Director's Note
Coordinator's Note
New Falculty
New Peer Advisors
Coming Events

BDIC Website

BDIC’s New Peer Advisors

Chris Hamel

My name is Chris Hamel, and I’m a Senior BDIC student studying Cultural and Spiritual Sustainability. My major came from my desire to understand and perceive our world from the perspective of spiritual wholeness and from different cultural backgrounds. I work at the People’s Market, as well as being a peer advisor here at BDIC. Working in a student run cooperative has been one of the most rewarding opportunities of my college career. It has enabled me to learn about communication in ways I never could have dreamed of, and has illuminated my own personal inspiration and motivation. My studies have taken me all over the world, including a semester at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and studying permaculture at Ecocentro Permacultura (IPEC) in Brazil with the Living Routes program (located in Amherst!). My interests and hobbies range from surfing to quantum physics, and even medicinal plants, and I strive to incorporate my passions into my studies as often as possible. For me, they are one in the same.

Danielle Pourbaix

As I reluctantly enter my senior year, I realize how quickly my years at UMass have flown by.  It’s hard to believe that this is my last fall in Amherst.  As an undeclared freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, or even what I wanted to major in for that matter.  Time went by, and I was introduced to the BDIC program through an advisor.  With some guidance, I discovered that I could actually design my own major to fit my personal and professional goals.  I combined my interests and developed my own customized concentration: sports advertising, marketing, and public relations.

Since entering the BDIC program sophomore year, I feel I have really taken advantage of my college experience.  Not only have I been able to take classes that I will actually apply to my future career, but I have also gained some valuable hands-on experience.  I spent the summer after my sophomore year doing publicity for the Jimmy Fund’s Red Sox Foundation, and my spring semester junior year interning for Essential Media, a media and public relations firm in Sydney, Australia.  My time abroad was one of the best times of my life, and it truly allowed me to pinpoint exactly what I want to do: to work in publicizing sports organizations.  This past summer I was given the opportunity to work with the Deutsche Bank Championship, a major annual PGA tournament in Norton, MA.  This opportunity arose in part because of the uniqueness the BDIC program brought to my resume.

I believe that BDIC has already helped me prepare for life in the real world, and it can do the same for any of its students, no matter which concentration they choose to pursue.  This semester, I will be working as a peer advisor helping students who wish to get into the fields of marketing and communication.  I look forward to seeing the new batch of students in the office!

Megan Kolb

When I first arrived at UMass, I had a pretty clear idea of wanting to become a music educator.  As I began taking my general education requirements I discovered that I wanted to pursue more than just music due to my love for the performing arts. That discovery prompted my visit to the BDIC office and began my journey as a student creating my own bachelor’s degree with individual concentration in Performing Arts Management.  

When picking my schedule for my junior year, I spoke to Linda Roney and she advised me to think about going abroad as I told her how much I loved to travel. It was her recommendation that prompted the best experience I have had not only in my time at UMass, but in my entire life!  Through her suggestion I spoke with the International Programs Office and decided to study abroad in London through the CAPA Internship Program.  I was placed with a producing company called TEG Productions and Jeremy Meadow Ltd. who produced plays, musicals, and comedy in the West End and on UK National Tour.  I had the opportunity to see the behind the scenes work in producing and was able to follow a musical production on an eight week tour across the UK and attended business trips in Sheffield, Croydon, Kingston, and Nottingham. Besides giving me the incredible opportunity to live in London for four months, it provided me with the connections to be offered a job at the largest performing arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. 

This past summer I had the amazing job opportunity to work at the Fringe Festival as a front of house team member for the largest venue, the Pleasance Theatres, housing over 21 different performance spaces, and 180 different shows throughout the month long festival. I have never worked so hard in my entire life, working long 12-14 hour days with no days off, for an entire month and a half.  It was an incredible experience which provided me with amazing networking connections and skills which will benefit my future career goal plans.

I was more than pleased when I came back to UMass to start working as a peer advisor, and was honored to be offered the position here at BDIC.   Thanks to BDIC I have designed my own major, lived in London and Scotland for six months, planned on producing a show for my thesis, will graduate with honors, and have been offered a job in London for when I graduate! Bon Voyage BDIC and Many Thanks, I couldn’t have done this without you! :)

Emma Welch

My name is Emma Welch, and I am already a senior BDIC student!  I really like going to UMass; Amherst is a special place to my family and I since my grandmother lived here, and I enjoy being in a place that has meaning to me.  I also think that UMass is a great place to learn and to work hard.  Some of my hobbies include arts and crafts, especially knitting, being outside, my cat, and relaxing!  My concentration is Modern Sustainability, in which I learn about farming practices, animal welfare, food systems, and human systems.

I am especially interested in the animal studies aspect of my major, because I love animals and I also think they are wonderful examples of sustainable systems.  I took John Gerber's Sustainable Living class (which I highly recommend to anyone!), and I decided that I wanted my major to be more focused on sustainability, animals, and human systems.  I looked into BDIC and realized it was the perfect major for me, so here I am!  Over the summer I worked with horses at The Hadley Farm, and it was a wonderful learning experience.  However, it’s a big shift working with large animals like horses in a barn versus students at UMass! 

Now I am a peer advisor and I have the opportunity to help out other BDIC students in their journey to create individualized concentrations involving areas they really love. I am so happy to be a peer advisor, and it feels wonderful to help other students and share my knowledge of BDIC and UMass that I have gained over my years here.  I am looking forward to working in the office with the other advisors and staff and to graduation too!  After I graduate I am planning on traveling somewhere where I can learn about using working dogs with livestock like sheep, but it’s hard to say where I will end up.  But it’s very exciting to be a senior and to be thinking about life after college!  It’s too bad I will only be able to work as a peer advisor for two semesters, because it is a very rewarding job and I love the BDIC program!

Debora Dechtiar

My name is Debora Dechtiar and I am a junior this year. I am originally from Brazil but have lived in the United States for the past ten and a half years. My BDIC major is called International Health Development, which means I am studying about how society, culture, politics, and the economy influence the health around the world and how the health of communities can be developed through sustainable, grassroots efforts. Lately the focus of my studies has been on Africa, and I am increasingly fascinated by how little Western society knows about African history, culture, and current events. I cannot wait until the spring when I will have the amazing opportunity to study health development in Kenya and can discover a little more about Africa first hand. My current plan is to use what I learn in Kenya as a basis for my senior honors capstone project, in which I will research if and how the United States and other first-world nations can help to develop the health of impoverished African communities without jeopardizing their sovereignty, independence, and dignity.

I chose the BDIC program because I wanted to take advantage of my undergraduate years to study health beyond the scope of science. No other program besides BDIC gave me the freedom to study something so specific and interdisciplinary. I am still taking pre-med courses and minoring in Biology, but now I am also studying things that a biology major or medical school cannot teach me—things that I believe every good doctor/health professional should know.
But enough about school. I spend a lot of time studying but luckily that is not all I do. I love dancing and get my dance fix by taking at least one dance class per semester and through being a member of the UMass Ballroom Dance Team. I also love traveling and try to spend as much of my summers and winter breaks outside of the US as possible. This past summer I was lucky enough to go to Spain and Israel. Next summer I hope to travel back to Brazil and visit family I have not seen in years. The most important part of my life is my religion. I am a Bahá’í and, for those of you who might not know, the Bahá’í Faith is a world religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 1863. Bahá’ís believe Bahá’u’lláh is the Promised One of all ages whose teachings will enable humanity to unite and build a new, more peaceful world. As a member of the UMass Bahá’í Club and the Amherst Bahá’í Community, I participate in devotional gatherings, children’s classes, and study groups.


Rose Weiss

I am a junior in the BDIC program at UMass. Just before this semester started I decided to switch the concentration of my major from Neurobiology to instead study the biological and social aspects of food. I have a deep love and interest in food, its relationship to medicine and nutrition, the agricultural means by which it is cultivated, its biochemical action in the human body, the plants and animals which become our food, socioeconomic issues such as food accessibility, food security and hunger reduction. To fulfill my interdisciplinary interests around the topic of food I am currently taking classes in the departments of Plant, Soil and Insects Sciences, Biology, Food Science, Public Health and Anthropology.


Samantha Balaban

My name is Samantha Balaban and I’m one of the BDIC peer advisors! I started BDIC last spring after becoming tired of being a Spanish major (they kept trying to make me analyze poetry in Spanish, which I found rather difficult) and I loved my Proposal Writing class and everything about BDIC so much that I decided I wanted to help other students make their dream concentrations come true and “stand out in a crowd.” I first became interested in BDIC during my freshman year when I realized that I was going to have to quadruple major in order to sufficiently satisfy my curiosity. My dad actually suggested that I create my own major, but at the time I had no idea that was even an option. After a brief investigation into the UMass course catalogue, I discovered BDIC.

My own concentration is now a combination of Spanish, political science, and journalism and is (currently) titled “Representations of Latin American Political Culture.” I’m trying to make the title a little bit catchier though, so if you have any ideas feel free to let me know! When I’m not in the BDIC office, you can probably find me hanging out in the Student Alumni Association office in Memorial Hall or in the Writing Center, where I am an undergraduate tutor. Next semester I am very excited to study abroad in Argentina and go on a South American adventure to visit a friend in Peru, backpack around the continent, and improve my Spanish-speaking and comprehension abilities so that someday I will be able to appreciate Spanish poetry. My favorite sandwich in the world is a goat cheese, sun dried tomato and basil wrap, and I hate beans. I also really want to own a pet snake someday.

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