2020-2021 Tisch Scholar Projects
Each year, students in our signature Tisch Scholars program work with a nonprofit organization or government office in one of Tufts’ host communities, address issues on the Tufts University campus, or tackle social problems through a senior thesis. Check out what Scholars are working on during the 2020-2021 academic year:
Siwaar Abouhala – Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition
Siwaar will serve as an Organizing Fellow for the 2020-21 academic year. She will learn the ins and outs of what it means to organize on a community-level, specifically in regard to the U.S. Census, voter registration, redistricting, and policy development. Her internship will begin with a comprehensive introduction to organizing models and the fundamentals of direct action organizing. She will then support MIRA’s Democracy Schools, phone banking initiatives, and research interests. Finally, Siwaar will work alongside other Tufts fellows at MIRA on a collaborative project that furthers MIRA’s outreach and solidarity efforts at the undergraduate level.
Eve Abraha - Learn Launch
Marvin Agyen – Tech Goes Home
Tech Goes Home’s website needs to be edited to become more accessible to people with disabilities and become compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1 AA. Since the website was designed with WiX, it’s difficult to change the code without using developer mode. Marvin will assist with this by using coding knowledge to help make the website more accessible. He will learn to research and cultivate many new skills through this project. The TGH website has been thoroughly analyzed by accessibility professionals and a report with critical and recommended updates has been provided. Marvin will be able to use this report as a guide and resource for making the needed updates.
Iman Ali - Black Maternal Health Research
This year, Iman is pursuing her interests in Black Maternal Health through the lens of researching doula care. With the support of Dr. Fernando Ona, Tufts Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, she will be taking a multipronged approach to this work through conducting a literature review, participating in doula training/workshop, and connecting with local Black/Black Muslims in the field to support ongoing initiatives.
Ibrahim AlMuasher – Office of Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards
Councilor Lydia Edwards represents the neighborhoods of East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End. She chairs the Committee on Housing and Community Development and the Committee on Government Operations. Councilor Edwards has a long professional history of fighting for the protection, preservation, and creation of affordable housing as well as fighting for workers’ rights and environmental justice for her coastal communities. Ibrahim will support the councilor and her team in achieving their policy goals and supporting the community that they represent by conducting policy research, writing policy memos, as well as working and engaging relevant city agencies and departments including other city councilors.
Julia Asfour - Senior Thesis
Julia is continuing her work by conducting research for her senior thesis.
Elebetel Assefa - Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD)
Elebetel is continuing her work with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), a nonprofit human services organization that provides low-income residents in the Greater Boston area with the tools and resources needed to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success, by systematically addressing the range of barriers faced by households in poverty, from day-to-day crises to long-term needs for jobs and education. Elebetel is supporting ABCD in establishing a pilot project that extends access to fuel assistance funds, addressing one of the largest regulatory barriers to homelessness in Greater Boston.
Amber Asumda - Black Womyn's Collective (BWC)
This school year, Amber is working with Black Womyn’s Collective (BWC) on a national black women’s empowerment initiative as part of her Tisch Scholar project. Amber hopes to extend the reach of BWC beyond the Tufts community by creating a virtual platform to help connect black female-identifying students and alumna across the nation.
Nithya Badrinath - Office of State Representative Christine Barber
In her second year at Rep. Barber’s office, Nithya’s primary role will be to assist Rep. Barber and her office in supporting legislation through research, writing testimony, drafting talking points, and producing communications materials. Nithya will conduct independent legislative research focused on Rep. Barber’s priorities, including support for women in the justice system, racial justice, affordable housing, transportation equity, affordable child care, climate change and environmental sustainability, and health care access and affordability. Through researching current events, attending committee hearings and policy briefings, understanding some of the many issues before the legislative body, interacting with constituents, legislators and staff, Nithya will continue developing a thorough understanding of the legislative process and participate in most aspects of the policymaking process.
Alejandro Baez - Fenway Institute at Fenway Health
The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health works to make life healthier for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, people living with HIV/AIDS, and the larger community. At the Fenway Institute, Alejandro will be working on the PrEPsteps research study. Funded by National Institutes of Health, PrEPsteps aims to build and test a smartphone-based PrEP adherence system that responds to adherence data collected through a novel digital pill, with a focus on improving PrEP adherence among who have sex with men (MSM) who use stimulants. The study is currently in its second phase, which consists of a pilot randomized controlled trial, in which MSM will use the digital pill as a tool to help with PrEP adherence for a 90-day period.
Arpan Barua – Mass INC
The purpose of the Mass INC partnership is to help run the Transformative Transit-Oriented Development (TTOD) Planning and Design Competition. This is a competition that pairs Gateway cities, defined as midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies across the state, with universities in order to create transit-oriented solutions to the specific problems of their cities. Due to the pandemic, there have been constraints on resources, thus, Mass INC is looking for other solutions to help facilitate the partnership between Gateway cities and universities in order to support efforts that create equitable solutions for underprivileged communities.
Sonya Bhatia - Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center
Sonya is continuing to work at the Health Promotion Center (HPC) of the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, which aims to provide personal, quality health care with respect and compassion to a diverse community using the lens of Health Equity and Social Justice, considering social determinants of health, and striving to be anti-racist in their work. Sonya is collecting qualitative and quantitative data on HPC programs and performing analysis using the tools of critical race theory, then creating a presentation using an HPC program as a case study to relay HPC work to the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center at large.
Kaila Caffey – MassVOTE
Alejandra Carrillo - Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Fair Labor Division
Alejandra is continuing her work in the Fair Labor Division (FLD) of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, where she learns about laws that protect workers and the Division’s role in investigating violations of these laws. She attends investigatory interviews, administrative and court proceedings, and collaborates with community-based organizations and other stakeholders. She conducts case-related research and supports investigators by providing interpretation and translation assistance. Because young workers are frequently employed in industries or positions with high rates of wage violations, Alejandra collaborates with schools in the Boston area and develops outreach materials to empower this particular audience. She works to educate the labor force about their rights, protections, and resources available to them.
Ava Dimond - on leave
Ava has worked with the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), an organization whose mission is to develop and preserve affordable housing, offer services and programs, and build a collective voice through community organizing and planning to realize a stable, diverse and affordable community. Ava worked closely with the Communications and Development Manager on the “Visions 2069” Forum, an event celebrating Somerville’s past, present and future. She was involved with event coordination, outreach, curation of submissions, archival research, and producing policy papers.
Bronwyn Fulton - Building Audacity
Bronwyn is working with Building Audacity as part of their Laidlaw research. Building Audacity is an organization foudned with the purpose of increasing youth power. The program to be established will be called YouthRising, and will run for four weeks with full-day programming specifically tailored to elementary students who qualify for free or reduced-lunch in Somerville Public Schools (SPS). The YouthRising model aims to decrease summer learning loss, increase literacy skills, engage students in cri=cal dialogue about iden=ty, and inspire civic ac=on through the use of an empowering and inclusive pedagogy. YouthRising is predicated on the knowledge that empowered, informed students - no maTer their age - can make a difference in their community through collec=ve ac=on. This program will be implemented next summer (2021), and the majority of the work that the scholar will be doing for this project over the course of the academic year relates to planning, organizing, and fundraising.
Samuel Gardner-Bird - Office of State Representative Tram T. Nguyen
Sam is reprising his role as a legislative intern in the office of State Representative Tram Nguyen. He primarily works on drafting remarks for events, researching legislation for the office, and helping out wherever else is needed. He will be working on researching environmental policy in the hope that the office can develop ideas for legislation to be filed in the upcoming session.
Jaime Givens – Massachusetts Voter Table
Jaime is working at the Massachusetts Voter Table, which is currently working collaboratively with their 23 coalition members to leadstatewide efforts for Election Day Registration, the Fair Share Amendment, and the 2020 Census and redistricting. Jaime is working with MVT to support text banking and phone banking efforts for the 2020 Census and voter registration. She also will be supporting MVT’s ongoing projects such as Democracy Schools and data tool trainings for MVT’s 23 coalition members. Jaime also helps to updateMVT’s social media platforms, specifically theirFacebook page.
Ashley Gomez - Rhode Island Center for Justice
Ashley will be assisting the Center for Justice in the work they are doing for students and families in their federal court case asserting a constitutional right to civic education (Cook v. Raimondo). Ashley will serve as a liaison between the plaintiffs in the case (student-led, student-centered partner community organizations) and the Center for Justice by developing and executing a communication plan. Ashley will also support the educational justice and equity campaigns of the OurSchoolsPVD alliance, of which the Center for Justice is a member. Ashley will conduct research and help in envisioning what meaningful, intentional, civic education would look like in K-12 public schools, as well as envisioning transformational positive changes in public education with the Center’s youth-led partner organizations.
Valerie Infante – Somerville Community Corporation
The Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) is an organization that helps keep Somerville diverse, equitable, and inclusive by building and preserving affordable housing and offering economic opportunity programs, as well as through grassroots organizing and planning. SCC is adapting to the current pandemic by supporting residents with unemployment applications, rental assistance, and referrals to childcare and food assistance. The Tisch Scholar is helping SCC with the Listening Campaign, a project that entails having conversations with Somerville residents who have been involved with or received help from SCC during the pandemic so that the organization can better understand how to support them and help prioritize issues to focus on in the community. The Scholar coordinates the interviews and creates audio/video testimonies to identify people’s needs, challenges, and concerns. The placement also includes participating in interviews (both in English and Spanish), creative infographics for social media, translating materials to Spanish, attending online committee meetings, and assisting in planning safe events. The scholar is also a crucial part of organizing and promoting SCC’s Light Up Somerville Illuminated Walk, a socially distant walk through the City to highlight the need for affordable housing.
Rabiya Ismail - Volunteer Lawyers Project
As an intern at Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) a pro-bono legal services organization, Rabiya hopes to build upon her initial research on reverse redlining and broaden the topic to investigate racial disparities in wealth accumulation. She will do this in two ways—first, by seeing how many of VLP’s clients pursue bankruptcy because liens were attached to their homes as a result of a civil or small claims case for which they did not have representation, and second, by taking a close look at data from the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court, which serves a neighborhood with many Black homeowners, to see how a judgment against them has impacted their accumulation of wealth (i.e. equity in their home). Rabiya hopes to answer: What does it mean for Black homeowners if there are liens being attached to their homes? Since so much wealth is intergenerational, how does this contribute to the racial wealth gap?
Soo Min Kim - Volunteer Lawers Project
Ross Krantz – Somerville Chamber of Commerce
Ross is working with the Somerville Chamber of Commerce on the “Resilience Project.” Through the project, he will analyze how Somerville businesses can adapt to both economic and social shocks. In the wake of Covid-19, it’s necessary to make sure there are systems in place that will help Somerville businesses adapt and grow both economically and in social standing in the wake of system shocks. With this project, hopefully a system will be set up that will help both the Chamber, Somerville local businesses and ultimately, the community. Shocks are unavoidable, but with the Resilience Project, hopefully their effects can be minimized.
René LaPointe Jameson - Tufts University Office for Campus Life (OCL)
René is working with the Tufts University Office For Campus Life (OCL) evaluating and improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programming of Tufts pre-orientation programs. René observes and researches equitable curriculums and identity programming as well as interviews a variety of individuals to inform her work of designing new DEI programming. Her goals include empowering students with the tools to discuss identity, take action against systems of oppression, and consider equity in their studies and future work. René is proud to work with OCL in fostering a greater culture of compassion, engagement, and understanding across Tufts.
Leanne Loo - Campaign Against Racism
As a Tisch Scholar, Leanne will support efforts to capture and share learnings from the Campaign Against Racism’s 23 global chapters’ organizings to dismantle racial capitalism. This project is grounded in engaging with chapters to document the localized actions, learnings, and challenges different chapters have faced to strengthen the campaign’s disruptive, collective re-imagining as a long-term community-based social movement.
Carolina Olea Lezama - Living United for Change in Arizona
Carolina is working with Living United for Change in Arizona, an organization that organizes low- and moderate-income and minority families to take action on the issues most important to them and advance the cause of social and economic justice for all.
Joao Quintanilha – Cambridge Health Alliance
Joao is a Tisch Scholar with the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is a community health care system that serves Somerville, Cambridge, and other areas in Boston North. He works with the Community Health Improvement department on the Somerville Determination of Need project, which aims to determine current community health needs and allocate funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to a community-based health initiative addressing mental health and/or social determinants of health. Additionally, he will be working with the Somerville Food Security Coalition helping to streamline the system through which food insecurity is assessed and resources are distributed.
Shariqa Rahman – Enroot
Enroot is a non-profit organization rooted in the Cambridge and Somerville area that aims to empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career and personal success by establishing inspiring out of school experiences and relationships. As part of Shariqa’s cross departmental role, she works to assist the Enroot team with organizational and developmental tasks for both individual members and the overall program. While assisting in piloting virtual learning, researching needs of their student demographic, developing resource documents, or restructuring and adding to their databases, Shariqa’s goal is to add to Enroot’s ability to provide the best support and resources for their students. Through each step Shariqa aims to embody Enroot’s Diversity, Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion ideology and prioritize the needs of a community that frequently gets overlooked.
Krithi Ram-Junnarkar - Cambridge Health Alliance
Krithi is a Tisch Scholar with the Cambridge Health Alliance, which is a community health care system that serves Somerville, Cambridge, and other areas in Boston North. She works with the Community Health Improvement department on the Somerville Determination of Need project, which aims to determine current community health needs and allocate funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to a community-based health initiative addressing mental health and/or social determinants of health. Additionally, she will be working with the Somerville Food Security Coalition helping to streamline the system through which food insecurity is assessed and resources are distributed.
Neha Ratnapuri – Refugee Dream Center
Neha is a brand ambassador for the Refugee Dream Center, who leverages effective communication skills to coordinate between staff and outside stakeholders to develop the organization and further its mission of serving the RI refugee population. Her role centers on data analysis, quality assurance, fundraising, and occasionally providing direct help to clients enrolled in our case management, adult ESL, or youth mentoring programs. She will be a leading voice in developing creative ways to increase the organization’s community outreach and overall place within and outside of the refugee population.
Leo Ruiz Sánchez - Thrive Alabama
Leonardo will be developing content for Thrive Alabama in different mediums primarily focused on a Photography campaign aimed at destigmatizing LGBT health and those that need it the most.
Trina Sanyal - Somerville Media Center
Trina is working at the Somerville Media Center, a non-profit community media arts organization that provides meeting space, video training and mentoring, access to high-quality digital equipment and facilities, programming, and an art gallery for local artists. Trina is a production intern, producing documentary and community-based media for public access and SMC's channels. She is most inspired to focus on the voices of those often underrepresented in the Greater Boston area, and will work on several projects this semester that highlight this focus, including a series on professors of color in the Boston area, a highlight of Tufts student group ROOTs, and a focus on community organizations that are actively tackling Somerville's growing gentrification.
Caleb Seamon - MassVOTE
Caleb is spending a second year with MassVOTE, an organization that works to promote a culture of active political participation by providing civic organizations with the tools they need to organize, register, and educate voters, with an emphasis on historically disenfranchised communities. Caleb is the head intern for the Fall semester, leading and working with the organizations other four interns on a campaign to increase voter turnout among Massachusetts’ student population. For the fall, much of this work will focus on getting out the vote for the November general elections. He is also finalizing summer research on voter turnout in local election with proscriptions for the organization’s future outreach strategies.
Warisha Siddiqui – Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards
Scholars helps the Councilor and her office with larger policy aims related to housing instability and displacement due to high gentrification in our communities, reviewing on the redevelopment of New England’s largest public housing complex in Charlestown, and assisting efforts to push forward Councilor Edwards bill incorporating federally mandated fair housing criteria into the City of Boston’s zoning process. They also assist in public-facing operations intermittently as constituent cases arise on a daily basis. The scholar assists in drafting additional legislation for state-level policy that needs to pass in order for the Mayor’s executive order and home rule petition.
Lauren Soherr – CIRCLE
Lauren’s Tisch Scholar project is with the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) to support research on youth political participation as a means to increase access to civic and political opportunity and voice for a wide diversity of young people. Lauren collaborates with the Director of Impact and Research Program Coordinator at CIRCLE to support research on youth access to and involvement in elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lauren is doing background research on a range of data about elections and what influences youth participation, including state election processes, electoral competitiveness, and youth survey data. . Lauren will lend her experience to this work as well. As a panelist for CIRCLE’s Civic Spring project, Lauren engages with youth organizers and advocacy groups on how data can be used as a tool for storytelling and influence. Through her placement with CIRCLE, Lauren is eager to promote youth political participation and a more equitable democracy.
Elli Sol Strich – Fenway Community Center
Elli Sol is working with the Fenway Community Center to launch the Fenway Farmers Market, a project that aims to provide equitable food access to high quality and locally-grown produce for the neighborhood’s diverse population. The market will also serve as a community space, aligning with the mission of the Fenway Community Center to “provide a gathering place to share information, deliver programs, and provide services that enrich the lives of all Fenway residents”. Elli Sol will be developing a comprehensive market plan, including community asset mapping, grant research, and ensuring the inclusion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Healthy Initiatives Program (HIP), in order to design a market that is representative of the population it will serve.
Cana Tagawa – Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW)
Cana will be working on civic engagement projects during her first semester at AARW, given the urgent issues demanding mass mobilization in Fall 2020. She will be working on Census and voter outreach with AARW and partner organizations such as Massachusetts Voter Table.
Matthew Tolbert - JumboVote
Matt's project is JumboVote, a nonpartisan democratic engagement group that is committed to empowering the Tufts Community to participate in our democracy on Election Day and beyond.
Beverly Udegbe – Somerville Homeless Coalition
As a scholar placed at Somerville Homeless Coalition, Beverly will focus on three main areas that will further develop the outreach of SHC. First, Beverlywill update a resource guide for people homeless in Somerville and Arlington and collaborate with translators to curate user friendly brochures,highlighting the most important resources, for a variety of homeless and vulnerable populations in Somerville. In addition, Beverly will work on the RapidResponse team to help families and individuals facing eviction as a result of exacerbated income loss from COVID-19, apply for Residential Assistance forFamilies in Transition (RAFT) in order to obtain the necessary funds to pay their rental arrears. Lastly, Beverly will conduct an accountability projectfocused on addressing possible racial disparities in the clients that SHC serves and implementing structures that work to eliminate these disparities.
Abdi Wakene - HaSET Maternal and Child Health Research Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Around the world, 6 million children die before their 5th birthday each year. Forty percent of these deaths occur in the neonatal period the first 28 days of life, mainly from infections, preterm birth complications, and intrapartum related complications. HaSET is focused on understanding the causes of morbidity and mortality and using this knowledge to develop interventions to improve health. Data on the incidence and causes of morbidity and mortality among pregnant women and children are largely unknown in settings like Ethiopia. Abdi is working on a project focused on checking collected field data on the maternal and child health seen in Ethiopia. This will allow for accurate data to be reviewed when looking at the data and their significance.
Katherine Wang - Asian Community Development Corporation
Katherine is continuing her work at the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), which works in underserved and immigrant Asian American communities in the Greater Boston area to create and preserve affordable, sustainable, and healthy neighborhoods. Katherine will be supporting youth programs at Asian Community Development Corporation, specifically the Asian Voices of Organized Youth for Community Engagement (A-VOYCE) leadership workshops in Chinatown. She is excited to write and facilitate curricula on self-reflection, storytelling, anti-racism, Asian/Asian-American history, and creating the space for youth to design a community project. Although workshops will happen remotely, Katherine hopes to infuse them with creativity, fun, and memorable conversations.
Lidya Woldeyesus - JumboVote, Tisch College
Lidya is working with JumboVote, a nonpartisan organization at Tufts University dedicated to promoting civic engagement and voter turnout. The goal of JumboVote is to equip and empower students to participate in our democracy on Election Day and beyond. Lidya is the student chair of JumboVote and is led this effort in the 2020 election.