By Jordan Rinehart
As the Fall 2013 semester drew to a close, many of WSU Sociology’s 111 undergraduate majors were knee-deep in preparation for their transition out of Pullman and into the next phase of their lives. In December, graduating seniors carried with them the knowledge and skills gained at WSU into the next phase of their planned careers in the field of social justice. Corri van Schijndel, who grew up in Vancouver, WA, gained an interest in sociology during her sophomore year at WSU.
“After taking Introduction to Sociology, I knew that this degree program was a perfect fit,” says Corri. “My goal is to become an elementary teacher and work in racially diverse and poverty-impacted communities where I can apply my background education in sociology.”
Corri is well on her way to achieving her goal after recently completing a two-week intensive observation period in a fifth-grade classroom in a high-need and diverse school setting.
She tells us: “Through my experience, I hope to be able to continue to impact childrens’ lives by integrating my knowledge in the fields of sociology and education.”
But aspirations like Corri’s don’t happen in a vacuum. In WSU Sociology’s undergraduate program, students are given the tools to succeed in school as well as in transition out of the program. And WSU Instructor Prof. Kristin Cutler plays an essential part in making that happen. After earning her PhD from WSU Sociology’s Graduate Program in 2013, Dr. Cutler has been hard at work ensuring that sociology majors in Pullman are prepared for what’s next.
When she’s not engaged in teaching over 500 students from across the globe and supervising seven teaching assistants in her Introduction to Sociology course (a University Core Requirement course), Prof. Cutler works with graduating seniors in Sociology 495: Capstone – a senior-level course designed to prepare students for post-graduation work and education.
In addition to the course’s individual research requirements and classroom job skill preparation, students interact with community organizations, government offices, and educational institutions through the course’s core internship component, which seeks to prepare students for the transition into the job market or further their education. And this, says Dr. Cutler, is essential:
“Some students are well-prepared for the transition early on in their college careers, while others face challenges adjusting to the job market. However, we know that sociology majors have a lot to contribute in a variety of careers, as sociology teaches students to think critically in a wide array of work and educational environments. Last year, students brought to our attention the need for more career development and job skill training in the sociology program. And we are responding.”
Whether interning with a local nonprofit or gaining research experience working with a WSU Sociology professor, each student is granted the opportunity to hone their job skills and explore different work environments, in order to hit the ground running after graduation. Graduating senior Allison Clark, “found inspiration in the way that sociology class shed light on everyday situations.”
In January, Allison plans to take this inspiration on the road, working as a volunteer with nonprofit organizations and political campaigns in order to hone her job skills and explore different career opportunities before continuing her education in a graduate program.
And yet other students, like Justina Petry, chose sociology as a second major in order to expand their future opportunities. Having already secured a degree in Criminal Justice, Justina plans to enter the field of law enforcement. “I’d like to be able to help people and give back to my community by doing my part to keep it safe. There are so many other factors that come together to encourage an individual to engage in crime — both at the individual and societal level. By having a broad background in social sciences, I will be better armed to handle potentially difficult situations by being able to consider all angles.“ Justina is putting her “sociological imagination” to work as characterized by C. Wright Mills more than a half century ago, in his landmark book by that name.
The bachelor of arts in sociology degrees for these students and 14 others were conferred in Beasley Coliseum, named for Wallis Beasley, former sociology professor and interim president of Washington State University.