Shaina Gilbert ’10
Shaina Gilbert ’10

In Haiti, Going the Distance to Educate Young Leaders

When Shaina Gilbert ’10 set up a summer camp for children in Haiti, she thought it would be a one-summer thing.

Today, Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp — “ete” means “summer” in Haitian Creole — is entering its 10th year, teaching academic and leadership skills to children ages 8-11 in Hinche, Haiti, Gilbert’s mother’s hometown.

Plans for ETE Camp got underway in 2009, when Gilbert was awarded a Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice World of Work (WOW) Fellowship, which provides a stipend that allows students to engage in meaningful summer internships that would otherwise be unpaid. She used the money as a down payment for establishing the camp.

Gilbert and four Brandeis peers secured donations and recruited volunteers for the camp. Random acts of ingenuity went a long way: A community adviser in a residence hall, Gilbert heard about a surplus of university-branded notebooks given to first-year students and, at the suggestion of the residential life director, brought the extras to the camp. “We had Brandeis notebooks for three years,” she says.

ETE Camp might not have reopened for a second summer if not for the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010, highlighting the difficult conditions in the country. “After the earthquake, there was an outpouring of support and encouragement from the Brandeis community,” Gilbert recalls.

“Students really rallied to the call, Haitian or not,” says Napoleon Lherisson ’11, co-president of the Brandeis Haiti Initiative at the time.

Brandeis alumni were likewise eager to support the camp’s mission. Gilbert recalls fondly the conversations she had with the late Myra Kraft ’64 about the camp (both Gilbert and Lherisson are graduates of the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program). She says Kraft would always remember the details of their previous discussion, even if it had happened a year earlier.

Gilbert also developed a friendship with Jules Bernstein ’57, whose generosity funds the Louis D. Brandeis Social Justice World of Work Fellowships. A WOW Fellowship helped Gilbert establish the camp and continues to allow a Brandeis student to work at the camp each year.

Initially, ETE Camp was staffed entirely by Brandeis volunteers and adults living in Hinche. Over time, it has gained the services of Boston-area educators — such as Brandeis’ Jane Hale, professor emerita of Romance studies — and the camp’s own alumni. With each passing year, the local Hinche youth take on more of the responsibilities of running the camp.

Gilbert envisions her own role decreasing even more. “I want to run myself out of business,” she says, adding that that’s the best outcome for a camp that teaches youth leadership skills.

A first-generation American of Haitian descent, Gilbert had been to Haiti only a few times before creating ETE Camp, whose curriculum includes classes in mathematics, leadership, literacy and engineering. Her late father, Garry, helped her navigate the country’s structure and systems, and also served as the camp’s math teacher and senior adviser.

But Garry made it clear his daughter was in charge. Gilbert recalls several times when people who came to learn about the camp approached her father first, seeing him as the authority figure. “He would always point at me and tell them, ‘I work for Shaina,’” she says.

Garry, who died in 2016, was so beloved by Hinche community members that they held a silent parade to mourn his passing. Looking back, Gilbert is grateful that working on the camp gave her the chance to see him for long stretches of time, something a young adult is often too busy to do. “ETE Camp allowed me to spend five weeks with my dad every summer,” she says.

ETE Camp volunteers routinely find their summer experiences as rewarding as the children do. For Lherisson, who volunteered at the camp in 2010, it was a personal calling. Like Gilbert, he is a first-generation American. Working at the camp was his first visit to his parents’ homeland. “It began a life-changing journey for me,” he says. “It inspired me to stay connected to Haiti and education causes in a way that makes an impact.”

Each year, ETE Camp easily fills its 60 openings, with some students walking for miles each day to attend. Community members express their gratitude to Gilbert with prayers and gifts. She says, “They tell me, ‘You didn’t have to do this, coming from the comfort of the States.’”

Challenges abound, including an ongoing struggle for proper funding and resources, but Gilbert and her staff find ways to overcome them. “It’s a lot of just making it work,” she says. The school in which the camp is held lacks electricity during the summer, so “for graduation we bring in generators to power the speakers and the microphone.”

Gilbert believes she receives at least as much as she gives in Haiti. “ETE Camp adds so much purpose to my life,” she says, “and it helps me to better understand the world. I’m very proud of what it’s become.”

— Brian Klotz

Zamira Korff
Zamira Korff

The Spirit of Excellence

During my first Brandeis Commencement weekend, I was struck by the words of our Commencement speaker, Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who quoted Aristotle: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives — choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Every member of our Brandeis community knows how brilliantly these words evoke the spirit of our institution — a spirit reflected in the pages of this magazine. For example, Jesse Salk ’04 is developing a new cancer diagnostic tool that could save millions of lives. Shaina Gilbert ’10 is empowering vulnerable youth in Haiti through her innovative ETE Camp. These are just two of our alumni poised to change the world for the better.

The spirit of excellence illuminates Brandeis’ history from its earliest days until now. We see it in the amazing startups launched by students, alumni and faculty. I recently had the privilege of meeting students who established a nonprofit education and advocacy organization for immigrants. They identified a need and, with “sincere effort and intelligent execution,” developed initiatives that will make a difference in countless lives.

Our future is bright because of our graduates. Although they had many opportunities from which to choose, they came to Brandeis because they know this university is an incubator of excellence, one that seeks to improve the world.

Our donors choose to support Brandeis because they share our appreciation and desire for excellence.

These critical choices — this dedication to Brandeis — will make the difference that determines our destiny.

Sincerely,

Zamira Korff
Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Lori Levinson Luft ’69
Lori Levinson Luft ’69

Honoring a Life of Giving by Helping Others Give

As a Brandeis student, Lori Levinson Luft ’69 wanted to give back. In doing so, she and like-minded classmates sparked a movement that burns brightly to this day.

Luft was one of the earliest leaders of the Waltham Group, founded in 1966 as a 30-member organization through which Brandeis students volunteered their services to the local community.

In 2016, the same year the Waltham Group celebrated its 50th anniversary, Luft died, months after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. By then, the organization she helped establish was attracting more than 1,000 volunteers, who provided more than 40,000 hours of service annually through 40 community partnerships.

“Lori was the one who made the organization go,” remembers Carl Milofsky ’70, who served as Waltham Group co-chair alongside her. “She and I were good working partners, and our term in office helped start the group onto its path of growth, both in terms of numbers and program diversity.”

An economics major at Brandeis who later earned a master’s in city planning from MIT, Luft excelled in mathematics and logistics, but her compassionate nature led her in the direction of doing work that felt more personal.

“She told me, ‘I was always looking for the people,’” recalls her husband, Hal Luft. Eventually, Lori began a second career as a clinical psychologist. She was also an active volunteer at Congregation Beth Am, in Los Altos Hills, California.

To honor Luft’s memory, Hal and their daughters, Shira and Jana, have established the Community Engagement Ambassador Program (CEAP) at Brandeis. The program, launching in the fall, will be housed within the Department of Community Service (DCS), which oversees several programs, of which the Waltham Group is the largest.

Through CEAP, four students will be selected from a pool of applicants to fill unique leadership roles within DCS. These ambassadors, each of whom will receive a $2,000 stipend, will be challenged to think creatively about ways of engaging Brandeis students from all backgrounds in community service initiatives. The ambassadors will take part in strategic planning that supports community engagement and learn new leadership skills, including project management systems and tools that increase group effectiveness.

“We are thrilled to offer this innovative new program in memory of Lori, who was so instrumental in building the Waltham Group,” says Lucas Malo, director of DCS. “CEAP will allow students to engage with their community at a higher level and give them leadership training that will benefit them in any career path they choose.”

The Luft family’s decision to create the program was due not only to Lori’s passion for giving back but also her love of Brandeis. Her parents lived in Europe while she was a student, so she spent many holidays and breaks on campus, leading her to form a deep connection with her alma mater. Lori and Hal were even married at the campus’ Berlin Chapel.

Although CEAP was created in honor of Lori, the family decided not to name it after her for a simple reason: That wasn’t her style. “She was always very humble,” explains Hal.

With Lori’s legacy in mind, CEAP is designed both to help others now and to build an ever-increasing spirit of giving for the future.

“We wanted to come up with something to leverage future generations of young people to make the world a better place,” says Hal.

— Brian Klotz

Picture-Perfect

A photo gallery from events and meetings around the world.

Scholarship and Fellowship Luncheon

Hundreds of alumni, friends and students gathered in April to celebrate the impact of scholarships and fellowships at the annual Scholarship and Fellowship Luncheon, which allows donors to spend time with the scholars whose Brandeis educations are made possible by their support.

Two students and a donor at the Scholarship Luncheon

Emily Appleton ’20, Trustee Stephen Kay and Sharon Cai ’18.

Three students and a donor at the Scholarship Luncheon

Samantha Barrett ’20; Trustee Carol Saivetz ’69, P’97, P’01; Jiahua Chen ’20; and Max Whitmore ’18.

A student and a donor at the Scholarship Luncheon

Lisa Kranc ’75, Board of Trustees vice chair, with Lily Morris ’21.

President Liebowitz and his wife, Jessica, with a student at the Scholarship Luncheon

President Ron Liebowitz, Elias Rosenfeld ’20 and Jessica Liebowitz.

Wien Scholars

Juan Corradi and Rakesh Rajani at a Wien Scholars event

More than 30 alumni heard Wien alumni Juan Corradi ’65, MA’67, PhD’74, professor emeritus of sociology at NYU (left), and Rakesh Rajani ’89, director of civic engagement and government at the Ford Foundation (right), lead a conversation about the role ordinary citizens play in democratic societies and how this role is being restricted domestically and globally. The event, hosted by the Wien Alumni Network, was organized by Shota Adamia ’15, Taeko Yamamoto ’91 and Laura Velez Villa ’11.

Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship

President Liebowitz with Lior Div and Udi Mokady

Brandeis International Business School presented the 2018 Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship to Lior Div, CEO of Cybereason (left), and Udi Mokady, P’22, CEO of CyberArk (right), pictured here with President Ron Liebowitz. Div and Mokady are Israeli entrepreneurs who scaled their global businesses in Massachusetts.

John Lisman ’66 Memorial Award

Biologist Stephen Van Hooser, Jay Pepose and David Fitzpatrick

David Fitzpatrick, CEO and scientific director of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, in April received the inaugural John Lisman ‘66 Memorial Award in Vision Science, formerly called the Jay Pepose ‘75 Award in Vision Sciences. The award name was changed last year to honor the late Lisman, the former Zalman Abraham Kekst Chair in Neuroscience. From left: Biologist Stephen Van Hooser, faculty host; Pepose ’75, MA’75, P’08, P’17; and Fitzpatrick. 

Reception With the President

President Liebowitz with Linda and Gil Drozdow

President Ron Liebowitz (center) with Linda ’80 and Gil Drozdow ’79, P’12, P’15, at a South Florida president’s reception in the NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale.

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