We asked Emily Sterling, class of 2008 and our C. Wright Mills award winner that year, to tell us a little bit about what she’s been up to. Here’s her reply:
Though I may not be a career sociologist, I tell people all the time that I use my sociology undergrad degree all the time. The sociology courses at UPS gave me the deep understanding of a lot of issues that I can now address through my work with the public education system in the US.
Directly after graduating from UPS, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona to teach middle school science and social studies at a low income school through the Teach For America program. I stayed for 3 years, saw students succeed, light up with interest, become globally aware, finally learn their continents, and dream big but I also saw the cracks in the public education system. Ultimately, I know there is still so much to be done in education, so I am now working for a national after school program in Portland that targets students in 6-8th grade who need additional academic and social support systems. In each of these jobs since leaving UPS, I have held on to my sociological perspective throughout. It helped me to be aware of the systemic pressures and power imbalances in our society that translate to the public school system in terms of unequal funding, the teaching of hegemonic curriculum (especially in the social studies classroom) and the lack of engagement in the schooling process for our most disadvantaged students.
While I am not sure if the public education sector is where I want to spend the rest of my career, I do know that the lessons I have learned being in the classroom as a teacher and as a student at UPS will always make me an advocate for equality and quality in public education.
Great to hear from you, Emily, and good luck with the academic year.