The Roosevelt Fellows have a history of using their own experience to advise other students on academic and social life
The Roosevelt Fellows program was named so for Eleanor Roosevelt, who taught at and was a trustee to the University during her lifetime.
Aaron Fischer ’15 writes, acts and directs for the Undergraduate Theatre Collective and loves watching Woody Allen films. He has participated in a handful of Brandeis clubs, ranging from Swing Club to Debate Society. He often wears a purple shirt.
Ina Karanxha ’15 works at Lemberg Children’s Center and at the Paper Store when she’s in her hometown of Stoneham, Mass. She loves crocheting and Marvin Gaye. She too can often be found wearing a purple shirt.
Nick Levergood ’16 is a certified Emergency Medical Technician and volunteers with Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps. He loves playing squash and crafting wooden pens with his father. Like Fischer and Karanxha, Nick has a collection of purple shirts.
Purple dominates their outfits on the days they function as Roosevelt Fellows. They, along with 10 other upperclassmen, form a tight-knit group of students whose aim is quite simple: to help fellow students.
The program, which began in 2001 and borrows its name from Eleanor Roosevelt, a former teacher and trustee to Brandeis, is a resource geared toward helping students with academic concerns—which classes to take, how to navigate the maze of major and minor options, what constitutes a manageable course load—as well as social concerns.
The 13 fellows have a wide range of experience within the Brandeis academic and extracurricular spheres, and thus have a range of perspectives to deal with whatever questions their peers might have.
Talia Abrahams, a coordinator for the Roosevelt Fellowship program as well as the Senior Department Coordinator for Academic Services, explains the core purpose of the fellows. “The first role of the fellow is to provide one-on-one academic advising sessions,” Abrahams wrote in an email to the Justice.
“The second is to develop and facilitate academic programs to be held at orientation events, in residence halls and alongside other campus partners.”
The application process involves a group interview and cooperative games that included “a dinosaur and a flower,” according to Fischer. Abrahams helps vet the prospective crop of fellows. “We look for good listening and mentoring skills, strong academics and good communication skills,” she wrote.
The fellows host events throughout the semester, both during orientation and scattered about the rest of the school year. There’s the Ice Cream Social, an event during orientation geared toward first-years that is both delicious and helpful, where students can come armed with questions for their purple-donning peers to answer.
They also coordinate various hall events with the Community Advisors, Roosevelt Recommends and Purple Day—a pre-registration advising session where students can receive class recommendations and general advice from the fellows.
All incoming freshman are assigned a fellow over the summer, but fellows’ reach extends beyond those who are new to the Brandeis community. The fellows are available to speak with any student, freshman and senior alike, who might need advice on a specific course or professor or even just a simple conversation partner.
Fischer insists that the fellows are a resource for the entire student body. “There’s a misconception that we only deal with first years. The reality is we’re a service open to all students,” he said. According to Fischer, some of his most memorable moments as a fellow have been helping students find their way through the confusing social fabric of college.
Fischer, a Philosophy and European Cultural Studies major and Theatre minor decided to apply to be a Roosevelt Fellow because of his familiarity with the college academic system and his desire to share that knowledge. “I just know the system. It’d be such a shame to move on and not be able to share that with people,” he said.
Karanxha attributes her interest in joining the collective to an encounter she had with a Roosevelt Fellow as a freshman.
“I vividly remember being captivated at how sincerely and serenely he approached speaking and listening to me,” she wrote in an email to the Justice. “I wanted to convey the same level of care and provide a similar kind of comfort and support for other students.”
The Roosevelt Fellows are available every weekday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the lobby of Academic Services. They can also be reached through personal email adresses that can be found on their website.
Levergood shared a sentiment that is common among all the fellows. “Being able to advise Brandeis students is a great gift because it allows me to step out of my own world for a bit and help others,” he wrote in an email to the Justice. Adding a wealth of purple shirts and sweatshirts didn’t hurt either; “Our purple swag is worth the application alone,” he added.