The Project Community Experience
Former Project Community student Soneida Rodriquez discusses her experience in the program, why she was inspired to major in sociology, and how it's shaped her career path.
"Growing up in a multiracial household gave me a unique vantage point of inequity. I had always struggled to understand the underlying reasons for my paternal relatives' premature death in their 40s, many of whom were Dominican immigrants compared to my maternal relatives who were white, native U.S citizens and often lived into their 90s. It wasn’t until I took my first sociology class, SOC 225 Project Community, that I felt like I had the language to describe what is going on. Sociology courses taught me to view chronic disease as not just the product of a breakdown in the human body but a symptom of a breakdown in American society. I look forward to bringing this unique perspective to my career at the intersection of law and medicine.
My experiences as a sociology major informed a policy proposal I wrote calling for an interdisciplinary student run clinic between Michigan Medicine and Michigan Law. This type of interdisciplinary student run clinic would train the next generation of law and medical professionals to work together to treat patients’ and communities' needs before they turn into a ER visit or epidemic. This work has inspired me to re-imagine the relationship between healthcare and loca lgovernment and envision primary care as a grassroots movement."
This past year has been incredibly difficult for so many individuals and communties, and even still our students continue to work towards and fight for social change. Despite going through her own personal struggles, Soneida has recently made some huge accomplishments toward the U-M Sociology mission.
"During fall 2020, my ability to assess needs and utilize an interdisciplinary and immersive approach to problem solving would be tested. Over the summer my family lost their home, jobs, and loved ones. As a resident advisor, the threat of canceled housing contracts left me with no home to return to. Recognizing numerous other RAs faced similar dilemmas, I channeled my sense of powerlessness into building an interdisciplinary campus coalition calling for students to have a seat at the table when decisions that impact us are being made. Through organizing socially distant student demonstrations, speeches, and interviews with media outlets, we built the 265 student movement across all majors and identities. Alongside ResStaff Reform I transformed advocacy into action by running successfully for student government. Together we persuaded the University to increase access to PPE, weekly testing, and communication with frontline staff.
In the face of tragic losses, I used my frustration to become a catalyst for change. In March, I leveraged my role as a resident adviser(RA) in emergency housing to organize 35 student staff to safely turn hundreds of old t-shirts into more than 200 masks for essential workers. As president of Michigan’s Red Cross club, I organized volunteers to assist with food delivery, blood drives, and digital advocacy generating 537 volunteer hours. In the midst of crippling bloodshortages, our club blood drives generated 403 pints of blood and saved 1209 lives. Throughout the summer, I mentored dozens of student leaders by facilitating calls that enabled student leaders to share feedback on how to mobilize.
In the wake of Geroge Floyd’s death, I wrote a Michigan Daily Op-Ed to inspire grassroots organizers to combat racial inequity locally. The article brought together a team of University of Michigan students to enter the COVID-19 campus challenge with me in an effort to combat food insecurity. I recognized that long before the pandemic, food insecurity was an invisible threat that disproportionately impacted students of color.
My participation in the challenge led to my role in developing the north campus food distribution site (Maize and Blue Cupboard). Currently, I am working on developing a national network of student leaders dedicated to promoting social determinants of health. I wrote a policy proposal to Michigan Medicine calling for interdisciplinary training in student-run clinics. I envision future social workers, physicians, and policymakers working to create treatment plans for communities as a whole, to prevent disease epidemics. My policy proposal earned me an invitation to join a network of 120 rising undergraduate public health leaders in the PATHS fellowship hosted by Yale Medical school."