Brandeis World of Work interns get an education on adapting to a virtual workplace

Marissa Tortelli

Marissa Torelli ’22

Marissa Torelli ’22 hit submit on her application to intern in the office of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh before COVID-19 hit. As an international and global studies and politics double major, the ability to evoke change through studying, developing and implementing violence intervention and prevention programs and policies would provide a much-needed opportunity to receive hands-on experience outside of the classroom.
That’s still the goal, but the way she is approaching the work has changed.
Torelli’s internship is funded by the Hiatt Career Center’s World of Work (WOW) program, which provides stipends to students who pursue unpaid summer internships. Since its inception in 2008, WOW has provided funding for over 500 students to pursue experiences across the globe in various fields and disciplines.
Torelli’s work in the office of public safety at City Hall focuses on a series of summer workshops for at-risk youth hosted at Boston-area colleges. All the work is being done virtually – from meeting with former program participants to developing the curriculum to overseeing the week-to-week programming. 
“I was nervous at the thought of interning remotely because there were a lot of unknowns,” the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice World of Work recipient said. “Would I have the ability to stay focused and engaged while being able to learn and gain the skills necessary to be successful?”
Like Marissa, all 34 other Brandeis students awarded fellowships from the Hiatt Career Center’s World of Work (WOW) Summer Internship Funding Program, have had to make the remote transition. Following the COVID-19 policies implemented by the university as well restrictions in the U.S. and internationally, all WOW internship sites were required to host interns virtually. 
“The safety of our students is our main priority,” said Jackie Blesso, manager of the WOW program. “The Hiatt staff are assigned to individual students as liaisons to the program and will be supportive resources as interns navigate and adapt to this new online environment.”
Interns are not the only ones making this transition. Site supervisors have also had to reimagine how they train, educate and communicate with a new crop of students.
“My supervisor has been incredibly understanding and supportive during this time,” Torelli said. “I’m constantly being kept in the loop through emails and online meetings, which have been both helpful and reassuring that I am a valuable member of the team.”
Though the coronavirus pandemic has impacted these students in many ways, students like Torelli are approaching it as a new learning experience.
“The one thing I have learned from COVID is that the world isn't going to stop because there is a global pandemic; and sometimes, it shouldn't have to stop,” Torelli said. “The project I'm working on is a diversion program, essentially, for at-risk system-involved youth. The identities of these kids reflect and represent the same populations that are most affected by the pandemic. We’re doing everything in our power to make sure these students are getting the resources they need to be successful in the future. At the end of the day, what matters is helping those in need and getting it done no matter what it takes.”

Learn more about the World of Work (WOW) Program.

Follow the stories of the 2020 WOW interns via their blogs.

The Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice and its benefactors Jules Bernstein '57 and donors to the Class of 1969 Fund for Social Justice, funded 21 internship stipends this year. Learn more.

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