Rebecca Kahn '19

Creative Writing

When I think of Brandeis, I think of all the things that make this school what us students call “deisan.” I think of students who are over-involved in extra-curricular activities and clubs, who are on multiple E-Boards, who have jobs and internships on and off campus, and students who have multiple majors and minors with ridiculous amounts of required classes, hours of reading, lab work, and papers to write. Being a UDR is like a step up on the deisan ladder because your goal is to get people interested and involved in your academic department beyond just coursework, not to mention competing with all those extracurricular activities. 

This year, I learned, alongside Raphael Stigliano, my UDR partner in crime that our job as UDRs is to provide opportunities to create academic community, and to offer spaces to build relationships outside the classroom.

Having such a deisan student population means that the students here are interested in a million different things. The key to our success as a rather small department here at Brandeis was to collaborate with UDRs from other departments. There is so much crossover in interests at Brandeis that we would have been remiss to not collaborate with other UDRs. One of our most well-attended events was “What Do I Do With My Humanities Major?” a career panel event where Raphael and I collaborated with UDRs from the English, Education, and Comparative Literature and Culture departments to bring Brandeis alums to speak about their life and successes after college. To be fair, our professors helped immensely to plan the event but it was the vision of the UDRs to combine forces and do something big together.

Something else Raphael and I discovered is that not all events UDRs plan must be practical to life after graduation. My personal favorite event we organized this year with Ben Fong, one of the UDRs for the English department, was a Sad Valentine’s Day Open Mic. Students came and ate candy, read their worst love poems, told stories about embarrassing love-related events in their lives, and wrote anonymous love letters to other students in attendance. The event built a community for a group of writers at Brandeis in an informal, out-of-the-classroom environment. I felt more connected to the Creative Writing department after that event than I ever have in workshops or classes.

Being deisan means being part of a community and as a UDR, I find myself partly responsible for providing opportunities to create that community. Brandeis students, no matter how passionately they deny it, seek ways in which they can be more involved on campus, and UDRs are the academic force helping make those exciting opportunities available and enticing to our already busy student population. Whether those opportunities are practical, pure fun, or something else entirely, working with other people, finding the ways our little pockets of academic community connect to one another, and thinking about what you want to see from your department was what I feel made this year such a success and what I hope will make next year fantastic.

Thank you.