Let's get to know Kate...
Hometown: Irvine, California
Major/Minor: Double major in English and Sociology - Law, Justice, and Social Change sub-major
What inspired you to major in Sociology?
Upon stepping foot on the University of Michigan's campus, I had no knowledge about sociology as a discipline, nor what I wanted to pursue on campus and after graduation. However, I knew that I was passionate about advocating for underrepresented groups, storytelling, and thinking critically about how we can achieve positive change. In the fall of my sophomore year, I enrolled in SOC 495: Restorative Justice, Prison Reform, Abolition: From Theory to Practice, my first sociology class, after a friend had recommended it to me. I knew little about decarceration and restorative justice, but took a leap of faith, and, by the end of the semester, the class had proven instrumental in shaping my values and understanding of the world around me. It was clear to me, from that moment forward, that I wanted to learn more about the field of sociology and the ways I could use this mode of thinking to deconstruct key issues I was passionate about. It is not an exaggeration to say, two years later, that the classes I have taken in this department changed my life and given me the opportunity to grow in ways I never would have imagined.
What classes have you most enjoyed?
I've loved every class I've had the opportunity to take through the Sociology department – each one has given me insight into a new perspective and challenged me to think critically through a sociological lens. That being said, SOC 458: Sociology of Education, taught by Professor David Schoem, and SOC 495: Restorative Justice, Prison Reform, Abolition: From Theory to Practice, taught by Professor Becca Pickus, stand out to me as particularly impactful in my educational career and instrumental in my understanding of the world around me.
Have you participated in undergraduate research, fieldwork, or an internship experience?
Since the first semester of my freshman year, I've had the opportunity to work as a research assistant to Professor Melissa Borja on a project titled Virulent Hate: Anti-Asian Hate in the COVID-19 Pandemic, which studies anti-Asian racism and Asian American activism during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways in which storytelling impacts Asian and Asian American people who are experiencing and combatting racism. I have also worked for The Michigan Daily for the past three years, and currently serve as co-Editor in Chief. Working in a newsroom has given me the opportunity to understand the power of narratives, and the ways in which we convey them, in enacting change in institutions around the world. In addition, I had the privilege of working at a nonprofit organization, Partnership for Pubic Service, in Summer 2022. At this organization, I worked with the team to honor those who work in pubic service (and often go unrecognized) and help expand coverage of public interest initiatives by creating a list of reporters who identify as a member of a minority community to diversify coverage of key issues.
This summer I will be interning at the ACLU, working on projects advocating for people who are incarcerated or have been impacted by the criminal legal system in LA county. I hope to apply the knowledge and skills I have learned from previous experiences to my Honors thesis, which will examine the ways in which media coverage and storytelling have impacted the trajectory of the abolitionist movement.
How has Sociology helped you to understand the pandemics the U.S. is currently facing: COVID-19 and/or systemic racism?
Sociology has given me the opportunity to meaningfully reflect on the ways in which the structures and systems in place in the United States have maintained and encouraged racism across different communities and sectors. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, I had the opportunity of joining the Virulent Hate research team and learning about the specific ways that Asian Americans were impacted by racism over the past three years. This experience also taught me to grapple with the oppression of other communities of Color, who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to a lack of access to equitable healthcare. By beginning to view the world around me through a sociological lens, I have been able to ask challenging questions and imagine solutions that will work towards achieving a more equitable society.
What do you hope to do after graduating from the University of Michigan?
After graduating from the University of Michigan, I hope to pursue a career in public service. I am particularly passionate about advocating for marginalized groups and specifically those who are currently and previously incarcerated. My interests currently lie in the intersection between journalism and social justice and contributing to the eradication of unethical journalism and news deserts.
Do you have advice for prospective Soc majors in this moment?
The best advice I could give to any prospective Sociology major, and every student at the University of Michigan, is to be compassionate, with those around you, but especially with yourself. Being a student can be challenging in so many ways. In sociology in particular, you will learn about challenging and upsetting issues, many of which feel all consuming and impossible to overcome at times. It's important to take care of yourself always and prioritize your wellbeing and happiness.
Beyond, that take classes that pique your interest! I never would have discovered the Sociology department, nor the particular subject matters I am now so passionate about, without challenging myself to take classes about issues I had never learned before. This department has so many great opportunities if you take the time to look, and every faculty member is enthusiastic and always more than willing to help, so know that you can always count on them for recommendations and advice.