(3) Reflections: A People-Powered World

In my twelve weeks with Alliance for Justice, I have learned a lot about the United States’ judicial system—more than I ever thought I would know. As a result, I now have a deep appreciation for the people who are dedicating their careers to fighting for a fair and diverse judiciary, and a greater understanding of why our courts matter. You can read my thoughts on why young people should care about our state courts here. But as I wrap up my internship and reflect on the summer, my biggest takeaways have nothing to do with the U.S. judiciary. 

This summer reminded me that everyone has a story. Behind their LinkedIn profile, job description, and the lag on their Zoom screen is a really interesting human being. As an intern during a virtual summer, it was easy to go through each day only interacting with my team, plus maybe a quick (and sometimes awkward) nod to another staff member while we waited for a Zoom meeting to begin. As I came in knowing virtually nothing about the federal judiciary and having little interest in pursuing law (the likely trajectory of many AFJ interns) or a job related to the judicial branch, it was easy to convince myself that any connections I made outside of my team wouldn’t be valuable.

I made sure to walk by the office (right on Dupont Circle!) when I was in DC last weekend.

And yet, as the summer went on, I made sure to reach out to and connect with AFJ staff whose roles had nothing to do with mine, and this is where I found that I learned and grew the most. These conversations weren’t necessarily meant to advance my career or to “network.” Instead, I learned how people spend their time when they’re not thinking about work, what their families are like, and where their favorite places to travel are. Along the way, I learned a lot about being a more thoughtful adult and what kind of professional I hope to become. Connecting with people is what is most instinctive for humans; it’s how we make friends and mentors, how we find people we can rely on, and how we navigate the world. Being the new and less “experienced” employee at an organization makes it daunting to reach out to new people. But, it also means that each connection you make is that much more transformative.

If I could give a piece of advice to anyone pursuing a career in the nonprofit world, or in any profession, it would be to take every opportunity to connect with your colleagues. You never know what interesting stories you might learn or what kind of impact you may have on someone else.

Social justice work is also exhausting. Anyone who commits their time and energy to advocate for a more equitable world exposes themselves to the very worst of our society, often because they’ve been personally harmed by a system that has failed them. The only way to avoid complete burnout is to be in community with others. I feel grateful that my colleagues at AFJ were open and excited to be meeting me and answering my often endless spew of questions, and I am looking forward to working on more teams in the future—regardless of the field—that foster this same opportunity for connection.

(2) Advocacy in Action: Championing Health Equity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS)

Throughout my time at Brandeis, one of the biggest lessons I have learned and am continuing to learn is what it means to be an advocate. Advocacy can be defined in many different ways, but in general, it involves taking action to create change. As a university that prides itself on its mission of social justice, I hear a lot of words akin to the theme of advocacy (such as diversity, inclusion, and equity) discussed in my classes and my roles on campus. I have learned what it means to look at institutions introspectively to see just where they have fallen short of achieving these tenets of advocacy.

However, I have also learned that successful advocacy goes beyond this step of simply identifying these weaknesses and flaws in our systems; it involves pushing for them to change or be uprooted entirely. Medicare and Medicaid as institutions are not exempt from these flaws and weaknesses, and as an intern it is pivotal for me to champion for health equity and challenge existing structures within CMS.

Consumer Diary: It's Medicare enrollment time — what you need to know | Business | journalinquirer.comAll of my roles at Brandeis involve a personal learning curve for me to see exactly how I can use my voice to champion for these very changes. For instance, as a Head Residential Assistant, I constantly reference concepts of cultural humility in order to foster inclusive living environments and to plan culturally competent events for residents. I then take what I have learned at the Department of Community Living to my role as the president of South Asian Students Association (SASA), where I also push for inclusive programming in order to encourage diversity and accessibility in the events that SASA holds. With each position I hold, I become more capable of advocating for sustainable and intentional change because I am applying the concepts of advocacy I learn from one role to another.

Now, I can see myself applying the same themes of advocacy that I have learned in other roles (particularly surrounding health inequities) to my internship with the Division of New Technology! For example, I find myself critiquing policies that do not allow for coverage of nearly enough patients and pushing for new and improved technologies to be available to patients under Medicare. I question outdated standards of care and encourage optimal coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. When I submit reviews on technologies to be approved and work to ensure patients have access to technologies that will afford them better health outcomes, I can see that my approaches to my work are shaped by my time at Brandeis, whether it is by my Health: Science, Society, and Policy program coursework or my leadership positions in which I advocate for change! 

Especially after this past year, as a woman of color who has watched COVID-19 predominantly impact and kill marginalized communities both domestically and internationally, I feel an urgency to tangibly contribute to the dismantling of health inequities. Thus, my approach to advocacy within my internship has involved directly questioning and calling out inequities in the structures of Medicare in order to encourage structural change. I work to channel the frustrations I have in the disparities present in our health structures (which have only been highlighted by COVID-19) towards critical change which addresses the root causes of disparities so that I can actually take my advocacy beyond the walls of Brandeis and push for intentional change on a larger scale.

(2) Helping the people, not working with the system

Coming to Brandeis, I had ambitions to join the work of the United Nations and similar international organizations because of my belief in their missions to provide a more cohesive and progressive global political atmosphere. Throughout my classes in the international and global studies department, as well as the politics department, I have since changed my viewpoint on these organizations. I now interpret them as being soldiers for neo-globalization that subtly call for the exploitation and marginalization of previously colonized countries.

Through research and readings, it is apparent to me that the current structure of our international organizations places the capitalistic endeavors of Western states and countries with large amounts of capital or resources over the concerns and cultural sensitivity of the global south. While human rights issues are rightfully being brought up in many Western states, it is these same Western states that are forcing the global south to undergo structural changes to become more “progressive” when the effects of these changes really only ever economically benefit the aforementioned Western states. Along with the hyper-criminalization of the leaders of underdeveloped states, I believe, these changes work more toward creating an unbalanced world focused primarily on the exploitation of resources and consumption.

I have found that, while these organizations say that their intentions are for the betterment of the global community, corruption and bureaucracy appears to have a stronger grip. The need for consensus without an already equal world translates to veto powers and certain states becoming major decision makers in a way that makes the function of diplomacy in the way we know it almost futile. 

Consequently, such findings have led me to look for work and organizations that have a principle of improving itself and allowing change in their goals for a more just world. Organizations need to have not only a goal of achieving social justice, but have it built into their system to consistently improve upon itself and dismantle the power hierarchies that may persist through its structure. Stagnancy is what leads so many good-meaning organizations to becoming perpetrators of power imbalances and contributing to the system of problems itself rather than dismantling it. 

Through my Brandeis experience, I have been led to look for organizations that work to directly aid marginalized people as they navigate systems that subliminally exploit them for their labor or resources and subject them to further subjugation. I enjoy the work of my internship for this reason, as the Court Service Center acts as a liaison that addresses the direct concerns and issues of people who cannot access the justice system due to lack of money or resources. The Court Service Center interacts with real people who have real issues that are always reduced in priority or importance because the person behind the issue does not have money. Consequently, in my internship, I look to consistently provide extra support and a sense of understanding on top of legal aid for these people who are unable to navigate a complex family court system, and hopefully work towards achieving better family dynamics. 

(3) Constant Change is Inherent to the Social Justice World

I have learned that the world of social justice work is full of people who wholly aim to help, but are faced with systems and bureaucracy that stall progress for marginalized groups. Within these social justice organizations, and particularly ones affiliated with the government, there comes a whole array of bureaucratic issues that limit the scope and depth of how help is distributed to those who need it. Issues ranging from current restrictive laws, to budgeting problems, to a misunderstanding or ignorance of the plight of minorities all severely hurt the social justice world. Each and every day, there are more people who face discrimination, marginalization and require aid to deal with their life’s issues, but frequently there is a backlog of people who are still receiving help. The social justice world therefore is full of constant issues that need solving and that require new and progressive ways to solve them. 

I have learned the importance of a work-life balance and the significance of training yourself everyday to be as open and helpful to the widest array of people. Social justice work inherently asks for those who aid to not discriminate in who receives their help. The more professional and bureaucratic those who help become as they rise in status, the more classist and unintentionally hierarchical they also become. This inability to understand and fully be compassionate to those who need the help seeps into the inner mechanics of social justice organizations, consequently hurting the process of social justice as it transforms into a function that works with the systems of oppression. Therefore, it is so incredibly important to go through constant training and ensure that there is personal growth in the ways in which social justice organizations are helping marginalized people. They must be able to evolve, expand, and invest in progression, which may mean changing their old practices of seeking or providing aid for marginalized people. 

The advice I would give to someone else pursuing an internship in the social justice field or family court system is one that I try to implement myself: to not become desensitized to the slowness of current social justice organizations and to consistently seek ways and organizations that contribute to new forms of social justice work. Additionally, to expand my own knowledge of languages, barriers to access to justice, and subtle systematic micro-aggressions so as to be the best representative for litigants and those marginalized.

I can see how easy it is to find a position with a social justice organization and simply just trust the organization’s intentions. But through this internship, I have become much more aware of the success that comes from doing the work to find gaps in justice and providing comprehensive and compassionate aid as an inherent personal aspect of my career, regardless of where I am. I have seen through my supervisors just how important it is to understand the litigant, to not judge people, and to constantly stay educated on what else a litigant may need.

Through this internship, I see how it is the direct aid—the help that asks the individual what exactly they need—that is so important to social justice work and what I personally look for when joining the social justice world. 

(1) Finding hope and passion after a tumultuous internship start

After a fifth email to my original internship placement in late May confirming my start date, I realized that I needed to create a new plan. This summer, I initially planned for my WOW grant to support an internship at a civil society organization that I am very passionate about called the Palestine-Israel Journal. I was so excited that WOW gave me a chance to be a part of the journal for the summer. Unfortunately, when the internship fell through, and I needed to find a new organization to support my WOW grant.

I tried to secure another internship at similar small social justice organizations in Israel-Palestine, but sadly (in part due to the hectic political climate in Israel and lack of support for civil society organizations), I was not able to fulfill my plan to work at a small civil society NGO. Finally, in early July, I received an internship offer from an organization called Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP). I’ve been working at ALLMEP for the past two weeks!

ALLMEP is an international organization that supports grassroots, people-to-people peacebuilding, and civil society organizations in Israel-Palestine. ALLMEP supports these organizations in myriad ways. The non-Israel-Palestine based international staff mainly advocates to their respective governments for funding for grassroots peacebuilding projects in the region. The regional staff mostly supports and grows the 100+ member organizations (civil society organizations that participate in people-to-people peacebuilding).

Even though I wanted to work for a smaller civil society organization based in the region, I think it’s appropriate that I am now working for an advocacy organization that tries to strengthen and expand those smaller civil society organizations. In my tumultuous internship search, I saw firsthand the problem that ALLMEP tries to fix: that the civil society organizations in Israel-Palestine are gravely under-supported.

In the past two weeks at ALLMEP, I have been responsible for various tasks related to U.S. advocacy. I have been asked to compile literature reviews, one-pagers for congressional advocacy efforts (like a myths and facts document responding to critiques about peacebuilding) and write blog posts to highlight the work of ALLMEP’s member organizations. Hopefully, my work with ALLMEP will help all parties in the region and especially American representatives prioritize people-to-people peace building organizations over the peace process among elites. I also am excited for the chance I will have this upcoming month to work directly with and help strengthen member organizations in the region.

On the first day of my internship, an ALLMEP employee told me that establishing an International Fund for Middle East Peace is “endgame.” Modeled after the International Fund for Ireland (which many have credited for the Good Friday agreements), the International Fund for Middle East Peace would drastically increase the support and amount of people-to-people peacebuilding organizations. All of the blog posts, congressional meetings, and op-eds that ALLMEP produces are, in some way, aimed at establishing this fund. I am excited to help be a part of bringing this fund closer to fruition.

(3) The Meaning of Internships: What They Don’t Tell You

I have always thought that internships were strictly about building my resume. Without work experience on this one sheet of paper, how would I be able to find work after graduation? After interning this summer with Avodah, however, I now realize that internships mean so much more than just the LinkedIn “I’m thrilled to announce…” post. The real meaning gets lost in all the internship hoopla.

During my junior year at Brandeis, I took a class all about internships and making a lasting impression on your organization. The instructor, Jon Schlesinger (who is also the Interim Director of Hiatt) shared something with the class that has stayed in my mind ever since. He said to us, “You should always learn more than you do at your internship.” 

That comment completely shifted my perspective on internships. There I was, thinking that internships were just about how to get ahead in college and secure a full-time job for after senior year. I saw how difficult it actually was to find an internship, and because of the competitive nature of summer internships, I always assumed that when I finally got one, the only thing that I would get out of it was a ticket to the next level. I could not even see an internship as a learning experience because I was so blinded by the fear of not getting one at all. 

That’s a big issue, especially when talking about social justice and building equality for all students as they try to gain work experience. 

However, once I started my internship at Avodah, I began to see how my course instructor’s comment made a lot of sense. I was hired as a recruitment intern at Avodah, but my supervisor (Avodah’s Director of Recruitment), Emily, did not expect me to be a professional recruiter on my first day. Rather, she recognized an internship for what it should be: a give and take between the intern and the organization. Throughout my interview with her on my first day—and honestly, throughout my entire internship—she asked me what wanted to gain out of my experience at Avodah, and based on my answers, she crafted my work schedule to benefit my growth. I was not simply another set of hands to do the work that no one else “more important” had time for. I was not used exclusively for their benefit. They wanted me to learn and become confident in my skills, which transferred over to more enthusiasm and excitement each day at work.

When I look back on these past eight weeks, I realize how lucky I was to be a part of an organization that valued me as an equal employee. I told Emily that I wanted to learn the technical side of recruiting, specifically the interface of Salesforce, so she put me on a project that directly challenged me with that software. I also realized that I have a knack for writing persuasive email campaigns for potential program applicants (after a few trial and error drafts), which I can now speak on in future job interviews. I was also able to bond with my colleagues about our favorite novels, go-to hype music, and vacation plans.

One of my applicant email campaigns!

Most importantly, I learned about the possibilities for my future career. Interning gave me an inside look at what it would be like to actually have a full-time job. That prospect is scary before you actually experience it! I learned what a typical day as a recruiter looks like, but also what a typical day looks like as an employee experience specialist, or as a CEO of a nonprofit, or as an organization’s accountant. Being in a work environment this summer allowed me to stop imagining my post-graduation career as a deep dark hole, and instead helped me see my tangible potential in the working world. 

That’s the goal of an internship.

I wish I had known that my internship experience was only for me, not for anyone who might find my resume on their desk or my LinkedIn connections. My internship was about figuring it all out, not about having it all together before I even started. Why did I feel like I had to have learned it all before I began? 

Internship sites with swag >>

I am very proud of the work I did and the impact I had at Avodah. The culture of this nonprofit organization filled me with joy and lasting meaning. Whether or not I end up recruiting in my future, working at a nonprofit, or drafting email campaigns, I know that my opportunity to learn and grow takes precedent over the fear of failure or uncertainty in the world of work.

(2) Breaking the Barriers of Healthcare Inequalities

While at Brandeis, I have had the opportunity to take classes that have helped me launch my professional journey and will continue to help me in the future. In the classroom, I have learned how to think critically about health inequalities and disparities. In Professor Siri Suh’s “Health, Community, Society: The Sociology of Health and Illness” course, we examined social determinants of health and the relationship between health and medical care. We also discussed the complexities involved through social, political, and economic lenses.

In order to address inequalities in health care and health outcomes, our society must identify and address the “causes of causes,” which include looking at the conditions that shape and give rise to disease. Professor Suh emphasized that these inequalities are mainly along the lines of race, gender, and class. We discussed how policy solutions are to address the “root causes” of these inequalities by looking at poverty and inadequate access to basic health care. Policy solutions could include education, adequate incomes, gainful employment, as well as affordable and adequate housing. In order to fully address health care inequalities, our society must go beyond the surface level of the issues at hand.

This class gave me the sociological perspective I need to be able to think critically about advanced care planning. As I continue to learn about the incredible advancements in the field of public health, it is crucial to be informed of the gaps that still need to be filled. Individuals are struggling to receive comprehensive care and access to the resources needed in end-of-life care. The Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) is working to ensure everyone has a seat at the table when discussing and creating advanced care planning policy. I have had the opportunity to have conversations with a wide array of organizations including the Greater Illinois Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition, Eternally (a telehealth advanced care planning organization), and Hawaii Pacific Health. These conversations continue to address inequalities and disparities by ensuring that all individuals have a voice in and access to advanced care planning. C-TAC is working with an array of organizations in order to put their best foot forward in terms of the policy that is being addressed on both the state and federal level. 

Each week, my intern team creates a podcast titled “A C-TAC Intern Roundtable: A Review of News from the Field.” As interns at C-TAC, our team has been discussing the importance of telehealth in advanced care planning and end-of-life care. Telehealth has given many individuals the opportunity to have conversations about end-of-life planning that may not have been accessible before. But while many people have access to the tools needed for telehealth, many individuals do not, especially in underserved communities. C-TAC is working to address the root causes of these inequalities by pushing policy to create a space where everyone has a seat at the table. 

C-TAC is working to establish multi-faceted solutions in advanced care planning with an ultimate goal of equality in comprehensive health care. C-TAC is working to address these problems from different  perspectives including policy work targeting health equity, interfaith workgroups, and state/community organizing. The knowledge I have gained from my classes at Brandeis has expanded and supported my knowledge of the C-TAC mission to change the health care delivery system.

(2) Considering Social Determinants of Health in Health Advocacy

Through my education at Brandeis as a Health: Science, Society, and Policy major, one topic that I have learned quite a lot about is the social determinants of health. Social determinants of health are the elements present in our society and environments that contribute to someone’s health. They are not controlled by individual behavior, and are largely out of the control of any single person. Social determinants of health can range from somebody’s income, to their race, or to what zip code they live in.

Social Determinants of Health, Health Equity, and Vision Loss | subsection title | section title | site titleIn real-world situations, they may manifest in several ways. A family without much money may not be able to afford healthy foods. Someone living in a poorer neighborhood may not have access to green space and parks. A Black person living in America has to deal with the daily stresses of racism. All of these social factors can have a tremendous impact on our health that is largely out of our personal control. The concept and impact of social determinants of health have been an integral part of many of my HSSP courses, and they have informed my thinking and reasoning in other courses and in the ways that I see the world. 

The idea of social determinants of health is an important lens for viewing the world of public health because it is very beneficial to understand that such a large component of our health is not a matter of personal choice. While we can make individual decisions that impact our well-being, many of the public health problems plaguing our society exist outside of this context. In order to solve our public health crises, we must fix the structural societal problems that contribute to them. 

The concept of social determinants of health informs the health policy advocacy work of my organization, the National Consumers League, in almost everything we do. For example, when advocating for safe, effective, and affordable prescription drugs, there must be an understanding that people need to live in a neighborhood where they can easily stop by their local pharmacy, or even have their drugs delivered. It also involves understanding that rich Americans do not need to worry about affording the drugs that they need like poor and middle class Americans do.

Likewise, when advocating for increased vaccine confidence and uptake, we must understand that people living in certain environments do not hear from trusted medical information sources nearly as much as people who live in other places. There are also people who worry about the cost of a vaccine, whether a direct payment, or the indirect cost of missing work to travel to a faraway vaccination site. To encourage vaccination, we must consider the many social factors that may be contributing to peoples’ hesitancy to get vaccinated.

What I have learned about social determinants of health during my time at Brandeis informs my thinking about every issue in public health and health policy that comes up during my internship, and I never miss a chance to mention to those who I am working with about the importance of considering them. I recently wrote a blog that was published on the National Consumers League’s website about treating gun violence as a public health crisis. While writing this blog, I had the concept of social determinants of health at the front of my mind. Everyone dealing with public health issues would be wise to take a greater consideration of social determinants of health.

(2) Equitable Access to Justice

In my time taking classes and being affiliated with groups such as the Right to Immigration Institute and the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative, I have learned the importance of having equitable access to justice. Ever since I started taking classes in the Politics, Legal Studies and African and African-American Studies departments, a common theme that I have noticed is that inequities in resources, services, education, and healthcare, among other things, lead to systemic injustices. One of my main career goals is to combat such injustices and work to dismantle oppressive systems that disproportionately work against marginalized communities that lack the tools and resources to make substantive changes.

As an aspiring law school student, equitable access to justice has always been significant to me. I believe that no one should have to struggle to have their basic needs met. In the United States and across the world, countless people have little to no access to food, shelter, healthcare, education, and many other basic necessities in the ever-changing world that we live in. I believe that Brandeis has given me the tools and resources to be able to pursue a career that combats inequities in access to justice.

While working at Health and Education for All (HAEFA), I am constantly thinking about how I can contribute to the organization’s goal of providing equitable access to justice in the form of healthcare. I talk to people working at all levels of the organization and try to understand the operations in Rohingya refugee camps, as well as other remote areas in Bangladesh where healthcare is scarce.

I am currently working on a research paper alongside other interns and HAEFA team members to tell the story of their successful cervical cancer screening program. I spoke directly with the founder of the organization to brainstorm ways in which we can tell HAEFA’s success story so that other organizations can model our program in remote areas of Africa and Asia where access to healthcare is limited. Together with the research team, we decided to write and publish a short research paper by the end of the summer. The paper would address the issue of cervical cancer screening across the world and discuss how HAEFA was able to use technology in remote areas of Bangladesh to screen patients from vulnerable populations. Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women in many parts of the world. Having access to a successful screening program would save countless lives.

Thinking about this project in terms of access to justice in the form of healthcare has been very effective. In doing so, we are not only trying to show the world how our program is successful, but we are also attempting to demonstrate how it was so successful so that others can follow our formula. Brandeis University’s focus on social justice has allowed me to think critically about how to approach different assignments throughout this internship. I hope that once the research paper is published, it will allow other organizations to mirror all the incredible work HAEFA has done thus far.

(2) The Intersection Between LGLS 116B and the MDAO Internship Program

This past semester I took Legal Studies 116B: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties: Constitutional Debates. This course, taught by Professor Daniel Breen, explored the history and politics of civil rights and civil liberties within the United States. The course investigated an array of legal topics including privacy, equal protection, and racial discrimination. The course involved reading many landmark Supreme Court cases such as Baker v. Carr, Grutter v. Bollinger and Schenck v. United States. The most important lesson I learned from this course is the impact that past Supreme Court decisions have on the rulings of present-day cases. I learned this not only through lectures but by writing papers in which I would justify certain verdicts with backings from past Supreme Court rulings.

An example of a case read in the course

Learning about the longstanding importance of the verdicts of these cases holds much significance for me. As a student with a passion for history and politics, and with hopes to head to law school after Brandeis, realizing how important and enduring court rulings are reminds me why this is the career path I have chosen. This class taught me that case rulings are important for more than just one person because they set the precedent for future verdicts.

I am grateful that I took this class the semester before my internship with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) began, as the lessons I gained from this class are helping me to navigate both my own tasks at my internship as well as the organization’s work as a whole. At many of our intern training sessions, the district attorney and various assistant district attorneys have talked to us about how important the work of the office is because the office has the ability to dictate the remainder of one’s life.

For example, the office has the power to put a person in jail or prison which, no matter how long the sentence length, can affect the incarcerated person’s life and the life of their family too. The MDAO has expressed to the interns that this decision is not something they take lightly. As part of expressing to the interns the weight of being held pretrial and sentence length, the program will be taking the interns on a tour of the Billerica House of Corrections (with the option of attendance over zoom or in person) at the end of the internship program. Billerica is a jail that serves Middlesex County and offers many different opportunities for prisoners during their time in incarceration. This opportunity is extremely unique and demonstrates how well thought-out the MDAO intern program is. They want us to understand the weight our decisions will have because, similar to court rulings, placing someone in prison or jail is an enduring decision that can affect many.

Although this tour has yet to happen, I am looking forward to the opportunity of expanding my knowledge of the government and the weight that legal decisions carry. The discussions about the importance of our work is something I try to remember everyday as I approach my daily tasks. I remind myself that no matter how big or small my assignment of that day is, it carries weight with it because it has the potential to change and influence the lives of many.

(2) Interrogating the Judicial Selection Process as an Anthropologist

As an undergraduate at Brandeis, and especially as an Anthropology and Gender Studies major, my classes focus on interrogating larger systems that influence our society and shape our relationships. In anthropology, we discuss the “possessive investment in whiteness,” which is an institutionalized frame of mind that empowers society to structure institutions and practices to benefit white people. The possessive investment in whiteness creates the false perception that being white is the norm. By creating an “us/them” dichotomy between white people and non-white people, the United States is able to exploit and harm non-white groups through deeply rooted systems of oppression.

We see the possessive investment in whiteness everywhere, from legacy admissions to the communities that bear the brunt of the climate crisis to the lack of Black and Latina women running Fortune 500 companies. All of these disparities are the result of social systems that directly benefit white people and harm non-white people. While I have always known these truths to some extent, I’d never been taught how to conceptualize them until now. Being able to name these systems of oppression has been instrumental in my understanding of Alliance for Justice’s (AFJ) work to diversify the state and federal judiciary. 

The current racial diversity of the U.S. federal judiciary; graphic created by the American Constitution Society with data collected from Federal Judicial Center.

During my internship, I’ve come to understand that, like all aspects of our bureaucratic system, the judicial selection process is a prime example of a possessive investment in whiteness. Traditionally, nominees are judged in part based on their past experiences, whether it be as a lawyer, a local or state judge, past clerkships, or other jobs. Even when not explicitly named, peoples’ opportunities to obtain these different experiences are often dictated by race, class, and connections. If a prospective judge is able to gain these qualifications, they are recommended to the White House by U.S. senators, or occasionally U.S. congresspeople. However, only 23% of the current U.S. Congress is non-white, with Hispanics making up only 9% of the U.S. House and Asian American and Pacific Islanders making up only 3%, despite accounting for 19% and 6% of the U.S. population respectively. Once selected by the president (who, if we look at history, has been a white man forty-five out of forty-six times), nominees must sit before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a group selected from a senate body that has only had 11 black senators in its 230+ year history. Currently, only eleven out of the one hundred sitting senators identify as a racial or ethnic minority. When a judicial nominee of color sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee, rarely are they addressing people who look like them or hold similar life experiences. 

The entire political and judicial process, going all the way back to Jim Crow-era voter disenfranchisement, works to enable white leadership and suppress people of color from sitting on the federal judiciary or running our nation’s government. This intentional suppression of minority representation has concrete effects on judicial decisions today. In a conversation with AFJ, Justice Halim Dhanidina (a judge on the California Court of Appeals) noted that people who hold marginalized identities are more easily able to recognize when others are being discriminated against. These perspectives are critical in our federal court system, but our nation’s possessive investment in whiteness encumbers individuals with these experiences from being appointed. Through the frameworks I’ve been taught at Brandeis, I am able to scrutinize these systems and am even more energized to push back against them.

(2) The Importance of Working Together

One thing I have learned at Brandeis—especially this past year—has been the importance and joy of working in a group setting with my peers. Given the virtual nature of the school year, I think many professors felt that it was important to create group assignments for students to develop relationships. Before the pandemic, however, this was still a foundation of my learning experience at Brandeis and helped me develop important skills in working with others to complete a goal. Aside from formal group assignments, working with friends and peers to ask questions about assignments or lectures has been a vital way for me to succeed in my assignments and get the most out of a class.

At my internship with Genocide Watch this summer, almost all of my work is done in collaboration with at least one other intern. I am currently working on a Timestream presentation (similar to a PowerPoint) on the ecocide in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro with two other interns—who have been fantastic to collaborate with—in order to learn more about a new issue that we were not familiar with at the start. Having them on my team has been incredibly helpful, not just in learning about the atrocities, but also learning the Timestream platform (which is not very user-friendly). Once this project is finished, it will be posted here. I am also in the planning stages of a project that will be done in collaboration with a few of the other interns to map atrocities committed by the U.S. government against indigenous populations.

Alliance Team meeting on Tuesday discussing outreach to possible new Alliance members

Outside of that formal group setting, I get to work on three different teams: Advocacy, Alliance, and Research. Each team has a group meeting every week where everyone shares what they have been working on and what their goals are for the next week. These meetings are incredibly helpful, not only to keep myself accountable (it is incredibly helpful in a virtual internship to have other people to keep you accountable to finish projects), but to also have a space to ask questions and get inspired by the incredible work that my fellow interns are pursuing. I have also developed a number of relationships with my fellow interns and often work with them, in an unofficial capacity, to read over each other’s work and ask each other questions. This has been extremely helpful, not only from a work perspective, but also to get to know the other interns, which can be difficult when working virtually.

The importance of working with others in the context of genocide prevention has been obvious from the beginning at my internship. Genocide Watch knows that it cannot successfully prevent genocide on its own. We work with many other organizations in the Alliance Against Genocide and with governments to ensure that our work has the greatest possible impact. The ability to work with others in a productive and meaningful way is a vital skill in life to ensure meaningful work in the context of social justice. I know that developing this skill both at Genocide Watch and at Brandeis will be significant in my future professional endeavors.

(2) Community Building with the BEJI

Community is not something that can simply be taught; it must be practiced. At Brandeis, we see community take real form through the actions of professors and students alike in cultivating spaces for sharing, growth, and togetherness. In a year of online classes and social distancing during the pandemic, Brandeis was able to maintain and foster a warm community for its students both in and outside of the classroom. Whether it was professors sharing family recipes with our class to enjoy over break, or pairing students up as check-in buddies amid early days of quarantine, our classrooms shifted and evolved to find new ways to be together. This community nourished and sustained me in ways that were of great significance. As I began to look for summer work, I knew it would be important to find an organization that held the same views on community as I hold personally.

Community-building at Brandeis begins before students even arrive on campus through the help of orientation leaders. And the community-building done at Brandeis has long-lasting impacts as can be seen through its expansive alumni networks, and the effort folks put in to remain involved with campus culture after graduation. We see communities built in the classroom that take on legs to lead groups out far beyond those academic settings. Challenging Brandeis and holding the university accountable have been major results of community-organized efforts for campus-based changes. Community looks different everywhere. But through intentional planning and self-reflection, community has the capacity to be generative in ways individualist and fixed mindsets never could.

Working with the BEJI this summer has meant merging the needs of several communities in order to conduct successful programming for our students and community partners. Bridging the ideas and needs of undergraduate students, graduate students, professors, and faculty into one comprehensive curriculum is no small task. Beyond this, our thirteen-week long workshop is a course taught by Brandeis students and offered to previously incarcerated adults. The diversity of thought and lived experience present in these classrooms demand a level of community-building that my time at Brandeis has well prepared me for cultivating. Taking what I have learned about community from Brandeis has both informed my thinking about my organization and has altered my approach to this internship.

I was at first apprehensive about the services offered by the BEJI. There are real considerations to be made about the efficacy and ethics behind bringing those privileged with access to higher education into learning spaces with those for whom education has been temporarily denied to them due to incarceration. What would this mean for how we would facilitate courses? How would we best be able to know and respond to the needs of our students? As I pondered these questions, I felt encouraged by the virtues of community as demonstrated to me by Brandeis. Community has a large and rather abstract definition. There is strength to this vagueness in that it allows wide-open space for creativity and construction. As I dove into this work, I informed my decisions through the lens of what I thought would best bring about community. 

The act of building community within the BEJI has taken on many forms. Sometimes it’s as small as the ice breaker we lead every session with or the question we discuss in breakout rooms. Though subtle, this act of interpersonal communication is the very work of community-building that initially grew my confidence to participate in college classrooms. In practicing openness and vulnerability with our students, we have created a brave space in which productive and difficult learning can progress effectively.

More explicit examples of the community include the weekly pedagogy conversations I introduced to our team meetings. Attended by our entire team, I saw these meetings as a crucial place to introduce mindful community action. Each week, a member of the team shares out resources ahead of time on a certain topic of pedagogy that relates to identity and incarceration. We then all engage these materials and come prepared to celebrate our facilitator and converse on the topic. These conversations redefine our commitment to our work and solidify the community investment we have in making change. 

I like to think about community as a network of overlapping lines and arcs. There are no hard edges or dead ends in the paths the communities grow on. In the development of the BEJI this summer, my own community has grown massively. It is my intention to continue this work of community growth and reflection throughout my time with the BEJI, and I believe that doing so will result in an overgrowth of compassion and connection amongst the wonderful folks that make our BEJI community what it is.

(2) Fighting Interlocking Forms of Injustice

As a Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy double major, I’ve taken a plethora of Brandeis classes that have shown me how systemic injustice is. Although injustice manifests in every street corner and neighborhood of our country, every person is impacted differently as a result of how they are situated within intersecting contexts of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. I’ve found myself drawn to the concept of the social determinants of health and the importance of understanding how one’s identity and where they live can greatly impact their health and life chances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how social, racial, political, and economic forces are shaping our health outcomes. At the start of the pandemic, some referred to it as the “Great Equalizer” because they believed that everyone was equally susceptible to the virus. However, this reality could not be further from the truth. We have seen that Black and Brown people have died at much higher rates than White people due to where they work, underlying health conditions, and race-based disparities that limit access to health care and other resources. We are all in the same storm, but we are definitely not in the same boat.

Understanding the root causes of systemic forms of oppression is essential in order to bring about social justice for all. As I’ve been at Brandeis, I’ve noticed my classes becoming more focused on intersectionality across issues, rather than taking a single-issue approach. In my “Sociology of Empowerment” course, we read an article that has stayed with me beyond the duration of the course. The article, “If We Don’t Solve Racial Injustice, We’ll Never Solve the Climate Crisis,” draws parallels between racial and climate injustice to say that they are rooted in the same systemic oppression. As a result, communities of color often face the disproportionate impact of climate change, and therefore face unequal health outcomes as a result. One powerful quote from the article reads: “…being dominated and exploited to serve a wealthy white few is something Black people share with the planet.” Climate justice is racial justice. This article makes it clear that we can’t bring about climate justice without bringing about racial justice, and realizing the links between the two. Social justice movements are often viewed in silos, which is holding us back from achieving an intersectional form of justice.

From my time at Oxfam America so far, it has become increasingly clear how an organization can fight oppression through an approach that focuses on interlocking forms of oppression. Oxfam addresses the injustice of poverty by working on land rights, women’s rights, climate change, and human rights. There is collaboration between these teams, and they work to address the root causes of poverty simultaneously. For instance, the gender team in my department does research on how women laborers are being impacted by climate change and land grabs by corporations. Without linking these issues, there is so much that gets left out of the story.

While taking on various projects, I try to stay grounded in an approach that draws parallels between issues. Oxfam’s work is intersectional and truly speaks to how we can’t achieve justice by solely focusing on one form of oppression at a time. Since oppression is systemic and intersectional, the best way to promote social justice is to fight for systemic and intersectional solutions in a way that advocates for those who are most marginalized.

(2) Community Engagement and Empowerment in Public Health

At the beginning of each semester, the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) conducts a training for the coordinators of the Waltham Group. The training I received during the spring semester of my sophomore year was only a few days before my interview with the Color of Health (COH). This session was led by Dr. Allyson Livingstone, the previous director of DEI Education, Training, and Development. Dr. Livingstone discussed topics including community engagement and community mobilization. The purpose of this training is to provide students with the tools and skills to help move toward equitable outcomes for those in our community, as well as those in the ones we serve. The lessons I learned about community engagement and mobilization have been extremely relevant and valuable for my work at the COH.

One thing I learned in this training that has been reinforced in my anthropology and HSSP classes is that community engagement in public health is imperative for successful initiatives. Public health project agendas are primarily determined and set by outside organizations, and the community members these initiatives are trying to serve are often marginalized and left out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most. Community engagement is a process that seeks to better engage all members and groups affiliated with an issue being addressed. Doing so will achieve more long-term and sustainable outcomes as the processes are sensitive to the context of the community. Each person who is affected by the issue that impacts their community should be involved in the decision-making process.

Similarly to community engagement, community mobilization engages the larger population in a community-wide effort to address a health or social issue. In addition to creating a space for collaborative efforts, community mobilization empowers individuals and groups to take action and lead efforts to facilitate the change they want to see. This may include mobilizing resources, disseminating information, and fostering cooperation across the community. 

The goal of the COH is to mobilize the communities of color in NYC to take control of their health and to feel empowered in doing this. Health empowerment encourages people to gain greater control over the decisions affecting their lives and health through education and motivation. This can be a great way to enhance health and improve community health in a sustainable way. Prioritizing community engagement and community mobilization is something I think about consistently when contributing to the development of public health programs in the organization. As someone who is not a member of the communities we serve, I prioritize ensuring effective communication with the populations to maximize our impact.

Health education series about managing diabetes at home.

Community mobilization informs my work at the COH as it makes me wonder how we can better use our resources to bring members of the community together to share their experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Additionally, we center our programs around health education and discussing how community members can manage their health at home and what they can do to feel empowered when seeking care.

Each time I meet with my supervisor to discuss my project regarding increasing the uptake rate of HIV PrEP among Black women, I ask and think about how we can make our work more inclusive in order to improve engagement. This includes providing a space where people can make their voices heard and can engage in dialogue to feel connected and empower each other. 

(2) JDI’s Intersectional Approach to Anti-Violence Work

One concept that I have learned at Brandeis that has made an incredible impact on my approach to anti-violence and anti-oppression work–and shapes the work that I am doing as a part of my internship at Jane Doe Inc. (JDI)–is Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality. Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how the multiple identities that an individual holds can impact their lived experiences. In her article Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color, Crenshaw describes intersectionality as the experience of being situated between multiple forms of discrimination or domination through holding more than one marginalized identity. Specifically, Crenshaw discusses “the various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color.” In this example, Crenshaw describes how violence against women of color is shaped not just by race or gender, but rather by the combination of the two. This intersection makes the violence that women of color experience different and unique from violence against white women or Black men.

Crenshaw’s framework not only shows us why those with intersecting identities are experiencing violence at disproportionate rates, but it also shows us that anti-violence work needs to be approached with an intersectional framework in order to better address the needs of those that are experiencing the most violence. Crenshaw makes it clear that to mitigate violence, we need intersectional intervention strategies that address not only the needs of white women, but specifically the needs of those that are experiencing violence because of the intersections of their identities. 

During my time at Brandeis, I have been deeply involved in various social justice and social equity projects, both through my involvement in student groups and through my positions at the Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center. As I have gained more experience with anti-violence and anti-oppression work, I have come to realize how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and sustain themselves within our society, and cause interpersonal, structural, and institutional violence. My work in anti-violence movements has taught me that all oppressions are linked, and that in order to challenge the violence that is occurring, we must approach it from an intersectional perspective.

In viewing sexual and domestic violence within this intersectional framework and as a tool of oppression that perpetuates the inequality in our community, I see my involvement in mitigating sexual and domestic violence as also disrupting other forms of oppression, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism. 

JDI’s 2021-2022 Policy Framework

One of the reasons that I am so interested in JDI’s work specifically is that they approach disrupting institutionalized violence from this intersectional perspective. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues isolated to sexual and domestic violence, but rather encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, and education and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because they understand that in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from an organization that approaches anti-violence work from this perspective.

(1) Celebrating LGBTQ Pride in Education

I currently work for Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity as an LGBTQ student support intern. I chose this internship because my professional goal is to assist students with marginalized identities in navigating academic and social settings. Much of my student-facing experiences have been centered in supporting more racial and socioeconomic-based inequities within education. This new position will further shape my thinking around intersectional educational inequity and addressing bias based on gender and sexuality, in order to evolve how we support our queer students in educational spaces.

This office investigates issues of harassment and bias, in addition to providing training and counseling around issues of equity. As part of my role, I assist in data collection for our training modules and maintain our social media platforms (Instagram and Discord server). Our social channels are sources for student engagement through which we create space for LGBTQ youth to express their experiences and socialize in monthly check-ins and the end-of-summer Back to School Kick off.

A major moment for us was celebrating LGBTQ pride month and attending the Trans Resistance March in June. The outward expression and unapologetic pride reflected by the number of staff, faculty and students in attendance from Boston Public Schools spoke to the inclusive environment we seek to establish and maintain.

One BPS assistant principal’s key takeaway was that, ultimately, our individual political beliefs should never permeate or even be introduced in our classrooms. She notes, “Our students’ lives are not political. Your personal politics leave when you enter the school building.” I find this significant in how we reimagine education and schooling as a space for all students to learn and grow both academically and personally. Our office works to remind students that they have the right to exist as their full selves as they evolve, and our job as educators is to support and nurture this evolution. We emphasize class culture as a facilitator of support beyond the symbolism of rainbow flags or other superficial signs of support. Rather, we invest in supporting inclusive pedagogical practices. This looks like actively disinvesting in gendered spaces and creating spaces that encourage students to reconsider gender outside of a binary. A basic example of this is in our sexual health curriculum and our adjustments in language and content that move away from boy/girl distinctions, and instead introduce non-binary, intersex and LGBTQ history.

More optimistic future goals will be to move away from strictly gendered bathrooms and provide more agender bathrooms, and changing spaces throughout schools. I find that Boston Public Schools continues to think critically about the protection of LGBTQ employees and students through their district-wide and school policies. Much of the work we do is based off of the feedback we get from students in individual conversations, and our community discussions about how we can better serve our students’ needs as school leaders, administrators, and furthermore as an office .

(2) Social Networks are Key in Sociology and in Recruitment Strategies

As a Sociology and Anthropology double major, as well as a double minor in Creativity, the Arts, & Social Transformation (CAST) and Social Justice & Social Policy (SJSP) at Brandeis, I am constantly examining the power of people and social networks in my classes. My classmates, professors and I discuss the systems and patterns of society that make up human lived experience, and how different experiences and histories of oppression, connection, and privilege create unequal opportunities for communities around the world. 

In these discussions, we often speak about social justice, and how different social movements, both grassroots and political, have reshaped human history and have combated against violence. When engaging in social justice work, and especially in social movements, belief in the movement and passion for equality drive people to seek action. Oftentimes, it is also one’s social network and connections with people who are already involved in a movement that propels them to fight for social change. 

In the Brandeis class “Protest, Politics, and Change: Social Movements,” which I took during the spring of my junior year, we read from a book that discussed this very topic. Our relationships with our personal networks truly shape how we act and behave, and it is often a person that initially guides us towards social change, rather than an overwhelming belief and passion for a movement.

This is a challenging thing to recognize since we want to believe that our agency and lived experience propels us to seek social justice, which is true, but the networks around us have a strong influence on our decisions as well. This may come in the form of a friend taking you to your first protest, going with a group of your friends to join a Waltham Group at Brandeis, or in my case, seeing my cousin work at the sexual violence prevention center at Brandeis—the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center or PARC—and wanting to join that team of people. It was that team of people that got me through the door at PARC, but it is my developed passion for sexual violence prevention that has kept me in the room, working towards anti-violence practices on college campuses.

You may be wondering: what do social networks and social justice have to do with being a recruitment intern at Avodah? 

In my short time working at Avodah and seeing the recruitment process, one aspect of the process that really sticks out to me is the need for relationship building, networking, and the utilization of current networks. Avodah’s recruitment strategy utilizes the technique of “word-of-mouth” advertising. The majority of people who participate in the Service Corps program, as well as people who are connected to Avodah, have heard about Avodah from someone they know, or have known someone who did the Service Corps program. Yes, I also message people on LinkedIn and Handshake and send out emails to connectors around the Jewish community, but the recruitment team asks staff to really dive into their own personal networks and refer people to our program. 

Visit https://avodah.net/stories/ to read the stories of past Corps Members, and how Avodah shifted their social justice trajectory.

Why is this technique so much more effective than other forms of recruitment? Well, it is exactly about what I shared earlier: social networks and relationships with the people around us guide our decisions and passion for social movements. People may not be as inclined to join the Service Corps if they do not know about someone else’s experience participating in the program. People may be way more excited to join Avodah if they know someone they trust and admire who has raved about the experience of working with an Avodah placement and living communally with members their age. Sometimes we just need someone to get us in the door, and recruitment at Avodah recognizes that.

Social justice work can be exhausting and time-consuming, but also extremely rewarding. And when you have a community and support around you, the work feels much less daunting and more enjoyable with the right social network. Avodah offers young people the opportunity to expand their networks with like-minded people, encourage the continuation of social justice work, and influence more and more social justice leaders.

(2) Learning About Organizational Structure

During my time at Brandeis, mostly in my business classes, I have learned about hierarchy and organizational structure. I have learned about titles and what those mean to people. I have found that the classic organizational structure, while effective at overseeing projects, does not always treat the individual as a valued human that has equal importance to the organization. I have learned that an organization’s structure has a time and place and is hard to eliminate altogether. These systems assign pay, responsibility, and much more. They also create a workflow that divides tasks in an efficient and goal-oriented fashion.

Yet these same setups can create tension among coworkers. Competition arises, as does frustration, when somebody on a team underperforms. Yes, I have learned this in my classes, but I have also learned this by working on teams in and out of the classroom. When a leader arises, it is appreciated but creates fear that some folks may get less credit than the leader or leaders. Structures are not always equitable even when they mean that the task will get done and even get done well. Theoretically, a group project in a class can often be done by one person, but that is not the point of the project. With that, I have learned that when organizations, professors, or even social circles build structures, the end goal must not be the entire focus. It should also impact everyone involved.

Slack messages showing a supportive team!

When I was looking for an internship, I wanted to find a group of people that equally prioritized productivity and the people working for the company. At my initial interview, my boss described the structure of SuitUp as divisional but everyone chips in when needed. I liked that this was project-driven, which meant everyone on a team felt valued, and also that the work got done. I had read this article from Indeed before my internship and I found that it explained many structures very well and why some work and others do not. I have found that my boss was right—everyone, including interns, feel valued and important at SuitUp. In brainstorming meetings, company meetings, and even external calls, no one person dominates the conversation. Wins are group wins, and when we mess up, everyone takes responsibility and moves on.

Despite having managers, there is a very flat-feeling hierarchy. This is empowering certainly to interns, but I imagine it is for the full-time team as well. There is a divide and conquer mentality, and when we need support—even across teams—we ask. This has resulted in a very supportive family-oriented team (see picture – names blurred for privacy). I have realized that, like the Indeed article says, this is hard to scale. I am curious to see how this goes as SuitUp grows and the need for more leadership structures does as well. I am walking away from this experience noticing more than ever that intentionality with structures matters, as does the upkeep as teams change.

(2) Disability & Pride Justice In Politics

One relevant topic I learned about and became interested in at Brandeis after taking “Polling the American Public” was about gender inequality in relation to politics. Our class discussions about gender inequality emphasized the need for more women in politics. As a young black woman, I noticed there weren’t enough people who looked like me in office and political positions of power. Through this I was also able to think about other groups of people that were left out or not recognized as much when it came to politics. Politics to me is a discussion and distribution of resources that can shift depending on the power dynamics in place. Though it involves a system of elected officials and leaders, power is distributed, and the leader’s background can significantly influence the way decisions are made for members of a given community. 

Image from Access Your Life

July marks Disability Pride Month, and similar to my inside and out-of-class experiences that explored groups of people that were not always given the spotlight they deserved inside of politics, I decided to look into elected officials, leaders, and activists who were disabled and identified with Pride and were still having to navigate these identities when engaging with politics. 

Bringing this month and its purpose into perspective influenced my focus on the necessity of different perspectives. These perspectives aren’t always seen as the norm in politics, and it’s important that they are brought to light inside of the political realm and the greater society as a whole. By doing this work, I was allowed to see political leaders who I had never encountered and the great work they were doing in and outside of the communities they lived in. I was also able to participate in activities such as word searches, speaker seminars, discussions, and deconstructing the norm of what politics is and the possibility of what it can become. 

This internship experience and the work we are engaging with this summer will help me to determine future career possibilities as a young woman of color interested in politics. Through the speaker seminars and interviews with women, disabled individuals, and people who identify with Pride inside of the internship, I am broadening my horizons into the different realms and depths of politics.

Overall, this informs my approach to my internship and the work we are engaging with over the course of the summer. Outside of my time here, I am intrigued and feel encouraged to engage with all kinds of people inside of politics. This is important to me because I am a person who values diversity and accepting people of all backgrounds and the differences they come with. This experience encourages me to dive deeper into a career in this realm, since I will be exploring the inequalities inside of politics in terms of different forms of representation and challenging the old, outdated, and original norms and expectations that come with holding office and being seen as a leader inside of your community. This demonstrates that leadership comes in a variety of forms and is not a monolith. 

Power In Place Newsletter #5

(2) From Class to Office

This school year has certainly been like no other. We went from our physical textbooks to reading pdfs online, waking up an hour before class to ten minutes before zoom, and we said our hellos and goodbyes to our friends, unsure if they’d be our last.

I spent most of the semester in my room studying and attending class, or at the Gosman gym. My schedule became eat, sleep, train, repeat. I began to feel the pangs of burnout, frustration, and tiredness. One of the skills I’ve picked up during my time at Brandeis is the skill of de-stressing. Our lives as college students and part-time workers are already busy enough, but many of us also have extracurriculars, run clubs, or work an on-campus job in addition to our school work. I was so busy trying to balance my academics and varsity training that I almost forgot to relax, to de-stress.

I recruited my roommate, who was kind enough to destress with me after classes. We’d go on walks, go to the dining hall and eat full meals together, and take electronic breaks together. It became our routine until the end of the semester.

My internship is fully remote with over 120 student collaborators in four different time zones. I knew I would have no problem addressing the workload, but I knew my areas of improvement would need to be in de-stressing and putting the computer down. Starting out in the internship, I found myself working almost two full-time jobs in the first week, and I thought to myself, “If I continue at this rate, I might not make it.” In addition to my full-time internship, I was also training for the USA Fencing National Championships, and as soon as I was done with my assignments for the day I would go straight to the gym with little to no break.

As challenging as it was, I had to learn to shut the computer off at 6pm. Regardless of time zones, assignments to be continued, or sending one last email, things had to be wrapped up. Otherwise, I’d be overwhelmed.

Politics is already a fast-paced and 24/7 environment and there is little time for breaks, let alone full-on stops. We see politicians campaign for a year hitting major cities every week while they barely have time for their own families. Judges are spending all of their time writing and asking questions for their next cases. Wide-eyed recent law graduate are doing endless research for their first case.

The skill to de-stress and rest is a crucial one.

Power in Place is focused on highlighting the stories of women in American politics through photojournalism. Projects such as photography and other artistic mediums as forms of storytelling and advocacy are things that take time and require patience. It’s an interesting combination of detailed work in a fast-paced arena. Working in the best of both worlds really does emphasize the important of de-stressing.

As our long term projects continue, we also bring in external speakers, one of whom was a campaign coach. In her presentation to us, one of her biggest tips to potential candidates was compartmentalization and de-stressing. Running a campaign is challenging, and as often as they make their campaigns about the potential constituents, they should also make time for themselves.

(2) The Challenges of Advocacy

Throughout sociology and social policy classes at Brandeis, as well as other advocacy experiences, I’ve learned that progress is slow and not always linear. In democracies, progress is often slow because of the amount of voices and opinions being debated. Although having more voices can make change slow, I still see this kind of collaboration as positive. The more voices and arguments you hear, the more informed you can become on an issue.

My classes at Brandeis have centered on the importance of discussions with people holding different viewpoints and life experiences. This learning is significant for me as someone who wants to go into a career related to advocacy work. Advocates for any social issue must gather lots of people and information to share with the public and legislators to explain to them the problem they would like to solve, as well as possible solutions. 

Social problems do not have quick fixes because many of them are intersecting and are fueled by longstanding systems and ideologies that some people do not want to reform or abolish. At Brandeis, I took a class on social movements where I learned about their complexities. Social movements and their advocacy may not always be straightforward because people within movements may have different ideas for solving the social issues they are focused on. For example, some people may favor legislative advocacy while others are more interested in solving problems without government intervention. 

These ideas about progress and advocacy have informed my thinking about the work of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). I now understand the need for the multi-pronged approach that lawyers at MLRI use to help low-income and BIPOC families that have been hurt by social institutions. MLRI’s homepage explains that they work on “impact litigation, policy advocacy, coalition building, community lawyering, and public information.” This approach allows MLRI’s team of advocates and lawyers to make reforms by advocating for policy changes to legislators while also pursuing litigation directly targeted at social institutions themselves when they have showed clear violations that are hurting the people they are supposed to help. 

These ideas I have learned about advocacy inform my work with the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition by putting me into the mindset that collaboration is the best way to handle the current and future issues of child welfare in the state. However, progress takes a long time as advocates need to prepare arguments and data, and must have many meetings with each other and legislators in order to make a substantial positive impact. 

Massachusetts Legislature Homepage

Collaboration can be especially difficult when it comes to legislative advocacy because of the way politics work. Although legislators are elected officials, they do not always understand the depth and scope of the problems that their constituents want them to fix. It then becomes the job of impacted individuals or advocates to provide the necessary information to legislators to prove to them that the problems exist, and to present possible legislative solutions. The media can also help spread information about the work of coalitions and advocates, like in this article where the attorney I work with at my internship is quoted.

As my internship continues, I am becoming increasingly excited about the work the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition is doing to help families impacted by the child welfare system. The child welfare system can be very messy and complicated, but I am grateful to be working with such outstanding advocates who are working their hardest to change the system for the better. 

(1) The Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative

Our newly designed program logo

This summer, I am interning for the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. The BEJI is a new initiative dedicated to engaging in liberatory practices, fostering educational access for those who have been exposed to or interacted with incarceration. Centered in a collegiate setting, this unique initiative joins the facilitation and methodological skills of Brandeis professors with the innovative and interdisciplinary minds of undergraduate and graduate students. The program currently offers a series of workshops directed at adults and adolescents who have been impacted by the justice system and incarceration.

Through a series of courses and workshops taught by graduate and undergraduate students, the BEJI creates new pathways to education for those for whom the right to education has been denied or delayed. In the coming months, new pilot programs will seek to increase campus awareness of the need for justice reform, and expand services to youth involved in incarceration. 

My work this summer is directly related to the facilitation of our Partakers Empowerment Program and internal research on educational praxis and initiative advancement. The Partakers Empowerment Program is a thirteen-week course offered to adults who were previously incarcerated. Covering six learning modules, the class engages material spanning from financial literacy and professionalism to health and wellness, education, technology, and civic engagement. My unique participation in this program is to serve as the teaching assistant to the educational workshops. Together with my team, we have created a curriculum that addresses the specific needs of those previously incarcerated who are interested in education.

Part of what has been so rewarding about this program is continuously adapting our curriculum to better reflect the needs of our students from cohort to cohort. Now in our second iteration, my role has expanded from gathering educational resources and preparing them to facilitating lesson plans and prompting internal conversations about best practices for meaningful learning with our students.

In addition to this work, I am actively conducting research on how to make our program as successful and accessible as possible. Some of this work includes literature reviews on programs similar to ours and the construction of a new orientation program to be offered to onboarded volunteers this fall. These are small steps that will have a large impact on how our program is run and ensuring we do so in an accountable manner.

A portion of our first newsletter

In order to expand the equitable and accessible goals of our program, I am also part of the teams at the BEJI who are building a website and newsletter for the initiative. Again, these are crucial steps towards making our programs and resources available to a wider audience. The images I have included in this blog are from our most recent newsletter. The logo featured in this post is brand new and is one I was responsible for creating. I am so excited to see the effect this newsletter will have in drawing students, faculty, and Boston community members alike to the BEJI.

The BEJI offers a dynamic and robust series of programs. What I have loved most about interning here is how these programs make my day-to-day responsibilities just as nuanced and engaging. As an education major, I recognize the inequities that exist in our education system. It is my belief that while making a change in this field, we must center and work from those who have been most marginalized by the world of education. For people who have experienced incarceration, access to education has been challenged. The carceral continuum, as it stands, actively interrupts and prematurely ends people’s access to education. The BEJI recognizes the power of education and is deeply invested in providing pathways to education for reentering citizens. It is because of the alignment between the BEJI’s mission statement and my own ethos on education that interning with the BEJI has been so fulfilling academically and personally.

(1) FREE THE PEOPLE, FREE THE LAND

This summer, I have the ability to do a social justice internship with People’s Programs Oakland. People’s Programs is a grassroots Black socialist political organization that is fighting to make sure that all members of the community in Oakland–especially in West Oakland–are being served. The organization is growing and expanding the services they offer in order to aid more people. One of the policies I stand by most strongly is making sure to take care of the most marginalized people in order to free or care for all. People’s Program’s motto is “Free the People, Free the Land,” and that is why I feel as if our politics align. I have been able to support them with their free breakfast program, community learning program, and assisting with the start of their mobile clinic. I am now working on the logistics of their first community event, which will be an open mic night.

So far, we have been able to serve the homeless communities with hot meals, hygienic supplies, and items that we receive in donations, along with a free grocery program and the mobile clinic. Since COVID is alive and well, I have been doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for the organization. Some of my tasks consist of reordering items for our inventory, scheduling and conducting interviews with people who would like to become volunteers, and creating flyers to promote events, among other activities.

I am enjoying acquiring skills that I never thought would be needed in a grassroots organization. For example, I now have a new way to organize my schedule that includes space and time for recovering. When doing work that is grounded in liberation, you can encounter a lot of opposing views and barriers when resources are needed. However, with the mentorship of my coworkers, I have come to realize that the work we do needs to be done with or without us, so it is important to be able to care for your mental and physical state at all costs.

In addition to the work I’ve been doing to assist them, I am a member of their political education program. I appreciate the way they emphasize the importance of reading and engaging with the work that has already been done. This is an area of my work that I feel strong in since I am currently in school. In the last year, I have done related reading because of my engagement with Black Feminist Thought in academia.

One of the practices that I have embraced would be grounding myself in the workday by making a daily list to keep me on track and help me to prioritize my non-negotiables. I have been making sure to eat right and fuel my body with knowledge and power through the work I do to help the core team. Then, to round out my day, I enjoy sending a quick progress checklist to my manager to update her on the work I completed.

(1) Advocating for Culturally-Competent Care

This summer I am continuing my internship at the Color of Health (COH) as the Public Health Research Director. COH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in New York City that seeks to provide access to culturally-competent health education, resources, and initiatives to communities of color in the city. The organization aims to mobilize and empower these communities so that they are able to reach optimal health and wellness. 

I have been working at the organization for a little over a year now and have found the experience to be inspiring, educational, and fulfilling. I was interested in joining an organization that was committed to addressing health inequities among communities of color while prioritizing the populations’ needs. It is clear that the members of the organization understand that when designing and implementing public health initiatives, the most effective outcomes are produced when the community’s needs are truly heard and prioritized. At Brandeis, I study Health: Science, Society, and Policy, Biology, and Anthropology, and I wanted to find an organization that had an interdisciplinary approach to their public health programs. As an Anthropology minor, I find it important that those implementing public health interventions have a connection with the target communities and make them feel heard and validated. The public health initiatives created by COH are uniquely tailored to each impacted community, with the goal being to mobilize, inspire, and advocate for culturally-competent health care. I have really enjoyed watching how each board member takes lead on their projects with such excitement and passion. The connection they have to their communities is evident in their work.

A workbook created by The Color of Health which aims to increase knowledge of routine screenings and improve patient-provider communication

When I began the internship, my mentor gave me the opportunity to choose a project I would be interested in contributing to. During my time at Brandeis, I have become very interested in exploring the social aspects of infectious disease and why disparities exist among populations. This interest aligned well with my mentor’s expertise in sexual health, so I proposed a project aimed at addressing the disparity in the uptake of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (an HIV prevention medication) among Black women. I am now developing a workshop targeted at healthcare providers to raise awareness of the low uptake rates that exist. I will also be expanding upon this project to further understand why disparities exist in healthcare provided to Black Women in regards to sexual health and HIV.

Another role I have as an intern is contributing to the organization’s social media presence. This includes creating posts and sharing relevant information and content about health-related topics that affect communities of color.

This summer, I hope to apply and integrate what my courses at Brandeis have taught me about public health and the role social determinants have in it. My goal is to use what I have learned to implement a public health campaign that will have a sustainable, positive impact on the community. Through this work, I also anticipate that I will gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process as it relates to research in the social sciences. Overall, I believe my experience at COH will continue to strengthen my resilience and build upon my problem-solving skills, as I expect to be met with obstacles throughout my work. I have found this work to be so meaningful and am loving every minute with the organization.

(1) Cracking Cold Cases and the Importance of Small Tasks

This summer I have privilege of working as an undergraduate intern for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office (MDAO), which serves the largest county in New England. The MDAO works to protect and serve those living in this area. The office engages in investigations, prosecution, and victim advocacy, as well as crime prevention, in order to create a safer county. Part of the reason I was passionate about interning for this specific office is because the work of the MDAO goes beyond prosecution; they work daily to address issues such as domestic violence and elder safety.

As an aspiring lawyer who is passionate about understanding the criminal justice system, I chose this particular field with the hopes of gaining firsthand experience in the realm of government and law, specifically in terms of crime prevention and how the criminal justice system functions. I am lucky enough to say that after my first month with the office, I already feel that I am on my way to achieving this educational goal. Part of the reason I feel I have already learned so much is because of the weekly intern trainings put on by the office. I have attended many of these sessions over the past month, including ones focused on juvenile court, diversion, and legal writing. At each of these sessions, different members of the office–including many Assistant District Attorneys–speak to us about their journey and their work. These sessions have already given me the glimpse into the everyday workings of the criminal justice system that I was looking for.

My work set up!

The MDAO works to combat multiple forms of social injustice, which, as a minority myself, is very important to me. One of the main forms of social injustice that the office addresses is racism, specifically racism within the criminal justice system. Throughout the past month, I have learned about many of the organization’s strategies for addressing racism, one of the best being office-wide trainings on the subject. As an intern, I have had the privilege of participating in two of these trainings, which have further opened my eyes to how racism penetrates the everyday workplace–specifically the criminal justice system.

As an undergraduate intern for the MDAO, I have been placed in the cold case unit. The cold case unit was developed in 2019 by current District Attorney Marian Ryan and works to re-examine uncharged cases across Middlesex County. I am currently responsible for digitizing decades-old cold cases. While this project may seem minuscule, after working on it for a month, I understand why it is so important. Without the digitization of these unsolved cases, the office cannot utilize new technologies to re-examine cases, which is critical to providing answers. Once my project is complete, the office will be able to re-investigate these cases in new ways and hopefully have the same level of success as they did in January 2019 when they solved the 50-year-old murder of a Harvard graduate student. I feel honored to have a part in working to bring justice to these families who still do not have clear answers about what happened to their loved ones.

(1) Lowell Court Service Center: Bridging the Gap to Justice

The Lowell Justice Center in the city’s Canal District. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The Lowell Court Service Centers were created out of an “access-to-justice” study, which found that there exists a significant gap in achieving justice in the family court system due to differences in access to legal aid and knowledge. Lower-income populations that would represent themselves in family court more often encountered difficulties understanding and navigating the courtroom, as well as following proper legal procedure, compared to those with access to lawyers or legal aid. The majority of those that come to the court service centers for help systematically are not able to afford legal representation or guidance, and are consequently placed at a disadvantage in ensuring their own quality of life.

Dysfunction and generational inequalities is what necessitates families to seek help with Family Court, but our current justice system punishes those that inevitably are not able to transcend that dysfunction into proper legal self-representation. Effectively, the system that is set up to solve issues for families is also the system that subliminally punishes them for their issues. The access-to-justice study found that the solution of a center where help was guaranteed for free would alleviate the gap that persists in the justice system in which capital and access to legal aid often does more to help than the justice system itself. 

The court service centers aims to aid lower-income self-representing individuals with the correct petitions, access to language interpreters, and knowledge in how to navigate and work the family court system. I am responsible for helping clients file for domestic violence petitions, child support and custody petitions, restraining orders, eviction defenses, and divorces. Many of these litigants come in with emergency situations in which they need emergency temporary orders, but lack the access to the knowledge or help to receive them. They are dealing with monumental events in their lives, but are unable to effectively navigate a court system that is made to be complex, formulaic and oftentimes unsympathetic to the multifaceted issues litigants face in and around the home. I aid these clients with the legal filing process and inform them on the case process while offering language support and legal knowledge on the way.

The small steps that are leading to the closing of that gap of access to justice are the individuals who are representing themselves in the most efficient way and are ensured justice and fair representation due to the help from the court service centers. The court service centers are free and public alternatives to the high costs of legal aid that deter many lower-income families from ever receiving justice with family court. In this way, the justice system is becoming more equitable as the court service centers strips away the layers of classism and income discrimination that dominate court. Progress will be when the factors of wealth and privilege are stripped of their grip on the justice system, where representation is guaranteed and legal procedures are made understandable and accessible to people of all walks of life. 

(1) Igniting Social Change with Avodah, One Spreadsheet at a Time

Avodah’s tagline is “Sparking Jewish Leaders, Igniting Social Change.” The crux of Avodah–the internship site where I am working this summer–is in that statement. 

Avodah is a nonprofit organization working towards economic, racial, and social justice through their Jewish Service Corps program, Justice Fellowship, and Community Engagement work and workshop curricula. The entire mission of the organization is to provide resources, support, empowerment, and sustainability for young Jewish leaders to engage in social justice work for their long-term futures. Through their three programs, Avodah aims to build Jewish social justice leaders up, while providing the funds and professional development for their Corps Members and Fellows. I am lucky to get to add to their programs during my summer as their Recruitment Intern.

Avodah’s flagship program, the Jewish Service Corps, is where I am helping the recruitment team during my internship this summer. Service Corps is a year-long service program which provides subsidized, communal housing (or as Avodah calls the housing, Bayits, the Hebrew word for home) in different cities in the United States, including New York City, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Chicago, and most recently, San Diego. Corps members are matched with job placements that directly partner with Avodah, which all engage in anti-poverty work in different fields: legal aid, immigration advocacy, health services, housing aid, food support, and many others. A placement that stands out to me is Brave House, an NYC organization that supports young immigrant women who are survivors of gender-based violence. Corps members are integral to these organizations. Rather than being treated like temporary interns or volunteers, they have full-time jobs with their organization, but are placed through Avodah and receive monthly stipends according to their city. 

Picture of four Corps Members reading together, with a text over them that says, “Find your place in justice movements.”

The program is much more than just working at Corps members’ placements, which already has members engaging in social justice work every day for a year. Corps members live with each other in their Bayits and cook, clean, support, and learn with one another. They plan Shabbat meals together, have weekly Bayit meetings, and get to participate in different social justice, adulting, and community workshops with Avodah staff. Currently, Avodah is creating a JOC Bayit, a Bayit specifically for Jews of Color, in order to foster an empowering and safe space for Jews of Color who may not have had safe experiences in Jewish spaces in the past. In sum, Service Corps is a year of working, living, and learning altogether, while simultaneously building the tools for sustainable, long-term social justice activism. 

Avodah’s two other programs, Justice Fellowship and Community Engagement, also provide tools to build long-term activism for people already engaged in social justice work, as well as for community leaders who seek guidance in building Jewish workshop curricula. Avodah’s Fellowship occurs during evenings and weekends, and the Community Engagement work includes resources that can be accessed asynchronously. Regardless of time, Avodah will support and help social justice leaders, as well as leaders-in-the-making.

I was immediately drawn to Avodah for their clear stance on social justice, professional development, and joy along the journey. When I think of social justice work, I often think about activist burnout and compassion-fatigue. I want to engage in this work, but I fear that I may do it in an unsustainable way, which will negatively impact my long-term ability to stay in the activist world. However, Avodah proactively understands this reality for many activists, and they created an entire program to teach young leaders the steps to engage in social justice work sustainably and with excitement, rather than burnout. A significant part of their Service Corps program is to laugh, debrief, and learn with other members, including on topics of Jewish values, money tips, and other meaningful subjects. I can see the incredible work Avodah does to promote joy in social justice, as well as empower young people to change the world.

My tasks this summer include telling everyone I know about Avodah by reaching into my own personal network and getting the word out. I work on the behind-the-scenes of recruitment: building databases of San Diego congregations, sending out surveys to applicants and recording responses in spreadsheets, writing and posting job descriptions on Handshake, and messaging recent alumni on LinkedIn, along with many other tasks that need to get done, but often get pushed to the back-burner. Interns, I’m learning, are the perfect people to take on that back-burner work that makes the entire recruitment process run more smoothly. Without the technical side of recruitment work, people would not know about Avodah, and Avodah would not be able to continue their mission (and tagline) of sparking Jewish leaders and igniting social change. My small steps create the change, one spreadsheet at a time, while I also learn valuable technical skills that will aid me in my future career.

My work station! Pretzels on the side are a need.

I am really excited about continuing my work with Avodah and seeing how my little but very important tasks make solid change within an organization that does such good in the world. And hey, if you know anyone between the ages of 21-26 who wants to engage in social justice work for a year, and wants a job this year (August 2021-August 2022), please let me know! Avodah still has some spots open in this year’s cohort of Corps members.

(1) Growth and Change at Power in Place

I am interning this summer at Power in Place, an organization that celebrates women who have built a strong leadership presence in politics. Its mission is to educate interns about these women by inviting them to share their experiences with young women like myself, encouraging them to consider a future in politics. I chose Power in Place as an organization to intern at because I became interested in addressing gender inequality, and racial inequality and its relationship to politics. As a young black woman, I noticed there weren’t enough of us in political offices and I wanted to expand my overall knowledge and experience with more women and their voices inside the realm of politics.

Haiku/Illustration of Ayanna Pressley

Power in Place is designed to highlight women in politics and to give them the platform they deserve, which can sometimes be overlooked. In order to address this social injustice issue, I have decided to work in the groups of Marketing and Polikus during my summer internship. In Polikus, my responsibilities include composing haikus inspired by the female political officials we highlight in a given week. In the Marketing group, my responsibility and duties are to create a marketplace page on the Power In Place website, as well as to innovate and advertise pro-women in politics branding items with my team.

My work this summer will further the mission of Power in Place since my haikus and my marketplace design will show multiple women of color and women in politics in the best light. Others will be able to interact with and learn from their stories, as well as to see their future selves in a career that involves politics because they are seeing those like them able to do it too.

Small steps that lead to bigger steps at Power in Place would be learning how to communicate well inside a team, as well as being able to collaborate by adding my insight and originality to the groups I am a part of. These lead to a bigger steps because group tasks can be completed and my teammates and I are then allowed to grow as people inside this organization through each taking small parts of ourselves and adding it to our bigger project.

Progress and change to me looks exactly like this because you get to build the stamina and confidence to be able to share your work, interests, and more of yourself, and to learn from others and their interests, work, and topics related to women in politics that are important and affecting the world at hand. Overall, this to me creates progress because I am learning new things that I may have never experienced before or heard of in relation to politics. After our sessions, I am researching more and wanting to learn more about these new topics, which will allow me to grow and expand my knowledge as a person participating inside Power in Place.

First Power in Place Newsletter

(1) Starting at United for a Fair Economy

This year, I’m the summer intern at United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization which fights for a more equitable economy throughout the United States. I knew I wanted to work with UFE as soon as I read their application because of our shared core values and the way those values intermingle with my studies at Brandeis. As an Economics and International and Global Studies double major, I’m equally fascinated by the more quantitative/analytical side of economics and the real-world effects of all those mathematical formulas and theories.

At UFE, we study not just the existence of economic inequities, but also their origins and the practical ways to combat them. UFE began in 1994 under a different name, Share the Wealth. Since then, the organization has grown into a major source for change and has created and met so many goals. Divided into three main branches, UFE works on issues of popular education, responsible wealth, and building inclusive economies.

Under popular education, using healing justice and language justice tools, we host trainings and workshops for leaders of all different kinds of movements to reimagine the economy and how to change it. Those leaders are given all the knowledge and experience they need to go out and train others on topics of economic inequities. Popular education itself is actually an educational technique which far predates UFE, in which participants are all on level ground, sharing experiences and conversation rather than being taught by a single person left in charge. As UFE says, “With popular education, ordinary people define their own problems and apply the lessons of past political successes and failures to their own situation.”

Responsible Wealth is a network of individuals who fall in the top 5% of wealth and/or income in the U.S. and have a vested interest in solving the inequalities and the inequities of our economy, knowing that everyone suffers when our systems aren’t fair. Participants in Responsible Wealth work and speak up for things like progressive taxes and corporate accountability.

Inclusive Economies is a UFE project working in many states, but is largely focused on North Carolina and changing policy there to reflect a fair state-wide economy. Central to Inclusive Economies are Raising Wages NC and the Living Wage Network, and they highlight UFE’s methods for collaboration and community involvement when it comes to movement-building.

So far as the UFE intern, I’ve gotten to explore so many different fields under the amazing guidance of Sara Sargent and Richard Lindayen. I’ve learned about donor relations through the lens of database entry and gotten to work on communications projects in which I research data and history for outgoing media.

In terms of small steps that lead to bigger steps, and the idea of what change looks like, something I’ve learned very early at UFE is the value of the individual. Our full-time staff is only eight people, which is crazy when you think of just how much gets done at UFE every year. It’s very common to hear people say “the personal is political.” I think part of how UFE makes the enormous impact that it does is that it focuses on working with individuals as well as the collective. They’ve seen time and again that conversations and healing done between human beings is often what leads to changes in deeply-rooted inequalities and inequities.

(1) Health and Education for All

Health and Education for All (HAEFA) is a United States-based nonprofit organization that provides on-the-ground healthcare for Rohingya refugees, as well as other disadvantaged populations in Bangladesh. Access to adequate healthcare should be a basic human right. However, it is oftentimes treated as a privilege in many parts of the world. Healthcare is nearly nonexistent in remote areas of Bangladesh. HAEFA’s goal is to address this injustice and establish clinics and mobile health centers in places that lack such services in Bangladesh.

So far, it has successfully treated thousands of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, which is a district in Bangladesh. Additionally, one of the leading causes of death among women in Bangladesh is cervical cancer. Previous government programs to address this issue did not make a large impact. HAEFA developed a screening program that reached people in remote areas by digitizing the process of cervical cancer screening. While the government program was screening 30-40 patients per month, HAEFA’s program was able to screen 100-150 patients per day. Innovative programs such as this are at the forefront of HAEFA’s goals to provide healthcare to disadvantaged populations.

My role at HAEFA this summer is to tell HAEFA’s story and share all the important work they are doing with the world. I am the team lead for the Media Team, which means that I oversee and delegate tasks that have to do with the monthly newsletter, social media posts, and website maintenance. I personally work on the monthly newsletter and am about to begin a complete overhaul of the website alongside other team members. I am also part of the Intern Research Team at HAEFA.

The aforementioned cervical cancer screening program has been uniquely successful, despite initial skepticism from the international medical community. Dr. Abid, the founder of HAEFA, has asked our team to delve into the story behind this program and write an academic research paper about its success story so that others can model similar programs with ours. He hopes to have this paper published sometime this year. By keeping people updated about HAEFA’s work, I hope that my work will allow the organization to continue doing great work via donations and other forms of support. I believe that small steps, such as making social media posts about HAEFA’s activities, can lead to big steps such as the possibility of creating new programs with funding that can be collected as a result of raising awareness about the issues HAEFA is trying to alleviate.

Since its inception in 2013,HAEFA has provided healthcare services to thousands of patients in Bangladesh. Its ability to adapt to different circumstances, such as the Rohingya refugee crisis of 2016, is what makes HAEFA a reputable organization. To me, progress means being able to adapt to new challenges and strategize to solve problems as they arise. HAEFA’s ability to shift its focus to the Rohingya crisis was a huge factor in its success as an organization. While the refugees receive services from HAEFA, it also has continued its work with Bangladeshi garment workers. Additionally, it has created a COVID-19 training program for physicians to be better equipped to handle the challenges of the pandemic.

Maheeb Rabbani

(1) From Picture to Reality: Approving Technologies with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid

For the past few weeks, I have been working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), specifically in the Division of New Technology (DNT). CMS provides health coverage to more than 100 million people through Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and other programs. Within the Center, the Division of New Technology is a branch that falls under the Technology, Coding, and Pricing Group, which works to approve new technologies to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid plans for consumers, and has been created to help streamline the process of approving new technologies to be covered by insurance. Some members of my team have called it a hopeful “FDA to CMS pipeline”! 

The main goal of the DNT is to allow beneficiaries (patients) access to new and innovative technologies (e.g.: devices, equipment, etc.) to promote health equity and the overall betterment of health of the U.S. population. As newer and better technologies are developed each year, it is important that all patients have access to these improvements so they see improvements in their health. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries deserve access to the same promising technologies and interventions that are afforded to private healthcare insurance beneficiaries, which is why the DNT’s role in streamlining the approval of technologies under coverage is so vital.

As an intern, I have been studying different government healthcare statutes and regulations, and advising my team at the DNT on ways to incorporate new technologies into written Medicare policy. I’ve been reviewing grants and proposals for new technologies, meeting with manufacturers of these new machineries, and ultimately offering feedback to my team on ways we can incorporate these technologies. The small steps that I take behind the scenes (usually in the form of extensive paperwork and many, many zoom calls) will hopefully lead to their ultimate approval under CMS policy, allowing CMS patients access to them. 

I really wanted to complete an internship with the DNT because I wanted to see the process of how health policy is written and how directly it impacts patients, whether that is by increasing access to improved technologies or by changing policy to remove outdated standards of care. Through my work, I have seen firsthand how different subsections within Medicare work to optimize coverage for beneficiaries to allow all people fair and equitable access to healthcare. Many forms of grassroots interventions within medicine and healthcare meant to combat health inequities and disparities are “band-aid” solutions to a larger problem, and I now feel that real progress towards health equity comes in the form of policy changes to address healthcare infrastructure and access. I believe this is encompassed by the DNT’s work to ensure patients have access to technologies that will equip them with better health outcomes. 

My hope is that my work this summer with the DNT will further the DNT’s mission to influence policy surrounding health coverage and access to technologies, in order to ensure that access to new technologies and insurance coverage is more equitable overall. Even the few technologies that I am able to form policy around this summer could be instrumental in shaping the standard of care for CMS beneficiaries in the U.S.

(1) Settling In: My First Month at Jane Doe Inc.

Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to be a policy intern at Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (JDI). JDI, along with their 59 member organizations, brings together people committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence and advocates for change through state and federal legislation and funding to improve access to services, resources, and justice for those impacted by violence. JDI advocates for responsive public policy, promotes collaboration, raises public awareness, and supports their member organizations to provide comprehensive prevention and intervention services. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues solely related to sexual and domestic violence; it encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, education, and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues.

I became interested in pursuing an internship at JDI–and in advocacy for those affected by sexual and domestic violence in general–through my job at Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC). At PARC, I serve as both a peer advocate for students impacted by sexual and domestic violence, and as a violence prevention educator. In these positions, I have come to understand how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and perpetuate themselves within our communities, and I have become extremely passionate about creating the sustainable, structural change that is needed within our communities and institutions to disrupt these cycles. Working in these positions, I learned more about the reporting and Title IX processes, and gained an understanding of how institutional and legal systems we have in place can often be re-traumatizing for those impacted by violence. These experiences led me to pursue this internship because I am passionate about supporting those impacted by violence on a wider, structural level through policy and legislation change. I want to actively work to change the structures that we have in place that are perpetuating cycles of violence, and my internship with JDI is allowing me to learn how to advocate for this change on a state-wide level. 

In my capacity as policy intern, I have been supporting the development and execution of JDI’s overall policy agenda for 2021-2022. One of the projects I have been working on is an analysis of JDI’s language access and survivorship survey. JDI hopes to use this data to better understand the experiences of bilingual advocates, and to expose the gaps in state services surrounding language access in order to support bill H.3199, An Act relative to language access and inclusion. This legislation would require state agencies to meet language access needs for those impacted by violence. I have also been involved in updating written testimony to support bill H.2267,  An Act prohibiting non consensual pelvic examinations. One final project I have been working on is analyzing legislation through JDI’s policy framework and developing talking points about whether or not we support the legislation. For example, I have been researching hate crime legislation in Massachusetts and drafting talking points explaining why JDI does not support hate crime legislation that expands hate crime prosecution. 

Attending JDI’s Directors’ and Advocates’ Institute

While at JDI, I have also been able to attend some incredible events during my first few weeks. I attended virtual advocacy days organized by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and was able to meet with the staffers of Massachusetts senators and representatives in order to lobby for policy that would support those impacted by sexual and domestic violence. This past week, I also had the privilege of attending JDI’s Directors’ and Advocates’ Institute, which brought service providers together from across the state of Massachusetts to network and learn from each other. 

I am so excited that the written work that I will be producing–in the form of qualitative research analysis, talking points for legislation, and written testimony–will be used directly to lobby for legislation that supports individuals impacted by sexual and domestic violence. In this way, the work that I will be doing will hopefully lead to concrete policy change that will support those impacted by violence within the intersectional, trauma-informed framework that JDI embodies. I have absolutely loved my internship experience at JDI so far and am beyond excited to see where the next few months take me!

(1) My Internship at the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care

Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is that all Americans with serious illness, especially the sickest and most vulnerable, receive comprehensive and person-centered care that is consistent with their goals and values. Their goal is to achieve this by empowering consumers, changing the health delivery system, improving public and private policies, and enhancing providers’ capacities. C-TAC works with a wide range of members in order to create a collaborative network of information, resources, and support to produce transformative results in advanced illness care.

C-TAC works to provide quality health care and resources to communities that are disproportionately affected by health care inequalities. C-TAC is looking at how systemic injustices have plagued the American health care system for generations, and is working to make a visible change. This passion to transform advanced care sparked my interest in C-TAC’s partnership and programs internship. I am interested in working in the field of public health, and I was inspired by C-TAC’s complex outlook on the field. C-TAC is working to ensure that health care is meeting people where they are with the appropriate resources and support. C-TAC examines health care through a social, political, and spiritual lens, which has further expanded my understanding of the layers involved in advanced care planning.

While interning at C-TAC, I am interested in learning about the current policies that C-TAC is working to implement in order to advance equity in the health care system. One facet of C-TAC’s mission is to address health care policies in order to pursue a comprehensive policy agenda. Health care inequity and the racism found in the healthcare system need to be addressed. C-TAC is developing a strategy that is focused on utilizing public policy at both the state and federal level to address inequity issues that impact those with serious illness. 

As an intern at C-TAC, I am connecting with potential coalition members in community-based services, health services, and foundations. I am reaching out to organizations, informing them of the work that C-TAC is doing on different levels and educating them on how membership can further support their organization. Through membership, C-TAC is bringing together a coalition of healthcare organizations and supporters in order to create a unified change in advanced care on an array of different platforms. Through outreach, I have had the opportunity to become better acquainted with different health care organizations, including a volunteer hospice in Anchorage, Alaska, a large hospital in Wisconsin, and different nonprofit foundations nationwide. 

Along with outreach, I am participating in an intern podcast in which we discuss current events including Tweets, LinkedIn posts, and policy updates in the field of advanced care planning and public health. Through these podcasts, we will be creating an open environment to talk about the importance of undergraduates in the field of advanced illness. We have had the opportunity to discuss the intersection of advanced care planning and the LQBTQ+ community, mental health, and social determinants of health. 

I believe that my work with C-TAC this summer will be a small step towards bridging the gaps in the healthcare system. Reforming the healthcare system is not a simple task, and I want to be part of the change towards equality. I truly believe that healthcare and related services should not be a privilege, but rather accessible to everyone. Through my internship at C-TAC, I have the opportunity to connect with potential members, gain a better understanding of the complexities in the field, and help C-TAC get one step closer to fulfilling its mission. Comprehensive change can only happen from a magnitude of different perspectives in order to ensure progress and continue to push for a visible transformation in the health care system. 

(1) Advocating for a strong and diverse judiciary at Alliance for Justice

In April, I knew very little about the judicial system. I knew that sometimes lawyers became judges and that these judges ruled on many court cases each year. I knew that there was a Supreme Court, where nine justices who were(sometimes) very experienced and respected served lifetime appointments and made important decisions that impacted all of us. 

When I’m not in zoom meetings, I try to get some fresh air and work outside!

Then I became an intern at Alliance for Justice (AFJ), and I have learned that the court system is essentially a complex web of judges across the United States who interpret the law and determine individuals’ civil rights in monumental ways. Alliance for Justice works to ensure a “fair and independent justice system” by advocating for highly qualified individuals with diverse backgrounds to be appointed to these courts. While the Supreme Court hears fewer than one hundred cases a year, the federal court of appeals, district courts, and local courts hear hundreds of thousands of cases. That is a lot of decisions that impact a lot of peoples’ lives. Furthermore, all federal court judges are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve lifetime terms, which gives the sitting president a lot of power.  

While judges are supposed to be nonpartisan, this isn’t always the case. Increasingly, the appointment of judges has become a political tool that prioritizes ideology and political affiliation over qualifications and experience–a trend that puts the civil rights and wellbeing of millions of people in jeopardy. Furthermore, during Trump’s four years in office, only 16% of his judicial appointments were non-white and only 24% were women. The makeup of the federal judiciary, like any field of public servants, must represent the country in race, gender, ethnicity, professional background, sexual orientation, and so much more. To achieve this goal and to reverse the damage that has been done to the courts, AFJ tracks judicial vacancies, advocates for experienced and diverse nominees, and pushes the Biden administration to prioritize federal court appointments. The organization also works to identify highly-qualified lawyers with experience in civil rights, public defense, and other law backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the courts. 

Last week I stopped by a DC statehood rally!

As an outreach intern, I’m lucky to be able to engage in most of the aspects of work that AFJ does. I help build outreach lists for judicial nominee sign-on letters and connect with member organizations to engage them further with our work. I also spend a lot of my time researching our state courts, looking at the makeup of each state’s Supreme Court, learning when judges are up for reelection or retirement, and understanding the media landscapes of various states. The research I do now will inform where AFJ directs their time in 2022 and beyond, to ensure that our state courts, in addition to federal courts, are made up of experienced and diverse judges. Similarly, building outreach lists and connecting with member organizations and allies allows us to put pressure on the administration to appoint judges who represent the people they serve.

As courts at every level make daily decisions on environmental regulations, abortion access, LGBTQIA+ rights, checks on assault weapons, conditions for incarcerated individuals, and so much else, it feels so important to be doing this work. And as we do the work, we can see that the Biden Administration is listening.

(1) First Month as an Intern with Genocide Watch

My work this summer is with Genocide Watch. As a nongovernmental organization, Genocide Watch seeks to prevent genocide, condemn current genocidal actions, and educate about previous genocides. The organization uses a model called “The Ten Stages of Genocide,” created by the founder and president Dr. Gregory Stanton. The model establishes a method for recognizing pre-genocidal behavior in order to implement steps to prevent further atrocities. By looking at government policies and behavior towards minorities in different areas, the organization attempts to correct the injustices suffered by many ethnic minorities to create equality and safety for all.

I work on the Alliance, Advocacy, and Research Teams at Genocide Watch through my role as an intern. As the head organization of the Alliance Against Genocide, Genocide Watch works with the Alliance Against Genocide to aid in its mission of preventing genocide through the creation of an international movement concerned with genocide prevention.

Home page of the Alliance Against Genocide website

My work on the Alliance Team in the past few weeks has been dedicated to updating the Alliance website, including adding pages for new member organizations and changing links and resources so that each page reflects the most up-to-date information from each member organization. Once the website is updated, I will be responsible for communicating with thirteen of the member organizations to coordinate between Genocide Watch and each organization to ensure mutual support on projects and events. This communication is vital to the effectiveness of the Alliance Against Genocide to ensure that each initiative has the greatest success possible.

Within the Advocacy Team,  I work with fellow interns and staff who monitor different countries and populations that are at risk of extermination. In coordination with the other staff, I am in the process of organizing methods to advocate for peace and justice in Central Asia, and for the Rohingya in Myanmar. Additionally, in conjunction with my work on the Alliance Team, I plan to work with Alliance member organizations that focus on the Rohingya to create a louder voice for Rohingya refugees in repatriation talks between India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

Finally, I am involved in a number of projects through my work on the Research Team. I am working on a report on Egypt, as well as a presentation on the ecocide in Brazil under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro and its impact on Brazil’s indigenous population. I also plan to work on a project to document atrocities committed by the United States against Native Americans to be used for pedagogical purposes.

My bio on the staff page on the Genocide Watch website

While my work this summer will not completely end and prevent genocide, I know that my work helps further Genocide Watch’s mission to “predict, prevent, stop, and punish genocide and other forms of mass murder.” I see my responsibilities as small, yet necessary, steps that aid in the prevention of genocide. I am optimistic that all of these tasks will create an impact, no matter how small, in ensuring justice for all.

(1) Investigating Food Value Chains

This summer, I’m interning for Oxfam America in the Private Sector Department and Food Systems Department. Oxfam is a global organization that works in over 90 countries to end the injustice of poverty. To address the root causes of poverty, they focus on issues of food, water, and land access, human rights, gender justice, climate justice, and labor inequalities through technical support to partners, advocacy work, and humanitarian relief. Their slogan, “The power of people against poverty,” shows how united the organization stands in their mission to fight the intersecting issues of poverty.

I was inspired to join Oxfam because they fight for so many causes that I’m passionate about, specifically gender justice and food system reform. The work that Oxfam does is rooted in the idea that the many forms of justice are intertwined, and we can’t address poverty without also simultaneously looking at different forms of injustice. I admire Oxfam’s ability to fight poverty through programs that provide immediate support, such as hunger alleviation and emergency humanitarian efforts, while also promoting structural changes that address the root causes of poverty.

The work that I’m doing for Oxfam this summer is on food value chains, which includes the stakeholders involved in the production, processing, and manufacturing stages in the supply chain. This work highlights inequalities–e.g., the domination of agricultural conglomerates that limit the power of small farmers, the emission rates of corporations, the marginalization of rural women workers–that occur within some of the largest food and beverage corporations. Food companies have a lot of power in controlling our food choices, making it crucial to examine their global impact and the inequalities built into their structure.

Oxfam has a campaign called “Behind the Brands” that assesses the impact of some of the world’s largest food and beverage companies (the “big ten”) through a scorecard evaluation project which is available to consumers on this page. This campaign aims to investigate the practices of global corporations, while educating consumers about the practices of food companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Kellogg’s that we support every day. The Behind the Brands campaign’s framework has the following dimensions: fair economies, equal human rights, climate justice, and gender justice. As part of Behind the Brands 2030, Oxfam seeks to amplify the voices of the people in their value chain, address inequality, and harness the power of the private sector.

As part of the Behind the Brands team, I’m working on multiple projects and leading one to research and document the disclosure efforts of the Behind the Brand companies and traders. Supplier disclosure is one way that food and beverage companies can be transparent with their sourcing efforts. I am working on a spreadsheet that tracks sourcing details about each company, with information on the agricultural commodities they use (like palm oil and sugar), where they source the commodity from, any supplier lists they have published, the date of disclosure, and commitments they have made to increase transparency and sustainability efforts. The work that I’m doing is contributing to their growing research that will support future initiatives in the countries that they work with. Once they have a research knowledge base on where companies source their commodities, they can perform their outreach work to the companies to advocate for them to take measures that will promote equitable food value chains through sustainability, gender, human rights, and other commitments.

This project is showing me how much power is concentrated in companies, and the potential that organizations like Oxfam have to fix structural issues within companies to bring about justice for marginalized workers, the land, the economy, and the future.

(1) Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition

 

 

 

 

 

I am working with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) to support their work with the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition. MLRI provides statewide advocacy and leadership to advance laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. They engage in multi-forum advocacy, meaning they work through impact litigation, legislative advocacy, advocacy with state agencies, and community lawyering. The focus on their child welfare advocacy is to ensure that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) meets its mandate to do all that is possible to strengthen struggling families so that children can stay safely at home rather than being separated from their families and placed in foster care. When children must be separated from their parents, they advocate for policies to ensure that they are placed with their relatives rather than strangers, in family settings rather than institutional settings unless their treatment needs require institutional care, and that they be reunified with their parents as soon as safely possible.

Every aspect of their child welfare advocacy has a racial impact because Black and LatinX are disproportionately involved in the Massachusetts child welfare system, as they are in child welfare systems across the country. I am specifically working to support MLRI’s work with other child welfare advocates in the Massachusetts Child Welfare Coalition, which MLRI co-founded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition is currently working to oppose proposals to expand mandated reporting in Massachusetts, to increase child welfare data transparency, to improve educational access for children in DCF congregate care, and to increase housing and educational options for youth who age out of DCF foster care without permanent families.

I will support the coalition by attending the full coalition meetings and steering committee meetings, writing the coalition’s weekly newsletter, and supporting the activities of the Family Connections work group. I will be taking notes at many of these meetings and conducting research about communities of care and mutual aid networks in New York City to see how they could be a model for Massachusetts. My research project will further the coalition’s mission by gathering information that will inform its legislative advocacy. My research project is a small step that may fuel future conversations that coalition members have with each other, legislators, and the public as they look toward reimagining child welfare in the state. When it comes to social justice, progress often looks slow and is not always linear.

Within the context of my internship, progress looks like having conversations that center children and their families, especially those who are disproportionality effected by the child welfare system. My hope is that the voices of child welfare advocates and impacted families can be heard more so that Massachusetts can learn how to better support families who may be struggling.

Within the span of about a month, I have learned so much. I have gone from knowing little to none about child welfare to understanding various problems in the system and learning how legislative advocacy can help alleviate them for now–and ultimately eliminate them. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to learn more throughout the rest of the experience.

(1) Advocating for Healthcare Consumers

This summer, I am working as a Health Policy Intern with the National Consumers League (NCL). NCL is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that represents the interests of consumers in a number of policy areas, including healthcare and prescription drugs, fraud, labor, and food safety. I chose to work at NCL because I believe that it is important that we ensure consumers are protected from high costs and bad practices when they seek medical care. Any effort to fix our broken healthcare system must put patients at the center. NCL seeks to address injustices of all kinds that are committed against consumers. These can range from direct scams to broken systems that profit off of consumers’ suffering.

In terms of health policy, NCL works to fix injustices related to anti-vaccine misinformation, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that fail to pass drug rebate savings onto consumers, unregulated CBD, and prescription drug access, among many other initiatives. To address these injustices, NCL uses many different strategies: pushing for specific bills and policies to lawmakers and government officials; engaging in coalition-building with other stakeholders to advocate for issues; and providing educational resources directly to consumers, as with their medication adherence program Script Your Future, and their website with information on the unregulated CBD market 4safecbd.org, among others. 

I have been responsible for a variety of different projects including writing statements in support of or opposition to multiple bills, conducting research on health policy issues, creating profiles on key members of Congress, and updating NCL’s health policy positions for their website. One of the statements that I helped to write was in support of the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act, a bill making its way through Congress that would eliminate copays for all vaccines covered under Medicare Part D. Currently, vaccines are covered with no out-of-pocket costs under private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare Part B. Unfortunately, the vaccines covered under Medicare Part D come with copays often totaling over $100. I was very happy to be able to advocate for increased vaccine access, an issue that I believe is very important for our society, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through NCL’s efforts in support of this bill, I have seen how bills are passed behind the scenes. I have valued the opportunity to sit in on meetings with other advocacy groups, stakeholders, and congressional staff as we attempt to ensure that this bill becomes law. All of these smaller actions are what push policy through government. Additionally, while small fixes like those provided in the Protecting Seniors Through Immunizations Act are not nearly enough to fix America’s horribly broken healthcare system, they certainly have the potential to improve people’s lives and create a healthier society for all of us. And even the big, sweeping changes that so many of us desire require behind-the-scenes policy and advocacy work to successfully implement them.

(1) Fundraising At SuitUp

SuitUp is a New York City-based education nonprofit that serves students around the country and the world by providing business planning competitions that pair underserved student groups with corporate partners looking to host employee volunteer events. The corporate partners serve as coaches for students as they navigate in groups to solve a business challenge in a way that exposes them to career opportunities and career readiness strategies. The beauty of this partnership is that it creates mentors for students who may not otherwise have them and effectively uses the skill sets of America’s corporate employees to inspire the future workforce. Mainly through competitions but through other volunteering initiatives as well, SuitUp has the goal of making sure that all students are exposed to the college and career paths of their choosing.

For me, at first glance, it was clear that today more than ever was a time to get involved in an organization like this. Recent racial justice initiatives on the individual level and the corporate level prove that this equity work can no longer wait. If we all want a better tomorrow, students from a young age need to be given the tools for success, not just the bare minimum. The education system has its flaws, and organizations like SuitUp seek to use the power of volunteering and philanthropy to begin to fill these gaps.

As somebody who grew up in the New York City public school system, I always knew about the education gap and disparities in education. But my understanding and vocabulary to describe my passion for educational equity didn’t come until I began university. At Brandeis, I also realized that my volunteer work in New York City public schools and even the public schools that surround Brandeis was showing me where these inequities start. I could also see why there is such a lack of economic and racial diversity at some of the best colleges in the country. If K-12 schools can’t even find the funding to provide necessary academic support to their English language learners and special education students, how will they achieve the goals written into state standards on college and career readiness?

SuitUp believes that all companies have a plethora of reasons to participate in these events, and students deserve these opportunists and more. However, sometimes the cost of each event does not cover what we need to carry out our programing as successfully as possible. Therefore, SuitUp hosts an annual gala. That brings me to my role as the Events and Fundraising intern working under SuitUp’s Executive Director. My job, as well as the job of the other intern on my team, is to plan ahead for the gala this fall. Within the first few weeks, I have created marketing collateral and communicated with the guest list, reached out to vendors to secure sponsors and gifts, and led a team of corporate executives to strategize marketing in preparation for our gala. These projects have taught me so much. Most importantly, I have learned that social progress takes detailed-oriented teamwork. SuitUp excels at this and is teaching it to its summer 2021 interns.

(1) Power in Place: Settings of Inspiration

Power in Place is a nonprofit organization focused on highlighting women in American politics through academic writing, interviews, podcasts, visual art, spoken word poems, and other forms of advocacy. PiP was founded in 2015 by professional photographer Katrina Hajagos in response to the lack of women–especially women of color–in political office. Only 23.7% of women hold a congressional office and only 37% of those women are women of color. The goal of PiP is to emphasize the lack of women in politics and to inspire the next generation of young women to find their voice and their place in American politics.

As a woman and a woman of color myself, I have often wondered how I could best serve my adoptive country. I was not born on American soil, so the presidency is out of the question. I could pursue a place in office in politics or continue my education into law school. Either way, I want a place in politics. As I entered my junior year at Brandeis, I looked for ways I could begin to enter the realm of politics, and the nonprofit Power in Place was perfect for me. Power in Place allows me to begin understanding politics in the field, and helps me develop skills in research, writing, and management.

As of 2021, Power in Place has 120 student collaborators from all over the country. There are 17 sections (or “teams”) of the organization that an intern can choose from. Sections include grant-writing, website design and accessibility, podcasting, in-house graphic design, and more. In addition to being assigned a team, students will individually choose an elected official from their home state to interview and conduct a photoshoot.

Initial rough outline of research on the suffragette movement

I was designated as a project manager for the virtual time capsule team and as a member of the graphic design team. The virtual time capsule is a long-term summer project where collaborators are working to create a virtual artistic timeline that tells the story of the suffragette and feminist movements starting in its early stages of the 1800s to the modern day fight for women’s equality in the 21st century. As the project manager for this team, I will be conducting and overseeing research, holding team meetings, and serving as a liaison for our boss, Katrina. So far we have conducted research on the women’s suffrage movement starting in the 1800s and on the early days of second-wave feminism in the 1960s.

The graphic design team is focused on helping out all other teams with any art or graphics needed. For example, our boss is looking to have a new logo created for Power in Place. Our team has been working on making a new logo that is more modern-looking and representative of the organization. In addition, the team is creating “baseball cards” for the highlighted women we are interviewing and for historical figures.

 

Post 3: Don’t Give Up When Your Work Gets Tough

A screenshot from our final zoom call together 🙁

From the beginning of my internship, I never expected to have an astronomical impact on the youth I’m working with. In the time I have been with Transition H.O.P.E., my impact has been my ability to be a positive role model, mentor, and overall influence to at least one of the teenagers in the program. I was lucky enough to connect and develop a strong friendship with one of the young girls I worked with. I’m grateful for the fact that this could be the impact I have on the program I worked for because that impact has more value than any of the logistical or administrative work I did for my boss over the last few months.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the work I do because this summer was incredibly unpredictable and COVID has been the primary cause of that. Therefore, if I could go back in time and tell myself absolutely anything, it’s that COVID-19 will play a much bigger role in the work I do than I think, and will undoubtedly make my work more difficult. The pandemic will dramatically affect the lives of black and brown folx, especially those who come from low-income backgrounds for years to come; and we are just only seeing the beginning of the consequences of COVID. The most outward disproportionate effect I see in the context of the work I did was my students adjusting to online school. A lot students already struggled in school without the imminent stress of COVID due to their own personal impediments they face on a daily basis. You can tell that these students, and probably millions across the world, will not be able to survive academically in this pandemic, thus perpetuating the cycle in a system that is objectively designed for them to fail. Words can’t express accurately enough how frustrating it is to feel this way as I ended my time in my internship.

Finally, If I could leave one piece of advice for working with system-involved youth it’s this: don’t give up. Something I struggled with a lot during my time in my internship is that I would find myself frustrated with the youth because they wouldn’t want to do certain things that were essential to the function of the program as well as would be incredibly beneficial to their personal wellbeing. Even though there were plenty of times where they probably expected me to give up on them, or be upset with them, I didn’t. I refused to do it. The kids are used to being a part of a school system that has given up on them or a community that has given up on them, and it is so important to be a person in their life that will not give up. If you are not comfortable constantly struggling to achieve your goals or to “get through” to the youth you are working with, then it simply is not for you.

Post 3: The value of working from behind—What does my work mean to Ashoka?

Our virtual farewell meeting

My internship with Ashoka came to an end last week, and I’m already missing it! It’s hard to describe how grateful I am for the experience because it has meant so much to me in so many different ways: I got to see people helping each other altruistically and wholeheartedly; I gained so many insights regarding the field of nonprofit and social entrepreneurship; I learned how to communicate better and work productively; and I grew so much as a person. There are just too many things I can share, but in this blog, I want to focus on what my project and my work means to Ashoka.

The reason I want to talk about this particular topic is that, from the first sight, it doesn’t seem like my work has much to do with the impact Ashoka is making. In fact, I’ve also questioned the value of my work multiple times throughout the internship. However, in the end, I did see the significance of my project. I want to use this as an example to remind future interns to not get frustrated when you don’t see the meaning of your work at first.

As I mentioned in my first post, Ashoka is a global organization with offices in many countries. In Ashoka, collaboration between different offices is very common. For example, the Changemaker Companies (the department I worked in) often collaborates with the Paris office on developing and managing partnerships. However, since Ashoka is so big, people in different offices may not be familiar with each other’s work, so they often need to spend extra time at the beginning of each collaboration, which can slow down the progress of the actual project. That’s why many key departm­­­­ents of Ashoka all have their own space on this platform called Confluence, where people in other offices can learn about their work and download relevant resources. So, my project was to build such a space for the Changemaker Companies so that in the future, Ashokans from other offices could feel more knowledgeable about our work before collaborating with us.

Besides developing the Confluence space, my project al­­­­­­so involved rebuilding Changemaker Companies’ public and private SharePoint folder. Each department in Ashoka has its own SharePoint folder so that people in the same team could work on one deck together. People also kept all their past documents and decks in the folder. However, since everyone has access to edit the folder, Changemaker Companies’ SharePoint folder ended up being really messy and disorganized with a lot of overlapping and outdated documents. My job was to design a structure for the folder and reorganize all the documents so that it’s easier for people to locate materials. I also created a systematizing plan for tracking all the changes and updates made to the documents so that the administrator can better manage the folder in the future.

As you can probably tell, all of my work was internal-facing and none of it was associated with Ashoka’s external programs (the ones that are “actually” making impacts). However, no one can deny the significance of working on internal development, as it’s the backbone of every well-functioning organization. If all of Ashoka’s external programs and partnerships are the leaves of a tree, its internal development/management must be the trunk and branches.

In the field of non-profit/social justice–in fact, in every field–it’s impossible for everyone to work on the front line. We may only see the people on the front line and look up to them and think it’s glorious, but we must not forget the contribution of people working behind who deserve the same amount of respect and glory. Therefore, future interns, if you got assigned a task of a nature similar to mine, don’t complain or give it up right away. Take a moment to think about it; it might just be the trunk of any tree, the foundation of any impact.

Post 3: Social Justice and the importance of research

I truly enjoyed working with Dr. Yule and her team at Boston Medical Center this past summer. Last summer, I was an intern at MGH in one the psychology labs and it was not the experience I was looking for or expected. I now realize that my experience last summer was not representative of research and after my internship this summer, I am considering a career in research. Not all research experiences are the same, and not all work environments are the same, and it is something I wish I knew before I started this summer and before I generalized research experiences. But the reality is that you can’t know what a work environment will be like until you’re already there, in my case, doing the research.

While in this position this summer, I gained a deeper understanding of social justice work. Social justice is all about distributing resources fairly and treating everyone equitably. But sadly, when we take a look at today’s world, this isn’t happening in many places. I also learned the causes and consequences of social injustices from talks with psychiatrists, mental health counselors, coworkers, and from the research we were doing. We all need to work as a team to work towards dismantling all these barriers around health disparities, and this is exactly what Dr. Yule and her team are aiming for.

Before starting this position, I did not see how social justice was relevant to research, but as I began to work on projects with my coworkers, I realized that social justice work takes many forms. Many of these health issues that I talk about in this blog and in my previous blogs are often overlooked. It is the reason why social justice work is crucial in underserved populations to aid the growth of communities. The projects I worked on show how important research is during the times that we are living in, especially on evidence-based treatments. Despite how research has shown their efficiency, some providers are reluctant to use them. Research also demonstrates how important it is to address minority populations who lack access to health care, which could be due to structural racism. As a result, we see language barriers in place and people living in high crime and poverty neighborhoods, among other factors.

Earlier this year, my primary investigator received a grant from an ongoing initiative that the NIH has called “Helping to End Addiction Long Term.” This is an effort designed to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. It is also an effort to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction, and to enhance pain management. As part of this project, I worked on a task that included assisting with implementing screening for substance use disorders in behavioral health by identifying which screening tools and questionnaires have been translated into Spanish and Haitian Creole, and assisting with Spanish translation. Translating the screening tools into these languages is due to the hospital having a lot of Spanish and Haitian Creole-speaking patients. If we don’t have screening tools available in their language, we cannot help these patients and they are more likely to go untreated. This creates a barrier for them when accessing care that they wouldn’t otherwise face if they were native English speakers. This is why we need to work together to help them overcome these barriers to treatment. Once we are done with project, other researchers will be able to use the translations and other patients will be able to be treated.

A “Thank you” e-card signed by Dr. Yule and her team

I also worked on a systematic literature search focused on screening for substance use in behavioral health clinics. It is important to identify individuals with psychiatric disorders who have a co-occurring substance use disorder to address the disorders that are coexistent in treatment. While there is already a policy-level mandate to systematically screen patients for substance use disorders and deliver brief intervention to treatment and referral to treatment, the majority of the efforts have been concentrated in primary care. Substance misuse is at a higher rate in behavioral health populations, and therefore it is an entry point in getting people who might have a substance use disorder. A decision needs to be made because many people that need to be screened are not being screened. This gives the opportunity for clinicians to intervene early and be able to help their patients before it takes a toll on their patient’s overall health.

I also hope that this systematic review is able to inform other researchers about the importance of implementing screening in settings outside of primary care. We are also using another systematic review on treatment outcomes in adolescent girls to get a better sense of what is out there, in order to inform future research to provide better gender-specific treatments in the future. Lastly, the Department of Public Health will be able to make better informed decisions in terms of policies for medication management in residential treatment programs through another project we worked on and presented to them. All this work impacts social justice reform because, with systematic screening, we will be able to help patients who fall through the cracks in health care, and with systematic screening in place, it won’t be possible that someone who truly needs help will be left out.

Some advice I would give to someone else who wants to pursue an internship or career in my organization is that you have to be self-motivated. Also, if you can try to pick a good team, do so. Don’t be afraid to contact people if you have a question. Some people are always hesitant to do this. However, it’s good to ask if you are ever in that position how they did this or how did they get there. People do like to share their experiences.

Post 3: Signing off

My last day of working with Answer the Call was this past Wednesday, July 29th. The World of Work experience was a unique experience, considering my position allowed me to work remotely from the comfort of my own home! Prior to COVID, I (as well as many others) expected to enter a physical office space and interact with co workers on a face-to-face basis. With COVID-19, everyone’s creativity skills kicked in, as we all had to adapt pretty quickly to working remotely.

In terms of social justice work, I feel that I have learned how to work with families who are usually forgotten, as well as keeping the memories of their loved ones alive. The families that Answer the Call deals with lost a loved one due to a Line of Duty Death, whether it may be fighting a fire to 9/11 to COVID-19. Assisting the families of fallen first responders holds a special place in my heart as these men and women put their lives on the line to protect the City of New York. The tragic event of 9/11 is still in conversation today. Many of the families that Answer the Call serves lost loved ones who were first responders on that gruesome day.  

Answer the Call has had an impact on me in many positive ways. Being able to work with colleagues who were very supportive and understanding with COVID was an amazing experience. Each and every single project that I was assigned was explained in great length, which was super beneficial. Furthermore, being able to work alongside my colleagues and raise funds for families of fallen first responders was truly an amazing experience that I will never forget. The families of Answer the Call were told that their loved ones would ever be forgotten, and Answer the Call honors this promise each and every day. 

In terms of advice to choose an internship or career, I would recommend that you should conduct vast amounts of research on the organization that you want to intern with. Being able to establish a connection or an interest with an organization is a vital factor. Reaching out and introducing yourself ahead of time is a great way to have your foot in the door. I established my early connection with Answer the Call back in August of 2019 when I sent an email about a fundraiser they were hosting for 9/11. That conversation then led to the discussion of potential internships, and here I am today, writing my final blog post for my WOW fellowship! 

Working with the families of fallen first responders is an honor. Being able to honor those that sacrificed so much is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The family members of those who have fallen sacrificed so much, and Answer the Call has been able to assist hundreds of families with the support they need. I would like to thank Answer the Call and the Brandeis WOW Fellowship program for making this wonderful experience happen. 

Signing off,

Joshua Feld 

 

FYI, this link is from an interview I conducted during the internship.

Meet Our 2020 TCS NYC Marathon Team: Mary Sullivan

 

 

Post 3

Working in the social justice field has been one of my career goals for the past couple of years. As the days pass by, I learn that one must be committed and dedicated to this work, regardless of the targeted group of people or type of services. Take the Black Lives Matter movements for example. Portland has been protesting for 73 days in a row and counting. People are still donating and becoming allies. People who engage in social justice work, especially people of color, are the reason we have progressed as a society throughout the decades. Granted, there are several issues we still need to tackle. Most importantly, people who engage in social justice work are not here to receive recognition or a paycheck. They are here to make change.

That being said, a lot of people entering this field come as interns or volunteers. I am amazed at the dedication that people have to continue pushing an important agenda towards changing immigration laws. The people I worked with at my internship were often volunteers that cared enough about their community to continue working towards the nonprofit organization’s goal.

George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests erupt around the ...

When starting my internship, I was aware that I was a novice and had no previous experience working for a nonprofit or working in the immigration field. Every day, I was eager to learn something new and wasn’t hard on myself for not knowing the simplest things. In other words, I don’t wish I would have known more about the immigration field before starting my internship and I don’t believe it was a setback at all. I was here to learn and my supervisors were aware of that. However, one thing I wish I would have learned was how to make the best out of your internship, such as building relationships and networking. 

One thing I would like to say about anyone who wants to pursue an internship or career in this field is that the work is very rewarding. It is a type of job that makes you get up from bed on a Monday morning. I’m aware some young adults choose their careers very carefully and are afraid of choosing the wrong career because they don’t want to be “stuck” with this job for the rest of their life. However, if I were to be committed to entering this field, I would be more than happy. Though my internship was only temporary and short-term, it taught me life-long skills and knowledge that will help me navigate any post-grad plans and career plans. 

Not only am I thankful for my internship, but also to WOW for providing me the support to start my post-grad career goals.  This is only the beginning for me.

Post 3: Social Justice and Being Bold in Psychology

People typically think social justice work refers to hands-on activities, helping others or serving as an activist at protests or working on campaigns. Yes, these are important social justice roles, but there is a wider range of methods to promote and stimulate social change. Previously, I struggled with understanding how conducting psychological research was really a form of social justice because it is difficult to internalize that you are making a positive difference when just sitting at a computer, reading and writing. However, I chose to work as a research intern for Rogers Behavioral Health because I realized that disseminating effective treatments truly works to further social justice because most people do not know of evidence-based treatments for mental disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or trichotillomania. The website for Brandeis’ Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion explains that, “Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are psychologically and physically safe and secure.” (Bell, 2013, p. 21). Assisting in the writing of chapters that explicate research (often using common language) on evidence-based treatments enables me to help distribute the resource of knowledge to the general population. Yes, there are still many barriers to achieving social justice in the field of mental health treatment, but disseminating knowledge is a first step that I am proud to take part in.  

Venn diagram illustrating social justice in the field of psychology

My supervisor, Dr. Martin Franklin, has many responsibilities as the Clinical Director of Rogers Behavioral Health in Philadelphia, as well as in his private practice and other career endeavors. From conducting research and treating patients to presenting at conferences and going on book tours to promote his writing, Dr. Franklin is always busy working to help individuals and the world of psychology as a whole. Therefore, my work as a research intern assists him in various aspects of the research process, such as reading through previous studies and chapters, as well as writing literature reviews. Since I am completing these often time-consuming tasks, Dr. Franklin can spend more time on his other responsibilities.  

Dr. Franklin’s latest book: “Treating OCD in Children and Adolescents”

Reporting to a busy supervisor often requires a great amount of independence, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. I always complete my work on my own and Dr. Franklin trusts me to get my work done in a timely manner. He is not the type of person to give many hard deadlines or keep me on a rigid schedule, which I appreciate, but it definitely requires independence and confidence in my work ethic and abilities. I did not anticipate this high level of independence as an intern, but I am happy about it. Independence often breeds confidence, which are both important skills to develop. I would advise others pursuing careers in my field to be bold.  Boldness can involve reaching out and introducing yourself to someone in a high-level position, or asking questions, or taking on challenges in stride, and acting confident, even if you have not fully internalized this confidence yet. “Fake it til you make it” is a popular saying that has some truth behind it, but I prefer to say, “be bold til you make it.” Pushing yourself to be brave and step out of your comfort zone is not “fake” — it is being bold in order to achieve success.

Post 3: Until Next Time, UFE!


I wish I would have known how much I would miss United for a Fair Economy as my internship comes to an end. As I complete my last days at UFE, I am grateful to reflect on my experience. I initially thought that as a remote intern, I would not be able to get the full experience that I would have otherwise gained if I was physically there, but it has been the complete opposite. I got to learn tremendously from the staff, and experience UFE culture and what it’s like to work at nonprofit. My experience with UFE this summer has been special and meaningful.

The staff and I during team building!

One of the many meaningful things I’ve learned and experienced with UFE is how important it is to have a healthy work and life balance. UFE values personal health and taking time off to rehabilitate. This value has helped me transform the way I approach working to including more healthy practices that have helped me become more productive. Additionally, I’ve learned that it is your passion that drives your work. Working for social justice can get tough and even frustrating, but as long as you have a passion for social justice, you can get through all the hard times. UFE has a work environment that embraces challenges together, and it’s very collaborative. Working at UFE has shown me what to look for in workplace culture in a potential post-college job, and made me consider working full time at nonprofits. I have also expanded my interest in social justice and started to plan out the rest of my academic journey at Brandeis.

thank you note sent from UFE!

Additionally, I learned that there is not one primary solution to achieving social justice. There are multiple solutions, and as an agent for change, it’s essential I find the path I am most passionate about and do my best to help with the mission. For example, United for a Fair Economy looks at economic justice holistically. Each staff member contributes their expertise to the organization’s mission through education, development, and communications. I have even been able to share my passion for education equity and its relation to a fair economy through UFE. I’ve also learned how valuable and important it is to have a set of unwavering values in a nonprofit. I noticed that a lot of the work, like communication with donors and applying to foundations for funds, all comes down to “do they have the same values?” and I think that is part of the beauty of working at UFE. It’s definitely mission-driven.

Specifically, being the development intern, I learned a lot about resource mobilization and how a lot of it comes down to tracking all data and building relationships with donors. The bulk of my work has been working in the database and updating donor information. I’ve also done foundation research, made thank you calls to donors, and organized donor-advised funds. It is essential to always to build good relationships with donors and to seek out new relationships. In nonprofits, it’s important to be extremely organized and always seeking out funding from foundations. I am grateful to learn about how to finance nonprofits.

A gift from UFE!

My advice for working in social justice and working at UFE is to keep learning and develop self-efficacy. UFE is a unique workplace that encourages learning together and asking questions. Each staff member has a story, a path, and work that is inspirational and can teach you a lot and help you form your own path. I had the opportunity to sit in a lobbying meeting with Mike Lapham for the second stimulus package. That was a great learning experience to understand negotiation. And from speaking to Jeannette, I got to learn about the power of strength and self-efficacy and how that can lead to success. Always be willing to do what’s right, even if the task is a little daunting.

Thank you, UFE, for an incredible summer! (PS: Check out their State of the Dream Report !)

Post 3: Final Thoughts :)

I have learned that in the world of work, organization is everything. Working for IfNotNow, I was able to be successful because of its existing structures and the order those structures helped maintain. For example, my supervisor is the northeast field organizer, so she was already prepared to direct people in different cities to coordinate with the national organizers. This consistent communication between local and national leaders of IfNotNow made my job more organized because I knew how to make sure that what people in IfNotNow Boston did for the campaign would fulfill the national goals. This organization also ties to social justice work because without consistent communication, our goals and strategy could have easily gotten muddled in the fast pace at which political issues, specifically issues around annexation, move. We often had to come up with different contingency plans depending on what was happening in Israel, the West Bank, and the United States. Organized communication is key when dealing with sensitive, intense social justice issues. 

I think the great thing about grassroots organizing is that everyone who gets involved, in whatever capacity, is important. I was the leader of the Boston hive’s (a hive is just another word for chapter) anti-annexation campaign and I think having me as a specific person to be the area’s point person was positively impactful. If people had questions about how to get involved or what sort of resources they could offer, I was the one to whom they would be directed. This made it easier for the campaign to move along locally, and having one main coordinator helped keep the hive in line with the national campaign. 

I wish that when I started I knew how much a social justice campaign can make a difference! Looking back on the summer, what IfNotNow did had a huge impact on how American politicians are thinking about conditioning aid and how Jewish Americans are thinking about annexation. Even though our constituent meetings felt small, seeing headlines about how the elected officials we had talked to were in favor of our demands felt huge. Those moments were validating because I knew that our work was significant. I think if I had known what a gratifying feeling those moments would bring then I probably would’ve stressed less about what kind of impact my work this summer would have.   

I would tell someone who wants to pursue an internship or career in Jewish social justice organizing that it is imperative to put up proper boundaries. I mean this in a few different ways. First, with remote organizing, I would recommend sticking to a strict schedule that allows you to separate your time between work and fun. Part of this includes making a clean space where you can work, and not checking your email after a certain hour of the day. Second, when organizing within small communities, it is important to make sure that, if you’re organizing with people you have personal relationships with, you check in with them and talk about where the professional relationship ends and the friendship begins. This way, we can have better conversations with our communities about important issues such as annexation, while keeping our personal relationships intact when discussing potential emotionally taxing topics. 

The logo of IfNotNow

Overall, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to work for IfNotNow and see how a social justice organization works. I hope to continue to explore this field, and now I have a new outlook to continue that journey. 

 

Post 3: Ending My Summer with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

Over the course of this summer, I went from having very little idea what I wanted my life to look like post-graduation to having a relatively clear plan for the next few years. All of the staff within the DA’s office has been enormously helpful in helping get me here. One piece of advice that stuck with me came from an ADA who said that she only recommends going to law school if having a JD is the only thing standing in the way between you and what you ultimately want to do. I expected I would likely end up going to law school, but I also knew that this isn’t a path I would want to embark on without a very specific vision for what came after. Now, I feel much more confident taking these next steps.

It goes without saying that COVID-19 fundamentally changed every aspect of the world of work, likely forever. I am extremely grateful for the readiness of my supervisors and the rest of the staff to completely restructure the program and ensure we still had a great experience. Like many, I have found my work style is not very compatible with working from home. This was one of the most significant challenges. However, by establishing a routine around my work schedule, I was able to stay productive. Once again, through discovering the ways I don’t work best, I have a better idea of what I am looking for in a career going forward. I look forward to someday being able to go into the office and meet everyone in person.

Another challenge I encountered lay in the content of the work. Much of what the MDAO does, by definition, requires confronting some of the most difficult aspects of the human experience. With crime often comes immense violence, pain, and loss for those involved, and for a highly empathetic person, this world can be really difficult to immerse oneself in every day. It sounds a bit cliché, but I have increasingly come to realize that fundamentally caring about people isn’t a weakness in this line of work. Far from it. This attribute, especially in social justice work, can make an individual a more effective agent in helping work toward a more just system for everyone.

I cannot recommend the MDAO’s internship program highly enough. I think any junior or senior considering going into the legal field would benefit immensely from the experience and connections it creates. The staff is extremely supportive and happy to offer advice and guidance. This is not the kind of internship where you will be in charge of coffee runs; everyone I have done work for has ensured that the tasks they gave me are meaningful and that I see how they fit into the bigger picture.

______________________________

Here’s a link to the docket and filings for Ryan, et al v. ICE, et al, District Attorney Ryan and her fellow plaintiffs’ lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I was lucky enough to get to listen to oral arguments for the case in the First Circuit Supreme Judicial Court!

This is a slide from a training, “Identifying Racial Elements in our Prosecutions.” We have had weekly trainings on systemic racism that have included very productive discussions.

Post 3: Wrapping up My Internship at TRII

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: Learning about Justice from the Sierra Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(needs image) Post 3: Social Justice at MCSW

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: Finishing Summer at Love4Bukwo

My site in Bukwo

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: Looking Back at My Internship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 3: Looking back — An Amazing Summer

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

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

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

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

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

Statistics about Veteran Unemployment Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FB event I created

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

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

Pamphlet I created to help people to submit their comments

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

Blog post #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post 2: 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.

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.

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.

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: 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.