Alex Deschamps, supervisor of Arts and Cultural Studies.

Alex Deschamps has been a faculty member at UMass-Amherst for many years, assuming a variety of roles.  Aside from being a faculty supervisor in BDIC she is also an Associate Professor of Women's Studies.  This department is an interdisciplinary program, much like BDIC.  In fact, Women's Studies was once a part of BDIC before it branched out into a department of its own.  Her drive in this department is fueled by her studies involving women empowerment and cultural studies.  She's truly passionate about her work and is more than willing to advise students in a way that will lead them into the direction of their own passion.  “I can offer guidance on selecting courses and majors as well as help students explore career choices and opportunities,” Alex said.  “I am also very partial to advising and mentoring first year and undeclared students.”


                 Alex's interaction with students isn't restricted to just her office hours.  She is able to interact more with students because of her on-campus housing arrangement.  She lives as Resident Faculty/Academic in one of the Orchard Hill residence halls.  This is also where she teaches some of her Women's Studies classes, as she did this past fall.  She has been known for teaching anywhere from introductory undergraduate classes to upper-level graduate classes.  These classes are not just limited to the UMass campus either.  You can also find Alex teaching classes at Mount Holyoke and Smith College.

                 Alex considers herself a scholar of the Caribbean.  She was born on the Commonwealth of Dominica, a former British Colony (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic).  Even though the language of instruction there was English, she is a speaker of French Creole as well.  She was schooled for many years in the Caribbean before she made a career here at UMass.  She enjoys her work here and is willing to help any way that she can. 

If Alex had to start all over, as a BDIC major, what would her concentration be?  Women's Activism Leadership and Political Power.  This major would "focus on transforming social change globally."  There are not many things Alex is afraid to do.

Henry Geddes Gonzales, supervisor of Communications.

 Henry Geddes-Gonzales, the faculty supervisor in the Communication studies area at BDIC, has led a fascinating life and has a wide array of interests both in and out of the academic world.  Recently, I had the honor of speaking with Henry about a variety of topics.  His academic interests span many topics including communication and social change in the third world, mass media and cultural

identity, and new information technologies.  Currently, Henry is teaching courses such as “Communication and Change in the Third World,” “Information Society,” and – starting next fall – “Music, Culture, and Communication.”

Henry was born in Lima, Peru in 1955.  During his youth, he and his family moved around a great deal throughout Latin America. This nomadic trend continued throughout his life.  During this time Henry began to develop an interest in Latin American culture and identity. Upon graduating from high school he utilized skills he had learned about navigation to work on ships in the Gulf of Mexico, searching for sunken Spanish galleons and oil.  Henry was thankful for his employment since it paid well and allowed him to travel a great deal.  Not many people can say they paid their way through college searching for sunken treasure!

Henry graduated from Oberlin College in 1978 with degrees in Political Science and Latin American Studies; at graduation, he had a desire to create

films that depicted the reality of the Latin American world and wanted to make this reality available to the world at large.  As time moved on, Henry realized that research was “an avenue of change,” and that he could make a difference in the world by providing quality holistic research that clarifies the intricacies of various realities.  The more Henry learned, the more he realized that reality and truth are rarely cut and dry matters.  In working with problems ranging from poverty to inequality, he came to understand that “it’s not about good guys and bad guys.”  The world is a complex place and things are not easily labeled or defined.

Henry has lived all over the world and continues to travel a great deal.  He recently went to Mexico to personally deliver the results of a study he was a part of to the people of the Yucatán.  Rather than sending the results in the mail, he brought the results himself because he wanted to make himself available for any questions or concerns.  This approach differs greatly from other researchers who conduct their research and leave, never to return again.

Music is a great passion of Henry’s and occupies most of his free time.  He plays the guitar, piano, and flute; Henry is currently trying to get his music recorded, which – given his individual sound – has been somewhat difficult.  When I asked him to describe what kind of music he played, “eclectic” was the best thing that came to mind.  He says it is a combination of everything he has heard which ranges from country to classical.

Henry’s academic interests are most certainly interdisciplinary and his research has required him to interact with a variety of specialists ranging from anthropologists to ecologists.  He believes that interdisciplinary work allows him to be “constantly challenged to move beyond the boundaries.”  His favorite thing about working in BDIC is the desire, faith, and courage he sees in the students who take a chance with an interdisciplinary study.

For the past fourteen years Henry has lived in the Amherst area.  This is the longest he has lived in one place his entire life.  When I asked Henry what his favorite place where he has lived was, he responded that every place has its merits, but they change with time so it is best not to look back.  We at BDIC are glad Henry Geddes-Gonzales has decided to make UMass his home.

José Ornelas, Director of BDIC and Supervisor of Education and Human Services.

                 For the past five years, José Ornelas has been the Director of the BDIC program and also a faculty supervisor in the academic areas of Education and Human Services. While many may have seen him around the office, few may know the little details that make José and his life so interesting.


Gino Sorcinelli, supervisor of Business and Law.

           Gino Sorcinelli has a hectic schedule since he is involved in both the Isenberg School of Management as well as the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration Program.  Despite this, I was fortunate enough to not only meet him, but also to ask him some probing questions in order to get

his wife.  Their favorite beaches are in East Dennis.  They even visit in the winter and went on a weekend trip after the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

           Gino takes great pride in his work with the BDIC program and its students.  “Not only is the BDIC program unique,” said Gino, “it also presents an opportunity for students who are willing and interested in pursuing a non-traditional degree.  I value the importance of being able to help as a supervisor.”  If Gino were a BDIC student, he says his concentration would be “something to do with technology and law.  I used to want to be an attorney so I guess it could be called ‘Study of the Law through the Use of Technology.’”

           He considers his greatest achievement to be his family, which includes his wife and three children.  He has two daughters and a son, whose ages are 26, 23, and 21; to him, “they’re always number one!”  Other than enjoying time with his family, and visiting the beaches on Cape Cod, Gino’s big secret is that he loves to cook!  He says that he is “very good,” and that his two favorite dishes are “Golden Tofu” and “Vegetable Lasagna.”  He developed these dishes because one of his children is a vegetarian.

           It seems that Gino Sorcinelli not only has large amounts of academic knowledge to offer, but can also discuss sports, show you around beautiful Cape Cod, and teach you how to cook!  Gino Sorcinelli is an asset to the School of Management, the BDIC program, and to all who pass through the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

to know him better.

           Born in Ludlow, Massachusetts, Gino is truly a New England sports fan through and through.  The Pats, the Red Sox, the Celtics, and the Bruins are all teams that he is devoted to and so passionate about that he cannot even watch the games because he “gets too nervous!”  Even when he and his wife moved to Indiana in 1976 to begin his first teaching job at Indiana University, he continued to harbor a love for the New England area and their sporting events.  He taught at IU for thirteen years and then moved back in 1994 to Massachusetts to teach at UMass Amherst, his alma mater.  While attending UMass, Gino received both his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees!

           Gino is not only a faculty supervisor for the BDIC program; he is also the Director of Computer Resources and a lecturer in SOM, with accounting as his primary focus.  Outside of academics he enjoys vacationing on Cape Cod with

Paula Stamps, supervisor of Natural Health and Computer Science.

                 Paula Stamps has been working with BDIC for the past five years, supervising in the areas of Natural Health, Computer Science and Sustainability. Paula is a professor of the Public Health department where she’s been active in the development of new classes, such as Community Health 129: Health Care for All, and 229: Bioterrorism & Challenges to Public Health.

                 Paula loves new experiences and ideas which is a big part of why she is here at BDIC, and why she has undertaken the challenges of developing new courses. “It’s all about learning new things,” she says, which is something she had to do while developing her Bioterrorism class because it was a subject that she had no prior experience with. However long the processes are, she says, the final products are always worthwhile.

                 Paula supervises some diverse areas of study, all of which she finds quite interesting. The concentration that has most intrigued her, she said, was one on Eastern Health Arts. This student, she said, has spent time abroad in India, learned to write Sanskrit (which she mastered and

became her foreign language requirement) and studied meditation and yoga from traditional Indian teachers. The wealth of knowledge the student gained was very impressive and memorable.

                 When asked about her favorite part of her job, she said it was her interaction with the students, hands down. UMass is a school with one of the most interesting and diverse student bodies, and she loves the fact that she is a part of it.  It is a cycle of learning and teaching that always keeps her excited.

                 However, teaching at UMass is a bit of a stretch from what Paula wanted to do growing up, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. She always envisioned herself as a doctor or a researcher. For her undergraduate education, she attended University of Missouri where she was a Biology major. It was here where her plans shifted a bit when she coincidentally developed an allergy to lab rats and couldn’t continue in the area. Her sights shifted towards Health and for graduate school at the University of Oklahoma she received her Masters in Health Administration. Paula also received her doctorate in the area of Human Ecology (which was an interdisciplinary doctoral degree, similar to BDIC!). When it came time to choose a career, being a professor kind of “fell in her lap.” And when she sent out job applications, her eyes focused on the coasts. Applying for positions on both west and east coasts, schools on the east seemed better suited and Paula wound up here at UMass, which she feels is the perfect fit.

                 Paula is also very active outside of work. She has been taking piano lessons for the past five years, and she says she can now play an elementary Beethoven piece. She also likes to ski -- both downhill and cross-country. She hikes, goes to the gym and reads. Her favorite book right now is called Big Stone Gap, by Anna Trigiani, which chronicles the life of an Italian woman in Virginia. She loves all movies, especially the recently released Rent and the Kevin Smith movies such as Clerks. She also loves music but feels that the best came out of the 60’s; classical and jazz are two of her favorite genres.

                 When asked about any advice she’d give to BDIC students, she said that the best thing you can do is be positive about your concentration. Always look to do things you want to do, and don’t focus on the things you don’t want to do – and then you’ll be more successful. And what would Paula be if she were a BDIC student? Probably something that combines Sustainability, Biology and Music! Of course!

Supervisor Profiles

José has led a very impressive life to date. He is the oldest of three children, with a younger brother and sister. José was born on a small, volcanic island about 400 miles off the coast of Morocco, called Madeira Island.  Portuguese is the main language on Madeira, and José grew up speaking it.  He is now fluent in Spanish and English as well.

In recent years Madeira has grown dramatically due to

offshore banking and tourism; however, while growing up there, José says, “life was very backward.” Life on Madeira was very simple, meaning no water, electricity or telephone. Very few people used cars, and bikes were a luxury few could afford.

José began his education while living on Madeira at a Catholic

school and then at the age of ten entered a seminary, until he was

sixteen and his family moved to Manhattan, New York. New York City,

as one can imagine, was quite a shock to the senses, especially coming


from such a small island. “I was completely fascinated by the size of everything in New York,” José said.  “It was all very new to me being around cars, the noisy and crowded streets and the skyscrapers.”

José was also surprised with the amount of things people acquired. “On our island, my mother used to make all of the clothes for my siblings and me. It was so amazing to us that in N.Y there were so many department stores selling clothes by the dozens and many different brands. I always wondered why a person would need eight pairs of pants; we had always survived just fine with one.”

José said adapting to their new environment was actually something that pulled his family closer together. Without knowing anyone or anything about their new surroundings, they relied on each other. It was in New York that his whole life changed, including his education. As he started his search for a school to attend he realized that at the age of sixteen, being too old for elementary school and too advanced for junior high school his only choice was to find a high school that would accept him. At the time, with few schools accepting new students, it became a very frustrating search. Finally, José approached a boy whom he’d met, who spoke only Italian, and with the few words they did share, the boy told José of the school he was attending. José was able to arrange a visit with the school, during which he was finally able to enroll, thus beginning his education in America.

And of course, the rest is history. José is currently a professor in and the Director of the Spanish and Portuguese Department at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in addition to his work at BDIC. José is currently on Sabbatical and will be returning for the Spring of 2006.

Text Box: Table of Contents

           In BDIC, students are divided into five clusters: Education and Human Services, Arts and Cultural Studies, Natural Health and Computer Science, Business and Law, and Communications.

           Each cluster is headed by a supervisor — a faculty member from the field who devotes extra time and energy to the BDIC program.  We are so lucky to have such fantastic people willing to work with us!


           José Ornelas is Director of BDIC and also Supervisor of Education and Human Services.  Alex Deschamps is Supervisor of  Arts and Cultural Studies, while Paula Stamps is Supervisor of Natural Health and Computer Science.  Business and Law is headed by Gino Sorcinelli, and the Communications cluster has Henry Geddes Gonzales as its supervisor.