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’Deis Talks showcases learning experiences

By Jess Linde

Section: News

March 27, 2015

Brandeis’ Education for Students by Students (ESS) hosted their annual ’Deis Talks events in the Admissions Atrium Thursday, March 26 a series of 10- to 15-minute presentations by members of the Brandeis community designed after TED Talks. As always, this year’s event featured a wide range of topics, though the theme of education and exploring future opportunities was featured in several speeches. The event was followed with refreshments and mingling, and was co-sponsored by Brandeis’ experiential learning program.

Emily Eng ’14 opened the event with “Do I Wear a Tux or a Gown? Conducting an Orchestra as a Woman.” Eng described her lifelong love of classical music and being inspired to conduct by her middle school band teacher, and how she initially did not know what to wear as a female conductor: a suit, like men, or a dress. She was shocked to learn that only one of the country’s 22 highest-budgeted orchestras was conducted by a woman. While researching the issue on her own, Eng read multiple articles where musical professionals cited extremely sexist reasons for the lack of gender diversity. Undeterred, Eng continued to advocate for herself as a conductor and currently works as the assistant conductor of the Waltham Philharmonic Orchestra. She concluded her talk by asking the audience if they believed music had a gender, and asking them to guess the gender of the composers of different pieces of music. Of the three examples, only one was male.

Second came Professor Dan Perlman (BIOL), who asked the audience to consider how they think of learning, specifically how long it lasts. Using the metaphor of a spider’s web—which is beautiful, as well as very strong and malleable—Perlman advocated a slower, more experiential approach to learning, rather than relying on knowledge banking. “What if we think about learning as mountain peaks, rather than a layered brick wall?” Perlman said. “What if learning depends on flashes of insight?” Perlman encouraged students to focus on what they considered “peak experiences,” or learning experiences that drove them to explore a field or subject further. He concluded by telling the audience not to worry about the future and to follow what they love.

Flora Wang’s ’15 speech centered on the way students schedule their time, and how to improve it. Wang, a double major who holds “a smorgasbord of campus leadership positions,” described her experience being overwhelmed in her day-to-day life trying to fit everything in, and recommended that people make small, realistic steps forward toward a goal. She also advised that people be unafraid to drop activities that take up too much time or aversely affect one’s mental health with stress.

In the most topically serious talk of the night, Imogen Rosenbluth ’17 discussed her experience as a survivor of a prolonged eating disorder and her work to help people struggling with similar conditions. Rosenbluth spoke about the misconception that eating disorders are something people can just “get over,” citing the little-known fact that there are 10 clinically recognized eating disorders and the destructive cycles they create. While describing the damaging effects of eating disorders, Rosenbluth also offered hope. Currently, she works as a volunteer counselor with the National Eating Disorder Association. “I am proud of myself, and I deserve to be,” she said, adding that being “healthy” is a subjective topic depending on specific body type, and that intense diet and exercise do not work for everyone.

After a short intermission, the program restarted with Amelia Katan ’15, who discussed her experience researching the way international law and local concepts of justice interact with one another. Following an inspiring semester in the Netherlands at the International Criminal Court, Katan admitted she declared herself an expert on the conflict with the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda. However following a visit to Uganda she learned about local conceptions of justice, including desires for reconciliation of child soldiers, despite their crimes. “Books build assumptions, and travel challenges assumptions,” Katan said. “Both are needed to really learn.”

Next came Eduardo Beltrame, a Brazilian exchange student and science enthusiast who discovered a love for 3D Printing at Brandeis. Currently the president of the Deis 3D club, Beltrame began printing models of molecules and atoms for fun, and recently has begun to use them in collaboration with Professor Daniel Krummel (BCHM), who uses the models in his classes. Explaining the function of each molecule, Beltrame expressed his belief that 3D printed models, which are very accurate to the tiny compounds, can be a step forward in helping people have a more hands-on understanding of the subject.

Arun Sundaram ’15 followed, and discussed his love of videogames as a storytelling form. Going through several highly acclaimed recent games such as “BioShock Infinite” and “The Last of Us,” Sundaram described what makes videogames’ interactive medium unique for portraying a deep and emotional story. Examples included the complex choices and moral quandaries available in recent games, and he expressed his confidence that games will only continue to evolve.

The final speaker was Joel Abrams ’64, who recently retired after serving 26 years as the president and CEO of the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, a local Community Health Center. Abrams described being brought up on the Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam,” or healing the world, and leaving law school to work at a community health center in Boston in the 1970s. During his tenure at the Dorchester House, Abrams helped the center provide many progressive health care services to local communities. In his final remarks, Abrams advised the audience, specifically students, to not worry about what to do with their lives now, and to not focus on others’ expectations.

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