Vinita Davey ’16 – Advocacy with the Hindu American Foundation

This summer, I had the opportunity to further develop two of my interests and come to better understand the interplay between the them—advocacy and politics. I spent the last seven weeks in Washington, D.C. interning on Capitol Hill through the Hindu American Foundation, an organization that advocates on behalf of Hindu Americans. Beyond getting to explore D.C. and meet so many amazing people, I also had so many incredible learning experiences that I know will influence the rest of my time at Swarthmore. 10486783_816165738396525_5377291027476981190_n

I spent nearly two months in the office of Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat who represents the 7th District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives. I had so many amazing experiences in his office—getting to interact with constituents, having candid conversations with the Congressman about his experience in politics, and listening to Nancy Pelosi address a panel of unaccompanied minors who were testifying at a House hearing, to name a few. Additionally, I learned how important it is for young Indian Americans like myself to get involved in politics, be it local, state-level, or national. Congressman Bera is the only Indian-American in Congress, even though1 in 100 Americans are of Indian descent. While on the Hill, I attended a number of events that served to connect Asian-American interns like myself with professionals who are involved in politics, be it Asian-American Chiefs of Staff, or Asian-Americans at the State Department. Because we are so underrepresented in politics, I think that initiatives like these are important to get young Asian-Americans the opportunity to be more involved in the political realm.

10339728_10203878983991409_9017036097364916653_n  Through my involvement with the Hindu American Foundation, I learned how to be a better advocate for a cause that’s very close to home. I was raised in a religious Hindu household, and am very proud of my religious heritage. This summer, I got an unparalleled opportunity to serve a community that I identify very strongly with by representing its interests to policy-making organizations and institutions. My third day in Washington, a delegation of us from HAF went to Capitol Hill to meet with nearly 80 different members of the Senate and House of Representatives. This day of advocacy gave me hands-on experience of what it’s like to present policy issues and advocate on behalf of HAF’s constituency. Walking into a small meeting room and directly presenting the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh to Rep. Joseph Crowley, Chair of the India Caucus, was definitely one of the most exhilarating (and terrifying) experiences of my life. My experiences with HAF had a profound effect on my experiences as an intern in the office of Rep. Bera, and vice versa. As I assisted in constituent outreach, wrote policy memos for the Congressman, and attended hearings and briefings, I began to get a more complete understanding of how policy is created, and what influences that policy.

This summer has reinforced a lot of the lessons I’ve learned already in my experiences as a Theta—the importance of advocating on behalf of causes I believe in, like the work that Court Appointed Special Advocates is doing, as well as advocating on behalf of my sisters. I am incredibly lucky to belong to a network of intelligent, driven, and compassionate women who I know will help to guide me and advocate on my behalf as I decide what career path to follow.  10306730_10204158274578107_5067188514788226332_n



Eliana Cohen ’17- Project START at Yale

This summer I worked as a research assistant in a Yale lab run out of the Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers. The study I worked on, Project START, seeks to connect substance-using women to health resources in their community. These resources are already available to them; however they may not know about them. The study aims to test the effectiveness of motivational interviewing in encouraging these women to reach out to the any of the myriad of available services.

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As a research assistant, I conducted screenings for eligibility at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Women’s Center. It was amazing to work in the field and to gain first-hand experience in dealing with potential participants. Now when I read papers, I have a much greater appreciation for all of the work that goes into recruiting research patients and gathering meaningful data.

Back at the office, my main task was to prep the participants’ medication logs for data cleaning. Since the study draws to a close in a few months, the researchers want to make sure all of the data are ready. They will then do a cost-benefit analysis to determine the economic effects of their intervention. Also at the office, I met Zola, a Yale Theta working on a different project. She has just started med school, and when I spoke to her about Theta, she cited the friendships she had made and the memories she had created with her sisters as defining aspects of her undergraduate years. It was so wonderful to hear how Theta had touched her life and only reaffirmed my love for this sisterhood.

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Overall, I loved working with the Project START research team. They served as incredible mentors to me. They took the time to teach, guide, and encourage me as I became familiar with the complex and rewarding world of research-everything from grant proposals to research design to data collection and analysis. At the end of the internship I presented my own research findings at a poster session. I compared the demographics of substance-using women in New Haven to those in the nation. I hope that my work will have implications for future treatment program designs across the country. I am so happy to have had this opportunity, and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned in the research field to my studies at Swat.

When I wasn’t working, I was training with Yale Masters-I even got a chance to write a few practices! Swimming with them made me appreciate the sport on much greater level-for them swimming was an inherent part of their identity-the sport did not end after college. I loved how self-motivated and dedicated these men and women were to the sport they loved. The team members all served as wonderful role models to me as I look forward to the upcoming swim season.

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On the weekends, I got to explore the New Haven area. There was an incredible farmers market set up every Saturday morning just a block from my apartment. I spent several of those mornings picking out the freshest kale, tasting the most delicious breads, and even picking up a few cooking tips from the vendors and other shoppers. I also got to try new recipes this summer including my favorite-spinach-quinoa stuffed tomatoes topped with goat cheese. Whenever I wanted to escape the bustle of the city, I drove out to Sleeping Giant, a beautiful state park with magnificent hiking trails.

This summer has been amazing! I can’t believe it’s almost over. I’m looking forward to the last few weeks, and I’m so excited to get back to Swat and to catch up with everyone. I especially can’t wait to see my sisters and to welcome the new pledge class!