#UMassSeniorSeries: Meet the Graduating Class of 2021
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!
“At the back to school BSU cookout, I just knew. This place is for me. I’m home. Just the sense of community and our year was so lit. Everyone just got along freshman year, and having that experience under my belt, I was making the most of my college experience. Little things, like events in the horseshoe and small moments that you’re not expecting, end up being some of the best moments of your life.
And I think getting accepted into my major was a pivotal moment for me. Going into UMass, I didn’t know anybody that was in education, and I didn’t know any people of color in education, actually. So, I was just taking a chance in the hopes I would get in. I didn’t know anyone, really. But it was the relief of getting in that I could dictate how the rest of my two years to go, what I want to do with that profession.
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I was that kid that loved school shopping; I was the geek over pencils and colored folders and flash cards. I knew I wanted to teach or be associated with school or have some kind of education background. I’ve also been working at my local YMCA in Malden for about six years now. So, before college, I was working there as a camp counselor. This was my first year working with kids and I loved it. Working with kids and campers every summer helped me narrow what I want to do, which is why I chose to major in early childhood education.
Growing up, I probably had one Black teacher, and that was around 10th grade. That pushed me even further to go into education because representation really, really matters. I saw that a lot this semester. My placement where I was student teaching is pretty diverse, which I’m really glad I’m part of. And the kids just notice. They just know; they’re more comfortable when their teachers represent them — they look like them, they style like them, their hairstyles are like them. They notice those little things. Representation is big for me, and I felt that I could go into this career path knowing that I’m someone that these kids are going to look up to… That has always been big for me. I’ve always just wanted to be the kind of role model that I needed when I was their age.”
Major: Elementary Education and Psychology
Kassie is the head of the Education Committee for the UMass Chapter of the NAACP. She’s worked as a counselor and unit leader at her local YMCA in Malden, MA, the Homework House in Holyoke, MA; and the Center for Early Education and Care at UMass.
"It’s kind of a cool story about how I ended up at UMass. For the last 12 years, I’ve been a freelance audio engineer for TV and film production. My neighbor, who teaches English at the high school in Lago Vista, Texas, invited me to speak to the school’s audiovisual program. During that speech, I wound up going off-script and admitting that I hadn’t finished my undergrad degree, which has been my biggest regret. Afterwards, it occurred to me that I should return to school and finish what I began over 30 years ago.
As I knew I'd need to attend school remotely, the UMass University Without Walls program wound up being exactly what I was looking for. It has been around since the 1970s and has adapted to the digital world very well. UWW takes into account your previous life and work experiences, which can translate into school credit through experiential writing courses. As I have been self-taught throughout my time in various workplaces, the ability to have that experience recognized by the UWW program was valuable.
I opted for a concentration in journalism, as I am already a freelancer for several national news outlets. I also wanted to improve my writing skills. I would like to leverage what I learned at UMass and work as a story producer or as a local journalist (I’m growing weary of lugging tons of equipment around).
I’m grateful for the UWW program and especially my advisors, Donna Devine and Abigail Dallman. I’m looking forward to attending the 2021 commencement and finally setting foot on the campus that I’ve been attending for three years."
Major: Media Production and Journalism for University Without Walls
Certificate in Social Welfare and Social Work
“I am an immigrant of Jamaica and a first generation college graduate. I am really humbled to be earning my degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Business Administration from UMASS University Without Walls. It has been a positive experience because of the support and encouragement that I have received from the faculty/staff of UWW and my community of friends. This journey has been a marathon but one well worth it. Having successfully completed my studies despite some challenges, it has really taught me about goal setting, determination and perseverance and as a parent, to a wonderful nineteen year old young black man, I want to be a motivation and inspiration to him that anything is possible with hard work.
I would like to pursue a Master’s Degree in advocacy and social justice because I really want to work in making changes. In order to make change, you sometimes have to disrupt certain spaces. I do that by using my life experiences and personal lens to engage in having difficult conversations. Attending college has been transformative because it made me realize that we are informed by the environment in which we were raised and we were not born with hate and biases. It’s important that our education systems and all these social institutions that we have to interact with daily have people in those spaces who are really diligently excavating their identities in order to deal with the diverse communities with whom they’re interacting. For me, I want to be in a space where I can be that voice. Working in a public school system, I’m that voice everyday - constantly advocating for anyone who is marginalized, disadvantaged and vulnerable and amplifying their voices so that their challenges are front and center in whatever decisions that are made ensuring that those decisions are done in a way that takes their circumstances into consideration. This is important to even the playing field so there is equity, transparency and opportunity to promote change from which the next generation can benefit. That so we can hopefully leave a world that is kind, respectful, appreciating and accepting of everyone.”
Major: Business Administration
Georgia works in administration for the Amherst Regional School district; runs her own catering business; and is planning to go to graduate school for social justice. She is the winner of the Jack Wilson Scholarship. Read about her more here: https://www.umass.edu/uww/news/interdisciplinary-studies/uww-student-wins-jack-wilson-scholarship
“I come from a first generation family in India, a middle class family, nothing too extravagant. My parents never went to high school and my English wasn't so good when I first came. As international kids, it's a completely different ball game. You never really encounter an easy task. [You think]: You're here in the states, you're gonna make it, the American Dream is finally starting for you, but it’s never like that. It’s more, oh you're here, how long will you be able to stay? Can you even get your internships? Will your CPT be approved? Will your OPT be approved? Your H1B visas? Will you even be able to find a job?
You can only work 20 hours on campus when you're international; you're not doing a work study and so on. So, all these factors were always a thing, [as well as] being in a different country, being culturally different and not knowing how to speak, not knowing what type of language or lingos have been used here.
When I came in here I didn't even have any confidence in me to think I'm going to be on the UMass homepage. I was like, oh this is for like privileged kids, the ones who have had it since high school, the ones who've been here, the ones who have just naturally have that charisma in them. But I still kept trying because that's what a first-gen is, right? A first-gen is a student who just goes at it because it's something that you've never done. Every step in our lives is our first, so I was used to this.
I met some graduate students who were doing research and I was really interested. But my freshman year, I wasn’t connected well on campus, so all I did was find professors and email them asking: is there any chance I can work with you? One statement I’ve always learned from my dad is: can you give me a chance to prove my worth?
Luckily, I met Professor Pradhan. He gave me a shot. He was like, ‘Do you want to do research over the summer with us?’ That's when I got acquainted with him and we started doing research. Initially I thought I was going to be shad
owing the PhD students but then — because professor pradhan had just come into UMass and he only had one phd student on campus — I really got the opportunity to be very hands-on. I was given, for the first time in my life, the chance to speak up, given the chance to know that yes my decisions, my contribution, will have an impact.
I saw that the work I was doing was really really interesting and it was also something that really touched me. My whole goal in life is to be able to save at least one life. To be like, ‘oh, that was my contribution to humanity.’ My research really allows me to do that because we're researching specific topics like self-driving car topics. Everyone's talking about how this technology is coming out, but nobody talks about how it can also be harmful if you don’t know how to use this technology. We have elderly people; we have people with disabilities; we have people who do not have so much exposure to technology, and they've just walked into this country with so much developed technology — all of these folks need to be considered. We cannot just move on looking at a very small group, so my research really allowed me to see all of this and consider how it impacts each person.
This has all helped me come out as a confident person, and I feel very confident, very proud and privileged. now that I came to UMass and did research.”
Major: Industrial Engineering
Jaydeep is a mechanical and industrial engineering teaching assistant, an active board member of The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, a Research Assistant for the Human Performance Lab, and a Resident Assistant.
“Fall semester sophomore year, when I was deciding whether to do a philosophy minor or double major in philosophy and political science, I started taking Intro to Logic and Intro to Philosophy. Taking those two classes were genuinely one of my two of my favorite classes I've ever taken at UMass. It made me feel like I belonged academically. I had struggled with feeling that I didn't deserve to have a full scholarship at UMass or that I wasn't intelligent enough because a lot of my peers freshman year were telling me about their high school stories, and I just felt like my high school did not prepare me for UMass. Taking philosophy helped me really settle into that major and realize that philosophy is one of my passions, and it's genuinely something I really like learning.
And NAACP. I always joke when I'm talking to some people that NAACP feels like my baby. I really feel so passionate about the RSO. I was on the founding e-board and it was the first RSO that made me feel I could actually make a difference on campus and that I was actually doing important work. I've always wanted to get involved, but I struggled in trying to do something meaningful. Being a part of NAACP and struggling to get its recognition with the campus and trying to get more people to join made me appreciate NAACP so much more. A lot of the growth I’ve done at UMass and a lot of the professionalism that I’ve learned and skills that I’ve had I think have been developed through NAACP because it was just something I was so passionate about that I wanted to dedicate most of my energy to.”
Major: Dual degree in political science and philosophy
Fabiellie is the president of the UMass Amherst Chapter of the NAACP, an event coordinator for BMCP, director of events for LWT, a peer advisor for the political science/legal studies department, a research assistant with Prof. Bernal in political science, a student representative for the SBS dean’s council, and has been on the Dean’s list for seven out of eight semesters.
"I started experimenting with creative writing so I’m specializing in creative writing with my English major. I took two classes with John Hennessy, who is probably my favorite creative writing teacher. He’s actually great; he is so down-to-earth and he’s super honest when it comes to your work or with life in general. C.N Le is also a great professor. He’s in charge of the Asian/Asian American Studies Certificate Program and because I just finished my courses for certificate, I definitely recommend earning it yourself!
Last spring semester, I planned an event as an intern at the UMCA for student writers because I felt that student writers don’t get much acknowledgement on campus; it’s mainly writers who have already been published, such as professors and published authors. I felt like it wasn't really fair to undergraduate students because, yes, we can submit our work through magazines like the Jabberwocky but it didn’t mean that we could read our pieces in person. It sucks that it never got to happen because of COVID — we tried to make it online but having videos of people reading their works didn’t have the same effect as if you were to go to a reading in person. Hopefully at some point, they’ll do something like that again. I just want to give a voice to undergraduate writers.
As for the future, in the short term, I’d like to get a full-time job in content creation. I've already gotten interviews for some, so that's really good to hear on my end. Long term goals are to write a lot, as I do plan on getting a book published. I’ve been so inspired by the books that I've read my past few years at UMass — poetry books as well as books that are more of a mix of photography, poetry, and blogging in one, so I feel like maybe I should do that, too. You never know where writing will take you."
Minor: Art history
Certificate: Asian-American Studies
Emily was an intern at the UMCA from 2019-20 and served as magazine chair for the Asian American Student Association in 2018-19.
“As a queer man on campus, I definitely think that there are a lot of queer people on campus. I’ve met so many different types of people, people that have been queer since middle school/high school and then people who just came out as queer and have like sort of blossomed in college. It’s a really great experience to see all these different types of individuals and seeing them become more free than they were or just develop their individuality. It’s kind of special in a sense; I never had the opportunity to meet someone that identified as non-binary and I have now.
I’m an RA in the honors college and the role definitely shaped a lot of who I am based on leadership values and being able to step into a leadership role. I’m an undergraduate TA for the Spanish department, which is great, as it allows me to work with professors and graduate students who I would have never been able to meet beforehand. I worked with Danielle Thomas and I think I’ve worked with her since freshman year really, I’ve never had a semester without her, she’s kind of like my mentor. I’m a linguistics and spanish double major, so I think every class that I have taken has been impactful because these courses have allowed me to be really open-minded. I'm more aware than when I first entered university about people around the world — ranging from different cultures, different ways of speaking, different norms, different values. I think I’m definitely a changed person based on all those classes because of just consistent exposure to both: languages and different cultures. I’m really appreciative for that.”
Major: Linguistics and Spanish
Nicholas works as an undergraduate TA and research assistant for the Spanish department and a facilities operations assistant for Campus Recreation. He is a member of UMass Club Swimming, a Resident Assistant, and Stonewall Center Peer Mentor. He has recently been accepted to a masters program in linguistics at Oxford University.
“I thought I would get lost [at UMass] because I was so used to the community college I went to, and it being small and having the ability to work with the same professors and have academic relationships with each of them. But I found my little niche at UMass and it’s South College and my English people. I’m over there a lot. It can be lonely being older in class because you’re not a peer of your professor but you’re not a peer of most of the students either, so you’re kind of stuck in the middle of having to balance that, but I’ve had a great time and met some awesome people along the way. Especially working with the official journal of the English Department, Jabberwocky. I have been a part of the journal since I came to UMass, and this year I was the associate editor..
Working with professors Marjorie Rubright and John Hennessy has been one of my greatest experiences here. I’ve been working with Professor Hennessy with my creative writing and with Professor Rubright with more academic studies. I’ve learned a lot in both of those classes about writing and about analyzing literature. I’m also associate editor at Jabberwocky [the student-run undergraduate literary journal], and I've been with them since I came to UMass. I didn’t think I liked Shakespeare but learning about Shakespeare with professor Rubright definitely shaped me. I want to come back and do my masters specifically because I took an English class with [Rubright] when we studied Paradise Lost and I’ve always been interested in how religion intersects with literature, so that's something I’ve been working with her on.
I love thinking deeply about literature, I love looking at a character's motives and what drives them, what are their morals, what are their ethics, do they line up with what they say? I love that type of thing and that’s what I got and that’s what drew me to UMass — the academics, the learning, the literature, knowing that my professors are active in their fields and I can trust that they’re teaching me what they know because they’re in it.
I love UMass. That’s why I plan on coming back.”
Major: English in the University Without Walls
Syki is the associate editor for Jabberwocky, the student-run undergraduate literary journal at UMass Amherst, and a student in the University Without Walls program. She has remained on the Dean's list throughout her time at UMass, and was awarded the English Opportunity and Loughman Memorial scholarships spring 2020.
“There are three main things that made my time at UMass so life changing: my dog AJ (@GoodBoyOnCampus), the Marching Band, and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. AJ lived with
me on campus and he became a local celebrity. I would take pictures of him modeling UMass apparel for his Instagram and Facebook accounts, which grew to a following of over 6,500. We got permission to do sports-themed photo shoots at the Mullins Center, photoshoots with Sam the Minuteman, a photo shoot with Chancellor Subbaswamy, we were interviewed by the Amherst Wire and WMUA, we became Brand Ambassadors to the UMass Store, we were published in the UMass magazine, we made appearances at big events on campus, and so much more.
My favorite part was quite simply just walking AJ through campus while he was decked out in his custom UMass gear and seeing all of the smiles that he created. People would light up when we walked past, and when I asked if they wanted to pet him, their smiles would get even bigger. He loved the attention, and we never turned down the chance to say hello or take pictures with our supporters. He was my best friend in the whole world and I am so proud of everything that we accomplished together during his lifetime. He passed away from old age this April and while I am disappointed that he won’t be at my graduation ceremony I am consoled by knowing that his legacy at UMass will live on forever through memories, his social media accounts, and his younger brother, Comet.
The UMass Minuteman Marching Band made transitioning from a high school with 200 students to a University with over 28,000 feel seamless. The UMMB welcomed me with open arms and before I knew it, I had a family of 400 people who made my first 2 years at UMass extra special. During my freshman year we flew to California to march in the Rose Parade. That entire trip was something I will never forget. My sophomore year we performed the halftime show for a New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium, something I never thought I would get the chance to do. My junior year I decided to discontinue marching band so I could focus on GoodBoyOnCampus but I still kept in touch with members of the band.
The UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture is the 4th best agricultural school in the world for a reason. When I elected to study plant and soil science, I did it because I knew I liked plants and I knew I liked science. I had no idea what to expect, or what kind of career could even result from it. During my 4 years in this program I gained valuable hands-on experience both in the field and in the laboratory that enabled me to determine what path I wanted to take after graduation. After earning my bachelors degree, I plan on moving to Colorado to fight wildfire. Eventually I hope to return to UMass to earn my PhD in plant biology and pursue a career in genetically engineering plants within the laboratory.”
Major: Plant and Soil Science Major in the UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Mike is an undergraduate researcher at Paige laboratory; a supervisor at the Chestnut Mountain Tree Farm in Hatfield, MA; has received his S190-S130 certification in wildland firefighting; and is the creator and owner of the @GoodBoyOnCampus social media accounts.
“I've spent a lot of my time at UMass reflecting on my identity and what it means to me. As a Puerto Rican woman, I wasn't able to fully claim this identity until I met other people both in and out of the classroom who had similar experiences as me. Running parallel to this reclamation of my identity was the realization of how important activism is to me. A combination of working at the Writing Center and learning about the history of oppressed groups in the United States gave me new language to discuss current
issues on campus and in the world around us.
At the Writing Center, I get to have conversations with other tutors about the history of certain literacies in the U.S. and around the globe while also questioning the role of the academic institution in valuing certain literacies over others. We are constantly questioning the power that the university holds and how it influences students from historically oppressed and marginalized groups. In the classroom, I have been able to take classes in the English department that specifically discuss the importance of identity in writing such as gender, sexuality, race, and more.
My enthusiasm for activism led me to become an Admissions Diversity Fellow, a position in which I reached out to prospective and admitted students from historically underrepresented groups who are interested in UMass. My cohorts and I attend student panels to answer questions, host virtual events, and correspond via email and phone with students to make the college admissions process more accessible to them. Overall, my involvement on campus has had a great impact on my personal views and how I want to exist in the world.”
Minor: Political Science
Certificate: Professional Writing and Technical Communication (PWTC) with a specialization in Study and Practice of Writing (SPOW)
Danyea is a UMass Tour Guide, Admissions Diversity Fellow, Writing Center tutor, and member of the Student Alumni Association. She has earned many awards, including a research grant for her honors thesis exploring emotions in the writing center, as well as the English Opportunity Fund to name.
“I’ve had a lot of impactful experiences at UMass. I was involved in many RSOs; I was a tour guide for three years, I was at every protest. However, out of all of the clubs that I have been a part of on this campus, I think the Rebirth Project is probably my favorite. It’s a campus publication, but it’s also a safe space. There’s no judgment when it comes to publishing student journalistic work or art forms here. I kinda helped to bring it up from its bootstraps, now that I think about it.
When I was a freshman, I wasn’t even thinking about journalism. Journalism just fell into my lap, and then I got obsessed with it… and when I found out that there were barely any people of color journalism students, I thought, ‘oh maybe I should switch my major again,’ but then it would’ve been the fourth time that I switched my major! Then I found Rebirth, and I thought, ‘this is what I’ve been looking for since high school.’
I think a big issue on this campus is that people of color are not heard enough… when something controversial happens on campus, everyone speaks over the minorities. But when the minorities are fed up, they come to the Rebirth Project, and I give them the space to write and finally have their voice heard — and I think that’s beautiful.”
Major: Journalism, and Political Science double major; International Relations certificate
Brie is a UMass Tour Guide, editor-in-chief for the Rebirth Project, undergraduate researcher for the journalism and legal departments, and was a fellow for the SBS Academic Fellows Program.
“Being at UMass has really allowed for me to find out new things about myself, especially when it comes to the research that I do. During my time here, I ended up working with one of the department heads of the biochemistry department, and together we worked on fungal genomics, which is something that I never really thought of as correlating with biochemistry. But then within two to three weeks, I was hooked on it! I started talking to my roommate about it every day and she thought that I would never be so excited about fungus.
It was a really positive experience where I also got to explore and learn a bit of bioinformatics work with the supercomputers on campus. This research lab has given me a new perspective on what I want to put my career towards, and now I actually work in human genetics, which is similar. I’m really thankful to be a part of that lab.
I also was a part of the second year program for LeeSIP and, at the time, it was directed by Tracie Gibson. Tracie was a wonderful mentor, advisor, and spokesperson for students in the program along with the science and diversity/minority communities. With her guidance and confidence to ensure the success for every one of her students, she was able to transform the way I looked at my major and future career within the realm of science. I give a lot of credit to this program as it has led me to so many wonderful opportunities within UMass, such as many of the lab experiences I’ve had on campus and also a chance to encourage other students to apply to this wonderful program."
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
MaryKate is a 2019 LeeSIP scholar, a current research assistant for Ma Laboratory and Plant Cell Culture Library, a student model for the ‘Picturing STEM’ project, and an enthusiastic member of the UMass Outing Club, which she encourages any first-year student to join.
“Last year, I had a major accident and fell 40 feet which left me paralyzed below the waist. That has really affected my time at UMass. I missed pretty much a whole year, but I am back on campus now and everything’s been great. I got back on campus in the Fall and I've been able to be here this whole year and kind of adapted to life on campus with a wheelchair. Everyone’s been great here, I’ve been able to get back into my research lab, which has been amazing.
I’ve been working in the Moorman lab, which is part of the psych department. We do behavioral neuroscience research relating to addiction and motivation. I have pretty much been able to come back and work on the same project I was on before I left. I’m working on my honors thesis and I am developing and implementing new technologies to use in neuroscience research. It’s been really satisfying to get back in the lab, everyone has been really accommodating to help when I need it and also letting me figure things out on my own.
Ever since my AP Psychology class in high school, I've been super interested in psych and human behavior and why people do things. When I got to college, I took some bio classes as part of the neuroscience track and that really sparked an interest in the biological aspect of psych. Ever since then, I’ve been super interested in the molecular basis of human behavior.
The campus in general is medium accessible, I would say. Obviously the geography makes things a little difficult but all of the buildings for the most part are pretty accessible except for Morrill, which is where my lab is unfortunately. But disability services has been really great working with me to make sure I get the accommodations I need. Overall, it’s been super helpful to get back to UMass and live independently as I get accustomed to this new life.
After graduation, I was accepted to work in a lab at Harvard. I'm going to be working at Boston Children’s hospital doing spinal cord injury research, which is super personal to me because I have a spinal cord injury because of that accident. So I’m going to be able to work on things directly related to my life, it’s really awesome.”
Major: Dual degree in neuroscience and biology
Jason is the co-president of the BioSci Club, a member of the Neuroscience Club, a Residential Peer Mentor, a Resident Assistant, and a House Council Executive Board member.
“I was in Duly Noted my freshman year and the first semester of my sophomore year and I’m already a music major at the school. I was already doing music things but I knew that I didn’t want to only focus on classical music. Through Duly Noted, I was able to meet a lot of different people from all different majors across the campus and I feel like that painted a picture of all of UMass. It just kind of made me love it more because I was like wow, there are a bunch of characters here. I also liked seeing people who were older than me who were seniors about to graduate; I liked seeing them figure out their post-college things and I was able to just also watch people be passionate about other things. It helped me figure out things for myself, things that are important to me that aren’t music related essentially.
Early on, I auditioned for [The American Institute for Musical Studies (AIMS) in Austria] and essentially was offered a spot right there. I was a very young person amongst a lot of older people, since people usually do AIMS in their senior year, I was very young and I was very afraid. I was honored for the experience. but it was still so clear how young I was. I was very intimidated by that and I spent that trip crying to my mother on the phone, ‘I don't even know why I'm doing this profession because I can't do this and I can't do that and I don't think I'm in the right place.’ Eventually, after about the first week, I got over that and realized I was here for a reason; no one is expecting you to sing as good as these 30-year-olds, they’re expecting you to sing the way you sing now. It taught me a lot about patience and being your own biggest competitor as opposed to comparing yourself constantly to everyone. I found a lot of self-confidence on this trip.
UMass Opera Workshop is sort of a required class for performance majors, and my favorite performance was ‘L’Enfant et les Sortilèges’ because of how whimsical it was. I love singing dramatic things, like intense, dramatic music. It was kind of scary, French, and weird, so I really liked that one. I got to play a dragonfly and then I got to sing this really, really, really beautiful little song and I enjoyed the concept as well.
I’m getting closer and closer to what I want, but I definitely love singing and stage performing, and I definitely want to be in theater music for sure. Right now, I'm studying opera and I love it very much so I wouldn’t be upset if I was singing opera full time. But, I also love musical theater and I love cabaret and I love jazz if I could just perform music full time for the rest of my life — that’s what I want.
I’m going to Juilliard for my masters with the Kovner Fellowship. I’m really excited to add this because that just highlights how much UMass has helped me get there.”
Major: Classical Musical Performance
Natalie was a member of Duly Noted, an avid love of Frank Dining Commons, and took part in three UMass Opera Productions, as well as participated in the American Institute for Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria.
“I was a part of UMass EMS throughout all four years here. I eventually became one of the director boards and I was elected into that position for two years straight. The coordinators of that program were through Environmental Health and Safety; they’re really been so influential on me on how to act as a professional. They didn’t treat me as a college kid. They taught me not only how to manage people, but also how to be approachable and be a teacher. They taught me some of the greatest things I’ve learned here at UMass.
When we all got sent home on that fateful Friday last year, I worked in the emergency room. So, I just went home and I worked the night shift. I used to do that three nights a week, then I would go to class during the day on Zoom. It was really about learning how to find that balance to be a member of the healthcare community. I've had such good people there that have taught me so much about how to be a healthcare provider and how to go into that field. I’m applying to med school in June, so right now it's pretty stressful.
I'm also in the Affect and Social Cognition lab in the psych department. They were doing a lot of study on healthcare providers within the emergency room and I was like, ‘oh, this is right up my alley, I would love to be a part of this lab.’ Dr. Isbell has just been so influential on how to look at these issues that we're dealing with. We study a lot of healthcare disparities with mental health and substance use, and how that affects interactions with patients and how that care might change or not. Using her guidance, she let me design the study. It really started to change the way that I approach things. We know about all these implicit biases. I did my research on substance use issues and how having a substance use disorder can eventually have people view you in a more negative light and how that eventually affects how you would be treated as a patient. I really wanted to study that. I would find myself in the emergency room asking, how am I approaching someone, what am I doing wrong, how can I change and how can I eventually tell other people? Like, let's stop saying drug abusers, let's start referring to this person as a person with substance use disorder. This person has an issue that we need to deal with just like anything else.
My research really showed me you know there's so much that needs to change in healthcare, but that there's also so much that we can do right now to make a difference.”
David is a director of administration for UMass EMS, TA for behavioral neuroscience, and is involved with the Amherst Boys and Girls Club and the UMass iCons program.
“I'm a transfer student, so I came to UMass halfway through my sophomore year. I was really looking for a place to be involved in and work on some of my leadership skills. I quickly got involved with Women of Isenberg. This past year, I was the president and adapted to the whole virtual space of doing a conference that was spread out over the winter instead of eight hours over zoom, and that was a really great experience.
[Through that,] I’ve learned confidence in myself, that I’m able to host a huge conference. Before, I couldn't talk to any new people without freezing up. I learned to trust in others and work on a team. You can’t do everything yourself. You have to rely on people and be able to support them along the way and delegate if you're in a leadership role. And I learned the importance of creating space at the table for people who, in the past, have not been listening to as much as others. We’re trying to be more inclusive with women of color and trying to bring new people to our conference, and provide a platform for them through community outreach.
I also work in Isenburg’s undergraduate programs office. With COVID, we now do a lot of our events virtually. This past year, I hosted coffee chat meetings every Tuesday night with my fellow ambassadors to talk about our experiences, casually chat with current and accepted students, and talk about our experiences so far at UMass. That’s been my baby this past year, and it’s been really successful. We’ve had about 50 to 100 people at each event. They come with all their questions, and I get to help ease their minds before they come, so it really takes me back into the mentoring role. Getting to talk with my peers has been great to learn about their experiences and to create a little community on Tuesday nights over Zoom with these prospective students. It’s the best job ever.”
Major: Hospitality and Tourism Management
Maggie is president of the Women of Isenberg conference and lead student ambassador at the Isenberg Undergraduate Programs Office. She’s also treasurer for the Eta Sigma Delta Honors Society and a member of the Isenberg Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Council.