You are here

Meet Our Students: Joanna Jensen

August 9, 2017
Hometown:  Bismark, North Dakota
Majors: Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance & Philosophy BA with Honors
Minor: English

Why did you choose to major in Sociology? Was there a specific course, specific faculty member, soc research experience, study abroad, or other experience that helped you decide Soc was the major for you?

I knew that I was interested in pursuing a Sociology major before I graduated from high school.  I had always found it fascinating to investigate and understand what people consider when walking through life––before making a decision, committing an act, speaking, etc.  A Sociology teacher I had my senior year broadened that interest for me; he asked us not only to examine what people thought or evaluated, but also why they would give weight to those considerations above others.  This sparked my intrigue with sociological thinking and its potential combination with criminological studies.  I began my undergraduate career intent on broadening my understanding of human action, societal forces, and the cultural foundations of law and crime.

Do you have any study abroad, internship, and/or research experience with a soc faculty member, and if so, how has that experience shaped your future career goals as well as your understanding/applying of sociological concepts/what you’ve learned?

By the time I graduate, I will have completed three years of research under the former Sociology Department Chair, Elizabeth Boyle.  For the past two years, we have been working to harmonize International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) coding for the International Labour Organization (ILO).  This will aid in any future international sociological research involving census occupation data.  This year, I will be utilizing statistical analysis of this data and other mixed research methods to conduct my own study concerning women in the legal profession.  This research process has not only driven me to think sociologically about societal constraints I will experience during my own journey to law school, but it has also allowed me to investigate the validity of class concepts using real–world statistical data.


How does a major in Sociology help you reach your post graduation goals?

After my graduation next spring, I plan to attend law school and pursue a Juris Doctorate degree.  My study in Sociology has expanded my thinking about the foundations of societal, cultural, and individual action.  It has broadened my understanding of crime and deviance––how those terms are socially constructed and maintained to enforce what we consider normal.  It has pushed me to think both theoretically and realistically about both law and punishment.  All of this will certainly prove invaluable during my upcoming years in law school.  The ability to question and closely examine taken–for–granted concepts is a pillar of education, and my major in Sociology has truly given me the tools to do just that.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in declaring a Sociology major?

Get involved with something that will put you in/around the Sociology offices or faculty as often as possible.  Whether it’s pursuing research, joining a club, working the front desk, becoming a Teaching Assistant, or even just regularly visiting office hours, it’s really beneficial to become familiar with the wonderful people working in Social Sciences.  Sociology definitely isn’t the largest major on campus, but it can really start to feel like a family––and you never know what connections you might make!

Have you worked part-time/full time while in school, and if so, how has balancing work and school impacted your path to degree completion (enriched your program of study, delayed time to degree completion, etc.)?

I have worked part–time during school as a Research Assistant, Intern, and Teaching Assistant.  I chose to wait until my sophomore year to pursue any of these positions to ensure I was ready to handle the time commitment; reflecting back, I think that was the best decision for me.  I didn’t find it that difficult to balance work and school, but I also worked to secure positions that either directly aligned with my education (such as becoming the T.A. for the Honors Introduction to Sociology) or my interests (such as becoming a Research Intern for WATCH, a nonprofit focused on violent crimes against women and children).  Because of this, I found my part–time work to enrich my study in Sociology and, at times, even increase my interest in learning class concepts.