Student Experience Grants
We provide grants for PhD students to create experiences that develop their professional competencies, obtain new credentials, and fund internships. Students have taken advantage of grant funding in a variety of ways, including:
- learning and applying new skills such as mapping technology, coding, design, business management, and audio production
- obtaining internships
- applying research or teaching skills in collaborations with community organizations
- designing and supporting digital humanities projects with faculty members
These experiences, typically undertaken during the summer months, allow students to cultivate their professional identities and explore diverse career paths. Read more about the exciting projects students have pursued below, or learn more about how to apply.
Descriptions of Funded Student Experience Grant Projects
Christiana Botticello, Politics (2020)
This award allowed Christiana Botticello, a PhD candidate in Politics, to complete an internship with Brandeis’ Quantitative Skills Center, which supports student development of quantitative skills in and out of the classroom. In the role, she collaborated with course instructors, worked to increase the Center’s visibility on campus, and further developed the QSC’s enrichment resources, all with the goal of better serving the campus community.
Diana Filar, English (2020)
Diana Filar’s award allowed her to hold a summer internship with the International Institute of New England, an organization that assists refugees and immigrants in integrating into local communities. Filar, a PhD candidate in English, was the inaugural holder of a specialist position in grant writing and research, thus aiding IINE in securing future funding. She gained further experience in the administration and financial management of public-facing nonprofit organizations.
Dominick Knowles, English (2021)
Dominick Knowles’s funding supported their work as an editorial assistant at the Broadsided Press, a public-facing literary publication. In this role, Dominick took charge of the press’s monthly review feature, worked with contributors, and scheduled online and print publications. This opportunity has allowed Dominick to deepen the experience they have acquired working for different publications over the past nine years. Working with the Broadsided Press gave Dominick the opportunity to interface with a broad community of authors and participate in the goals of the mission of the Press to bring literature “to the streets.”
Houman Kooraei-Oliaei, Anthropology (2022)
Houman Oliaei, a PhD candidate in the department of anthropology, received funding to work as a GIS specialist and researcher for the Yazda Organization, a global Yezidi non-governmental advocacy and relief organization. Through this project, Houman enhanced his skills in project management, GIS analysis, and created and maintained a geodatabase.
Lijun Lin, Sociology (2020)
This award supported Lijun Lin, a doctoral student in sociology, in summer volunteer work with the Family Services Program of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC). The BCNC aids Asians and immigrants in the Boston area, offering programs that serve primarily families and children. At the center, Lin held a number of responsibilities, ranging from administrative and translation work, to helping with workshops and case management, enabling her to gain experience in a variety of the nonprofit’s activities.
Caitlin Sackrison, History (2021)
Caitlin Sackrison, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department, used her award to intern at the Norwegian American Historical Association (NAHA) Archives at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Working as an archivist’s assistant, Caitlin reviewed archival catalogs and uploaded digital assets with metadata in the archive’s content management system (Omeka). She also developed 3 digital exhibits on the Ole Rølvaag collection and participated in a grant-writing committee to help the organization secure future state-level funding. This internship allowed Caitlin to gain experiences and develop skills in digitization, cataloging, creating online exhibits, mining data, generating metadata, non-profit grant writing, and other skills within an archival setting.
Democracy and Social Justice Practica:
Four students completed work during the summer of 2020 with partner organizations in the context of Profs. Anita Hill and Dan Kryder’s Democracy and Social Justice course. This Connected PhD-funded effort combines an on-the-ground practicum with a seminar focusing on engaged academic work, all in the aim of bringing about political solutions to the problem of gender-based violence. Each of the students taking part participated in a project with an organization that addresses a dimension of gender-based violence.
Kaitie Chakoian-Lifvergren, Sociology and Social Policy
Kaitie Chakoian-Lifvergren, a student in the joint PhD program in sociology and social policy, worked with the National Women’s Law Center on the Survivors' Agenda initiative. Chakoian-Lifvergren worked on a collaborative team with over 80 agencies to develop a Survivors' Agenda and host a virtual Survivors' Summit. The collaboration launched a first-of-its-kind crowd-sourced survey, completed by survivors of gender-based violence. She, with another Connected PhD intern, analyzed the open-ended responses of the survey to help inform the agenda. Chakoian-Lifvergren also worked on the Education subcommittee to develop the agenda and the Healing/Justice subcommittee to plan the Summit. Additionally, she completed participant observation work, seeking to better understand the changed nature of organizing amidst the response to COVID-19 and a breaking point of racial tensions in the U.S.
Kerry Jo Green, History
Kerry Jo Green, a PhD student in history, worked with Jane Doe, Inc: The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Her work helped her to develop a stronger understanding of how organizations work to resolve the burdens of compounding traumas and think about how organizations can support all survivors, especially the most vulnerable members of society.
Anja Parish, Politics
Anja Parish, a student in the Politics PhD program, worked with the National Women’s Law Center on the Survivors' Agenda initiative. Parish worked on a collaborative team with over 80 agencies to develop a Survivors' Agenda and host a virtual Survivors' Summit. The collaboration launched a first-of-its-kind crowd-sourced survey (which Parish co-wrote), completed by survivors of gender-based violence. She conducted and presented a quantitative analysis of responses to the survey to help inform the agenda. Parish also worked on the Healing Justice subcommittee to develop the agenda and the Workshop Planning and Selection subcommittee to plan the Summit.
Daniel Ruggles, Politics
Daniel Ruggles, a PhD student in politics, worked with the Victim Rights Law Center on a project that addressed protecting K-12 students from gender-based violence in the schools. Ruggles worked on developing training for educators by synthesizing and communicating theory and research related to gender-based violence, with the goal of better equipping educators to address gender-based violence in their classrooms.
Luke Blackburn, Music Composition and Theory (2020)
Luke Blackburn, a PhD candidate in Music Composition and Theory, worked with Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, a Boston-area contemporary classical music organization. He aided the Dinosaur Annex in planning its upcoming 2020-21 season of performances, gaining experience in concert logistics and grant-writing. Blackburn will assist the organization’s directors in concert production, from media promotion of its concerts to stage management for the 20/21 academic year.
Jenny Factor, English (2021)
Jenny Factor, a PhD candidate in the English department, collaborated with the Brandeis Justice Initiative and Dorchester site of the Clemente Course in the Humanities to rapidly adapt their curricular modules for online learning technology.The Clemente Course is an educational justice program that makes college level humanities accessible to underserved populations. Responding to the challenges of COVID-19, Jenny's work helped to make the Clemente Course available online in an open-source learning management system. As the technical advisor for the program, she is working to mirror the accessible goals of the program in the digital tools that she is making available to the students.
Moriah King, Anthropology (2020)
Moriah King, a PhD student in anthropology, collaborated with Growing Places, a nonprofit group based in Leominster, MA that focuses on improving access to healthy and environmentally sustainable food for residents in food insecure regions of North Central Massachusetts. King conducted an visual ethnography for the organization to document local farm practices by working alongside small-scale farmers in the towns of Westminster, MA and Ashburnham, MA. The product of this collaboration with both Growing Places and the farmers themselves were two short videos narrating the relationship between place, food infrastructure, and community. As Growing Places expands its digital presence and increases its collaboration with local farmers in North Central Massachusetts, this highly useful information will enable it to best adapt its practices to local goals and needs.
Jenny LaFleur, Sociology and Social Policy (2020)
Jenny LaFleur received funding to support her work as part of Professor Derron Wallace’s research team, which partnered with Boston Public Schools (BPS) during the summer of 2020 to code and analyze survey responses from BPS families about the transition to remote schooling in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the district’s pending reopening plans. This project allowed LaFleur to gain experience applying her research skills in a non-academic setting and in working with a public sector client, as well as project management skills needed to help support the research team’s work on the project. The project culminated in a report for BPS that included results of the analysis and policy recommendations.
Arantxa Ortiz, Anthropology (2021)
Arantxa Ortiz received funds to attend the Flaherty Film Seminar and to work as a digital archivist with a Boston-based immigrant rights grassroots organization. She has created the Undocumented Histories Archive to document political struggles for immigrant rights in the United States, including ongoing campaigns for driver's licenses for all residents in Massachusetts and beyond.
Ann Ward, Sociology (2021)
Ann Ward received funding to partner with the Office of Sustainability at Brandeis University to create and facilitate a series of workshops for faculty to learn how to infuse climate change education across disciplines. The goal of the workshops is to enhance Brandeis’ students' climate literacy, particularly for those students whose major focus is not in environmental studies and involve faculty from a broad range of departments. This project has allowed Ann to develop new ways of talking about sustainability, gain experience working in higher education, and build skills such as budgeting and meeting facilitation.
Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative Projects:
During the summer of 2021, the Connected PhD funded several doctoral students to participate in the programming of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative (BEJI) to work with incarcerated youth, persons inside prison institutions, and formerly incarcerated individuals working on rehabilitation in the Massachusetts area. These students partnered with local organizations in Massachusetts and worked as teachers, administrators, and mentors. For more information on the BEJI’s work see their website.
Jessi Brewer, English
Jessi Brewer’s award allowed her to research, design, and teach core workshops on college readiness and professional development for youths and adults. In this role as an educator and mentor, she expanded her ability to work with under-served communities to prepare them for civic engagement and college readiness.
Sascha Cohen, History
Sascha Cohen received funding to develop and lead digital workshops on skills relating to civic reengagement, financial literacy, education, technology, health and wellness, and professionalism. Sascha’s work helped her to build pedagogical skills outside of a university setting and allowed her to network with leaders in the local non-profit sector.
Emiliano Gutierrez-Popoca, English
Emiliano Gutierrez-Popoca received an award to design, plan and teach a course for the BEJI. This grant built on his previous teaching experience with the BEJI’s partner organization Partakers Empowerment Program by assessing the strengths of the workshops and improving on the program for its second run. Emiliano also was a key liaison in communicating with BEJI’s various community partners.
Bridget Kelleher, History
This award supported Bridget Kelleher to develop and teach a course for people who are re-entering public life after incarceration. The purpose of the course is to provide a bridge between highschool or GED education and college. Bridget’s experience has given her the opportunity to create a curriculum for a diverse student body.
Anja Parish, Politics
Anja Parish’s grant allowed her to build on the work she completed over the spring of developing and teaching a workshop about civic re-engagement for the BEJI. During the summer of 2021, Anja re-designed the courses based on feedback from the first session as well as new workshops on education, health and wellness, and professionalism. Her work assessing and building courses for students with diverse backgrounds has helped her develop her skills for becoming an educator that could work both within and outside of academia.
Holly Robbins, Politics
Holly Robbins received an award to teach workshops and conduct office hours over an eight week period in the summer called “How to College” designed to help provide skills geared towards facilitating a transition from carceral settings to higher education. She is building on, adapting, and continuing work she did during the Spring where she created a handbook and lesson plans for the Partakers Empowerment Program. This work gave Holly the opportunity to explore the non-profit sector as she has gained direct exposure to and involvement with multiple organizations.
Jordan Clapper, English (2021)
Jordan Clapper received funding to learn how to use tools to create and design a queer indigenous video game. In order to complete this ambitious task during the summer, Jordan is using established platforms Twine 2.0 to plan the process, RPG Maker MV to design the game, and Unity to create more customization within it. Jordan will take tutorials and courses on these tools as well as C#. This fellowship has afforded Jordan the opportunity to gain experience and technical skills required in careers in game design and coding.
Robert Cochran, History (2022)
Robert Cochran, a PhD candidate in the History department, received funding to learn digital techniques, tools, and applications for the handling of texts and collections of documents. Enrolling in the “Digital Tools for Humanists” course offered by the University of Pisa, Robert developed skills in digital public history, natural language processing methods, and deep learning tools.
Kim Craig, Anthropology (2021)
Kim Craig’s award allows her to spend time learning how to use Adobe After Effects through online tutorials. This project will help her with the post-production phase of the feature-length documentary she plans to make as a part of her dissertation work. Developing skills in motion graphics has helped Kim develop competencies necessary for pursuing a career in creating educational media.
Rachel Dale, English (2021)
This award allowed Rachel Dale, an doctoral student in the English department, to enroll in a class at the Simmon’s University Library and Information Science department. The class explored the process of developing and sustaining and developing new archival repositories. Rachel is exploring a career in archival management and this course served as an introduction to the skills that she would need in this field.
Giuseppe Desiato, Music Composition and Theory (2022)
Paige Eggebrecht, English (2020)
This award allowed Paige Eggebrecht, a PhD candidate in English, to begin coursework towards a degree in library science at the University of Alabama. She intends to obtain an MLIS at Alabama, and pursue a career in academic libraries and information literacy. Already at Brandeis, in conjunction with her doctoral work, Eggebrecht has worked as a graduate assistant for Brandeis Library Research and Instruction Services, completing a variety of reference and instruction tasks that enable students, staff, and faculty to make better use of library resources.
Daniella Gáti, English (2020)
Daniella Gáti received funding to take courses that will help develop skills in data science and web programming. The courses allowed Gáti to learn Python to support research and web design, in order to expand career options within and beyond academia. Additionally, Gáti is currently using these new skills to design creative pedagogical tools and methods for upcoming classes.
Sarah Halford, Sociology (2020)
Sarah Halford received an award to allow her to take part in a workshop offered by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Summer Program in Quantitative Methods for Social Research. Halford, a doctoral student in sociology, attended a multi-day virtual workshop on mixed-methods research for social scientists. ICPSR training in both quantitative and qualitative methods allowed Halford to further develop her analytical skills, abilities useful in a large number of professional contexts.
Yi He, English (2021)
Yi He received funding to attend three Rare Book School courses this summer about Early Modern and American books. The RBS experience has furthered her professional development in areas of archives, book collecting, book selling, and special collections librarianship and curation. The courses have increased her knowledge about organizing archives of collections across a wide time range and allowed her to make a great number of professional connections. Through the RBS experience, Yi has conducted information interviews with a range of professionals, including in book cataloguing, special collections at the Folger, and more.
Houman Kooraei-Oliaei, Anthropology (2020)
Houman Kooraei-Oliaei, of the anthropology department, has received funding to take part in a course in geospatial data management, offered by Esri Academy, the training wing of the Environmental Systems Research Institute. After completing the course, he took an ArcGIS certification exam, necessary for him to demonstrate proficiency in the widely-used geographic information system, a tool with a large number of applications both in and out of academia.
Bailey Ludwig, English (2021)
Bailey Ludwig used her grant to attend a Rare Book School course on the History of Bookbinding. Learning about medieval and early modern binding practices has helped her to date books, assess their condition, and update or create catalogue descriptions. In addition to this course time, Bailey conducted interviews with medieval and early modern manuscript librarians this summer in order to understand their career trajectory and what aspects of her PhD training will help her towards this profession.
Jeremy Rapaport-Stein, Music Composition and Theory (2020)
Jeremy Rapaport-Stein has received funds that enabled him to create a podcast exploring outsider artists. A PhD candidate in music composition and theory, Rapaport-Stein underwent training in audio production, editing, and interviewing, as well as in marketing and distribution. He is currently finishing a multi-episode podcast centered on artists, musicians, and makers whose training and work fell outside the mainstream, supplemented by a companion website.
Carissa Wilbanks, English (2022)
Carissa Wilbanks, a PhD candidate in English, used her grant to enroll in the UX Writing Academy (UXWA). Carissa learned industry-specific skills, built a strong portfolio, networked within the UX writing field, became certified in UX writing, and gained real-world experience through this program.
Niko Yamamoto, Music Composition and Theory (2021)
Niko Yamamoto received funding to participate in a self-paced User Experience (UX) Design course, a practice-oriented learning opportunity to learn digital engagement methodologies and build a digital UX portfolio. Niko's project prototyped platforms for individual and community oriented artistic practices.