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Five Minutes with APPAM Student Member Dylan Bellisle

June 19, 2019 11:15 AM

APPAM’s Five Minutes with… series was introduced in March 2019 to illuminate the work of individual APPAM members, and promote connections between members based on their shared interests.  The opportunity to be profiled on our website and social media through these interviews is an exclusive APPAM member benefit!  We encourage those APPAM members interested in being interviewed to email




Name: Dylan Bellisle

Location: Chicago, IL

Place of Employ and Position: University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Doctoral Candidate

Degrees, including Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago, Master’s in Social Work; University of South Florida, Bachelor’s in Psychology

LinkedIn or Professional Website:


1. When did you become interested in a degree in the field?

Though I was unable to articulate my specific interest in policy at the time, since high school I had an interest in community and societal issues, and a curiosity of how to create a more just and equitable world. This curiosity was elevated by my work as a Peace Corps volunteer, as this experience helped refine my concern about economic inequality and the inequitable access to education, resources and opportunity throughout the world.

During the first semester of my MSW program, a professor commented on how my concerns and interests were at the “macro-level” and encouraged me to enroll in the community health and urban development track at the school. This education lay the groundwork for my professional work as a community organizer and program manager for research at a nonprofit organization. It was this last experience, which involved working directly with university faculty, that cemented my interest in going back to school to obtain a Ph.D in social work as I started to have very specific questions of my own. As an aspiring scholar, I view academia as the ideal location to conduct high quality critical research into important social issues, while simultaneously having the humbling opportunity to help shape the next generation of critical social workers who will work collaboratively to solve the societal and community level issues we will face in the future.

2. As a student of public policy, what has been your most meaningful or personally beneficial research experience to date?

As a scholar who leans towards qualitative methods, I will say that the most personally beneficial research experience I have had so far is talking with people one-on-one in efforts to understand their own perspective on public policy and social issues. This research is formative to my own understanding of social problems, and has challenged assumptions that I have about what matters most and how policies actually work or don’t work as intended.

3. For many in the field, the values that they’ll hold dear throughout their careers are established while they’re still students.  What values do you think you’ve developed through your program to carry you through your career?  

My doctoral studies have strengthened my value of justice along with my general curiosity. These values motivate my research towards understanding what works, who it works for, who it does not work for, why it works as it does, and how it could be changed to be fair to all.

4. How has your understanding of diversity evolved since you started your program?

People and culture are constantly changing; therefore, diversity is a continual process. This demands that we move beyond the physical diversity of people to a relational diversity that attends to power and privilege. My value of justice informs my understanding of diversity; therefore, it requires attention to and reflection on how power and privilege shapes everything from our individual behaviors and interactions to our community and societal policies and laws.

5. If you were to land your dream job immediately after graduation, what would it be? 

I have a passion for both teaching and research, therefore I am seeking a tenure track faculty position in a school of social work at university that has an equal focus on these passions of mine.

6. What advice would you give high school and undergraduate students considering careers in public policy? 

It is vitally important for young people to have direct service experience before moving into careers in policy. Direct service experience will enable them to understand how policies are actually implemented on the ground, the extent to which policies have their intended impact and how policies could be improved. Through this experience, young people can gain a critical consciousness that will hopefully inform their dedication to working for more equitable public policy.

7. Outside of your studies, what do you do for fun? 

Outside of my research and teaching, I enjoy cooking, gardening, biking and hiking with my partner and our dog, Heimdall.

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