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The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Baris Mumyakmaz Calculates the Arithmetic of Cancer


Conflict Resolution, 2011

A few days after his classes started in the fall Baris Mumyakmaz took a cruise around the Boston Harbor. The boat left from Harbor Point as a part of orientation for new students, and onboard he met a former editor of the Mass Media, Christian DeTorres.
“When we started talking about everything, he was very interested that I came from Turkey, and I told him that I was actually working at the student newspaper at my university in Turkey.” 
He was the Editor of the student newspaper at the university he went to in Turkey, and his work as a student journalist inspired him to seek out a graduate study program in conflict resolution. 
“When I was reporting I became aware of all the conflict in Turkey, and Turkey’s problems with its neighbors. Because we have conflicts with Armenians and Greeks, Iran, and there was a multifaceted conflict going on in Iraq, and the turmoil in Syria.”
He applied to two of the best conflict resolution programs, one in Sweden and the other In Norway.
“I realized that the study was also available in the US, but I was hesitant because the US is so far from Turkey, from my family and everything. If I went to study in Europe, I could be two or three hours away by plane.” 
He applied to two schools in the U.S. anyway. 
“I actually got into both schools in the US, and none of the schools in Europe, because I was majoring in Philosophy and doing journalism they were expecting me to study political science or something, but the schools in the US thought that I could bring something new.” 
UMass Boston offered him a research assistantship on Armenians in Turkey. 
“One of the scholars at UMass Boston was looking for someone who could do press related research in Turkey. It fit like a glove, and I landed there as a graduate student, and that was awesome.” 
On the boat on the harbor cruise, DeToress suggested that Mumyakmaz should visit Edson Bueno in the Student Media Office and get involved in student media.
“I told him you know I’m looking for a position where I can just write. I know my English is not my first language, and I’d like to pursue my secondary career activities and I’d like to write in English as well.” 
The very next day at the Mass Media offices, Bueno asked him if he wanted to edit a Culture and Diversity section. 
“It was incredible, because again it fit like a glove. I came from a different culture and country and I was learning a lot about the world as well so I knew a lot about different cultures and diversity issues.” 
Outside of classes, Mumyakmaz became a fixture in the media offices. 
“I could say for two years during my masters studies I spent most of my time at the office working there, and even some people at my graduate studies were saying oh you know you’re at that newspaper all the time, and not spending enough time with us.”
The more time he spent on campus, the further Mumyakmaz got away from Turkish Armenian conflict.
“I became more interested in conflict itself, in conflict between individuals, between organizations. I became more interested in that and I got into a mediation internship.”
The internship was in a small claims court, and Mumyakmaz began to realize that the dynamics of conflict were similar on both a micro and a macro scale. 
“I was listening to all of these people at small claims court through the mediator, and I was really seeing how the dynamics went, and what went wrong with these dynamics, and I could resolve these conflicts, and I realized that I could just do this thing with the international conflict. I had already learned the essentials of it. It was only a matter of applying it to another field.” 
The realization felt fantastic, and by the end of his studies Mumyakmaz had a whole new perspective on life and the value of diversity. 
“I tried to apply my new understanding of conflict everywhere,” he says. “Since I learned about Yoga, I was looking for ways I could implement yoga and conflict resolution together. I was really going into different trajectory because my perspective was getting broader. It was incredible.” 
“There was amazing diversity on that campus. I got there thinking I was going to bring diversity to campus, but the campus was already so diverse that I learned myself about diversity.” 
The shuttle rides to campus alone were remarkable to Mumyakmaz. 
“It was a magical bus because when you got there you could see people of all races, of all ages, of all backgrounds. You would meet a black kid from Dorchester, a professor who works at MIT but is taking classes to get a certificate, and international people like me from Thailand, Latin America everywhere.” 
“You see all of these different people on the same shuttle, and that’s the small scale, and when you got on campus it was even bigger. On the shuttle you see fifty people, but on campus you would see 15000 people of all different backgrounds and it was incredible. The campus was the most educating thing for me, being with all of these people.” 
The environment at UMB inspired Mumyakmaz, and he particularly appreciated the liberal attitude on campus. 
“I think the administration was really awesome. I’m in a country right now with a lot of freedom expression issues, and in the Mass Media we mocked the Chancellor, and he was a tolerant person. We weren’t respectful to him, but he didn’t say anything. He was just smiling at us. He was very kind.” 
“I would just envy being younger and coming to college as well in that growing environment because it’s just getting better.”
In the midst of his last semester on campus, Mumyakmaz fell in the hall of his apartment, and couldn’t get up. His friends raced him to the hospital where doctors scanned his brain and found a tumor.
“I was diagnosed with cancer, and I went through a treatment, and when I convalesced I had a chance to think about what I got from this life, and what I’m doing and what my passions are, what my weaknesses are, and I realized my big passion is writing, and writing about people, writing about the world and everything.” 
He blogged in Turkish while going through chemo.
“I realized that I learned a lot from UMass Boston studies about diversity, about tolerance, about conflict resolution, so I started looking at things differently when I got back to Turkey.”
Now he’s turned the blog into a book, The Arithmetic of Cancer, which will be published in the new year.
“I wrote a memoir about my experience, and all the conflict that I experienced about moving back to Turkey and dealing with a really terrible disease but I learned, and I’d like to transfer what I learned to the people here, especially cancer survivors.” 
Mumyakmaz now freelance reports for Turkish newspapers, blogs, and is the English-Language News Editor for Bianet.org. 
“I try to bring this conflict resolution perspective to my reporting, and I’m working to apply still what I learned at UMass and continue to live my life, my second life.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010