Newsletter 2023

ROADS LESS TRAVELED

A NEWSLETTER FOR BDIC ALUMNI AND FRIENDS, 2023

BDIC publishes an alumni-oriented newsletter each year, focusing on new developments in the program; what current BDIC students are doing; a selection of updates from alumni; and news about student research and projects funded by awards from the BDIC Alumni Fund.

BDIC Peer Advisors

NOTE FROM THE ASSOCIATE PROVOST

MEET THE CLASS OF 2023

NEW TO BDIC

ALUMNI PROFILE

SCHOLARSHIPS

PORTRAIT OF A 2023 GRADUATE

STUDY ABROAD

PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING TO BDIC

In today’s economy, your donation is more important than ever. Your donation will help support student research projects and travel opportunities, career advising forums with alumni, senior celebra­tions, and, of course, this newsletter. Please consider investing in our students and their future goals.

You can donate online at: umass.edu/bdic/alumni/give. If paying by check, please make check payable to UMass Amherst, with BDIC specified in the memo line of the check, and mail to:

UMass Amherst Foundation
Records and Gift Processing
134 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9270

NOTE FROM THE ASSOCIATE PROVOST

Joe Bartolomeo
Associate Provost of Interdisciplinary Studies

I am excited about many positive developments in the new academic year. We are welcoming more than 90 first-year students in the new Interdisciplinary Exploratory Track, many of whom will choose to major in BDIC. Along with these students, our current majors will soon have access to gathering and study space in the reconfigured core of 350 Campus Center Way. And for the first time in its history, BDIC has a full-time faculty member teaching and advising majors. Dr. Jacqueline Castledine brings years of experience teaching in University Without Walls, which is very similar to BDIC in its individualized and self-directed approach to undergraduate education. As always, our remarkable students are our greatest asset, and I wish you a happy and productive academic year.

MEET THE CLASS OF 2023

The graduating Class of 2023 consisted of 95 accomplished students. This graph shows a summary of the varied areas of concentration they pursued. Naturally, each student's emphasis is unique, spanning multiple disciplines, making it challenging to neatly categorize them into distinct concentration areas.

 

Examples of Concentration Titles from the Class of 2023:
  • Advocacy, Activism, and ASL
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Human Ecology and Environmental Justice
  • Industrial Organizational Psychology
  • Music Industry Entrepreneurship
  • Perspectives in Emergency Care
  • Public Health and Animal Welfare
  • Regenerative Food Systems
  • Sustainable Business Practices in Fashion
  • Solidarity Economics and World Building
 

NEW TO BDIC

Joanna Miles
Associate Director, Professional Transitions
 
BDIC is pleased to announce the appointment of a dedicated BDIC Career Advisor. 
Joanna brings a deep student-focused career development background to the HUB as the Career Director for Interdisciplinary Studies, advising both Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC) and University Without Walls (UWW) students.
 
“I partner with individual BDIC students throughout their time at UMass to support personalized career goals, aspirations, and exploration. I also curate upskilling opportunities including online coursework, certifications and learning paths, project simulations, micro internships, and other non-traditional experiential learning opportunities.” 

I
Jacqueline Castledine
BDIC Faculty and Advisor

Jacqueline is a trained historian with a Ph.D. from Rutgers University but found her home in interdisciplinary studies. In both her teaching and research, she explores the ways that communities envision and work toward social change and justice. Her research projects have ranged from examining the transatlantic contributions of U.S. and South African jazz women in postwar freedom movements to a project documenting New Orleans women’s political uses of food during the civil rights movement. Jacqueline is delighted to be joining BDIC as a faculty member working collaboratively with students as they create their own interdisciplinary programs of study.

ALUMNI PROFILE

An interview with Benjamin Nathan

Class of 2006
Philosophy and Psychology in Filmmaking
https://www.allofusfilms.com/

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM ATTENDING UMASS?

I grew up in Manhattan, so for me, coming to UMass was like moving to the countryside. And yet, UMass has that city-like feel as well. I loved finding my communities within the larger school population, to make UMass my home for the four years I was there. If I had to pinpoint just one favorite thing, I’d say community. UMass was my first experience of creating community away from home.
 

HOW DID BDIC PREPARE YOU FOR THE FUTURE? 

BDIC was a true learning experience in entrepreneurship. In order to succeed in BDIC I had to dream up what I wanted to do, then I had to design my curriculum, then I had to pitch my idea to all of the professors of the various courses I wanted to take, many of which were for “majors only.” It was the perfect mix of the ingredients I would need to start my own business later on: creativity, research, trial & error, pitching, pivoting, resilience. 
 

WHAT LIFE AND/OR CAREER ADVISE WOULD YOU GIVE TO RECENT ALUMNI?

Your major in BDIC is a wonderful conversation starter - so few people have the opportunity to influence their own learning in this way. Talking about your experience in BDIC is a great way to inspire others as to what’s possible in higher education, and to share your passion, interests, and entrepreneurial spirit. Go forth and share!
 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR LEISURE TIME? 

I love spending time in my garden, where I use regenerative practices to grow food. I feel connected to my ancestors, to nature, to doing something that is actively sequestering carbon, improving soil health, and making a (small) dent in climate change. It is endlessly inspiring to me to be a part of growing food, in partnership with nature.
 

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST EPIPHANY, LIFE-DEFINING CHANGE THAT SHAPED YOUR LIFE?  

Biggest is hard to say, but here’s one of the biggest: each person’s experience of life is governed by the stories they tell themselves about the things that happen around them. The stories we tell ourselves and one another matter – they dictate how we see the world and how we act within it. By becoming aware of what is story and what is fact, we can begin to choose the stories we live into, and completely shift our experience of life, and little by little, the world we share.
 

WHAT IS SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I’ve been a rhythm tap dancer since age 10. I tap danced all through high school and college, and had a band while at UMass called Ben Tap Soul, in which I rapped and tap danced. If you look carefully around Amherst, you might just spot a Ben Tap Soul sticker on the back of a traffic sign…
 

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

Today, I run a socially conscious film production company called ALL OF US FILMS. Starting this company, and sticking with it, has been my way of using my passion and talents to help improve the world. This isn’t just a cliche phrase – we create films, commercials, and documentaries intentionally designed to shift perspectives, open hearts, and inspire action. Find your way to use your whole self to improve the world around you, and you will know that you are fulfilling your purpose. The world needs you! I will always make time to speak with anyone looking for their way to make a positive impact. Please feel free to reach out!
 

SCHOLARSHIPS

UNIVERSITY-WIDE SCHOLARSHIPS  

2023 THE WILLIAM F. FIELD ALUMNI SCHOLAR AWARDS

were established in 1976 to recognize and honor third-year students for their academic achievements at UMass Amherst. 
 
Ronan Fitzgerald ‘24
Photojournalism 
For the past two years, Fitzgerald has served as a BDIC Peer Advisor, offering guidance and support to fellow students. In addition to this role, he takes on the responsibilities of a Resident Assistant, actively contributes to the Daily Collegian, and serves as a Security Staff Cadet.
 

2023 SENIOR LEADERSHIP AWARD

recognizes graduating seniors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the UMass Amherst community. 

 
Amrita Adak ‘23  
Neurobiology, Behavior, and Trauma
Adak accomplished a multitude of achievements in her four years of study, obtaining a BDIC Bachelor of Science degree along with a Minor in Psychology, a Minor in Education, and a Spanish Health Certificate. Additionally, she pursued a Pre-Med track and received the prestigious Honors College Great Distinction award for her remarkable GPA of 3.96, culminating in a Magna Cum Laude graduation.
 
In October of Fall 2022, Adak took the initiative to organize a conference titled "BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and Disabled Women in STEM Conference." This ambitious event served as a platform to unite Historically Marginalized Women in STEM from various parts of the country and even internationally. The conference highlighted a full day of speaker sessions, allowing attendees to connect and interact with modern female role models in STEM who also share similar marginalized identities.
 

2022 GERALD F. SCANLON STUDENT EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR AWARD

recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding performance.

 
Katherine Widrow ‘23 
Behavioral Economics
Widrow takes pride in her status as a BDIC legacy student, following in the footsteps of her family at UMass and BDIC. Alongside her BDIC major, she pursued a Secondary Major in Psychology and Business Minor.
 

BDIC SCHOLARSHIPS   

The BDIC program proudly announces the recipients of the Dempsey Opportunity Scholarship, Maia Felisse McDermott Memorial Scholarship, Lewis C. Mainzer Creativity Award and the Umphry Scholarship. These prestigious awards are established and funded by BDIC alumni and program supporters.
 

THE DEMPSEY OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP

was established by BDIC alumni John Dempsey, is a longstanding merit-based award that enhances students' educational journeys by supporting internships and study abroad experiences.

 
Zoe Noyes ‘23
Animal Welfare and Behavior
Internship: Diggity Dogs Service Dogs Internship
 
Victoria Lauria ’24
Creative Digital Marketing
Internship: Social Media Intern for Global Semesters at the University of Nicosia
 
Kaitlyn McLaughlin ’23
Health and Marketing
Internship: UMass Athletics Marketing Department Internship
Melanie Rosenblatt ‘24
Advertising and Marketing Communications
Internship: MA Small Business Development Center in the Western Regional Office Internship
 
Ronan Fitzgerald ‘24
Photojournalism
Internship: Readeezy Internship
 
 

THE MAIA FELISSE MCDERMOTT MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP  

supports BDIC undergraduate students who demonstrate how their academic studies and future work will benefit and inspire others, in memory of Maia Felisse McDermott, Class of 2010.
 
Lucy Bishoff ’23
Film Studies
 
William Tompkins ’24 
International Government, Trade and Business  
 

THE UMPHREY SCHOLARSHIP 

newly established through the generosity of Jim and Maureen Umphrey to support the academic achievement and financial needs for two juniors.
 
Ronan Fitzgerald ‘24 
Photojournalism
 
Abigail McNeil ‘24 
The Psychology of Communication Disorders and Deaf Studies
 

THE LEWIS C. MAINZER CREATIVITY AWARD

celebrates individuals whose interdisciplinary studies showcase diverse interests and utilize creative approaches to achieve their academic goals.
 
Nandini Srivastav ’23
Diasporic Development through Performance
Continuing our newfound tradition, Srivastav had a delightful meeting with the Mainzer donors, where they shared a cup of tea. The gathering concluded with Srivastav captivating everyone with her beautiful voice as she serenaded us with a Hindi song.
“Crafting my degree in ‘Diasporic Development through Performance’ has been a uniquely rewarding experience through BDIC. I have been able to delve into the intricacy of subjects so vastly different from each other but tying together in my pool of ambition.”

PORTRAIT OF A 2023 GRADUATE

Chase Bezonsky ’23 
Ancient Political Philosophy 

“My concentration in Politics and Philosophy in Antiquity aimed to study the intersection of politics, philosophy, and classic civilizations by examining social-political structures of ancient communities, as well as the philosophical ideas that shaped their world, to better understand contemporary politics and culture".

During my time at UMass, I was able to study abroad twice, in Florence and in Prague. Experiencing a new culture and building international relationships helped broaden my personal and academic perspectives.

Since graduating I have been working in administration for EF Los Angeles’ International Language Campus. In this role I support students in transitioning to a new culture, ensure international compliance and manage records, and aid in the hiring and interview process. I hope to go to graduate school abroad to study and perform research on Roads to Democracies: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives of Politics and Culture.” 

STUDY ABROAD

Charles Ganote '25
Radical Survival

Bhutan

“Throughout my time in Bhutan, I hiked a ton, visited monasteries and temples to learn about Buddhist practice and Bhutanese culture, while meeting some of the most incredible and giggly people I have ever met. I studied what was essentially political ecology with an emphasis on Bhutanese cultural dynamics in environmentalism. Primarily ‘in the field’ for classes with a number of teachers (including farmers, mechanics, monks, and politicians) we explored the need for communality in land stewardship, the geopolitical barriers, and historical dynamics that inform Bhutan's national development.”

Sophia Apteker '23
Integrated Marketing Communication

Italy

Roshan Kharbanda '24
Global History of Law

Italy

PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING TO BDIC

In today’s economy, your donation is more important than ever. Your donation will help support student research projects and travel opportunities, career advising forums with alumni, senior celebra­tions, and, of course, this newsletter. Please consider investing in our students and their future goals.

You can donate online at: umass.edu/bdic/alumni/give. If paying by check, please make check payable to UMass Amherst, with BDIC specified in the memo line of the check, and mail to:

UMass Amherst Foundation
Records and Gift Processing
134 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9270