Week 3: Teacher Created Materials

December 16th, 2014

James Thompson ’15 Hanson Fellow in Accounting

The third week at Teacher Created Materials has been a turning point in my internship. I spent more time working in A/P and had the opportunity to attend a day-long training session for employees to learn about the company.

My time in A/P began to get more in-depth this week. As year end is quickly approaching, Sheila needed as much help as possible to finish her A/P tasks before their deadlines. Some of the tasks I got to spend time on are:

  • Differentiating between selling cost and the cost of products. The difference between these two things is important to account for the profitability of sales representatives. When expenses are placed under selling costs, it means that extra costs were incurred by the sales reps while trying to sell a product, hurting the profitability of sales reps. However, if costs are placed under the cost of products, the costs will not affect sales reps at all. The costs will simply be deducted from the company revenue.
  • Making transfers from assets to expenses. Certain costs from vendors needed to be placed under expenses although they were initially recorded as assets. I made these transfers using SAGE (accounting software) and Excel. SAGE is not intuitive since it requires understanding the coding system the accounting department in TCM uses to record each entry. Taking the code on certain assets and changing them to be listed as an expense is all that needed to be done, but that required using an Excel spreadsheet created by Sheila that is then uploaded into SAGE. It’s a specific, time consuming process that Sheila has learned to streamline using Excel.
  • Expensewire. TCM reimburses daycare fees for any employees with children younger than a determined age.  Sheila has created an Excel spreadsheet to speed up the necessary calculations. There was some manual entry that she wanted to eliminate since it was redundant, so she assigned me the task of figuring out how to automate the spreadsheet. After an hour of trying to make the spreadsheet do what I wanted it to, I realized the solution requires programming a Macro, and I don’t know how to do that. So we called in one a person from IT, and they were able to do the programming for us! Now I really want to learn more about coding. After that was solved, we were able to upload the expenses into SAGE faster than before.
  • Used an Amortization Schedule for journal entries. If not for financial accounting, I would not have known how to interpret an amortization schedule. Using the date of an invoice listed on the amortization schedule, I had to account for part of the payment balance under principle and the rest under interest. It’s akin to a mortgage.
  • Reconciliation. I reconciled a few credit card statements with the charges issued to TCM. Prof. Santhi Heejebu taught me how to use Pivot Tables during Business Analytics, and that came in handy during reconciliation! Pivot Tables make doing a reconciliation much easier and faster.

I also learned more about the company during TCM University. It is a day long event to help employees understand the big picture of TCM. At its essence, TCM strives for “joy in learning and wonder in learning,” and their products illustrate this approach. I also learned that TCM was started out of a garage in 1977 by a teacher trying to publish her book, Quick Fun Art. After being rejected by multiple publishers, Rachelle Cracchiolo decided to go the entrepreneurial route by publishing for herself! It’s inspiring to consider how far the company has come. In addition to interesting stories, I learned about the various departments in the company, so I have a notion of how the company operates altogether.

TCM University

I’m officially part of the first TCM University graduating class!

At the event, employees were very passionate about working for a company that aligns with their views. Working to create engaging educational materials so that students like to learn was by far the most frequently cited reason people want to work for TCM. It helped me realize that working for a company that has a vision I feel strongly about is valuable, and it is a thought I will keep in mind as I start my career after graduation.

This weekend I got to play more soccer! (Go figure.) I was part of a team that played in the L.A. Holiday Classic Soccer Tournament. It is a 7 vs 7 format and it took place on the training fields right outside the StubHub Center, home to the L.A. Galaxy. We had a cohesive team, and were undefeated in the men’s over 20 division until the championship game. More importantly, it was super fun. As the result of an unbiased decision by my teammates, I was bestowed a banana for being the Golden Boot of the tournament. To celebrate we gorged on tasty Mexican seafood dishes at El Pescador. I think I am still full.

Our team - the OC Lions.

Our team of goofballs – the OC Lions.

 

Week 2: Teacher Created Materials

December 8th, 2014

James Thompson ’15 Hanson Fellow in Accounting

The overwhelming majority of my time during the second week with TCM has been spent working on physical inventory. This year’s physical inventory has been their most intense to date. TCM does their physical inventory manually, using counting, paper, pen, and data entry. They are not quite large enough as a business to warrant an electronic physical inventory system, although that would make the process much less strenuous.

Physical inventory is necessary at year end in order to file taxes and be credible during audits. It’s necessary for every business, especially businesses with lots of inventory. Lisa had me take part in each of the different aspects of physical inventory to help me gain an understanding of a few processes. Here are the steps in physical inventory:

  1. Count the books in the warehouse. Each worker is given paper with a number and a plenty of rows. The number stands for the bin in the warehouse where inventory is taking place. A bin is a specific part of a shelf, and there are plenty of bins. Within each bin the book name, code, and number of books needs to be written in the rows for each different book. This is a time-consuming process, since it requires literally counting all of the books in the warehouse.
  2. Enter the data. The data on each piece of paper needs to be entered into Excel. While entering the data, a VLookup function is used to make sure the name of each book matches up to the code written down on the piece of paper.
  3. Sort the paper. The paper numbers can get jumbled up after going from the warehouse to the accounting office since they exchange hands a few times. Yet, for the papers to be of any use as evidence, we need to be able to reference them. The only way to reference a particular piece of paper is for all the paper to be placed in number order. This posed a daunting task since there is so much paper. In essence, I created a real life sorting algorithm to finish the task.

    All of the paper I sorted into numerical order -- an 18 hour project.

    All of the paper I sorted into numerical order — an 18-hour project.

  4. Double check. Lastly, we need to check for missing pieces of paper (missing data) and check for items the system says we have but we did not count (“Frozen Not Counted”). Either could result in an inaccurate report of the value of TCM’s inventory.

When evaluating the data after the project, a variance test is done, which is basically a simple statistics test. First, the accounting department uses what data we have in the system previous to the physical inventory to estimate how much inventory is probably in each bin. Then, after the physical inventory, any inventory value over/under by a certain amount compared to the estimate is re-evaluated. All-in-all, this is explaining to me how accounting departments keep accurate records of their finances in the midst of so much inventory moving in and out of the business. It is clear that every business needs to use a rigorous system to keep their financial records healthy.

Besides working on physical inventory with TCM, I spent much of the week indoors. I was caught off-guard by the weather! In a rare event, SoCal had a few days worth of rain, causing mudslides in Malibu and forcing me to walk to work rather than ride a bike. It was funny to see what the SoCal version of a “storm” is — quite mild. But I was able to get out and play soccer on some unfamiliar fields on Friday night and Saturday morning! On top of that, I got to go to Huntington Beach Pier on Sunday and soak up the California sun that I expected to see all the time.

Week 1: Teacher Created Materials

December 2nd, 2014

James Thompson ’15, Hanson Fellow in Accounting

Moving to Huntington Beach, CA for this fellowship with Teacher Created Materials has been a completely new social experience for me. There are a couple of apparent differences between living on my own and living at school:

  1. I have to make food for myself. Yikes! I appreciate Bon Appetit even more than I did before.
  2. I lack friends around this part of the world.

There is a grocery store near my house, so the first part does not pose much of an issue. However, I have to go out and meet people in Huntington Beach if I want to meet people outside of work. My second day in the area was a Saturday, the preferred day of the week for soccer. By searching online, I was fortunate to find a pick-up soccer group playing a game for the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Everyone is welcome, as long as you bring a few dollars for charity. The combination of a great cause and a sport I can’t get enough made meeting people easy, and on top of that, we raised $300 by having fun! I feel more connected to the community, too.

The delightful community of soccer players!

The delightful community of soccer players!

Monday was my first day with Teacher Created Materials (TCM). TCM is a business that creates and sells educational materials for schools and teachers in K-12. I am going to be learning the different parts of accounting during my time with their business. Lisa Whiteman, Controller, laid out how my time with TCM will go. I will be spending time in:

  1. Accounts Receivable (A/R)
  2. Accounts Payable (A/P)
  3. Gains and Losses (G/L)

That is also the order I will be going through the sections, which should keep a steady increase in the complexity of projects and job shadowing that I am doing. In addition, there will be a few miscellaneous days, such as physically accounting for inventory in the warehouse and doing a day-long course for employees of TCM. By the end of my time with TCM, Lisa assures me that I will either “love or hate” accounting, but no matter the case, I will know more than I did.

This is my work space in the accounting office.

This is my workspace in the accounting office.

For the first week at TCM, the office is quieter than usual since Thanksgiving break is right around the corner. Regardless, the accounting team has to keep the business in check. I spent time in A/R with Vanessa working on a project for the entirety of the week.

The project entails trying to increase cash flows by contacting businesses with delinquent payments. The end of the year is coming up, making this a crucial time to receive payments. Basically, I found delinquent invoices (30+ days overdue) and the according proof of delivery (POD), printed those out, and attached a memo of why we are contacting their business. Undertaking this project required me to learn the basics of navigating ELAN, an internal accounting and customer service software TCM uses.  I sent out quite a few notices, so hopefully cash flows increase within the next few weeks.

While working on the delinquent payments project, I learned about how Vanessa got her start with TCM. She began with TCM in a part-time customer service position while going to school full-time. For two years, Vanessa worked hard, showing her dependability and organization. Then, three years ago, she was offered a full-time position as the A/R for TCM. She could not leave the opportunity hanging, but taking on work and school full-time would have been too much, so she now goes to school for accounting part-time while working full-time for TCM. Her determination is remarkable.

Our savory Thanksgiving meal, featuring rare prime rib.

Our savory Thanksgiving meal, featuring rare prime rib.

To finish off the first week-and-a-half I have spent in California, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family just north of Santa Monica! Her grandma, uncles, and I dined in excess, competed in board games, and laughed incessantly for the whole break. It was undoubtedly a heart warming get together. I am so fortunate to have her family in SoCal welcome me into their home!

Week 9: Children’s Hospital Colorado

August 7th, 2014

Sandra Cordero ’16, Farley Fellow in Children’s Research 

Although, it is my last week, I been having trouble logging into EPIC and with my badge access. There was a misunderstanding and I was terminated earlier than I was supposed to, thus had to deal with this situation to continue my data collecting. However, this gave me time to work on my PowerPoint presentation, which I received help with. Originally, when I thought that I would not have any results to present, I was going to spend time giving a background on the different surgical treatments that we focused on. Stating the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment, and explain some past studies. However, Erin thought that people will be more interested in learning my study instead of others, and thought that I would spend a lot of time introducing these treatments instead of the literature of my study. Thus, it was a very last minute decision, but I asked Patrick to do a preliminary result summary on the demographics of my study and associated complications. He was not able to do a full statistical analysis, but I was able to learn about the need for physical therapy by groups (SMP, TENs, and IM Nail), the need for re-operation by group, have a mean table for the average age and weight for each group, and surgical rate by group for fracture stability. However, I was still able to include the advantages and disadvantages of each surgical treatment, but I chose to put these slides in the discussion section to tie it back to our overall findings. My discussion was SMP is an effective treatment for unstable femur fractures.

This summer I learned how to accept good criticism. When I did a practice presentation with Patrick and Erin, they helped me re-design my PowerPoint and gave me tips to help my presentation flow better and prepare me for questions that I may be asked. One skill that I learned was how to report results. Originally, I had my tables and graphs by counts, but since we were comparing among groups, I had to change these numbers into percentage, since there was not a same amount of observations for each group. In addition, they helped me with my transitions. For instance I did a short introduction explaining what each surgical treatment was. Patrick recommended that I state (during my presentation) that I will refer back to these treatments in my discussion section and relate it back to my findings. Since I only explained SMP, TENs, rigid intramedullary nailing, and Trochanteric Entry Nailing and not the others, it might be confusing to the audience. They also helped me re-define and re-word my research question and hypothesis. During my presentation, I was quite nervous, but I was proud of myself, I was able to say what I wanted to say and explain these topics effectively. Patrick was impressed that I was also able to answer the follow-up questions, and told me it showed that I was very knowledgeable about my topic and prepared for my presentation.

This internship was an amazing experience. I think that over the course of this summer, I was able to gain more confidence in myself. I was the youngest intern at the CHCO, and it was quite overwhelming sometimes since the rest of the interns were graduated and were in the process of applying to medical school. However, I felt that I handled the situation well. There were times I doubted myself and the reasons I was there. Hence, why I was quiet and reserved the first couple of weeks. But, I think once I got to know my colleagues I learned that I shouldn’t be afraid of them, and that I should look up to them for inspiration and advice for my future.  They were a wonderful group to work with and I have learned a lot from each one of them.

It was a great  summer, being able to work in Colorado and build lasting friendships; especially with other Cornell students, this is something that I will treasure forever. Thank you RJ and the Cornell Fellows program  for this wonderful opportunity.

After I finished my presentation, I received a certificate of completion.

After I finished my presentation, I received a certificate of completion.

 

Week 11: Pufall Lab, University of Iowa

August 7th, 2014

John Christiansen ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

This week has been spent trying to get the deletion check primers to work. These PCR primers would be used to amplify a region of transfected NALM6 genomic DNA to determine if the CRISPR vectors were effective in cutting out their target. However, previous attempts to validate the effectiveness of these primers using wild type NAML6 DNA have not gone well. I later learned that the primers were misordered. This week we received the proper primers and I began to work with them.

So far, I have performed the PCR with these primers three times. The first time (Friday, August 1st) I found that none of my samples, even the positive control, had any product bands when analyzed with gel electrophoresis, though the 100 bp ladders still showed up clearly. This suggested that something had been wrong in the reaction, and on closer examination it was found that I had added too much dNTP. PCR can be finicky and this might be why nothing was amplified. On Monday (August 4th) I tried again. This time the correct dNTP concentration was used, but the only product bands seen were two very faint bands, each in no template control lanes. Oddly enough they were the right size for the primers used. The procedure was performed correctly, so the fact that I saw so few bands suggested that my reactants were somehow inept and the fact that I saw bands in the no template control suggested that I had DNA contamination. The solution to both problems was to replace each reagent and try again. I also reduced the amount of ladder I loaded in with my samples after being informed that the imaging machine we use to see the bands generates an image based on relative intensity.

The third time I tried PCR with the correct primers (August 5th) I used new reagents and only loaded 3 uL of the ladder with the samples. I finally got some positive results. Out of the five primer sets tested, two had worked very well. One had replicated the desired product well but had faintly replaced a few other bands, and another produced appropriately sized but faint product bands. Only one of the five sets failed to produce a product band. These results were not perfect, but it was a relief to finally see positive results. Later today (August 6th) I’ll be redoing the three sets that didn’t work as well with some different conditions to see if I can optimize them.

Of the five primer sets, two were for my work with BCL6 and the other three were for different gene that the lab technician Mimi had been working on. My two primers worked out well, and I am ready to move on with deletion screening as soon as Mimi has the time to show me how that procedure works; hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up from watching her work with her primers. I also have assembled the samples I needed to test the dexamethasone induced BCL6 regulation in SUP-B15 cells. I have previously do the same with NALM6 cells, but a few complication have previously delayed my work on SUP-B15. I look forward to retesting the qPCR skills I have developed this summer.

Week 10 & 11: Strack Lab, Carver College of Medicine, the University of Iowa

August 5th, 2014

Jihang Wang ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

The final week I washed some plates off the poly-L-lycine coating. I did some 24-well plates, 48-well plates, 6-well plates, and 4-well chambers. The 6-well plates required 3 mL of washing in each well. I also counted six more wells this week to finish off my third repetition of nuclear morphology assays. Then we finally broke the code and matched up the wells that I counted with their actual respective transfections. The three sets of counting were consistent with each other and the results (shown below) were largely promising, although some did disagree with our hypothesis.

Lab meeting presentation

Lab meeting presentatio

I presented my work at the final lab meeting presentation on Tuesday. Then I used the PowerPoint as the guideline to prepare my poster and presented it at the UI SURC (Summer Undergraduate Research Conference) the following Wednesday. My faculty sponsor, Dr. Barbara Christie-Pope, also visited me on Monday when I walked her through my lab meeting presentation to show her what I did this summer.

My poster

My poster

Lab meeting presentation (1)

Lab meeting presentation (1)

Lab meeting presentation (2)

Lab meeting presentation (2)

Poster session

Poster session

Ron and me

Ron and I

Week 9: Baylor College of Medicine

August 5th, 2014

Nguyet Minh (Julie) Hoang’16, Black Fellow in Bioscience

Presentation week!

Monday and Tuesday were for practice. It awed me when I got to know what my friends have been doing during the summer. I practiced with Brianna, Anna, Luis and Manuel on the 11th floor of the NRI until 9:00 pm, on which Hugo Bellen’s lab is on. Breathtaking view! We took turn to present. It was just eye opening to see what projects my friends were doing. Ana worked on testing autistic behaviors in Ndfsdu4 gene. Brianna did imaging in oral cancer and she is trying to come up with a method to image cancerous cells, just like a histological image, by using photograph. Manuel was working with genetic manipulation to quantify targeted proteins as method to eventually replace Western Blot. Luis was working in Dr. Zoghbi’s lab. After practicing, both Manuel and Luis went back to the lab to work. I was impressed, amazed, and grateful for knowing such future researchers. What Luis told me lingered in my mind: “Research is 24/7”. Indeed, research is restless. Brianna told me about the Annual Biomedical Research Conference in St. Antonio this coming November and I wanted to attend. I have to submit an abstract and apply for funding. I will definitely do that!

The NRI from below at night. Practicing at night has its beauty.

The NRI from below at night. Practicing at night has its beauty.

Presentation day!

I was nervous, but I did well I thought. Rodrigo asked what I would do differently if I were to do this experiment again. I said that I would change the amount of essential amino acids because I suspected that leucine-stimulating protein synthesis pathway is substrate dependent. Elevating the reduction in EAA will potentially reach the minimal requirement for substrate. Dr. Fiorotto asked a follow-up question: “Would you change the content of supplemented leucine too in the new diet?” I suggested against that because if we want to test the amount of Leu we were using is the right amount, changing Leu would mess it up. A friend from Vassar University asked why LD showed no difference while gastrocnemius showed significant difference between control and restricted, restricted plus Leu. I answered that in LD, there was a similar trend as in gastrocnemius but because this is a short term, that was why the result was not significant. I was glad that I was prepared to answer these questions.

It was fascinating and interesting to hear how diverse the field of nutrition research entailed. 10 students in CNRC presented their summer projects, such as inventing smart syringe for intravenous feeding, imaging the growth of mammalian gland,… to name a few. Afterward, the director of CNRC, Dr. Bear, gave us a short speech. His main point was that no one can know what the future holds. If we feel like we love research, go for it and don’t be afraid.

Being exposing to this research has reinforced my interest in research: the daily frustrations when study does not go well, the rare excitement when things work out. Sanjeeve told me that trouble shooting was what excites him about research. What he said really made me re-think of what made me like research. What compelled me the most is the process of trouble shooting, thinking over and over to see what are the possible flaws. I had an “A ha” moment; I recalled when I took my first English class with Professor Shannon Reed. I wrote my first draft about immigration and exile and took it to Professor Reed. She read it, asked me questions to make me realized how unfocused my writing was. She explained: “most of the time, when you write something, you have to go back and start from the beginning, revise, revise, and revise!” It is just like research: I have an idea, I wrote a manuscript, but as I find more and more literature, or actually do my experiments, most of the time it will not work. I have to step back and think, to revise and redo” It may takes years and years. It is long and draining. I can see it. I am praying to myself every night that I will have the persistence, perseverance to make it to the end.

 

My BCM badge. I will miss it very much.

My BCM badge. I will miss it very much.

 

Week 9 and 10: Pufall Lab, University of Iowa

July 31st, 2014

John Christiansen ’15, Dimensions Fellow in Research

I have condensed week 9 and 10 into a single entry because week 9 was relatively uneventful and I was very busy in Week 10.

Week 9 was the last quiet week. The FACS sorted well had begun reaching significant cell density; some of the wells began to change from a light pink color to an orange, indicating an increase in cell density. However, it was still too early to move the living wells onto a new, live-cell only plate. On such a plate they would more easily be assayed for cell density, and the proper number of cells could be harvested for PCR of a segment of the BCL6 gene. From the size of the PCR product, we could determine which cells had the desired deletion.  This process requires the FACS sorted cells to grow to a significant density, as well as BCL6 gene segment primers of the PCR.

Miles and I also began to seriously consider being a part of the University of Iowa’s Summer Undergraduate Research Conference. Undergrads who were doing summer research though a UI program are required to give a poster presentation at the event, but for me it was optional, as I came in through Cornell Fellows. I knew of the event and was interested in giving a presentation. I assumed that I would be e-mailed the information when appropriate, as I was on the summer intern activities mailing list. As it turns out, there was a different e-mail list for poster information, as well as an e-mail list of summer mentoring faculty that Miles wasn’t on. By the time I figured out when the conference actually was, the registration deadline had already passed. Thankfully, the program manager was sympathetic, as others had the same issue, and although it was an extra hoop to jump through I managed to get on the schedule.

The last few weeks had been rather quiet, but week 10 made up for it. I consolidated the living FACS wells into a new plate, as described above, but before we could move on with the cell density assay, Mimi and I had to test the BCL6 gene segment qPCR primers. We used a quick extract procedure to get some NALM6 genomic DNA and check to see if we had amplification with gel electrophoresis, and we tested several other primers along with BCL6 primers. Between the two of us, we tried about 5 times with different template densities, PCR buffers, and even used qPCR to determine the optimal annealing temperatures of our primers. However, we saw either not amplification or heavy smearing/multiple bands that did not include the size of the expected target. Only later did we discover that a mistake had been made in the primer order. Although we were bound to not get any positive results, it was useful for me to get some experience with both the techniques involved and troubleshooting PCR. The timing was unfortunate, however, as I would have loved to have put successful GR deletion detection on my poster.

Unfortunately, this was the same week that the lease on my apartment was ending and I needed to figure out where I was going to live if I wanted to continue my internship past the previously scheduled end (I am, by the way), so I was somewhat distracted from lab. Furthermore there was a difference in expectations between my PI and me: Miles thought that I would generate information like I would on a paper and that he would then show me how to organizes a poster, while I thought that that I was supposed to figure out what was expected for a poster with Miles’ help before I started to produce the figures and information. Each of us was waiting for an anticipated move by the other. Between this, the apartment issue and a sudden surge in lab work, even after Miles made his expectations clearer and gave me some deadlines I managed to get behind on a project I already had short notice on. The poster was more or less constructed over the course of two days at the expense of Miles and me. This was not a pleasant experience and is a glaring blemish on my summer experience here, but it was also a learning experience about proper communication and poster construction. Also, the final product turned out surprisingly well.

The conference itself also went surprisingly smoothly. All the posters were up by 1:30 and the 145-ish presenters were split up into two groups: half presented their posters from 1:30 pm to 3 and the others from 3 till 4:30. That way, everyone got a chance to both present and look at other presentations. I was surprised by the breadth of topics covered by the research presented: they ranged from biomedical to rocket fuel to racial dynamics in early America. I feel like I presented pretty well for the most part. For the last few weeks I had been worried if my background knowledge was sufficient for the presentation, but I was able to answer every question I was asked. I also had some difficulty deciding on the timing of background information: should I try to present it all in the beginning or as it becomes pertinent to the results? I tried both and I think the all in the beginning method worked best. Aside from waiting by my poster for someone to ask a question, it was really fun. I was also set up pretty close to two other Cornellians who also didn’t get the e-mails and registered late.

Week 8: Center for American Progress

July 29th, 2014

Katherine Banks ’15, Black Fellow in Political Communications

Starting my weeks off on Capitol Hill has seemed to become a trend this summer, and my last week was no exception. I entered a packed hearing held by the United States Senate Judiciary Committee entitled VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Next Steps: Protecting Women from Gun Violence. Yet an another Iowa reference, Senator Grassley (R-IA) currently serves as Ranking Member on the Committee. During the hearing, two bills were addressed and sponsored by Committee members: S.1290: Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act of 2013 by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and S.174: Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013 by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The discussion following the presentation of the bills was fascinating, and creative compromises were sought after to assure that those who should not possess guns, do not. I paid close attention and kept careful notes, as I was covering the event to later write a piece on to be published through Generation Progress. A link to the final article can be found here: http://genprogress.org/voices/2014/07/31/29669/protecting-women-from-gun-violence-one-bill-at-a-time/, and I was also able to squeeze in one more Daily Dose which can be read here: http://genprogress.org/voices/2014/08/01/29676/ruth-bader-ginsburg-speaks-out-on-hobby-lobby-decision-house-republicans-vote-to-sue-obama/.

I never was much of a softball player, but I decided to try my hand at the Center for American Progress’s annual interns vs. staff softball game! Even though the staff came out with a win, it was a great way to unwind after a long summer and partake in some friendly competition.

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Generation Progress interns at the CAP softball game!

Generation Progress arranged for interns and staff members to attend a tour at the NPR (National Public Radio) world headquarters. This was an incredible experience to explore the center of a network of 17 domestic bureaus, 17 international bureaus, and a partner to Member Stations broadcasting NPR programs. As a now avid NPR listener, I loved taking advantage of seeing the headquarters that distributes programming that meets the highest standards of public service in both journalism and cultural expression. It was mutually decided amongst all who attended this tour that working at NPR would be living a dream.

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GP interns/staff in an NPR studio!

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Just becoming a radio personality, no big deal.

This week I went back to the Capitol to attend a briefing from one of my favorite women in politics – Leader Nancy Pelosi. The briefing was on her Middle Class Jumpstart agenda, which is a 100 day plan of action to put middle class Americans first. On her agenda was allowing college students to refinance their staggering student debts, and passing legislation to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work and make the same amount as their male co-workers. I felt that it was only fitting that I was able to take part in this event during my last week with the Leader, since previously meeting and introducing her at Make Progress was one of the major highlights of my summer. And, of course, I left feeling inspired by her vision as always.

Nancy Pelosi speaking on her Middle Class Jumpstart Action Plan.

Nancy Pelosi speaking on her Middle Class Jumpstart Action Plan.

What I have discovered through this fellowship that I find to be most important is that I strive to be taking part in important work – work that makes a difference. That is exactly the feeling of what my time with Generation Progress has led to, and I feel very accomplished about my contribution to the organization. I am overflowing with gratitude to the Cornell Fellows Program who allowed me to take part in a truly life changing experience. I now have a much clearer vision of the type of work I would like to do after graduation, but for now I will make sure to enjoy my final year at Cornell. I will take all of the incredible lessons I have learned and knowledge I have gained during my time with the Center for American Progress, and use it in any way I can to benefit the place that made my summer of a lifetime possible – Cornell College.

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Week 6: Phu My Medical Clinic

July 29th, 2014

Tyler Thorne ’15, Keeler International Fellow in Cross-Cultural Psychology

This was my final week at the Clinic and it feels so strange to be finished with my Fellowship.  I tremendously enjoyed going to the Clinic everyday and working with the children.  I did not realize how attached to the children I would become and truthfully, I am very sad to leave them.

The week started off slow as many of the children were still sick, yet once they returned we were very busy.  Many of the children had regressed in the behaviors that we were reinforcing, thus we had to dedicate more time reviewing behaviors, and working on approximations of behaviors that the children had already learned.   For example the speech therapist had the children do a review sheet, where they practiced sounds, and previously learned words to get them warmed up for the session.  For physical therapy we spent more time stretching out the children with Cerebral Palsy as their parents often do not have the children do anything physical and they returned extremely stiff.  From this I learned that as a psychologist I must be flexible, and be willing to change the therapy schedule in order to meet the needs of the patient.

After a few days of therapy though a majority of the children have made up for what they lost when they were sick except for self sufficient eating habits.  The children have really struggled to relearn how to self feed again.  The two children I work with mostly have regressed to the point where they do not grab the spoon and wait for me to feed them.  This is incredibly frustrating as it took literally 5 to 6 weeks to develop these behaviors and they where extinguished after only a week or two off.  I believe this is due to them not feeding themselves or having to practice self sufficient eating habits while they were sick at home.  It is also related to Vietnamese culture as I have found that it is not uncommon for a parent to spoon feed a child, even if that child is completely capable of feeding on their own.

The physical therapy is the area that I have seen the most improvement.  In the 6 short weeks that I was here several of the children have taken great strides in being able to walk without assistance. The children with Autism made small improvements but I feel that they needed much more one on one time and really a better system.  I think it is really tough as many of the staff do not understand Autism and the children are then not treated normally or with proper social cues, which interferes with properly learning those skills.  The therapists understand and provide a nurturing environment for the children, yet once therapy is done the nurses take them to the play room where the Autistic children basically play by themselves and not expected to display proper social interactions which is counterproductive to the therapy.  Yet this is due more so to the culture than anything else, in Vietnamese Culture those with disabilities are seen as lesser and almost sub-human, hence many born with disabilities are abandoned and placed in orphanages.  Thus as the nurses have not had any education on what is going on with these children, they believe that the children will never be able to grow or develop and the nurses act differently toward these children providing a less nurturing environment.  As sad as this is it is not specific to Vietnam as in many cultures mental illness has been misunderstood and been seen as demon possession or punishment for sins in a previous life rather than a situation that can be improved.

This week we also did Art Therapy and Dance Therapy with the children.  During these activities I actually drew a lot from what I learned in my Basic Acting course, such as activities and games, so thank goodness for a liberal art education or I would have been at a loss for things to do during this time.  These activities are usually done in the afternoon after the children have finished their other therapies. Art, dance and music are all great for the children as you can physically see how it calms all the children, as many of them become understandably frustrated during their structured therapy.  Also this therapy type is great as it works on their coordination, creative thinking and it helps the children learn to cope with new tasks as many of them have a hard time adjusting to new situations.  The children also love these sorts of activities, so its great to see them happy and having fun.  I also continued teaching some of the children English, which is actually really fun and I am just amazed at how clever the children are.  Many of them had picked up phrases from working with western volunteers or doctors but with some structure they have quickly learned more than just basic conversation.  It is also important for their future to have a skill such as being able to speak English, as these children are disabled (the ones who are learning only have physical disabilities) they are not allowed into the school system.  Given this, they have a lack of opportunities for jobs or a means to support themselves, yet if they learn English this opens up a whole new set of opportunities.

It was incredibly sad when the children found out it was my last day as all of them started to cry.  We had cake as a going away party for me but some of the kids did not even eat because they were too busy crying about me leaving.  Overall this was an amazing experience, and from it I have learned a great deal.  It has also really directed my goals for the future, I really enjoyed working with children and I feel that I would like to work with children in the future.  I am now sure that I would like to work in a Clinical or patient orientated setting rather than solely doing research.  I am also extremely grateful to the staff for working with me and teaching me a great deal about therapy and the Vietnamese Culture.   While there were some situations we did not see eye to eye on I have made life time friends and professional contacts.

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