Allyson Butzke, Outstanding Senior in Sociology 2021

Ally is looking towards the camera and softly smiling, with trees in the background.
Allyson Butzke, Outstanding Senior in Sociology 2021

Every year, most departments in the College of Arts and Sciences select an Outstanding Senior. This year’s Outstanding Senior in the Department of Sociology is Allyson Butzke, who was selected for her active engagement in sociology scholarship, her positive attitude and hard work ethic, and her passion for pursuing a career utilizing her sociology training. Ally has been a remarkable asset to the department and we are proud to have her as a new alumna. We spoke briefly with Ally about her archival work at WSU, her acceptance into University of Washington’s prestigious Master of Library and Information Science program, and what being a sociologist means to her.

Hometown: Camus, Washington (just East of Vancouver)

Majors/Minors: Sociology major; minors in workplace diversity, history, and exhibition studies

Sadie: Sarah Whitley told me that you are doing some archival work here at WSU, can you tell me a little bit about that and what you’ve been working on?

Ally: Last semester I started working in MASC, which is our Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections unit in the WSU Libraries. I did it for my sociology capstone initially, but I thought this is a great experience because I want to be a librarian or an archivist or something in that field. During COVID, it is very different because no one is really allowed inside, so a lot of it is via email. People need sources or documents so I do a lot of retrieving and scanning those. We have a project going on for the Home Economics News Service from the 1930s and ‘40s at WSU, which is really interesting and it’s cool to look at what they put out during that time. Recently I started helping redesign the sociology conference room since I was already working in MASC and had access to a lot of that stuff. They sent me the proposal for the redesign, and I’ve been looking at basically all of the famous people in the Sociology department and that history. There’s a lot of papers, but I’m trying to find photos because that’s more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I have found a lot of Fred Yoder and his papers, so that’s cool to work on.

Sadie: That sounds like very interesting work and so fitting for your interests. I would love to hear about what got you interested in library and archivist stuff and what inspired those interests.

Ally: The main inspiration was my grandma. Growing up I was a very avid reader, and she would read to me a lot. I was really ahead on my reading level. Her dining room was basically a library—like, all the walls were bookshelves and I had my section with my kids’ books. She would even read me the newspaper and ask my opinion on stuff. I was, like, 10 years old. “I don’t know what all of this is.” But she’d ask what I thought about it and we’d talk. A special thing between us was books. I always loved reading and being around books. I like the preservation of them and how much comes from them. She passed away in 2017 before my senior year of high school, which really sucked. When my senior year came around, we had to do a senior project connected to your career and what you want to do. My parents said they thought I might be a librarian, and I was like, “Why didn’t I think of that before, because that sounds perfect?” I job-shadowed to make sure it was something I was interested in, and it was great. I volunteered at my community library in the area and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I learned what you need to do to be a librarian and that you need a master’s in library science. I continued when I came here, being exposed to different parts of the field, like a public-school library versus university archives—which are different environments—but I’ve loved working in both of those. Everywhere I’ve gone, it just continues my interest and I keep loving the field and getting better at it.

Sadie: A great way to honor your grandma’s legacy and how she harbored that within you from a young age. Is there anything specific you can remember her reading to you or a favorite book?

Ally: Well, you know, asking a reader what their favorite book is a loaded question (laughs). But as far as childhood books, I was really obsessed with Winnie-the-Pooh and A.A. Milne. The main book I remember her reading to me that I would always ask her to read again was The Little Prince.

Sadie: Such a good one.

Ally: The other one was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Once I got older, she’d always ask what I was reading, and she was always looking for new books, so we’d book exchange.

Sadie: I am curious about how you think sociology fits in with your goals to be a librarian or archivist, and why you decided on sociology as your major?

Ally: It kind of fell into place. When I was in community college, I took sociology 101 for my gen ed and I really enjoyed what I was learning and how applicable it was to everyday life. It doesn’t matter what field you’re going into; you can always use it because it’s about society and social dynamics. For a master’s in library science, you don’t need a specific undergrad degree, like the librarian that I job shadowed in my community, she majored in environmental science. You would never think that those things would go together, but she made it work. So, I decided that I wanted sociology to be my major and I wanted to learn more about those social dynamics that I was interested in. Later, when I had to do my capstone and fit it in, I realized that I could really use it in a workplace in general, and also things like diversity and inclusion. Those words get thrown around a lot, but a big part of that is utilizing that in a workplace, and especially in a library because it’s such a big part of the community so you want that to be an inclusive and open space. I feel like having that sociological perspective helps with that. I’ve seen a lot of librarians who were sociology majors.

Sadie: I really appreciate how you’ve found a career path that allows you to engage with so many of your interests. Can you tell me about your post-grad plans and the next steps for you?

Ally: I applied to graduate school for a Master of Library and Information Science. I wish I could have stayed at WSU because I love it here and I feel like I just got here, but the only school in Washington state that offers that degree happens to the University of Washington, our rival (laughs). But it is a very good school, and they have the second-best program in the county, so I applied to UW and found out a few weeks ago that I was accepted. It was the same week that they told me that I was also the Outstanding Senior for the Department of Sociology, so I had a lot of good stuff happening that week!

You don’t really get a lot of library experience in your undergrad unless you do it outside of class. They don’t offer a class since it’s not a very common field or career, so I’m hoping that the program will help me learn more about it and see where I want to go with it. I love working in archives right now, but I think back on when I was volunteering at a community library and I also loved that and helping the community, so I’m hoping that the program will help me see if I want to sway towards one area versus the other. I just found out that music librarianship was a thing, and being in band and being a musician, I was like, “Man, if I had known music library was a thing, I would have taken more music classes here!”

Sadie: Congrats! I’m so excited for you! It’s such a good fit. For my last question, I want to ask what being a sociologist means to you, and what’s your favorite Sociology class that you’ve taken and professor here at WSU?

Ally: When I think about being a sociologist, part of it is being an agent for change. You can make some big changes by being a sociologist. As a sociologist, the point is to consider everything around you and knowing that you could never be truly objective because everyone has bias and things like that. But having social awareness about yourself and the people around you—the dynamics of that help you go through life with the best intentions, and you’re open to different perspectives and understanding other people.

My favorite Soc class was the first one that I ever took here at WSU. It was SOC 340 Social Inequality with Dr. Julie Kmec. I love Dr. Kmec and I loved that class. After SOC 101, I feel like everyone should take Social Inequality because it really builds on that and you get to focus on different areas and dive into them. We had some great class discussions and I learned so much, and everything I learned in that class I always think about in my classes today. I also have a lot of connections to Dr. Whitley. I’ve had her for a class almost every semester and she’s my advisor and has been so supportive. I took her Special Topics class, which is basically how to use your Sociology major, which is great because many people don’t know what we do. I loved her Sociology of Food class because everyone eats food, and you get to see where food comes from and the food culture of the U.S.