Indie Major

Indie Major is a podcast devoted to the stories and visions of Individualized Majors at the University of Connecticut. Special thanks to UConn Enrichment Programs and WHUS Radio for their generous support. Our music is by Heatlamp.

Individualized Major: Visual Storytelling for Children
Graduation Date: December 2023

Why Individualized? I chose to be an individualized major because I had interest in both the child development domain as well as the visual production field, but I didn't want to limit myself to one field or the other. Being an individualized major allowed me to pursue both interests.
Most memorable course or project from your major? I loved all of my classes for my major, but one of the most memorable courses was my Advanced Visual Journalism course with Professor Steven Smith. One of the projects I did was a photo essay, where I photographed my friends in two different ways to portray the different stories they have to tell. I loved this project because Professor Smith helped me improve my photography and editing skills tenfold. I also loved this class because it was very small and I got to know my classmates very well.
An individual who inspired you? My former martial arts instructor Jenny had the biggest influence on me, as she was the one to truly foster my interest and passion for child development and teaching.
Future plans? I hope to be in the production field working as either an editor or camera operator for fictional TV shows or movies, with a general audience of children and adolescents. Additionally, I think it would be really cool if I could work with middle school age students teaching them video production and photography skills. They could use their skills to create their own short films or photographs, and at the end of their projects they would share their work with their friends and family in a red carpet premiere!

Click here to see Emily's documentary on Multimodal Classrooms!

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Individualized Major: Integrative Exercise Physiology and Nutrition
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why Individualized? I chose an individualized major because I saw an opportunity to create a plan of study that integrated several aspects of two different majors and that was tailored to opportunities I see within my future.
Most memorable course or project from your major? The most memorable course I’ve taken is biomechanics, as this is the class that solidified my desire to study exercise science and one day go to physical therapy school.
An individual who inspired you? An individual who has inspired me was the professor I had for biomechanics, Dr. Lindsey DiStefano. She always taught and spoke with a sense of enthusiasm and intelligence that got me progressively more excited to learn more and one day put the knowledge into practice as she has.
Future plans? I plan to attend physical therapy school, and sometime in my future I would love to be involved in personal training and lifestyle coaching aimed towards helping individuals achieve their goals and live a healthier life in a world that has made it increasingly difficult.

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Individualized Major: Creative Writing and Film
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why Individualized? I've been interested in writing and analyzing films for years, but I had never explored them in an academic setting. As I neared the end of my mathematics major, I knew I would have some flexibility and time to explore other topics. Thus, I began looking into ways that I could explore areas like creative writing and film through my courses and fortunately stumbled upon the possibility of creating an individualized major.
Most memorable course or project from your major? One of the most memorable courses I have taken as an individualized major is Film Writing (ENGL 3707/DMD 3830). In this course, we watched short films, analyzed specific aspects of different movie scenes, and learned how to create screenplays. This class allowed me to be creative and delve deeper into an area of filmmaking that I had been curious about. Through the course, I was even able to write my own short screenplay.
An individual who inspired you? My family has served as a continual source of inspiration throughout my life. They always push me to be the best I can and support me in all of my pursuits. Additionally, I am creatively inspired by many writers and directors. I am a big fan of the projects of Mike Flanagan, in particular.
Future plans? As of now, I am planning on pursuing graduate studies in mathematics. Although things are subject to change, I am aiming to earn my Ph.D. and potentially become a professor. I hope to continue writing screenplays in my spare time.

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Individualized Major: Global Business in Health Innovation
Graduation Date: May 2025

Why Individualized? I chose to pursue an Individualized Major in "Global Business in Health Innovation" because it aligns perfectly with my passion for bridging the gap between science and business in the healthcare sector. While studying Biomedical Engineering initially, I realized I craved a broader perspective on health that could encompass both my technical expertise and strategic thinking skills. My Individualized Major has allowed me to tailor my studies to precisely fit my unique interests and career goals, integrating courses in global health, business development, and research methods. Through this specialized curriculum, I aim to become a leader in driving positive change and innovation in healthcare.
Most memorable course or project from your major? One of the most memorable courses from my major was "Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ENGR 3500)" taught by my advisor, Leila Daneshmandi, and Sam Nanayakkara. This course not only provided a comprehensive understanding of innovation and entrepreneurship principles but also challenged me to apply these concepts to real-world scenarios within the healthcare industry. Through developing a start-up company, and engaging projects and discussions, I gained valuable insights into the complexities of bringing innovative health solutions to market, further solidifying my passion for bridging the gap between science and business in the pursuit of health innovation.
An individual who inspired you? An individual who has profoundly inspired me is my Yeh-Yeh (Grandpa). Despite immigrating to the United States with nothing, he demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination. Rising through the ranks, he eventually became the Chief Resident and Head of the Faculty at the Outpatient Clinic of Beth Israel in Manhattan. His service as a major in the US Army for medicine during the Vietnam War exemplified his commitment to helping others, a value he carried throughout his life. Alongside my grandma, he established and ran a thriving private medical practice for over 40 years. What truly stands out to me is his unwavering work ethic; he continued to tirelessly work and care for others until his very last day, leaving behind a legacy of compassion and dedication that continues to inspire me daily.
Future plans? In the future, I plan to continue my involvement with Future Health Leaders, a club I co-founded and currently serve as the vice president, as it allows me to facilitate connections and support within the healthcare community. Additionally, I will continue my role as the Chief Operating Officer of a pharmaceutical company, leveraging my experience to contribute to its growth and success. My ultimate career goal is to also be in operations, strategy, and business development within the biotechnology sector. Considering further education, I am considering pursuing an MBA to deepen my understanding of business principles and enhance my leadership skills. Looking ahead, I aspire to establish a nonprofit organization dedicated to student education or providing assistance to those in need, allowing me to give back to the community and support future generations in achieving their goals.

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Individualized Major: Global Health and Social Inequalities
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why Individualized? Coming into college, I wanted to make sure that I had a major I was passionate and enjoyed talking about. I always knew I was interested in Medicine, Public Health, and global issues, but as a premed student it was difficult to combine these interests into one major without steering away from the hard sciences. This program not only allowed me to combine my interests, but also gave me a unique major that is relevant in today’s world. The courses in my plan of study helped me truly capture the essence of how social inequalities play a role in global health.
Most memorable course or project from your major? My most memorable project was a research project alongside my advisor, Dr. Ryan Talbert, about the impact of the Civil Rights Era Ku Klux Klan activities in the 1960s, and the rise of mass incarceration in the 1970s. This project challenged me to think critically about historical events and how their lasting
impacts are still being felt today. I was able to work with him and present it at the Annual Eastern Sociological Conference, alongside hundreds of presenters across the region.
An individual who inspired you? My mother has inspired me a lot to pursue this major. Having redone her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree, she understands everything that I have endured in college and has been very supportive of my decision to pursue my interests.
Future plans? With graduation around the corner, I will be taking growth years to travel and study for the MCAT before I apply to medical school.

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Individualized Major: Government, Policymaking, and Law
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why individualized? I always knew that I wanted to be an accountant–but I didn't always know that I wanted to be involved in government, too. My individualized major allows me to academically explore government and policymaking in an intuitive way that complements my accounting background. Through this program, I am able to engage in courses I would not have otherwise been able to take.
Most memorable course or project from your major? The simulation that wrapped up "International Organizations and Law" (HRTS 3418) was a blast! Our task was to conclude a new international treaty about outer space exploration and mining rights, though various "countries" (groups) had different domestic goals. We had to negotiate on the international level while negotiating bilateral deals. It was an exercise in organized chaos, but it was incredibly engaging–and fun. Kudos to Professor David Richards for organizing it.
An individual who inspired you? There are so many! My brother is a huge inspiration because he is always looking for ways to positively impact others and use his skills to make the world a better place. Though I will say, if you'd asked me a few years ago if he was my inspiration, my answer would probably have been different. Look at that personal growth!
Future plans? I will be joining KPMG as a Federal Auditor in their Washington, D.C. office in the fall. In that role, I will work with teams across the country to audit the financial statements of various governmental agencies and ensure they are fulfilling their Congressional mandates.

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Erin

Individualized Major: Visual Media
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why individualized? I wanted to make sure that I was making the most out of my college career. In terms of time and money, I didn't want to spend my time taking classes that weren't exactly what I was looking for/needed. Being able to design my own plan of study meant I could ensure my time was being used as productively as possible.
Most memorable course or project from your major? My most memorable course was the digital production class I took last year. It had the most hands-on approach and by far taught me the most about production and advertising. My most memorable project was probably my capstone project where I had local ex-punks come into a photo studio so I could shoot a series of portraits of them in their punk attire.
An individual who inspired you? An individual who inspired me would probably be Dan Buttery. He kind of acts as my mentor with photography, I spend a lot of time with him and he always encourages me to take my ideas over the top.
Future plans? As of right now, my plan is to move to Austin, TX and pursue some kind of career in music. I've considered positions such as artist relations, marketing and music supervising. Apart from this I plan to continue exploring concert photography and merch design as a side gig.

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Krithika

Individualized Major: Health Policy and Racial Disparities
Graduation Date: May 2025

Why individualized? During high school, I became knowledgeable about healthcare disparities through a capstone project. I knew that I wanted to continue this work and build my knowledge in college. However, the courses I wanted to take regarding Health Policy were in numerous schools and colleges and there was no plan of study that really spoke to me. So, I decided to take the course on interdisciplinary studies and create my own plan of study to support my interests.
Most memorable course or project from your major? The most memorable courses from my major are classes taught by Professor Laura Mauldin, specifically Gender and Science in the department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Biotechnology, Disability, and the Family in the department of Human Development and Family Sciences.
An individual who inspired you? My Amma and Appa (mom and dad) inspired me to pursue this individualized major because at a time where I was unsure whether to pursue a major that's never been done before with no preexisting postgraduate opportunities provided by a school or college, they reminded me to take risks and make my own journey. They gave me the confidence and support to try new things and take college one day at a time.
Future plans? This is such a hard question even though graduation is not that far away, but, ideally, I hope to be working in spaces with health policy initiatives before I attend medical school. Whether that be through non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, or an MD/MPP, I know this knowledge will aid my service as a healthcare provider.

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Paleontology

Individualized Major: Paleontology as Outreach & Education
Graduation Date: May 2024

Why individualized? I knew what I wanted to study, and there was no major at UConn that really fulfilled my plan so I decided to make my own.
Most memorable course or project from your major? The three weeks I spent in South Africa as part of my South African Field Ecology Camp. Incredible wildlife and life-changing relationships.
An individual who inspired you? Many sources of inspiration, but special mention to Darren Naish, who showed me that a great passion for the history of life can lead to great success if you pursue the work.
Future plans? Would love to work in a museum setting, designing and facilitating curricula about dinosaurs to school groups and the broader public.

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Kelly

Individualized Major: Health Disparities among Marginalized Groups
Graduation Date: May 2024
Why individualized? I chose an Individualized Major due to the different perspectives it entails. It was intriguing to combine different disciplines into what I wanted to study as I knew it would better equip me for my plans. As my concentration is on health disparities, I knew that I wanted to learn about health equity not only from the science perspective but also drawing in the social sciences to cover the intersectionality of this field.
Most memorable course or project from your major? The course that inspired me to create my major was "Science, Medicine and Race," taught by Matthew Hughey. This Sociology course taught me not only the current medical practices but also the historical context that affects the overall well-being of the patient population. It made me realize the importance of cultural competency and cultural humility. Although treating all patients equally sounds fair, different barriers affect different populations; therefore, an equitable approach needs to be learned.
An individual who inspired you? My father has inspired many of my accomplishments. He has continued to push me to make choices for myself and take the leap of faith. An individualized major is daunting due to the lack of a set study plan. However, this is also its benefit as you are the one in power to take the courses you want to help you grow.
Future plans? I'm planning on pursuing a Master of Public Health after graduating. Through this education, I want to continue to learn more about the social determinants of health and the actionable steps I can take to advocate for communities.

Episode Transcript