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Meet Our Students: Samantha Holtz

Meet Our Students: Samantha Holtz
January 11, 2021
Hometown:  Hortonville, WI
Majors: Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance & Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies

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?


As a freshman, I had a rough idea of what interested and impassioned me (systemic inequalities, human rights, social justice) but I did not know exactly how - or more specifically into what major - to channel those interests, until I found Sociology. I wanted to learn more about how and why society functions the way it does on a larger scale, particularly how aspects of identity such as race, gender, class, sexuality, etc. intersect to affect people on an individual and societal level.

I took Introduction to Sociology (SOC 1001) with Professor Ann Meier my first semester at the U, and I was hooked from the start! I was engulfed by the content, in the best way possible. I also had a great graduate student TA for my discussion section. Between the level of passion and care both my TA and Professor Meier had for their students and the subject of Sociology, my introduction to the Sociology Department was so welcoming and positive. I chose to major in Sociology shortly after taking my first Sociology course because I knew that a BA in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance was a perfect fit for my interests and goals; after this first experience with Sociology at the U, I just wanted to continue learning from Sociology faculty and taking more courses on the topics that spoke to my passions. 


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 had the opportunity my sophomore year to do a Directed Study research experience working with Professor Gabrielle Ferrales and a team of two other undergraduates on one of Professor Ferrales’s ongoing research projects focused on studying rape victimization survey data/interviews collected from the Darfur region of Sudan. This experience was incredible, as I had the opportunity to gain so much knowledge from Professor Ferrales about the academic research process, coding, literature reviews, and much more, all of which helped put into perspective sociological concepts that I had been learning through other courses. Professor Ferrales is an incredible academic, researcher, and professor, and I feel really privileged to have been able to work with her closely and learn from her about topics that I am so passionate about such as gender studies, law and criminology, and gender-based violence. This experience shaped my future career goals as I learned how much I love the research process, particularly the nit-picking process of analyzing and coding data, and I have since considered a future career within the field of academia.



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


My future plans include going to graduate school to further my studies and obtain a Master of Social Work (MSW). My educational opportunities as an undergrad in the Sociology Department have been incredibly influential in allowing me to study and further explore issues surrounding the intersections of identity such as race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. My undergrad experience in Sociology has not only equipped me with foundational skills such as an analytical and sociological framework of thinking and strong research skills, I have also been able to explore and critically examine ever-important issues such as mass incarceration, gender-based violence, systemic/institutional/historically situated forms of discrimation and oppression, and so much more. The combination of undergraduate coursework in Sociology and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies has helped me to build towards my post-graduation goals of working in the field of social work with an emphasis on social justice and advocacy for historically underserved/disenfranchised youth. 


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


Talk to and meet with your professors and other Sociology faculty (especially Bobby)! It may sound silly, but my first semester at the U, I was deathly afraid of speaking with any Sociology faculty or any professors in general - mostly because I really respected my professors and their work, and thus was a little intimidated. However, my #1 piece of advice would be to talk with and form relationships with professors and faculty. Sociology faculty actually mean it when they say they care about their students and their students’ wellbeing, and one of my favorite parts of being a sociology major is getting the opportunity to learn from and form relationships with faculty who I look up to and admire. There are so many amazing and caring professors in the department, all working on incredible research, and it never hurts to just pop in to office hours or stay after class to talk with your professors (or TA’s!). And, go talk to Bobby! He gives great advice and knows how to make a major in sociology feel really personal and meaningful to you. 


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 throughout my entire undergraduate experience, and I have found that working part-time has enriched my undergrad experience rather than detracted from it. During my freshman and sophomore year, I worked as a Student Event Staff for the Events Team at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center, where I worked with clients as the venue contact for larger events such as weddings, galas, or conventions on weeknights and weekends. I currently work as an undergraduate TA within the Sociology Department. I didn’t find balancing work and school to be particularly difficult as I prefer to remain busy, but both of these experiences have equally challenged me in enhancing my time management skills. I think working part-time was the best choice for me as balancing work, school, and extracurricular/social activities kept me involved in numerous ways and exposed me to new opportunities, as well as supplied me with a small amount of income to help with tuition, rent, groceries, and my coffee habit! I recognize the privilege in being able to choose to work part-time versus having to work full-time while in school, and I am grateful for both of the opportunities I had throughout undergrad to work jobs I enjoyed. Particularly, my current work as a Teaching Assistant for a course titled Sociological Perspectives on Race, Class, and Gender speaks directly to my passions and interests and has enriched my study of Sociology immensely.