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Sociology Alumnae Spearheading Social Justice Issues in Tulsa

There is a social justice movement stirring in the classrooms of TU’s Department of Sociology. Instead of holding tight to old viewpoints, students strive to see societal problems from a different lens. Whether the lens is low-income or considering racial biases, students better analyze the intricacies of cyclical social issues.

With their perspectives broadened, sociology students are eager to not only share their insights but also act on them. Three recent TU sociology graduates tell how they are leading the social justice movement.

Daniela Rosales:  Big Brothers Big Sisters

As a program specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma, Daniela Rosales (BA ’18) carefully dissects interviews with children and parents trying to find the perfect mentor to match with the child. “We pair volunteer mentors with at-risk youth to empower them and defend their potential,” Rosales explained.

From shared life experiences to similar interests, she uncovers common ground for relationships to flourish. Tulsa has several companies that encourage their employees to volunteer, which allows the “littles” to learn about that industry and career path. “That makes a really great match when you have a little who has this fire in them to become something, and you have the big who is that something,” Rosales said. “They get to look up to them and see that it’s doable, and they have that person as a mentor.”

While Big Brothers Big Sisters takes an individualistic approach to serving children’s needs, they still acknowledge the systemic issues, which fits with Rosales academic interests.

An Accessible Revolution

Once Rosales decided to major in sociology, she realized she was late to enroll in classes. After emailing Associate Professor of Sociology Jean Blocker to see if she could add her to the class, Blocker responded, “Maybe, but you have to tell me about yourself.”

Rosales responded: “I’m a queer, undocumented immigrant, and I have all these structural pulls to my person. I want to examine how I am supposed to navigate the world and how the world interacts with me because of these identity markers.”

As she searched for her own path in the world, Rosales knew sociology was her life. She plans to return to school and receive her Ph.D. in sociology. Her research will involve Latinx immigrants, and their emotional navigation to form an identity as an undocumented immigrant.

Big Brothers Big Sisters plays an influential part in her academics. “I really needed to jump into a nonprofit where I could reconnect with that tangible community. Once I do go back into academia, I can always have that in mind and never write things that are inaccessible to the public,” she said. “If your revolution is inaccessible, it’s not really a revolution.”

Learn more about the Department of Sociology. 

Roxanne Eddington: Lindsey House

What started as a classroom assignment transformed into the beginning of a promising career. In her sociology senior seminar, Roxanne Eddington (BA ’18) chose to do an internship with Lindsey House. After graduation, she was hired as their program service coordinator.

“Lindsey House is a transitional living facility for women and children facing situational homelessness. While families are here, mothers go through two different programs one is life skills and one is financial literacy,” Eddington said.

As an intern, Eddington 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.

If you start young conveying information about managing your resources, it becomes a part of who you are,” she said. “Hopefully, we can assist with breaking that cycle of poverty that many families experience.”

Currently, Eddington facilitates the programs for the women at Lindsey House. From meal prep to goal setting, she helps them set up a plan of success. “Everyone that comes to the program completes an individualized service plan that outlines goals which includes everything from saving and budgeting to reuniting with their kids,” she explained. “We can provide a safe and supportive environment for a woman who is in the midst of a DHS (Department of Human Services) case, and she is trying to reunify with her children.”

Learning to Listen

Sociology involves setting aside personal beliefs to reflect on a different point of view. Eddington calls it learning to listen. “I think we are almost taught to not listen to people but to hear them and then respond, she said. “But with sociology qualitative research methods, you have to dissect interviews that you have with people. It forces you to slow down and process words that people are saying.”

After Introduction to Sociology, Eddington knew she wanted to work in social services. Learning about underserved groups ignited a passion to not only work with these minority groups but to also help other people understand them. “The idea that we all have the biases and prejudices that we might not even know about was striking to me, but it’s exciting when you have that information,” she said. “You can then fight the prejudices and point them out to people to enlighten them about things they may not even realize.”

Sociology led her to ask: “How do I take my passion out into the community and not just keep this information to myself?” For Eddington, Lindsey House was the perfect answer.

Interested in following Roxanne’s path? Check out the sociology undergraduate program. 

Abbey Marino: The Entrepreneurial Spirit

When Abbey Marino (BA ’18) arrived at TU, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and the typical career paths didn’t quite fit. But in the sociology department, she didn’t have to conform to any preconceived molds. She was free to learn and explore. “I found sociology and loved the curriculum, the readings and the way people thought in the department,” Marino said. “It opened my eyes to the opportunities outside of the traditional career paths. That was appealing to me.”

Now as a strategic analyst for the Ronnie K. Irani Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth at The University of Oklahoma, she found a unique and meaningful career path. “We are an on-campus organization that works on building the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Oklahoma,” she said. “We do that through real-world projects and pairing entrepreneurs with consulting teams made of both students and young professionals in the community.”

Last semester, she led a team partnering with The Greenwood Cultural Center. After examining the center’s programs and services, the team “recommend some strategies to make them more long-term financially sustainable and impactful in the community,” Marino said.

The goal is to help companies and organizations “create jobs for people in Oklahoma by boosting that entrepreneurial mindset through different incubators and innovative solutions to problems,” she added.

The Mine Fellowship

As a senior at TU, several sociology professors encouraged Marino to apply for The Mine Fellowship. The Mine is a nonprofit dedicated to being a catalyst for social innovation by equipping Tulsa entrepreneurs, creative people and developers to make a better world. “The fellowship is part professional development and part real-world project in Tulsa,” Marino explained. “We want to train local young professionals in social entrepreneurship.”

As a fellow, Marino worked with the company Jujuu, which creates is a socially responsible gift box service. “They provide high-quality gifts that are sourced from local makers with social missions, and I helped build those relationships and sourced the products for the boxes,” she said.

She learned leadership, digital marketing and designing financial models, and by the end of her fellowship, she had found her passion for social entrepreneurship. Her fellowship with The Mine led to her current job position.

Part of Marino’s success at The Mine was based on her sociological perspective. “I tell everyone that I know that they should at least take one sociology class while they are at TU,” Marino said. “Because it’s important to broaden your perspective and call into question some of those thought processes that you have that you take for granted.”

A social justice movement is often advanced one person at a time, and at TU, it starts with Introduction to Sociology.