Zach Fichtenbaum

“You can't win if you don't play.”

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Degree: BA - Political Science
Graduated: May 2011

UT Dallas Achievements & Activities

  • Archer Fellowship
  • Fred Hill Scholarship
  • Wellness Committee
  • Student Government Election Board
  • Contributor - "A Modest Proposal"

Deciding on Political Science

I wish I could attribute my decision to major in political science to a moment's epiphany, but I've been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. I feel that if I have a calling, it's somewhere in the domain of public service. And I'd be lying if I said the television show "The West Wing" didn't have more than a little to do with it!

My EPPS Success

Not to be too cliché, but ending up at UT Dallas' School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences was one of the best things that's happened to me in my life. In less than two years, it's sent me to D.C. for the best semester of my life thus far, given me some of the best friends I've ever had, equipped me with a superb political science education, provided incredible relationships with leading scholars, contributed to my extensive personal growth, and taken me from junior college to being admitted to law school in two years.

For me, my success was about going beyond the syllabus and the achievement of a desired grade. It was about finding ways to actively engage in my own learning and forming friendships with classmates, as well as getting to know my professors. I also think it's helpful to make connections with content across classes and current events. For example, how does what I'm learning in "Crises in Constitutionalism" relate to what I'm learning in "American Public Policy?" And how do those common themes relate to what I'm reading in the newspaper or watching on the news?

Unequivocally, the greatest resource at EPPS is the faculty and staff. I'm not sure how they manage to do it, but it occurs to me that EPPS recruits some of the most renowned scholars and academics in their respective fields. More than publishing a peer-reviewed article, many of my professors are pioneers in their disciplines. Unlike what one might expect at a large, public university with excellent programs and prestigious faculty, the professors are down to earth, will quickly learn your name, and are eager to support students in and out of the classroom. The staff of advisors, administrators, deans and other personnel have also been essential to my success at EPPS and UT Dallas.

It's the sum of opportunities, resources and support provided by EPPS and UT Dallas in combination with my own efforts. I couldn't imagine having had these opportunities had I gone anywhere else.

Plans for the Future

My plan is to go onto law school.

Advice to Prospective EPPS Students

Here are some suggestions that I believe have served me well:

  • Get to know your professors, advisors, administrators and peers. Go to office hours occasionally, even if it's just to introduce yourself, learn about your professor, to seek career or academic advice, or even to discuss something not specifically related to class.
  • If interested in pre-law or graduate school in political science, public affairs, policy or a related field, get to know the pre-law advisor, Anne Dutia, and political science professor/pre-law director Dr. Anthony Champagne. Furthermore, join the John Marshall Pre-Law Society, even if law school is just a consideration.
  • Participate actively and passionately in class discussions.
  • EPPS and UT Dallas provide extensive tools and resources, but it's up to you to be proactive in seeking them out.
  • Apply, apply, apply; participate, participate, participate; and make sure the answer is almost always "yes." This pertains to almost everything: extracurricular activities, campaigning for student government and campuswide committee appointments, academic programs, fellowships, scholarships, awards, etc. Say "yes" as often as possible without spreading yourself too thin, or compromising your academic success or personal well-being. A professor asks you to help conduct some research? Do it. Saw something interesting about Alternative Spring Break? Give it a shot. A professor tells you about a lecture or seminar? Go. Is there an honors class you want to take, but aren't in the honors program? Just ask. Of course, you're not going to get everything you apply for and every opportunity you say "yes" to isn't going to change your life for the better. But you can't win if you don't play. UT Dallas has an incredibly generous way of rewarding participation, passion and engagement.

Other Interests

My free time is offensively ordinary. I love spending time with friends. I'm especially a fan of visiting friends during weekend trips to Austin. I like good, or even not-so-good, television - and food. And playing Brickbreaker on my phone, but I'm not too awesome at it.