Sociology

Today’s Tuesday with Tulsa blog post was written by Shannon C., an alumna of the Sociology department at The University of Tulsa. We asked Shannon to tell us about her experience studying Sociology at TU, and this is what she had to say….

Choosing a college, and a major, can be a completely overwhelming process. I wish that when I was making a decision, I had taken a little more time and been a little more open-minded about my options. After starting out at another school, I transferred to TU my sophomore year and finally felt like I had found the right fit. I also finally found a major where I felt at home. The major I finally chose was challenging, intriguing, and eventually altered the way I looked at the world. I was able to study abroad, design and conduct my own research studies with the support of my professors, and form friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. Oh, and the best part? Because of the internships I had while I was in school, and the connections I made through my TU networks, I was able to find a job before I even graduated. What was this major that opened so many doors for me, you ask? Sociology.

Sociology professor Lara Foley took a group of students to Ghana in 2009

What is sociology? What does it mean to major in sociology? Sociology is the study of society: our interactions with each other as individuals and as groups, and the institutions and trends that come from those interactions. We use empirical, scientific tools to analyze those interactions and attempt to describe them in an objective way.

Ultimately, majoring in sociology means, as one alumni has described it, “learning how to think”. Although my classes focused on questions about education, poverty, social movements, racial identity, and gender, I was learning critical reasoning skills that I was able to carry with me into the workplace after graduation, and use to analyze and sort through questions of a different nature.

Sociology students take a break from writing their Social Movements and Collective Behavior final for Dr. Blocker

Sometime last year, I was chatting with a former professor of mine about the kinds of skills that sociology students develop in their classes, and how they are applicable to wide range of different jobs. We got onto the topic of alumni, and how many different career fields sociology graduates from TU have ended up in.

From that conversation, the seeds were planted that today have grown into my current project. I have spent the past few months tracking down sociology graduates and interviewing them about what they have gone on to do after graduation. I have to say, the list is pretty remarkable. TU’s sociology graduates are doctors, lawyers, nurses, professors, researchers, law enforcement officers, and teachers, working all around the world. We have gone on to earn advanced degrees from universities at home and abroad, win numerous competitive research grants, and even meet with sitting US presidents.

Monte Hawkins, Class of 1999, with President George W. Bush

I think the most impressive part of all of this is the diversity of careers paths that our graduates have chosen. I know that some students coming into college are hesitant to choose to major in a social science because they aren’t sure they will be able to find a job after graduating. I hope that the alumni profiles I am putting together will help to dispel that myth. Each of the graduates I have talked to, whether they graduated in 1999 or 2009, has said that majoring in sociology gave them the critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary to succeed in their future careers. Each of them has also said that the support they received from the sociology professors at TU was an integral part of their undergraduate success.

I can personally vouch for how supportive the sociology professors are. One professor, Dr. Ron Jepperson, gave up countless hours of his evenings and weekends to help me through a semester-long quantitative research project when I hit unexpected snags and needed expert advice. I was eventually able to present that research at a regional African Studies conference, which would not have been possible without his support. Even after graduating, I kept in touch with all of the professors, as I know many other graduates have.

December 2009 sociology grads Hannah, Sarah, and Shannon with Dr. Jean Blocker and fellow sociology student Jenny

All of this is to say that, if you are unsure of what to major in, you should most certainly take Sociological Imagination, which is the introductory sociology class. If nothing else, you will fulfill a block credit, but if you are anything like me, you will find that your mind is opened to a whole new way of viewing the world, and you will be totally hooked. The good news is that when you go home and tell your parents that you’ve decided to major in sociology, and they give you the, “You’ll never get a job with that!” lecture, you will be able to pull up the website and point to a whole slew of profiles of successful alumni.

Just one of the many awards sociology alumni have won – a key to the City of Tulsa and a proclamation from the Tulsa City Council

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