Undergraduate Highlights

Each spring, the newsletter highlights one or more of our exceptional undergraduate students. We are honored to feature both Bosco “Xavier” Aburto, one of this year’s Sociology Department Outstanding Seniors, and Jesse Brazil, who graduated this fall.

Xavier is forward facing and smirking.
Bosco “Xavier” Aburto

Bosco “Xavier” Aburto

​​Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am majoring in Sociology and getting a minor in Business Administration. I am originally from Granada, Nicaragua, but I moved to Shoreline, Washington, about 11 years ago and that became my new home. At WSU, I love two places: the library and the REC center. Those two places have been extremely important for me during my time here personally and academically. Reading a good book is a passion. I love reading autobiographies of relevant figures in history.  My favorite, so far, has been the autobiography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I find her story and professional work fascinating and incredibly inspiring.

Why did you decide to major in sociology? What does being a sociologist mean to you?

Since I was very little, I have had a good sense of what social work means. In Nicaragua, at the age of 12, I volunteered at the Nicaragua National Campaign of Literacy and traveled to remote communities to teach men and women to read and write. When I arrived at my location, I witnessed firsthand the tough realities of that place; there were no transitable roads, no electricity, no running water, schools, or clinics. What hit me even harder was to see myself, a teenager, teaching a 58-year-old woman vowels and numbers for the first time in her life. It felt wrong more than rewarding. That experience started to show me the problems that we face as a society, the social injustice, and the great amount of work that needs to be done. Sociology is the perfect field, in my opinion, to generate impact. As sociologists, we do not only focus on the humanities but we are also social scientists. We study social institutions, politics, social behavior, and even economics. We do significant social research and analyze data to create a positive impact in society. Throughout history, sociological research has generated change in society and communities. It shows reality and proposes solutions. That is what being a sociologist means to me.

What is your favorite sociology class you’ve taken at WSU and why?

My favorite class has been Research Methods (SOC 317) because research and data analysis are two areas that I like a lot. Being able to learn about the different ways of creating surveys, of collecting information, ways to interpret data, and how to present it is just fascinating. In that class, we worked on a project throughout the semester and presented it at the end. My project, “Perception of international vs. domestic students at WSU” was honored by the Department of Sociology and the College of Arts and Sciences.

We hear that you have some exciting graduate school and career plans. Can you tell us about your future plans?

Education is very valuable to me. I have seen how it can open many doors in life and is a good way to generate long-lasting impact in societies. I knew that after undergrad, I wanted to keep getting as much education as I could, so I applied to grad school. I have been admitted to the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program at the University of Notre Dame. I am incredibly humbled and proud about this. This program has a focus on sustainable development, which is the line of work I envision myself doing. I want to work with remote and rural communities in Nicaragua and the Central American region to develop social projects and incentivize children and adults to believe in progress and give them the tools to achieve it.

Jesse is forward facing and smiling.
Jesse Brazil

Jesse Brazil

Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

Originally, I’m from North Texas but I’ve lived in and around Seattle since 2015 when I took an AmeriCorps position with the Washington Conservation Corps. I prefer to think of myself as a Washingtonian. My educational background is a bit nontraditional (dropped out of college a couple of times and will be turning 30 this June), but I transferred to WSU in fall 2020 from Bellevue College as a junior. I majored in sociology and completed a minor in history while getting involved as much as possible with on-campus organizations. I served as the vice president for Sociology Club, treasurer for Environmental Sustainability Alliance, student representative for the university’s Green Fund Board, and was a member of the Student Conduct Board. I’m also proud to have been able to assist with ongoing research at the Complex Social Interactions Lab.

I know you’ve done some RA work with Professor Dylan Bugden. Can you tell us a bit about that work and experience?

Of course! Dylan—formerly known as Dr. Bugden to me—and I created a survey experiment seeking to measure public opinion on foreign climate aid and whether certain levers can be influential in impacting these opinions.

Jesse is standing next to a screen displaying his project title mid-speak and masked. The students are seated around a table listening and masked.
Jesse Brazil giving a presentation based on his RA work with faculty member Dylan Bugden, “US Public Opinion and Foreign (Climate) Aid,” for the undergraduate Sociology Club meeting in October 2021.

Our research is informed by recent insights from political science, psychology, and sociology. I’m particularly excited that we were fortunate enough to secure a nationally representative sample from NORC. Working with Dylan has been extremely rewarding because he excels at intellectually and procedurally refining what I bring to him while also giving me the freedom to pursue what I find interesting. I’m gaining incredible experience with literature reviews, academic writing, and research design. It’s been both constructive and challenging. I can’t overstate how grateful I am for this opportunity.

Why did you decide to major in sociology? What does being a sociologist mean to you?

I owe my decision to major in sociology to Dr. Jennifer Lê from Bellevue College. I was taking her SOC 101 course while working in a customer service role at a start-up in Seattle. I was planning on pursuing a business degree and figured I’d try to make it in the corporate world. Deep down I knew that I’d likely be miserable with that path for several reasons. Dr. Lê helped me see that sociology encapsulates most of my intellectual interests and pursues answers to questions that have always been most fascinating to me. To me, being a sociologist means explaining, contextualizing, and problematizing the social elements of the human experience through unique perspectives that other disciplines don’t offer. Ultimately, a sociologist offers invaluable insights into our social lives and can contribute to a wide array of solutions for societal ills.

What is your favorite sociology class you’ve taken at WSU and why?

Sustainability and Society (SOC 332). My professional and academic interests are environmentally skewed, so this class was both extremely fascinating and informative. It covers an impressive breadth of environmental thought while also challenging students to reexamine their own values and perspectives as they relate to the environment, society, and solutions for a more sustainable future. Almost every student is concerned about the environment and climate change, but many don’t know how to think about these concerns sociologically; this course is a must-take for any student who wants to explore what is arguably the most-pressing issue of the 21st century with a bit more nuance than is typically found elsewhere. Also, I’d be very remiss if I didn’t mention Comparative Genocide (HIST 464). Although this is not a sociology class, I believe any sociology student interested in topics that examine the human capacity for hate, violence, and mythmaking should take this course.

I know you have some exciting post-graduation plans, can you tell us about them?

I’ve got plans to attend graduate school! I’ve accepted a fully funded spot within the University of Utah’s Sociology PhD program and will be starting there this fall. I’m ecstatic to learn from and collaborate with their excellent faculty while being trained as a professional sociologist. It’s my current intention to complete an emphasis in environmental sociology and carry out research related to international development and environmental politics within the context of worsening climate change. My interests are generally inspired by historical developments and contemporary conflicts related to global capitalism, environmental injustice, and indigenous sovereignty. It’s my humble hope that I can find a place for myself within academia and help to advance sociological scholarship for many years to come.