What do you want to do with your sociology degree? Sociology majors pursue different kinds of careers. Our undergraduate alumni excel in a range of sectors including health, education, technology, policy, and the arts. Many also go on to some of the best graduate schools, law schools, and business schools in the world.
Here’s what some of our recent alumni have been doing since graduation:
Andrea Haider '15
BA Thesis: Narrative Strategies of Stigma Management and Panethnic Mobilization: A Case Study Examinaton of the Arab American National Museum.
I conducted an ethnography of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, to understand the narratives that tour guides tell about Arab American identity. I argued that these narratives sought to reconcile tensions between creating a cohesive pan-Arab American identity, while also representing the diversity within the Arab American community.
Current Pursuits: I am currently a Fulbright student researcher. I am spending a year in Amman, Jordan, conducting a research project on youth workforce development programs and studying Arabic. My research utilizes sociological methods such as ethnography and semi-structured interviews to understand the role that NGOs are playing in addressing youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa.
Reflections on Being a Sociology Major: Majoring in sociology allowed me the space to think critically about social structures and how they are created, reinforced, challenged, and sometimes even dismantled. I particularly enjoyed that the sociology major allows for understanding social processes across a range of subject areas. I got to take classes on urban sociology, the sociology of gender, and the sociology of deviant behavior. It was so exciting for me to learn about so many different communities while also deepening my understanding of core sociological concepts. I remember making the transition from second to third year, once I started taking courses that focused more on methodology. I learned not only how social processes play out in different settings, but also the tools for generating sociological insights on my own.
I felt particularly challenged by my class on the sociology of deviant behavior, which I took my second year with Professor Kristen Schilt. Though many of us were underclassmen while taking her class, she encouraged us to engage the sociological research process. She tasked us with generating our own research questions and conducting interviews toward answering them, and eventually writing up our findings in a fully developed sociology paper. I wrote about interracial relationships in the Arab American community and interviewed someone who had engaged in such a relationship. I remember spending my mornings at the library coding my interview and drawing up broader themes for further exploration. I felt very empowered after completing that project, and more certain in my choice to major in sociology and eventually write my own thesis.
I will certainly remember Professor Kristen Schilt most. I eventually asked her to be my BA thesis adviser. Professor Schilt had a remarkable talent for striking the balance between providing students with structure and guidelines, while also allowing them to explore their own interests. I took her class on the sociology of deviant behavior and another class on the politics of narrative construction, which she co-taught with Chase Joynt. She always challenged me to think critically about the questions I ask and the means by which I seek to answer them, while placing sociological concepts at the forefront of the research process.
Julianna St. Onge, '16
BA Thesis: My BA was titled "Childhood Mental Health: The Influences of Family Structure, Acculturation, and Mobility." I looked at a longitudinal dataset to see how family structure and race interact to impact childhood mental behaviors, using hierarchical linear modeling.
Current Pursuits: I work for the federal government at the Consumer Financial Protection. Bureau. I work in the Office of the Director as a financial analyst. I’m in a two-year rotational program, which means I get to work on projects in a wide range of different offices such as our Supervision and Enforcement division, Consumer Response, and Data Science. I provide primarily analytic support to the different projects I work on, so I employ lot of the skills I honed doing quantitative social science research in the Sociology department. I personally believe the best part of my job is getting to help further the Bureau’s mission of ensuring banks, lenders, and other financial companies treat consumers fairly each day.
Reflections on Being a Sociology Major: My overall impression of the sociology major was how interdisciplinary it was, and the amazing opportunities I had to connect through classes, research, other students, and professors with the Harris School, Knowledge Lab, NORC, Public Health Department, Statistics, Public Policy, and more.
Forrest Stuart's Crime and the City course definitely expanded my understanding and appreciation of the combination of theory and fieldwork - it was one of the most enriching learning experiences I had because of how much we were challenged in and out of the classroom to question our assumptions. Also, my study groups with other sociology students who took quantitative methods classes (shout out to Causal Inference Winter 2016) were a highlight of my academic (and social) life.
One of the best parts of the Sociology major was the opportunity to take courses with researchers who pioneered the materials they were teaching. Kate Cagney, James Evans, Omar McRoberts, and Steve Raudenbush were all incredibly formative instructors; I couldn't possibly pick just one. There is, however, a particular mug of John Levi Martin's that I recall with fond amusement.
Katherine Morris, '10
BA Thesis: The title of my BA thesis was, “Political Power and Collective Efficacy within Communal Havens.” My thesis examined how residents of a mixed-income, unincorporated summer community navigate competing interests and conflicting government jurisdictions to solve collective problems, ranging from serious (coastal erosion and flooding) to minor (noisy neighbors).
Current Pursuits: I’m a fifth-year sociology PhD student and a research assistant at the Center for Population and Development Studies at Harvard University. At the moment, I’m working on my dissertation on the effects of retirement on physical and mental health. In particular, I’m trying to understand how stratifying characteristics such as gender and occupational status shape the experience of retirement across countries and policy contexts such that retirement is good for some and bad for others. At the Center, I’m also working on projects with faculty in the Department of Sociology and the School of Public Health on how changes in social, family, and labor policies affect health inequality in the US and Europe. I generally spend my day-to-day reading and writing papers or grants, analyzing data using statistical software, and advising undergraduate students.
Reflections on Being a Sociology Major: I had the pleasure of working for Professors Waite, Laumann, and Cagney as an employee for the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP) before and after graduation. The NSHAP investigators and staff were and continue to be incredible mentors and supports. As a current graduate student in the field, it’s hard if not impossible to look back over my undergraduate courses to choose a favorite. For example, I remember survey methods with Professor Davis as the first time I realized the empowerment that came with a sociologists’ analytical tool kit. However, the class that has stuck with me the most was Professor Levine’s seminar, “Simmel in Translation.” It was during a class debate about “Quantitative Aspects of the Group” that I decided to pursue sociology as my profession.
Rebecca-Lily Michelle, '16
BA Thesis: "From Many Worlds, One Family: A Case Study of Integration in a Diverse Church." My paper was a case study of Living Hope Church, a Presbyterian church on the South Side of Chicago that serves both the Woodlawn neighborhood and the University of Chicago. My paper explored what it means to be an integrated community of diverse worshippers. An analysis of Living Hope Church reveals that a truly effective integrated church of diverse worshippers creates a unified church identity that does not mask or erase the differences of it worshippers, but celebrates and acknowledges their differences through worship, fellowship and church activities.
Current Pursuits: After graduating in June 2016, I moved to Uganda for five months. I worked at a clinic in Masindi, Uganda where I designed and implemented the pharmacy's inventory management business process. While I was living in Uganda, I traveled around the country quite a bit and visited some of the neighboring East African countries.
Reflections on Being a Sociology Major: My favorite class was taught by Omar McRoberts. He is great professor! I took the Qualitative Filed Methods class he taught. During the quarter, we were asked to select a field site and create an ethnographic research paper. I chose Living Hope Church, and my paper for this class was the foundation for my senior thesis. After I finished the class, Professor McRoberts continued to mentor me and was always there to help me work through questions on my thesis.
Janet Xu, '14
BA Thesis: My BA thesis examined socioeconomic and ethnoracial inequalities in after-school child care arrangements, especially involvement in organized extracurricular activities. It was titled “After School Matters: Class, Race, and Child Care”, which in hindsight was not the best title because there is a Chicago-based non-profit organization called “After School Matters” and my thesis was not about that organization at all. Don’t title your thesis with the name of an organization you are not studying!
Current Pursuits: I am currently a PhD student in the Sociology department at Princeton University, where I am also affiliated with the Office of Population Research. Broadly, my research interests center on the social and cultural causes and consequences of population change, especially with regard to race, ethnicity, and migration. The pithy description of grad school you often hear is that you are transitioning from being a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge, which I think is pretty spot-on.
Reflections of Being a Sociology Major: I double-majored in Public Policy, and I sort of stumbled into sociology in Richard Taub’s “Problems in Policy Implementation” course, which was about how organizational problems emerge when people try to put policy into effect. I remember that Professor Taub really advocated for a sociological perspective on policy making — to pay attention to how social interactions shape groups, laws, and society as a whole. His lecturing was clearly effective because after that I took a bunch more classes in the Soc department. Some other memorable classes include sociology of the family and introduction to demography with Professor Linda Waite, who was my BA thesis advisor and a really supportive mentor, and urban sociology with Professor Forrest Stuart, which deepened my appreciation of cities and Chicago in particular. I also took a seminar on race and ethnicity in comparative perspective during my 4th year that really shaped my intellectual interests about racial categorization. Above all, I remember learning and appreciating how sociology is diverse discipline open to using many different types of data and methodologies to ask big questions. I didn’t decide to go to grad school right away, but almost all the classes I took in the department and the process of doing independent research for my BA thesis convinced me that I eventually wanted to become a sociologist.
Jamison Pfieffer, '16
BA Thesis: My BA thesis was called “Visual Politics and Proximal Pasts: Street Murals in Contemporary Belfast.” I wrote about street art and collective memory during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and in the aftermath of the 1998 Peace Agreement.
Current Pursuits: Right now I’m working as a research assistant at Chicago magazine. Usually that means I’m a fact-checker for the publication, but I also help research stories and do some occasional writing.
Reflections on Being a Sociology Major: As far as the major goes, I think that getting the chance to pursue an idea for my thesis over the course of a year-and-a-half was pretty special. It made me a better researcher and a better writer. I’m also really thankful to have received a PRISM grant that allowed me to spend some time in Belfast, which formed the basis for much of my research. My advisor was Andreas Glaeser, who was also one of my favorite professors. In his classes, he really emphasized what it means to think sociologically about history if that makes any sense—how to understand the history of ideas in relation to politics and institutions. In his class on political theology, we read some of the writings of literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. I remember leaving that class with a real sense of possibility—it was inspiring! I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention John Levi Martin's class on the sociology of non-human animals, because that class let me write about the behavior of pigs for my final paper.