Concluding and Celebrating 20 years of the Sorensen Fellowship

The Ethics Center concluded the Sorensen Fellowship program in December 2017, capping off 20 years of supporting incredibly talented, dedicated Brandeis undergraduates in ethics-related summer internships in the U.S. and abroad.

The Sorensen Fellowship was a signature program of the Ethics Center since the very beginning of the Center itself.

“When the Center started in 1998, the first thing we did was to create a program with undergraduates – later named the Sorensen Fellowship – partly to show our commitment to young people, and partly because it’s an investment in the future,” says Center Director Dan Terris.

In the 20 years that followed, 121 Sorensen Fellows have worked on six continents on a wide variety of issues, laying the groundwork for careers and lives attentive to social justice and fostering richer, more ethical public life.

“We are immeasurably proud of our Sorensen Fellowship alumni,” says Marci McPhee, director of campus programs at the Ethics Center, who oversaw the program from the start. “They will always be a part of the Ethics Center family. Through their work the impact of the Sorensen Fellowship will continue to be felt for decades to come.”

Now, as the Ethics Center enters its third decade, it has reorganized its work to respond to the shifting context on campus and around the globe.

When the student fellowship program began in 1998, it was the key opportunity for undergraduates to connect with the work of the Ethics Center. Now Brandeis students can minor in Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (“CAST”), offered through the Center; take other Center-sponsored courses such as "Advocacy for Policy Change" (LGLS 161) and  The Immigrant Experience in Waltham: A Service-based Practicum (EL16a), participate in 'DEIS Impact as a member of the core committee, event proposer, or audience member, or get involved with the Center's international justice activities.

In addition, other summer internship funding programs have emerged on campus in the past 20 years. “When we launched the Sorensen Fellowship program in 1998, there were no other undergraduate summer internship funding programs at Brandeis,” says McPhee. “Over the following two decades many opportunities have established at the University. We are proud of the unique aspects of the Sorensen Fellowship, but we know that Brandeis students who seek a comparable experience now have many opportunities available to them. And we look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues in those programs in support of Brandeis students and the Ethics Center’s mission.”

The Ethics Center's undergraduate student fellowship program was named the Sorensen Fellowship in 2009 to honor Theodore C. "Ted" Sorensen (1928-2010) for his lifelong commitment to public service and for his 10 years as founding chair of the Center's International Advisory Board. Ted Sorensen was policy advisor, legal counsel, and speechwriter to President John F. Kennedy. He practiced international law for four decades, and was a widely-published author on the presidency and foreign affairs. Ted's wife Gillian Sorensen, special adviser to the United Nations Foundation, also served on the Ethics Center board, from 2013-17, and she generously supported the need-based Summer Earnings Replacement Grant for Sorensen Fellows.

The Sorensen Fellowship engaged Brandeis undergraduates with constructive social change on the international stage, an appropriate tribute to Ted Sorensen. The Sorensen legacy continues in the lives and work of the 121 alumni of the Sorensen Fellowship.

Read personal reflections from Sorensen Fellowship Director Marci McPhee here.

To read the writing of Sorensen Fellows from 1998 to today, visit the Sorensen Fellowship publications page on the Ethics Center’s website.