Post 2: Impressions of Working Virtually

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

An example of what an EEG cap can look like

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

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

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

Skillbuilding in a Virtual Internship

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Flexibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

New learning curves

Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Pencils, history, and Avodah

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: The Importance of the School to Prison Pipeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midsummer Reflections

Camp: Week 2

“I’m in a loving, caring zone.”

– Anonymous Camper

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

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

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

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

The Tacosaur, a possible Core 1 mascot.

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

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

Post 2 – Interning at Image Insight Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Developing Remote Relationships in the Time of COVID

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog post 2 – Virtual internship

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

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

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

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

Academic vs. Professional Life

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

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

 

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

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

UEI Lab: The journey continues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Resource Mobilization Theory and IfNotNow

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

This is sociologist I cite, Aldon Morris

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

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

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

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

Post 2: I Finally Talked on our Staff Call!

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

Some of our health team highlights this week!

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

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

Post 2: Virtual Government Work

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

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

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

http://www.ctcapitolreport.com

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

Post 2: The Importance Brandeis Places on Bystander Training

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Applying My Knowledge and Skills to Help Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

Browsing employers’ websites about hiring service members

Finding My Own Way

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

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

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

Post 2: Complete Understanding isn’t the Objective

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

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

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

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

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

Interning Amidst COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Structural racism and COVID-19

Webinar given by Dr. Ayana Jordan

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: Environmental Justice on the Campaign Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Oriented with Seaside Sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 1: My First Month at Avodah

Apply to the Jewish Service Corps [Avodah]

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

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

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

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

 

Post 1: My internship at Boston Medical Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Maria Estevez

Blog post #1

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my workspace- my porch.

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

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

-Miranda Sullivan

Understanding the Behind the Scenes Work of a Literary Agent

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

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

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

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

Post 1 – First month at Nobee

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mysteries of Space Dust

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

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

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

 

Post 1: My first few weeks at RAICES

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

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

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

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

Post 1: Disseminating Research to Fuel Effective Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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