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Meet Our Students: Miles Sebald

August 9, 2017
Hometown: Shorewood, MN

Majors: Sociology BS with subplan of Organization, Business, & Non-Profit; & an Economics BA

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 I wanted to major in sociology after I took ‘Introduction to Sociology”. I chose it because if done right, it actually pairs quite well with economics despite the fact that the two fields have big ideological divergences at times. The graduate student that taught my intro section was so enthusiastic about the topic, I knew I had to explore it further. Economics has taught me some very interesting modeling and problem solving, but sociology has exposed me to ways of thinking I would have never considered. Mostly, I wanted to major in it because I came in knowing absolutely nothing about the field. In high school and during my first years of college, I primarily studied quantitative subjects. I really cannot stress how little I knew about sociology coming in.

The major and the department has been so great. I knew I made the right choice when I took “Social Theory”. My instructor was phenomenal as well as very encouraging and the literature provided a necessary history of economic thought that has been beyond useful in my economic studies. I don’t know if many students know how special it is, relatively speaking, that they get a chance to learn from professors on a regular basis. The commitment to instructing within the department is probably my favorite thing, professors and graduate students alike go above and beyond to teach and listen.

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?

I currently have an internship at an institutional investment firm where I am a shared intern between Trading and the Risk Management department. Above all, sociology has made me to be a much better problem solver and communicator. While some fields of study require students to find one right answer, sociology seldom asks that of students. I’ve learned that problems can be solved in many ways and sometimes, it’s not as simple as finding a solution. The causes and mechanisms that underlie many of the problems analyzed by sociological scholars (and many other scholars) rarely involve single factors or variables. The world is dynamic, the workplace is dynamic, and sociology is dynamic. The breadth of knowledge I’ve been exposed to has trained me to be more inquisitive, critical, patient, and adaptable.

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

It has exposed me to more potential job opportunities and career paths than I would have considered without it. It has also made me more adaptable.

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

Step outside of your academic comfort zone as often as possible. There are many opportunities within the department and major to challenge oneself and it’s a rather remarkable thing. If you’ve taken Introduction to Sociology, I would recommend taking all of the core requirements as soon as possible because they expose students to incredible amounts of sociological topics that are useful in every elective. If you already know what you’re interested in, that’s fantastic. If you don’t, challenge yourself as often as possible. And to be very clear about that, I don’t mean “take the hardest class available.” That may be a great option and if it is, pursue it. What I mostly mean when I advise pushing your comfort zone is to take some classes that really test the way you’re accustomed to thinking. Try this as early as possible. While you’re doing this, work on both ends of your communication skills as well. Speak and type respectfully and listen and respond respectfully. The best conversations I’ve had are with people I don’t see eye-to-eye with but they’re the best because they’ve taught me the most. If you come into college knowing exactly what you want to do, awesome. I’d still recommend trying something new as often as possible; you never know what you’ll be interested. Changing your mind is okay at any point, I’d just recommend doing it sooner than later if you’re more certain about it. It will be a lot easier on our wallet and advisor.

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 actually took Introduction to Sociology when I took a year off from being a full-time student. I was working full-time at a bakery from 5:30am-1:30pm 5 days a week and going to class in the evenings. If anything, my experience balancing work and school expedited my time to degree completion. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to school and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to apply to transfer. In hindsight, taking Introduction to Sociology over the summer while working early hours was one of the best things I’ve ever done, because it prepared me to be a full-time student again, and solidified my confidence in continuing my education at the U, and in the Department of Sociology. When I got back to school full-time, I was much more prepared and focused. 8am classes were no problem at all.