Senior Spotlight: Zak Feldman

Pomona Environmental Analysis major from Chicago, Illinois

For Pomona senior Zak Feldman, post-graduation entails a gap year and then plans to attend medical school. However, it wasn’t always that simple. Feldman, an Environmental Analysis major, made the decision to pursue his interest in psychoanalysis pretty late in the game—which meant deciding to become pre-med right before his junior year.

“If you asked me before my junior year, I had no interest in going to medical school,” Feldman said. During his freshman and sophomore years, he took classes in over 14 departments, sampling his likes and dislikes. Eventually, he found his niche in the Environmental Analysis department.

But despite his study of the environmental, his plans for the future stem fromhis attraction to clinical psychology and the medical profession.

“I grew up around social work, and my entire childhood got me into the idea of working with the psychological population. It’s only more recently that I’ve taken it in a medical direction,” Feldman said.

As a sophomore, Feldman worked as an intern in a state-run psychiatric ward in Pomona, which helped him to weigh a future in the field against one in Environmental Analysis. Ultimately, he decided not to pursue a professional application of his major, in favor of psychiatry. During the summer after his sophomore year, after talking to a group of doctors at a dinner party, Feldman realized that to do as much clinical work as possible, a medical degree was the best route to go. He got his first taste of research through Pomona College’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), doing research on attachment with psychology professor Jessica Borelli.

“For a while I was convinced I wanted to do a Ph.D. program, but that involves less interaction with patients, and I wasn’t interested in that,” Feldman said.

Though he is certain that he is going to be a doctor of some kind, those plans will come to materialize a good ten years from now, after many years of schooling. In the meantime, Feldman has some very rewarding experiences lined up during his gap year.

One post-graduation plan is to go back to Chicago for a year to work at a residential school for children with severe emotional disturbances. Feldman worked there two summers ago, and would become a counselor again for the kids. His other idea is to work for Horseshoe Farm, a program run by a Pomona alum, through which four recent liberal arts graduates live in a halfway house and take care of mentally ill women. The latter option is definitely the more adventuresome of the two, especially as the program is located in Alabama, far from home for Feldman.

Overall, Feldman’s interests have been nourished by Pomona’s ability to work collaboratively with him and be flexible towards his pursuits.

“Pomona was really willing to let me choose [pre-med] past the last minute, and I don’t think anywhere else would let you do that quite like that,” Feldman said.

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