Archive for the ‘Connecting with Brandeis’ Category

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ImageCommittee member Rajashree Ghosh, speaking to students of Environment and Justice class on September 30, 2013 (Photo credit: Ornit Barkai)

The Waltham Committee at Brandeis connects with Brandeis students and faculty in many ways. One of the programs offered, is an engaging, immersive academic program in which small groups of students explore a thematic topic through inquiry-based courses linked to real-world experiential opportunities. It provides them with opportunities to deeply engage in law, social impacts and the immediate needs of environmental health challenges facing individuals and families today.  The students work with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia, as they learn and combat issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and open space.

With faculty member Laura Goldin’s leadership and experience these students receive the training for  hands on multi-disciplinary community engaged learning program. In that connection she invited Rajashree Ghosh, as before, to present her work on urban governance and women in India. This gave the students an understanding of gender issues, poverty, deprivation and the community based initiatives that work on the ground to make changes to the lives of impoverished populations in slums in Delhi. Her presentation was followed by comments and questions by students. The conversations ranged from doing fieldwork in another country, government practices, women’s role, community engagement and many other issues that struck the students as key in the understanding of the project.

In a note sent, the students said that they found the presentation “informative and encouraging.” For Rajashree and members of the Waltham Committee, this connection with the students and faculty member is an extension of the relationship with the community. As with the larger Brandeis community, WSRC through the Waltham Committee engages with the local community and determine ways in which to make a difference.

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Rajashree Ghosh (standing 5th from R, in green) with Khalida Smalls, ACE and Brandeis students

Committee member  Rajashree Ghosh who is also a  Resident Scholar at WSRC was invited by Brandeis faculty member Laura Goldin on a field visit to Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)  along with her students.  The students  are engaged in the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) in an immersive academic program that provides opportunities to explore a thematic topic through inquiry-based courses linked to real-world experiential prospects. JBS represents the distinctive elements of a Brandeis education that include the intense intellectual engagement students share with our cutting-edge faculty; the rich experiential learning opportunities students encounter in  research labs, work settings and the community; and the university’s longstanding commitment to global engagement and social justice. All of these elements are embodied in the new Justice Brandeis Semester.

A green area developed by ACE along with members of the community

  Rajashree was fortunate to have participated in this JBS experience in visiting the project areas covered by this organization.  ACE’s mission has been to strengthen communities of color and lower income communities in New England to eradicate environmental racism and classism and achieve environmental justice.  ACE is bringing about systemic changes whereby the disenfranchised and undeserved communities are given voice to demand and achieve their right to a healthy environment. Some of the accomplishments have been combating particulate pollution from diesel buses in Roxbury  by negotiating with MBTA and work with residents to bring more awareness to these issues.

Contested MBTA site

Post visit, Rajashree presented her WSRC project to the students titled “Women and Urban Environment in India.” This was an opportunity for the students to gain a glimpse of international development efforts to make a difference in increased gender participation in social change. A comparison was inevitable with with what they had experienced in Roxbury, MA.  Some of the students had visited India in the past and were quick to make the assessment of development programs that could make systemic changes in the way ACE had managed but also expressed their concern about the lack of accountability and opportunities in countries that are less developed.

Laura Goldin stated in an email ” You were fabulous  Rajashree– I can’t tell you how much the students appreciated the appreciated the presentation, and how valuable it was in contributing to their understanding (and to mine! )…..And thank you so much as always for your generosity in sharing your work, and the outstanding talk and discussion.”

It is hoped that in Spring’12 this class might visit WSRC and present some of the narratives related to environment and social justice through their field visits. This would  help take the Waltham committee’s engagement with Brandies even further.

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Committee member Rajashree Ghosh leads our growing connections with the offices of Experiential Learning and Community Service, and is the committee’s contact person with faculty, students and staff at the university. Rajashree reports that “There have been tremendous efforts by the Brandeis entities in engaging with Waltham as much as we at WSRC have had. As a first step I initiated conversations with members of the Brandeis community in an effort to share and learn from our mutual experiences. My in depth conversations with Audra Grady, who is the Program Administrator for Experiential Learning at Brandeis University, led to her participation in our meetings and events.  I have also initiated discussions with faculty members at Brandeis. It is during these discussions an opportunity to present my work on social development in India presented itself.  I was invited by Prof. Laura Goldin to speak to students in Women, Environment and Social Justice on March 2, 2010. Her testimony represents ongoing and continued efforts to connect with Brandeis faculty and students.”

Rajashree also writes a monthly column in the Waltham edition of Boston.com.  Her article “Investing in Community,” (from Oct. 20, 2009) is HERE.

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Committee member Susan Thomson in collaboration with Georgia Sassen and Jambalmaa Khainzan also members of the Committee have received an opportunity to present a poster session for the New England Campus Connect in Burlington, Vermont on April 14, 2010. Titled “University Research Centers as Opportunities for Engagement:  The Student – Scholar Partnership at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center” these Scholars will trace the history and current characteristics of the Student-Scholar Partnership, emphasizing both its collaborative approach and its role in linking student learning with real-life problems and community concerns.  Three projects will be profiled in-depth:  “Women and Safe Food,” “Drums and Poets,” and “Assessing Outcomes at a Residential Treatment Center for Adolescent Girls.”  Feel free to reach Susan Thomson (sthomson@germainelawrence.org)  for more information.

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