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In Their Own Words: Marcella Houghton ’12.5

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Marcella Houghton ’12.5 interned with the State College Area Food Bank in State College, PA.

What did you do?

Twice a week I assisted Bill Zimmer, the home gardener growing crops for the State College Food Bank, and worked at the Food Bank on alternating days. In addition to harvesting and maintaining the crops he was already growing, I assumed responsibility for planting and harvesting a bed of green beans. When the State College community garden got in touch with Bill with an interest in donating to the SCFB, I contacted and met with the garden intern to set up a system for community gardeners to donate their extra harvest. By the middle of the summer the garden had a cooler set up behind a shade cloth, where gardeners could donate and where I would pick up donations weekly.

At the food bank, I served as an all-purpose volunteer. Every distribution day I joined the morning crew with set-up, shelving, and receiving and sorting donations. I joined the new set of volunteers that came in on afternoons, and helped distribute food to clients. I drove the food bank van on errands and on donation pick-up runs. I also set up a recycling system for torn, dirty, or otherwise un-re-usable plastic bags. After broaching the idea with volunteers and the directors, I found and labeled a bin for the bags. Curbside recycling doesn’t include plastic bags in State College, but since the food bank regularly visits grocery stores, whoever’s driving the van can deliver the bags to the recycling receptacles outside of each store.

What did you learn?

Working at the food bank corrected some assumptions I had unknowingly harbored. I’d previously thought food banks relied almost exclusively on individual donations or food drives. But the SCFB receives the bulk of its items from federal and state programs, the South Central Food Bank in a nearby city, tax-deductible donations from grocery stores, and purchases of new groceries on the food bank budget. I was surprised to learn that clients of the SCFB are eligible for groceries only 8 times per year. No chance of surviving off Food Bank groceries alone, contrary to my previous notions.

What are your plans for the future?

My perception of food assistance programs shifted after this experience, hopefully giving me a better sense for how they operate. Working for the food bank widened my eyes to the complexity of social service programs like the SCFB. I also observed among volunteers and people I spoke with a concern that clients might be able to “cheat the system” and get more food than allotted. I’m inclined to think of this anxiety as a misunderstanding; however, whether people “cheat” often or not I believe that programs should strive to treat clients with compassion rather than suspicion, and I realized just how important it is to cultivate that attitude among volunteers in a program like this one.

This summer I discovered an interest in managing volunteers, when I realized I was often in the position of delegating tasks to new recruits. Volunteering every other day gave me a crash course in many of the daily tasks, and it was rewarding to connect a task-less volunteer with a task and attempt to streamline the day’s to-do list. I found it refreshing to interact with many small teams on a regular schedule (the Monday morning crew, the Monday afternoon crew, etc.) and get to know the rhythms of each group of core volunteers. I could see myself in the position of a volunteer organizer in a similar program.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Alice Oshima ’15

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Alice Oshima ‘15 interned with the Harlem Community Justice Center in New York City.

What did you do?

This summer, I interned with the Harlem Community Justice Center, which is part of the umbrella organization the Center for Court Innovation. Inside the Harlem Community Justice Center, there is a housing court, a family court, a re-entry court, and a youth court. The housing, family, and re-entry courts operate as legitimate New York State courts, but with a specific focus on restorative justice. The youth court on the other hand, which is the program I was working with, works outside the court system and relies of referrals from precincts, the law department, and schools. For my internship, I worked with my supervisor and two other interns to facilitators the trainings of the youth court members. I lead ice-breakers or warm-ups before most sessions—one of the most popular of which was the Enneagram personality test. I facilitated the introductory training, as well as trainings on appropriate sanctions, perceptions and assumptions, and jury deliberation. These lessons were based on the youth court training curriculum created by the Center for Court Innovation, but I was encouraged to make any changes or additions I saw fit. In addition to these curriculum-based trainings, I helped facilitate a session on feminism and gender roles created by a fellow intern. I also began developing curriculum for workshops on mental health and teenagers, and race and the criminal justice system, but was unable to finish and facilitate them due to time. I researched and compiled a list of suggest videos for the training sessions or for the coming year—this list included TED talks, spoken word poems, and documentary clips.

What did you learn?

Before this internship, I had very little knowledge regarding the logistics of our criminal justice system, as well as the flaws with this system. From leading training sessions, and watching my supervisor and fellow interns lead sessions, I learned a great deal about how the court system works and the possibilities offered by restorative justice, but also about some of the shortcomings of the current restorative justice projects available. The internship also gave me experience modifying curriculum, teaching lessons, and in general, working with young people. These experience was very educational, as well as fun! But it was also my first time doing any of these things, and so with time, I think I would have gotten better at making the lesson plans even more dynamic and fully engaging all of the youth. Although I feel I made progress, as a teacher, there is still a lot a lot of work for me to be done.

What are your plans for the future?

In terms of my future plans, I do not plan to specifically focus on restorative justice as a career, but I plan to be involved in social activism for my lifetime and engage with the mass incarceration of predominantly black and Latino men in this country, and the major flaws in our criminal justice system in general, are issues that I hope to continue to be work with in the future. I also am highly considering either being a New York City public high school teacher, or working with high-school aged youth in some other capacity, and so the experience I gained working with that age group will definitely be valuable.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Mia Benjamin ’13

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Mia Benjamin ’13 interned with Pathways for Mutual Respect and the International Institute of Connecticut in Singapore, Malaysia and Connecticut.         

What did you do?

I worked to promote Pathways for Mutual Respect’s interfaith dialogue initiative in Singapore and Malaysia and assisted in a Yale Fellow’s dissertation research on sociology of religion. The other intern and I also put together and facilitated a Life Story Group which brought together Muslims and Christians to share their personal experiences with the goal of breaking down stereotypes and boundaries. For IIConn, I translated Arabic legal documents and served as a personal interpreter and American language and culture tutor to an Iraqi refugee family. While the main purpose of my internship was still to translate legal documents, I did a lot of other tasks for the Institute’s refugee department. I translated about one or two legal documents a week, including divorce certificate, marital contracts, passports, criminal records, and academic transcripts from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. My other primary duty was providing support for a family of Iraqi refugees. In addition to tutoring the wife and children on English and American culture, I served as the personal interpreter for the wife on her doctor and dentist visits.

What did you learn?

From my trip to Southeast Asia, I learned first-hand about the complex religious, ethnic and political tensions in Malaysia and Singapore. I was also exposed to international leadership roles. I gained experience in maintaining careful control over the public image and identity of an organization and the subtleties of inter-business relationships. In the other parts of the internship I learned how to facilitate interfaith discussion groups and manage controversial topics. I also gained experience doing literature reviews of certain topics. The most benefit I gained was learning a great deal about interfaith work, Islam, and running a small non-profit.

What are your plans for the future?

This internship really helped me explore what an academic career that is heavily involved in activism might be like. It increased my desire to work internationally with Muslims and well as pursue graduate studies in the field, because I saw how important international experience and graduate degrees could be having a very real influence on policies and leadership. This helped encourage my belief in the necessity of interfaith dialogue initiatives, especially ones that carefully take into account the complexity of religious and social tensions in the region. One way that I would like to continue this would be to combine community service and interfaith endeavors on the Middlebury campus. For instance, I hope to organize a Habitat for Humanity build day with leaders from the different religious groups on campus.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Lelise Getu ’13

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Lelise Getu ’13 interned doing Immunology Research at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City.

What did you do?

I interned full time as a research assistant with the B-Cell Immunology Laboratory at Alexandria center for life sciences for NYU School of Medicine. During my nine weeks stay at Silverman’s laboratory, I worked on three main research projects related to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) patients. My first research project aimed to reason out the causes for the increased rate of cardiovascular disease in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients when compared to healthy controls (a person without RA). I used a common biological methodology called Elisa (Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) to analyze the patient’s blood samples in order to deduce different hypothesis. This methodology can be very hectic and time consuming if one wants to test different hypothesis at the same time. Hence, my second project mainly focused on developing a standard Luminex (LumAvidin) protocol that helps to test all hypotheses at the same time. My third research project on the other hand focused on finding the etiology (cause) of RA in relation to proteins called citrullinated peptides.

What did you learn?

This internship experience showed me how significant science is in solving real life problems. Through this internship experience, I have developed excellent organizational skills, including the ability to multi-task and prioritize efficiently; ability to work independently on assigned projects; excellent understanding of statistical calculations involved in data analysis: strong analytical, problem solving, organizational, and presentation skills. I also met and networked with renowned health care professionals through different lectures and journal clubs that consequently helped me to expand my knowledge on immunology and microbiology. The most exciting part of the internship was working with real RA patient’s blood sample. These brought the significance of school work to solving real life problems.

What are your plans for the future?

The research experience has made me rethink my post-graduate plans. At the moment, I am doing pre-requisites for pharmacy schools. However, from last summer internship experience I found pharmacy not that challenging. I liked the challenge and the learning process involved in doing research. Hence, upon graduation I plan to take a year off to do research and then most probably make my doctor of pharmacy degree research focused by doing PharmD/PHD.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Esme Lutz ’12.5

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Esme Lutz ’12.5 interned with the Rehwa Society in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, India.

What did you do?

My project focuses on the Rehwa Society, an Indian nonprofit organization established in 1978 dually to promote a regional craft and provide employment specifically for women. Before traveling to India, I conducted research using many of Middlebury’s online resources in order to deepen my understanding of Indian culture and gender relations. I planned to compile a photographic documentary—using images combined with text to illustrate Rehwa’s story to a viewer—and thus spent my time in India observing the weaving process, interviewing key figures associated with the organization, photographing a variety of individuals and objects, as well as traveling to a few different workshops to compare and contrast the methods utilized there. Now near returning back to school, I am in the midst of collating the materials I collected in the way I described in my proposal (with a few small additions): composing an article to publish in a campus magazine, working with curators to exhibit the images I took at Middlebury, sharing the pictures with Rehwa to be used in a promotional “look book,” submitting written material to Rehwa to include in a future application to UNESCO to become a living heritage site, and displaying the photographs publicly via the web.

What did you learn?

My experience was not easy: I was living alone, in a small town in a rural area, unable to speak a difficult-to-just-pick-up language in a country with drastically different from the one in which I had spent most of my life. While at times being in Maheshwar was incredibly enchanting and filled me with an effusive sense of love for the world around me, at other it was exhausting, lonely, and incredibly frustrating. This being said, besides  the factual knowledge I gained, the benefits of interacting with people whose lives are very different from my own, of encountering norms and problems unfamiliar in my home environment, and of pushing myself into a situation in which I initially felt very uncomfortable, are undeniable.

What are your plans for the future?

As my studies wind to a close (in February) and I think increasingly about my next motions, my experience in India will definitely register strongly in my mind when considering characteristics I desire in a career. It was incredible to encounter people with different circumstance and background, to push myself further into situations that were momentarily uncomfortable, and to have an expanse of time to think critically about a single subject. My interests have definitely taken a more international focus, and I hope to, in part, address the fundamental challenges I observed firsthand while in Maheshwar.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Ellery Berk ’14

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Ellery Berk ’14 interned with Gardens for Health International in Kigali, Rwanda.   

What did you do?

For the month of June, I interned with Gardens for Health International as a communications intern, conducting interviews, collecting media and writing blogs. Gardens for Health  is an agricultural NGO that partners with Rwandan health centers to equip families facing malnutrition with the knowledge and resources for greater self-sufficiency.

What did you learn?

Through Gardens for Health, I learned anew the values of self-sufficiency and community, and I have great expectations for our partnership moving forward. I learned that it is very important to be flexible.

What are your plans for the future?

My interest in development and global health remains strong; however, I realize that my place in the field likely does not lie in a small grassroots organization. While in Rwanda, I found that the most effective work Gardens for Health did was completed by Rwandans themselves. Expat staffers provided programmatic and technical support for Rwandan staff members, but little else. From this experience, I’ve learned that if I want to continue in the global health and development field, I should probably work with larger organizations, like Oxfam or the UN, and I should get an MPP and MBA.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

In Their Own Words: Catherine Charnov ’13

Categories: Midd Blogosphere, music

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Catherine Charnov ’13 interned with Universal Records in New York City.

What did you do?

This summer, I interned in the A&R department of Universal Records in New York City. I had previous experience in music marketing, publicity and management but really wanted to understand how musical decisions are made and how artists are found. This internship was the perfect opportunity. Every day, I researched unfound and upcoming talent using online resources and sales charts to present, with a formal report, to my boss for review and the possibility of further research or analysis. I was also in charge of compiling airplay charts and lists of top artists world wide, monitoring sales spikes and online fan bases. I also got to help with miscellaneous tasks such as making CD labels and inserts, setting up instruments and stage equipment in their showcase lounge, and creating manifests for disc filing. We were also sometimes allowed to watch artists’ showcases and critique unreleased singles in listening sessions. Every Friday, representatives from different departments, such as digital marketing, the TV sync team, international dept., sales, etc., would come and speak to the interns for around an hour about what their department was and how things worked. This was extremely helpful in terms of solidifying my understanding of the company as a whole and how each piece of the larger whole fit together. Middlebury prepared me for this internship by teaching me to be timely, responsible, and eager to learn. Not much of what I did this summer could have been acquired in a classroom setting because everything was so hands-on and practical.

What did you learn?

An example of what made this internship meaningful to me was when I got to congratulate Florence + The Machine on her newest album going platinum. She came into the office and we got to present her with a gold plaque etc. It was great for me to realize not only the side of an artist’s manager, AIR representative, and sales team but also how much time and hard work the artist must put in to achieve such great successes. I was honored to be a part of Florence’s celebration. The thing I learned the most from this internship was how hard you have to work and how much you have to really want it to get anywhere in the music business. In A&R in particular— if you are behind the signing of one top-selling, amazing artist, you are golden and automatically promoted. However, if you do not get that lucky, it seems that only persistence and patience are the keys to success.

What are your plans for the future?

I think this internship will greatly impact my future career plans because before this summer, I was wondering if A&R would, after my experiences in other parts of the music business, be a better fit for my interests, and it turned out to be perfect. I would be very happy to get a job after graduation working at Universal Records of for the A&R department of another record label. I love working directly with the musicians and the music they create.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.