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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ruderman scholars affect change for disabled

Published: September 19, 2014
Section: News

Inaugurated in 2013, the Ruderman Social Justice in Disability Scholars Program is the perfect scholarship for students who are passionate about working with people with disabilities. After being selected as Scholars, students participate in an internship and receive a stipend of $2,000 upon completion of their junior year. This past summer, the four current scholars, Jennifer Bromberg ’15, Elizabeth Chalfin ’15, Jennifer Lee ’15 and Deanna Marion ’15, all completed different summer internships.

Deanna Marion ’15 was chosen for a Washington Internship on Social Insurance, overseen by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) in which “students serve as interns on social insurance policy research and analysis projects …” She decided to intern at Long Term Quality Alliance which is located in Washington, D.C. According to their website, LTQA’s mission is, “To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of care and the quality of life of people receiving long-term services and supports by fostering person- and family-centered quality measurement and advancing innovative best practices.” Marion applied for this internship after finishing the course Dilemmas of Long-Term Care taught by Professor Walter Leutz. She felt this to be a natural transition as she was “able to put what I had learned that semester into practice during the summer,” she said.

Marion recalled her fondest memory from the internship as being the amount of networking opportunities available to her in such a fantastic and diverse city as Washington. In addition, she said, “I also enjoyed spending my Fourth of July in D.C., watching the fireworks from under the Washington Monument.

Electing to stay closer to Brandeis, Elizabeth Chalfin ’15 did her summer internship in Waltham at the Greater Waltham Arc (GWArc). “The Arc is an organization that promotes and protects the rights of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” she said. Chalfin chose this internship because she enjoys seeing the positive influence she can make on the lives of those she helps as well as being able to actually interact with people through direct hands-on work. Describing her internship she said, “I had the opportunity to work with adults in a day rehabilitation setting and children in a camp recreational program.” Chalfin believes her most significant accomplishment of the summer to be conducting “Consumer Satisfaction Surveys,” which the organization uses as a method of checking in with those who participate in the program. They ask questions to find out if the participants feel the Arc is succeeding in meeting its goals and to ask if the participants have any thoughts on how the Arc can improve.

Looking back on her internship now, Chalfin feels that the “internship experience taught me how to think on my feet. When completing surveys with individuals from a variety of different comprehension levels it is important to be able to reword or cater questions in a way that is meaningful to another person.” Now that she is back at Brandeis, Chalfin is applying the Arc’s mission to protect people’s basic human rights to Professor Susan Parish’s Disability Policy course, which also focuses on that topic.

Parish also started the Ruderman Social Justice in Disability Scholars Program. When asked her opinion on what the most valuable experience/lesson that the Scholars might gain from their participation in the program, Parish said the following: “Scholars are having diverse experiences … They are learning to think critically about the questions that they need to be asking and thinking about when it comes to disability issues, and how to examine those questions through rigorous research … The overarching benefit is to better understand the importance of the full inclusion and community participation of people with disabilities in society. I believe that the diversity of experience they are gaining allows them a more thorough understanding of the complex issues related to disability.”

She also gave some advice for students who think they may be interested in applying to the program. She encourages students to take care with their application, using it as platform to better describe their commitment to disability inclusion, any experience they have had in the field, what interests them about it and how their perception of disability policy,and disability inclusion will enhance their education at Brandeis. To conclude, Parish said, “And of course, I would be delighted to meet with any undergraduates who want to learn more about the program.”