Undergraduate Alumni Spotlight

What can you do with a Sociology Major?

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

       Mia Benevolenza OX ‘15 EC ‘17, Social Worker, Sinai Residences of Boca Raton, 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  

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)

Seanette Ting, EC '14, Assistant Buyer; Neiman Marcus



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.

Mia Benevolenza

Graduated in 2017

Employer and job title:

Masters in Social Work Candidate & Social Worker, Sinai Residences of Boca Raton

I am a second year Master’s student in Social Work, graduating in May 2019.  As part of the clinical component of my program, I chose to intern in an oncology and health care setting, specializing in work with older adults. I have also engaged in macro-level research, writing an article that was recently published with guidance from one of my professors. I will be applying for full-time positions and licensure next spring. 

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!