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Interdisciplinary Studies Alumni in News
- Shawna Bellew, Hometown: Orlando
- Major: Interdisciplinary studies, UCF
- Background: Adoptive father delivered her. Scuba diving and soccer are favorite activities.
- Why UCF: "I felt confident that it would be a top-notch education because of its location, conjunction with the undergrad schools and its willingness to form relationships with the community."
It's really easy to get lost in the noise of a campus as big as UCF. There are so many majors and classes to choose from, so many opportunities in every direction. As a graduate from the Interdisciplinary Studies Department, I might be biased in saying that it offers a very unique experience—especially for those looking for a more holistic learning environment. I always felt that the structure of traditional majors weren't intuitive to my way learning and thinking about the world. Knowledge isn't contained in categories; the hard sciences and social sciences aren't as far away from each other in their methods and discoveries as we're made to believe. IDS allowed me to interrogate the ways in which seemingly disparate disciplines are in conversation with each other. It also gave me the opportunity to explore topics broadly and these experiences, ultimately, helped me to focus and specialize on my areas of interest. There is a real sense of responsibility you have when considering this major. You're not just fitting into a schedule—you're designing coursework that speaks across disciplines in critical and imaginative ways. I feel like this practice prepared me for the challenges of graduate school where you're expected to take courses that aid in writing original scholarship. Interdisciplinary studies departments are producing some of the most cutting-edge research out there precisely because their students get to grow in different directions and push against the assumptions of traditional disciplinary boundaries. The IDS program isn't just for people who want to pursue higher education, though. Before deciding to go back to school for my doctorate, I was working at a non-profit organization in downtown Orlando organizing around issues of poverty and incarceration. My interdisciplinary experience enabled me to see the intersections of economics, political theory, and social theory in many of the intense situations and policy debates we came up against. My experiences at UCF and in the IDS program have shaped me as a scholar in meaningful ways that I carry into my work every day—in my research methods, approach to projects, and teaching style. I'm grateful for my IDS journey as it has led me on a wonderful winding and fulfilling path.
Interdisciplinarity is crucial to a modern world. Problems that we encounter today require creativity, tact, and an open mind. Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) offers just the opportunity to take charge in creatively developing your curriculum to help you succeed in your professional and academic goals. My personal goal is to serve the American population by protecting public health and preventing disease. I utilized the IDS program to allow me to strategically develop an interdisciplinary understanding of health, science, and policy. The IDS program has helped me grasp the importance of approaching my professional goals without the boundaries of a specific discipline. I believe the program has helped me become a distinguished public health practitioner where complex thinking and discipline integration is key to success.
Since graduating in December of 2007, I have started my career in nonprofit work at a women's health organization in North Central Florida. I am very dedicated to my job and the mission of the agency. Some students feel nonprofit work is a hard field to break into, but I know there are lots of great opportunities out there for young people who are interested. Nonprofit is a fast growing field and job competition is steep: that's why getting an internship in your field of interest is so crucial! As a student at UCF, I co-founded a reproductive rights organization, VOX, which led to an internship at Orlando's Planned Parenthood affiliate. Taking that internship changed the direction of my life and I have never looked back. For my last semester at UCF, I traveled to London, England to study and work at the House of Commons, Great Britain's governing body. I interned with the Minister of State for Health, which cemented my interest and commitment to women's health issues. Living abroad was a fantastic experience; the highlight would have to be meeting the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown (see photo). My experience as a Liberal Studies major gave me the flexibility and wide range of skills I needed to make this stay in London a success. My advice to students interested in nonprofit is to find something you're passionate about, get as much extracurricular, volunteer and professional experience you can while you are still a student…and to see the world while you're young!
I have worked a variety of jobs before entering a career in law enforcement in August 1996, when I was hired by the Winter Haven Police Department. After serving in as a patrol officer and detective, I was promoted to sergeant in October 2002. I am currently assigned as the department's Internal Affairs supervisor, Public Information Officer, and Extra-Duty Detail Coordinator. In January 2002, I returned to UCF as a graduate student and earned my Masters in Criminal Justice July 2004. Since that time, I have been an adjunct instructor at the Kenneth C. Thompson Institute of Public Safety at Polk Community College since January 2004. I regularly teach a variety of courses to Law Enforcement Basic Recruit classes and Advanced/Specialized courses for current active law enforcement officers. I have been married to my wife Kari since August 2003 and we have a daughter, Caitlin (cute little girl in photo), who will 4 on September 30, 2008.
Since graduating in December of 2007, I have kept my position in real estate hoping it will eventually boom again and it is slowly coming back. I made lots of contacts at UCF, which helped me obtain some Marketing clients. I wanted to note that going back to school was one of the best things I could have done self-esteem wise. It gave me a renewed sense of myself and I feel that the time and money was worth every effort. I am proud to be affiliated with UCF and hope to broaden my horizons further in the future.
Choosing this major and being a Burnett Honors College student, was a good decision because it helped broaden my areas of education. My Health Sciences minor exposed me to courses outside of the narrow scientific arena which many pre-medical students feel they must adhere to in order to get accepted into medical school. It allowed me to take interesting courses which are an important part of the medical field. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take these courses prior to beginning medical school. In addition, my major/minor track allowed me to balance my rigorous science courses with other courses associated with issues observed in our every-day lives and covered topics relating to nutrition, health care needs of the elderly, and healthcare in the United States, to name a few. I feel that these courses will be an asset for me when I become a medical doctor. After graduating from UCF, I worked as a Writing Consultant at Valencia Community College for a few months before heading off to medical school. Currently, I am a first year medical student at the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
I received the spring issue of the IS newsletter and thought I should share my story with fellow IS graduates. Since graduating in 1996 I have been working in the Information Security career field. I held several positions to include VP of Information Security for TracFone Wireless, Inc. But more interesting is where I find myself today. Currently I am working as an independent contractor in Iraq, sup-porting US forces in the fight against terrorism. My responsibilities include conducting combat forensics on captured enemy media. I am one of the few civilians able to go out into enemy territory and conduct forensic investigations to identify and defeat the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) cells in Iraq. I am including a picture to share with others. GO KNIGHTS!!
Upon graduation from UCF in 2009, Kelly furthered his education with an MBA in Healthcare Management from Saint Leo University, while starting up a healthcare business & IT organization from the ground up. Since then, he has corresponded with over 100 medical professionals throughout the community, educating and coordinating various physician support activities. Kelly says, "My business takes an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and is a healthcare business industry innovator. I remember being a student in the program and wondering what I was actually going to do with this degree, and does it make sense? Turns out the IS program was the best possible opportunity for me and my business." Kelly, owner of Healthcare Business & IT, and UCF Medical student Dennrik Abrahan got involved with Hands Up For Haiti. While Kelly works on rebuilding the website for the cause, Abrahan is in Haiti doing medical mission work for the organization. This organization offers a variety of medical services such as vaccination clinics, prenatal outreach, dentistry, education, and teaching efforts. Their goal is to bring hope and to create sustainable medical care throughout the country.
Interdisciplinary Studies graduate Rachael Woods is working with a non-profit organization called North East Sea Turtles (NEST). While studying at the University of Central Florida, Woods pursued her interests in Environmental Studies. "Being an IS student, I was able to take several upper level biology courses in addition to my environmental studies courses. Through this combination of courses, I developed an interest for wildlife conservation" Woods says. As a junior, she was an intern at the Central Florida Zoo, where she developed an appreciation and interest in education the public and animal husbandry. During her senior year, Woods spent the summer with the UCF Marine Turtle Research Program. Woods currently lives in Charlotteville, Tobago, working for NEST, working on a volunteer and research project to educate the public on the importance of protecting turtles and the negative impacts of poaching.
My undergraduate research experience at UCF taught me scientific rigor and the fundamental skills to interpret raw data. I was able to apply these skills to my bench research project in medical school. I utilize these skills today to assess the medical literature and incorporate it into my internal medicine practice.
Following the completion of my Liberal Studies degree I worked as an intern at NBC Universal at Universal Studios Hollywood in Physical Production while attending graduate school. I went on to receive my Master of Fine Arts in Film/TV Production at Chapman University in Orange, California. I currently work at Paradigm in Beverly Hills, which is one of the "Big 5" agencies in Hollywood. At Paradigm I am an assistant to the co-chair of the Physical Production department. My main responsibility is to provide complete support for a busy co-chair and agent of the physical production television and film department with 100+ clients working on over 20 high-profile network, feature and cable series. Receiving a liberal studies degree helped me achieve my career goals by giving me the platform to study what I was truly interested in and explore ideas and interests that I would not have been able to study if I wasn't a liberal studies major. I knew I wanted to go on to graduate school and study film after UCF; however I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do in film. Therefore my concentrations within my liberal studies degree were: film, Judaic studies and English. I have stood out from other candidates on career interviews because I am always complemented on my degree choices, and this always leads to discussion on why I choose those three interests to get my degree in. My liberal studies degree has guided me to a career in physical production in Hollywood, where one day I aspire to work as a creative executive in physical production at a major studio.
After getting a degree in Liberal Studies, "I went on to get my Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Coastal Zone Studies at the University of West Florida". I am currently the "Senior Management Analyst at the City of Encinitas". I "oversee assigned programs and administrative support functions including budgeting, purchasing, or other specialized department programs; propose, write, and/or monitor complex contracts, agreements, and state and federal grants, including FEMA and Safe Route to School grants; compile, prepare and present City Council staff reports and resolutions". "While working on my Liberal Studies degree, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do as a career. However, taking classes in psychology, interpersonal communication, education, and art helped me learn about myself and how to interact in the "real world" and has played an important role in my current dealings with city residents, city council members, other public and private agencies, co-workers, and everyone in between. Plus, I have been dubbed the peace maker at my job in local government here at the City of Encinitas. Somebody should make a sign for me like Sally Brown has in Charlie Brown cartoons: "The Doctor is in."
After Graduation, I moved to Chicago to work on the Chicago Board of Trade. After a year on the exchange I realized this was not the direction for me long term." After trying a few different business models with a friend offering financing services to motorcycle dealers, "we started offering our existing clients (motorcycle dealers) extended warran-ties and other warranty products to offer to their customers. That model stuck, and we are close to breaking $10 million in sales this year and have a staff of around 20 people throughout the US and supply products to all 50 states. We are based out of Jupiter and Orlando Florida. We bought out all of our investors since then and Barry and I own the company 50/50. I am the Chief Operating Officer and have been since 1998." "As far as Liberal Studies and how it helped me, I would say this: When I called my uncle, who is a millionaire many times over from Chicago, and said, what can I take in school that will help me in my career, long term? His answer was Liberal Studies." His reasoning "was that a well rounded person that knew a little about a lot was more successful in starting and running companies than someone that was myopically focused on one thing.
In May of 2003 I found myself accomplishing the unbelievable goal of conferring two master's degrees, one in Liberal Studies. Two weeks after graduation I was hired at Brevard Community College as an adjunct faculty member teaching sociology and later psychology. I also started teaching at Valencia Community College in May 2004. Last year I was awarded "Outstanding Adjunct of the Year" for 2005. Other jobs since earning my Master's in Liberal Studies include teaching sociology classes at Barry University and industrial psychology and human development at the University of Phoenix. A Master's in Liberal Studies has made me a marketable consultant and teacher. Graduate students from the Interdisciplinary Program can benefit teaching in their area of choice. Education, women's studies, psychology, sociology, and many other areas of concentration are offered in the Interdisciplinary Program. I am now working on my doctorate in Health Psychology at Walden University. As I look back at why getting a second master's was fruitful, it has been a personal journey as well as wise career move that is leading me to different full-time possibilities with county and state organizations.
Since retaining my Liberal Studies degree, I started my own firm, American Investigative Specialists, Inc. http:///www.fraudandsecurityexperts.com, providing financial fraud and security consulting services in the Central Florida region. I'm a security expert and fraud examiner. My responsibilities are to provide fraud prevention and safety & security assessment programs to reduce financial fraud and security protection to persons and property. At this point in my career, I'm thinking about going back and earning my masters in Criminology so that I can teach my methods and philosophies to students who are interested in my field. My Liberal Studies degree was of utmost importance to me because it gave me the opportunity to learn multiple disciplines that enhance my consulting services; which enables me to offer a quality service to Central Florida. Thinking back on when I was walking on the UCF campus as a student, I'm thankful that I decided to attend UCF. Being a part of a University that is still growing and reading about future projects the University wants to accomplish is very exciting to me. As a UCF alumnus, I am very anxious to see how far UCF can grow and how our University can be an asset to the Central Florida community
I am a graduate student in the Master of Science in Forest Resources and Conservation program at the University of Florida. I have an assistantship working with Dr. Taylor Stein, a recreation and ecotourism specialist in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. This semester, I designed a site plan, to be used as a guide for developing a recreation park along the St. Mary's River in Baker County (west of Jacksonville). This project utilized my GIS skills, which I obtained as a requirement of the Environmental Studies program when I was a student at UCF. I chose Environmental Studies because I wanted to learn about all the facets of work in natural resources: ecology, policy, and even the philosophical lenses through which our society views the natural landscape. I was not satisfied with focusing on just one of these interdependent subgroups. What I left the program with was a holistic understanding of the current state of our natural world and how humans exist within it. I felt a need to go back to school to reinforce the ecology portion of my undergraduate education. I used my ecology background and GIS proficiency to gain access into the MSFRC program at UF. Here, I plan to move more towards building my ecology and forestry skill set. I have frequently relied on my interdis-ciplinary knowledge while working on the St. Mary's Shoals Project, as well as the courses in my graduate degree program. I plan to pursue a career in forestry with a land management agency that has ecological restoration and amenity uses as its primary management objectives
After realizing that pre-med and pre-law were not for me, "I learned about the Liberal Studies program. After reading what it was about I thought, "this is the perfect degree!". All of my friends at UCF were jealous that I was able to take almost ANY class I wanted that met my interests. It is really the perfect degree to have. During job interviews I was able to tell future employers that "I am not good at one thing, I am good at everything". I chose minors in Spanish, Communication/Fine Arts, Psychology, Business and Health Sciences. Since gradua-tion, I have worked several exciting jobs including working as a Sales Manager at several major resorts includ-ing Le Parker Meridien in NYC. While at Le Parker Meridien I was the contact for the Rosie O'Donnell Show and met several celebrities. Currently, I am doing my dream job of Pharmaceutical Sales in NYC and my degree helps me in this field by utilizing all of the areas I studied. One of the Communication classes I took even helped a side-track career and helped me follow a dream. In 1992 there was a class in Communication offered called "Humor in Communication". I had such a great time (in that course) and felt so good that had aspirations of doing stand up comedy. While living in NYC, I decided to fulfill this dream and have been doing Stand Up comedy all over NYC for the last seven years including a stint on a reality show called "Last Comic Standing". Therefore, I think a Liberal Studies degree is the greatest degree to have and the most fun degree to work towards. How many people do you know that love all of their classes in their major??? It's because we can pick what classes suit our needs and personality. If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose a Liberal Studies/Liberal Arts degree.... Have a great year and good luck!"
The most important point of my life story is that you never know where life will take you. After graduating with my Liberal Studies degree, I worked for USAirways because I loved to travel. I have traveled to every place in the song "Kokomo" plus a ton of other places! However, after 911, I had to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At that time, my oldest son was starting his master's degree so I challenged him to a race to see who could graduate with their masters degree first. We both started in August of 2003 and we both finished in December 2005! It was a rewarding accomplishment! I started selling real estate because it worked into my school schedule and I ended up loving it! Then, after I received my MBA, Corpo-rate Performance Institute called me and asked me to teach customer service skills to Business Management students because of my wide educational background and the 22 years of customer service that I had. I believe that the combination of my Liberal Studies Degree, my MBA and my career experience prepared me for the next step . . . a step that I would not have foreseen in 1987. My liberal studies degree gave me the flexibility to move down different paths as my life and careers changed. If I had graduated with an education degree I would have been stuck in the educational system. But with a liberal studies degree, I have been able to move into fields in to-tally different areas and go on to get degrees and certifications in different areas. It also gave me a wide foundation of knowledge that enabled me to go to graduate school and achieve in a variety of areas such as selling real estate and teaching management classes.
Receiving my degree in Liberal Studies really afforded me the opportunity to highlight my many interests in careers and fields of study. I felt that my program really allowed me to develop as a well rounded student. As a result, this degree has allowed me the ability to contribute a unique insight and knowledge in my career. The Liberal Studies Program and my Advisor really played an integral role in shaping me to be a better candidate for the workforce. This program allowed me to develop my dreams and turn them into my career goals. Not only did the program allow me to structure a degree suited for me and my interest but the Advisors really assisted me beyond what courses to take by providing a mentorship that was individualized and memorable. Since graduation with my degree in Liberal Studies, I continued my education and received my Master's degree in Educational Leadership-Student Personnel Track from UCF. Since then, I have pursued my career as an Academic Advisor in the Office of First Year Advising and Exploration. Now I am blessed with the opportunity to create opportunities for success for students at UCF!