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We were once again impressed with all our applications for our third UDR Recognition Prize and have selected two winners:

Ethan Stein, FTIM and Hebrew

Over the winter break Brandeis had come under fire for the Lynch/Mael “fiasco.” Brandeis came off as violent, full of hatred, anger and rage. Stories of prohibition of security and freedom of speech have been shared and seen by the masses. We all know however that this saga is the story of two. Two individuals. The things under debate in that story do not affect the vast majority of the students on this campus, and in no way interfere with the quality of life at Brandeis.

In conjunction with Martin Luther King Day, the FTIM Program under the auspices of Professor Alice Kelikian, chair of the Film, Television and Interactive Media Program, was able to secure the Academy Award nominated film Selma, while it was still in theaters, to hold a special private screening for the campus at large.

In an attempt to bring people of different backgrounds and viewpoints together the Film, Television and Interactive Media at Brandeis,  we reached out and co-sponsored with the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, and Brandeis Bridges.

The event on Wednesday, January 21, was a major success. There was not an empty seat in the house that fills close to 250 people, and about 40 more sat in the back. Students, professors, administrators, trustees, chaplains alike enjoyed and were moved by the screening. The film started and important dialogue about freedoms of speech, minorities, hate, and differences between individuals on the Brandeis campus. After the screening, students remained in the hallway outside the Wasserman Cinematheque discussing the film, expressing emotions of sadness, frustration, but also empowerment. Moved by the film so much,  they asked to take home their tickets and the large poster board advertisements sitting outside of the theater.

This screening enabled the community to host a larger discussion the following day led by President Lawrence with panelists Thomas Doherty, professor of American studies; Jasmine Johnson, assistant professor of AAAS and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; Daniel Kryder, associate professor of politics; and Chad Williams, associate professor and chair of the AAAS Department. There issues of race, civil rights and social justice that affect the country and campus were discussed.

As this was to be a popular and sold-out event, tickets were needed for entrance. As UDR, Ethan made it his mission to ensure all knew about the event and those who wanted could get tickets; students, faculty, development, administrators and chaplains all contacted Ethan directly for tickets, and he immediately distributed to them as requested.

The event was such an achievement that the FTIM department now plans on bringing other films of this nature to continue the conversation.

As UDR, one main area of promotion was the Facebook page which Ethan created and managed. According to Facebook analytics over 44k people saw the event on Facebook. Not only did the organizers use this page as an promotional venue but also as a means for discussion. Images and quotes were posted to get individuals excited for the film and also to think. One of the images read: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr. This further created communication between undergraduates and faculty and helped build community through the discussion in addition to the film itself and the subsequent panel discussion.

Elyse Jackson, EAS

Last semester, alongside the two other East Asian Studies UDRs: Heather Yoon and Teresa Fong, Elyse arranged and held the East Asian Studies Meet the Majors event. All three UDRs were all eager to get involved and get creative with the event planning. Their main objectives were to increase interest in the East Asian Studies major and attract a larger audience than last year. They began planning in September delegating tasks and assigning work. Elyse’s tasks were to book the location at the Intercultural Center, contact alumni to attend the event, create flyers to hand out to language/East Asian Studies classes, send email advertisements, post flyers around campus and help facilitate the event. The planning was tedious, however it all paid off! The event was a huge success! Mulan restaurant catered the event, there were performances, a large audience, and the alumnus Elyse contacted, Matthew Jennings, was able to come and talk about how East Asian Studies impacted his career and give advice to current and prospective majors. At the event, Elyse happily took charge of sound and technical responsibilities, for example, preparing the Power Points, and making sure the speakers and projectors were working. Elyse was also the event host. She introduced the guest speakers and helped insure the event ran smoothly.

After the event, the head of the East Asian Studies Department, Aida Wong, let everyone know that twice as many people came to this event than in earlier years. They were able to meet each goal that they set for the event! In addition, several students contacted Elyse afterwards expressing interest in the major and studying abroad in East Asia.

The Meet the Majors event was the first event Elyse had ever held for East Asian Studies, but because it was so successful it inspired her to get more involved in the East Asian Studies department last fall.

Elyse created the Chinese Table Club to provide students learning Chinese with the opportunity to practice Chinese outside of the classroom, and she has increased dialogue between students and professors. Through this increased interaction, she discovered students had grievances that were not being addressed, one of which was that students wanted to major in Chinese, but are unable to because a major does not exist. So, she has made it a priority to create a Chinese major.

In addition, Elyse has helped address the grievances and concerns of professors, while helping them to improve curriculum and teaching methods. She has also provided advice for students studying abroad.

All of the things that Elyse has done for the East Asian Studies Department have never been done the way that she is doing them, or they have never been done before at all! Despite her fears in the beginning, she has helped opened the door to new opportunities in the East Asian Studies Department and encouraged many changes. For example, she have presented the grievances of professors to the Dean, encouraged students to vocalize suggestions for improving the Chinese Department, created the Chinese Table Club to allow Chinese speakers to practice speaking outside of the classroom and she has held counseling sessions for students applying to study abroad.

When she became UDR, Elyse’s first priority was making sure the professors were satisfied. She held a meeting with them in October and learned of the grievances they had. One of their concerns was that they wanted to assign homework to students on an online platform that would allow them to check the students' progress on these assignments. That way, they could clearly see where students were lacking. She immediately suggested a few websites that would help them do this. Some professors have implemented those suggested websites into their curriculum. Other grievances were brought to the attention of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Elaine Wong.

The next thing on her agenda was listening to what students had to say. Students expressed concerns about reviewing vocabulary words in class. They progressed too quickly through lessons and never reviewed previous lessons to increase retention of older vocabulary words. In the departmental meeting in October, she raised this concern to the professors. They agreed to implement more review into their curriculum. Since then, she has heard fewer complaints. The Chinese Table provided a safe space where students could voice their concerns and talk about their accomplishments, an opportunity students did not previously have.

Additionally, the Chinese Table was once held by the head of the Chinese Department, however was shortly shut down when students stopped attending. However, in Elyse’s experience, the Chinese Table has been a huge success! We have held Brandeis-Harvard joint Chinese Tables, movies nights, we've had Dim-Sum dinners with professors, and small get-togethers in Waltham. Last semester, she was able to get the club recognized by Brandeis and now she is in the middle of getting the club chartered. With the support of her fellow classmates and Chinese learners, the newly chartered club will be up and running in no time!

Finally, she has held impromptu advising sessions for students studying abroad in China. Students who expressed concern about the application process and the acceptance rates of certain programs, like Princeton in Beijing, contacted her seeking help. In response, she schedule a casual meeting over coffee to help them wherever they need it. For Elyse, the most rewarding part is using her experience and knowledge to help others. Her study abroad experience in China was a very important turning point in her academic career and she loves sharing that!

When Elyse applied to be a UDR, she said that she didn't just want to witness change, she wanted to be the change. She believes that the East Asian Studies Department is going to take on some serious new changes, and she is so happy that she am part of that change.