Hometown: Jackson, MI
Major: Sociology B.S. w/ SHM subplan
Campus Organizations: Vice President for Student Life Student Advisory Board, Pre-Surgical Club, Club Bowling, Bioethics Society, The Dot Org (student org. seeking to destigmatize menstruation and increase access to safe sanitary products and facilities in Ann Arbor), First-Generation Student Advisory Board, Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) Advanced Fellow, Sociology Opportunities for Undergraduate Leadership (SOUL).
Let's get to know Lance...
What inspired you to major in Sociology?
In my mind, places like the University of Michigan belong to people who have questions left unanswered. Clearly, the time we spend here is important. Society has carved out four-years for some of us (not everyone is so fortunate) to find ourselves, to pursue our passions, and to find answers. College, to me, is a place to find answers or to at least put myself on a path to finding the answers. The fact remains, my questions were almost always socially-bent. Where does one go to better understand society? Sociology. My questions were social so I did the only reasonable thing that I could do—I sought out the sociologists.
What classes have you most enjoyed? Why?
This a difficult question to respond to. The Department of Sociology teems with talent, and it is difficult for me not to praise every professor whose class I’ve taken. Education is all about widening the keyhole through which one views the world—every sociology professor has helped me to do just that. Sociology of Bioethics (476) was an eye-opening experience. Prof. Ray De Vries really understands that students have a lot to teach one another. There is no ‘banking’ model in his classroom where students are just containers for educators to fill with knowledge. It really is about using what we know as students to help transform the others—and the topic is interesting for anyone who has social questions pertaining to clinical medicine, research, and ethics. Sociology of Sexuality (345) was also enlightening. You’ll always enjoy going to lecture and learning from Prof. PJ McGann. She really gets you to challenge your taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of reality. A class with Prof. Luis Sfeir-Younis can be incredibly transformative if you keep an open mind. I took Sociology of the Body with him and it really was transformational—totally altered my thinking concerning history and our corporeal attachments to it. There is no wrong course to take in this department. You can really learn a lot from everyone. Be open.
Have you participated in an internship or research experience?
This past year, I have been a research assistant in the Department of Sociology through the fabulous departmental program SOUL which is open to first-generation sociology majors. My SOUL cohort and I did research on first-generation students with an emphasis on family. A fellow SOUL student, Carlos Henderson, and I are now in the process of developing a MOOC-like platform with funding from the Barger Leadership Institute to better prepare first-generation college students for success at places like the University of Michigan.
What advice would you give to students considering a major in Sociology at UM?
At first-glance, sociology is a depressing endeavor. You’ll learn or are learning about race inequality, gender inequality, the institution of heterosexuality, the residual effects of moral panics, and the strict systems that are used to police deviance and difference. You’ll read Bourdieu and be introduced to habitus and you’ll perhaps have the realization that society is so slow to change because the “feel for the game” is treated as natural instead of something that is learned—an excuse used to justify most social inequality. “Throwing like a girl” isn’t a natural thing—its cultural! Yet, the concept will continue to reproduce because it is naturalized. All of these things seem so terrible. You'll think to yourself: ‘how could anyone dedicate their major to studying these enormously depressing topics?’
But, and I agree with Professor Sandra Levitsky, optimism is at the heart of the sociological imagination. If everything is learned, that means that it can be unlearned. These things are not natural. Disparities in infant mortality rates between populations are not natural. The way heterosexuality organizes gender is not natural. The hierarchy that places men over women is not natural. The ways in which we perceive our own realities are not natural. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can create a society where everyone can flourish—where everyone has a seat at the table. Certainly, we can use to sociological imagination to see the way things are. But, more importantly, we can use it to see the way things can be. The sociological imagination is filled with hope and optimism.
What do you hope to do after graduating from Michigan?
It would be my ultimate dream to be awarded the Bonderman Fellowship and to have the opportunity to meet new people all around the world—to really suck out all the marrow of life (as Thoreau said). It looks challenging, rewarding, and totally transformative and that is really what I desire most at this point in my life. The world has so much to offer.
After a one to two-year gap, I’d like to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a physician and healer. So, medical school is in my plan. Overall, I want to be a traveler, a healer, and a sociological Machiavellian. I really am excited to see what the future has in store.
Where is the best place in Ann Arbor to get late-night study food?
Victors on the Hill was always my go-to place.