From math to philosophy, computer science to public relations: Zara Blum ’14 on exploring interests

Zara Blum ’14 always knew she was wanted to attend the University of Rhode Island. Growing up in Rhode Island, she remembers going to Hebrew school classes held in URI’s nursing building and to camps on campus in the summer, spending breaks running around the Quadrangle. She also knew that she loved math, entering the University as a math and secondary education double major. “I like math because I like logic and I like putting pieces together and solving puzzles,” Blum said. However, right before her last semester at URI she realized that while she loves math, she didn’t want to do anything with it post-college. “I’m really thankful to URI for giving me so many opportunities,” she said, noting that these opportunities helped her clarify her career goals. This realization eventually led to her current position as the Marketing Program Manager of A.I. Events at Facebook. While it may not be a career in mathematics, she notes that, similar to what she liked about studying math, “I like applying that logic to the event logistics and time management and fitting things together.”

For Blum, URI offered an invaluable chance to exploring her range of interests, as she graduated a mathematics major and three minors in philosophy, computer science, and anthropology (and almost earned a fourth in art!). She credits multiple different URI faculty members for helping her find her way and encouraging her to explore where her passions really lie, such as Dr. William Krieger, the philosophy department chair who she said introduced her to archaeology, philosophy, and most importantly the philosophy of science which has fueled a lifelong passion for tech, law, and human centered computing. Professor emeritus Dr. Joan Peckham was the head of the computer science department during Blum’s time at URI, and she credits her with helping her figure out how to balance all of her interests, which included signing on as her professor for an independent study project combining computer science with archaeology. And her advisor, Dr. Nancy Eaton, helped her get involved with various opportunities and listened and supported her when she said she liked math for math’s sake, providing a safe space for her as a woman in STEM to explore the field to the fullest without feeling pressured to be an engineer. “This inspired me to get more involved with women in STEM opportunities because I want to help other women know that a career in STEM isn’t the only reason to be into STEM,” she said. 

Post-graduation from URI, Blum started working as an academic services coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University. She soon decided to enroll in an online master’s program to receive a degree in public relations from George Washington University, which she completed in 2016. Hoping to break into the event planning world, she took advantage of whatever chances for event planning she could get while at Carnegie Mellon. Now, in her current position at Facebook, she is often found bridging the gap between computer/software engineers and non-engineers in technological environments — a unique position to be in, and one she is uniquely qualified for. “If you have a dream, just go for it. It can take a while and your dreams might change, they might move back around,” Blum said, noting that her non-linear path to working in public relations has also prepared her to thrive in it. “You never know what roundabout way you might have to take to get to your dream, but if you have something you’re passionate about, don’t stop believing in it.”

~Written by Kayla Laguerre-Lewis