(2) Blending Academic and Activist Experience

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

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

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

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

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