Eva Brander Blackhawk

Student, Columbia university
  • Columbia university
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic

Ethnic & Racial Studies Linguistics

Area of Expertise

Diversity and Inclusion Economics Environment Languages Social Sciences

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

Danish English

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Design Film & TV Foreign languages Gym Hiking/walking Meditation Nature & environment Pets Podcasts Politics & current events Reading Running/jogging Snowboarding Spirituality Yoga

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Influencer Of


Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Replying to Dennis Zhang

Week 4:

Volunteering at the Terence Cardinal Cooke (TCC) Healthcare Center has been a both humbling and exciting experience. As a brief reminder, I am working in the TCC’s Recreation Department and, more specifically, in its Huntington's disease unit.

Huntington's disease causes a fatal and progressive loss of nerve cells that eventually leaves residents non-communicative. As a result, while some of the residents are able to comprehend, formulate, and verbalize coherent thoughts, many are left largely unresponsive. This has made checking in on and engaging with residents particularly challenging, and it's forced me to be more creative and resourceful.

One powerful resource that I came across were "communication books" that were made by speech therapists shortly after each resident arrived at the TCC (i.e. when they were generally very communicative). These books detail their lives, interests, passions, family, etc. Some residents were musicians, some were pediatricians, and some were even rocket scientists! When I'm lucky, mentioning some of the things they hold near and dear to their hearts (or playing a tune they are fond of) can elicit a friendly response. Sometimes that's a just thumbs up. Other times it’s a playful glance. It's not a lot, but it's enough to know I'm reaching them.

I recently learned that many newly admitted residents lack these "communication books.” This is due to a dearth of speech therapists visiting the TCC during the pandemic. It’s really a shame. Not only have the books been helpful to me as a volunteer, I’m sure they are extraordinarily meaningful to both the resident and their family alike. As a result, I’ve taken it upon myself to see what I can do to help make "communication books" for these residents! Stayed tuned.

That sounds like really important work! Particularly as I'm working in news this summer I've spent a lot of time thinking how important it is to be able to communicate and do so effectively. I'm sure it means a lot to the residents to be understood better and even if it's in small ways continue to communicate. 

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

I think the biggest difficulty for me was early on just transitioning to a new country and new environment. I was a bit lonely and a bit homesick and it's just a little exhausting always figuring out new systems like where to get groceries, what food is good, how to navigate buses and the tube, just little things like that. I think it was really nice for me being able to connect with the other laidlaw scholars I'm working with and as we got to know each other hanging out more outside of work. 

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

I'm currently working on pitching a fashion newsletter with some other people at the company and that's been a really exciting project to pick up this past week. We're hoping to engage the student network more as it's an extension of the community network and students have the highest rates of not subscribing to our emails etc. Similarly with the research last summer I think more creative ventures are an unappreciated way to engage people, especially those who might not otherwise. 

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other media submission!

I can't quite figure out how to attach any images but I will describe a typical day!

I usually wake up around 7, although I have found that 7:40 is the absolute latest I can wake up without being late. I make breakfast, get ready, and leave at 8 to take the bus and tube to work. I get in to work around 9 and usually make some coffee/tea. The mornings are typically a bit slower as we get assigned projects usually after meetings and throughout the day as people need help. This morning I'm working on brainstorming "thinkin" ideas. One day last week we started the day with a thinkin at the British library on what journalism is and what slow journalism is, probably the most interesting morning. Then around 12 me and the other Laidlaw people and any other interns will take our lunch break. I've been eating a different place near the office every day but I have had some really good sushi, dumplings, pasta, and falafel! Typically after our lunch break there's more work to be done or we'll have an afternoon meeting. The work really varies but can include writing up tweets to promote events, reaching out to potential network partners, researching events such as movie/music releases and elections throughout the year, helping the data science team cleaning up spreadsheets. I really like that because it's more of a startup and quite a small company every day looks different and really anything going on that sounds interesting we can help out with. At 6 I usually go home unless we have a thinkin that evening. Tonight we have on called "should we ban private schools?", but some other upcoming ones include "Is British democracy working for you?" and "In conversation with PP Arnold, London's First Lady of soul". Sometimes after a thinkin me and the other interns will explore the city area, but on most days I get home around 7.

Week 2: 

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

Most of my work is quite removed from community members because we're focused on bringing in new members to the community network and increasing engagement it's mostly been emailing people and finding people to email. That being said the ultimate goal is to have more people coming to our "think in" events which are events that emphasize conversation especially between experts, our editors, and audience members. Most of our work is increasing participation for later events that we won't actually be at, but it's been really interesting to go to the think-ins and hear experts and audience thoughts on topics like NFTs, batteries and sustainability, what slow news looks like, and if democracy works. I can definitely see how having more people at these conversations would be interesting for everyone. 

A big part of my work is also trying to think about how to connect with these people, and get them to want to come to events and redeem free subscriptions to the news service, so thinking about how I and we connect is a big part of the job. Something I've been thinking about is what we actually offer to these community members, which are people who can't otherwise afford memberships or are coming in through partnerships with charities. While I think it's something the company itself is trying to work out exactly, I think it's important to center these people's experiences and needs if we want to have higher engagement. 

Replying to Nicole Wolff

Week 2: If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

Apologies for the late posts! Last week, I presented my first conference in Italian about planets and exoplanets. This has been my biggest interaction with the community so far, and I'm happy that everything went smoothly. It was exciting to plan a slideshow with images and videos to explain difficult scientific concepts to the general public, such as tidal locking of a planet or the sideways rotation of Uranus, which they found fascinating. Last Sunday, I organized curriculum for an event for families/children to learn about colors and light, then construct their own spectroscopes to look at different sources of light. I have another conference planned about black holes, along with an observation through a telescope of M87, the galaxy where the first black hole was photographed! I've been having a lot of conversations with children who are curious about science, and I've found that my lower level of the language actually helps make my explanations more accessible to young children. I've found a common cause with all my coworkers at the planetarium in that we are all trying to make science more engaging and accessible for the community. 

Hey Nicole! That sounds so awesome, while I know almost nothing about planets it all sounds very intriguing. It's really cool how knowing comparatively less can actually be an asset and how you're able to better communicate with children. 

Replying to Faith Andrews-O'Neal

Week one: As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?

Hi everyone! My name is Faith Andrews-O'Neal. This summer, I am working with Serve the City Paris, a legal NGO in the city doing work helping refugees and unhoused people in Paris. I am working with the organization as a SAVE intern, which means volunteering and attending workshops as well as developing a capstone project (in my case, two or three because I can't pick one!) over the course of your internship. 

The idea of saying something that has already been said is of particular interest to me, as my hope in the development of a capstone project is something both original and impactful for a community I do not know much about. This is why I asked if it was an option to take on more than one, as the issues that I care about do not particularly intersect, and the project they recommended for me did not seem to say/do anything more than what has been done. For my first project, I am leading a workshop for other volunteers on the ideas of formations of racial identity within our respective countries. While I only have a larger body of knowledge of the ideas of race in America, I want to facilitate an open space for discussion of identity on a global scale. I am certainly not the first person to discuss this, but I am hoping that for volunteers (particularly those who are not American), I can bring about new viewpoints and a discussion with different perspectives than what they may have previously encountered. 

What I am coming to learn through my volunteer work and the work I am doing for my capstone is that it is okay if you are not the first person to bring an idea to the table. In fact, the communities we serve benefit so much more from consistency and continuation than constant inundations of new concepts. Every tuesday, friday, and Saturday, Serve the City distributes food to four to six of the same routes and to the homeless encampments in these areas. As such, although we are not the first person to bring them food that week or even that day, coming back and doing the same things over and over allow the volunteers to develop long term relationships with the communities we serve. I am able to discuss literature and gardening, and see the ways in which people make lives for themselves in spite of their situations. It's not the novelty that makes the work worth doing, but the recognition and acknowledgement that this sameness does much more service.

Hi Faith! I really relate to what you're saying about knowing a lot about a topic in the context of the United States but feeling a bit ignorant about what that might look like in a new country. I'm in a super similar boat as I study Indigenous topics a lot, but that's less of a topic in the UK. I also like your sentiment about how being new isn't always the top concern. I think in a lot of ways choosing a topic that has been done before, but bringing our "new" perspectives as people from another country and with a different background can be really valuable. I also think while we might not currently know as much about the local social/racial issues, there are and will continue to be surprisingly many similarities. 

Week One:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

Hi Everyone! My name is Eva and for this summer I'm working with Tortoise Media through the leadership in action program. My project last summer focused on Indigenous language and I looked at media such as literature, art, academic writing, and social media as a way to learn more. While this summer isn't explicitly related to the topic, the themes of language, media, and how to effectively reach audiences have definitely carried over in my mind. Tortoise Media is a journalism company, but in my time so far they have also hosted "think ins" where experts and community members come together to discuss topics, and they have hosted a music festival!

It's been really exciting that because the company is so multifaceted, because while we are focusing on expanding their community network, we're also able to participate in really any project they're working on that interests us. Our focal point is the community network, which is a network of partnerships with other non-profits, where we provide them and their members free subscriptions to Tortoise, and we work with them to host events. Last summer part of my research included meeting with governmental leaders and language teachers to discuss how to best develop infrastructure to teach the languages, and I like how this summer is similar in reaching out to people and trying to foster collaboration. Everyone at Tortoise I've met is incredibly interesting and comes to journalism for very different reasons and with different backgrounds and It's been awesome just to talk to people at the company and learn more about their work. Working for a startup, I also like exploring so many different sub-jobs and projects at the same time. 

In terms of saying something that's already been said, I've been a bit out of my element being in the UK. Part of our job has been to brainstorm and pitch "think ins" with topics and speakers, and I'm reminded of how little I know about international politics. We've had events discussing Ukraine, relationships with China, and the European Union, and I don't have the same connection to these topics that I do to many social issues in the United States. Sometimes it's hard to know what topics are most important or what nuances to consider when I don't know much about the history and local politics. I think it's been really interesting and important for me to learn more about these topics, and I can also bring a unique perspective because of how I'm a bit removed from them. While there aren't many Native Americans in England, I still think it's very important to bring my perspective on colonialism as I've noticed it's not discussed much at all so far. Tortoise also would like to expand from being so UK centric so I think we can both learn a lot from each other.