Brandeis Establishes Social Justice Scholars in Disability

Published April 24, 2014, issue of April 24, 2014.
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Danielle Sackstein and Ruth Zeilicovich, both seniors at Brandeis University, have been named the University’s first Social Justice Scholars in Disability.

The Ruderman Social Justice Scholars in Disability — an innovative program to prepare undergraduates to become leaders in disability-related fields, including research, advocacy and service provision, and effectively advocate for the full community participation of people with disabilities — was recently established through a significant grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation to Brandeis University.

The four-year, $450,000 grant will allow Brandeis to engage more students in its longstanding social justice mission by providing scholarship support; developing new courses focused on disability and inclusion; creating internships at organizations that support people with disabilities and their families; and funding student research projects under the direction of Brandeis faculty.

“The promotion of inclusion of people with disabilities takes leadership, and we feel this program will create the leaders necessary to achieve impact on this important issue for our society,” says Jay Ruderman, a Brandeis graduate and president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Brandeis has long been a leader in the area of social justice, and we believe that this partnership brings together the goals of our foundation and the goals of the university: to protect and ensure the civil rights of people with disabilities.”

The program, overseen by several Brandeis professors, will include 15 undergraduates over the four-year grant period from the interdisciplinary and interdepartmental Health: Science, Society and Policy program.

Sackstein is a member of Brandeis Buddies, a program that pairs Brandeis students with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through weekly social activities. She has worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Partners HealthCare, assisting with projects that champion patient-centered care and patient empowerment, and plans to address the challenges that people with disabilities face in their access to healthcare information and services.

Zeilicovich was born in Colombia to Argentinian parents, and currently resides in Fair Lawn, N.J. She is interested in improving healthcare programs for the disabled, and has focused on the disparities that exist in the health care system in the U.S. and worldwide. At an internship at Hasharon Hospital in Israel, she worked to make sure that people with disabilities would not be neglected by the health system.

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