To Build Buildings is to be Great, but to Build Others Up is Even Greater
When Sunny Vang began her time at the University of Minnesota, she was an architecture major within the College of Design. She quickly discovered that architecture wasn't for her. "I learned I didn't want to be an architect so I transferred to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and was undeclared for awhile," she said. Despite the unknown, Vang was certain of one thing about her future aspirations: she wanted to build others up.
During her time of exploration, Vang experienced a significant moment that would direct her into declaring a sociology major. She explained, "Around Halloween, I went to a brand new store with my boyfriend and some of his friends. As we were walking around, I could sense the watchful eyes of the sales associate. The longer we looked around, the more we were followed." It was in this moment that she felt current racial divisions being played out—the store employees were acting out of preconceived judgements toward a culture or racial group different from their own.
This negative experience motivated her. She wanted to make a change. Vang declared, "This experience really bothered me. I wanted to learn more about what causes others to have prejudice toward a particular group and how I can change these attitudes."
The following semester, Vang registered for the sociology course called Multicultural Perspectives of the United States. "As the course progressed, I began to gain a unique worldview that I wouldn't have gained otherwise," Vang described. "I was able to see examples of oppression and prejudice played out through examples in history. In addition, this course allowed me to better understand why people stereotype cultures different from their own." After Vang completed the course, she knew that what she had learned would stick with her forever. "I learned about what I had never really thought about before, things that I had never second guessed. I began to question what is considered normal in our society such as race, gender, sexuality, and social structures."
Vang had found her academic home: she declared a sociology major and soon after became a peer advisor in the department. Her experience as a peer advisor has also helped guide Vang's future career goals: she is considering becoming a high school counselor after graduation. Vang explained, "Without having the opportunity to mentor students as a peer advisor for the Department of Sociology, I wouldn't have gained the experience I need to possibly become a school counselor." She further explained, "I want to be able to use my sociology knowledge to help all students. I want to be able to bridge that gap between students and teachers by building a more personal connection with students. It's important for teachers to understand their students, but sometimes teachers don't have the time or are too focused on getting through their lessons. Relationship building is key for students success and I want every student to succeed."
"A major in sociology has prepared me for the future by teaching me how to be open minded, understanding of cultures, as well as being less prone to judgement and stereotyping," Vang said. "You need to have these qualities in order to help students and effectively change their surroundings." On her journey from architecture to sociology, Vang has focused on building. Graduating soon with a major in sociology, she is ready to dive into work aimed at her highest goal: building people up into the the best they can be.
This article was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.