BA in Integrative Studies

Abby Butler-Cefalo, 2020

Abby Butler-Cefalo

How did you choose your degree program?

Honestly, I found my degree by accident. I came to Mason with a different degree program in mind, then went to a SAIL [Social Action and Integrative Learning] informational session. There, I learned about integrative studies and social justice and human rights. I stayed after and spoke with the person presenting, and within the next 24 hours my major was changed. I've always been passionate about advocacy and standing with marginalized communities, so finding the Social Justice and Human Rights concentration just seemed like it was meant to be. Furthermore, I was drawn to INTS because of how cross disciplinary it is; I wanted as diverse an education as possible.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

I can easily say that nearly every class I've taken in CHSS has been used in my everyday life. What I love about CHSS is that the classes are so discussion based, so I have learned valuable life skills on top of important knowledge. Thanks to my academic experiences, I know how to give an effective presentation, I know how to communicate effectively with people of different viewpoints, I know how to empathize, and I know how to ask hard questions.

What accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud of?

Participating as a research assistance for Susan Howard, who I met through my Integrative Studies degree, is something I'm very proud of. I also completed my own research through OSCAR on the whitewashing of queer history that I am very proud of. My family was also selected as the Family of the Year in 2020. Also, I was one of the people that planned, developed, and launched the Honors College Advisory Board.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible.

Susan Howard: I took a science class with her and her teaching style and passion will always stick with me. I was also a research assistant with her. David Powers Corwin: Taking an LGBT Studies class with them opened my eyes to a part of history that I had never known about. They helped show me what I am passionate about and helped shape what I want to do when I graduate. Furthermore, they were also my mentor when I did research through OSCAR. Blake Silver: Dr. Silver has always been a professor that I can speak to about anything, he has given me so much guidance throughout college and also has offered so much guidance as I begin the application process for graduate school. Martin Abruzzo: While my advisor, he has given me such valuable advice beyond just what classes to take. He has helped me prepare for my future in so many ways and I will always be grateful for all he's done for me.

What advice would you give to any incoming first years?

I would tell them that if they don't have a complete life plan, that is okay! I surely didn't have a solid idea for what I wanted to do with my life when I first came to college, but I knew it would work out how it was supposed to. Take a deep breath, reach out to professors as often as possible, and remember: you've got this!

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

I will be moving to Harrisonburg, Va. shortly after graduation to work for a ministry at James Madison University and in the Harrisonburg community. Long-term, I'm not completely sure what I want to do. As of right now, I would love to get a graduate degree in higher education and work in new student transitions or admissions. Ultimately, I would like to get a PhD in sociology or a related field and become a professor for topics related to social (in)justice, equity, class, and society.