts made with an Italian great-grandmother's recipe
I’ve made a habit of bringing everyone at NCL baked goods on Mondays. This week I brought zucchini donuts made from the recipe of my aunt’s neighbor, an Italian great-grandmother. I also made sour cherry biscotti using a recipe from King Arthur Flour.

– Caleigh Bartash

What BridgeYear Has Been All About!


After working at BridgeYear for more than seven weeks, the biggest lesson I have learned about social justice work has been that everything, no matter how big or small, counts towards progress. Sometimes when people sign up for social justice work, they expect to have a tremendous impact within the first few days or weeks. The truth of the matter is that impact is built on years of dedicated and arduous work. One might not even get to see the true impact of their actions while doing social justice work, but all that matters is that every step is taken with a purpose. For me, social justice work relies on the belief that change will come eventually. It might take years and a lot of work, but it will come.

As an advisor, it always feel great to receive this type of message!

Since we’re on the subject of impact, I believe that through my work at BridgeYear, I have been able to pave the way for future teachers and students to engage in career exploration in a more meaningful way. I’ve created lesson plans and self-assessment activities designed to allow students to think of career exploration in a different way from what they are used to.

Back when I was in high school, all that mattered when it came to choosing a career was salaries. You didn’t have to love the field you were going for, as long as it paid the bills. With the self-assessment activities I created, I have tried to move away from that way of thinking and focus on individual interest and strengths when choosing a career.

I will say this though, I didn’t really think I would have so much influence on the core aspects of BridgeYear. I truly wish I had known how a start-up nonprofit organization works before beginning my internship at BridgeYear. I had no idea just how much my actions and decisions would affect the future of the organization. In reality that’s the beauty of a start-up; it changes and evolves every single day.

The one piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of joining the BridgeYear team for the summer would be to be ready to organize your life. The fact that the interns at BridgeYear are not bound to a single project and collaboration is encouraged by the supervisors, keeps everyone on their toes at all times.

The BridgeYear team of advisors taking work on the go at a local coffee shop.

For a start-up, deadlines are crucial; there are many constant moving pieces that dictate the success of the organization. Moving from one project to another will also leave a lot of room for learning. This is another tip for any future BridgeYear interns: be ready and willing to learn. While the supervisors work closely with you to improve your professional skills, it is ultimately up to you to take that first step towards learning and applying that knowledge. Just remember to also have fun!

Post 5: Overall Experience

While I still have 3 weeks left at the American Jewish World Service, I have already learned so much in my time there. I have learned a lot about social justice work, especially the work that the AJWS does. The AJWS goes into a region and supports a grassroots organization that is already trying to do the work, and we support them. Therefore, once we leave, the region is not defenseless but has learned how to defend itself and has received support from outside organizations. I have learned that it is better to help people help themselves than do try and do it for them because if we do, once we leave everything would revert back to the way it was. Moreover, I have learned that social justice work is not just going in and helping organizations, it takes a lot of people in different divisions. It takes people who can reach out to donors and people to communicate with the public, etc. Social justice work goes far beyond the ground work, and that can be seen within any social justice organization.

In my time at the AJWS, I believe that I have made an impact because I helped the finance division be more productive. Nothing can get done without the finance division and my help has helped them complete their tasks that the rest of the organization rests upon. Furthermore, myself along with the other interns has helped all the departments. Each week we have met with different department heads and we have had the opportunity to hear about each department and pitch ideas to help reach our generation.

I wish I had known when I started to appreciate the time I had there. Six weeks has already gone by and it still feels as though I just started working there. I still have a lot to learn but the experience has been amazing. I would tell anyone who wants to enter this type of work, to appreciate the work they want to do and really care about it. Social justice work is important and it takes a lot to help people fight for rights or convince others to want to help. Therefore, you yourself must really care because if you don’t it is hard to expect others to do so.

Remember to check out the website to find out more about the American Jewish World Service!

– Melissa Frank

Post 5: What I have learned at the Center Houston!

Hi everyone,

I have now spent almost two months interning at the Center Houston. The Center is a not-for-profit United Way agency that promotes the pursuit of choice, growth, and personal independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It partners with other organizations such as ExxonMobil to provide their clients with work and opportunities to improve their day-to-day life. I enjoy seeing the smile the clients have when I ask them for an interview to be featured in weekly newsletters. The work that I do is very fulfilling and rewarding.

I have learned to be more outspoken, manage time, write press releases, conduct presentations and get people together. As a new CA this coming year at Brandeis, the skills that I am currently gaining at my internship will help me manage and work with students in groups. As a CA it’s important to plan monthly events with your hall. The Center gives me the task of bringing in groups of volunteers, which include scheduling a set day for their visit, giving an orientation of what the Center is, and writing volunteer highlights. The skills that the Center is providing me with are rewarding for networking and for public speaking, which is something that also happens in most of my classes at Brandeis. Beyond Brandeis, the skills that I am learning will help me as I would like to pursue a career in marketing–preferably in the field of medical technology.

So far I have learned that I am able to work with large groups of people while maintaining a structure. From previous experiences, large groups were something that always terrified me because that meant public speaking to more people and having multiple opinions, which can be challenging. However, working with experienced adults has helped me with mentorship as they welcomed me with open arms and gave me the opportunity to learn what I always wanted to learn in a professional setting. For this challenge, I was very intrigued to learn more about fundraising for large organizations such as the Center. I have learned that it has multiple moving parts, but the one thing that stood out the most is the passion that the staff have to do their job.

I have learned to fail. Even if my internship has been a great experience so far, writing my first press release was not a huge success. However, I was mentored by my supervisor and I have gained skills that I can apply in classes and my future career.

This picture was from a cookie photoshoot that took place two weeks ago. We had a photographer who volunteered to take pictures for the new Gingersnaps website, which is being updated.  For this project, I helped the photographer with picture ideas that would make the cookies more appealing. It was a great experience, because I was able to apply skills I have learned such as networking, putting project together, and managing them. The best part was eating the cookies after the photoshoot was over!

Lesbia Espinal ’20

Midpoint at Gervay-Hague Lab

With my internship being at the midpoint, I have learned many lab techniques from such as dry transfer between vessels, analysis techniques like NMR and COSY, as well as the use of the argon chamber, drying oven, and microwave instrument. But, in addition to these various lab techniques, I have also learned valuable workplace techniques that can be applied to the lab, academics, and any job. Some of these techniques include multitasking, planning, and time-management.

Most days, there are certain things that need to get done, and I have to figure out a plan to ensure I can get everything done that day. This requires both planning and time management. In accordance with this, I frequently have to do multiple things at the same time. For example, when I am waiting for a TLC plate to finish, I have to take advantage of those few minutes by setting up the next TLC plate. This requires multitasking. Little things like this ensure that everything runs according to the schedule that I set for myself.

But, there are certainly some challenges that I have faced while researching at JGH lab. The most difficult and frustrating challenges that I have faced are when different instruments don’t work properly. For example, sometimes the GRACE doesn’t properly recognize when peaks occur, so I have to spend more time analyzing that and determining exactly when they occurred. Additionally, sometimes spots don’t appear on the TLC plates. So, I have to redo them. All of this takes time and perseverance. But, it’s part of science, and I think people in all areas can learn from pushing past challenges like these.

Although the reactions I perform in the lab are a small part of the overall research taking place in JGH lab, I am able to see the bigger picture and the significance of what this research offers in a practical sense. This is why it was such a great experience to attend a private tour of the Wakamatsu Farm in Placerville, CA. Although they do many different things on the property, one that was particularly important to us was their growing of tea plants, specifically Camellia sinensis. But, it was also fascinating to hear about the long history that the farm has since it was founded in 1869. Fun Fact: the Japanese farmers that came to America choose Placerville, CA as the location to grow their tea since it has the same latitude as where they came from in Japan

Wakamatsu Farm has a total area of 272 acres. This is a great view of the trees and different shrubbery at Wakamatsu Farm.

The plants in this picture are both Camellia sinensis, the tea plant that JGH Lab is studying. Camellia sinensis can be used to make many different kinds of tea such as green tea, black tea, yellow tea, white tea, and oolong tea.

Here is the link to the Wakamatsu Farm website for more fun and historical information.

I thought it was very interesting to spend over a month doing research that ultimately focuses on this one plant, and then we got to go to this farm that grows that plant. It brought about an interesting connection between science and agriculture.

I am looking forward to what the rest of my internship brings!

Post 4: Personal and Career Development | Lessons From Morrie Schwartz

Interestingly enough, this past week, I was introduced, randomly, to Mitch Alborn’s “Tuesdays With Morrie”. Shortly after beginning to read the book (in an attempt of accomplishing one of my personal goals this summer to read more books), I realized that the book is a memoir of a former student and a professor at Brandeis University, several decades ago. The professor, Morrie Schwartz, who suffered from ALS disease and was, thus, terminally ill, would have weekly coversations with Mitch, his former mentee and student, and reflect on several aspects of life, giving Mitch all the advice he could from the perspective of someone who was at a crossroads between life and death. I mention this book because I feel as though it came unto my life, unexpectedly, at a coincidentally very reflective time.

Over the past few weeks, I have definitely developed my ability to multitask and think quickly. When you are a part of an organization that tackles political and current events while offering a wide-range of services, everyday looks different and your workload can suddenly increase depending on the political and social climate of the week.

As someone who plans to pursue very similar work, I plan to be equally as engaged in activism on current events in addition to the services I will offer,  so I know that multi- tasking will be a crucial aspect of the work and managing time wisely.

I also learned that, in the work place, it’s very difficult for me to sit for long periods of time at an office desk and remain productive. Taking walks definitely helps, and keeping myself hydrated through out the day is key for maintaining my energy. As I remember to take care of myself through it all, I’ve tried to learn how to set my limits, and not take on more than I can handle.

My relationship with my coworkers is pretty great, and I’ve learned that this plays a big role in one’s work experience. Being able to easily communicate what your needs are and offer support to each other within the work place, makes hectic days a lot easier especially given that we are a small team. This work has also taught me the importance in diligence and accountability both on my end and everyone on the team.  

Here is a flyer I made for our third annual Decolonize Birth Conference that I was super proud of!

Additionally, I feel as though I have also gained a much better understanding of the financial aspect of running a small business that offers free/ low- cost services. This understanding has come through my work with processing grant applications and the extensive work I have done on sponsorship/donation requests for our third annual Decolonize Birth Conference. I am grateful for this learning and experience.  I am fully aware of the importance of this skill set especially given my career goal: to begin my own non-profit that offers reproductive health services and family planning resources to primarily LGBTQ+ people of color.  Given my lack of experience in these administrative areas, I was nervous and unclear about how to develop and enhance these skill sets. Having the chance to jump right in through my internship has helped a lot.

This summer, thus far, has  allowed me to gain a clearer vision of what I want my future to look like in several aspects. Morrie Schwartz’s anecdotes have been teaching me how to fully experience my fears and emotions so that I can detach myself from them and to prioritize love in every situation. My internship has brought me clarity, and taught me patience, finding a balance, and persistence. I am grateful for the experiences that have afforded me this knowledge.

Post 3: An overview of what progress/change looks like at The Center Houston

Hi everyone!

As a marketing intern at The Center, change is something I have seen and experienced during the duration of my internship. The Center promotes equality in the community for people with disabilities. As an institution, The Center is constantly looking for programs and activities that will aid their clients’ growth and bring the community together.

Here are some of the events, programs, and staff that contribute to The Center’s mission:

Weekly volunteering events

The volunteer events for the duration of the summer are planned by the intern (that’s me!). My job is to get a group of people who want to serve and learn more about The Center and are driven. Some of the volunteers we had previously are part of the ELCA Youth Gathering , a Christian church group whose commitment to The Center has been greatly appreciated. The volunteers from the ELCA Youth Gathering have been serving The Center for almost four years! During Hurricane Harvey, these volunteers helped with cleaning out the Gingersnaps workshop and also the Adult Activity Center.

Lots of changes have happen since Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, including changes for The Center and its clients. As the main person in charge of the volunteering events, I always try to bring in young adults that can benefit from learning how to help those in need. Below is a picture of my youngest sibling Lia, who visited The Center during our annual Volunteer Day in June. Lia was excited to visit The Center after hearing me talk about how great the staff and clients are and the cause that we try to fight for one day at a time.


The Center makes sure that all employees are happy and love the work they do for their clients. You could not imagine how important obtaining the right staff is for an organization like The Center because of their commitment and teamwork. I was excited to be part of the hiring of the new Chief Development Officer, Marilu Garza. Obtaining someone with experience and passion for what The Center believes was something critical because of the relocation that will happen later this year. Marilu Garza brings more than twenty years experience in the not-for-profit world and education.


The Center provides work for their clients. The Gingersnaps company is partner up with  The Center Houston, providing clients with the job of packaging the cookies that are later sold online or at local farmers markets in the Houston area. A portion of the profits that Gingersnaps raises goes to The Center. The Center aims for the goal of providing clients with skills and lots of opportunities.

Progress at The Center is something that happens through the events and the amazing staff that is constantly helping the clients. The small steps that The Center takes to create a home-like environment are organizing activities and events, and having the right staff to work towards becoming a better organization every day.

Lastly, besides the small steps are the big steps The Center is currently taking, including moving to a new location.

Stay tuned to learn more about my experience!

Post 3: Finding Power in Coalition Building and Communal Growth

Hey everyone!

This week, I have been thinking a lot about how I define change and progress both personally and within the organization where I am working. In thinking about the goals of my organization–which are very much centered around social justice and health equity– it is always crucial to question where there are areas for continued growth and development, while also acknowledging the big and small strides and positive outcomes. This evaluation is key in assessing what could be the most effective steps to reach our goals as an organization.

With the goal of making equitable maternal healthcare accessible to low-income families, as well as black and brown folks, Ancient Song Doula Services wears many hats as a community-based organization. It is important to note that this lack of access to healthcare, resources, food, and housing stems from a much larger root cause: anti-blackness. Because of this, reaching our goal as an organization is not solely about providing resources to our communities, but also involves taking action around the systems and institutions that first put these barriers in place. Given the immense nature of this multi-faceted goal, what one could consider an “immediate success” becomes difficult to measure, making endurance and consistency key in this work.

At Ancient Song Doula Services, we are constantly multi-tasking, taking on different roles, planning for community outreach events and reaching out to other organizations for support and/or partnerships. We are always looking for different opportunities to spread the word and collaborate with other social justice collectives because it is crucial to identify the intersection of different movements, whether it be birth justice, food justice, or environmental justice. It can be very stressful–especially for a small organization–to take on such a wide range of tasks, but this is why we stress the importance of collaboration and solidarity.   

” A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Click on the image to watch the full panel

So, what does change or progress look like for me? Progress, I’ve learned, is very much rooted in and driven by coalition building and communal growth. Recently, my supervisor was a panelist in an event called “A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where the panelists engaged in a conversation around the recent policies regarding the separation of immigrant families and discussing ways to take action. One of the main topics discussed was how crucial it is for communities to gather in support of each other, stand in solidarity as allies, engage in dialogue and, most importantly, listen to each other. Listening and trusting one another gives marginalized identities agency over their own narrative and experience. At Ancient Song, we often practice this is, as we not only hold events by and for the community in collaboration with other organizations, but also center our workspace around physical and mental wellness. In this way, I’ve learned that, as an organization, listening and building trust and community allow us to constantly assess and reassess the needs of the communities we serve so that we can continue to evaluate our methods for change and be that much closer to reaching our goals.  

There is power in unification, as it is crucial not only for the healing of marginalized identities, but also, in standing firmly against or for a movement and demanding action. This is progress.

The Woods of Weston, MA

I’m am at the midpoint of my internship with Brandeis Professor Eric Olsen, studying the relationship of deer, ticks, and Lyme disease in the city of Weston, MA. I have learned and experience a lot since my first days with the tick surveys. When I first came into this internship I viewed it as being a traditional internship where I would just be doing minor things like helping prepare the tools that we needed for a routine survey, assisting in the input of data, filing things etc. Now as I am in the midpoint of this internship I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The way that Professor Eric Olson coordinated the internship, it was as if I was conducting my own research. We both did the same amount of work, followed the same procedures, and both worked towards a common goal. After a regular day of collecting and looking at the information I collected, it left me with a feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that I was finally getting the resources that I never had leading up to my involvement in the WOW fellowship program is like a feeling of liberation.

I have also been learning about different tick species, the history of our seven different locations, how certain terrains form naturally and other interesting facts. It’s is weird seeing how different it is learning things about nature from a professor outside a classroom setting. It’s a lot less stressful and more like a gift rather than a chore. I found myself listening to what he had to say and retaining the information more than I would have in a classroom. I started to see myself noticing different types of plants like bedstraw, and milkweed. While my knowledge on how to identify the all the different types of plants there are, it has gotten a lot better just hearing him talk about them.

This internship also allowed me to really see how much I love being in nature. The city of Weston has some of the most beautiful forests I ever have seen. Just walking into one you can see the lush green vegetation of the forest, the smell of pollen and wildflowers, hear the scuffle of animals in the leaf litter, and think about just how peaceful it is being in the woods. It’s sort of a distraction from our daily lives and to just become apart of an ecosystem that many of us have lost touch with.

It reminds me of a class that I took during the fall semester of my freshman year where we had to observe a specific place in the woods that we chose and just try to connect the place as much as possible. We were told to observe the trees, notice if anything change, to use it as something therapeutic in our lives, and this internship is just like that. I have been able to use this internship as a way to take time away from working two jobs, having to worry about paying for things and helping my family.

All in all, I have really been enjoying the internship. It has been a good experience so far and I have been able to learn about many different things that I probably wouldn’t know about if I didn’t do this internship.

Post 2: It Can Seem Impossible

Brandeis is a place where individuals can openly uncover their eclectic life narrative, unusual odyssys and tangled obstacles and really hold pride in these experiences that define what makes them unique in this immense world that we live in. Students at Brandeis endeavor to change the world and no one shys away from shouting these aspirations from the rooftops. I’ve heard individuals discuss their personal and maybe complicated life goals – most surrounding ending some sort of social justice issue.

Many social justice issues have existed for years and years, but I’ve learned from students at Brandeis that giving up isn’t really an option. Students know Justice Louis Brandeis’ saying “most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they had been done” and they really run with it. 

Each day working at Environment Oregon I learn more about the impacts of pollution; I learn the impacts of single-use plastics on wildlife, I learn the impacts of diesel pollution locally and globally. One take-away I’ve had is that if environmental catastrophes are not affecting individuals directly, or affecting them right now, many are not even aware that these problems exist.

Here’s the kind of electric bus we’re pushing for

This is why spreading public awareness is incredibly important. My job to gain support from individuals, businesses, and leaders in Portland through teaching people about the effects of diesel pollution and how our city can decrease our footprint and better the health and environment of communities throughout Portland is incredible. The excitement, questions, and encouragement I receive back makes the end goal seem less impossible. There has to be a movement before there can be change, and there has to be education and awareness before there can be a movement.

There are many instances where I think about how hard it is to imagine myself being able to change the entire city of Portland. But what I’ve learned from Brandeis and from all of the students following in Justice Brandeis’ footsteps is that the biggest obstacle can be yourself – if you believe in yourself everyone else will too.

Post 4: Update from DC

NI Logo

This internship has been a really incredible learning experience so far. There are so many different elements of the job that employ a variety of skill sets. As I mentioned in a previous post, one skill that I have worked on significantly is critical thinking. The ability to think critically is one of the main pillars of the Brandeis experience, and I am continuing to realize its importance in the “real world.” Thinking critically does not mean challenging every single idea that you come across. Rather, it means understanding all of the perspectives of a situation and gaining as much background information as possible to support a claim.

The research I have been conducting is not only tedious, but very politically charged, and it is easy to fall into the polarizing loop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an era of so-called “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it is important to not take articles, news headlines, and other media sources at face value. I am a firm believer in the power of “soft skills.” Of course my internship requires me to utilize hard skills such as data analysis and programming; however, my internship really focuses on the acquisition and implementation of vital soft skills.

One significant skill I am working on is communication. Communication is a fundamental aspect of both the workplace and life. I have had previous experience in other workplace settings, as far as working with management, supervisors, and coworkers. This summer, however, I have learned about forms of mass communication, such as email and social media. Different forms of communication have distinctive strategies that need to be employed, which has been somewhat difficult to navigate at times, but has definitely strengthened my skills overall.

For a firm focused on conflict resolution, we still have our own conflicts that can arise. I have definitely learned the importance of transparent communication as a tool for conflict resolution. From what I’ve witnessed, many of the problems that arise in the workplace setting stem from minor miscommunications. One of the facets of this internship is working closely with both projects and the other interns. Teamwork and team-building skills are extremely valuable to the work world, and I have gotten an incredible amount of experience with this over the summer. I wouldn’t say this is my first time learning about these skills, but I have been able to perfect and practice soft skills that will be relevant to my future at Brandeis and in my career.

This summer has taught me a surprising amount about myself. Since there is a wide variety of tasks in the office that the interns work collaboratively on, I have found that I emerge as a team leader more often than not. While taking initiative is not necessarily a bad thing, I have had to learn to release some control and cooperate in a group setting more efficiently. Overall, I would say that I have learned a few new things, but more importantly have employed and practiced my pre-existing skills and ideas.

Post 5: My Last Weeks at Gardens for Health International

Looking back at my experience at Gardens for Health, I have learned so much about a field I am incredibly passionate about. Although I have many lessons I can take away from this internship, one of the most important ones is that social justice work is intersectional. Gardens for Health primarily focuses on nutrition and agriculture education, but doing home visits with some of the staff this week made me really see the change that the GHI trainings are making in the homes of the people they are working with. New mothers who had recently completed GHI’s program expressed their gratitude for what they learned, and discussed how they have put it into practice. One of the things I took away from this visit is the impact othe GHI program has on husbands, too. Seeing their week-old babies are healthy, that food was prepared faster, and that it was more nutritious made them supporters of this type of education for women. Changing some of the stigma surrounding women’s education in rural community’s highlights how GHI’s mission expands beyond nutrition and agriculture.

One of the houses in a community I did my home visit (Gasabo District, Rwanda)           

I have loved doing home visits and going into the field, but my work with GHI has focused primarily around developing a data repository for the different monitoring and evaluation indicators GHI uses. Through this project, I am helping the organization work to make accessing data more efficient, and I am definitely proud of the work I have done. Another intern and I were also in charge of a weekly email updating subscribers about the most recent news in nutrition and agriculture that week. I loved being able to interact more directly with GHI’s supporters, and I am sure they will continue the “weekly digest emails” when we are gone. Additionally, I was involved in a number of amazing projects that were not part of my initial job description such as the Training of Trainers program, and helping with different visitors who came to the farm. With all these projects I feel I have gotten a holistic view of how GHI operates.

I really think I have made the most of my time here in Kigali and at GHI. I have established a great social network made up of GHI staff and other residents of Kigali. I have traveled all over the north of the country to visit some of the health centers GHI works in. And, I have made sure to work with every team at GHI to see how the organization as a whole operates. For someone trying to pursue a similar internship, I would advise they take full advantage of their time in the field, because opportunities will not just fall into your lap. Additionally, to always ask where you should go, what you should do, and most importantly, how you can help!

Pictures of all the staff with their favorite vegetable from the farm

-Eli Wasserman ’20

First Day at Internship

Today I started my internship I have to say it was not what I imagined. I came into this internship thinking that I may be bored with having to do continuous walks in the forest looking for ticks and it taking forever. To my surprise I was wrong. It’s actually amazing to see just how many ticks there are in different parks in Weston where people go every day to go for hikes, walk their dogs or just go for a stroll on a beautiful day. Pretty much anytime I walked off the path, I managed to get one or two adult ticks crawling up my leg ready to make a meal out of me. In addition to that, once you get the hang of the methods of preparing the tool that we use, to actually collecting the ticks, it manages to go by pretty fast.

On our first day, we went to one of the locations named Jericho Forest: Sunday Woods.  When we got there it was bright, warm, flush with vegetation, while at the same time with a lot of dead young trees that littered the floor like garbage. We started off by going over the procedure of how to sweep and was taught how to hold the stick, how long to walk for before we check the flag, and also how to identify the ticks. At first, neither one of us were getting any ticks on tour flags and then out of nowhere ticks started popping out the woodworks. There would be sometimes that we would get multiple ticks on the cloth at once. We ended the day collecting seven ticks and I learned the difference between dog ticks, deer ticks, which one is a male which one was a female, etc.

There was really only one downside to being in those woods, and it was the mosquitos. They manage to eat me up alive. Even though I was covered up from head to toe, they still manage to attack my hands and left me with plenty of itchy bumps that lasted for a couple of days. In addition, I also helped professor Olson with another project that he had going on planting a tree for a memorial. Before we actually planted the tree, I didn’t know that it was so much going into trying to plant a tree. I didn’t know that you couldn’t just dig a hole and just plant the tree. There is a risk that the new place could be a shock to the tree and would stop it from growing. He also informed me about little tricks like cleaning off the dirt by removing the grass and other things that would help. Overall I really enjoy doing this field work and learning about new things that I have never worked on in my life.

At the Halfway Point at the US Mission to the UN

I’m lucky enough to have an internship that makes it easy to get out of bed each morning. Walking through the streets of New York, $2 coffee from a local coffee shop in hand, I am always excited to see the new opportunities each day has in store at the U.S. Mission to the UN (USUN).

Rose Garden, United Nations

In the Research Unit, I have enhanced my investigative research skills by assisting with research requests. During my time at USUN, I have taken classes at the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library on Security Council and General Assembly documentation, which have helped me better understand the UN system, as well as how to use UN databases in order to find information. If you’re curious to learn more or would like to engage in your own research using official UN documents, links to these databases can be found here (ODS) and here (UNBISNET).

Additionally, I help in management of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, after a recent surge of requests since fall of 2017. Tasks range from assisting in finding information requested within the Research Unit’s records to management of documents. I also assist with a records management project in order to properly archive official USUN documents.

In the Host Country Affairs Section, I organize notifications to Permanent Missions to the UN, and their respective responses to a project to confirm the official status of members of their households in the United States. I distribute to members of the United Nations community the return of their national passports when U.S. visas have been issued as well as Department of State Diplomatic and official identification credentials. This past week I attended a meeting of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country in which I observed how the United States administers its responsibilities as the host country for 192 member states.

Additionally, I have been able to sit in on meetings during the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, and write short readouts about the events and panels I attend. Click here for more information about HLPF.

HLPF Meeting, Japan Society

Through these experiences and tasks, I have gained vital information on how political reform is executed on a global level. I have begun to understand the complexities of multilateral negotiations at an international institution, and the difficulty of implementing change. This knowledge has opened my mind to the abundant number of career paths I could pursue after I graduate, and I am excited to see what the future holds.

I am also extremely grateful to be in New York City this summer, as I have  explored many new parts of the city and met people from all over the world. For the 4th of July, the U.S. Mission hosted a party at the UN, which I attended and viewed the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks from the best seat in the city, accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. I have also explored many historic and cultural parts of the city, and with every new item I check off my “list of things to do in NYC,” many more are immediately added to the list. I have  met many interns who are interested in pursuing similar career paths as I am and have been able to learn from their experiences,  as well. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer has in store!

Post 4: What I Have Learned

This will be my sixth week at the American Jewish World Service and my time there has taught me a lot that will be beneficial to me not only during my time at Brandeis but beyond that. One of the greatest skills it has given me is organizational skills. When you have several meetings a day, paperwork from different people to file, collect, or input, etc.. it is important to stay organized or else things will be lost or forgotten and that will create issues for the organization later on. I have learned a lot about what it is like to work in an office and that will help me in the future.

Here’s a little office humor joke about the filing cabinets

As an intern I do whatever is asked of me whether that be cleaning files or cleaning the file cabinet. However, I know that all the work I do is appreciated. For example, the minute I organized the file cabinet we were able to find documents that we needed and could not find before. I have learned that even the simplest of tasks can have rewards.

What I have learned about myself is that I enjoy being busy at work. I thought when I came into the office and had piles of work to do would feel daunting but I enjoy it. I like being occupied and not having free time to sit on my hands, I enjoy feeling useful. Moreover, I learned that I like to be a part of a team that relies on each other. Not only the finance department itself, but the whole organization. At a place like the American Jewish World Service, everyone knows everyone else and appreciates the work that each department does. Its a great office culture and I love being a part of it. I have learned that the people are what makes an organization great and working at the AJWS has taught me why everyone there loves the AJWS and all the work we do.

-Melissa Frank

The People First

Working at ImprovBoston has taught me that the most important aspect of any job is the people you are working with. I have the pleasure to work on a team of funny, easy going, and passionate people who are so supportive and make even the hardest days enjoyable. It has been incredibly reaffirming to work at ImprovBoston because it has shown me that comedy is not just about the art you are making but the people you are making it with. I now know that I want to be part of teams that are supportive and push me to think more creatively.

The infectious creative energy that permeates through the staff of ImprovBoston is what makes this work different from my university and academic life. There is a professionalism to the creativity at ImprovBoston that is not present at my life at Brandeis. For example, a creative project to start a new musical improv group goes through all the steps to find a director, music director, and producer so the results are professional and polished. At Brandeis, I have started many a creative project that has been missing the key components of professionalism and follow through. I hope to take these skills to projects at Brandeis. The WOW experience has also differed from Brandeis and academic life because I live in an apartment and cook my own food. I love it and it will be very hard to go back to living in the halls because the independence I have found in my life has made me happier and more confident.

Not only have I built on my skills of professionalism, follow through, and independence but also in networking. In comedy, networking is closely tied to being friends with folks within the community. During my semester in Chicago, I got the note that I should be confident and take up more physical and emotional space. I have been going to shows and hanging out with people before them to really connect and forge friendships. By fostering friendships with the people I work and perform with I am hopeful to create more opportunities for creative collaboration. I have more fun performing and working with people when I also know them as friends.

The most important thing I have learned at ImprovBoston and through working in comedy is that you have to, “be around.” Being around means reading everything; going to shows; staying up to date on global and local current events; and collaborating with as many different types of people as possible. I will transfer this to my academics by collaborating with my classmates, seeking more reading on the subjects I am studying, and going the extra-mile to connect my comedic work to what I am learning in the classroom. My work has also proven to me that for my future career plans it is essential I work with people who challenge and support me, while also being enjoyable people to spend forty hours a week with.  On and off campus I want to be part of projects that challenge and excite and have a level of professional organization and pride in the work they is doing.

– Mina Bond


Learning about Cuba at Columbia

To provide a quick background of the Cuba Program at Columbia University in New York, the program is aimed at increasing scholarly exchanges between Cuban and U.S. based scholars and other experts in other countries on topics of mutual interest through a variety of mechanisms, such as publications, public lectures, and academic visits. Columbia academics also visit Cuba to engage in comparative analysis of topics of mutual interest. The research undertaken by both Cuban and US scholars has resulted in a variety of publications in the US and abroad. Cuban entrepreneurs and scholars have spent extended periods at Columbia on study trips to deepen their knowledge of strategies to meet the challenges of the non-state sector on the island. The Program has also actively cooperated with the media in promoting greater understanding of US-Cuban relations.

Today marks the end of my first two weeks on the job. The amount of resources available here at Columbia is absolutely incredible. The Institute of Latin American Studies here at Columbia has its own library and reading room along with a full-time librarian who is an expert on all publications, databases, etc. pertaining to the region. I met with him this week and he showed me how to navigate through the different databases. I was introduced to a whole world of knowledge that I had only scraped the surface of before coming here. In the photo below, you can see my official ID  (figure 1) which gets me into all different buildings on campus (including the libraries and archives) and thus, allows me to checkout different books/documents needed for our research.

I am already learning a lot about Cuban history, culture and politics but I feel like I am also learning a lot about how academic/research institutions function and are successful. My boss/mentor/professor is so well versed, wise and knowledgeable. She has gone into conflict zones in Latin America to conduct research and serves on several Human Rights councils. Not only has she traveled to Cuba 63 times for research purposes alone but she is also considered one of the world’s leading scholars on religion and society in Cuba. It is truly an honor to work alongside her. I have a feeling that I am going to learn a lot from her. She was even kind enough to invite me to her home this past weekend to borrow a few books from her personal library. I was so happy! Below you can find the book she and her colleagues published last year (photo 2) and the one for this year (photo 3).







My mentor will be heading to Miami in a few days for a conference at the US Southern Command (the part of the military that deals with the Latin American) to do several presentations on human rights challenges facing the armed forces in the region. Most military leaders of the Latin American countries will be in attendance! We’ve been working tirelessly for the past few days on gathering data for that. It can be tough at times because you can look through countless books and articles and still not find what you’re trying to convey. That being said, nothing tops the feeling of accomplishment when you finally find the perfect data! Below you can find one of the graphs (figure 4) we’ll be using (source: Isacson, Adam. and Kinosian, Sarah. U.S. Military Assistance and Latin America – WOLA. [online] 27 April 2017) as well as a chart (figure 5) that I put together regarding US involvement and human rights program effectiveness in Latin America.

I am so excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store!


Natalia Gonzalez

Post 4: Skills Learned at JVS

During my time at JVS, I have learned and improved upon many skills that will be useful to me not only at Brandeis but also in my future career, whatever it may be. I have learned a great deal simply about daily office life functions as well as skills more specific to the work done at JVS. Coming into JVS, I had never worked in a large city office, and just the size of the space was intimidating among other things. I arrived on my first day to row after row of cubicles, hallways of classrooms, and numerous meeting rooms. I realized that my internship at JVS would be far different from any that I had had in the past.

I have learned a lot about myself and how I fit into and function in a workplace setting. I have learned many small things like where to locate client folders all the way to much more important skills, like how to best conduct a mock interview with a client. I have learned that I love the parts of my day where I get to interact with clients the most. Whether through our weekly intake process where I get to meet new JVS clients or hour-long meetings with clients I’ve met before, I love getting to talk to our clients face to face.

Most importantly, I have learned how to better work with clients. Whether it be on interview skills, editing their resume or assisting them in finding child care, I have learned what one-on-one interactions with clients in an office setting look like. I have recently begun taking on clients of my own and heading their search for child care. I have learned step-by-step how to manage client relationships. From the time I am assigned a client by their career coach through the search process to their registration with a care provider, I have learned how to manage each client’s specific needs.

Additionally, I have learned so much about the bureaucracy involved in the job and child care search process for our clients. I have learned how to navigate the paperwork and rules for government agencies in order to ensure that our clients are able to retain the benefits that to which they’re entitled. I have observed the difficult bureaucratic process that our clients encounter upon their entry into the United States and have seen its challenges firsthand.

Overall, during my time at JVS, I have gained a myriad of tangible skills through my experience working in a large office. However, more importantly I have gained valuable insights into the immigration process for refugees, asylees, and others into the U.S. I have learned about the complicated institutions that they must confront upon their entry and the difficulties they must face in establishing their lives here.

Post 4: My Fourth Week at The Quad Manhattan

Throughout my time at The Quad Manhattan I have been developing a lot of different skills that will be applicable when working both with neuro-typical kids and kids with disabilities. As I mentioned in my last post, one idea that has been reaffirmed during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that our education system is moving in the wrong direction. The push for common core curriculum is killing the sparse amounts of adjustable education that existed and ALL kids are worse off for it. I always knew that common core wasn’t the right move for education, but before working at The Quad Manhattan I had no idea what other techniques were out there.

The wall of camper and staff art

Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is one of the skills that they have been teaching us. This system puts an emphasis on the fact that all kids want to be good and do the right thing, but when they are acting out they are lacking the skills to do so, not the wish to. Another large part of CPS is involving the child in the decision making. Instead of telling the child “you were doing this so we are going to do this,” you have a conversation where you try and see if they have any ideas of what is the problem and how to fix it. Most of the time the kid has ideas but is so used to just being told what to do that they don’t know how to take control of their own behavior because they have never been allowed to. I hope to employ these skills whenever I work with kids in the future. Not only has employing CPS helped me connect with kids in a new way, but I have seen this technique give kids a sense of autonomy like I have never seen before.

The Quad has also given me a lot of confidence in myself. Once camp started, I was thrown right into the thick of things. I am constantly problem-solving with kids, helping them through activities, and maneuvering tantrums. This is also my first job that requires me to work typical hours. In the past, my jobs have been either part time or in theatre where I worked long but strange hours. Even though the days are long and challenging, I have loved every second of it, and my time here has proven to me that I am ready to enter this field.

Our ‘noticing trees’. The leaves are full of positive actions of all of the campers.

Post 4: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs – Dolly Parton

This is my first experience working a 9-5 job. Because of that, I have learned a great deal that expands over all fields, and I have also learned about a lot about myself. I have learned about what is important to me in a work environment. I learned that I am a big snacker, but I like to bring my own lunch. I learned I very much like to get up during the day, go for a walk, or just do something semi-physical as opposed to sitting at a desk all day.

The flags outside of my office representing Massachusetts and a safe place for the LGBT community

I’ve also learned that I am very comfortable speaking to people in person and on the phone, and I have been able to develop that skill through my work in the congresswoman’s office. Public speaking is a critical skill in every and all settings and I am excited that I am able to utilize and strengthen this skill in my work this summer. I have gotten much better at talking to people that do not share the same views as the congresswoman and may be harsh or angry, and I have simply gotten much more comfortable answering the phones for anyone.

I have also been given the opportunity to improve my writing skills, a skill that, like public speaking, is relevant and useful in all walks of life. My internship challenges me through researching and writing on topics I am not as familiar with, allowing me to broaden my scope of what I can truly understand. There are times when I feel I am starting a project from nothing, but after trial and error, I get to a place where I feel confident in my ability to convey the topic.

I also very much consider my job, working for the government, to be a privilege. I feel like almost every week I am given the chance to take on a new opportunity because of where I get to work, and from that I am learning more about how the government literally funtions. This past week I helped our legislative director prepare for a major appropriations markup for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies committee. I helped handout my member’s amendments, kept the staffer updated on major organizations stances on introduced amendments, and I even got to listen for a bit. This markup ended up being over thirteen hours long, so you can only imagine the hard work and time put into every major bill.

Pictured are the protests moments before President Trump announced his Justice nominee

In addition to the skills mentioned above, I have also, in the simplest terms, become a more well-informed citizen. I have developed the habit of reading the news daily through different mediums. I feel comfortable talking about what is going on in today’s world, and I am excited to continue to learn. For example, Monday evening I stumbled upon the protests happening outside the United States Supreme Court in response to the pending announcement for President Trump’s justice nomination. I was literally counting down the minutes to 9pm to go online and find out who was the president’s decided nominee. I honestly cannot tell you another time when I was on the edge of my seat waiting for a news release to happen.

This is a habit I am proud to have nurtured, and I believe it will help me in my future work as a social justice advocate. You cannot present your greatest work if you are uninformed. But it is the skills I talk about here among others that I believe will continue to help pave the path for me to be a better student, citizen, and learner.

Post 4: Building Those Skills

Event planning and fundraising are the two activities I have most often engaged in during my internship. I’ve had several opportunities to test both; however, my time with KKOOM has expanded these skill sets in surprising ways.

At the start of my internship, I began with a list of possible activities and skill sets my supervisors wanted participating students to build during our Dream Camp in Seoul. Over the past several weeks, I have developed three missions. Each mission required hours of research, creating a points system, and compiling instructions–a lot of administrative and logistical details to wade through.

Mission 2, for example, is comprised of three separate activities: (a) an on-campus scavenger hunt at Hongik University, (b) an interview with a foreigner, and (c) a cafe/restaurant review. The scavenger hunt requires students to navigate Hongik’s campus by finding and taking pictures in front of various buildings. Our hope with the interview is to encourage students to use their English, no matter how limited they perceive their English speaking ability to be. Lastly, the cafe/restaurant review will help students learn the importance of budgeting (they receive a set lunch stipend) and observing one’s surroundings.

Before I needed to upgrade to electronics …

I’m an old soul and appreciate planning things with pen and paper. However, with all the necessary research and cross-referencing needed to plan Dream Camp, almost all my work was done electronically. Call me old-fashioned, but this experience helped me learn to plan events in a different way. I started off with pen and paper, and had to switch to my computer for efficiency’s sake.

I have held several fundraisers for various NGOs and 501 (c)(3)s in the past, but KKOOM fundraiser gave me an extra challenge. Asking for money wasn’t the problem; the concern was being as non-political as possible. A challenge our organization has faced is that of people associating us with adoption. Our focus is opening up educational opportunities for orphans and it’s important to us to keep things focused on the students. The language used when creating a donation pitch was incredibly important.

So grateful for the family, friends, and strangers whose loving generosity helped me achieve beyond my goal!

I successfully meet my goal. In fact, I raised 400% of the original $500 goal. (To save you the math, family, friends, and strangers together raised $2000.) Before launching my campaign, I needed to carefully contemplate my wording. It is important to not only understand an organization’s mission, but also know how to clearly explain it.

Although I’m hoping to pursue a career in speech pathology or forensics linguistics, I know that having experience with event planning and fundraising will always serve me well.

13 Days ’till Korea!

As the youngest member in KKOOM, I am grateful for the confidence and trust the other Board members have in me. From our time spent together at our LA Board Retreat to our emailing/messages to the upcoming weeks in Korea, I have benefited and will continue to benefit from their experience and knowledge.

In terms of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the workplace, there are several, but to me, the most important is learning to have more confidence in myself. Planning the Dream Camp seemed rather impossible at times; reaching my fundraising goal, unlikely. But, they both happened.

Post 4: Midpoint of My Internship

In my previous three blog posts, I have stated how Community Psychiatry PRIDE, my internship organization, addresses social justice. I have spent plenty of time elaborating on the social problem we are targeting, the significance of our work, and the difference we aim to make.

At the midpoint of my internship, I feel I should also talk about the arduous work behind the higher purpose. It is exciting how we are trying to bring treatment to the most-needed communities or to help high-risk young men break the cycle of incarceration and poverty, but the hard work building up to the glamour of social justice practice should also be noted. While I am working on a project about implementing evidence-based treatment to resource-limited communities, it includes endless data entry and going back and forth to check data. No matter how excited you feel about the high order purpose, you will need to deal with the arduous part of the job. It is important to be aware of this, and find a way to stay motivated.

There are some incidents I want to share that keep my morale up. The first time I tried to take the commuter rail from Chelsea to North Station after work, I took the wrong one and I ended up in Lynn. I was worried and anxious, looking into the map at the Lynn station that did not make any sense to me. A middle-age man approached to me and asked me whether I took the wrong train too. He started talking to me and told me that the next train back to Chelsea was in twenty minutes. He was super talkative and based on what he told me, it was not hard to notice that he was struggling as he constantly switched from job to job, frequently visited emergency rooms, and was chronically involved with psychiatrists. I was suspicious when he first approached me, and I felt embarrassed for thinking this way as I found him to be a genuinely good person. He talked about his favorite novel and showed me how he learned math by himself on the back of the train ticket.

The idea of Community Psychiatry PRIDE to bring culture-sensitive treatments to resource-limited communities is based on getting to know people’s lives and the struggles in the communities. That incident in Lynn was my first time to be with one of the people I want to help through this internship, and I was moved by his faith in life, curiosity about the world, and eagerness to learn. This experience helps me to stay motivated through this arduous work, because they are not just quantitative and qualitative data anymore, but real people who are holding on to faith in life and seeking help.  

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 4: Learning About the Foreign Service

When working for an agency as diverse as the Department of State, it is important to learn as much as possible about job opportunities within the Department. In hopes of gaining an understanding of the range of different positions people hold within the Department, the intern supervisor in my office encouraged me and the other interns to reach out to full-time employees from other bureaus and offices to carry out “informational interviews.” I was able to locate the email addresses of several individuals who currently hold positions that sounded interesting to me. I then reached out to them in order to learn about what they do and how they got there, in hopes of learning what I can do now to start working towards a similar career. I was also generally interested in how they were able to get their current position.

Hannah in the “Flag Hall” at the Department of State which holds flags from all countries that host diplomatic missions.

This lesson has taught me the importance of reaching out and arranging meetings as a way of networking with professionals, and that it’s not necessary to have a certain purpose for meeting, but rather, being curious about someone’s work is a good enough reason. I also realized that this initial “informational interview” meeting is only the first step of networking and it is important to follow up and keep in touch with people so that a relationship can be fostered, which will be important for years to come. You never know where contacts might be able to land you a job!

I am happy to say that this internship has successfully catered towards my “Career Goal” of observing how diplomacy works in the realm of official foreign policy. Within my first week at the Department of State I had the chance to speak with a Foreign Service officer who was stationed in my office. In the following weeks, I have met many more individuals from the Department of State who serve in the Foreign Service (working for the U.S. government while being stationed abroad, promoting peace, supporting prosperity, and protecting American citizens).

In addition to networking, I have also had the chance to attend panels and presentations devoted to the discussion of the Foreign Service. The panels have been catered towards different target audiences: some for interns in particular, as well as others for Civil Service Staff (employees based in Washington, D.C.) who may be interested in serving in the Foreign Service in the future, and even one for women who were interested in a variety of different government jobs (including the Foreign Service). It has been a great experience learning about this specific career path and I feel more informed than ever before about the job options available in the realm of foreign policy!


-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 4: What I Learned at BridgeYear

During my internship at BridgeYear, I enhanced my skills, expanded my knowledge about the industry, and learned more about how I work best. My role has allowed me to develop a number of skills including critical thinking, project management, and leadership. These skills were actually what I chose as areas of growth at the beginning of the internship, and were reflected as strengths in my 360 evaluations.

My projects enable me to use each aspect in anything I do. Since BridgeYear is a startup, I need to manage multiple projects at once, developing my time management, organizational skills, and efficiency. Similarly, because the organization is implementing certain processes for the first time, one needs to work without prior examples or structure – like developing a social media strategy or creating an impact report, for example. I find this extremely exciting, as I enjoy starting up new projects and leading them to execution.

My leadership skills have also improved immensely. My projects rely greatly on collaboration and delegation of dependent tasks, as they overlap with various aspects of the organization and require different areas of expertise. We are given opportunities to present our progress, ask for feedback, hold brainstorming discussions, and discuss team-asks during meetings. This provides a platform for one to delegate tasks, but also creates an environment in which that becomes easier. In addition, another intern and I are responsible for organizing a “Volunteer Build Day” event, which allows BridgeYear to double its capacity. I look forward to this, as it will allow me to further exercise my leadership abilities, while learning more about event planning and coordination.

Testing out a new Career Test Drive

Along with the management and business-related skills I gained, I have also been able to practice skills related to social justice. I advise around fifty students, which helps me greatly improve my communication skills. However, it also makes me more invested in my work, as I get invested in each of my students. This helped me realize the importance of resonating with the purpose and mission of my work, as it motivates me to perform to my potential.

In addition, I learned more about the type of environments and styles that drive me to perform to the best of my ability. For example, I really enjoy leadership positions, particularly in smaller teams. It gives me a balance of being able to manage projects and assign tasks, while remaining part of the execution and collaborating. I also enjoy the combination of independent work and meetings, as the mixture allows me to be most productive.

I have learned immensely from this internship, most of which I can apply moving forward. I gained numerous transferrable skills that can be applied to any kind of task I perform, learned more about the industry I am interested in, and discovered plenty about how I work best. This is all extremely helpful when looking for the right job opportunity and knowing how to adjust to perform to my best potential.   

Post 4: World of Work at the ACLU of Utah

My time with the ACLU of Utah has felt like a whirlwind experience. It’s odd to think that I won’t fully see my research come to fruition because I simply won’t be in the office everyday. I have had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other non-profit organizations in the area, participate in marches, and oversee team meetings. It all feels strange to have to go back to a classroom setting after everything I observed and learned over the summer. But nonetheless, I am eager to go back to Brandeis and bring the skills and knowledge I have learned with me.

Looking back, I can split my final takeaways into two categories: 1) workplace and 2) social justice. Both can go hand in hand but are also very different.

As an intern or as I like to the call myself the “bottom of the office totem pole,” it was important for me to adapt to the workplace environment. For the most part, everyone is pretty relaxed and flexible; however, appropriate workplace etiquette is still required. Some of these things include appropriate language when talking to one’s superior or just with the other interns, being patient with yourself and those around you, and being proactive to complete assignments or ask for more to do. Especially in an environment where everyone is older, it’s extremely important to make your voice heard.

Logo for the Odyssey House; Courtesy of their twitter @OdysseyHouseUtah

On the social justice front, I realized that any goal—no matter how small or large—will always take time. Usually, the ACLU of Utah will work with a lot of different organizations in order to get to an end result. For example, this week I was able to join the entire office on a field trip to tour the Odyssey House—a non-profit organization that serves individuals and families with addiction, mental health, and physical health issues. Although there is a lot of work to do to reduce recidivism and addiction care within the criminal justice system, the partnership between the ACLU of Utah and the Odyssey house begins to repair the gap. This visit opened my eyes to the struggles of everyday Utah citizens and the many outlets that exist to make a change in the community.

Moreover, I have also learned that by collaborating and inviting more than one voice to the table, it’s important to be respectful of the varying opinions in the room. There are always two sides to every story—maybe three— so to enact meaningful change means to find a balance of what you want versus the other party. Monthly, the ACLU of Utah hosts a meeting with their legal panel of attorneys to discuss current cases. While observing, I noticed that even when members of the ACLU of Utah community come together, everyone has their own thoughts on how to best handle a situation in the courtroom. But no matter how each attorney felt, they all engaged in civil discourse and used respectful language to persuade the group. To me, this example demonstrates what social justice is all about: it’s about embracing teamwork and asking for help when you need it.

I am excited to go back to school but I am really going to miss the faces I saw everyday in the ACLU of Utah office. Everyone took on a challenge with a “we’re in this together” attitude that I will not forget. For my sophomore year at Brandeis, I aspire to be open to learning new things and shop classes that may be outside of my comfort zone. I realized that I may never be the smartest or most experienced in the classroom, but those qualities are not faults to feel worried about. Instead, I am going to embrace what I can learn from my peers and professors. All in all, I feel bittersweet about what my final weeks at the ACLU of Utah have to offer!

One step closer to the world of medicine

This summer, I have the opportunity to work in Dr. Lichtman’s Immunology and Cardiovascular research laboratory of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Pathology.

Me (right) and my coworker (left)

I have never worked in a lab before. In my mind, I thought working in a lab would be similar to my experience in college’s lab courses. However, the first day I came to the lab, I was amazed by how basic science research can potentially lead to huge development in the medical field in terms of diagnosis and treatments for patients. As the post-doc, Eva, I work with briefly explained to me the projects that were going on in the lab, I realized that I needed to read and self-study much more so as to be able to understand the research and ultimately to be a part of it. My impression about the lab during the first week is that doing research is challenging, but at the same time very intriguing and that I would be able to learn so much from not only my supervisor but also from other talented people in the team. The picture above is me (right) and one of my coworkers who is actually a Brandeis alumni (left).

As I get a better idea of the lab, I have set some goals for this summer:

Regarding academic goals, I want to establish a solid background in basic immune system functions, and how such immune responses can cause diseases. In preparation, I have discussed the basic science underlying this project with Dr. Lichtman and spend a portion of my free time on the weekends reading and taking notes from the textbook he published and recommended to me. I was surprised to learn that the book is also used as a learning tool in many medical schools!

Furthermore, I also aim to master the molecular techniques used in the lab and in day to day research, such as immunohistochemistry and tissue slicing on the Cryostat. This will allow me to not only make progress in my project but to effectively assist other team members in their research by generating accurate data.

Thus, I will learn how to use empirical scientific research in order to contribute to the medical field by learning from the PI and other team members.

Considering career goals, I plan to pursue a career in medicine that includes patient care and clinical or lab-based translational research. As I work in a clinic-based laboratory as a summer research internship, this experience will also allow me to explore different aspects of medicine. As I will attend department conferences and seminars throughout the course of the summer, I will be able to develop a more well-rounded understanding of medicine and the interconnection between its different aspects. I can furthermore establish a professional network at Brigham and Women’s Hospital by meeting with the professionals such as physicians, researchers and educationalists who make enormous impact on people’s lives and on the community in their everyday work.

As for my personal goals, I hope this summer experience will help me to grow intellectually, think scientifically, and be able to contribute to important work relevant to human diseases. I look forward to emerging myself in the Longwood medical area – a hub of biotechnology, of research and ultimately of medicine.

-Phuong Anh (Phoebe) Le-

Post 4: Warrior Princess, Cheerleader, Coach, Listener

Sometimes, my supervisor calls me a warrior princess after I get off a long phone call advocating on behalf of a client. Sometimes, I make exaggerated excited faces and silently cheer as my client successfully schedules their own appointment with a doctor for the first time. Sometimes, I spend the afternoon in the ER coaching a client through asking the doctor questions about how to re-insert their child’s feeding tube. Sometimes, I just sit and listen while a client tells me what they miss about their home country. Sometimes, I spend the day on the computer researching MediCal insurance policies, housing assistance programs, and childcare programs with language capacity to help connect my clients to resources they need.

Example of tasks to be completed during a “normal” day at the office

Every day, I walk into the office, and I’m not sure what the day will hold. Maybe I’ll spend the morning scheduling transportation and interpretation for medical appointments or submitting low-income housing paperwork. Then, in the afternoon, I might be helping a client apply for disability benefits. Maybe I’ll spend the morning calmly reviewing case files, but spend the afternoon completing urgent phone call requests on sticky notes handed to me by my supervisor as she talks on the phone to a client in crisis. The all-encompassing skill I’ve learned at my internship so far is the need to be flexible and willing to play different roles according to the needs of each individual client.

In a prior blog post, I wrote about how IRC offers holistic programming to cater to the needs of each client as an individual. My clients have varying needs because the ethnic, language, cultural and educational backgrounds they come from dictate their transition to a new country.

I have one client who speaks English, has experience in security for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is working on enrolling in community college classes. This client and I are working on helping him apply for jobs and become more confident in advocating for his daughter with special needs to receive services and quality medical care. For this client, I am a cheerleader and coach.

I have another client who does not speak English, is living in an area without other Afghans, and has no transportation and little awareness of or connection to local resources. This client is focused on getting a job to feed his large family and making sure his wife receives mental health treatment. For this client, I am a warrior princess making sure his wife receives timely care by calling insurance, medical providers, and mental health providers to get her authorizations, referrals, and appointments. I am a coach for phone calls to insurance and doctors as well as a cheerleader when those calls go well (see my last post!). I am also a listener when this client describes feelings of worry around his wife’s mental health and difficulty providing for his family.

As I get to know and work with different clients, I have learned to play a variety of roles to ensure that their needs are met, their thoughts are heard, and their progress and victories are celebrated. To be able to transition between these roles I have learned the importance of being flexible, multi-tasking, and becoming familiar with local resources and policy.

Unfortunately, social justice work can slip into the realm of grouping individuals into a singular “oppressed” category with disregard for their individual characteristics and try to “fix” all of their problems. The recognition of the various identities, strengths, and weaknesses of my clients allow me to think of them as individuals and serve in a variety of roles as a warrior princess, cheerleader, teacher and listener to assist them in achieving their goals.


Post 4: Lessons from 826 National’s Leadership

My internship at 826 National has reinforced my passion for education equity and my ultimate goal of working in education law, working toward education equity for our most under-resourced students. As I move forward in my professional career, one of the things I will take away from this experience is the incredible leadership I have seen in my office. As I approach my last few weeks, here are a few of the leadership qualities I will take with me to my future workplaces:

Building a Vision
When I first started at 826 National, the intern cohort participated in a visioning activity. The exercise was modeled after one that the 826 National board members did a few years ago, about what they wanted the 826 network to look like in ten years. The process begins by writing, in present-tense, about that ideal future state. Then you work backwards to determine the steps necessary to make that vision happen. In the nonprofit world, a vision is hugely important in maintaining and growing an organization. A clear vision (the desired future position of the organization) informs a strong mission statement (the objectives and the approach to those objectives), both of which make up the backbone of an organization’s operations. A leader’s ability to spearhead the building of a vision, both on a small and large scale, help guide a team toward a common future goal. To be quite honest, when I first started at 826, I saw visioning as a pretty cheesy, time-consuming activity. But this summer, I have seen how visioning can motivate and inspire staff, and how working backwards from a vision can actually streamline projects. Now that I have learned the steps myself, refining my approach to vision-building is a skill I can take with me long after I leave 826.

Connecting Even the Small Tasks to the Mission
826 National has also shown me that having a strong vision and mission in place is just the beginning. An effective nonprofit is careful to tie each task to the mission, and to communicate that connection to the staff. Doing so gives purpose to the work being done and improves team morale. This seems small, but a leader without this skill is not executing their job to its fullest extent. 

Visioning can lead to tremendous growth, like when the 826 Network reached more than 32,000 students!

Acknowledging the Value of Your Team
This one might also seem small, but it has been one of the biggest lessons for me at 826. This summer, my main responsibilities have revolved around the annual Staff Development Conference (SDC), during which 826 staff from all over the country come together to discuss best practices and ensure that every chapter is ready to put their best foot forward in the coming school year. It’s a huge event, and 826 National is responsible for its planning and execution. Crucial to the success of SDC has been my supervisor’s commitment to recognize the vital role, however small, that every person plays in making SDC what it is. This summer, I have watched my supervisor take time to thank every person for their contribution to SDC throughout the process, not just after it was over. Showing her genuine appreciation for the support team makes every person feel energized and willing to do the work, because she makes it clear that their work matters. This leadership trait is a big deal to me because of how easy it is! A simple “thank you” can make a world of difference in team-oriented projects, which, as an aspiring lawyer, I am sure to see many of.

Using Interns Strategically!
Every college intern knows that internships can sometimes feel a little hit-or-miss. Sometimes you land an incredible internship that gives you genuinely valuable skills for the future, and other times it feels like you spent your entire internship photocopying documents. The leadership team at 826 National has done an incredible job making sure interns have the tools we need to learn as much as we can this summer, but also that our skills are being utilized to do meaningful work for 826. Part of that is listening to what interns are interested in with regular check-ins, but another part of it is connecting our work to the mission. Since we are only here for a short time, knowing how our work matters in the long run is extremely motivational. This experience has given me concrete examples of how maximize the use of interns, even when their turnover rates can be a bit discouraging. As a leader, figuring out what skills your interns bring to the table lightens your load while still ensuring that your interns are truly growing during their experience.

I look forward to utilizing these skill for many years to come, as I enter the workforce and maybe even lead a team myself one day!

-KR ‘19

Post 4: Taking BridgeYear Lessons Back to Waltham Group


The summer internship at BridgeYear is a unique experience and quite different from what I had expected this internship would be like. One of the reasons why I decided to be a part of BridgeYear was because I wanted to improve my skills as an effective leader.

The 2017-2018 Symbiosis Coordinators during the Waltham Group celebration of service.

This upcoming year at Brandeis, I will be the senior coordinator of Symbiosis, a Waltham Group program. As exciting as that is, I know that in order to ensure the success of any Waltham Group program, a good deal of leadership is required from the coordinators. Symbiosis is fairly new in comparison to other programs, so it will need committed people to run it, now that all of the founding coordinators have graduated.

One of my close friends from Houston and Brandeis had worked as an intern for BridgeYear this past summer, and she told me that she was able to learn many new things during this internship. When I spoke to her, she mentioned that working at BridgeYear was a lot of work, but it was work with a purpose. The supervisors were always looking for ways to improve different aspects of the organization and its people.

After working six weeks with the BridgeYear team, I can say that I have not had two completely identical weeks. During the halfway point of the internship, every team member had the chance to evaluate and provide feedback for other interns, as well as the current supervisors. The entire exercise was very eye-opening to say the least.

BridgeYear interns enjoying some bonding time at Escape Hunt’s very own “Houston we have a problem” attraction!

I learned that while I am capable of taking charge of projects, I am often times more willing to support others and their projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that I need to be more comfortable making choices on my own without having someone else to direct me in the right direction.

I take feedback very seriously, so during the four weeks I have left at BridgeYear, I will try my best to become more independent when it comes to making choices. I will deliver finished projects with urgency, but more importantly, with a sense of pride. It’s not enough to deliver a good project if I feel like I could have spent more time on it. This lesson can be applied to my work as a Waltham Group coordinator as well.

Symbiosis prides itself on its commitment to the community of the city of Waltham and its environment. As a coordinator for Waltham group, it is my responsibility to make sure every volunteer and community partner feels like they are making an impact. This means that each of our events should be structured in a way that allows everyone to do their personal best. In Symbiosis’ fight for a brighter future for the environment, we cannot be satisfied with just good. We have to be, and will be, eco-wonderful!

Post 4: Professionalism and Politics | How I’ve grown at NCL

After working at National Consumers League for seven weeks, I’ve have honed my research, analytical, and social skills far more than I would have dreamed. I’ve prepared myself for the real working world three years early instead of waiting until I graduate. I still have much to learn, but I now feel ahead of the game professionally and I’m confident that I can be successful in the working world.

Working on my food labeling policy memo and exploring nutrition and personal finance have both educated me and strengthened my research techniques. I never had the time or encouragement to delve into financial topics like loan servicing and microloans, but I learned about those two things and more with the LifeSmarts program. LifeSmarts even inspired me to look for more scholarships to help pay for my Brandeis education.

A view of the siding of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I got sunburned while waiting to get in, but it was worth it.
I went to the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History for the first time on Friday. I also went to the Holocaust Museum. I had never been to either before despite being a D.C. native. The Oprah exhibit at NMAAHC was fun while the exhibit at USHMM was a disappointing reminder of a piece of shameful U.S. history.

My first ever internship at Fusion GPS during junior year of high school taught me lots of tricks in how to conduct good research, such as using quotation marks in a search to find exact results. Three years later I am building on that knowledge thanks to NCL. I realize I learned more at Fusion than I thought. The League is not just helping to shape my perspective for the future, it is also influencing my perceptions of my past.

Writing over two hundred trivia questions for the LifeSmarts national high school competition and developing proposals to improve misunderstood food spoilage dates have also fostered my analytical growth. The point of LifeSmarts is to motivate kids to learn life skills. When I write trivia questions for LifeSmarts, I narrow down which facts are significant and helpful. I have learned to filter out useless information and focus on what’s practical.

Food labeling policy is a broad subject that includes everything from figuring out what can be called organic to determining the date by which a grocery item should be sold. I had to propose two solutions to improve the system of date labeling and I ignored some key points at first. When I got feedback and started looking at the problem differently, I discovered what I had been missing and adjusted my proposals. Thanks to my adviser’s help, my analytical skills have improved tremendously.

When I say I learned how to interact socially at NCL, I mean that I learned social skills to use for a social justice purpose. Last Friday, I supported a rally for “One Fair Wage” outside the office of the D.C. council, who were trying to overturn a bill voted for by the District’s citizens. The League’s executive director and my fellow interns listened to protesters’ complaints while some less patient supporters of the fair wage fired back angrily.

Actress Jane Fonda getting interviewed about raising the tipped wage in D.C. to equal the general minimum wage.
I got a chance to see Jane Fonda while at the One Fair Wage Rally with NCL. She was very poised and serious.

Some people at the rally got bitter, but they didn’t change each other’s minds. As I have said throughout my experience, social justice on a personal scale cannot work without polite and open communication. I used to think otherwise, but my internship has changed my mind.

I can use all of the skills I learned to succeed at Brandeis and in the future, but the most important part so far has been learning about my behavior in the workplace. I’m still working on how I present myself, but people at NCL are already offering to be references without waiting for me to ask. I have a strong desire to get along with people and make a good impression. I’m no longer worried about increasing the pace of my workload in the future because I finish my assignments early.

Most of all, I have learned that I love working closely with others. I really enjoy learning from my colleagues, especially the ones whose offices are close to me. I have learned a lot about fraud this way and a lot about how much fun offices can be with the right atmosphere. Before, I was afraid to think about heavy workloads and office life, but after this internship, I know I’m ready for wherever professional life takes me.

Midway Point

I’m halfway through my internship and it has been an amazing experience so far. You can learn a lot in the classroom and through textbooks, but you’ll never actually absorb the industry until you have gone out and experienced it. I have witnessed this first hand since starting my internship this summer. Being an intern at Artist Partner Group has exposed me to an environment I don’t usually experience. An environment filled with ambition and drive to succeed in the music industry. But it’s not the standard music industry ambiance that I was introduced to last summer at Warner Music’s headquarters in NYC. It’s way different. The anti-corporate aroma and entrepreneurial spirit are the engines at APG. Everyone is hungry to make things happen for each other and contribute to the company.

At the beginning of my internship, I honestly had sentiments of being underestimated in what I was capable of, but I quickly realized that I just had to be patient and ready. I had to be trustworthy and execute tasks efficiently. Now, as I continue to build reliance and confidence with my co-workers, I’m being trusted with more and more things to do every day. Here are just some highlights and tasks that I’ve taken on since the beginning:

  • Alec Benjamin Photoshoot: Alec Benjamin is one of APG’s exciting new artists. I have been at APG to witness his rise, and all the effort and work put into creating a superstar. Alec has now accumulated millions of sales since I’ve been here (he released new music the week I started). I was fortunate enough to contribute to this in a small way by helping to orchestrate a photoshoot for his cover art. I helped with the setup and angles for the shoot. It was also a great opportunity to converse and get to know Alec in person.

    This is Alec Benjamin! I took this while at the photoshoot.
  • A&R Listening Sessions: Every Thursday I’m at the A&R Department, listening to a bunch of new, undiscovered music and highlighting ones I think have potential. I venture on different websites that shoot out streaming and viral analytics in order to track down up and coming talent that are performing well on the web. At the end of the day, I meet with my supervisor and go over some of the artists I tracked down throughout the day. It is a great experience to bond with my supervisor over new music and also help the firm with potential new artists to sign. I also spend a lot of time discovering new DJs in order for the label to commission remixes for their recent releases.
  • Setting up Artist Showcases: Every so often, the company hosts artist showcases, which are basically small intimate concerts with their artists. These showcases are for internal company employees only and usually occur in a private setting (not at the office). Recently I was tasked with helping set up one of the showcases and helping it run smoothly. Later, I was assigned to create a photo book of pictures from some of the showcases for the office.

    This is an example of an Artist Showcase I was fortunate to attend, featuring Rita Ora.
  • Social Media Audits: This is by far one of the coolest and most educational things I’ve done at the office. My supervisors have taught me the metrics and ways to analyze social media accounts. By doing this, I can now scan through social accounts of company artists and perform a social media audit of their accounts. What this means is that I go through their accounts, gather their engagement stats, monitor their best and worst performing posts, and then create a 10-page report on it. On the report, I highlight what they shouldn’t be doing and I also create suggestions for them based on my research; all of this in order for the artists to perform better on social. This is a unique digital marketing skill that I truly value and will definitely be able to use in any future endeavors.

    One sheet of streaming statistics for the past week that I have to look over every week. I had to blur out the content because of confidentiality.

These were just some of the highlights and tasks that I have done so far. I’m very excited to continue building trust with the company and find out what exciting tasks lie ahead!

Post 2: State Rep. Carvalho for DA

Halfway through the summer, I have begun to realize how much my story and perspective connects to my internship. Recently, I began to realize that campaigns are about more than a political process. They are also an opportunity for individuals and communities to have a voice.

I am a young man who came to this country in 2015, barely knowing how to speak English (only the essentials, like how to ask for food…😊). Still, I worked very hard for two years and got into Brandeis University and the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP). MKTYP is a year-long program designed to prepare students to maximize their full college experiences. One class that directly related to my internship was Introduction to American Government with Professor Daniel Kryder. In this course, many topics were discussed, including the Constitution; democracy for realists; inequality, public policy and the American mind; parties and polarization in Congress; and most importantly voting and marching.

At the time, I did not realize how much these topics would continue to support my develop. As a Brandesian, I have observed the way our community highlights the importance of one’s your vote. Now, as a WOW fellowship recipients, through my internship I am beginning to observe how a campaign and its outcomes are driven by people’s vote. It is crucial that every individual exercise their right to vote because EVERY VOTE MATTERS. Beyond the outcomes, casting your vote demonstrates that you’re an active citizen and that you’re looking to change and better your community and lifestyle.

Powerful examples of the links between one’s vote with one’s voice have emerged following the school shooting in Florida. At Brandeis, community members marched outside of classrooms for seventeen minutes in memory to those seventeen students who were killed. They did so to state their discontent with gun violence and to give voice to important issues. At my internship, Representative Carvalho’s team marched in the Dorchester Day Parade and gave out pamphlets. These pamphlets explained how Representative Carvalho was the most qualified candidate to be in the district attorney’s office because as a former assistant district attorney and current state representative, he’s led the fight for criminal justice reform by working to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses and raising the age of criminal responsibility. In this way, Representative Carvalho is giving voice to community members. By casting their vote they can give voice to important issues by having someone in service to represent them and to speak for others who seek change.

State Representative Evandro Carvalho’s daughter marching on Dorchester Day Parade.

It’s crucial to show people how much you believe in your candidate, and to share their qualifications and purpose. I also find that it’s equally important to let people know that what happens next in our world is up to them. It’s up to them to decide who they want as the district attorney and whether they want someone working on the social justice issues mentioned above.

For more information on what State Representative Evandro Carvalho represents and is fighting for, please go to

Post 3: Start Small

When I first began my work at Integrationswerkstatt I was concerned that the work I would be doing in this small organization was not going to have a major impact. Before moving to Germany for my internship I had imagined a thrilling work abroad experience. Instead, I found myself in a small remote retirement town in the suburbs. My impression was that any work I could do would only have immediate impact on the local community and that real integration needs to be grander and more inclusive.

I could not have been more wrong. Every refugee I have met so far, no matter how old, expressed their need for security and stability. They all expressed a longing to feel that they belong to a community. I realized the smallest initiatives that aim at bringing people together and creating common ground are very important.

Many refugees expressed that language barriers have deterred them from being fully involved socially and professionally. In Germany, in order to start working, refugees have to go through a series of German courses on different levels, which then open up the doors for them to apply for work. They need to become fluent in a short manner of time to be eligible for work. So even things that seemed pointless to me, like a cafe gathering every once in a while, allowed refugees a rare opportunity to practice their language skills and understand the nuances of society.

However, there are also many frustrations when it comes to planning and organizing small-scale community-focused work. One of the refugees who I met with was a successful lawyer in Syria but cannot practice law anymore or pursue a degree because of the language barrier. He explained to me that he has to now think of other work alternatives and finds that a small business is the only viable solution for economic independence. He says he would be content if he could open a small restaurant that serves Middle Eastern food, which would allow him to finally be able to get off of government aid (indeed, he makes great falafel). Unfortunately Integrationswerkstatt does not have the proper funding to support refugee business.

Some of the work can be frustrating due to lack of funds, but it also allows for creativity and resourcefulness for that same reason. I found that a lot of the work that we do was based on what we thought the refugees needed rather than what they actually need. I decided to conduct a series of interviews to allow refugees to share their stories and make clear what their true needs are. This has allowed me to put my knowledge of Arabic to use, and I felt that refugees felt comfortable speaking in Arabic.

I have come to realize that the smallest gestures can lead to real change if we have enough patience to witness it. It takes time for a society to become fully integrated and it takes time for people to change misconceptions and free themselves from stereotypes, but it is possible!

– Siwar Mansour

Post 3: A platform for workers of faith to talk and express the injustices committed at work

Founded in 1997, IWJ supports and advocates for a living wage, health care, safer working conditions, rights to organize and bargain, and protection under labor law both for U.S.- born and immigrant workers. IWJ condemns discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation in and out of the work place. Overall, IWJ’s goal is to advance fair and just participation in a global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers.

IWJ addresses these issues through a network of unions, worker centers, faith and labor organizations, guilds and NGOs that have similar agendas. By organizing congregations for campaigns around these issues, IWJ strengthens the working communities.

Grassroots worker centers, faith-labor allies and other groups in our network support workers and lead their communities and states in shaping policy and advocacy. The network includes more than 60 faith-labor organizations and worker centers across the country.

IWJ accomplishes its goals solely based on its networks. Without action networks IWJ would not be able to unite and mobilize the masses as it does now.

IWJ starts networking by connecting to both individuals that are acquaintances of IWJ members and the organizations that they hear, see or meet at the congregations, actions or panels.

Meeting the faith groups with unions and other labor organizations IWJ sets up a platform for workers of faith to talk and express the injustices committed at work. And the progress comes gradually as workers informs their friends and families and organizations hear more and more about IWJ. – Ece Esikara

Post 3: Pursuing Global Justice

At the American Jewish World Service, our motto is “Pursuing Global Justice through Grassroots Change” and the social justice work we do embodies that motto. The difference between the AJWS and other funders is that the AJWS recognizes the crucial role that local people play in solving the issues. Therefore, the AJWS does not go in to a country and try to fix the problems for the people, they go in and find an organization that is already trying to make that change and they support that organization. The AJWS gives the organization the means through which to achieve their goals and overcome the issues. 

Change or progress can look like any number of things at the AJWS. It could mean convincing a donor that ours is a worthy cause, spreading the word about the work the AJWS does or achieving real change, no matter how small, in any of the 19 countries that the AJWS works in.

There are many steps that lead to these kinds of change and the different departments work together to achieve them. The donors department gathers intel on potential donors and reaches out to them. We also have people who are in contact with leaders and members of the Jewish community and they play a large role in both out donations and our work. The communications team keeps our funders and our supporters updated on all our work and sends out a “Daily Digest” to keep everyone updated on issues around the world. Then we have the programs division. They analyze different situations. They look to see if the country is safe for us to go into, whether there are any grassroots organizations there for us to support, and whether the people there actually want out help. After all of that is assessed,  money is granted and people can go in and start helping the grassroots organizations and the people in that country achieve their goals. All of these processes happen simultaneously and feed off of one another to ensure that the process works and that we do good work.

This is a diagram for how the AJWS works. This shows that any help anyone gives serves to create human rights for all, even something as easy as buying gelt.


Post 4: My Growth at Gardens for Health

My time at Gardens for Health International has taught me so much about the global health development field. One of the lessons I have learned during my time with the organization is to take every opportunity to go into the field.

On days where I go into the field, I wake up at 4:30 AM to take a two-hour bus up to a district in the mountains named Musanze. After the bus ride there is another hour to hour and a half car ride depending on the health center. Then, we are put to work at the health center, only to do the same commute again later in the day. As a college student on summer break, I was definitely not prepared for this intense schedule. However, after a couple trips to Musanze, I realized why it is so important to go into the field. For the families Gardens for Health is working with, it means so much when visitors from the main office come, and I can see how much joy it brings them to learn about nutrition. Being able to see the impact GHI has on communities like the ones I visited make every long day worth it.

Musanze, Rwanda

Additionally, being a part of a staff with significant cultural barriers has taught me so much about interacting with coworkers. When I first started at Gardens for Health I found it hard to get to know my colleagues as a majority of the time they were speaking Kinyarwanda. I soon became comfortable inserting myself into conversations and they gladly would respond to me in English, and often go out of their way to talk to me. Because of this, I have become so much more social at work, and I really feel like I have become a full-fledged member of the GHI team. These interactions taught me that you should never be afraid to talk to anyone you work with.

I also now have a deep appreciation for GHI’s unique work environment. One of my favorite things about working at Gardens for Health is that I have access to fresh produce. Every. Day.  For usually no more than a dollar, I am able to buy fresh vegetables from the GHI farm like carrots, beats, spinach, chard, and other incredible Rwandan favorites. I am also able to take a walk to local markets if I get tired of staring at my computer, visit the goats and other livestock, and just walk around the farm on a nice day. I learned to appreciate this working environment so much more than I did at the beginning of this internship, and it makes me really think about how special this summer real is. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Gardens for Health and I will certainly be thinking about the beautiful GHI farm on the next Brandeis snow day.

GHI Office in Ndera (A neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda)

-Eli Wasserman ’20

Post 2: As a Trailblazer

Eighth Grade Graduation at Trailblazer’s Academy

The past month at DOMUS and Trailblazer’s Academy has truly been a special experience. Through the various meetings and school events that I became a part of, I was able to get to know some of the students on a personal level, as well as get a better appreciation and understanding of what family advocates do on a typical day.

Additionally, I was able to input and analyze data related to student attendance and experience. To see these students everyday come in with a smile on their face, knowing the obstacles that they have had to face or currently overcoming, is remarkable.

While continuing my work with the DOMUS Foundation, I have been able to see and work with various emotional support resources for the students, including the school psychologist. While working with the school psychologist who works with both of DOMUS’ charter schools, I was able to see the types of cognitive and executive functioning tests that are done for students who have individualized educational plans (IEP’s), as well as the reports that are created to determine what specific resources each child needs depending on the given IEP.

From this information, along with the behavioral reports, grades, and attendance records, families were contacted to suggest summer school for their students to ensure that they don’t fall behind  or lose momentum in the progress that they have made this previous academic year.

The family advocates also are making sure that their students have the proper resources during the summer. Every academic year, a certain amount of home visits have to be made for each student by their family advocate. During the summer, the family advocates take advantage of their time without students to schedule home visits with families. Before this is done, attendance reports, as well as home visit reports must be inputted and reviewed to see which students should be prioritized.

Over the past few weeks, I have been helping with creating and mailing these types of documents for the school psychologist and family advocates, as well as being trained to go on these home visits with a family advocate.

Working with DOMUS has made me realize how vital social work is as profession as well as the impact it can make on a student’s life. I was recently able to help a family advocate with finding a scholarship for three young boys to attend camp for part of the summer. I spent hours calling and emailing camps to see if there were any openings for these kids. When I was finally able to find a camp that would give a scholarship and had openings for the boys. It was a relief to the family, the family advocate and to me that we were able to enroll the kids in camp. These boys are able to meet kids their age and to start their adjustment with their new guardians in a new living area. Helping connect students and families to resources such as summer camps or summer schools for the Trailblazer’s Academy students, as well as other youth is another rewarding and crucial role of a family advocate through the DOMUS Foundation.

New Haven and Criminal Justice

The Federal Courthouse is an interesting place to come into every morning. I grew up in New Haven, went to school here, and thought I knew everything there was to now about this city and even my home state of Connecticut. Growing up, whenever I told someone I was from New Haven, I was met with scoffs and half-joking questions about the high murder and crime rates in the city. I always had nothing to say in response; no defense of the beautiful city I called home. Crime rates have significantly decreased since my growing up, as a result of more efficient policing policies, cooperative community efforts to combat criminal activity, and more rehabilitation and reentry programs. But still, I sometimes feel I have nothing to defend my city with.

In many recent proceedings, I have witnessed an incredible amount of compassion for the accused. I am consistently impressed with the care that the Federal and Magistrate Judges have in the Connecticut District for the welfare of the defendants. I realize that this in not necessarily a general rule for Federal judgments, but the Judges whom I have met truly seek out rehabilitation, using the law not as a tool to punish, but rather a tool to rehabilitate. I now feel that I have a much better insight into the inner workings of justice in my home city and state, and can defend it! Each day, I’m consistently impressed by the justice system of the Connecticut Federal District, both its expediency and its compassion. I can now respond with confidence, saying that we as a city and state are a work in progress, constantly striving towards a safer community, using compassion and empathy as the tools of justice.

– Jonathan Hayward

Humor and Justice

On the way down to a court hearing recently, I got into the freight elevator as usual. Between the floor where I work and the floor where I was going, is the mezzanine floor, where the prisoners are held for a short time before appearing for their hearing that day. The elevator stopped, doors opened, and two Federal Marshals escorted a handcuffed defendant into the elevator. My boss had told me on the first day that if I ever called the elevator and a prisoner was in it, that I should just take the stairs instead. I had never been told what to do if I got into the elevator first, and then a prisoner entered. I was a bit surprised, but kept my calm, quietly observing the marshals’ interaction with the prisoner. I expected the prisoner to be quiet and introspective, solemn in some aspects, and for the marshals to be stern and gruff, as often seems the case on television shows and movies. Instead, the defendant was surprisingly upbeat, joking with the marshals, who equally reciprocated his sense of humor, creating a humanizing atmosphere. In another recent instance, I witnessed a man being escorted out of the courtroom after being sentenced to five years of imprisonment, joking with the marshals. Recent studies have indicated a correlation between humor and both self-compassion and empathy for others.

While working here at the Courthouse, I’ve found that everyone seems to have concluded the best (and fairest) way to deal with the intense job of criminal and civil justice, is not to simply dehumanize the accused. Rather, the judges, marshals, clerks, and even the accused themselves, all strive to reach outside of their given role to express a common and shared humanity. Not only does this profoundly change the dynamic of the workplace, but it also leads to a more equitable approach to justice. Humor, and the humanization it brings about, seems to ease the anxiety of the defendants, and assists the workers of the court in bringing about justice and rehabilitation.

-Jonathan Hayward

Post 2: Fair Does Not Mean Equal

Throughout my life, my mother always taught me that kindness is the most important thing. This principle was instilled in me at a very young age, and every day I try to live by it. Coming to Brandeis, I have realized that the social issues we face today cannot be solved by kindness alone. While being good natured is an important way to live life, the social justice issues we are confronted with today need to be met by our own awareness and willingness to initiate change.

During the first semester of my freshman year, I took the Immigrant Experience Practicum with Professor Marci McPhee. During Professor McPhee’s course, we were able to volunteer at various organizations in Waltham that work directly with the immigrant community. During class, we reflected on our experiences and discussed the difficulties this population faces such as misconceptions, stereotypes, and negative stigma surrounding immigrants.

For the duration of the course, I spent my time working at the Prospect Hill Community Center, an education-based after school center for children in the heart of Prospect Hill, the area with the largest immigrant population in Waltham. More often than not, English was the second language of many of the families at the center, and they struggled with the language barrier. Speaking little to no English, many of them faced significant difficulties navigating an unfamiliar education system. Not only was this challenging enough, these families often faced forms of discrimination and intimidation relating to their immigrant status. This intimidation and fear among members of the community was highlighted following the 2016 presidential election, when many children were absent from the center and school. We believed these absences were closely related to the fear surrounding their immigration status and Trump’s viewpoints on immigration.

At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, I am able to observe similar situations with our clients and the court systems. The majority of our clients are immigrants and English is their second language. In particular, there are many housing cases involving discrimination and unfair treatment of tenants who are immigrants. In many of these cases, landlords attempt to take advantage of the language barrier present and benefit from their tenants’ lack of understanding. There have been multiple cases where landlords have used their tenants’ immigration status to intimidate them, threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they are late paying rent. Other cases have involved landlords informing tenants that they will not be able to show up to court for their eviction hearing because if they do so, ICE will be waiting to detain them.

Consequently, this gives landlords a huge amount of leverage over their tenants who are immigrants and creates a significant power imbalance. Paired with the language barrier and intimidation, an immigrant trying to navigate an unfamiliar and complicated court system creates a very skewed justice system. Truly, it is not a justice system if the system is not working equally for all.  

If our office is ever split between electing cases, our organization will always attempt to represent the client with the lower proficiency in the English language, because we understand that they may be more susceptible to unfair processes and uncertainty.

Working at the Bureau, I am able to apply what I have learned during my time at Brandeis. I have the power to choose to not be complicit in the stigma society creates around immigrants, and when working with immigrants, to be aware of all subconscious biases society has instilled. As a member of the Brandeis community and a global citizen, I hope to use my awareness as a tool to educate, advocate for, and empower others. Fair doesn’t mean equal, and I am determined to use my awareness to work in opposition to some of the greatest social injustices of our time.

Lesson 3: Small Steps Matter

The North American Indian Center of Boston has had many names and many directives, but it has always kept its central mission of empowering the Native American community to achieve a higher quality of life for themselves and for Indian Country as a whole.

Forty-nine years ago, NAICOB strived for its socially just means under the name of the Boston Indian Council. For many years, it served as the headquarters for indigenous and civil rights activism. Now, it has morphed from social action to social service. Although social services do not have the bravado, the crowds, and the publicity that comes with marching-the-streets action, they still serve as an integral component of social justice. The advantage and most important quality NAICOB’s new strategy possesses is its ability to reach out to the community on an individual level and build it up incrementally, one person at a time.

Photo By: Joseph Norman at MFA Boston

Ironically, serving the individual rather than reaching for broad goals eventually brings the whole together stronger than before. Rather than asking the community to risk their already tenuous resources to support the outcome of a large goal (law amendments, major protests, etc.) NAICOB asks the community what they need during their day-to-day lives. Once those questions are answered, they amass resources to support those in need and eventually become a central component of empowering the indigenous community. For example, a common issue they found was that many native families were unable to afford backpacks and toys for their children for school and the holidays, so they partnered with Toys for Tots. After much success, toy and backpack drives became permanent parts of NAICOB operations.

However, this type of service only goes so far. In order to lift the Native American community out of the need for these immediate use programs, deeper issues must be faced. One such issue is the Native American unemployment crisis, wherein over 8.9% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives are jobless, compared to 4.9% rate for the rest of the country (Hagan, 2018). To combat this issue for the local natives, NAICOB has built a coalition with WIOA (Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act) where individuals can access a wealth of employment resources, training, and cultural support in gaining new employment that will fit their needs.

The social justice that NAICOB strives for goes for impacting lives on a more personal level by bringing people new opportunities and ways to educate themselves.  By employing and educating the community, they can stand together and empower themselves to make larger strides towards indigenous rights goals.

Post 3: The Mission of JVS

Jewish Vocational Services aims to help individuals and families who have recently immigrated to the United States (mainly refugees, asylees, and Haitian or Cuban entrants among others). Its mission is to assist these individuals in finding employment in the U.S. and begin to build their careers here. JVS aims to aide immigrants to the U.S. one person at a time to help them navigate the existing systems in this country. Due to this approach, progress can appear slow, yet is extremely impactful as JVS assists nearly 17,000 individuals per year.

At JVS, we help prepare clients to enter the U.S. workforce in many ways before their job search even begins. We offer thirty-five different employment-focused programs that are available at no cost to our clients. These include vocationally-based English classes as well as subject-specific classes to support our clients in completing either their high school or college degree. JVS also offers a myriad of vocational training programs for industries such as banking, nursing, hospitality, and pharmacy.

During my time at JVS, I have been assisting largely with job and child care-related tasks. These two aspects go hand in hand in the search for meaningful employment as having reliable child care is essential in order to secure a full-time job. Our career coaching services consist of one-on-one work with clients on resume and cover letter creation, job searches, job applications, and mock interview skills. In regards to child care, we assist our clients in finding reliable care that will allow them to retain their new job.

JVS aims to assist individuals immigrating to the U.S. to adjust as easily as possible to their new lives here. Instead of focusing on changing government policy or law, JVS focuses on helping the individuals being affected by those laws the best that we can, despite the ever-changing circumstances surrounding immigration into the U.S. We work to directly impact our clients in meaningful and tangible ways to quickly provide some stability in their lives. The goal at JVS is to help as many people as we can find meaningful employment, so progress is when we can better serve even more people than we could before.

The strategies employed at JVS have been extremely successful in helping to achieve JVS’ goals. We have been able to provide services covering all aspects of job-related life in the U.S., from child care to assistance completing higher education. We have assisted thousands of our clients secure stable jobs that will allow them to establish their new lives in the U.S.

Post 3: Measuring Progress

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has the mission to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” The work that I am doing this summer in the Office of Global Educational Programs helps achieve this goal. In this post I will focus on two of the branches within our office–the EducationUSA network and USA StudyAbroad–and explain how progress is measured for these groups.

EducationUSA, as you may recall from my first post, is an advising network that consists of more than four hundred advising centers around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC and in close contact with Regional Educational Advising Coordinators (REACs) located around the world, this group facilitates events and provides resources for international students who wish to study in the U.S., whether it be at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, or PhD level.

One of the ways success is measured is through the Open Doors report, published by one of our cooperative partners, the Institute for International Education (IIE). This extensive report shows facts and figures regarding which countries international students are coming to the U.S. from, where their destination is in the U.S., which fields of study they choose, etc. Here is an image from the 2017 report that shows the five states that have the highest percentage of international students as a proportion of all higher education. Massachusetts is ranked at number two!

USA StudyAbroad helps provide resources for Americans wishing to go abroad. Progress is also measured for USA StudyAbroad through the Open Doors report. However, the data reported is on American citizens going abroad instead of international students coming to the U.S. This infographic shows that the vast majority of U.S. students who study abroad choose countries in Europe as their destination of choice:

In addition to reports, another way progress is measured is through stories. Hearing personal accounts about how programs influenced people show that they have been positively impactful. There are a wide variety of videos posted on the USA StudyAbroad website that showcase the positive impact study abroad programs have had. Although there are countless stories from alumni about their study abroad experiences, one that was exceptionally compelling is Ryan’s journey learning Chinese through the Critical Language Scholarship program by doing an immersive study abroad program in China. Watch the video here.

The data from the Open Doors report and alumni stories show that each individual experience contributes to achieving peace and mutual understanding through interactions with people from a different country and culture. The positive impact of student exchange proves to be farther reaching than the individual level, and the results are exceptional!

-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 3: Progress on Social Justice


The goal of Community Psychiatry PRIDE is to increase the access to and quality of mental health care in community-based agencies across Massachusetts, by conducting research that explores the disproportionate mental health burden in underserved communities. Community Psychiatry PRIDE is located in Chelsea, MA. Chelsea is one of the most densely populated cities in Massachusetts, with nearly a quarter of its 39,000 residents living in poverty. According to the Boston Globe article “As Chelsea begins to blossom, struggles remain”, as of 2015, there were 138 drug-related arrests and 45 overdoses in Bellingham Square district alone. As Chelsea struggles with crime, violence, and poverty, mental health is subsequently a concerning problem. Due to the limited financial and human resources, adequate and effective health care is often not provided to these communities in need.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT) have been proven to be effective for a wide variety of psychiatric diagnoses, and have been used as a first-line treatment for a variety of mood and anxiety disorders. It is important to monitor treatment quality and make sure the treatment is delivered as intended. Some studies suggest that many providers do not implement CBT with fidelity. In fact, assessing fidelity on large scale has been a major challenge in implementation science. Through one project specifically–imAPP leveraging routine clinical materials and mobile technology to assess CBT quality–Community Psychiatry PRIDE aims to relieve the mental health burden in resource-constrained communities by developing a novel instrument to evaluate and improve the quality of CBT for anxiety, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As a research assistant, I have been working on processing, storing, and tracking data for this project. Following data from weekly therapy session over three months, I have noticed how providers are getting familiar with this evidence-based treatment. Providers are continuously getting better at sticking to the manual protocol and incorporating CBT worksheets into therapy. It is also noticeable how patients benefit in terms of symptom improvements from the process. This study uses the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Specific (PCL-5) to assess PTSD symptoms. With the total scores ranging from 0-80, the DSM-V defined cutoff score for PTSD is 33. As I processed data from  early therapy sessions (i.e., protocol sessions 1 and 2), many of the patients scored over 60. The noticeable high scores of the PCL-5 within this sample demonstrates the mental health burden caused by the high rates of trauma in community settings. Patients reported seeing loved die in tragic accidents, sexual abuse, seeing a loved one overdose, being bullied, and being victims of physical assault. Through the therapy sessions, these patients’ PCL-5 scores decreased. Some patients even reported to score less than 10 at the end of the treatment!

Besides working with hard copy data, I also processed, stored, and tracked data from Qualtrics, a secure App for data collection. Other than the exciting progress mentioned above, there were problems that drew our attention. Some providers randomized to App group were not using Qualtrics to input data at all, and when they were using Qualtrics, they sometimes did not use the App in the right way. This led to having some problematic data that needed additional steps to be fixed. This data included data that had incorrect patient ID and incomplete worksheets. This problem showed that there were multiple barriers to incorporate technology into treatment in community settings.

Another problem that we came across was the length of treatment. The treatment protocol was intended to be delivered in 12 therapy sessions, but many patients went  beyond 12 sessions. The repetition of session could mean that patients did not always show up in their session, or patients were not understanding the materials. This study is bringing attention to these situations that are specific to community settings.

As for my tasks for the imAPP study, properly organizing data avoided measurement errors and ensured future analyses to be accurate, thus correctly representing the community. Maintaining datasets helped continue the relationship between research based groups and community partners. When I tracked data, I monitored where each patient was at, thus helping the research team to keep their promise of payment for participants, prepare and deliver the next materials that providers needed, and schedule post-treatment interviews.

Another task I did earlier in this internship was printing and organizing Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) binders. In terms of organizing binders, useful information was extracted from the manual and I helped organize and print materials with different colors. This task facilitated providers to use CPT as we made it easier for providers to use CPT materials with their patients, and know what materials needed to be returned to the research staff. By providing materials to providers and strengthening the relationship between the research team and providers, I helped take steps towards decreasing the practice and research gap in the field of clinical psychology.

There are countless small steps building up to the high-end purpose of a study. Following along the process of one project has helped me to see how I had contributed to the whole process through small but meaningful efforts.

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 3: Understanding Change at BridgeYear


I’ll begin by giving a little reminder of what exactly is BridgeYear’s mission and its significance. BridgeYear’s mission is to provide under-represented students with clear pathways towards high-paying, high-growth jobs in the Houston area. Whether it is through local community colleges or field specific apprenticeship programs, BrirdgeYear ensures every student has a clear path they can follow. Since BridgeYear is a start-up, I learned very early on that while the organization is growing, its mission statement, programs, and team can change at any given point.

In reality, this means that every single team member has the power to make their mark along the way. My bosses understand this very well, which is why each project assigned to us, no matter how big or small, is truly intentional. Each project is not only meant to play a key role in the grand scheme of the organization’s development, but they are also designed to help everyone grow as professional individuals.

The Summer of 2018 team celebrating BridgeYear’s second birthday!

Every single intern has a specific goal for the summer that was determined by taking individual strengths and areas of growth into account. From social media management to curriculum development, each project is designed to play a part in developing the organization and the individual.

I am personally in charge of developing the pre- and post-curriculum of the student experience at BridgeYear. This means that I have to find ways to engage the students in career exploration before they receive personalized advising from the intern team. So far, my projects follow a pattern of draft, feedback, more drafts and feedback, and final product. This framework relies heavily on teamwork and the feedback I get from everyone around me.

Now, I am usually the type of person that works very hard on one project, gets it done, and moves on to the next thing right away. This is one of my possible areas of growth for this summer. My bosses have been able to design projects that will allow me to expand my comfort zone while they guide me throughout that process. However, one of the most important aspects of these projects is that I am not restricted to only work on curriculum building. I have also had a part on one of the social media projects so I truly get to experience all sort of things.

Teams that eat together, work well together!

As I pass the halfway point for this summer internship, I would like to think that I’ve grown a lot. I definitely feel that I have made an impact and will continue to make an impact on the future of BridgeYear. At the same time, it almost feels unbelievable that I’ve been working for five weeks already! I can’t wait to see what will happen in the five weeks to come.

Post 3: Growth and Development (and Cartoon Network!) at 826 National

“There’s a place in my mind where ideas can grow into sprouts that turn into trees.”
– Renee, Grade 7, 826 NYC

All the work 826 National does serves to support the regional chapters in the work that they do. Together, the 826 network can best achieve their social justice mission: to work toward more equitable education opportunities for all students, regardless of circumstance. At the national level where I am interning, progress is focused in two areas: growth of existing chapters and development of new chapters.

Growth: For chapters that are well-established, 826 National is constantly collaborating with them to improve and enhance the great work that is already being done. Sometimes, that can be as simple as facilitating monthly department check-ins across chapters so that everyone working in a similar capacity can touch base about what is working and what they might need ideas about. Sometimes, progress involves facilitating exciting partnerships with companies like Cartoon Network! Recently, 826 National and Cartoon Network collaborated to launch the Inclusion Storytelling Project, which encourages youth to share stories about kindness and empathy in an effort to work toward a bully-free world. Each 826 chapter is taking part, adding their own local twist.

Third grader Aakhirah suggests beignets receive their own monument!

826 New Orleans, for example, linked the project to Confederate monuments that were removed from the city at the end of 2017. Third graders at a local school wrote a book filled with their own  suggestions about what should replace those monuments, which was published by 826 National. Buzzfeed recently picked up on it, after some of the images from the book when viral on Twitter!

Development: Speaking of 826 New Orleans, another way that 826 National works toward progress is by working with groups looking to establish their own 826 chapter. Until recently, 826 New Orleans was actually a chapter in development, which involves a process that can take up to two years. Sites apply for the chapter development process and, if selected, undergo a series of phases to create an organization that matches the 826 model. Once they become a full-fledged chapter, they have access to all the resources that the national office has to offer. Though it can be a time-consuming process, all of the steps involved lead up to a new regional site, which enables us to vastly increase the number of students we reach each year!

In order for the 826 National office to adequately support its chapters, we need to be sure that we are operating in the most efficient, effective way. This means that we are also doing work internally to make changes that aid our ultimate mission. In the short time I have been at the office, staff have come together several times to talk about ways they can improve their own work. These conversations involve both self-reflection and feedback from chapters about how the national office can better support them. I admire 826 National’s strong commitment to being the best version of itself, and I am learning a ton about how to use effective reflection practices for actual change. It’s a skill that I can take with me to my future workplaces–to ensure that my work is always aligned with the mission.

–Katie Reinhold, ’19