Sociology: Student Testimonials

Jessica Herley

Specialist: Sociology
Minor: Psychology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
When I was in high school, my guidance counselor told me I wasn't college material. I took this as a challenge and made it my mission to get a bachelor’s degree. Frankly, I didn't plan much- I transferred to UTSC from Seneca where I was studying liberal arts. I came here intending to study biochemistry and psychology, but I ended up falling in love with the social sciences. I took intro sociology as an elective, and then I took another course in sociology... and another... and another. It was the favorite part of my time on campus. To this day I find it very fulfilling, and I love that I am able to apply what I am learning to everyday life. I remember when I was enrolled with a double major in sociology and psychology, and I was about to finish my major in sociology- I was very upset. I felt lost and without purpose. As a result, I switched into the specialist, so I could take more classes. I just love it. Additionally, I feel very accepted by the department and by my fellow students. This is very encouraging because I was lost when I came here. I have little guidance from my family as I am the first generation to attain any post-secondary education. My professors were very approachable and took me on and were able to full that mentoring role that I needed. Ultimately, this is why I stuck to it.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Sociology: Once you gain a sociological toolkit, you will never work without it. You are never able to read a text or participate in everyday life without trying to understand it on a deeper level. I find this very worthwhile. To some, it may be exhausting, but not for me. Also, SO MUCH READING AND WRITING. It is a lot of work, but every class I finish I leave feeling very proud. I finish every paper and I am just astonished at what I am capable of.
Psychology: I am ultimately disappointed in my experience in the psychology program here. Multiple choice, textbook reading, memorization. I rarely felt engaged. However, this might simply be disposition.

 

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1) Ask for help when you need it. Reach out. You are worthy of being here. If you didn't care, you wouldn't be spending your time reading this.
2) Invest your time in friends and peers who want what is best for you.
3) Mistakes are a learning opportunity. I made a lot of mistakes and I have had professors and peers challenge myself and work very harshly. Do not take it personally - let these moments inform you.
4) Take every opportunity you can. Be in the debate, raise your hand, be the first to present, submit your work into contests. You are here to be heard.
5) Go to financial aid, they will look after you better than you will look after yourself!
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
If you see me, feel free to ask what I have done. I have only short-term concrete plans. Ultimately, I want to be happy. I really want a job working with people, where I am active and constantly in conversation with others. I will apply to go to graduate school in Sept 2018. In the meantime, I will take a year off to learn French. I want to be bilingual. Aside from that, the world is my oyster. I have some stereotypical ideas about what to do in the next few years- move to Vancouver and have an informative sort of romance that never really works out, continue reading and writing, travel the world, start a small business making and selling balms and salves. So long as I keep moving forward, I trust that fate will take me where I need to go.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
Quick honorable mention to my cats- Fanny and Fabian- without whom I wouldn't have made it through. I couldn't tell you the number of times I have uttered the words 'why am I doing this to myself'. In first year, I was trying to find myself- I was trying to find friends, to find my interests, to be a real person. I had a blast in first year- partially because I lived on res. Second year was harder for me as my friends and I changed paths. I started my job on campus and was just learning how to manage everything. This was when I fell in love with sociology. Third year was the most difficult year, as I made some poor choices and ended up struggling to keep floating. I had a hard time managing school and work and paying bills, etc. However, I ended up receiving tremendous support from my peers, my profs, and various departments on campus. Fourth year is bittersweet. I am so proud of myself, but I am very sad to leave. I know I will always look back at my time here with fond memories as it has guided my growth into adulthood.

Camille Pandela

Majors: Sociology and City Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

One of the things I love about both Sociology and City Studies are the professors. Most are friendly and extremely approachable and want nothing but to ensure that their students receive the best education they deserve (and paid for!) For someone like me, who's totally shy and easily intimated by authority, it's nice to know that there's a good balance between professionalism and casualty within the Social Sciences department. Another factor that helped me decide in choosing my majors is my ability to envision myself pursuing them in my Undergrad career. I LEARNED to love Sociology and City Studies, not just because of my "super cool" professors, but because of the things I was taught, and my personal self-development as a young adult while pursuing my majors, has made me want to go forward with it even more. That said, I wasn’t set on actually taking these programs to begin with—they were just electives I was taking in first year, and then things sort of just “clicked” for me, the further I progressed in the introductory courses. I’m pretty fortunate in that sense.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

It's no glitter and glamour, that's for sure! Like all Social Sciences, both Sociology and City Studies are very generous when it comes to readings. And, oh, the ESSAYS! Honestly, the only kind of paper I don't have is monetary. Seriously though, from annotated bibliographies to ethnographic accounts, you'll learn to do all sorts of papers that also vary in formality and even citation formats. They're not like English papers or formal lab reports at ALL. You're also going to experience a LOT of people picking on you, and questioning the validity of Social Science as an "actual" science. Don't mind them and just brush it off! I mean, seriously, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "science" is defined as, "knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method" And guess what? You'll learn that in Social Science, there ARE theories, hypothesis, observations, and findings that are made about the world. City Studies is a broad, multi-disciplinary program. That means you can find yourself taking geography courses, environmental studies courses, political science courses, etc., that go with your degree. One of the things I really love about my programs is that I can learn about different things that still go toward finishing my majors.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

Let me begin by telling you right now that if you don't like writing essays, these programs are NOT for you. Or rather, that when considering any program, that--as interesting as all programs may seem or be--not every program is fit for you. (No kidding, I'm sure y'all knew that, but it's something I needed to learn, because I'm definitely no Anthro-whiz or Human Geo-genius or IDS-extraordinaire and even though all of these fall under Social Science, I just can't with them, man...) A few more things to keep in mind, (along with swallowing the fact that you're not an invincible, impenetrable, heart-made-out-of-stone-and-can-do-anything-you-feel-like person) are your interests, because both Sociology and City Studies cover broad topics. In the same way Biology students will specialize to focus on something like...cell molecular biology or animal physiology or become fauna-specialist or something. Ask yourself, "What do I want to do with my life?", "What do I LIKE doing?" One of the things I really highly recommend in figuring this out is to go to the Registrar website and find Sociology and/or City Studies programs and read up on your requirements, along with the courses they have to offer. Both majors have a neat little chart that divides their C- and D-level courses by the topic they fall under. So, for example, if you're interested in becoming a lawyer and providing legal-aid for immigrants, it'd be useful to take courses from sociology that focus on immigration.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?

After graduation, my intention was to go into a co-op Human Resource Management program in a college. I'm still looking at my options, but my heart is definitely set on eventually pursuing my Masters in Planning, working internships and becoming the next Jennifer Keesmaat (Chief Planner for the City of Toronto). I'll essentially be pursuing one of my passions as an advocate for re-intensification and mixed-use developments.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
Like I said earlier, I fell into both my major programs “by accident”—they were simply electives I was just taking to figure out what I was really interested in, because I already knew exactly what I WASN’T interested in. Going into university, my goal was to just finish and do post-grad co-op program in Human Resource because I thought that would be the easiest course of action for me. But I truly got a chance to learn that life is—by any means—not easy. My first year was pretty rough, I gotta say—it’s nothing like high school. The stakes are higher, it feels like. And you’re in debt, and you’ve got more responsibilities now than ever before. The transition into university—the first semester—was the WORST. None of my high school friends were in my program and so they’ve grown apart from me. But occasionally, I run into them on campus and catch up. All my group leaders at Orientation told me to talk to my profs, I couldn’t do it. Second year was better, I knew my way around by then and I was set on doing Sociology as my major by the end of first year, so the second year was my year to determine what ELSE I was going to do, and that’s when I took the Foundations of City Studies course taught by Professor Allahwala. In my third year, I got to really grow as a person. I know now exactly where I want to go with my life in relation to my studies and it was a pretty good idea taking a C-level course in second year, because it has definitely alleviated how much C-levels I needed to take this year.

Andrew Situ

Majors: Public Policy and Sociology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
Initially I chose both of my programs because 1) I enjoyed what I was learning within their respective introductory classes and 2) I loved the professors that I met at networking events. From my second year to my third year now, both programs helped me figure out what I wanted to potentially do after my undergraduate studies; this was one of the main selling points that made realize that this was the program combination choice for me. I am highly interested in the areas of student engagement and retention at the university level. My general focus is on how to make you, as a current student, feel like you belong on our campus in terms of having the proper academic and social supports. Public Policy & Sociology not only complement one another as fields, but also allows me to delve deeper into creating student support systems that are transparent, equitable, and sustainable.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Within Public Policy and Sociology, both fields push you to think critically about the social context that we all live in. Both programs challenge you to go beyond your preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be within society and how to develop solutions to the problems that are present. This is done through the emphasis each program places on developing writing skills and having knowledge in both quantitative and/ or qualitative methods. Public Policy focuses on examining the rules/ laws we have in place and how to make them better for everyone that is impacted. Sociology allows you to delve further into the underlying processes that govern us by considering the lived experiences of people; this program allows you to generate the best possible outcomes. Both programs offer multiple streams or course clusters that allow you focus your studies. This provides students with the ability to not only learn what appeals to his or her areas of interest but also allows one to differentiate oneself from another; you are able to create your own personalized university experience. In terms of the non-academic side of things, both programs offer a strong network of professors and other professionals that help you transition from not only from high school to university, but also from your undergraduate studies to the realm of possibilities (either the workplace or further education) that are present before you. Students are given a wide array of opportunities to take advantage of, ranging from one-on-one support to networking events and even post-undergrad transition programs to remove anxiety within the application process. The communities in each program are amazing in how it values and prioritizes the student experience.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1) Use your departmental student association (DSAs) in any way possible to help you. DSAs act as the liaison between you and your program, whether it be other students, professors, or alumni; they are there to provide you with as much support as they can to help you succeed during your studies. They can tell you a lot about their respective departments and what they offer to you in terms of academics and community life, all of which is vital to with getting the most out of your time here at UTSC. 2) Get a mentor. If you are a first year student, the Department of Student Life offers an amazing First Year Experience Program for both regular and First Generation students. Within the program, you get matched with an upper year student within your program that can help you transition from high school and allow you to get the most out of the opportunities that UTSC offers. As a previous mentee, a previous volunteer mentor, and now a Peer Academic Coach within this program, I highly recommend it. Alternatively, if you are not a first year, connect with upper year students or professors and see if they would be willing to provide you with guidance. Outside of the Peer Academic Coach Program, I also mentor two other students who are in different programs than I am. Never be afraid to reach out and see who can help you along your journey. 3) Research possible routes that you can pursue after your time here at UTSC as early as you can. Make sure that you don't blindly map out your future as university education is a long-term investment. Figure out what you can do with your degree and how you can make an impact in whatever area(s) resonate(s) with you the most. Consult with every possible person or organization that you can, whether that is professors, upper year students, alumni, or the Academic Advising & Career Centre.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I currently have three paths in mind: two revolving around further education and the other with going straight into the world of work. I am thinking of the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) and pursuing a Masters of Education (M.Ed) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in either Education Leadership and Policy or Higher Education studies. Alternatively, I am also considering a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Rotman Commerce and specializing in either Leadership and Change Management or Health Sector Management. After finishing one (or maybe another) degree, I want to work within the university setting either as someone that is able to actively engage with students or within the background with policy. On the other hand, going straight into the workplace is also something that I have been considering. In terms of options, I am thinking of either the healthcare sector within hospitals as a policymaker or within the educational sector again with student retention.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

My first year was all about transition and being able to keep up and succeed with the university's academic standards. It was also about starting my network of friends and professors who could help support me in my journey. This year also was the start of my university extracurricular experience, whereby I joined the Sociology DSA, Students of Sociology, as a First-Year Representative. I began to develop hard and soft skills that not only benefited my first year self, but also for my own professional development for later on in life. By getting involved I figured out how to make the best use of my time by balancing my academic and extracurricular activities. Second year was focused on finding the passions I am the most interested in pursuing and refining them. This was done through the courses I could choose from and seeing what areas I wanted to focus in. This year was also about building on the relationships I had with others and expanding those networks so I could meet more people. By doing so, I was able to expand my own world view and learn more from those around me. Academically, this year had an emphasis on passing the real hurdles of university. In this sense, second year was the hardest because professors are no longer treating you like a first year; you are given higher expectations and you need to be able to meet them. This was especially true through my extracurricular involvement as I was working within two DSAs and the Department of Student Life. I had to fine tune my abilities to balance my priorities of being a successful student but also a leader at the same time. Currently with my third year, it feels like an accelerated version of what happened in my second year. You have a lot more priorities to balance because there is this struggle between focusing on school but wanting to do more and making an impact towards those around you. Additionally, this is the year where refining your network is key as graduation is right around the corner. Although it is tough sometimes, in the end, it is extremely worth it. I am able to get the most out of my time at UTSC and make it worthwhile. The experiences you gain through the efforts you put in are definitely worth the struggle.

Minushi Gomes

Majors: Women and Gender Studies
Minors: Psychology and Sociology

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 

I started by enrolling into a double major in Psychology, and Women and Gender Studies. Since I was in grade three, I told myself - I will be a Psychiatrist. Little did I know that Psychology was not my calling. By second year of University, I was starting to lose my interest in my psychology courses and the second you lose interest is when your grades begin to go down. On the other hand, Women and Gender Studies was a whole new world for me! I didn't know such a program even existed until I selected it to fulfill my OSAP requirements. I fell in love with the course immediately. It was the first time I realized that I came from a patriarchal family, that I had been accepting sexist comments and following gender norms because I thought "that's what I had to do as a girl," and it was the first time I learned that I had the right to fight the oppression that me, my mum, my grandmothers, and every other female relative and friend I knew were experiencing. By the end of second year, I decided that Women and Gender Studies was my path to success. It was like finding a long lost passion. Next thing I knew, I made Women and Gender studies my Major and changed psychology into a minor.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 

When I think of Women and Gender Studies, three words come into my head; power, justice, equity. There are many more words I can use to describe it, but these are the words that I can use to relate on how the Women and Gender Studies program changed my life in many ways from paradigms and perspectives, to behaviors and expressions. Simply saying, it's like learning the terms and history of the inequalities you face because of the gender you grow to perform. Thinking about the context of the program, the work load is very reasonable and most of the courses I took in my undergrad were hands-on which allows you to learn and see how these social, political and economical inequalities shape with different intersections. Most of the courses were seminar based which allowed for a more deep class discussions leading to a greater understanding about the topic. This also gave us students the opportunity to gather in groups and talk or ask questions about the weekly assigned readings. Additionally, many of the key terms and definitions are used throughout the Women and Gender studies courses all throughout your undergrad.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
In regards to this program:

 1) Do your assigned readings! If you can't finish the reading, at least read the abstract and conclusion so that you aren't lost during class. It will seem like a lot of pages at the start, but read with a purpose. Understand the material more than memorizing points from it. If you lose focus, glance back at the title, or skim the abstract again. I personally think printed notes are more effective to read. You can take little notes on the side, or even highlight and underline with different colors. You'd be surprised how helpful colors and little notes on the side are when revising for exams and term papers.

2) Don't let the annotated bibliography scar you! Most of the first and second year courses of Women and Gender Studies would have an assignment with an annotated bibliography. It will seem long and even unnecessary but, it's not that bad and it is actually your best friend when writing that final term paper. The Writing Center provides a perfect guide on how to write the annotated bibliography and honestly if you follow that, you can’t go wrong. Moreover, if you do the annotated bibliography with a good purpose, you will see how it help you shape up your ideas and contents for the final term paper and it keeps you on track rather than changing from topic to topic. Most students grumble when they see the annotated bibliography listed on the syllabus but it really isn't bad at all if you understand why you are asked to do it.

3) Don't be shy to speak up in class! As I mentioned earlier, most of the Women and Gender Studies courses are seminar structured meaning there is a lot of room for the students to talk. I would 100% recommend you to speak up in class. The professors get to know who you are and it makes the classroom experience more exciting. Likewise, it's okay to get a wrong answer or even ask follow-up questions to what the professor is stating. Being curious is a way to go about analyzing the various topics brought to the class in each of these courses.
 
In General:

1) Your GPA does not define you. University works according to a system. We get so involved with GPA standings and pressure ourselves to be exceptional, which is amazing but, you need to know that it is okay to fail or get a low mark. It doesn't mean you are a failure. You got accepted into University of Toronto for a reason, so don't let that reason disappear because you are worrying about your GPA. There are so many resources on campus to help you out if you just ask. Don't feel ashamed. With failure comes motivation to do even better.

2) It's okay if you don't graduate in 4 years! Since we were kids, we are trained to go through elementary from grade 1-8 in a stretch and then graduate high school by four years. It's not the same concept when it comes to University. It's okay if you need a bit more time to graduate. We all have different learning potentials and study skills. Some of you, like I did, would want to change programs half way through your University Career, or even want to take a break and come back; and that's okay. If you want good results, be in competition with yourself and not with your classmates. It wasn't until my final few semesters that I was ready to carry on five courses per semester. I kept taking three courses at the start because that's what I was able to handle. If you can take on more, then that's great, but it's also great if you can't. Go at the pace you can handle and you will see that your grades will get better and better.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 

I want to do my masters in Women and Gender Studies. My ultimate goal would be to work a women or youth counselor. I also sometimes picture myself as a Women and Gender Studies Professor, but I haven't tackled that idea in a full context.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 

My first year was great. I was focused and loved the course material in all the intro classes I was taking. However, as second year started, my family went through a huge financial problem leading me to work in order to support my family. Little did I know that the second year work would require more of my time with readings and assignments, as I spent more time at work. By the time I got home to study, I would sleep once the books were open. It was tough. I watched my marks drop in second year along with my GPA. It was hard and I came to the decision of stopping work and focusing completely on my studies. I also realized that it was only my psychology marks that were taking the negative turn. It was then that I changed my program majors. Third year started and I was ever so motivated. I got higher grades and I was enjoying my classes more since I was up to date with readings and was focused in the classroom. As the final few semesters began, I increased my course load meaning I had more work to do. The trick with a 100% course load is managing your time properly. Make a schedule along with your personal timetable to balance your school work and personal life accordingly. As I have neared the end, I am more than happy for all the challenges I overcame and how strong my educational journey has made me. Moreover, I can strongly say that the Women and Gender Studies program has shaped me to be a whole new human being over these few years! The last thing I will say about my Women and Gender Studies undergraduate journey is about the amazing collection of professors we have for this program. These professors were not only my educators but I looked at them as if they were my own mother. I had gone to their office hours during my times of adversity just to get advice and support. They are open-minded and caring. They are passionate about what they do which allows them to perform their best during class hours. I can, with no doubts, say that the two reasons I love the Women and Gender Studies program at UTSC is due to it's context but mainly because of the professors who bring these contexts to life in the class room for the students to understand in deeper ways.