Sasha smiling and standing in front of a wall of windows

Sasha S. ’22

For many students Roosevelt Fellow peer advisors provide the advice, support and academic assistance that are essential parts of their Brandeis experience. For Sasha S. ’22, her Roosevelt Fellows experience has also helped shape her future.

The Roosevelt Fellow program is named after the late former First Lady and Brandeis Trustee Eleanor Roosevelt, who was known worldwide for her care for others and service to the community. Roosevelt Fellows are trained junior and senior peer academic advisers who serve as a community resource for undergraduates who might need support with navigating academics at Brandeis. Fellows are paired with students who they assist with class scheduling, faculty interaction, balancing academic and extracurricular activities, and much more.

"Roosevelt Fellows are peers who have been through many of the same transitions and challenges," explained Katie Dunn, assistant director of academic advising. "They draw on their own experiences and are able to answer many of the same questions as staff advisors related to academic planning, academic requirements and campus resources."

As an international student from Shanghai, China, Sasha said she felt shy during her first year, spending most of her time studying in the residence hall. After connecting with her assigned Roosevelt Fellow, Alina Shirley '19, she noticed Shirley was involved in fun activities on campus. Shirley quickly gave Sasha the courage to step out of her comfort zone.

"After Alina explained all of the great opportunities to meet new people, I felt inspired to get more involved on campus," said Sasha.

She started exploring clubs, participating in fencing, attending community events and connecting with faculty. Sasha became a campus tutor, found herself making friends, felt more at home on campus and discovered her new passion: exploring the sciences.

After getting more involved in biology events on campus, Sasha, who had intended to pursue medical school after graduation, broadened her mindset and decided that she wanted to pursue her interests in neuroscience.

Sasha once again leaned on the support of the Roosevelt Fellows, connecting with her second year Fellow, Yini Liang '20, who had a similar major and interest in biology and neuroscience. 

After chatting with Sasha about her interests, Liang recommended that she pursue an undergraduate research study opportunity. She helped Sasha make a list of faculty to reach out to that could make her dream a reality.

"She helped me get the research experience I needed," said Sasha. "I wish I had realized it sooner, but I'm glad I finally figured it out when I did."

When Sasha began her research in Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Life Science Sacha Nelson's lab studying neurological disorders, she knew she had chosen the right path. Focusing on epilepsy and analyzing patterns of activity in the neocortex, Sasha felt her confidence growing as a researcher–and her experience too, which allowed her to apply to graduate schools.

As a senior, Sasha is now a Fellow herself, assisting first-year and other assigned students with any help they may need. She enjoys working with STEM students to connect them with lab and research opportunities. Her greatest pride, however, is assisting international students.

"I feel like it is a part of our culture as international students to be more shy," said Sasha. "That's why it's so important to help them get out of their comfort zone." 

As a Roosevelt Fellow she has discovered her love for mentoring others. "Being a fellow has inspired me to become a professor one day," said Sasha. "It's so rewarding helping students pursue their dreams."