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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

JBS: Sneak Peak

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: Features

On Nov. 6, Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe approved eight Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) programs for.

Below is an overview of the JBS programs that have been approved for summer 2010. Specifics about the programs, such as classes that must be created, are still being finalized.

JBS is an opportunity for students to develop close working relationships with professors and gives them hands-on experience in their field of choice, enabling students to show future employees that they can shine in a real world atmosphere, as well as in the classroom. JBS programs are meant to interest students who either major or minor in the subject of the program, but all students are encouraged to apply regardless of their academic concentrations. A JBS summer program will supply a student with at least 12 credits and can fulfill certain requirements for various departments.

Each JBS can accommodate, and therefore accept, a different number of students, although the estimated range is between 10 and 20. JBS programs are meant to offer immersion learning in small groups where students and professors can interact on an individual level and, ideally, create life-changing experiences.

Applications for JBS will be similar to a study abroad application, and will include an essay and faculty recommendations.

Understanding the American Jewish Community

The Horstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, with the assistance of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, will operate a JBS focused on the American Jewish Community as a whole.

This JBS will run similarly to a graduate program, offering undergraduates an opportunity to work with faculty and two research centers. According to the proposal submitted by Professor Len Saxe of the Heller School, “Understanding the American Jewish Community aims to infuse an intensive undergraduate seminar with the academically rigorous and contemporary research and policy environments in which the Cohen Center and Hornstein Program routinely operate. These are exciting, relevant, and integrated learning models that change the world, and fit the university’s goals of education for social justice and global citizenship. This JBS program is designed to have each of its three courses overlap, and build coherently one to the next.”

Classroom sessions will allow for students to discuss broad concepts regarding religious and cultural issues. In addition the professors are currently working on a set of field research projects that will take place towards the middle of the JBS session. After the field research is conducted through interviews supervised by research center staff, students will meet with their advisors and professors to discuss and write research reports. Students will then be expected to create an oral presentation of their findings and present them at a public presentation at the culmination of the program.

There are no prerequisites for this JBS, thought it is meant to interest humanities students and specifically any majors that focus on cultural and social discovery such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, history and Near Eastern & Judaic studies.

Inside Criminal Law: Restoring Justice to the System

In conjunction with the Shuster Institute for Investigative Journalism this JBS will explore a problem with the current criminal justice system: wrongful conviction.

Through classroom exploration of basic criminal procedure, including the constitutional laws associated with criminal cases and post conviction options, students will learn the ins and outs of the legal system. They will also study specific cases and evaluate and research what can be done to right them.

All three classes in this JBS are classes already offered in the curriculum, but their topics will be redirected to better fit the JBS theme.

The JBS will also include an internship that will allow students to research and discuss cases, and possibly even attend courtroom proceedings. In class, students will also spend a large amount of time discussing and examining documents pertaining to a specific case they will be working on.

Environmental Health and Justice

This JBS will focus on how the environment influences the health of individuals, and the role social justice plays in environmental health. Students will be studying in the community by working with several agencies in both Waltham and the Greater Boston area.

In the classroom, students will explore the background necessary to complete their fieldwork efficiently, according to the proposal submitted and approved by professor Laura Goldin. (AMST)

“Students will explore the law, policy, science, history and social impacts of current environmental health issues challenging individuals, families and communities today,” the proposal reads. “We will focus on low-income, immigrant populations, and challenges ranging from exposure to contaminated water and food to dealing with the effects of climate change. Students will become involved first-hand with the topics studied through field trips and visiting speakers, discussions with the stakeholders themselves, field observation, research, writing and reflection.”

Students will work in the Waltham area with the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing’s “Tenant Advocacy Clinic,” in collaboration with the Boston College Law School Legal Assistance Bureau and Greater Boston Legal Services. Students will become trained advocates at the Advocacy Clinic, meeting with clients to provide legal assistance and knowledge regarding issues the community is facing and the relationships between housing and toxic exposure.

Through classroom instruction, students will become skilled at monitoring, analyzing and documenting potential hazards in homes through the use of specific equipment. This will prepare them for the fieldwork they will be doing. Goldin is currently working with many agencies to create partnerships geared towards their needs for the summer.

Goldin stressed the mutual benefits of the program in an e-mail message to The Hoot.

“I would really like students to focus on the community engagement of this program and how it can be rewarding for both them and the community,” she wrote.

Health and Society Field Semester

Unlike other JBS programs, this JBS is specifically geared towards students majoring in Health, Science, Society and Policy (HSSP), and will allow students to complete four of their required course for the major.

Also unlike other JBS programs, two of the three classes that will be offered– HSSP 100: Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Population Health and HSSP 102: Global Perspectives on Health –are already part of the existing curriculum.

The program would also include trips to local Boston Healthcare institutions as well as guest lectures and focus on a preparation for the intense internship over the fall semester. It is already a requirement of the HSSP major to participate in an internship, however, the JBS would allow a student to have a double-credit internship that would include the internship class and an independent research course.

The internship would be an expected component of the JBS and will be selected for the list of HSSP priority internships or chosen by the student and then approved. The student could choose to complete their internship in their hometown.

Web Services, Mobile Apps and Cloud Computing

Only available to students who have taken the first three computer science classes in the major sequence, this JBS will also require a fall internship. Unlike other programs, this may be a JBS program that master’s students are interested in as well.

According to the JBS Web site and the proposal submitted by Professor Tim Hickey (COSI), “The goal of this JBS will be to teach the fundamental concepts behind database management and Web-based application development and to combine this theory-based curriculum with an extended experiential component in which the students put these ideas into practice, both in a project of their own design and in a full-time fall internship.”

In an email to the Hoot, Hickey elaborated: “We’re planning for a ‘startup feel’ for the course, where students and faculty are fully engaged for eight weeks rapidly learning the conceptual materials (Web services and mobile apps) and applying that knowledge to build interesting and useful projects.”

During the fall internship, students will take an independent study in which there will be a reading list related to their internship, as well as a LATTE-based component where all students completing their internships will respond to questions posed by the professor in addition to commenting on responses by other students.

Ethnographic Fieldwork

This JBS is geared toward anthropology majors and minors. It would allow a classroom experience focusing on the tools needed to conduct an independent research project through fieldwork; this could also include working with human subjects.

The JBS would meet for the first five weeks in the classroom session and then once a week as a group and also independently with the professor to discuss the progress of their research project. Students will be accepted to the program on the basis of their proposed project, however, in case some of these projects do not come to fruition the professor is prepared to have backup projects.

According to the JBS Web site and the proposal submitted by Elizabeth Ferry (ANTH), “In addition to completing 12 credits of coursework within anthropology (which can count towards the Brandeis major or minor), students would participate in a video JBS symposium that would be circulated to the Brandeis community and/or on YouTube. This would give them the opportunity to show their work to a broader audience.”

Some students may also choose to use this research as a basis for their senior thesis. Most of the research will be conducted in Waltham or Boston, although accommodation may be made for highly independent and dedicated students who wish to do their research out of the area. In this case, the students would communicate with the professor via email and LATTE. This program will also be open to students outside of Brandeis.

Collaborative Theater and the Theatrical Essay

This is the only creative arts focused JBS for this summer. It allows a student to write, direct and star in a personal essay. This would be a narrative of self-reflection.

There is a prerequisite of Introduction to Theater (THA2A) and Acting: The Vocal/Physical Connection (THA4A), or equivalent practical personal experience to be evaluated by the department.

According to the JBS Web site and the proposal submitted by Adrianne Krstansky (THA), “The writer is struggling with a question, challenges conventional forms, exposes something of him/herself and speaks from personal [experience]. The essay is not meant to expose or judge others, is not political or didactic in nature, nor the author speaking from a place of authority. The author speaks from a place of self-revelation, questioning and vulnerability.”

The class time will focus on developing the tools and techniques needed to create the final piece, which will be a performance of the created essay. Assignments, such as creating smaller essays of others’ stories through an interview as well as participating in a theater lab, will develop the background necessary to create a wonderful final project. The program may also include a guest artist.

Ideally the pieces will be performed at a public festival as a culmination of the JBS program. Students may also use their work from the JBS as a basis for a theater thesis. This program would also be open to students outside of the Brandeis community.

The Beacon Hill Summer

This JBS is geared towards students with an interest in both journalism and politics. While the focus will be on reporting skills needed for reporting politics, the program will allow students to explore the inner workings of the Massachusetts Governor’s race, the state budget and other political and policy matters that occur over the summer.

Students will also have the opportunity to go into Boston communities and view first-hand the effects of decisions made on Beacon Hill, allowing them to understand the ramifications of the issues they are covering.

According to the approved proposal submitted by Professor Eileen McNamara (JOUR), “In addition to developing a deeper understanding of the journalistic challenges of covering complicated policy issues and campaign strategies, students will acquire critical skills in research, interviewing and writing on deadline.”

In addition to writing shorter news-style pieces, students will write longer magazine-style pieces in a group environment that will allow them to collaborate and develop their skills of writing in a narrative form.

Classroom instruction for this JBS will be concentrated towards the beginning of the program in order to prepare students for their time in the field. Required reading will also help to prepare them with background information and the basics of political reporting so that they may be a more informed reporter.

The JBS is geared toward students with a strong passion for journalism. The Journalism Program hopes that taking classes over the summer will free up students to take full-time internships at newspapers and magazines during the semester.