Clemson sociology interns gain tools to effect change on scales both small and large
Clemson’s sociology, anthropology and criminal justice department covers a great deal of academic ground for students; the wide range is right there in the name. However, even when students decide to zero in on one of the department’s three paths, the sheer number of possible career avenues afforded to them can be as intimidating as it is exciting.
A sociology major’s internship experience often helps put the student’s future into focus or, at the very least, let’s them know what they don’t want to pursue after graduation. The possibilities for interns have only expanded in the last 20 years of the department’s history, but no matter where an internship takes place, sociology majors continue to find that their internship experiences equip them with the tools to make differences both large and small in a wide range of professions.
“We continue to expand the number and types of internship placements in order to diversify opportunities for our students,” said Catherine Mobley, professor and internship coordinator in the department. “We want to show students the wide range of career options that students could ultimately pursue with a sociology degree.”
Deion Jamison graduated in May 2017; he majored in sociology with an emphasis in community studies and minored in education. Jamison grew up in rural South Carolina and experienced firsthand the educational disparities among ethnic groups that he would learn even more about in both his major and minor at Clemson.
Jamison’s background inspired him to seek out an internship with the Urban League of the Upstate, a community-based organization that supports and advocates for economic equality for African Americans by building stable communities. Jamison worked primarily with Project Ready, a program that prepares minority youth in grades 9-12 for postsecondary success.
“I saw pretty quickly the kind of trickle-down effect my work had in exposing students to opportunities they might not have known about otherwise,” Jamison said. “It confirmed for me that this is the type of work that I wanted to do.”
Jamison singled out Ricky Pulley Jr., education coordinator for the Urban League, as a major influence during his internship. When Jamison was on the fence about whether to continue on to grad school or further pursue a career as an educator through Teach for America, Pulley helped him weigh his options.
“He helped me realize the impact I was already making, but how in a classroom I could work directly with students and that impact could be amplified,” Jamison said. “He was more than a supervisor; he was a mentor and he was deeply invested in my future.”
While Jamison’s experience having an indirect impact on students inspired him to move onto the front lines of education, Ashley Levesque’s current internship experience has had the opposite effect.
As a sociology major with a concentration in social services, Levesque initially envisioned a career in which she would be allowed to have a major, one-to-one impact on clients. However, even though she’s still in the midst of her internship with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC), Levesque can tell she now wants to switch gears and affect as many people as possible through policy.
“I have been so inspired by everyone around me, seeing the passion [LWVSC members] have for politics,” Levesque said. “I’m recognizing now that I can turn my passion for policy and politics into meaningful action.”
Levesque is the first intern that the LWVSC has hosted, and she initially worried about whether or not she would find common ground with members of the LWVSC, who are normally a few decades removed from college. However, she found men and women who were as eager to engage with her as she was with them.
One member in particular, Holley Ulbrich, has come to be a mentor for Levesque. Ulbrich is co-president of the LWVSC and was one of the founding members of the League of Women Voters of the Clemson Area, which was started fifty years ago. Levesque has had the pleasure of accompanying her to events and council meetings.
“Our time together has been a great mix of getting to know one another personally and professionally,” Levesque said. “I’ve learned so much from her about policy in general and about how important local and state legislature is in day-to-day life.”
Although their internship experiences were quite different, Levesque and Jamison offered very similar advice for future interns. The overriding piece of advice from both: don’t be afraid to ask questions. According to Levesque and Jamison, it’s normal for mentors to expect that interns know nothing or next to it, so an internship is no place to be bashful.
“Be fully engaged in the experience,” Jamison said. “There’s a wealth of knowledge and connections that can lead to other opportunities, so make the most of it and let it all soak in.”
Student interested in learning more about the wide variety of internship opportunities available to sociology majors can contact Catherine Mobley at firstname.lastname@example.org.