Sorensen Fellows urge students to change world

Awards offer opportunity to integrate internship and coursework

The 2011 Sorensen Fellows (left to right) Jessye Kass, Shani Rosenbaum, Calliope Desenberg, Sarah Van Buren, Piyawat “Paul” Sukijthamapan and Sarah Michael.

Calliope Desenberg ’12 did not enter Brandeis planning to be a Sorensen Fellow – in fact, she knew nothing about the program. “Spring semester freshman year a friend took me to the Sorensen Fellowship info session with the promise of free food and something about a cool-sounding summer program,” says Desenberg.

“I went with the intention of a nice snack-provided study break, but then ended up hearing about a fellow’s amazing experience.” she says. “It was pretty cool to hear how different her summer was than she expected and what she did to adapt to the challenges.”

When she decided to apply, the first thing she did was go to the Sorensen ‘Internship Ideas and Leads’ webpage.

"I was taking Prof. Gordie Fellman’s sociology class War and Possibilities of Peace, so I was particularly drawn to organizations focused on conflict resolution and nonviolence work. To be honest, it was pretty random that I wound up in Costa Rica with the Centro de Estudios para la Paz (Center for Peace Studies), but it ended up being a huge learning experience,” Desenberg says.

Jessye Kass '13 spent her Sorensen Fellowship summer in Ghana as one of the founders of Attukwei Art Foundation, which brings art projects to students who are living in underprivileged areas, or who have been victims of forced child labor and sex slavery.

“I knew when I entered Brandeis that I wanted to change the world,” says Kass. “The Sorensen Fellowship gave me the support, as a community and financially, to take the first steps to make that change – and through this fellowship, I have arguably changed many lives of the young women I've worked with in Ghana.”

The Sorensen Fellowship is a unique opportunity for Brandeis University sophomores and juniors to integrate coursework with summertime internships in the United States and overseas. Open to sophomores and juniors in any major, Sorensen Fellows receive a stipend to cover travel and living expenses for their summer internships — $4,000 for internships abroad, $3,500 for domestic internships. They return to Brandeis in the fall to process their experiences in the seminar “Internship in Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies,” PAX 89.

Learn about the 2013 Sorensen Fellowship at an information session from 3 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 2 at the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex Atrium. Speak with representatives of the Sorensen Fellowship, and ask questions about the application process and the Fellowship experience. More info and RSVP (optional) on Facebook.

“Do not to be intimidated by the Sorensen Fellowship,” says Desenberg. “I remember talking to my friends when I first started searching for internships and working on my application. A bunch of them said, ‘Oh that sounds cool, but it’s way too competitive. No way they’d give one to me, so why would I bother trying?’ You don’t have to be some sort of “all-star” who has their entire future figured out – I certainly wasn’t! The important thing is to find an organization whose work you’re really interested in and to articulate what fires you up about their work.”

“I now feel much more confident in my ability to go someplace totally unknown, adapt to new situations, and deal with all the unexpected issues that inevitably will come up,” she says. “And as a result of the required fall class (Internship in Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies - PAX 89), I am now a much better writer.”

Says Kass: “Just do it. Believe in yourself and put your best idea forward. Just going through the application process is a good life skill to have and helps prepare you for the future. And this fellowship can change your life.”

“This Fellowship helped me believe in myself, my NGO and the passion I have for Ghana and for changing the world. It also provided me with a strong community of some of the most active, intellectual and wonderful people on campus, from the staff and professor of the fellowship to the fellows themselves,” Kass said. “I've never felt more supported at Brandeis than I do and did by the Sorensen Fellowship. It allowed me to hit the ground running, and I have run with it. I am making a difference at Brandeis, by bringing fellow students to Ghana to work with my NGO, and in Ghana, by bringing art therapy and art to children who do not otherwise have access to creative expression.”

Desenberg also emphasized the strength of the Sorensen Fellowship community:

“I have become friends with some of the brightest, most passionate, strong, caring, and motivated people that I have had the pleasure of knowing at Brandeis thanks to the Fellowship,” she said. “The incredible support I felt throughout from the other fellows, as well as from the staff and faculty in the program, made all the difference in making it through what I found to be a really challenging experience.”

Read more about Desenberg’s and Kass’s experiences in the “Voices in Solidarity: Six Friends Reaching for Healing Across the World” – a compilation of the reflections of the 2011 Sorensen Fellows.

The Sorensen Fellowship program honors the late Theodore C. “Ted” Sorensen for his lifelong commitment to public service and for his 10 years as founding chair of the Ethics Center’s International Advisory Board. Sorensen was policy adviser, legal counsel and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy, practiced international law for four decades and was a widely published author on the presidency and foreign affairs. [Read a remembrance of Sorensen’s life and work.]


Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage