Seniors in their at-home study spaces
The Major of the Month is designed to honor an undergraduate student with outstanding commitment to sociological thinking, research, and the application of social science research to real-world problems. Usually, this honor is given to a specific individual. However, this month, the entire class of senior Sociology Majors was nominated for this award. From faculty to lecturers to GSIs, members of our department have repeatedly remarked upon our seniors’ resilience and commitment to learning during this extraordinary, unprecedented moment in which we find ourselves.
Over these last few weeks, seniors have drawn upon the expertise they have been developing as Sociology majors to understand how topics central to the sociological enterprise – such as inequality, race, poverty, health, law and politics, death and dying, urban sociology, criminal justice, human rights, social isolation, and so on – are impacted by and impacting the COVID-19 crisis. Our senior class has displayed a deep understanding of how a global pandemic is a profoundly sociological phenomenon and shown appreciation for how sociological thinking and methods can be used to help others during a time of crisis. In this moment, each of them have epitomized the sociological spirit that the Major of the Month award was created to honor.
Let's get to know our Senior Class of 2020...
Where are you currently located as you take classes remotely?
What is your Sociology sub-major?
Do you have a minor or another major in addition to the Sociology major?
What classes have you enjoyed the most in the Sociology department?
#1 Favorite Class: SOC 354 Law and Society
#2 Favorite Classes: SOC 221 Social Inequality, SOC 225 Project Community, SOC 305 Theory, SOC 270 Gender and the Law, SOC 345 Sociology of Sexualities
#3 Favorite Classes: SOC 461 Social Movements, SOC 310 Research Methods, SOC 477 Death & Dying, SOC 495 Reproductive Health and Justice, SOC 335 Urban Inequality, SOC 368 Criminology
Other Favorite Classes: SOC 304 American Immigration, SOC 303 Race and Ethnic Relations, SOC 451 Women and Work, SOC 465 Sociology of Deviance, SOC 476 Sociology of Bioethics, SOC 495 Sociology of Mental Health and Illness
Have you participated in undergraduate research or fieldwork?
How has sociology helped you understand the COVID-19 crisis?
“I’m more equipped to take in and observe the rapidly changing world around me from a critical perspective. This crisis has highlighted flaws within American society that may not have been realized without a major derailment, and these are the types of social flaws and inequalities that we study as sociology majors, as well. From a human perspective, this is completely terrifying. From a sociological one, it’s illuminating.”
“It has helped me to look at the situation with sympathy instead of anger.”
“Sociology has allowed me to see beyond my own immediate circumstances and think about how people are being affected by COVID-19 around the globe. I have a newfound sense of empathy for other people, and can see big picture how different communities are impacted, especially how the realities of social inequality and limited access to resources have come to light.”
“There are a plethora of different ways Sociology has helped me understand the COVID-19 crisis and why this field matters. At the end of the day, medical research will only get us so far on how the disease spreads because it’s a biological AND social process. For example, societies have different cultures and infrastructures when it comes to human contact so this can affect how fast the virus spreads. The reliable research that has been done and will be done on certain societal structures can help catalyze the reduction of new cases.”
“I've been able to immediately recognize how different populations are impacted by the virus in terms of social, economic, and political stress. Not only does this include individuals of different genders, sexes, races, ethnicities, and sexualities, but also individuals with mental and physical disabilities, national status ambiguities, and permanent residences that may not be safe for isolation.”
“Having a strong background in sociology helped me understand the nuances of this crucial issue. The crisis has not only proven to be a risk to our health but also has had a ripple effect in the global economy which has shaken the economic and social structures to the core. It has made me compassionate and considerate; knowing that this crisis affects every income and social class very differently has compelled me to not just ensure my own safety but also look out for those in need. I continue to encourage my family and friends to not stock up on groceries beyond what’s need, so everyone gets to have and afford the essentials to pull through this difficult time.”
“Sociology has taught me that we should not be surprised by the way COVID-19 is impacting certain states and communities more than others. I think there has been a misconception that COVID-19 does not discriminate, and while the virus itself doesn't know the difference, our country's history of discrimination of minority groups has set the scene for these communities to be hit hard by the virus. Moving forward, I think that it is important for us as a country to re-evaluate the systems in place that allow for this to happen.”
“Sociology has helped me to understand the very real and very serious disparate impact that COVID-19 is creating in the world today. Thanks to my studies in Sociology, I am now more aware of how unequal access to resources such as shelter, food, internet access, etc. is more likely to impact certain groups of people than others, especially in the era of COVID-19. Having a greater understanding of these injustices makes me feel more accountable and also more eager to help those in need during this time.”
“In particular, as a resident of Detroit, the crisis has disproportionately affected urban communities like Detroit and severely impacted the black community. Sociology has helped me understand and unpack why one might see these disparities (i.e. many minorities who live in urban communities are often predisposed to chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, wealth and income inequality, lack of access to healthy food). More importantly though, sociology has given me to tools to formulate policy suggestions that could combat these disparities (i.e. increased access to affordable health care, free testing, access to financial assistance resources).”
“Sociology has helped me understand why some groups of people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. Our status in society determines our ability to cope with situations around us. COVID-19 is highlighting some of the disparities that exist in the United States and around the world (economic, medical, racial, etc.). These disparities impact people's ability to access resources that are necessary for survival. When this is all over, we need to seriously re-evaluate our priorities as a nation.”
“Sociology has helped me understand the COVID-19 crisis from more of a bird's eye/holistic view. I find that I'm able to identify patterns across society and understand why they're happening. For example, I'm view people's resistance to government-imposed quarantine as a tension between the rugged individualism inherent in the American identity and a need to act for the greater good.”
“Some are calling this the 'great equalizer' but my sociological lens has helped me understand that the virus is hurting certain groups more than others due to structural violence and inequity.”
“Sociology has given me the skills to think critically about Covid-19 and the ways it has shone a light on the current deep inequalities in healthcare, housing, economic, and so many more systems of power and welfare in the world, but especially the United States. I'm going into Social Work, so this pandemic I believe will call to attention the social justice work that needs to be done, and hopefully spark reform in healthcare and employment social services, among others, when it comes to making the world a more equitable place.”
“Sociology has helped me to understand how this crisis will impact communities all around the world, especially those that receive less media coverage. Sociology has instilled in me a quick reaction to think about those communities, which has led me to researching ways that I can help others during this crisis.”
What is one lesson you learned from your experience as a Sociology major that you will take into the real world after graduation?
“I love talking about my Sociology major in job interviews and have seen firsthand how unique of a perspective I bring to new projects and teams. One lesson I have learned is that diversity comes in many forms, especially diversity of thought and experience. I love listening to other people's ideas and have become more open-minded, and I know that will make me a great contributor to my future workplace and relationships.”
“I will forever be unable to read a book or watch a TV show or movie with friends or family without thinking sociologically about the issues characters face. While sometimes this frustrates those around me, it does help to keep my brain thinking about issues larger than oneself!”
“I have learned the value of intersectionality and gaining a comprehensive understanding of the lives and backgrounds of others in order to better assess the world around me.”
“‘Don't be afraid’ I think is the theme that resonates the most. Whether it's going out of your comfort zone to interact with others on the street for a methods course, traveling to pursue research for your honors thesis (I strongly recommend doing), presenting in front of a large class or taking on a new challenge you didn't think you were previously capable of accomplishing. This major and department offered its share of opportunities to challenge ourselves as students, thinkers and social beings. It's important that we continue to seek these opportunities to grow and challenge ourselves into the future.”
“Compassion and critical thinking. As a sociology major, I have developed a strong sense of understanding issues from a holistic perspective, to critically think through matters, to consider and welcome knowledge and opinions offered by others in order to make an informed and intelligent decision. I have to learn to not accept things at face value and rather investigate them, consider its every facet before drawing any conclusions.”
“How to communicate across cultural barriers and try to overcome any sort of systematic biases inherent in the workplace.”
“One thing I have learned is how to go into a community I am not familiar with and learn from the community while giving back.”
“Sociology is related to whatever field you go into. As a student focused on the intersection of the environment and cities, sociology has provided me with a background knowledge on how people interact with one another in these spaces and the ways in which social relationships inform relationships with physical space.”
“I've learned the value of examining the role that you play within a system. Every action and step that we take along the way contributes to the reality of others, and therefore its important to take the time to have tough conversations, examine privilege, and try to do our best to disrupt and eradicate inequalities whenever and wherever they arise.”
“So much of a person, both who they are and what they do, is influenced by systemic factors outside of their control. Actively work to recognize inequalities, try to understand what has created them, and attempt to dismantle them.”
“A lesson that I will take with me into the real world is to actively engage the issues in our society to create change. Sociology has answered many of the questions that I had growing up in an underserved community and I will continue to educate others about the injustices that marginalized communities face.”
“Sociology has taught me how to problem solve in organizations, groups, systems, and institutions by asking first what are underlying behaviors, patterns, and factors going on here?”
“I've learned to always keep in mind the bigger picture. In any interaction, I can consider how society has influenced and shaped a person or group, and it can help me have a greater capacity to understand and empathize with people.”
“I feel like I have learned so much that it's hard to synthesize it or deliver just one lesson. However, the first thing that comes to mind is the number of times I've been overcome with emotion in class. As someone who does not cry very often, I can't tell you how many times I've cried in a Soc class. In my time as a sociology major, I've seen my life experiences intellectualized and packed into 1.5 hour lectures. I've seen the very real and painful life experiences of my peers fed back to me as statistics and slides in a slideshow. I've seen the juxtaposition of those experiences against those of my classmates and those in power. If I had to put that into one lesson I learned, I'd call it compassion.”
“I credit studying sociology in my undergraduate time as the reason for my empathy. Sociology has taught me to look at issues from a multitude of intersectional angles, and the discipline encourages me to dig deeper before making a judgement--on people, issues, or current events.”
“Sociology has taught me how to think and speak about social issues/topics in a way that can educate other people. It has allowed me to have conversations that are productive, informational, and based on facts. Knowing how to speak in a way that educates other people instead of speaking merely from opinion has been so useful and I am really excited to enter the "real world" with that skill.”
Note: 30% of seniors responded to this survey.