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Learning in the Field: The Impact of the Justice Brandeis Semester

by Theresa Gaffney, '16
November 3, 2014

The Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) is a unique program for Brandeis University undergraduates that gives students the opportunity to explore specific fields through accelerated academic coursework and real-world field projects. 

For business majors, this can mean getting a leg up on some of the courses and hands-on experiences usually reserved for graduate students.

Professors Grace Zimmerman and Edward Chazen spend the academic year teaching graduate-level courses at Brandeis International Business School (IBS) in Marketing and Real Estate, respectively. This summer, they both integrated their coursework into two new sessions in the JBS program. The sessions, offered over the course of nine weeks and comprised of two academic courses and a consulting project, can be as valuable – if not more – than a summer internship or job.

“JBS has been an outstanding milestone in my life,” said Raymond Harari ’16, who participated in this summer’s Real Estate session. “The gratitude I have for Professor Chazen is something I will feel for the remainder of my professional career. Thanks to him, I feel comfortable having a conversation about any topic in real estate.”

Students in Chazen’s session drafted proposals for the renovation of different real estate properties – including housing at Brandeis and two libraries in East Boston. The class embarked on 15 visits with experts in the field and took walking tours through Boston neighborhoods undergoing serious change.

The group of students tasked with Brandeis housing proposed the addition of more sophomore housing in East Quad, a reduction in the number of lofted triple-rooms in first-year dorms, the addition of more housing for upperclassmen, and more parking. The students worked with Brandeis administration to conduct their research.

“Brandeis is a family,” said Dylan Merriman ’16. “I think we have an obligation to make it a better place.”

In working with communities that they cared about (particularly their own university), students were able to combine their passion with lessons learned in the classroom to fully immerse into these intense consulting projects.  

Professor Grace Zimmerman’s students undertook projects in Brand Marketing and Communications.

“I offered three really high-powered marketing consulting projects, the kind that any true marketing consultant would be very happy to take on,” said Zimmerman.

The combination of advanced classroom learning and real world experience is what drew students such as Allie Hackel ’16 to apply to JBS. “I wanted the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field,” said Hackel.

One group in this session worked on a new product launch for a small business. Another group wrote the marketing section of a venture capital business plan for a start-up, while another helped a local non-profit organization explore how to expand their reach to universities and high schools. Zimmerman leveraged her professional contacts to make these opportunities possible, and did not disappoint. All three companies were thrilled with the students’ work and proposals.

“It was amazing to hear that our work was beneficial, and that the company we were assigned planned to implement the work we had done,” said Hackel.

The Justice Brandeis Semester offers the rare opportunity for students to gain credit for school while concurrently participating in significant, real-world experiences. JBS students receive a taste of the experience offered at graduate institutions like Brandeis International Business School, but also encounter topics and partake in projects that prepare them for strong, successful careers.