Undergraduate Alumni Spotlight

Read what some of our undergraduate alumni did following their graduation from Emory Sociology:     

Mia Benevolenza OX ‘15 EC ‘17, Social Worker (MSW), Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, Boca Raton, FL
Lauren Dinger EC '08, Manager, Tasting Room; Conway Family Wines, Santa Barbara, CA
Andrew Foster EC '07, Digital Marketing Manager; Promove 
Lexi Gervis EC '08, Account Manager; Hall & Partners (Market Research Agency), New York, NY
Glory James EC '17, JD Candidate, Harvard Law 
Ian Margol EC '13, Reporter & Fill-In Anchor; KKO NBC 11 News, Grand Junction, CO  
Liz Melia EC '09, School Turnaround & Improvement Initiatives Budget & Data Manager, Denver Public Schools
Alexi New EC '13, Atlantic Media, PR/Communications Fellow; AtlanticLIVE (The Atlantic's Events Division
Jonathan Peraza Campos EC '18, Fulbright English Teaching Assitantship; Guatemala
Seanette Ting, EC '14, Assistant Buyer; Neiman Marcus
Kaylee Tuggle, EC '15, PhD Candidate, Sociology of Education and Education Policy, Stanford Univ.

Glory James

Graduated in 2017

Employer and job title:

JD Candidate, Harvard Law

Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?

Having a sociological background has been invaluable in law school, particularly because the ability to examine the structure and changing nature of society is crucial to understanding how laws are written/enforced. The research and analytical skills I developed through the process of crafting my honors thesis have also transferred well into my legal career by priming me to approach complex legal questions with intellectual curiosity, think critically, and craft arguments from multiple perspectives.

What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g methods) and what did you find?

After taking several sociology courses that discussed cultural representations of identity in media, I became interested in how black and white women were portrayed in mainstream mass media. My honors thesis focused on advertisements in Vogue (aimed mostly at white audiences) and Ebony (aimed mostly at black audiences). First, I read previous research from the 1970s to the present that had examined similar questions, then I searched for copies of both magazines from the same time period. I built a database of more than 500 images from both magazines between 2004 and 2008. From there, I applied standardized codes of the images, such as whether the models are scantily clad, whether they are in positions of subordination, location, etc. I also added three of my own codes, which examined body type and other characteristics such as skin tone and hair type, which indicated African or European culture. My findings showed ads in both magazines had evolved somewhat from those examined in the 1970s — for instance, modern ads depicted women in work environments and not just in the home. However, recent ads still overwhelmingly showed women in subordinate roles to men, and while Ebony showed more black women in their ads with more diversity among the models, both magazines favored models with European features (ex: straightened hair and light skin).

What broader lessons did you learn from working on your honors thesis?

At the time I was working on my honors thesis, it was by far the most in-depth research project I had been independently responsible for. While the work was challenging, it was far more enjoyable because (1) I chose a research question I was truly interested in, and (2) I had a phenomenal supporter/advisor/mentor in Dr. Tracy Scott. The overall process taught me to be self-motivated, personally accountable, and reminded me that I was not only capable, but deserving, of being in a rigorous academic environment.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?

Sociology equips you for a variety of paths because the discipline provides you with an in-depth understanding of how the world works. As you consider pursuing the major/minor, think critically about your short and long term goals. While you absolutely don’t need to have everything already figured out, if you have an idea about what your unique strengths are, what you’re interested in/passionate about, and/or the types of work environments you thrive best in, this information can help you figure out your next step(s). To the extent that it makes sense for you and your goals, also think about supplementing your sociology education with another major/minor (I double majored in International Studies) — the flexibility of the major allows you to tailor it to your specific needs/interests.  Feel free to contact me (jamesglory95@gmail.com) if you want to talk more about Sociology at Emory or post-grad life!


Jonathan Peraza Campos

Graduated in 2018

Employer and job title:
Fulbright English Teaching Assitantship; Guatemala  

Master’s student in the Social Foundations of Education program at Georgia State University

Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?

I think it’s important to note the personal aspects of a sociology major first since it informs my professional trajectory. As someone from a low-income, working-class immigrant family and as a gay Latino in the South, my life has been marked by different degrees of violence, inequality and marginalization. Sociology gave me the theory, data, and concepts to finally answer questions I’ve asked my entire life. It equipped me to name the invisible social forces in my life that shaped me profoundly. Once I had the language and tools that Sociology and Ethnic Studies provided me, I was better able to apply my training in sociology to my career. 

I continue to use social research methods to study race, immigration, education and social movement through fellowships, my job and my Master’s program. I apply sociological concepts to actively improve my teaching and youth mentorship and my community organizing around racial, migrant, and educational justice. Sociology gave me new lenses to view the world in more critical ways and the tools to fight for a freer and more equitable future.

What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g methods) and what did you find?As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow in Sociology, my thesis titled “Between Borders and Boundaries: Salvadoran and Guatemalan Identity Calibration in Georgia” was at the intersection of sociology, Latinx Studies, and Central American Studies. I interviewed Salvadoran-descent and Guatemalan-descent people who went to school in Georgia public schools to study how they perceived their racial, ethnic, and national identities and what experiences have shaped their identity formation. I found that my respondents “calibrated,” or adjusted, their self-identification depending on whether they were in predominantly white settings, predominantly Mexican or non-white settings, and predominantly mestizo Central American settings (e.g. El Salvador and Guatemala). Their self-identification in these settings relied on how rigid or porous racial and ethnic boundaries in their schools were as well as what racial/ethnic ideologies they drew from to interpret racial phenomena around them. The strength of home cultures and experiences with racial/ethnic and color discrimination were also key factors in strengthening or weakening self-identification as Salvadorans and Guatemalans, Hispanic or Latino/a, Americans and so forth.

What broader lessons did you learn from working on your honors thesis?

My thesis was largely driven by my desire to understand my experiences as a Salvadoran/Guatemalan in the South. I wanted to see how Salvadorans and Guatemalans experienced their upbringing in Georgia compared to me. Central American Studies is a growing field and I hope to make a contribution as Central American scholars further build our field given the general lack of our perspectives in Latinx Studies and the social sciences. The lack of documentation regarding our experiences in the U.S. South became especially salient as I was doing my literature review and found very little about Central Americans in the region. I also had to teach myself a lot of the Central American Studies canon given the lack of Latinx and Central American faculty and scholarship available at Emory, which is why the Consciousness is Power movement and student movements for Ethnic Studies are crucial.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?

As Latinx sociology majors, it is often isolating to not see Latinx faculty and faculty of color in the department and Emory. Oftentimes faculty don’t understand our experiences well and what is a curiosity to them is often our lives under their microscope. We need to enter the field and do research to bring our experiences and perspectives to the forefront. We need to be in the classroom to teach and mentor students in a way that we needed and often didn’t have. Find your allies and supporters in the department and at Emory who will invest in you and believe in you. Without my mentors in sociology, African American Studies, and Latinx Studies, I would not have gotten through Emory. Challenge your professors for having a lack of diverse scholarship in their syllabi and not being inclusive and proactive regarding diversity in the room (and the discipline, frankly). Know that we need your voice. You are powerful and you deserve to be in that classroom, no matter how isolating it may feel sometimes to be one of the few Latinx, Black, low-income, and first-generation students there.  


Mia Benevolenza

Graduated in 2017

Employer and job title:

Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Pursuing Clinical Licensure, Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services

I graduated with my Master’s in Social Work in May 2019. As part of the clinical component of my program, I interned at an outpatient oncology center, specializing in work with older adults. I also engaged in macro-level research, writing an article that was published in 2018 with guidance from a professor. I received post-graduate training in cognitive-behavioral therapy and recently passed my clinical licensing exam.

What drew you to majoring in sociology? 

I initially started college thinking I would major in political science and eventually practice civil rights or environmental law. My advisor at Oxford was the first person who encouraged me to consider majoring in sociology since it aligned more with my interests in serving others and giving back on both a small and large scale.       

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?

Many of my sociology professors were influential in leading me to where I am today.

I considered these professors mentors and became inspired by their ability to integrate their passion for academics/research with how such material applies to the outside world and everyday life. This made it easy to visualize the possibilities for many different career paths within sociology that were both exciting to me and could benefit others. Some courses which helped to enrich my interest in pursuing something like clinical social work were Soc. Aspects of Health and Illness (SOC 230), Aging in Society (SOC 348), and the Internship Program (SOC 494R), where I designed an internship working with the social workers at A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab.  Participating in SEUSS was also a great experience since it gave me an opportunity for the first time to present research I worked on for one of my classes in a professional conference setting.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?

As you’re pursuing the major/minor think about how what you’re studying connects to a possible career path.  Doing things like attending networking events through the Career Center and reaching out to professors early to cultivate relationships can make all the difference.  I also found that connecting with other sociology majors/minors was helpful since I developed several friendships through the program and it was nice to hear about the various research interests and career aspirations people had.  Look on the website under “Careers and Alumni” where Informal Career Concentrations are listed and you will see just how many opportunities are out there for those who choose to focus on sociology as a major/minor.

Feel free to contact me (benevolenzama@gmail.com) if you want to talk more about Sociology at Emory or what lies beyond!


Kaylee Tuggle

Graduated in 2015

Employer and job title:
PhD Candidate, Sociology of Education and Education Policy, Stanford University

Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?
Sociology helped me to understand the ways in which social forces work to facilitate social reproduction. As a first-generation, low-income student from a relatively low-income community, I had no idea how socioeconomically diverse the world could be (SOC 221; SOC 307; SOC 516). I was also able to confront the political and hegemonic ideologies around race and gender (SOC 247; SOC 225) with which I'd been instilled before coming to college. Sociology was both a personal and a professional pursuit for me, inspiring me first to become a classroom teacher in the high school I'd attended and then to go on to graduate school to get my PhD in the sociology of education and education policy. 

What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g methods) and what did you find?My honors thesis studied the academic and social college transitions of Emory undergraduate students. I utilized qualitative methods, interviewing 22 students about their high school backgrounds, the support systems they had back home and that they cultivated after arriving to campus, and the ways in which they were able to successfully find belonging in the Emory community. I found that low-SES students more often reported having support systems back home that were very practical (e.g. promising housing, providing transportation) while high-SES students more often reported support systems that were more academically-oriented (e.g. helping students evaluate colleges). Low-SES students also more frequently reported rough academic transitions, though both groups of students reported similar (typically positive) social transitions. 

What broader lessons did you learn from working on your honors thesis?
I learned about how theory isn't made in a vacuum -- it actually manifests in real life! I also learned, though, that some findings theory doesn't plan for (e.g. I had hypothesized very different social transitions based on how the strength of social network ties differ by social class). I also found that I love research because it isn't just about answering your own original research questions -- it's also about identifying patterns that perhaps haven't been theorized yet or for which you didn't necessarily plan. It's full of surprises.  

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?

My best advice is to take the classes you love (and take chances on classes in which you're interested). There is no shortage of opportunities for what sociology majors can do after college--the most important thing, I think, is to enjoy your time. Also, I'd say that if you're interested in graduate school, I highly recommend taking statistics classes for social scientists. I took QTM 100 and was otherwise generally math-phobic, but after coming to graduate school, I realize how much (1) I enjoy statistics and (2) I have to spend a lot of extra time and effort catching up to my more statistically-advanced peers. 


Seanette Ting

Graduated in 2014

Employer and job title:
Assistant Buyer for Neiman Marcus

Have the knowledge and skills you learned as a sociology major translated to your current job? If so, how?
Absolutely. Being exposed to the luxury world, and driving the business behind it, forces you to think about what social constructs affect “luxury” itself. The analytics that go behind every buy is incredible—but to me, it’s even more interesting to think about what influences those sales. I am fascinated by the socialization of luxury. What makes things coveted? What qualifies them to be expensive? How is a brand strategically positioned in a wide retail environment to stand out? I use sociology everyday to understand better the social constructs behind what drives this, and I truly think it’s my passion for sociology that make me a more thoughtful and informed assistant buyer.

What drew you to majoring in sociology? I enjoyed taking Culture and Society (SOC 221) and became fascinated by organizational culture and how companies motivate their employees. Work culture and norms greatly affect our work and how invested we are. They can also reinforce the strength of traditional gender roles, and knowing the theory behind them significantly shaped how I view work-life balance today. I also learned a lot about modern society in another class, Mass Media and Social Influences (SOC 343). It really cemented for me the importance of understanding how people use technology to send widespread messages that, for better or for worse, influence our worldviews. We’re shaped by it every day.

What did your honors thesis address? How did you do it (e.g methods) and what did you find?
Because we live in a world where mass media, and especially television, greatly influence our perceptions, my honors thesis explored the perceived consequences of the “CSI Effect” (e.g., expectations regarding the ready availability of forensic evidence) and how it affects the courtroom. By employing semi-structured, in-depth interviews of district attorneys, I found consistent patterns that prosecutors and judges strongly believe the CSI Effect impacts juror expectations in the courtroom. What was interesting was that ,though there was little evidence that it significantly affects verdicts, it was noticeably affecting legal actors’ behaviors in the courtroom in anticipation of the CSI Effect. In my results, though suggestive, I found that at least some prosecutors are changing their persona and presentation in the courtroom to mimic those on television, creating their own “dramatized” cases. Therefore, we are led to believe that it is possible the CSI Effect not only affects juror expectations, but attorney behavior as well.

What broader lessons did you learn from working on your honors thesis?
Working on a thesis trained me to stay committed to a long term project and to spearhead an investigation from start to finish. Pick a thesis advisor you trust because, over the course of the year, they’ll become your guide in more than just thesis work. I still miss weekly “touch-bases” with Dr. Tracy Scott. And pick a research question that truly fascinates you, otherwise staying disciplined will be a battle! I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and I learned you really can enjoy your work if you follow you head and heart to what you’re passionate about — a lesson that landed me my dream job. 

Ian Margol

Graduated in May 2013

Employer and job title:
KKCO NBC 11 News in Grand Junction, Colorado; I'm a reporter and fill-in anchor

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you wih your career?
My sociology classes have been instrumental in my work in news. My ability to understand and connect with people, their cultures and the processes behind creating them has made finding and working through stories so much easier. Also, any time spent with Tracy Scott is time well spent.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
My advice would be to enjoy your time in school, it's over way too quickly. When you're looking for a job, don't be afraid to go somewhere where you don't know people, sometimes a new place and a new situation are just what you need.

Alexi New

Graduated in 2013

Current Employer and job title:
Atlantic Media, PR/Communications Fellow for AtlanticLIVE, The Atlantic's events division

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?
I absolutely loved being a sociology major. The analytical skills and critical thinking I applied in sociological research and theoretical discussions have proven directly translatable in a work setting. Additionally, my understanding of norms and organizational culture gleaned from sociology courses became vitally relevant when I needed to assess which work environments were the best fit. I knew I needed to work somewhere with a community-oriented culture, and this helped me pick out my current position where office culture fosters team bonding, high-level work, and respect for The Atlantic magazine's brand.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
Build relationships with your professors early, and nurture those relationships. Look for connections between what you are learning in class and what you are observing in your personal interactions and in the news or the outside world. Making continuous connections between theory and real life will help you truly get the most out of your learning experience.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about Sociology at Emory or the post-graduate experience at alexilnew@gmail.com.

Elizabeth 'Liz' Melia

Graduated in 2009

Employer and job title:
Denver Public Schools, School Turnaround & Improvement Initiatives Budget & Data Manager

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?
After graduation I joined Teach For America, an experience that launched my career in K-12 Education Reform. My sociology coursework taught me a lot about inequality and its effects on society, and is one of the reasons I was motivated to apply to TFA. While earning a masters degree in Urban Leadership & Pedagogy, my solid foundation in sociology was a huge asset in my courses on inequality and the achievement gap. In my current role, I do a lot of research on what strategies are driving improvement in low-performing schools, and am incredibly grateful for the research experience I got in my quantitative and qualitative methods courses, as well as my honors thesis. The ability to design studies and analyze their results is an incredibly useful skill in any sector, which employers often seek.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
Take a broad variety of courses -- criminology, sociology of religion, education, organizations. I wish now that I exposed myself to more areas of focus in sociology, especially education! I also recommend getting as much research experience as possible.

Lauren Dinger

Graduated in May 2008

Employer and job title:
I work for Conway Family Wines (www.conwayfamilywines.com) as the manager of the Deep Sea Tasting Room in Santa Barbara, CA. I also am in the early stages of launching a website (www.winebarbiz.com), which will focus on strategies for starting and running a successful wine bar business.

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?
The Tasting Room in which I work constitutes a complex social organism. Each day, I interact with an eclectic mix of customers that I must quickly try to assess. My goal is not only to sell my product, but to ensure a positive tasting experience and to create the type of environment in which customers feel welcomed and valued. In order to be a good salesperson and to deliver optimal customer service, I must determine the needs of my clients on a one-to-one basis and on a more collective basis. My education in sociology made me better appreciate the importance of reading social cues and trying to understand people -- both as individuals and as part of larger groups. 

My training in social science also taught me the importance of data-driven decision making. I am constantly experimenting with new promotional campaigns and incorporating new wines and merchandise into the Tasting Room. We use daily and monthly reports to keep track of which products generate the most sales and are ultimately the most profitable. We base our subsequent purchasing and selling decisions on the specific data we generate.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
My advice to current sociology majors and minors is to try to focus on your personal interests and strengths, and from that, attempt to find a job that will encompass both. When I was in college, I thought I would go straight to law school and would, at present, be in the trenches of a legal career. If you had told me I would be working in the Southern California wine industry, I would have said you were nuts! But in a moment (*many moments) of asking myself, "What can I see myself doing on a daily basis that would make me truly happy?" I kept coming back to two things-- engaging with people and discussing wine. I told myself that if there was a way to do that and also to earn a living, why not try? 

Don't be afraid to take a less traditional career trajectory. There are jobs out there that you don't even know exist. Instead of choosing an industry/occupation and trying to "make it work," why not choose what makes you happy and try to find a job that will allow you to do it?

Additional comments:
What drew me to sociology as a field of study was that it encompasses such a broad range of topics. Even if you aren't quite sure what you want to do after graduation, a degree in Sociology can offer a strong platform that will help prepare you for whatever next step you select. Maximize your time as an undergraduate by pursing your passions and tackling courses that both challenge and interest you. Try to worry less about the "What next?" and instead focus on the "What now?"

Alexandra 'Lexi' Gervis

Graduated in 2008

Employer and job title:
Employer: Hall & Partners (Market Research Agency), Job Title: Account Manager

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?
I am currently doing Qualitative Research, which I learned about thanks to Emory sociology classes and got practical experience doing when I completed my senior honors thesis.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
Having a critical eye and a good sociological understanding can help you in most -- if not all --jobs!

Additional comments:
Seek out people who are currently working to get a better sense of what jobs are out there. I'm doing something now that I didn't even know existed as a job when I was still an undergrad. There are so many more possibilities -- ones you haven't even heard about yet!

Andrew W. Foster

Graduated in 2007

Employer and job title:

Foster Ideas, Owner / Head of Accounts

How has Sociology and the classes that you have completed helped you with your career?
Sociology has provided me with the ability to think critically: I can frame an argument from any perspective and I can scientifically evaluate information. The subject matter of my classes varied (e.g. racial relations, history of education, women's studies) but the discussion always related to demographics. I strategically transitioned my academic studies of demographics into a professional position that enables me to communicate with these demographics.

I finished my MBA in Marketing in 2012. While attending my Marketing lectures, I found I was already familiar with the subject matter, because some reading assignments were borrowed from sociology and psychology journals! There is a significant amount of overlap in these disciplines, because they focus on human behavior. 

Sociology has served me well, professionally and otherwise. Human behavior is the foundation of economics, culture, business, politics, etc. Sociology taught me how the world works -- business is my specialization. Sociology is an excellent foundation for crafting well-rounded college graduates.

What advice would you give to current majors/minors?
Begin with the end in mind. Create a long-term plan in advance. In some cases, I may recommend supplementing your sociology education with an additional specialization, as I did with business. Your long-term plan should inform your decisions.