Annual luncheon celebrates scholarships and fellowships

President Ron Liebowitz and his wife Jessica pose with Elias Rosenfeld '20
ABOVE: President Ron Liebowitz and his wife Jessica with Elias Rosenfeld '20. BELOW: Rabia Anjum MS'17 with Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Suzanne Paradis.

By Brian Klotz

When Elias Rosenfeld ’20 was 10 years old, his mother passed away, an event that had ramifications well beyond the emotional toll of losing a parent. Rosenfeld and his mother had legally immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela on a visa, but her death caused him to fall out of status, something he only learned when he discovered he was unable to apply for a learner’s permit in 8th grade. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program allowed him to stay in the country, and the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program allowed him to receive an education at Brandeis.

Rosenfeld shared his journey with hundreds of alumni, friends, and fellow students as a featured speaker at Brandeis’ annual luncheon to celebrate the impact of scholarships and fellowships. The event, held on April 25, allowed donors to spend time with the scholars whose Brandeis educations are made possible by their support.

“My personal story mirrors that of many students who are privileged to benefit from financial aid,” Rosenfeld told the attendees. “Brandeis is an institution filled with students who have overcome a wide array of intersectional adversities and obstacles, yet have continued to become leaders to prevent that same adversity from continuing to occur.”

Rosenfeld has become a national advocate for the 800,000 DACA recipients like himself who are fighting to stay in the U.S. His work has included meeting with elected leaders from both parties, interning with and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, as well as forming his own organization, the Values Above Politics (VAP) Coalition. Rosenfeld feels added responsibility to fight for the cause as one of a small number of Jewish DACA recipients.

“My ability to serve as the voice of so many dreamers is directly enabled by this university, which has given me the opportunity to pursue my leadership,” he said. “The university has assisted DACA recipients in significant ways, a unique privilege that many students at other institutions do not have.”

Rabia Anjum MS'17, the event’s other featured student speaker, is pursuing a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Like Rosenfeld, Anjum is an immigrant, having come to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2016 as part of the Fulbright Foreign Exchange Program. The Brandeis National Committee Los Angeles Men's Group Fellowship in Neuroscience has allowed her to explore her passion for understanding the inner working of the human brain.

Rabia Anjum '20 with her advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Suzanne Paradis

“As a woman in science, especially of color, I cannot separate myself from how important women have been for me, and in extension, for the field itself,” said Anjum, pointing to the mentorship she has received from Brandeis faculty members Dr. Suzanne Paradis, Dr. Avital Rodal and the Joseph Levitan Professor of Vision Science Dr. Gina Turrigiano.

Addressing the donors in attendance, Anjum said, “The seed you sow today will reach forward into the future, and make an impact which will outlast our individual life spans, which will persist far beyond our generation. Your generosity and your gift to Brandeis are catalysts for a brighter future.”

President Ron Liebowitz, who hosted the luncheon with his wife Jessica, spoke to the attendees on the impact of supporting scholarships and fellowships for Brandeis students, who he described as “the essence of the university.”

“I am honored to stand among you this afternoon,” said Liebowitz. “I know that together, we will continue to further the University’s founding values of academic rigor, innovative research, engaged citizenship, inclusivity and compassion.”

Categories: Giving, Events, Students
Date: April 26, 2018