Senior Series: Class of 2019
Last year, we interviewed some graduating seniors about their time at UMass, and learned of a ton of unique student experiences. Check out some of their stories below!
Major: Computer Science
Minor: Studio Arts and Theater
Activities: UMass Theatre Guild, UMass Amherst Theater, and HackUMass
"I have to give credit to the Theatre Guild for getting me my first job coming this June. I had an interview last year for an internship, it was a data science position, and I had done very little data science here at UMass. I had my first interview, it felt like it went well. They called me back for a second, so I drive out to Farmington, Connecticut, and meet with the guy who would end up becoming my overseeing manager. He’s a very talented man, he has two PhDs — an incredibly smart, sophisticated guy.
Within the first fifteen minutes of the interview, I assume it’s going to go like every CompSci interview goes. You talk about your school experience, then your coding languages, then your projects. He stops me very early into me talking about my projects, and says, “So why did you list theatre on your resume?” He notices the fact that I had written down my directing experience. And at first I try to give a few [examples] — it was a big time commitment, it was working with a ton of different people in various facilities. It was a very quick answer. But after that, he asks more, “That’s so interesting! How many people were you working with? How did you get into that?” So, for the next 35 minutes of this hour-long interview, I’m talking about everything I’ve done with the guild. This whole time he’s not the one funnelling me to turn it back into CompSci, I’m trying to find little ways to do that because I hope it’s the right thing to do. But for the most part, I talk about the shows, the community, everything.
So, the interview ends, and two days later I get an internship offer, which turned into a job offer at the end of the summer. In that second follow-up interview with the hiring manager, they asked for leadership experience. I went back to the exact same thing I discussed in the previous interview, and it got me a job. I can’t complain!"
Minor: Information Technology
Activities: Marketing intern for UMass Dining; Social Media Chair for Real Estate Association; UMass AdLab, Marketing Club, Sales Club, and Women in Business
"When you go into the business industry, or any industry of power really, it’s going to be white, male dominated. I knew that going into the game, so I quickly had to get used to being the odd one out in a lot of my situations and environments. I know that just comes with the business. There is not going to be a whole lot of black women in the industry. But I say that [because] I hope to be a part of the change.
In business, it’s very important to have a lot of diverse experiences and backgrounds because it makes for better business, period. I hope to break the glass ceiling, and to be inspiration to other young women and young women of color who are interested in business but don’t see themselves in the business leaders that we see today. I hope to rise through the ranks, become a more influential business leader, and inspire more young women and women of color to pursue business. Representation is very important for that reason. You don’t see yourself in these positions if you don’t see someone that looks like you.
Instead of being the minority in the situation and letting that deter me, I use that to fuel and encourage me to keep going and to be that representation that a lot of young women of color are looking for."
Major: Communication and Psychology
Activities: UMass Dance Company, The Boltwood Project
When I lived on campus still, and it was warm out, we’d get blankets and sit on the grass in either Southwest or O’Hill. We’d play music, read, or do work, and then go to a dining hall after. It felt so peaceful and cool, to just be with all of your friends and make those memories.
It may sound cliche, but be true to yourself. Don’t mold to anyone, because at the end of the day, you’ll realize that you’re not in the right friend group if you mold to people. If you stay true to yourself, that energy is going to radiate, and the people that you’re supposed to be friends with will shift towards you naturally. Since UMass is such a big school, there’s so many different people that you’re meeting, and it can make it easier to find your tribe. But also, throughout the four years, we’re all growing so much. I’m definitely not the same person I was freshman year and neither are my friends now. Some people grow further apart than others, and there’s always going to be some drama or something going on. But at this point, I’m spending pretty much all of my time with my friends that have lasted, and we watch each other go through so many different things. And you have to be grateful for that.
Activities: UMass Tour Guides, Isenberg Marketing Club, Protect Our Breasts, Isenberg Senior Gift Committee
"Right now, there’s 90 of us [working as UMass tour guides], and it’s insane because we’re all really good friends. There are different groups within the tour guides for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily feel very cliquey. It’s really nice because whoever walks through the door of the Visitor’s Center, I’m always really excited to see them. It doesn’t matter who it is, what day it is, what time of day, I know that whatever employee comes in, we’ll have a great conversation. It’s really nice to have this crazy-large, diverse group of people who I can call my family, which is something that I didn’t expect from a college experience — to be best friends with my coworkers and bosses. It’s really interesting and I’m super grateful for it, because I don’t think I’m going to have a work experience like this ever again. It’s so warm and welcoming here, to the extent that I’ll hang out here even when I’m not working to do homework, catch up with friends, hang out or even like watch Netflix.
On one of my first tours that I started giving alone, I was giving my housing stop. This was really embarrassing — I was talking about peer mentors in freshman year dorms, and I, well, actually embellished something a little. I wasn’t that close with my peer mentor my freshman year, but I pretended that I was like, SUPER close with her, and I was a sophomore at the time. I had told my group, “She’s a senior now, she’s graduating, it’s so sad,” and what I meant to say was, “and I wish she could stay here forever with me,” but what I said instead was, “I wish I could just tie her up and keep her in my room forever!” I was mortified! It was so embarrassing. The parents were like, “Uhh?” It was so not ideal. But I tell people all the time, because at this point it’s just funny-embarrassing. I definitely learned from the experience; I don’t embellish anymore given it didn’t work out for me that first time!"
Activities: UMass Minuteman Marching Band, UMass Colonial Honor Guard and Phi Mu Alpha, UMass Tour GUides
"There’s a really tight sense of community within the [UMass Minuteman] Marching Band that I don’t know if I’ve gotten quite anywhere else on campus. We spend Monday-Friday together in the fall, so we don’t really have much of a choice other than to get to know each other. We’re set up to be tight right off the bat. Additionally, a lot of what we’re doing isn’t very easy. I think a lot of people devalue the amount of work and physical effort that goes into what we’re doing; part of the reason we’re really close is because we share some of those difficult challenges together. But on the other side of that, we share a lot of great, really rewarding experiences. Like when we participate in Band Day, where we invite schools from all over the state to come and play with us during the halftime show.
Being on the other side of that now, it’s amazing to see how all those people around you are really in awe of what they’re seeing. Last year, we did the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. We marched five-and-a-half miles through some pretty warm, California heat, for the largest televised parade in the country. That was a really, really fun experience. We also did the Disneyland parade that weekend, as well as a huge collegiate marching band festival. We rented out a whole plane, and had like a quarter of a hotel to ourselves. That entire week we spent in Pasadena together was a huge experience for me."
Major: Communication and Journalism
Activities: The Rebirth Project, Peer Advisor for Communication Department
"The Rebirth Project is an online publication created by students of color for marginalized groups who maybe don’t get their stories told as much in other newspapers or media out there. We try to focus on things that aren’t being talked about, whether it’s a cultural event that isn’t getting much press, or a topic that another newspaper might find controversial. I don’t believe that any topic is controversial.
I dropped being an assistant editor for The Daily Collegian, which was a tough decision because that was what I wanted to do for my whole college experience, and was really happy when I finally got it. But I think I made the right decision.
When it comes to The Rebirth Project, it’s not just about the publication. Yeah, as editors we’re getting all the technical and communication skills we need, but it’s more so a space where I can finally feel that I can say what I want to say, and not feel that somebody is going to judge me. I don’t have to think about what people will think because I get to express my frustration and write about topics that I don’t get to talk about often. I think it’s been a great space for people to be themselves, and more than anything, even if we don’t accomplish everything we want, we’ve accomplished letting people be who they want to be."
Major: Dance and Psychology
Minor: Education, with a Certificate in Developmental Disabilities and Human Services
Activities: UMass Dance Company, UMass Alive with Dance, UMass Belly Dance Club, UMass Ballroom Dance Team, Resident Assistants, RSO Leaders
"When I first came here as a freshman, I was totally undecided, but knew that I wanted to do something with dance. I started dancing here, and got into the dance major, but didn’t know what else I wanted to study. I ended up settling on [psychology], and then through the psych department I found my certificate; I also found that education goes really hand-in-hand with psychology. My junior year, I was taking a lot of different classes in all these areas, and I found that a lot of my classes connected with each other. I was learning about dance education, I was learning about how the brain functions under movement, and how movement can affect the brain and the body. That’s when I really started to figure out what I wanted to do, and what I was happy with doing.
The education department helped me realize how much I like teaching. I learned from the [developmental disabilities and human services (DDHS)] certificate how much I enjoy working with children with disabilities. Within the psych department, I found out that I actually really like science and learning how the brain works, and that’s something that I never would have thought that I had liked. UMass allows you to take different courses from different areas and it counts toward different requirements, which is really helpful. [...] Everything ended up combining in ways that I never thought that they would."
Major: Marketing and Communication
Activities: Director of Social Media for Isenberg, UMass Marketing, Alpha Epsilon Phi
"It’s really easy to get caught up in numbers and rankings and being the best out of whoever you’re surrounded by. But you really just need to absorb everything that’s around you and know that the number or the grade in whatever you’re working on, the end result isn’t what is defining your experience at Isenberg; it’s more so what you’re doing to make it memorable for your own sake. I’m not going to look back on my experience when I graduate and think of the bad grades I got in accounting or the not-so-great group I had in my management class. I’m going to remember the good feelings I had in differentiating myself, and not focusing on the stereotypical stress about getting internships or good interviews.
If you take a step back and take a moment to remember what will matter and what you will utilize when you graduate, and pour your energy into those things, it’s so much easier to do well here and feel comfortable and like you belong. It’s not necessarily what you’re able to put on paper, it’s the attitude. That’s why you’re chosen to be here, because you can handle it."
Minor: Gender, Womens, and Sexuality Studies
Activities: Queer & Now, UMass Theater, Phallacies
"Coming to college has really [taught] me to look at things more holistically. I think I was really judgmental when I was in high school, and honestly, very arrogant. Arriving at college and meeting all these different kinds of people and learning so much about beyond what was very limited for me when I was growing up allowed me to see that you can’t look at things from one perspective. Nobody is wholeheartedly bad or good. People exist as multiple things. Being in the humanities and looking at things from that perspective has enabled me to understand that people are not just one dimensional, and that viewing people from three dimensions is not just cliche, but really necessary."
Major: BDIC in Inclusive Conservation
Activities: NE Climate Adaptation Science Center, Recipient of Udall Scholarship
"I started college at the traditional college age, at a community college with the plan of transferring over and finishing the degree here at UMass. I finished my associate’s degree, and over the course of that summer, was offered a really great position in environmental conservation, which has always been my focus. It started with a great summer program, which turned into what could’ve been a career. I worked with Massachusetts Audubon, the [Department of Conservation & Recreation] MassParks, several conservation agencies in a lot of different capacities, often times doing a lot of education for children, elders, special needs groups, and things like that. I was working with different communities and was a supervisor for a couple different parks, and really had a wonderful time with it.
But I always wanted to make a big impact, and a lot of the work I was doing was limited to specific boundaries of certain sanctuaries, or working with communities in a single city at a time. I wanted to work on a more broad impact scale, and to do that I knew I needed to have, well, more education. I had gotten to the point where people weren’t looking at resumes because they’d look at the bottom of the page and see “associate's degree,” and turn and pass. I hit a wall.
So, about three years before I went back to school, I decided that I was going to make a plan to come back, get this education, go into graduate school, and be able to work in more regional contexts of conservation. I really like the intersection of nature and people, and so I really wanted to do something where I could support people, and work with social justice environmental conservation — a big theme I was very interested in. I came to UMass, and got started in a really great program, [bachelor’s degree with individual concentration (BDIC)] in inclusive conservation. I’m graduating in a few weeks, and have been accepted in a master’s program here with the School of Public Policy."
Major: Biochemistry and Psychology, Neuroscience Track
Activities: EMT and CPR Instructor for UMass Amherst EMS
"I grew up with a mother who had a medical need, so that was always something I was exposed to at a young age — wanting to always help her, although there was only so much one could do as a seven year old. Later on in life, right before I went to high school, I sustained a sports injury that kept me out of playing sports for the foreseeable future. It was really tough at first obviously, as somebody who played soccer seven days a week, to go to zero. But I found a new motivation through all the doctor appointments, where I kind of just jumped into being interested in medicine, and joined the EMS cadet squad at my high school.
I took the EMS course and became certified before coming to college. My town would actually give us little pagers, and when there was an emergency, we would run through the school, jump into a cadet car, and drive to the scene. It was pretty intense. It was so funny because people would be cheering you on as you’re running through the halls; it was a little bit of a thrill. That continued through college, when I joined UMass EMS. Through the experiences I had with my injury, I became really interested in orthopedics because I screwed up my bones, and also neurology because I was having some nerve problems. That’s why I’m a neuroscience major and biochemistry, too, because I think that’s a really important aspect of the biomedical sciences — understanding biochemistry and how the body works. Now I’m also volunteering at Brigham’s and Women’s hospital in Alzheimer's research, and that’s actually where I’m going to be working once I graduate."
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Activities: President of Society of Women Engineers, MBA in Isenberg School of Management
"Most of my learning has taken place through working in diversity and inclusion. I’m a woman in STEM and that’s my first shred of diversity that I’ve ever encountered; I come from a white, middle-class background, and not everyone here comes from the same place. Learning from people who are different from me means realizing my own privileges. While that can be hard to do at first, the more you learn, the more you understand the people around you and the more empathy you gain. It’s the most I’ve grown in college academically or socially; I’ve learned more about people from coming here.
I thought I was going to be a lot more secluded as a woman in STEM. I thought I might have a hard time socially, and that it would be a “boys club” mentality. While I know not every woman has the same experience, I feel that I really lucked out with the UMass community, as there are a lot of male allies and everyone has taken us pretty seriously. Engineering is not a very competitive major; it’s more of a “let’s all hold hands and get through this together” type of thing. Everybody's good at their own thing, but also wants those around them to do well and see them succeed. The support system of my classmates, men and women, has been extraordinary."
Major: Chemical Engineering
Minor: Chemistry, with Certificate in Materials and Polymer Science Activities: UMass Out in STEM, recipient of UMass Amherst Stonewall Center’s LGBTQ+ Student Leadership Award, Polymer Science and Engineering Labs, and Engineering Climate and Curriculum Committee.
"Out in STEM (oSTEM) is an international LGBTQ organization for people in STEM fields, and I founded it at UMass in my second year here. [...] And, at first, it was literally only me running it and planning events, and now we have about 15 people on the executive board, and a 150 person chapter that also incorporates people from the other Five Colleges.
oSTEM gave me most of my college experience. It gave me the opportunity to be in leadership and go to professional events and grow in a lot of different ways that I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to otherwise. And starting an organization from the ground up is a lot in terms of organization and people skills. For me, what I really worked on when I was starting it was building a strong sense of community and building on the values of oSTEM National and making them more specific for the Pioneer Valley area. I like to say that it’s all about enthusiasm and transparency, and I think that the community that we do have now is so tight knit, genuinely supportive, and enthusiastic about each other."
Major: Public Health
Activities: President of Cultural Council and UMass SoCA, Student Bridges, UMass Student Activities & Involvement
"You can choose your family. I’m a foster kid, and family has been a very sensitive topic for me for a long time, but being at UMass has shown me that you can literally create family wherever you go. My [Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SoCA)] group, that’s one of my families. I call them “chosen family.” One of my old bosses told me about it, and so chosen family is anyone who you want to be in it. And family aren’t people who are always going to be on your good side, like family gets on your nerves too. But you know that there is somebody you can count on, somebody dependable, and somebody you can reach out to at any time and they’ll be supportive. Family is whoever you want to be, whoever you choose to be in it. Coming in, I never would have thought I’d meet so many people — so many great people and people who I know will be in my life for a long time, and this isn’t just students. It’s a mix of students, faculty, and staff. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ll take away from UMass."
Major: BDIC in Human Development and Family Sciences
Activities: Sigma Delta Tau
"I want to be a child life specialist, so I’m pursuing grad school after this year to become one. I think part of what helped me get there was [bachelor’s degree with individual concentration (BDIC)] because it makes you stand out a little bit; it takes a lot of work to make your own major. I had to learn how to nuzzle my way into classes, and convince teachers that just because I wasn’t a certain major, the course was still fitting for me. A lot of teachers are very for BDIC, and some think of it as an easy way out. In reality, I think it brings out its own challenges. It’s made me learn how important self-advocacy is and how to stand up for what kind of student I know I am — not only to prove to teachers to put me in their class, but to prove to myself that putting myself out there is going to be worth it. Being uncomfortable is only going to make education more rewarding in the end."
Activities: Mission: IMPROVable, UMass Comedy League, UMass Special Olympics
"When I got into Mission: IMPROVable, I was welcomed, immediately as a freshman, into this community of people doing things that I also wanted to do and [who] were interested in things that I was also interested in. From there, I was able to meet the people within the comedy troupes as well as the people outside of it who would come to shows, or those who would recognize me in the dining hall and start conversations from there. I was able to start so many relationships through this medium, as I would say just about 80% of my relationships were made, somewhere or another, through Mission and the opportunities it presented. I was able to travel up to Chicago and visit alumni that I had grown so close to, perform in front of all these other colleges in Boston, and run improv workshops to high schoolers. By being a part of this RSO I was able to do all these cool things on top of making so many great relationships and meeting new people.
One of my favorite memories from UMass was when we competed at ImprovBoston’s College Comedy Festival my sophomore year, and came in first place out of 20 different troupes from other schools. It was really cool to represent UMass and the improv we work so hard to do here. It was definitely a standout moment in my college career."