A college education is not to be cloistered inside classroom walls. As sociology students examine society, social interaction and culture, it is vital that they step outside the classroom and experience their own subject matter. This year, the sociology senior seminar students had an opportunity to intern in the Tulsa community, write an intensive research paper or do a smaller combination of both options.
Sociology Professor Susan Chase established this model for the class to provide students the chance to use the skills and knowledge they have honed as sociology majors.
“We in the sociology department want the students to have a real capstone experience,” Chase said.
With a passion for social service, Roxanne Eddington, a sociology senior, tackled both the internship and research paper. “I interned at Lindsey House which is a transitional living facility for homeless moms in Tulsa, and I also researched the population of homeless moms,” Eddington said.
Lindsey House offers the mothers programming like financial literacy. Eddington and her internship supervisor thought it would be beneficial for the children to experience a parallel early intervention financial program. She created three sets of curricula for ages 4-6, 7-13 and 14-7. For the younger kids her topics were: What is money? How does Mom get money? The older youth received information on loans and a savings plan for college.
“I take advantage of what my parents instilled in me at an early age. I think ‘Oh everyone knows this,’ but it’s just not true,” Eddington said. “Why should I assume that everyone would have this knowledge about financial literacy?”
Awed by the close-knit community at Lindsey House, Eddington’s career path is headed toward social services. “They are raising their kids together, and it’s really beautiful to see them sharing life with one another,” she added.
Sociology senior Ivette Mares knew she wanted to work with children, and her seminar class solidified her career plans. While interning at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, Mares helped lead a bike club where students could learn how to ride a bike. Every Friday, the students would bike a new route. “My favorite bike trip was visiting one of the girls in bike club. She was recently hospitalized,” Mares explained. “We went over to her house, and the kids got to see her. She was very excited.”
Mares also researched the transition into public schools for Hispanic students and parents. Her research negates some unfortunate misconceptions about Hispanic parents not caring about their child’s academic success. “It’s either they miss a day of work or they make it to their child’s school function,” she said. “It’s sad they can’t make it to the function, but that $80 made at work could pay rent or buy food.”
Sociology and environmental policy senior Leah Chatron took on two drastically different internships: Tulsa Police Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With the engineers, Chatron provided research for lawyers and studied environmental law. While working with the police in their child exploitation unit, “I got to register and update the sex offender information and make phone calls to parents,” Chatron said.
By experiencing two different types of environments, she was able to think about the kind of work and work culture that best fit her personality and work goals. “Internships give you work experience before you need to find a job, and for me, they helped me rule out some future [career] options,” Chatron said.
Chatron enjoyed hearing presentations from the other seminar members on their internships and research. She was reminded that
“Sociology has taught me a different way to view the world by thinking about the broader picture.”
Professor Chase also uses this seminar for professional preparation. As seniors, students begin to make after-graduation plans. She asks them two pivotal questions: What are your goals for after graduation? What do you need to do to meet those goals? “Literally, we make a list, and they go off and do some of those things,” she said. “It might be revising a résumé or doing a mock interview for a job.”
The internships allow students to see how their classwork has prepared them for the workforce. For example, sociology students can take a real-world data class, which proves invaluable. One student interned with TU’s legal clinic and helped them reorganize their data. “She was able to say to them: ‘The way these data are presented is not really clear. Here are some different ideas,’” Chase explained.
Chase gets to the heart of the sociology senior seminar. By stepping outside the classroom, students are “able to use those skills and really make a difference.”