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Social Inequality, Health & Policy Alumni Profiles

Social Inequality, Health, and Policy (formerly Population and Public Policy) alumni have gone on to pursue careers in a variety of fields, including social policy, medicine, non-profit management, and public health. They have also enrolled in a variety of graduate and professional school programs, including programs in Government, Law, Medicine, Public Administration, Public Health, and Sociology. If you are a Social Inequality, Health, and Policy or Population and Public Policy alum, we would love to hear what you’re doing and share your news with other alumni. Please contact us at bdp@austin.utexas.edu any time!

Spotlight

Mazen Elfakhani

Mazen Elfakhani

Graduated Spring 2009
Undergraduate Major: Sociology
BDP strand: Social Inequality
Favorite BDP course: BDP 101: Critical Issues in Social Inequality, Health and Policy



Current graduate/professional program: Sociology, PhD candidate at Harvard University

How did your Bridging Disciplines Program influence your current educational/career path and/or interests? In the BDP program, I had the opportunity to gain exposure to a wide range of ideas from different disciplinary viewpoints and logics on subjects that have always interested me, particularly issues related to social inequality. The BDP showed me the tremendous potential of borrowing insights from different perspectives when tackling any question of social science. While my interest in sociology pre-existed my participation in the BDP, the BDP showed me the tremendous benefit to be gained from having a multidisciplinary viewpoint: joining ideas from different disciplines so as to produce something creative and beneficial that couldn’t have been derived without the interdisciplinary interaction. This made me eager to want to apply such ideas to more sophisticated social problems, and that led me to graduate school.

In what ways did an interdisciplinary education prepare you for what you are currently doing?
Most graduate school programs in my area orient students toward specialization more and more. Students who have not been exposed to multiple disciplinary perspectives end up producing very narrow work, which is usually uninteresting or unhelpful (to society), in my view. Specialized work is greatest when it is informed by a variety of viewpoints. The BDP (1) gave me substantive knowledge about interdisciplinary subjects (e.g. health inequality), and (2) the motivation to always incorporate multiple dimensions, derived from different disciplines and intellectual traditions, into my work. I look back very favorably on the BDP for this reason (and others!).

What advice would you give to current BDP students?
Any BDP plan must ultimately be based on what you intend to do after college, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t general principles I think everyone should follow. First, take classes in subjects that are of interest to you, whether in history, philosophy, government, economics, sociology, or whatever. You won’t have many chances later in your life to do this. Second, take your coursework very seriously. Do all your readings and anything extra. Third, even if you don’t like math/statistics, take a class or two and take it seriously when you do. You’ll benefit from the type of thinking that calculus or linear algebra requires. Fourth, if you’re totally invested in math and more quantitative fields, definitely take some more “qualitative” classes. The world works in more nuanced ways than formal laws can describe, so you want to gain an appreciation for that. Fifth, try to take a class in every social science discipline while at UT, just to get a flavor for how different disciplines go about thinking about things. Sixth, take classes in the BDP that are particularly useful for what you plan to do. I would say divide your courses into four groups: (1) career courses, (2) personal interest courses, (3) eclectic courses, and (4) 1 or 2 math, 1 or 2 qualitative. I think these are general principles that will lead you to success no matter what you end up doing.

Read on to hear about what other Social Inequality, Health, and Policy alumni have been doing since they graduated.

Drew Clinton
Anthropology and Plan II, graduated spring 2007
Drew chose to pursue a BDP in Social Inequality, Health, and Policy to complement his work in Plan II and Anthropology. As a participant in the Mediterranean Crossroads Program, Drew traveled to Egypt, Israel, and Palestine and wrote a research paper on the effects of neoliberal reform on Egyptian agriculture. He also researched the impact of Christian missions with Dr. Robert Woodberry. Drew enrolled in law school at Vanderbilt University after graduation, and he will concentrate on international trade law.

Stephen Fagen
Urban Studies and Sociology, Graduated Spring 2006
Passionate about urban policy and housing specifically, Stephen’s interest in policymaking began with his introduction to the BDP program in Social Inequality, Health, and Policy. After he graduated from UT, he enrolled in the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University to pursue a Masters of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. Stephen is currently the head of the Department of Sanitation Unit at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Management & Budget.

Ariel Yang
Accounting, Graduated Gall 2005
After graduating from UT, Ariel applied the interdisciplinary skills she developed through her BDP to pursue a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning—a field unrelated to her undergraduate major. Her BDP internship experiences with the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Development Program, as well as with the Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, opened up transportation planning as a new career path she had never considered before. During graduate school, Ariel interned with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. She is currently working as a transportation planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.