Alumni Updates and Tributes

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Julie Madhavi
Julie Mahdavi ’14, Public Relations in Fashion

Julie Mahdavi recently earned her master’s degree in fashion studies at Parsons, The New School for Design, in New York City. Her graduate research included issues surrounding faith-based dress when it comes to its connection to violence, modesty, and its growing status in the fashion world. Mahdavi has been published for this work in Victims of Style (available on Amazon). She has held internships with Chanel Inc., Oscar de la Renta, Luella Inc., Eugenia Kim, and Jimmy Choo. Since the fall of 2015, she has been involved with The Common Thread Project, which helps women suffering from various types of trauma, such as sexual violence, war, and displacement, become empowered by stitching their stories.

Following her graduation from Parsons, Mahdavi led an operations project for Marc Jacobs. This involved an extensive redesigning of reports on both the store and the corporate level and the design of a CRM database for the company. She was also in charge of digital operations for the women's contemporary and kids department at Saks Fifth Avenue. Mahdavi was recently appointed director of operations and merchandising for Care + Wear.

Mahdavi belongs to a growing cadre of fashion-related majors in BDIC and is a shining example of how much can be accomplished with hard work and imagination.


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Alex Bienvenue Winery
Alex Bienvenue offered a job as vineyard manager at the largest winery in New York

Even before Alex Bienvenu had graduated in May with his BDIC degree, he was offered a job as vineyard manager at the largest winery in New York, Thousand Islands Winery. His concentration, which included courses in management and Stockbridge School classes specific to grape production, and his internship work, gave him the ideal preparation for such a position.

At the winery, Bienvenu is in charge of the entire wine production process, from the growing of the grapes to the production of the wine. On a daily basis, he assigns tasks to the vineyard staff that range from training and pruning of vines to scouting, which is where the staff walk the vineyards in search of potential pest and disease problems. He is also responsible for predicting the harvest yield. Besides vineyard tasks, he attends wine festivals and other wine-related events to promote the wine he makes. Bienvenu recently spent the weekend at the largest wine festival on the East Coast in Watkins Glen, New York.

Bienvenu says if any UMass Amherst alumni are ever in the upstate New York region of Alexandria Bay, please reach out to him and visit the winery!

Do you have an update you’d like to share? Email Linda Roney at



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Nikki Tischler
A Tribute to BDIC Alumna, Nikki Tishler ’11

Nikki Tishler passed away March 25, 2018, at the age of 29, after a brief illness. Her death is a terrible loss to her family and to the BDIC program, which she supported so passionately through her frequent attendance at alumni networking events and her mentorship of so many BDIC undergraduates.

She earned her BDIC degree in civic engagement and the politics of representation. She went on to earn a joint master’s of public policy and master of arts in women’s and gender studies from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. After graduate school, Tishler worked as a transportation planner and Title VI strategist with MassDOT’s Office of Transportation Planning, supporting capital planning and civil rights compliance within the agency. She was a passionate advocate for the promotion of civic engagement and civil rights equity.

She will be deeply missed by all of us at BDIC and by all of the people she touched throughout her far too brief life.