(2) Lessons from Brandeis at United For a Fair Economy

During my time at United for a Fair Economy (UFE), I have thought a lot about how the work I do for them relates to my studies at Brandeis. I have reflected on my skills, ambitions, and future career goals. One of my major takeaways is that leadership and facilitation skills are universal and applicable in any space that requires initiative. I further developed this skill while a part of the Community Engagement Ambassador Program (CEAP) for the Department of Community Service at Brandeis. While at UFE, I facilitated a team-building activity that helped our staff reflect on the projects and initiatives we would like to promote and market on social media and our website.

Erick participates in a group activity for United for a Fair Economy
Photo courtesy of Erick Comas ’24.

I have also been more confident and relaxed in taking advantage of opportunities, and I have moved away from my comfort zone. Thus far, one project I worked on was phone banking for a webinar on a Billionaire’s Income Tax proposal that UFE is working on. I was incredibly nervous at first, but I found out the answer was to print and surround myself with images of calves, puppies, and memes. I increased my productivity, reduced my anxiety, and accomplished my task. I was very proud of myself.

One particular skill that I practiced at Brandeis as a CEAP ambassador and as an intern for the Office of Health and Wellness was developing a learning plan and a long-term expectation plan with my manager. This was useful because while at UFE, I have been clear and straightforward with my manager. I have been comfortable approaching them to have this conversation and requesting that we develop these expectations together. It has helped me get where I am today. I look forward to doing research, and UFE has guided me about possible research topics, how to draft a grant or organize the numbers, and communicate among staff effectively.

My overall experience at UFE builds on my experience at Brandeis. This has been significant to me because I have been able to use my previous experiences to guide and prepare me to produce favorable outcomes for my manager and for me. Indeed, it has allowed me to see how working for a nonprofit would look and feel. Moreover, this opportunity has allowed me to reflect on topics of research that I might be interested in pursuing later in my undergraduate career. In particular, it has further exposed disparities in people’s lived experiences with the economy. I have been particularly grateful to have participated in popular education workshops because that is where we, as a movement-building organization, got to interact with people’s stories and help partner organizations strategize on ideas during those conversations.

Those conversations have gotten me thinking about a lot of things. It has been peculiar because our work clashes with what I’ve learned about economic theory (trickle-down economics). My strategy has been to pursue the work that I do with a set of morals and ideas on what the highest impact areas are for individuals. One example is housing affordability in communities of color and job/opportunity access. Above all, one goal of mine has been to present accurate, factual, and well-written information. I have also emphasized the need to present information more conversationally so that individuals can have easier access to the material we offer. I have found what works best for me is being communicative and setting goals. This has allowed me to organize myself better, manage my time, and improve the quality of my work. This quality of work will help me obtain the experience and knowledge required for employment in other nonprofits or fields of work in the future.