Seniors on the Move
This week justFeatures sat down with soon-to-be Brandeis graduates
Bethany Adam ’15: Commencement Speaker
From the graduation podium to international humanitarian work, Bethany Adam ’15 hopes to impact as many people as she can. Adam has just recently been selected as the Class of 2015 Senior Commencement Speaker.
“I’m really excited about it, because I feel really strongly about my class. I think it’s a really great group of people, and I’m so thankful to have grown and shared my Brandeis experience with them. So having the opportunity to say a formal goodbye is really sentimental and important to me. I hope that my speech will touch their hearts,” Adam said in an interview with the Justice.
After graduation, Adam is hoping to pursue international humanitarian work with either the United Nations or the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Netherlands. She wants to work on crimes of war, specifically nuclear and chemical warfare.
Adam is a Politics major and Theater and Legal Studies double-minor. It was through her study abroad program during the summer of 2014 at The Hague in the Netherlands that she became passionate about international law. “The Hague was amazing—that’s where it all [her future endeabors] became inspired, so I owe a lot of my future endeavors to The Hague [Brandeis study abroad program].”
The Hague study abroad program introduced her to thinking critically about the role of law and regulations during times of war. She found it difficult to conceptualize that nuclear warfare or even chemicals that can be placed in water sources could wipe out an entire continent overnight.
“To me that’s too much and that’s too crazy … is it likely that I’ll ever see complete peace in my lifetime? No, unfortunately—maybe, but it’s not likely. But there are at least ways that I can regulate the war that’s happening around me to be less inhumane,” Adam said.
When asked about her most influential class or professor at Brandeis, Adam credited the Legal Studies Department as a whole. “Between my trip to the Hague and [my] Legal Studies classes, I’m really going to miss that whole faculty a lot. They’re the best,” Adam said.
Adam, coming from a small town in New Hampshire, feels that Brandeis has really opened her to new perspectives and to new understandings.
“It’s okay to support something one day and not the next because you researched and figured something out. I just think it makes me really look at things a lot more critically, which I like and I think is exactly what an education is supposed to do,” Adam said.
It seems that Adam feels connected to her graduating class as well as the incoming class. “I’m really so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had. The experiences on this campus and the people that I’ve had them with— I just hope the incoming students embrace that and embrace that from the start,” Adam said.
Larry Yu ’15 and Perry Yu ’15: Twin entrepreneurs
As both siblings and business partners, Larry Yu ’15 and Perry Yu ’15 plan to tackle the post-collegiate life together. The twin brothers and New Jersey natives are both receiving degrees in Business and Computer Science and plan to put their time into entrepreneurial efforts after graduation.
“My brother and I have a company called SimplePosture, and we manufacture and import our own back pain products, and we sell them online,” Larry said in an interview with the Justice. “It relatively took off, so we’re going to go do that full time.”
Larry started getting into online sales when he was a senior in high school, he said—taking out advertisements on Google and buying different types of products to sell. From there, he started learning about web design and began creating sites for both individuals and companies. Perry started writing sales copy for companies so the two could sell more products online, he told the Justice.
“And then about a year ago,” Larry said. “We thought that we’ve been doing this for everybody else for so long, why not do it for ourselves? We did some research on certain niches that we felt were profitable and we found the back pain niche and went with it.”
The two also have a web design business—called DigitizeMyBusiness.com—which they’ve been working away at since their sophomore year at Brandeis.
“On the site, you’ll see that it’s written by us, like ‘we’re young millenials, we get this stuff,’” Perry said. “I’m actually taking another young web designer under my wing,” Larry said. “I’m passing him a lot of my clients.”
The pair credit Business and Computer Science courses at Brandeis with helping them get off the ground as they moved through online sales and web design. “I would say Computer Science [courses] collectively taught [us] how to problem solve,” Perry said. “Computer science is pretty rough sometimes.”
Larry remembers “Bus172a: Operations Management” taught by Prof. Anita Tucker (IBS). “I would definitely recommend that as being the business class to take,” he said. “All the boring, underneath-the-hood type stuff that you need to run a business was taught in that class. And the professor was awesome.”
Their entrepreneurial ventures have grown a lot since they began college. “During our freshman year, we had our first e-commerce venture,” Perry said. “We set up a site and were selling random products like night vision goggles, hammocks. We were selling stuff from our dorm in Cable [Residence Hall]. We did that for a summer but we never really pushed it through at that time. … We’ve circled back around now in our senior year.”
Jessica Lin ’15: A helping hand
Jessica Lin ’15 has been interning at Asian Task For Against Domestic Violence, an organization that offers services to immigrant victims of domestic abuse, for the last year. After graduation, Lin will begin a full-time job at the ATASK emergency shelter, bridging long held interests in social work and Asian American populations.
Her position at ATASK will include answering calls on ATASK’s bilingual hotline—offering information and emotional support in Mandarin Chinese and English—coordinating community building activities and assisting residents adjust to the shelter.
“It’s really gratifying to know that you’re helping these people in need, especially because of this prominent cultural barrier. What you find is that Asian immigrants have a really difficult time reaching out to these organizations because of the language barrier and the cultural barrier,” Lin said in an interview with the Justice.
Lin is a Psychology and Philosophy double-major. She was involved in the Taiwanese Student Association (TSA), first as secretary her sophomore year and then as president her junior year. Lin explained that being a part of TSA made her more culturally aware and understanding of different perspectives on issues facing Asian Americans.
In her junior year she also took “Clinical Practicum,” with Prof. Joseph Cunningham (PSYCH) where she worked at a clubhouse for those with mental illnesses. “It taught me to be a better worker, a better listener and a better helper ultimately,” Lin said. She felt these skills she learned in “Clinical Practicum” put her ahead of the curve during her internship.
Offering advice to underclassmen, Lin said she wouldn’t have put as much emphasis on her grades and would have reached out to professors more.
“I kind of let myself forget that it’s more important that you feel like you learn something than actually getting an amazing grade … what I’m taking away from [my classes] can’t be reduced to a simple letter or to a simple GPA,” Lin explained to the Justice.
For those interested in social work, Lin also offered important advice. “Don’t forget about self care. … I didn’t believe that I had to take a day off for self care because I felt like, who am I to take a day off when these people really need help? ... It’s okay to take a break. You’re just going to go back in and be that much more efficient,” Lin said.
Michael Kahn ’15: Breaking barriers
After graduating this spring, Michael Kahn ’15 will be going on to simultaneously pursue a juris doctorate at Columbia Law School and a master’s of business administration at Columbia Business School. Kahn applied separately to Columbia Law School and then to Columbia Business School and was surprised to be accepted to both, through the three-year J.D/M.B.A. Program.
Originally interested in the field of business, Kahn’s interest in a joint business and law degree was sparked when he worked for a real estate firm in New York City. Through this experience, he realized how critical it is to understand law, in order to run a successful business.
“As I got more involved with the people that I was working with and they started letting me do more stuff, I sort of realized that anything I had to do ended up with a conversation with someone explaining why we couldn’t do it from a legal perspective,” Kahn said in an interview with the Justice. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘this would be so much easier if you just understood both.’”
Kahn is no stranger to joint fields of study. In fact, he created an independent interdisciplinary major in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
He originally intended on majoring in Philosophy, until he realized that most of the work in the Philosophy major focused around politics and economics from a philosophical framework.
Then, with the encouragement of his advisor, Prof. Marion Smiley (PHIL), Kahn declared his interdisciplinary major. “[Smiley] has been absolutely outstanding. I had expressed to her in the past that [business and law] was what I wanted to do, so she sort of kept me on that path and helped me to really take control of my academic plans,” he said.
Kahn met Smiley during his first-year at Brandeis in her course “PHIL [17a]: Introduction to Ethics” and has taken countless classes with her since. She is currently one of Kahn’s thesis advisors. Kahn’s thesis is focused around microfinance in the developing world and the ethics of microfinance in developing countries like Bangladesh.
During his time at Brandeis, Kahn has been an active member of the intramural sports teams, participating on football and basketball teams. He was also the senior editor for Wander, the study abroad magazine of Brandeis. Kahn is also the Undergraduate Departmental Representative for the interdisciplinary major.
Ultimately, Kahn wants to continue his passion for interdisciplinary fields of study by becoming an entrepreneur after completing his JD / MBA. “I’m interested in the long term of doing something on my own, so having that background in law and business and being able to fully know both sides of it is something that really attracted me [to pursue the JD/MBA program],” Kahn said.
Sela Brown ’15: Fullbright recipient
This September, Sela Brown ’15 will be traveling to Madrid, Spain on a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English to high school students.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program was founded in 1946 and is currently the largest U.S. exchange program. The program offers English teaching grants—of which Brown was a recipient—as well as research grants.
Brown will be teaching in English-speaking classes, although she is fluent in Spanish as well. In the fall of 2014, Brown studied abroad in Chile, where she immersed herself in Spanish and did a homestay with a local family.
As part of her teaching position, Brown will also be aiding with the Model UN program in Madrid.
She will be preparing her Spanish students for their trip to the United Nations in New York, where they will engage in mock debates about global issues. Brown is most excited about this aspect of the program, saying that she was drawn to the program in Spain in particular because of the presence of a Model UN and the opportunity to engage young people in debates about global issues and politics.
“I studied Politics and International [and Global] Studies, so I’m excited to see my studies in practice and get students involved in global issues,” Brown said.
Brown’s interest in policy was shaped in part by a class she took called “Advocacy for Policy Change,” taught by Prof. Melissa Stimell (LGS). “It was an experiential learning class, so you get to learn the actual process of advocating for bills in the state house, and it made me really interested in that process and doing advocacy and policy work,” Brown said. Brown ultimately hopes to live in Washington, D.C. and have a career in policy.
On campus, Brown works for the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, where she performs legal studies research on people who were wrongly convicted of crimes. She also works at the information booth in the Shapiro Campus Center and is the co-captain of the women’s ultimate Frisbee team Banshee.
When asked how she feels about leaving Brandeis in a short time, Brown said, “It goes back and forth. On the one hand, I’m really excited for what I’m doing next year. I love learning, but I think learning in a different context will be exciting. I’m also really sad to be leaving campus and be leaving my friends. We are all spread out across the U.S. and across different countries.”
Brown urges current Brandeis students to follow their interests, however much they may change, and not only focus on resume building. “It’s a circuitous path, and that’s okay. Even if you’ve been in a club for a few years, if you’re not interested anymore, move on and do different things. If you’ve been studying one thing and realize something else is your passion, don’t be afraid of that. It all works out,” Brown said. “What I do next year will definitely shape what I do, but it won’t define my career path,” Brown said
Ethan Stein ’15: Classroom to company
In a world getting smaller and smaller online, there is a bigger and bigger need for cyber security. Last summer, Ethan Stein ’15 co-founded CyberSecurityPlan to help fill that need. He says that his plan after graduating is to “devote the majority of my time to growing this company,” Stein said in an interview with the Justice. “The majority of the world thinks that if you have firewall on your computer … that’s all you need to do to keep yourself, your clients and your information secure. That’s not true,” he explained.
The European Union recently said they would stop doing commerce with American businesses that don’t have cybersecurity plans in place. In order to get one, companies need an attorney, which can be very expensive. That’s where Stein’s business comes in. “We provide customized cyber security plans for businesses large, small, medical, legal, universities. ... It has taken off. We have [people] across the country pitching and selling, so we’re really fortunate,” Stein said.
Stein has recently decided that in addition to running his own company next year, he will also be pursuing a Master’s from Brandeis in Computer Science. “My master’s will enable me to further my knowledge of the ever growing field of technology and entrepreneurship, and give both myself and CyberSecurityPlan more validity as the co-founder by having a further level of higher education. By continuing at Brandeis I will be able to continue my studies under my mentors who have gotten me to the point I am currently at. They want to see my success and I want to continue this adventure under their tutelage,” Stein wrote in a follow-up email to the Justice.
Stein is a triple major in Computer Science, Film, Television and Interactive Media and Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. “I’ve learned a significant amount about the issues at hand, but also about starting a company… I’ve taken classes about [information technology] entrepreneurship, human-computer interaction and website design, making your product easily accessible, interesting and clear for your users,” Stein said. Stein is also president of Chabad at Brandeis and a university departmental representative for the Hebrew Language and Literature program and the FTIM program.
“Brandeis has enabled me to make the connections I needed. [I] know if I have an issue or a question, that there here are many, many people in a variety of fields who I can reach out to,” Stein said. He has reached out to many professors already, some whom’s classes he has taken and some of whom’s he hasn’t.
“They’ve been extremely receptive,” Stein said, “If you make the effort to reach out to a teacher and to form a relationship, they themselves even more so will put in the effort and time to help you. … They are not only mentors and educators, but they are truly friends.”
Stein’s advice to undergraduates is to,“leave your comfort zone. Take classes, or join clubs, or go to programs you never thought that you would join,” as well as to form relationships with upperclassman and professors.