Greetings from Dan - Updates from Linda - "Be Comfortable Being Different" - Peer Advisors
Profile of a BDIC Student - David Kastor - National Scholarships - Peace Studies
Greetings from Dan
Hello BDIC Students! This has been a great academic year. BDIC is gaining recognition across campus. Our program is now featured in UMass Amherst recruiting brochures for high school students. BDIC students have been featured on the university home page. And our alumni are becoming more involved as advisors to students and donors to the program.
BDIC serves you the students by assisting you in developing your own major. But BDIC also serves the whole university - we make it possible for the university to understand the needs of students that are not being served by the regular departments. We fill the big gaps in the curriculum. We promote interdisciplinary thinking on campus.
As you complete this academic year, and as some of you approach graduation, you should feel proud to be part of BDIC. Best wishes for the rest of the semester.
Important Updates from Linda
I am writing this while you are away for Spring Break. I hope when you come back to school and finally read this you will be rested and refreshed.
Pre-registration begins on March 29 (early this semester!). You can start coming in to meet with me about your fall schedules as soon as you get back to school. I'm taking walk-ins between 9 am and 12 pm and appointments in the afternoons. I hope to see all of you!
Seniors, remember that your senior summaries and abstracts are due (already approved by your sponsors) on April 1. If you haven't already met with me to make sure you are all set for graduation, please stop by soon.
Seniors, BDIC student David McGavern is collecting photos of you for a special slideshow that will be shown at the BDIC graduation. David has already emailed seniors. Please be sure to send him a photo of your choice at email@example.com.
Are any of you interested in being on the BDIC Student Innovation Board? If you have ideas for events or suggestions for improvement to the BDIC department, the Board is the place for you. You can find out more information by contacting Max Grover at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Be Comfortable Being Different"
Peter F. DiGiammarino graduated from UMass Amherst in 1975 with a BDIC concentration in "Computer Science, Economics, and Mathematics." He is currently the CEO at Compusearch Software Systems and the Chairman at Command Information.
In February, 2009, a journalist interviewed Peter about BDIC. Here is an extract from the interview.
How did your degree from the BDIC program prepare you for employment?
I learned how to take care of myself; to figure out what I wanted to happen and to make it happen leaving nothing to chance. I attended UMass because I was accepted only to UMass. I vowed that I would never let important things in life happen to me again. Instead, I would figure out what I wanted and then make it happen. My interdisciplinary experience was the backbone by which I accomplished this.
How has it served you?
I learned to plan, be accountable to a plan, set high goals, drive to achieve goals no matter how lofty, follow through on commitments, work hard because it generated worthy results and was a waste of time and money not to, bring things together to create significant new value, be comfortable being different and comfortable being a loner, appreciate the value of outstanding counsel and advice, take full advantage of resources all around, and more.
What would you say to a young student considering an interdisciplinary program like UMass's?
Conventional education tracks the best students to learn more and more about less and less as they go from a bachelor's degree to a master's and then on to a PhD in their subject area of choice. The limit of this is that they learn everything about nothing. Those that follow this path tend to be extraordinarily deep in their chosen specialty and remarkably inept on topics outside of it as they are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge relative to what they know in their field.
An interdisciplinary program prepares the best students to learn a great deal in any field if they want and so they are not inclined to get good at only one subject but easily develop depths of competence in whatever they want or need to know, to be enriched by the insights, ideas and opportunities that unfold from the blending of competency depths and create boundless opportunities to synergize and innovate leading to the creation of new value far beyond what most ever could even imagine.
What are some questions young students might need to ask themselves before personalizing their college major?
What do you love doing, what are you good at doing, and what do you want to do? When you bring all three into alignment (love, good, want) then you achieve harmony and balance that is hard to beat. An undergraduate experience is a time to discover the answer to these questions to bring life and work into balance. How are you going to do this?
If you are able to stand out from the crowd you need to be different; specifically, you need to be better than others. An interdisciplinary degree program is a great way to accomplish this for a strong student with ambition and drive to excel. Does that fit your profile?
Meet BDIC's Newest Peer Advisors
My name is Max Grover and I am currently a junior in BDIC. I also happen to be one of the newest peer advisors.
My concentration is Aviation and Foreign Policy. I interned with the corporate flight department of a fortune 500 company based out of Hanscom Field in Bedford, MA. during the fall semester. Being the flight operations intern, I was doing a little bit of everything; from stocking airplanes to purchasing airplanes, I was exposed to it all.
Internships are a great way to get acquainted with a company and get your foot in the door. Think of the internship as a trial run. I would encourage everyone to try and pursue an internship as it is a great way to supplement your classroom education with real world experience and "know-how." Internships can be the boost that sets you above the rest in this very difficult job climate and corporations are more likely to hire past interns. Be prepared to pay your dues as an intern, but also be ready to have some incredible experiences.
(This picture is of me with one of the planes I worked with).
Emily Alice Giunta Cutts began working as a BDIC Peer Advisor during the fall semester. She is a junior at UMass Amherst, and originally hails from Teaneck, NJ. Her BDIC concentration is Cross Cultural Child Studies, and her minor is Education. By graduation she hopes to be capable of working with children in various capacities, including teaching and potentially as a Social Worker. She speaks Italian and is attempting to learn French in her spare time. On campus she is a three year resident of the Van Meter dorm (as a Peer Mentor for the last two). Upon graduation she hopes to possibly enter the CTEP Early Childhood Education program at UMass, and then teach abroad in Thailand for a year. In her spare time Emily likes to bake, make breakfast for dinner, and go stargazing.
Profile of a BDIC student: The story of Henry Sakalinskas (BDIC concentration-in Culture, Society and Medicine)
"My work here is done" my English teacher in Lithuania announced, once she learned that I had finally stepped foot on American soil.
At age 15, however, I was not seeing the great opportunities I expected. New York did not serve as the best introduction to the United States. I was homesick and felt out of place. My mother also felt that New York was not right for our family and somehow she discovered Ludlow, Massachusetts. It was quite a change to move from a noisy Brooklyn neighborhood to a quiet but beautiful Western Massachusetts town. But it was still difficult coming to a school where everyone seemed to have their exclusive group of friends and shared background. Luckily, I only had a year and a half left before I could graduate and make my own life. There was a light at the end of the tunnel after all.
With graduation came the usual big decisions. Who am I going to be? My father had always wanted me to be a doctor. He was a surgeon back in Lithuania and he dreamt of his sons becoming doctors too. Since, my brother had other ideas for his future, my father turned to me as his only hope (thanks for the added pressure Brother). That idea seemed fine to me, except that the word "money" was almost always used when talking about my future. I understood the fact that my parents wanted me to do well and have a good life, and there was no doubt that being a doctor in the United States would allow for that. However, I did not want to shape my life based on getting the highest paycheck.
I rebelled against the idea of being a doctor because I felt that money was not a sufficient reason. I took two years off of school to travel and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It took living in Alaska and Seattle, driving across country and backpacking through Europe to realize that being a doctor was what I wanted to do after all. Though my parents' motives were financial, I realized that mine did not have to be. So now, I was back to where I started: the pre-med track.
When I learned about BDIC, it was clear to me that this was my chance to pave the road to my future. Once I become a doctor I want to travel the world and help people who may have nowhere else to turn. I would like to participate in Doctors without Borders and get involved with or start other organizations that focus on providing health care to all who need it, regardless of their socio-economic status. Through the interdisciplinary education that BDIC offers I will be able to build the knowledge and background that will be necessary for me to succeed.
This would not be possible if it weren?t for my English teacher who invested so much of her time into making sure I would succeed. She always encouraged me and motivated me to never give up, and my hope is that I will be able to pass on her inspirational spirit by helping others who are really in need.
David Kastor, BDIC Faculty Supervisor
by Manny Lopez
Professor David Kastor is a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts in the Physics Department and a faculty supervisor in Sustainability and Natural Science at BDIC David attended Cornell University as an undergraduate with career intentions in applied physics. He then went on to the University of Chicago to receive his Ph. D. Professor Kastor now works on the theoretical side of things and his research and interests include Classical and Quantum Gravity and String Theory. He is particularly interested in the topic of black holes--their creation and relationship to gravity, energy, and galaxies.
Although Professor Kastor's research does not relate directly to the field of sustainability he has a strong interest in that area. David supervises students in the Sustainability and Natural Science area in his role as BDIC faculty supervisor. David teaches a UMass course called Energy and Society. In the class, he incorporates an interdisciplinary approach discussing different energy sources and current global issues.
David Kastor is also one of the board members of a non-profit organization called National Association of Cooperative Farms (NACF) that he helped create. It started when a local farm in North Amherst was going to be sold to create a future luxury development. He and other neighbors from around town began the non-profit organization to save the farm and potentially own it. They fundraised to purchase the land to be used for agriculture. The farm functions as a CSA and is going into its fourth season.
David's favorite aspect of BDIC is working with highly motivated students who want something that doesn't fit the standard UMass selection of majors. Roberta Wermer, whose concentration is Integration of Horticulture & Livestock for Sustainable Farming, is an example of one of David's unique students. In the future, David would like to advocate and promote more sustainable education campus-wide.
When David isn't trapped in black holes, he enjoys playing music. He mainly plays the blues on the guitar and recently has been learning how to play the violin, or "maybe it's more like fiddling," he says.
National Scholarships: An Opportunity You Cannot Miss
by Debora Dechtiar
There are many advantages to being a BDIC student. We are passionate about our studies. Through designing our own curricula we learn how to be self-motivated and self-driven and learn how to integrate our various academic interests, and we have caring and knowledgeable advisors at our disposal. Also, because BDIC is under the same administration as Commonwealth Honors College, we have easy access to resources like the Office for National Scholarship Advising (ONSA).
If you have never looked through the multitude of prestigious national scholarships offered through ONSA, I suggest you do so. You could apply for a Marshall Scholarship and get a master's in the UK for free, win a Truman Scholarship and get $30,000 for graduate studies, or become a Fulbright student and get funded to do research, study, or teach English abroad. These are just three of the many scholarships available - eight are available to sophomores, nine to juniors, and twenty-one to seniors.
Applying for these scholarships requires:
I am currently applying for the Marshall and Fulbright scholarships and, although it has not been easy, I know my work will pay off. Whether or not I win, at least I can be sure I tried. And if I do win, the time I spent tediously filling out forms and writing essays will seem like nothing compared to the benefits of being paid to get a master's degree in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine or do research on health development in Tanzania.
Peace Studies, My Summer Internship
by Cory Telman
My internship in Uganda was, of course, a life-changing experience. I learned a great deal about some very different cultures, about the international economy, and about my own daily life. I think the lessons I learned can be categorized as the little things, the big things, and things I already knew but saw lived out or expanded upon.
The little things: I learned how to bathe in an open-air enclosure, with a basin of water. This saves a lot of water, and allows one to stargaze while bathing - an altogether pleasant experience. I learned a bit about the Acholi (or Acoli) language. It is a Subject-Verb-Object language, and it has no past tense. "Muyeeme" means "mango", and "apwoyo" means "thank you". I learned how to plant sweet potatoes. I learned that there is a long history of Arab involvement in East Africa.
I learned some big things, too. I learned that people who live near what is left of the original forest have plenty of rain; the rest of the deforested country is always hungry for water. I learned that witchcraft is a real thing - probably many real things, and that some of them are not benevolent. I learned that polygamy is a really problematic thing. I learned firsthand about the devastation that war can cause.
I learned about Christianity, the Gospel, and the Church in Uganda, and the Church among the cultures of the world more generally. I had a very encouraging view of what the church can be: ways in which the church has strengthened the cultures of people that have given their allegiance to the Gospel. Ways, too, in which the church has been and can be revolutionary, building alternatives to reliance on a corrupt government through totally grassroots development. This is in stark contrast to a more common view of the church's role in colonial and postcolonial settings. I did not know that there was another side of the story, and that side fills me with hope.
Now, the things I already knew but saw lived out or expanded on. I learned a great deal from the Grassroots Community Development class that I took last semester, which taught me to see things I never knew how to look for, and to think in new ways. Assets-based development, trusting the community, being present, thinking about structural oppression - all GCD principles that we got to live out in a very different environment from what we studied in GCD.
I learned how simply we can live. For one, if we all pumped water out of a borehole and carried it, 20 liters at a time for a quarter mile to our house we could probably significantly reduce our rates of obesity. Fields can be cultivated by hand tools. Some latrines are more sanitary than flush toilets. Basin-bathing saves a lot of water. One does not need a huge yard or field to grow sweet potatoes. We could all use molasses instead of sugar, saving energy and air pollution by minimal processing.
These are some of the things I learned in Uganda. Of course, this begs the question: what is the good of learning all this? So I will say a little about how I've implemented some of these things, and how they've changed me and my future plans. I take "Navy showers" - water on, get wet, water off, soap and shampoo, water on, rinse off. It saves water and time. Fair Trade is important to me now, in a way it was not before. I will not buy artificial, cheap products, unless it is my only option and very important. I read a Ugandan newspaper regularly.
These, then, are the things I learned, and how they have affected me. I have changed, and I plan to change more. I know I will not forget the experience - that is the easy part. I hope I will not forget any of these lessons, and I hope I will be able to fully pursue these goals. Certainly, I will continue to consult my memories of Uganda throughout my life.