Five prominent alums speak at Sociology Career Panel

On Thursday, April 2nd, the Sociology Department held its 3rd Sociology Alumnae/i Career Panel where five former Wheaton students talked about their career paths and experiences in this field of study. The panel was followed by a dinner that gave students opportunities to talk with the alumnae in an informal setting.

Professor of Sociology, Karen McCormack, said, “Both the panel and the dinner were very successful; students seemed to enjoy having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the alums.”

McCormack, who organized the event, stated that these panels have been very successful each time they have been held. She said, “I don’t think that we would do anything differently in the future. We do think that the dinner is a crucial part of the experience, and so we hope to be able to continue to do that.”

The panel itself seemed engaging as the five speakers shared their experiences on getting jobs in the field of sociology. The speakers first shared what it was that made them pursue a career in this field.

Christina Lambert ’10 attributed her interest in sociology to Professor of Sociology and Sociology Department Chair, Hyun Sook Kim. “[Once I was introduced to sociology] it kind of blew my mind how much it framed everything I was thinking about,” Lambert said. Speaker Jennifer Adams agreed that the courses had a huge impact on her passions and said, “ I took a Race & Ethnicity course here, and it just really opened my eyes and made me [realize] that I wanted to work with people.”

Others found their interest in sociology to be more about the study than the actual interactions. Meg Sullivan ’91 said, “I don’t really have that same compassion [that the other speakers have]. I just really connected with the professors. I liked contemplating other perspectives and succinctly studying the data. I found my intellectual voice here [at Wheaton].”

Katie Holleran ’09 said that the data-studying aspect of sociology has helped her in her work as well. She said, “I still use some basic analytical tools from sociology [for product/brand management].”

The speakers all agreed that the skills they learnt through sociology here at Wheaton really helped to guide them in their everyday lives and occupations. Emily Fairbairn ’06, who currently works in hospice care (elderly care), also felt that her sociology education helped immensely.

“I found that [hospice care] was just really important work,” said Fairbairn. “I use sociology everyday, it really guides the way I work with the people I [continually] interact with.”

Sullivan was glad that sociology has really shifted since her departure from Wheaton. “We [as a society] keep becoming less tolerant of nonsense in the workplace,” Sullivan said, “Our employment laws have really tracked this idea.”

Overall, the panelists agreed that finding a job, while not always easy, could be a creative adventure, especially if you’re from Wheaton. “Even if you go across the country [to work], I’m sure there is a [Wheaton] alum board on the West Coast,” Fairbairn said, “ Wheaton is really everywhere.”