Major of the Month

UCLA Sociology Major of the Month, January 2021

Angela Li

 

Where are you from? Singapore

What is one of your goals for the new year? Read more poetry and try to memorize some good ones.

Do you have a quarantine hobby: I borrowed a neighbor's sewing machine to make some recycled fabric coasters as gifts.

What drives your interest in Sociology?

My interest is driven by the potential to reveal real, unintended impacts of human endeavors on the rest of society. As a sociology and economics double major, I am fascinated by how deep and wide the effects of economic systems and government policies are on the structure and norms of a society. As a Singaporean whose parents grew up in a rapidly changing post-Mao China, I listened to stories of how families adapted to the Communist Party’s sweeping economic policies, or learned about how the Singapore government carefully engineered a coherent national identity out an assembly of different cultural backgrounds.

The potential for the state and economy to shape society often stretches far beyond politician’s imaginations. The narratives being crafted and shared at the top affect who qualifies for help at the bottom. Biases and subconscious frames in the minds of decision-makers inevitably impact how resources are distributed in society and how disadvantaged populations are perceived and supported.

Sociology has been the critical counterbalance to the paradigmatic and theoretical weight of economics, providing me with the analytical tools to understand the profound and systemic impact of capitalist industries and government policies on human life. From studying the Marxist critique of economic theory, to applying neo-institutional theories to globalization and market reform, my study of sociology has provided a crucial understanding of economic systems and their impacts on human society. The potential to bring about positive social change through policy decisions inspires me to learn more.

What are your future career plans?

I hope to inform policymaking that promotes sustainable economic growth. At UCLA, I have taken small but illuminating steps towards my goals as a student leader in the community service sphere. I constantly engage sociological and economic perspectives to assess the value that student organizations bring to the Los Angeles community, and focus on pushing student leaders to think more deeply about the broader issues and circumstances impacting their service community and work. From here, I hope to transition to larger roles where I can inform decisions made by international organizations and governments in their design and implementation of appropriate and sustainable policies to achieve inclusive economic growth.

The challenge of implementing appropriate economic policies is pertinent because many more countries are in the midst of great economic and social transformations, and lessons from the past tell us that we need to consider more than just GDP growth to end up with a truly flourishing society. I am inspired by the collaboration between governments and multilateral organizations to create modern and appropriate solutions to managing economic resources and providing economic empowerment. One example that I find impressive is the work of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in promoting sustainable management of biologically and culturally unique areas. Designing such comprehensive solutions requires a sophisticated understanding of institutions from a sociological and economic perspective. With further education beyond my undergraduate degree and experience in the field, I see myself taking on such a role and doing a small part to make the world better for all.

What have been some of your favorite Sociology courses?

Environmental Sociology with Prof Bargheer; Self and Society with Prof Collett; Soc 102 with Prof Macias

December 2020 Major of the Month:

Grant Cho 

Hometown: Los Angeles  

Quarantine Pastimes: Hiking, Learning French with my sister 

 

What drives your interest in Sociology?

As the first person in my family to attend college, I made a commitment to myself and my family to work hard to earn my degree in the pursuit of increasing health equity for underserved minority communities. I have personally witnessed the devastating difficulties immigrant families face when trying to access even adequate care, almost losing both of my parents to cancer. I realized that in order to achieve my dream of becoming a healthcare advocate for families like my own, I needed an education focused on critically analyzing the access to and navigation of societal institutions. Sociology provides students like me with a unique and interdisciplinary understanding the relationship between people and systems, power structures and oppression, and addresses the root causes of inequity that persist within our society. I believe that studying Sociology has provided me with the perspective and skill-set necessary to be a more effective community advocate both on and off campus. By practicing public health through a sociological lens, I can contribute to dismantling systemic barriers to care and promote happier and healthier communities.  

What are your future career plans?  

My ultimate goal is to work on behalf of the California Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and improve access to health resources to underserved communities throughout the state. I plan to pursue an MPH-MHA in order to intensively study hospital administration, management, and policy-based problem solving. With a Sociological background, I can more effectively lead organizations in providing healthcare education and forge new partnerships with existing institutions to help community members overcome barriers to accessing vital healthcare services.  

I have strong personal reasons for this career interest. I grew up in a medically-underserved community. Without sufficient high-quality insurance coverage, my parents have never been able to access timely care and are rarely provided access to Korean-speaking doctors and nurses, undermining their treatment. I want to take all of the lessons and insights gained from my family’s own struggles and use them to empower others. I understand the multiple barriers that prevent people like my family from accessing care. For too many Americans, issues such as distance, money, and access to specialists present insurmountable barriers. I plan to devote my life to helping others overcome such difficulties and attain equal treatment and access to resources and decisions. 

Which Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most? 

My three favorite Sociology classes have been Sociology 170 (Medical Sociology), Sociology 128 (Sociology of Emotions), and Sociology 156 (Race and Ethnicity in America). Medical Sociology details the historical relationship between patients and providers, and the development of health resource deserts for minority communities. The Sociology of Emotions provides critical insight into the journeys of migrants and immigrants escaping difficult lives in their home countries and enduring the unimaginable to support their children in America. Finally, Race and Ethnicity dispels myths about notions of race, and underscores how racialization informs patient experiences in healthcare settings and broader social structures. 

Within each of these courses, I was able to recognize and apply classroom concepts to my own family's journey from South Korea up until my journey in college. For me, these courses have allowed me to engage in insightful and timely discussions and solidified my commitment to establish more accessibility and resources for minority communities in order to promote communities of care and compassion. 

November 2020 Sociology Major of the Month:

Tania Nasrollahi 

 

Hometown: Los Angeles 

Quarantine Pastimes: Reading and roller-skating! (Also, trying to find the best ramen in L.A.) 

What drives your interest in Sociology? 

Sociology has the power to teach us about the social spaces we operate within and interact with every day. Studying social forces that impact society teaches us not only about the collective experiences of people, but it also gives context to our own experiences. My interest in sociological research was inspired by participating in The Community College to Ph.D. Scholars Program, a program for students of minority status seeking to pursue a Ph.D. I spent a year, alongside my cohort, carrying out a research project about stereotypes of Iranian-Americans in the US. I asked participants about stereotypes they had been subjected to and found distinct ethnic stereotypes that fell outside the well-documented Islamophobic stereotypes. Documenting experiences of Iranian-Americans allowed me to put into words what I had tacitly known for so long. At UCLA, as part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program,  I am examining racial and ethnic identity processes. Sociology is easily my greatest passion, and no other discipline has taught me more about our world. 

What are your future career plans? 

My time working on various research projects through different fellowships has shown me the importance of developing a sociological imagination. This year, I am applying to Ph.D. programs in Sociology. In graduate school I want to examine the process of categorical avoidance across social settings. Categorical avoidance refers to the decision to reject a label or experience to avoid adopting it as an identity. Moving forward, I want to pursue a career as a professor of sociology. Pursuing a career in academia is daunting, but I am certain of my passion for the discipline, and my research interests in identity, ethnic ascription, gender, and race. My time at UCLA has been immensely informative and I feel ready to take on graduate school. In addition to research and teaching, I am especially excited to act as a mentor for incoming students. With the help of our incredible department, I am much more skilled as a researcher than I once was. I want to give back to a new generation of scholars. As an Iranian-American, queer woman, I know firsthand the value of diversity in educational institutions. For students of color, representation and inclusive spaces can change entire educational trajectories. My research interests are heavily inspired by my life circumstances. Universities have a responsibility to achieve equity for all students, and I am eager to support the goal of promoting diversity by giving marginalized people a voice through my research. 

Which UCLA Sociology classes have you enjoyed the most? 

Special Topics in Sociology: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity: Considering University with Dr. Brown, Contemporary Sociological Theory with Dr. Macias, Honors Seminar in Sociology with Dr. Berend, and all my work in 199 contract courses with Dr. Harris!