Let's get to know Isabel...
Hometown: Battle Creek, Michigan
Major/Minor: Sociology Major with sub-major in Law, Justice, and Social Change; Minor in Intergroup Relations
What inspired you to major in Sociology?
When I first became a student at the University of Michigan, I was entirely unaware of what being in college entailed or what it meant. As the first person in my entire family to ever attend college, I was extremely lost and confused when I became a student. I met with my advisor in the Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) where I received assistance enrolling in my first ever courses here. One of those courses was Sociology 100 (Intro to SOC) and another was CSP 100 with Dr. Charlotte Winston (a sociologist). In these courses, I found extreme interest in both the content and the willingness to support others. I felt that I had been able to find a community that was open to different perspectives and exploring new information. Even more, I believed that the content presented in Sociology courses and the work that sociologists do would be immensely beneficial to the work I wanted to do in the future. Therefore, I chose to declare my major in Sociology.
What classes have you most enjoyed?
I have to say that I have found joy in all of my Sociology courses. Some of the most impactful and challenging courses that I have enjoyed have been SOC 225&325 - Project Community, SOC 391 - Nonviolence, SOC 310 - Research Methods, and Sociology of Families.
Have you participated in undergraduate research, fieldwork, or an internship experience?
While I have not had an official research position, in my Sociology Research Methods course I was able to conduct a research study designed on my own. I truly enjoyed this opportunity as it allowed me to incorporate my plans for a future career in ways that would not have been otherwise possible. Additionally, I have had an internship with FosterClub where I was able to work alongside the youth services team to develop a conference retreat for young people in Oregon. In the same internship, I worked with the Systems Change Team to develop and create content that would support the Journey to Success Campaign on a national level. In addition to these efforts, I am the presiding President of the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative where I develop opportunities for foster youth across the state to build skills, community, and more. My most recent advocacy effort was with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, MD where I worked with lawmakers and policy writers to propose new ideas for improvement of the foster care system on a national level.
How has Sociology helped you to understand the pandemics the U.S. is currently facing: COVID-19 and/or systemic racism?
Sociology has allowed me the opportunity to understand how pandemics disproportionately impact people of color. Even more, Sociology has allowed me to see myself within these systems and how I contribute to and am impacted by pandemics and systemic oppression. Sociology has allowed me to challenge ideas, ask difficult questions, and think about issues in terms of larger systems and institutions. Further, Sociology has encouraged me to be curious about why things happen and think beyond current realizations to imagine solutions.
What do you hope to do after graduating from the University of Michigan?
I will be completing my undergraduate degree in April 2023. After graduating from Michigan, I plan to pursue a career working with and for foster youth on either a state or national level. My dream is to write policy and work on campaign legislation or movements for foster youth across the United States in the future. I will likely take a gap year or two to gain experiences and develop a clearer understanding of what I enjoy doing. After which, I plan to pursue graduate school for a Master of Public Administration.
Do you have advice for prospective Soc majors in this moment?
The best advice I could give is to always give yourself grace. Being a student at Michigan is challenging in itself. Studying Sociology is challenging in that it opens doors to noticing and understanding social issues on campus and in the general world. Many students feel powerless as we learn about the many social injustices present on campus and throughout the world. John Lewis said that ordinary people have the power to create change - and we do. You have the power to create change. But if you choose that path and work, you will experience extreme physical and emotional burnout. So, the best advice I can give anyone is to have grace for yourself when you are burnt out, when you are struggling, when you are exhausted. Give yourself time, slow things down, ask for help. And know that you belong on this campus, which is full of people who see your potential and believe you are powerful.