How did you decide to end up at Rice for undergrad?
I think I have a bit of a unique story as to how I found Rice. My sophomore year I was taking some AP courses and I decided to turn to OpenStax which is the open educational resource housed at Rice University. It’s a company that provides text books and other resources to help in the classroom for students who might not be able to afford them, or who might not have the best textbooks. And I would constantly see the Rice logo and the Rice name on the textbooks, so I decided to look it up and then in January of 2015 I became set on Rice. I toured the school, and Rice was my top school throughout the entire college search process. I think the thing that really brought me to Rice was my ability to grow at the University. I thought a lot about which university would challenge me the most personally and socially. What would be the university that would provide me not only the tools to be really successful but would also require me to take rein over my own situation? I think Rice definitely provided that more than most of the schools I was considering. I came to my campus visit and after the second day here I committed on campus!
During that campus visit, I was just reminded of why I fell in love with the school in the first place. When I visited the first time I came with my brother, my cousin, and my grandfather. My grandfather is easily the closest person to me – he’s someone who’s really shaped my understanding of the world but also my work ethic. And when we came I remember he kept talking about how much he loved it and how he wanted to come here. But he never had the opportunity to come to a school like Rice. So I think being here I reminisced a lot about that first experience; I was much younger I was only about 15 at the time. And I remember telling myself then that I can never come here because the campus is too happy.
What initially drew you to sociology as a discipline?
Well, I was kind of engaging in sociology without really realizing it because I didn’t know much about the discipline. I came in majoring in Economics and I was really interested in behavioral economics because I like to understand how people make decisions based on their experiences. And that’s Sociology. Then I switched to Political Science, and the main things that I was interested in was how are people’s politics driven by things like their sense of community and their understanding of the effects of politics on their individual experiences. Those are interdisciplinary questions but they’re really Sociology! Then my second semester of my freshman year I took courses with Dr. Werth and Dr. Hughes in Sociology and that was the first time that I had taken true Sociology courses. I thought this could really be my future: this could be what I do going forward. Taking those courses, dipping my feet in research, and then attending conferences with other sociologists around the country was the first time where I knew for sure that this was something I wanted to do. Being in those spaces with other sociologists was one of the few times where I felt like I really had a place in academia as a student or in my future. And it’s been such a strong community. I think the Sociology community is something I rely on more than any other of my social networks, in terms of mentors outside of Rice, mentors here at Rice--- they’re all sociologists. They’re a lot of the people that give me the energy to do what I do around campus and just on a daily basis. If I’m ever struggling or if I’m ever down, the main people I reach out to are my Sociology mentors and friends. Finding those networks has definitely shown me that this is the discipline for me.
What is the most exciting or surprising thing you’ve learned since coming to Rice – either inside or outside of the classroom.
The most shell-shocking thing for me specifically was that college isn’t an oasis. I’m a first generation lower income student, and a first generation lower income Black student from a somewhat underperforming high school. Dr. Anthony Jack writes a lot about this in his book, Privileged Poor, and I’ve actually had a chance to talk to him about this which was cool. So many of us are trying to make it to college because we’re trying to escape some of the experiences we’ve had. A lot of us are trying to see ourselves move upwardly in the future but also right now. The living standards of home versus in college are really different for a lot of students, for better and for worse. I would say the most shocking thing was to realize that this place is not perfect. And it was naïve of me to think that, but depending on your previous situation you can look at everything that’s offered here and think that that’s really going to be the case. And the reason that’s really important is because where you find your home and niche on campus can really be make or break. And I honestly can say if I didn’t find the Sociology department, I don’t know if I would necessarily still be here at Rice.
What do you hope to accomplish with your Sociology major?
First, I think I definitely want to do a senior thesis. I have a notepad where I just write questions on what I could research. My main goal with the major would be using my research skills developed in the Sociology department to better the campus. I do a lot of leadership initiatives around campus and what underlies all of it is my understanding of these different spheres and social interactions. I think after graduating I would like to do a JD and a PhD – I’m really big on political advocacy, really big on community engagement work, and I really want to be one of those scholars that can use my research background to advance policy but also to be able to analyze policy with a sociological lens. Urban education, higher education, racism, and incarceration are some things I really like studying in Sociology. I do know that whatever I do I’ll have support, and that’s honestly something that I’m very grateful for because not all students have the support they need. I think that’s why I take college leadership so seriously because I know I have the support that a lot of students don’t, so if I can provide that to other students, that’s what I’m aiming for.