News Highlights - Archive

protesters around a maypole with flags and signs

Taking to the streets in Mexico City to protest violence against women

New Course Spring '21: Confronting Gender-Based Violence

January 1, 2021

Gender-based violence: What is it? How is it manifested? And what roles have art and creativity played in confronting it?

CAST Co-Chair Prof. Toni Shapiro-Phim offered this new course, CAST 125a: Confronting Gender-Based Violence, in spring 2021. Read about Camila Cano '23, who helped Toni create the course.

Engaging with multiple forms of creative expression and several different social change frameworks as they address and counter various aspects of gender-based violence in discrete cultural and historical contexts, this course explores gender-based violence as a grave violation of human rights, and the creative, innovative and meaningful methods through which particular communities and individuals counter such violation, including as it intersects with race and socioeconomic status. These methods might range from art installations in galleries or public spaces to formal theatrical productions, from the choreography of street protests to graffiti, films, pop-up concerts and podcasts, many involving survivors of gender-based violence in the creative process. In 2021 the class focused in particular on the experiences of those who identify as women, have been assigned to or perceived of as members of that category, or who identity and present as femme. The course will usually be offered every third year.

Liberian Women's Chorus members

The Liberian Women's Chorus for Change

"Because of the War" featured by UNESCO Art-Lab

November 6, 2020

CAST Co-Chair Toni Shapiro-Phim's documentary film, Because of the War, was the focus of part of the UNESCO Art-Lab's International Human Rights Day celebration on December 10, 2020. UNESCO screened the trailer and interviewed Dr. Shapiro-Phim as well as Fatu Gayflor, one of the Liberian anti-violence activists and artists who share their stories in the movie.

About the film: In West Africa and North America, four Liberian women -- mothers, singers, dancers, survivors of civil wars, refugees and immigrants -- use their music to address injustice and inspire action for social change. Fatu Gayflor, Marie Nyenabo, Zaye Tete and Tokay Tomah share their stories in this film, deepening understandings of the active, constructive roles the arts and artists can take in moments of crisis in the lives of families and communities. 

Also, read Toni's UNESCO Art-Lab Talks essay, "Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, Artist-Heroes in our Midst."

Filloux headshot

Photo Credit: Vandy Rattana

Renowned Playwright Catherine Filloux Working with CAST 150b Students

September 1, 2020

In the Fall of 2020, CAST 150b students had a special opportunity to work directly with renowned playwright Catherine Filloux, who visited class multiple times during the latter part of the term. Under the guidance of this award-winning author of works that address human rights and social justice the world over, students took the raw transcripts of Filloux's interviews with survivors of the Cambodian genocide and fashioned the transcripts into monologues, which they read for the public (via Zoom).

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her plays have been produced around the world. Among the many honors she has received are the 2019 Barry Lopez Visiting Writer in Ethics and Community Fellowship; the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre; and the 2015 Planet Activist Award. Filloux’s plays have been widely published and anthologized. She received her M.F.A. at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program and her French Baccalaureate in Philosophy, with Honors, in Toulon, France. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, and the first Art & Peacebuilding Scholar at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego.

Weiner headshot
CAST Student News: Richard Quinn Weiner selected as Schiff Undergraduate Fellow

May 28, 2020

CAST minor Richard Quinn Weiner '21 (they/them/theirs) was selected in May 2020 to receive one of the ten Schiff Undergraduate Fellowships for the 2020-2021 Brandeis University academic year for their project 'Generations of Impactful Scholarship' with their faculty mentor, Tom King.

As Quinn describes, "For my Schiff Fellowship project, I am expanding upon my English senior honors thesis, within which I am studying the way the phrase 'gender identity' takes on different meanings and uses among various academic and lay populations. Essentially, I am trying to unravel a giant miscommunication, one which has led to unproductive and nonsensical conversations around gender and gender identity, impeding research, justice work, and individuals' searches for language and recognition. With this in mind, under the mentorship of Prof. Tom King, I will be exploring the ways my research findings can be creatively and effectively communicated to a variety of audiences (including through the creation of a blog, an academic unit, and an oral research presentation) in hopes of reducing that miscommunication and hopefully the barriers it creates."

As a Schiff Fellow, Quinn will receive a $2000 stipend to support their research, and their Faculty mentor will receive a $500 payment to support their own research endeavors. Learn more about the Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship.

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CAST Affiliated Faculty Faith Smith Receives Dean of Arts & Sciences Faculty Service Award

May 27, 2020

CAST Affiliated Faculty member Faith Smith (AAAS, ENG, LALS, WGS) was one of five Brandeis faculty members recognized for excellence in the classroom with a 2019-20 teaching award. Smith received the 2020 Dean of Arts & Sciences Faculty Service Award, which is given to an outstanding faculty member of the graduate school who has impacted his or her students' education inside and outside the classroom. Read more about Smith's award at BrandeisNOW

Read a testimonial from Dannie Brice '20 about Smith's course, AAAS 124a, After the Dance: Performing Sovereignty in the Caribbean inspiring her senior thesis.

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Special Edition: Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: Contributions of Arts and Culture

March 31, 2020

The International Journal of Transitional Justice

Volume 20, Issue 1, March 2020

A special edition of The Transitional Journal of International Justice called "Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: the Contributions of Art and Culture" was guest edited by Dr. Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. The edition features the following contributions:

Support for color images came from Elaine Reuben '63, CAST supporter and Board Member of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life

CAST minor Sarah Terrazano '19 assisted Cohen in the screening of initial submissions to the special issue.

clown holding cardboard box

March 23, 2020

Sustainable Brandeis is eager to improve our recycling and composting rates. They turned to CAST for help with their outreach to the Brandeis community. The recycling clown video was created by CAST affiliated faculty member Sabine von Mering (WGS, CGES) and undergrad Perry Letourneau, and cosponsored by CAST. 

Toni Shapiro-Phim
Announcement: Appointment of Toni Shapiro-Phim

May 22, 2019

CAST is delighted to announce the appointment of Toni Shapiro-Phim as Associate Professor of Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation and Assistant Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts (outside the tenure track). Beginning fall semester 2019, Professor Shapiro-Phim will co-chair the CAST minor, offer its core course (CAST 150b), develop new CAST-designated courses, and support the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Read the full announcement.

POETIC JUSTICE, the Brandeis Poetry Slam Team
POETIC JUSTICE Enters Semi-Finals

April 12, 2019

Brandeis' Poetry Slam Team in Top 20 Collegiate Poetry Teams

POETIC JUSTICE, the Brandeis Poetry Slam Team, was officially one of the top 20 collegiate poetry teams in the country. The team competed at semi-finals against Barnard, NYU, Oberlin and University of Miami.

Poetic Justice's travel to the semi-final slam poetry competion was sponsored by CAST with financial support from The Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Foundation (through the support of Naomi Sinnreich, P’13).


April 2, 2019


Concert & Book Launch Event

Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp is a resource for music educators, chorus leaders, activists and cultural workers. In it, the nationally admired cultural worker, musician, educator, and activist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, shares her approach to social transformation and its roots in African-American musical traditions. Sapp tells the story of her childhood, nurtured by the Black community while living in the brutal world of the Jim Crow South. She describes her participation in the Black Power movement and introduces us to her mentors. She shares 25 songs she has written with young people and sung with people of all ages, and tells the stories behind each song while offering suggestions for teachers and chorus leaders. The book also includes scores, and all of the songs can be heard on podcasts where Jane’s approach to cultural work is illuminated through conversations with activists, cultural workers and music educators.

From the introduction, “If You Really Want to Know Me:”

Too often social change work focuses on what communities don’t have: there aren’t enough economic resources; the education system is not responsive; and racism keeps Black people from reaching their full potential. But I began to wonder what would happen if we focus on what we do have... We have each other, our songs, our stories, our imaginations, our experiences surviving and making ugly beautiful. We know how to make a way out of no way. – Jane Sapp, p. 25

Purchase the book now!

academy of american poetsA poem by Sarah Terrazano '19, "Fire in the Woods," which examines the layers of occupation at Walden Pond (challenging Thoreau's primacy), was the selection for the 2019 Academy of American Poets Prize. The award was given as part of Brandeis' 2019 University and College Prize for the Academy of American Poets. An outside judge selected two poems, one for each prize.

Sarah served as an undergrad as the Peacebuilding and the Arts Undergraduate Assistant at the Ethics Center. A writer and poet, she was an English/Creative Writing major with minors in CAST and Hispanic Studies. She was also the Editor-in-Chief of The Brandeis Hoot newspaper. 

Read Sarah's poem.

A Reflection on Ebony Axis

By Sarah Nzisabira, CAST student

LaShawn Simmons ’18 founded Ebony Axis, a poetry zine for Black women, with help from a CAST grant in 2015. Nzisabira reflects:


"I am forever grateful for the spaces I have shared ever since then with real poets, particularly poets of color. An individual who I am particularly appreciative of would have to be Brandeis and CAST alum, LaShawn Simmons ‘18, who cultivated one of the most culturally impactful and transformative spaces I have ever been in - Ebony Axis. Ebony Axis is a literary magazine dedicated to women of color on Brandeis’ campus and with each annual publishing comes a coffeehouse-esque sort of open mic/reading/celebration which I have attended each year since my start at Brandeis. Ebony Axis has been a literal and metaphorical healing space for many women of color, particularly Black women, as it allows us to take a physical and mental break from all that comes with being a Black woman studying on Brandeis’ campus and provides a space dedicated specifically to sharing, communing with and celebrating ourselves."

Opening of the CAST Creativity Lab

March 12, 2018

5:30 pm
The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC), Room 327

We are excited to announce the opening of our new CAST Creativity Lab, Monday, March 12, at 5:30 pm, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, where it’s located. The first space of its kind for CAST and Creative Writing students on campus, the Lab will be a place to meet and collaborate on projects or work individually. Designed and implemented by CAST senior Marcelo Brociner, the Resource Room is filled with comfortable chairs, a computer and desk, and a bookshelf of CAST-related books, movies, and other materials for use and inspiration. It is a welcoming, calming space that offers students a place other than the library to get work done and tap into their creativity. Helping design the space, and serving as mentors, have been Elizabeth Bradfield, Associate Professor of the Practice of English and Co-Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Kristin Parker, Deputy Director of the Rose Art Museum.  Both are also members of the CAST Advisory Committee.

The Creativity Lab is located in Room 327 in the Ethics Center, which is on the third floor of the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC, the building across from the Heller School and next to the Mandel Center for the Humanities).

April 28, 2017

Read Vice President for Planning and Institutional Research Dan Feldman's address to our Class of 2017 CAST minors.
LaShawn Simmons

October 9, 2015

This Brandeis NOW article features CAST minor and Posse Scholar LaShawn Simmons '18, who created Ebony Axis, a zine for Black women on campus.

CAST Design Labs


Students assisted 4 established organizations with projects whose goals necessitated creative mechanisms. Their resulting reports are below:

LaShawn Simmons, Sarah McCarty, Bronte Velez
Grants Awarded for Student Projects Related to Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation

October 1, 2017

CAST Student Grant recipients were chosen by a subset of the CAST student committee. Read about the student grant recipients and their projects.

four faculty grant winners linking arms

December 15, 2014

The faculty committee of the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) awarded grants of $2,000 each to four members of the Brandeis faculty for research and creative projects.